Submitted Date 04/10/2021

Eleanor stood inside the doorway to Sebastian's studio and waited until he turned on the lights. There was a still hush around them, the soft sound of some night bird singing in the trees. She looked behind her to the small lake the studio overlooked. The moon reflected off the gently moving water and something flew in front of it, casting a dark shadow over the bright glow. The quiet was soothing, comforting, and she understood why Sebastian chose to set up his studio and residence here on this hillside outside of Florence.

She felt his hand on her shoulder and she returned her gaze to him. She smiled a bit shyly, knowing that he was letting his guard down and letting her into his private world. This was his refuge, his private space that he had shared with no one else. He told her she was the first person he had brought there. She wasn't sure if she should believe him at first until she stepped into the studio.

Eleanor wasn't sure what to expect from the passionate man she had met over a week ago. The earlier scavenger hunt he had sent her on had surprised her and was romantic. The small cabin that housed his studio was nothing like she had imagined it to be. His easel and paints were set up to her right as she stood in the door, near the windows that lined the wall and let in the natural light during the day.

Her eyes slowly took in the art that sat in various stages of finish and her cheeks warmed a bit. He had never discussed the type of painting he did. Seeing it now, ranging from landscapes to abstract splashes of color and imagery, showed her the breadth of his work. His colors were bright, various shades of orange, red, yellow, and blue worked into every piece.

"Coffee, bambina?" he asked as he moved past her into the very neat kitchen. A single espresso machine and sunshine yellow coffee mug sat on the counter. Nothing else. As a matter of fact, the entire interior of the cabin, with the exception of his work area in front of the window, was neat, uncluttered, sparse in its furnishings without any extraneous objects littering the end tables on either side of the blue and tan plaid couch to her left. It wasn't sterile, not with the various paintings hanging on the walls or drying against the floor and wall, but there was very little of Sebastian's personality on display.

"Yes, please," she replied as she slowly entered his domain. She moved slowly, reverently, afraid to get too close to the art in fear of accidentally ruining it. Instead, she made her way over to the kitchen and settled against the counter. She watched him remove a container from the cabinet, catching a glimpse of the neatly arranged boxes and bags before he closed the door. He handed her a cup of the fragrant brew in a bright orange coffee cup. Eleanor looked at it. "You like bright colors."

"Cadmium orange is my favorite. It is vibrant and warming. It invokes happiness and comfort," he replied as he leaned next to her against the counter. "I saw you looking at my work. It is in every piece somehow. It is my signature, in a way." He took her free hand in his and led her through the cabin to the single bedroom. The door was located next to his easel and he let her go in before him. "You can relax in here, bambina. You won't ruin any paintings in here."

The bedroom was a stark contrast to the rest of the cabin. Here was Sebastian's personality shining through like a beacon in the dark night. A single painting hung above the bed, the colors darker, somber, with his signature orange splashing through. Magazines and books littered the nightstands on either side of the bed. Most of the magazines were art-related, but the books ranged from Tolstoy to Dante to Shakespeare. The drawers of the dresser were partially opened, t-shirts and other clothing peeking out. A stereo with a turntable and tape deck stood under the window. Eleanor quickly looked at the LPs in the rack, finding everything from jazz to classical to disco to some of the new hard rock coming out of England.

The bathroom was attached to the bedroom and the counter was lightly cluttered with shaving products, hair products, a toothbrush that was in need of replacing, and other bath items a man would have. He wasn't joking when he said the orange was his favorite color. The rug on the floor was orange, as were the towels hanging over the rack above the heater. The tub was a large, claw-foot affair that was immaculate and she could almost imagine Sebastian taking long baths in it. She didn't think she was too far off the mark, smiling at the remaining stubs of candles that lined the windowsill around the tub.

This was where Sebastian truly lived. Everything that was him was in these two rooms. If the rest of the house was where he prayed to gods of art, the bedroom was where he let loose with the carefree devils of life. She appreciated the fact that the bed wasn't made. It was just a jumble of blankets and pillows, carefree and disorganized, a stark contrast to everything else she had seen. She sipped at the espresso as Sebastian opened up the window that faced the lake and lit a cigarette.

Eleanor joined him at the window and took the smoke he offered her. She drew in deeply as she looked out over the serene lake. Sebastian slipped past her and turned out the lights of the room. She waited until her eyes adjusted and just listened to the sounds of the night as he wrapped his arms around her. This was why he lived here. The quiet, the serenity. It appealed to his soul. And now it appealed to hers.


Copyright 2021, Beth A. Freely


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