The Sisters.

Jack Vettriano Painting 31

Fiction.

If you read this story first it may add to your enjoyment.

https://araneus1.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/the-blue-dress/

 

 This story is now part of my new short story anthology, PASSERBY.

You can purchase a copy HERE

If you like what I do, you can help me to keep on doing it by buying one of my books.

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The blue dress I sent her does not seem to have unsettled her at all.

Probably because I didn’t tell her about the note that was sewn into the hem.

It wouldn’t matter if I told her what it said; she’s not superstitious.

If it comes down to it, nothing much unsettles her.

Growing up, she was my big sister and I was a bit of an annoyance. 

Sister can be like that.

There were good moments but mostly I just got in the way.

Now that we are ‘all grown up’ we don’t annoy each other quite so much.

We have a few things in common.

We attract men.

It must be a family thing.

It seems that the more we ignore them, the more they flock around.

My sister has been married twice and she would not be caught dead in a Thrift Shop. Her second husband has slightly more money than God and he does not care how much of it she spends on herself. He made his money running McDonalds franchises.

 

My sister and I meet once a week and always at this cafe.

This sometimes presents a bit of a challenge because the whole area tends to shut down during the Winter. My big sister pays the proprietor an exorbitant amount of money to open up; just for us.

Today presented no such problem.

The weather is fine and warm and there are a couple of fellas hanging around outside, waiting for us to finish our drinks.

They wanted to join us but my sister made them wait outside.

I can’t believe they did it. If it was me, there would be no way I would wait around like a puppy dog; not for a man. But, that’s me.

It’s been my experience that most people’s family are a nightmare, even the ones that appear to function. The main problem?…… family members know how to push your buttons. They have seen you at your worst, there is no mystery and nowhere to hide. Bad hair day? Forget it. They have seen it all. The world may have bought your facade but your family still think you are the looser that they remember when you were growing up.

Most murders, manslaughters, assaults, and Chinese Burns occur inside families.

 

I do love this cafe. 

The decor is suitable and the view is beautiful.

When we were children we would stay in this same little seaside town.

Our father chose to work every second weekend and save what he earned, just so that we could have two weeks by the sea.

Those two weeks were magical.

No school, very few chores, and the allure of the beach, sun, sand and boys.

When we were young the boys were good for games and when we got older they were were good for other things. Things that included moonlight walks [when we were able to sneak out without being caught], kissing in the Tea Tree bushes on the foreshore, and someone to write naive love letters to until the next summer.

Boys smelt funny. Not unpleasant, just different. They had rough hands and seemed to lose the power of speech when things got romantic.

 

Unlike my twice married sister, I’ve never married.

There’s plenty of time, and just for now, I’m happy living alone.

I wonder how long it will be before those fellas run out of patience? 

 

 

Looking For.

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I dropped it.

I didn’t mean too, it just slid off my finger.

Now, I can’t find the bloody thing.

It has to be along here somewhere.

George is sick of looking, but Harry is still with me. 

We’ve been at it for half an hour.

I can’t go home without it.

It belonged to my husband’s grandmother; she left it to his mother, and she gave it to him to give to me. 

Three generations.

It’s a beautiful ring but a bit old-fashioned, which is fair enough, it was crafted a long time ago.

I don’t think his mum thinks I am good enough for him. 

I know that she thinks it is strange that my two best friends are men.

“Women cannot be friends with men. Men only want one thing, and it isn’t friendship.”

George, Harry and I have been friends since we were kids, and they had both tried it on, back when we were teenagers.

They fumbled around, and I let them, but it didn’t feel quite right for any of us. 

“You’re dead sexy Veronica, but seriously, it’s like kissing my sister.”

Even now, I like that they ‘want me’, but don’t follow-through.

It adds a bit of spice.

I’ve got female friends, but men are easier to be friends with. 

They say what they think, and they don’t play games. 

They wear their hearts on their sleeves, and they are incredibly loyal. 

And, they can carry heavy stuff, which comes in very handy, especially on shopping expeditions around Christmas time.

My husband understands. 

He knows I’m a one man woman and I think he likes it that men find me attractive. I guess that makes me a kind of prize.

