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Not exactly what Orwell had in mind, thought Blaise.
He thought he’d been forced to read it for a literature class at Swarthmore. He’d suspected the professor was some kind of communist intellectual.
He didn’t remember much of the book, but unless it had been about swim-up bars and off-pink stucco, it had missed the mark, at least from where he stood, which was on a small second-floor balcony of Alex Harbrace Hawley’s beach house.
The huge house was ultra-pale peach, an ode to geometry and an insult to nature. Every surface was planes- slants, cut-outs, odd jutting decks like the one above him- and here and there the minimalist neo-californian composite was set off by sleektubular rail; powder-coated metal in periwinkle blue. It ran in straight lines around the decks and down the outside staircase, which accessed every floor of the house down to the pool.
Blaise stood at the window arch of a little covered cupola that protruded from the second floor hall, which was open, hacienda-style, to the out of doors. The balmy evening wind didn’t fuck with his hair, Paul Mitchell had seen to that. His hair was luxuriant- touchable, but with hold- just enough length to sweep over his brow and back, but not long enough so as to look uncivilized, for Christ’s sake.
Since the integrity of his hair was never in question, he was free to think of other things, and he did, sipping his Manhattan and watching Alex’s party with nonchalant contempt.
He was gazing down upon a distinctly non-Orwellian tableu, a sort of clean hedonism. A Roman orgy as contrived by Nagel. Big brother had gone to sleep five years ago- probably on Valium, thought Blaise.
Things had not progressed to full-contact Roman debauchery perhaps for that reason alone. While people of means still indulged their vices as voraciously as ever, they did so in a kind of faux secrecy, seeking out the dubious privacy of a dark stairwell or marble toilet stall for a fuck or a line. It was purely a formal concession- no one was fooling anyone, nor did they intend to.
Afraid of waking the sleeping giant?
If so, then maybe the legacy of Orwell did persist in some capacity.
Fuck him, thought Blaise.
He’d also written that other book, the one the commie prof had made him endure as well during the course of the semester- that one about talking cows or some such bullshit.
He watched Pauline duPries as she swung her well-made ass through the crowd, a champagne flute in her hand. She was wearing a tailored black skirt and off-the shoulder blouse in jade-green. Pauline was his regular fuck, a book editor from L.A who worked for Pritchard-Wachstall. He’d bent her over her desk just last week, during a lunch break.
“I can always tell when you’ve been fucking,” she told him, afterward, pulling down her skirt and smoothing her stockings. “Your eyes get positively celadon.”
“Celadon? Christ, what a word.” He’d replied, effectively guiding his hair back into place with a few practiced gestures.
“Seafoam, then,” she shrugged.
Seafoam or celadon, he rolled them, but she was fixing her lipstick and didn’t notice.
“The point is, if you fuck someone else, I’ll always know.”
She was smiling triumphantly.
“Knowledge is power,” remarked Blaise, blithely, as he left.
Women often told him he had beautiful eyes, although he didn’t think that was actually what they meant.
His eyes were indolent, wide- deceptive in their heavy-lidded gaze; he always looked just ever so slightly sleepless. His expression was blasé, mild in its detachment- and therefore intriguing.
But there was something else there- something ruthless- a kind of cool intensity that they could not place for what it was. So they called it beautiful, when in fact they meant frightening.
Pauline called them seafoam, which was frightening in itself.
Pauline’s eyes were hazel- though doubtless she thought they were ‘loden’- and tonight they were swathed in bottle-green Shiseido liquid shadow.
Her blonde hair waved to her shoulders, gelled- the Wet Look.
He detested the Wet Look.
Alex was playing that fucking Ebn Ozyn song again. Alex, the counter-culture lap-dog, always barking up the wrong tree, as far as Blaise was concerned.
Not that Alex was a freak himself.
Alex was like Blaise, like Cary, like Bret, like Aubrey, like Marcus.
Alex was one of them, from his Ferragamo tie down to his Manolo Blahniks- and yet he persisted in this odd fascination with all things odd and edgy- from films to art to music to women.
He had thrown this party, and Blaise had come because Alex’s parties were a good enough time- avant-garde wingnuts notwithstanding- and because, for whatever reason, they were considered very hip.
That in itself was enough.
One could tolerate the black-clad writers and Warhol devotees, cruising among them- over them- like an evolved kind of bi-pedal shark, and it made no difference.
He recognized a man by the pool as Maxwell Cox, a Venice-based güvenilir canlı bahis siteleri painter of- crap, to put it mildly- whom Alex had a hard-on for, always telling anyone who would listen what amazing art the guy made. There was no telling how many of the shithead’s pieces he’d purchased.
