Before I Fall

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IV

“...and that’s why I love classics so much!”

Ambra had been talking for the past fifteen minutes whilst holding a cup of hot cocoa that Luca had made for her. It was unusual for him, he wasn’t used to having such a cheery person around him. He hoped that his small gesture of making her a warm drink would help her feel more comfortable around him.

He stared at a now flushed Ambra looked at him with a shy look on her round face.

“I-I’m sorry I shouldn’t have talked for that long. You’ve probably got so many things to do and here I am talking about stuff you probably don’t care about,” Ambra stammered as she put her now finished mug onto the coaster beside her.

“NO,” Luca shouted before he could realize the words coming out of his mouth. “I-I mean, please stay I don’t get many people in this store anyways. It’s a miracle this place is still running, to be honest.” Luca scratched the back of his neck sheepishly.

Ambra sat back down with a small smile playing on her lips. She hadn’t known this man long, but she hoped he would stick around. She saw potential in him. Potential to do something more than what he’d made of himself.

Maybe a painter, she thought as she stared at his hands.

She cleared her throat and looked back up into the emerald jewels that were Luca’s eyes and saw him staring at her with a slight smirk. She flushed a deep scarlet before deciding to make conversation. “Do you paint?” Ambra couldn’t hide the genuine curiosity in her voice.

Luca’s eyes widened before asking incredulously, “how the hell did you figure that out?”

“Just a hunch,” Ambra gave him a grin that resembled a Cheshire cat. ”Well?”

“Well, what?”

“Tell me about it, silly! I told you about my love for classics now your turn.”

Luca couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Not once had someone walked into his store and demanded to know what his passions were. He would receive the occasional thanks from a customer, but no genuine conversation was ever made. He thought he was staring at an angel.

“umm well, where do I begin. I really love classics too I-I guess.” Fuck why was he stammering so much?

“But yeah, you’re right I love painting too. I started it as a way to kind of escape life, you know? I’m not that good,” Luca’s palms were sweating at this point. He didn’t want to drive the gorgeous lady in front of him away with his childish love for painting. Yet, he couldn’t help but think that Ambra wanted to know more from the way she leaned forward slightly in her seat. It was like she was truly handing onto every word he spoke. Seeing her like this made him want to carry on.

“I actually started when I was really young. My parents didn’t like it when I painted, so they threw them all out whenever I’d show them. I don’t have any from my childhood actually, I wish I did so I could see my progress over the years, but at the same time I’m glad they were thrown away...” Ambra noticed the forlorn look on his face and the way his eyes hardened. She reached out to hold his hand and rubbed her thumb back and forth.

“Hey, you don’t have to tell me everything. I just wanted to know a bit more about you, that’s all but we can sto—”

“No,” he cut her off before his eyes softened. “I want you to know.”

Luca carried on for the rest of the evening. He talked and talked and talked whilst Ambra clung onto each emotion that was poured into their conversation. Luca purposely missed out the parts where he was abused and the late-night dancing. The screaming and touching. He wasn’t ready to relive that nightmare.

Instead, he told Ambra about the happy moments of his life when he was alone. How he spent the money he’d found on the side of the street on a pair of binoculars. He told her how he’d use them to look at the details when the sun was setting through his bedroom window so he could capture the beauty of it all. He told her of the times when he’d take money from this mother’s purse so he could buy himself a new set of paints when the old ones ran out.

All the while, Ambra noticed his eyes that held unshed pain. A story that was not yet ready to be told. A life hidden away from the rest of the world. Yet, she also noticed how he looked at her while telling his best moments. Behind the smiling gentleman in front of her was a broken soul begging to be healed. She wouldn’t let him become a lost soul, she thought as she focused her attention back onto the now smirking man.

“You know, I could paint you one day if you wanted,” Ambra had a feeling there was something wasn’t saying which was hidden behind his mischievous smile.

“Oh, yeah would it take long?” she tucked a strand of loose hair behind her ear and looked down at her nails.”

Luca rubbed the stubble growing on his face. “Not too long. Maybe a couple hours? I’d have to get every detail perfect. Your face, your arms, hand, breasts, thighs—”

“Wait, wait, wait, my breasts?! You mean covered right? Like my chest in a cute top?”

“Nope, I mean bare as the day you were born love.”

“Did you somehow forget to mention that you were a nude artist?! We’ve just met Luca!” Ambra’s flushed face stared back at Luca like he’d grown three heads. She knew he was getting comfortable but didn’t expect him to be this open on day one of them meeting.

Luca’s eyes shone in amusement as he stared at the angry bird looking specimen in front of him. “You’re cute when you’re frustrated.”

Ambra’s cheeks darkened to the point where she could feel the blood in her face. She grumbled a thank you under her breath before looking down at her baby pink nails again.

“I-I just haven’t done anything remotely close to that before. I’m sorry I didn’t mean to be rude,” Ambra hoped her outburst hadn’t caused Luca to go back into his shell. She was really enjoying seeing him smile.

"Love, relax. Did you really think I was gonna get you to stop naked in front of me?”

Ambra’s slight nod gave him the answer to his question. Luca let out a booming laugh before responding. “No, no we can do that another time, I was kidding don’t worry. But to answer your question I do, do nude paintings sometimes. Only if the other person is comfortable and we’ve discussed all the things they could be worried about. And besides, I need to get to know you better before we reach that stage.” He winked suggestively before Ambra burst into a fit of giggles.

They carried on talking until it nightfall. Neither caring for the outside world. Neither caring for anything other than each other and the cups of hot cocoa that were refilled periodically by Luca. They talked, listened and laughed.

And all the while, neither of them noticed the missed messages and calls from Ambra’s parents.

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