He bought me the red dress I’m wearing. He likes me in red.

It’s not my favourite colour, but it does look good on me.

We’ve been staying at a hotel close to the beach. 

I wanted the boys to come down for a couple of days, and David said he didn’t mind. He’s off doing something important in the City today. He received a mysterious phone call last night and woke me up early this morning to tell me he was catching the 5 am Milk Train back to town, but that he would be back by 11 pm. 

All very mysterious.

But, I shouldn’t be surprised, David has always been a bit like that.

When I ask him why we can afford our little cottage and be able to come down to the sea whenever we want he just tells me that it’s man’s business and it’s my job to look pretty. I usually take a swing at him when he says it, and I know he’s only kidding about the ‘looking pretty’ stuff, but even so, the money thing worries me a bit.

I’ve broached the subject with George and Harry on a few occasions, but they just roll their eyes and tell me that I don’t want to know, which just makes it worse.

If it comes down to it, I don’t know what George and Harry do for a living either.

When we were at university I read English, George read Economics and Harry did Chemistry. When I bring it up, Harry says he makes stuff, and George says he invests the profits. That’s all very well, but where does the money come from? 

“The wonders of Chemistry.”

That’s all I get, then I get sick of asking, and we go back to looking for my lost ring.

It has to be along here somewhere.  

Painting by Jack Vettriano.

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Inspiration.

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I work my way through a lot of bed sheets, but it can’t be helped. 

It’s the way I work. 

An idea comes to me, and I have to write it down. 

Ideas come at the darndest times.

Often, I’m in the shower, and I run through the house, dripping wet, stark bullock naked and start scribbling away. The neighbours get a little annoyed, except for that bloke who lives over the back, he seems to enjoy it, and that’s ok; each to his own.

I like the feeling of writing on cloth, particularly Egyptian cotton, but you can’t always get it. Thrift shops in up-market areas are the best source, but even so, stocks are limited. 

Every opportunity shop within a twenty-mile radius knows me by name. Anytime white sheets come in they put them aside just for me. I’m prepared to write on coloured sheets but I’m old-fashioned at heart, so I prefer white sheets. 

Stripped sheets are a waste of time. You just get a good flow going, and you have to leave a space. 

It’s very annoying. 

My editor hates it. 

She keeps thinking I want to start a new paragraph!

Bloody striped sheets!

Don’t even get me started on a paisley pattern.

No, there’s only one proper writing sheet, and that’s a white writing sheet.

Someone once suggested that I try large sheets of paper. 

I thought they were a bit strange for suggesting such a thing, but I gave it a go, just to say that I had tried it. 

Didn’t work. 

Didn’t work at all. 

Totally unsuitable. 

Not sure what they were thinking.

I gave it a whole week and in that time word got around. 

Attractive women with nice bottoms stopped turning up to watch me work, and the ones who did turn up refused to take their clothes off.

Intolerable!

Storytelling is part plot, part character, part location, part atmosphere and part naked woman. Everyone knows that, and if they don’t, they should.

No naked woman? 

It would be like trying to write without a white sheet, or braces to hold up my pants, or a bottle of wine to warm my soul.

A ‘book light’ is optional, but the next thing they will be suggesting is that the naked woman should not be left-handed and that I should not smoke when I write.

I’m not sure what the world is coming to, but I know one thing for sure. I am going to continue on with the old traditions for as long as I am able.

Naked women and writing on white bed sheets is part of the fabric of our nation. 

To do otherwise would be un-Australian. 

Painting by Jack Vettriano

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The Blue Dress.

the_blue_gown_jack_vettriano

 This story is now part of my new short story anthology, PASSERBY.

You can purchase a copy HERE

If you like what I do, you can help me to keep on doing it by buying one of my books.

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I saw it as I drove by.

The Salvation Army had opened a new store in my town, but I had not had the time to look around.

The shop used to be a Video Store. 

It had been there for more than a decade. 

I remember when there was a broken down old Milk Bar on that site. 

We used to go in there when we were kids and buy “a penny’s worth of those, and a penny’s worth of those”, we must have driven the shopkeeper crazy.