Alex had tried to show Blaise his latest acquisition during his last visit to the beach house, but Blaise was having none of it.
The painting in question was massive, almost six feet long and equally wide. It hung over his mantel in the second floor living room, an unframed canvas of grotesque proportions.
“It’s called ‘Happening in Green’,” Alex whispered.
Blaise narrowed his eyes and stared.
“What’s happening? Nothing is happening. This canvas is green.”
“Not entirely,” said Alex, wounded.
No, not entirely.
“Is that- a fried egg?”
“If that’s what you want it to be.”
A small, amorphous, vaguely round blotch of white lay in the lower right hand corner of the painting, and slightly off-center in the middle of that was a smaller, yellow circle.
“Wow, that must have taken, like, minutes.”
“It’s interpretive. That’s the great thing about art.”
Alex’s genial shrug was imbued with trace amounts of smarm- barely evident to the casual observer, but Blaise noticed, because he often did exactly the same thing; although he did it better, in his opinion.
“Christ on a fucking polo pony, Alex- you’ve got to stop buying this shit. That’s what it is, you know- shit. Utter, total shit. This guy could jack off on a pomegranate and you’d be the first to make an offer.”
Alex had laughed.
“You don’t understand, and I know why. You don’t know what ‘art’ is, Blaise. You have no…soul. You’re a trigger man, Braidon.”
He gestured toward “Happening in Green”.
“This- this is brilliant. I don’t know why, or how- but it is.”
“Fine. I have no taste in art. Glad that’s settled. Next. Oh, look- here’s something- my friend Alex just paid a small fortune for an portrait of his tennis court.”
Alex hadn’t reacted, except to scoff at his disparaging words, and remained inordinately proud of his objet d’art. He’d showed it off several times already tonight.
“Oh, Blaise-” he’d say smugly, whenever he happened to be in earshot. “I was just taking these people to see the new Cox.”
“Haven’t you seen enough Cox?” he’d replied the last time, and the resultant titters from the bottle-red theatre bimbo at Alex’s side had been enough to make him rethink the wisdom of that little exercise.
Blaise craned his neck.
Ah, yes. There was Alex now. Dancing. Kind of. Showing Maxwell Cox some kind of move? Maxwell Cox seemed terminally underwhelmed.
It was fortunate indeed for Alex that he could financially afford both the social ineptitude and the paintings. If nothing else, it worked out well for Maxwell Cox, who painstakingly slathered entire canvases green in his Venice loft to finance his artistic lifestyle, which consisted, from what descriptions Blaise had heard, of riding up and down the boardwalk on his bicycle with the front basket full of parrots.
Rainbow macaws, according to Alex.
Blaise smiled a little in the semi-dark and put the glass to his lips. Below him, in the oasis of light, people milled and postured, posing to effect. The string of lights around the pool swayed in the ocean breeze.
“Haven’t you strayed a little far from the flock?” Said a cool voice at his shoulder.
Blaise turned slowly, in mild surprise, his wide-set eyes gaining a luminous cast in the shadow.
“Pardon?” he said, blinking.
The girl who stood there was definitely one of Alex’s art-house specials.
“Your flock,” she purred, gazing out at the water. “Or is it a pack?”
Blaise took her in, as he took in all things, skimming her details, making assessments. Her hair was cut in an asymmetrical bob- one side chin-length, the other grazing just above her shoulder. One half was dyed black, and the other, bleached blonde.
She wore a huge black ball-gown of a skirt, a Balenciaga, thought Blaise, with his eye for labels- topped by a tailored black designer sweatshirt, chicly faded to charcoal, with a slashed neckline that hung down, baring one shoulder. On one wrist she wore a multitude of black rubber bracelets that looked like o-rings.
Overdressed yet underdressed, thought Blaise, the province of the avant-garde.
He took a breath, and prepared to speak.
“I just stepped away for a little quiet,” he said, inclining his head.
She turned to look at him, thoughtful. Almost as if she were assessing him. It almost made him laugh out loud.
“What about you?” he asked, dutifully, as if he cared.
“I was trying to escape your friends.”
“All of them. I thought I’d come upstairs and hide until I’m missed.”
He studied her face.
Her eyes were big, light- but not like his own- not large, shallow pools of grey-green water that reflected güvenilir illegal bahis siteleri more than they gave.
