THE DATE PART IV; OR, BE MY BABY
Rhodes Cardell appeared, more or less, his usual self. He was working on a shoot which involved copious part-concealed nudity, and numerous insouciant and cheeky requests of the “would you mind pointing your delicious decolletage a little more to the right, Alyssa” variety spilled from his lips with their usual pep and vulgar charm. All the better to put the models (most of whom were entirely relaxed with nudity anyway) at their ease. Yet, within, Will Makepeace was in a kind of ludicrous turmoil. Busy as they both were, he and Isabella had set the date for a week and a half after their last meeting. There was to be no pressure, it was just to be a simple night out at a restaurant, that was all, nothing special.
No-thing. Special. But, Will Makepeace was emerging more and more from beneath the fragile mask of Rhodes Cardell. For years there had been no difficulty in *being* Rhodes, after all Rhodes and he were the same person; it was just that Rhodes Cardell was a transformed Will Makepeace, a Will for whom confidence in his Art had enabled him to manufacture a confident, lively, unabashed personality that seemed, on the surface, entirely unalike that of the unconfident, diffident, cautious persona of the old Will. But now here he was…the dizzying, discombobulating *passion*, the wish to be worthy, the longing for love, that he’d conceived for Isabella Arden revealed that Rhodes was mostly a veneer.
He felt like an Actor, as if Rhodes Cardell was just a performance rather than a genuinely different Will Makepeace. Rhodes Cardell appeared to be nothing more than a vehicle for the success of his Art, accomplishment of his Job.
And It Wasn’t Enough.
Meeting Isabella Arden and talking as he photographed her had made him want, no *need* to know her better. It seemed *inexplicable*, but as he’d put her at ease in a gentle blithe fashion – quite different to on the raunchier shoots, he had become adept at shifting between modes – and they had talked he’d felt *changed*.
He had photographed many beautiful women and had flirtatiously conversed with them (and had been disappointed to discover that, along with some of the handsome men he’d shot, some of them had no inner beauty, egos like the Hindenberg before it burned, and all the charm of a stinking month-dead haddock) but even though had liked more than a few, he had been drawn to none of them powerfully enough – on a deeper level – to conquer the crippling fear that his apparent extroversion so artfully concealed; the notion that they could have been attracted to him at all was inconceivable in any event. So he would return home to his luxuriously appointed studio apartment strenuously denying to himself his sexual frustration and, more importantly his loneliness and longing for love. As it was he couldn’t help but think that all of these desires, these *aches* were juvenile, meaningless, he could not accept his worthiness, so he, only part-knowingly, channeled his pain, his energies into his work, until the work seemed his world… But within a few minutes of meeting Isabella the feeling of *change* was *undeniable*. The mask of Rhodes Cardell began to slip from his face, and as they talked he found himself confronted with the lies that he had told himself. Each word from Isabella Arden’s mouth served to dismantle the wall he’d built within, brick by brick. It was painful but somehow joyous, there was something indefinably wonderful about her beyond her intelligence, wit, and luminous idiosyncratic beauty, and soon the wall was gone. Rhodes/Will had found himself on the day of the final shoot simply *falling* into asking her on a date, it was either that or lose her forever. And, no matter how childishly *terrified* he was, of asking her, of being rejected and his heart dying, of *everything*; the pure, intense, passionate need to be with her was *greater*. He seemed to be in one of his favorite Bowie songs, Be My Wife. The only questions were: could he be worthy and who would he be now?
To be continued…