One day the wreckers moved in, and the old Milk Bar disappeared.

Not long after, the builders turned up, and a large shop with prefab walls emerged like a concrete spaceship. 

We were amazed. 

The building had a little shop underneath it and a massive concrete paved car park at the back of a sloping block. 

The signs went up and bingo, it was a Video Store. 

We were very excited and spent hours working our way through all the videos. 

The little shop downstairs was an office for a few years, but eventually a charity Thrift Shop moved from up the road, and it has done a roaring business ever since.

 

In recent times, the Video Store was struggling, but it was hanging on until the demonstrators moved in next door. The demonstrations dragged on for many months, and it frightened away just enough custom to tip the Video Store over the edge, and it was forced to close. The demonstrators said it was not their fault; they were fighting ‘for a good cause,’ then two more businesses went under. 

It still ‘wasn’t their fault’.

 

It took two years of violence and intimidation but eventually the controversial business opened, and the demonstrators went away. They lost their fight and three businesses, and several employees lost their jobs.

 

As the dust began to settle the old Video Store got a coat of paint and a polished floor. The stock started arriving, and it became evident that the Salvation Army was cashing in on the popularity of the smaller ‘Op’ shop’ underneath. A bit cheeky I thought, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. You become successful, and someone else comes along and tries to take a ride on your success.

 

The blue dress was prominently displayed in the window, and I looked furtively at it every time I drove by.

After a week, I couldn’t take it anymore. 

I parked the car and told myself that it was ok to try it on because the chances of it fitting me were a thousand to one.

It fitted me in the way things that are custom-made fit; like a glove.

Somewhere in this town there is a woman who’s figure is exactly like mine, and I doubt whether she wore this dress more than once.

 

How rich do you have to be to wear a dress once and then give it to the Salvos?

 

Considering it was second-hand, the price was a bit ambitious. 

I beat them down just a little bit by waving cash at them. Cash always talks; no fees and every shopkeeper hates paying those fees to the banks.

 

When I got it home, I set up my camera to take a series of time-lapse shots as I put it on. I wanted a permanent record of my thrifty purchase. My friends are always boasting about the bargains they find. 

Wait until they get a load of this.

 

I went all over the dress to make sure that there were no loose seams, no loose threads, and no faults. During my search, I found that someone had sewed something into the hem. 

I carefully unpicked the excellent stitching and slid the rolled up piece of paper out and put it on the table.

I stared at it for the longest time, but eventually I summoned up the courage to unroll the tiny piece of paper. 

As I expected, it had something written on it, but the printing was so small I could not read it. 

I retrieved the magnifying glass that belonged to my grandmother and, under a very strong light, I examined this mysterious handwritten note.

In the tiniest of letters, the note said, “This dress was given to me by my lover, and I wore it only once. He died in my arms. I hope whoever buys this dress has better luck than I did.”

 

I folded up the dress, and put it in the largest box I could find and took it around to my sister’s house. 

If this dress is going to haunt someone, it might as well be her.

 

Painting by Jack Vettriano  

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Staring At My …….

Jack-Vettriano-Painting-94
There is a small possibility that this story follows on from this one……….

I wanted him to see what he’d been missing, so I lay there on the couch smoking my cigarette.

I met him at the station.

He’d been gone for a long time, and I missed him something terrible.

He bought me flowers and a present, but all I really wanted was him.

I knew he wanted me, and I wanted him too, but for the longest time he just stood there.

Didn’t even take his coat off.

I guess he was just thinking.

He was also looking at my bum.

I’ve got a nice bum. No wrinkles at all, as long as you don’t count that dimple, and my tits aren’t bad either.

It’s great to have him home.

I fixed the house up real nice just for him.

I want him to feel comfortable.

I wanted him to feel at home.

klimt-jack-vettriano-190881When I met him at the station, I just couldn’t contain myself.

I ran up and jumped on him.

At first, I thought I might knock him over, but he barely moved when I landed on him.

He held me in his arms like I weighed nothin’ at all.

I was already excited but feeling his strong arms around me really got me going.