Her eyes were almond-shaped and exquisite. Even, thought Blaise, ringed as they were in smoky kohl, smudged outward at the corners, the height of fashion excess. Her mouth was full made pouty by the pale shell colored lipstick that adorned it. Her lashes were long- they looked fake, but he almost thought they weren’t. No blush, but contoured cheekbones in a classic heart-shaped face.
Pretty, he thought. Very pretty, even. In a Ralph Lauren blouse…
But her makeup was an impediment to All-American success, let there be no doubt- the dark eyes, the pale lips- it smacked of crash-couture, of eurotrash.
Working the sixties look, he thought. Neo-Twiggy. Very avant-garde.
Her body was not at all Twiggy, however, he noted, with a cursory glance. Her curves were nothing less than modern day.
“I’m sorry,” he said, extending his hand, and shaking his head. “What was your name?”
She took his hand, lifting her eyebrows.
“Violetta?” He sputtered, laughing in spite of himself.
“Like the opera.” Was all she said, and seemed to view his reaction with the same kind of transient interest she might reserve for belly-button lint, or late-night alley cat-fights.
“Blaise. Blaise Braidon.”
“Blaise Braidon?” Her lips spread into a smile. Suddenly her amusement seemed much greater- like she’d seen an alligator man, or a five-headed infant.
Unusual, but well worth staring at for an hour or so.
“Yes,” he said, exaggerating the word.
Violetta laughed silently.
“How fucking perfect. Really, that’s brilliant. Is that really your name?”
“Would you care to see my driver’s license?” demanded Blaise, acidly.
She shook her head.
“Only in California.”
There was a silence, and she kept laughing, occasionally, as if she couldn’t quite bring herself to stop.
“I don’t think I’ve seen the opera “Violetta”, ” he said, forcing a smile.
“Traviata,” she said, quickly.
“La Traviata. Not Violetta. She’s the woman in the opera.”
“Ah,” he said. It seemed like he remembered something about that. He’d gone to the opera, of course. He went every year, box season tickets, right above the pit, he thought with a tinge of satisfaction. Certainly he’d gone to La Traviata.
“I was trying to put it in a context you might understand,” she said, and raised her drink to her lips. She left a pale impression on the edge, Blaise noticed, a lip-o-graph.
He had an odd and intrusive thought, an impulse, to take the glass and lick it off.
Blaise was used to his impulses, and didn’t give it much thought.
Violetta seemed absorbed in the scene below. He saw the downcast fringe of her eyelash in profile, like a docile black butterfly.
“So, what do you do?” Blaise asked, laconic, idling for more time.
Pursuing this conversation, Christ only knew why.
“I’m an artist.”
She seemed to be looking the other way.
“Really,” he remarked. “I’d never have guessed that.”
She smirked, but didn’t seem too pissed off.
“What’s your media?” he asked, coolly patient with the kind of dogged relentlessness that had made him a “boardroom terror” and a “force to be reckoned with”. Blaise was supremely confident. Time was always on his side.
“I stretch multi-colored rubber bands over nail grids on discarded planks I find in the street,” she said, blithely.
Blaise inverted his eyebrows.
“Really?” he asked, incredulous.
She pursed her lips.
“I spray-paint the mummified corpses of cats that maintenance men find in crawl spaces. I spray anti-Communist propaganda on them, and splatter them Jackson Pollack-style.”
“Are you serious?”
She shook her head, wryly.
“I paint,” she volunteered, for the first time, smoothing the voluminous taffeta of her ballroom skirt with her free hand. Her hands were many-ringed, gypsy-like.
“Oh,” said Blaise, drawing back, somehow given pause.
Violetta watched him, quietly amused, her mouth cloven, her eyes daring.
“What do you…” he said, with a wave of his hand, searching absently for a question, “-paint?”
“Plants and birds and rocks and things.” She said, smiling to herself as if she was hugely entertained by her own words, or something about them. “Sand and hills and rain.”
Blaise found it annoying. Her vague replies irked him. He was having a conversation with her, after all- using his time to talk to this Euro-trash space creature of a woman- when there were ninety-odd sure young things below. Maybe he wasn’t being overly genuine- maybe not- but that, thought Blaise, is hardly the point.
He disliked the idea of anyone being noncommittal in the face of his non-commitment.
“Portraits?” he demanded, smiling pleasantly.
She turned to look at him, smiled slowly, still very amused.
“Not so much. Some, maybe. If I have a good güvenilir bahis şirketleri subject.”
“And what, exactly, makes a good subject, my dear?”
“I could do a painting of you,” she said. “Narcissus in Gabardine.”
“Wow. Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?”
“Did it hurt when Mattel installed your hair?”
He smiled slowly.