We’ve got all the time in the world so he can stand there and stare at my bum for as long as he likes.

Paintings by Jack Vettriano.

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The Emerald Green Dress.

Jack Vettriano Painting 107

She bought that dress to please me.

It’s my favourite colour, and I love to see her wearing beautiful clothes. To complete the effect, she designed and made the necklace and earrings.

I work too much, travel too much and spend too much time away from her.

She’s patient, but for how long?

Fortunately, my job requires me to attend a lot of social occasions, particularly fund-raisers. We get to dress up and spend some time together. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I have the most beautiful wife. She has style and grace and something that is never applied to a male; poise.

She feels the cold, that’s why I’m putting my coat around her shoulders.

The first time I did that we were in Paris. 

We weren’t rich then, just a couple of kids who had worked hard for a few years; lousy part-time jobs while we studied. 

We lived on tinned soup and anything we could scrounge from the cafes we worked at. 

We were happy. 

Hungry, but happy.

Paris was our dream. 

I dreamed of being a writer and had visions of sitting in cafes that Hemingway sat in and writing a novel that the publishing world would fight over.

Her dream was different. 

She wanted to be a model. 

She wanted to be the model that famous painters fought over. 

Her dream became a reality, but mine didn’t quite make it. 

The war intervened and when it was over a bloke I fought alongside, who had saved my life on more than one occasion, introduced me to equities trading. 

I became rather good at it. 

Money always wins.

My novel sits in the bottom drawer of my desk at home.

She walked away from her modelling career to come back here and be my partner.

Sometimes I think I detect a kind of sadness in her eyes. Nothing too obvious, just a slight yearning.

There are paintings in important collections that feature her scantily clad beauty. Prominent artists still seek her out.

I drape the coat around her shoulders, and instantly, we are back on the West Bank in Paris. Young, poor and with our lives still in front of us.

I like making money, and I’m magnificent at it, but I don’t want to lose the lady in the emerald-green dress.

I wonder how long I can keep this up before someone steals her away? 

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Old Brown Suitcase.

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I’ve been away for a long time, and now I’m going home. 

My whole life is in this bag except for the clothes I stand up in.

I couldn’t go without one last look.

I wouldn’t say that I love the sea, but I would say that it sustains me. This little coastal town took me in when I needed to be invisible.

I was expecting the usual small town attitudes, but that’s not what I found. They didn’t exactly embrace me, but they didn’t run me out-of-town on a rail either. Funny expression that; where the hell do you get a rail at short notice? And why not just chuck them in the back of a ute and dump ‘em at the city limits? Seems like a lot less trouble to me.

But what would I know?

 

hopper.gasI didn’t want to draw attention to myself, so I went looking for work as soon as I arrived. I packed groceries on a Friday and Saturday, worked at the service station whenever one of the boys needed a day off and did odd jobs at the distillery during the whisky season.

Getting somewhere to live was also mysteriously easy.

Ma Weston runs a boarding house. The kind of boarding house you read about in books.

Breakfast at 6:30 am dinner at 7:00 pm, and if you were late you went hungry. Ma Weston could cook — boy, could she cook — no one was late to the table in this house. Not only was the food amazing the portions were ridiculous.

Ma Weston got her start in the boarding house business when her husband was killed working on the rigs in Bass Straight. It was one of those huge storms that Bass Straight is famous for. Someone said that it’s one of the roughest stretches of water anywhere in the world and on the night Mr Wilson was washed off the rig it was close to Armageddon. The wave that took him went over the top of the rig. Think of how high those things are and then imagine a wave big enough to go over the top of it.

And I thought that I had troubles. 

3430504504_7a3545f5d2The rig workers did what they could for Ma Wilson and their most practical contribution was to make sure that her boarding house was always full of rig workers. Some even stayed a night before heading home.

Now that’s loyalty.

After six weeks on a rig with a bunch of smelly, hairy men with nothing to do but work sleep and jerk off, the last thing most blokes would do would be to prolong their absence from home, but that’s what they did, and it got her through those anxious years.

These days most of the rigs have shut down, but those that are still going continue to remember Ma Wilson. I got to know a few of the regular blokes. We would share the occasional beer on a Friday night.

Landing in an oil rig town was a wise decision.

Oil rig workers are a strange lot; a bit like the Foreign Legion. They come from all over, and most of them are running away from something, so they understand a bloke who never wants to talk about his past. They don’t speak of the past, and neither do they ask.

I enjoyed my time here, but it is time to go home.

Alister McLean is dead.

I got the word a couple of days ago.

The rest of his gang are old and behind bars.

No one is looking for me anymore.

I’ve lived this way for so long I’m not sure that I can live any other way.

Never own more than you can shove into an old suitcase and be ready to go at a moments notice.

They nearly caught up to me a couple of times, but my luck held.

I remember a particularly talkative bloke on a train from Melbourne to Bendigo. Lots of annoying questions.

I’m pretty sure that he knew who I was but he wanted to make sure before he made the call.

Ten thousand reasons to dial those numbers.

He wasn’t too bright, and I gave him the slip. The second last time I saw him, he was in a phone booth gesticulation wildly. I wonder what they did to him when they found out that he’d lost sight of me?

I could see him frantically searching the platform as my train back to Melbourne pulled out.

I felt a pang of sorrow for this poor bloke. I know what it feels like to get that close to the brass ring — except in my case, I grabbed it. 

Jack Vettriano Painting 72

I’d been giving McLean’s missus a really good time for several months.

She was discreet, I’ll give her that. She needed someone; don’t we all?

I treated her as well as I was able. She was just like the rest of us who were living this life; she was juggling a grenade with the pin pulled out. It was exciting, but if you dropped the damn thing, it was going to end very badly.

McLean was an arrogant prick, and he never thought that Agnes would be looking when he punched in the code to open the safe. She played the dumb blond to perfection; she was anything but. I liked her a lot, and I was surprised to find that she knew what I was up to.

She came right out and said it.

“Billy, I know why you’ve been so nice to me. You want to know if I know the combination to the safe?”

You could have breathed on me, and I would have fallen over.

Honesty seemed like a good idea.

I’d rarely tried it, but there had to be a first time.

“It’s not just that Agnes, we had some good times, didn’t we?”

“Yes we did, and all I ask is that you leave some of it in the summer-house, behind the books.”

“There’s a lot of books out there kid. Exactly which books do you want the money to be behind?”

I’m not sure that McLean could read, at least not complete sentences, but he had me stock the summer-house with “lot’s of books that rich people like.”

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 11.47.59 amI did exactly as he asked and paid way over the odds to an old bloke who used to be a teacher.

He was old, and his wife was off with the fairies, and he really needed the money.

He obviously didn’t want to sell, and he’d knocked back a heap of book dealers, and by the time I got to him, he was practically in tears. He’d spent a lifetime compiling the collection.

It was the ‘first editions’ that the dealers were after.

This bloke had one of the most amazing collections of children’s books I’ve ever seen.

 

OldDesignShop_HolidayFunCoverThe only photos of children in his house were very old, and they didn’t look like photos of grandchildren.

He looked sadly at me when I handled them.

I knew better than to ask.

I offered him five times what the dealers had bid. What did I care? McLean could afford it.

I gave the children’s books and the first editions back to the old bloke.

He didn’t say thank you, he just took the money and the books and walked back into his house.

As I loaded the boxes into the back of McLean’s Bentley, I wondered if he would notice that the books were way over-priced.

He didn’t.

They had leather bindings with gold embossed titles.

They looked like they belonged in a posh library and that was all he cared about.

Eventually, Agnes chose the complete works of Charles Dickens as her hiding place. She thought about it for quite some time, and I smiled. 

“Excellent choice.”

I don’t know what she was expecting me to leave her in that literary hideout, but I was impressed that she didn’t set a figure; she left it up to me.

The pile of money made the Dickens editions stick out a bit, but there was no way McLean was going to notice.

I knew he didn’t trust banks, but I have to say that even I was amazed by the amount of cash jammed into that safe.

 

Mostly large denominations and they fitted nicely into an old brown suitcase. 

.