“You’re smarter than you look.” He said, and sipped his drink. “You could do better for yourself.”
“Yes,” she answered, staring at him. “That’s just what I was thinking.”
She smiled superciliously.
“If you’ll excuse me, Brent.”
“Don’t leave on my account. I had no intention of coming on to you.” Blaise watched as Pauline duPrie sidled up to Marcus Stabler, brushing her breast against his arm as she did so.
Subtle, he thought, facetiously. Very subtle.
“My friend Alex would trip over his dick at the sight of you, though. You’re just his type- all that- bohemian shit really turns his crank.” He offered, amenably. “But you aren’t really my type, you know. No offense.”
“Alex, huh? Another member of the pack?”
“I guess. Yeah.” Blaise ran his fingers over his hair, absently. “Now- see the blonde down there, by the big, square urn with the yucca? That’s more my type. Her.”
Pauline, yes, every inch his type.
Except for the fucking Wet Look. Could nobody see how shitty that looked?
“She’s more my type,” he repeated, nodding firmly.
“I can see that,” Violetta replied. “And you must be hers, judging from that guy she’s with.”
“I don’t care about him.” He shrugged. “I’ll be fucking her tonight.”
“I didn’t mean it like that. I mean he might as well be you.”
Blaise paused, appalled, but determined not to show it.
“You must be kidding. Marcus? He’s a sycophant.”
“You’re better looking- but other than that,” she shrugged.
Blaise smiled oddly.
“Am I?” He took a sip of his drink. “Of course I am. It’s nice of you to say so, of course.”
“I like…your hair,” she said slowly. “It’s like warm sand. The color, I mean.”
He waited, rapt, for her to say more.
But she didn’t, having gone back to her kamikaze. The drink glowed in its glass like purple neon.
“You are exactly the kind of chick that Alex would just flip out over,” Blaise reaffirmed, after a moment. “No doubt about that. With that hair, the make-up, the Euro-trash debutante look. Just his type.”
“Ah, yes. Your kind always seem to have a fetish for the art chicks- present company excepted of course- “
“You get that a lot?”
“Sure,” Her lips curved into a smile, and she turned her eyes elsewhere.
Blaise looked down at Pauline, who had taken off her spiked heels and was wading in the fountain. She was drunk, shrieking with laughter.
Blaise grimaced at the sound.
No way am I driving her home. Alex can send his fucking car; Alex can just keep her here.
Pauline splashed Alex, eliciting a yolp and a protective arm across his Armani suit. She dragged herself out of the fountain and called for a drink- and where were her fucking shoes?
Marcus followed like a gigantic, earthbound hummingbird- in hapless pursuit of a great, ditzy flower that reeked of pheromones and favored the liberal use of Dep.
Marcus had the shoes.
He was holding them like they belonged in a time capsule, like reverent objects. Marcus was slavering like an uncut rottweiler.
Sycophant, thought Blaise, with cool contempt.
He could keep the shoes, along with Pauline, as far as Blaise was concerned. Pauline was replaceable. Pauline was not the designer creation that her clothes were. Pauline was strictly off-the-rack.
She staggered over to the low retaining wall and clutched at the trunk of a palm tree, hampered by her drenched and clinging skirt. Marcus hovered just behind her.
“Blaise,” she moaned, with drunken petulance. “Where are you?”
God, she was looking for him. She wanted him.
Marcus looked crestfallen, yet ready to keep his hat in the ring, so long as Blaise remained in absentia. He looked around anxiously.
“I don’t think he’s here,” he told her in a low voice that carried up to where Blaise stood, safe, for the moment, in the darkened cupola beside-
This art nouveau Cinderella. This London underground debutante.
He glanced at Violetta, who took no notice, engrossed, as she was with the scene below.
“Why don’t you go to her?” she asked.
Blaise said nothing.
Pauline, now sporting the Wet Look in total, continued to wail his name, more demanding, now. He remembered New Years’ Eve.
Pauline was not his type that night.
“He’s here,” Aubrey was saying. “I saw him in the hall on the way downstairs. Nursing a Manhattan.”
“I’ll go find him,” said Alex, to Pauline, who snatched her shoes viciously from Marcus.
“I have to leave,” Blaise said, suddenly.
Violetta looked surprised, her eyebrows forming quizzical little punctuations that caught his attention strangely.
“Now. I will not be here when Alex comes looking.”
“Fine,” she replied, after a moment, amused and slightly bewildered. “She obviously wants you.”
Blaise set his lips.
“Do I want you?”
“Let’s go. Let’s get the fuck out of here. Put down your drink.”
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