Paintings by Jack Vettriano, and Edward Hopper.
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It’s My Job To Hold The Umbrella.

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I answered the ad and they stuck an umbrella in my hands and said, “Hold it for anyone who asks, particularly women.”

They didn’t need to say it twice, I like women.

I like being close to the water. I like the smell of salt in the air and I like to eat so I needed a job.

To be honest, I was more used to handling an umbrella in the winter; rain falling down, that sort of thing.

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Women don’t like to get too much sun which is wise in a country where the sun will peel the skin right off you in a very short space of time.

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I was a bit hesitant at first but I soon got the hang of it. “Excuse me madam, would you like to be ‘umbrellaed’?” Mostly they looked at me a bit funny at first but usually they said yes.

My arms ached a bit, but I soon learned the ‘change hands’ technique, which worked fine unless it was windy, which it often was.

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The other ‘umbrella fellas’ said that this was a good job for picking up women but so far I haven’t seen a lot of action. I did get a kiss over near the ice cream stand but it didn’t lead to anything.

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She did hold my hand though, which was nice. Naturally I had to put the umbrella down; I didn’t want to poke her in the eye or anything.

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She didn’t kiss me straight away. She needed convincing. I even had to change my jacket. Obviously she preferred me in brown, and having one hand casually in my pocket didn’t do any harm either.

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Finally, as all Summers are want to do, this one ended, and so did my job. Fortunately there were a few very rich people who liked to stay by the ocean until winter set in and these people had heard about my umbrella wielding abilities and hired me on the spot. To be honest, it felt good to hold an umbrella and utilise it for its primary function; to stop beautiful women from getting wet.

As long as there was sand, sea and rich women, who didn’t want to get rained on, I was set.

I had risen rapidly through the ranks of umbrella carriers to rise to the top of my profession. If not fortune, fame was surely mine.

Who knows what the future will bring.

Maybe I’ll branch out and become a projectionist, to help fill in those long lonely winter nights.

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Maybe I’ll take up being a travel companion. They say that Angel is beautiful in the Spring. I’ll need a new suit and a better hat if I’m going to pursue that line of work, and I might need to work out just a bit. The duties of a travel companion can be quite taxing, or so I’m told. But I’m also discreet, so there won’t be any telling.

But, I don’t want to get ahead of myself. 

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There are still a lot of women out there who are forced to carry their own umbrellas, and that’s just not right.

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All illustrations bar the last two, are paintings by Jack Vettriano.

One of my readers, who is an excellent poet, wrote a poem about umbrellas a little while ago. If you click on this sentence you can go to her site and read it. I highly recommend that you do.

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The Letter.

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One hundred and sixteen words. 

More of a note than a letter, but in slightly more than a hundred words my life changed forever.

We were made for each other.

We both smoked the same brand, preferred single malt whisky and drove fast cars.

More often than not he took me from behind and afterwards we would smoke and talk.

He never rushed away as some men might; he caressed my skin and told me the things I wanted to hear.

He loved the small of my back, and I loved his powerful thighs.

His smile gave me butterflies in my tummy, and I knew his walk from two hundred metres away.

He smelled like three in one oil and iron filings, and I loved it.

He could go from boiler suit to dinner jacket in the blink of an eye.

He danced like a Latin lover and walked like a man who knew where he was going.

In most situations, I could exude an air of confidence and sophistication, but when he was around, I turned into an elegant puppy.

Heaven was holding his hand and listening to him talk.

No one believed me when I told them that he was a boilermaker welder. They thought that he was too suave to be a tradesman.

I had an expensive education, but he was way better read than I. He could name all the Greek and Roman gods in the same way that most people could name the players in their football team.

He wrote poetry, didn’t own a television and he would make love to me for as long as I needed him to.

Powerful hands held me gently, and although his hands were hard from working with steel, the backs of his hands were as soft as a baby.

I believed that I could hold on to him and maybe that was my mistake.

The words on the page were gentle but precise. 

He no longer loved me.

I’ve had lovers before but never like him.

I had my chance, and I let him slip away.

I can’t think anymore, I need to sleep.

.

Illustration from a painting by Jack Vettriano.
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