“Please try and keep still,” Molly says for the hundredth time. “Or this isn’t going to work.”
“Sorry, we’ll behave,” the woman, Georgina, says as she glances at her husband and then falls still. “How much longer is this going to take?”
Molly narrows her eyes over the drawing and bites on her lip. “I could have been done a while ago,” she mutters under her breath.
“What was that?”
“Soon,” Molly says with a smile. “Just keep still.”
The woman flashes Molly a scowl and then holds her head higher. They’re sitting in Molly’s painting room, it’s the only room of the apartment that brings in enough light. The woman is seven months pregnant and she wears a training bra with loose jeans as she rubs a hand over her large, round bump.
“I’m getting back ache,” Georgina complains, turning to eye her husband, Frank. “Are you?”
“Honey, just do what Molly says and stay still,” Franks says through the edge of his lips. “You’re the one that wanted to do this.”
“I didn’t realize it would take so long,” she sighs. She changes her position, removes her hand and starts wafting air at her face. “It’s so hot in here.”
Molly drops her paintbrush and walks over to the window, opening it wider. “Better?”
Molly returns to her seat and decides to just get on with it. She’s almost done anyway, she just needs to make a few minor adjustments to the background shades. After finishing art school she decided to explore the profitable world of portraits. She’s only been drawing portraits for money for a couple of months and so far her business has blown up. Between doing this and working at a restaurant she hardly has any spare time. Georgina is the only client that demanded to see Molly’s art degree certificate before stepping a foot inside her apartment.
“How old are you again?” Georgina asks her.
“I’m twenty-one,” Molly replies quietly.
“And you’ve not long graduated from college, right?”
“Don’t you think your business is a tad expensive for someone so young?” Georgina asks, not even attempting to disguise the rudeness.
“Georgina,” Frank hisses.
“Well, I have a right to voice my concerns. It is our money that she’s taking.”
“You promised you wouldn’t do this,” Frank says. “I apologize for my wife; I’d like to blame it on hormones but I dare say she’s been this way long before the baby came along.”
“I’ve been sitting here for three hours, Frank and the girl hasn’t shown us anything, how do we even know that she’s-”
“I’m done,” Molly says, gently turning the portrait around.
Georgina becomes speechless as she casts her warm eyes over the drawing, finished with acrylic paints. She smiles as she holds her stomach and difficulty stands up. “That’s incredible,” she says as she walks closer to admire it. “Oh wow, it’s perfect. I love it.”
“It’s so realistic,” Frank murmurs. “Much better than a photograph.”
“Told you,” Georgina says. “Do you think we could come back for another after the baby’s born?”
“Sure,” Molly says. “Just book a slot through my website.” Molly gently drags the painting over to the window and places it towards the sunlight. “It should be dry in around twenty minutes. Can I get you another drink or anything?”
“No, I’m good thanks,” Georgina says.
Molly leaves them to admire the portrait and she enters the kitchen. She makes herself a coffee and then checks her phone for messages. After twenty minutes she returns back to the painting room and gently studies it, making sure it’s completely dry before she hands it to them.
“Thank you so much,” Georgina says.
“I’ve made the rest of the payment through bank transfer,” Frank says. “Feel free to check.”
“I’ve received it thank you,” Molly says as she leads them towards the door. “I hope everything goes well with the birth. And don’t forget to leave a review if you have time.”
“It’s the first thing I’ll do when I get home,” Frank says. “Take care, Molly.”
She closes the door and takes a deep breath of relief. Her next client will be here in ten minutes and she’s panicking by how close it is. She didn’t expect her last session to run as long as it did and she drinks her coffee in between preparing for the next one. She opens the door when it knocks and she’s greeted with a stressed-out mother who is trying to hold on to her two children that are attempting to escape and run down the hall.
“Are you Molly?” the woman asks.
“Yes and you must be Tammy.” Molly holds out her hand for her to shake. “It’s nice to meet you.”
The woman grabs the children under her arms and Molly invites her inside. “Nice place,” she says as she swings her head around. “You live here alone?”
“No, I live with my boyfriend,” Molly says. “He’s at work. The painting room is this way.” Molly walks through and the woman follows, clinging tightly to her children’s wrists. “Can I get you a drink or-?”
“Why are there only pencils lined up?” The woman points towards the sketch pad and the stool next to it. “I’m paying for an oil painting.”
“No, uh, you requested a sketch,” Molly says.
“Well can you do an oil painting? I’ll pay extra.”
“Oil paintings can take up to two weeks to complete,” Molly says. “I don’t use them for portraits. But I can use acrylic paints, they’re just as realistic and don’t take as long to dry.”
“What if I sent you a photograph? Could you do it then?”
“I prefer to do the portraits live,” Molly whispers. “But I could work from a photograph if that’s what you want.”
“I want an oil painting,” the woman says rudely. Molly bites on her lip as she hears the apartment door open. “If you can’t make that happen then I’ll take my business somewhere else.”
“I’m booked up with appointments for the next two months,” Molly says. “I honestly don’t have the time to complete an oil painting.”
“Then we’re leaving. Come on, kids.” She stirs the children out of the room and Molly doesn’t have the energy to stop her. “Stupid waste of time,” she mutters.
“I agree,” Molly whispers.
The woman doesn’t look back as she opens the door herself and slams it behind her. Molly folds her arms, her back drifting into the wall.
“Well that was rude,” Charlie mutters. He’s standing at the other side of the kitchen, halfway through eating an apple. “You had a lucky escape.”
Molly smiles and walks towards him. Charlie throws the apple on the counter and he puts his hands to her waist as she swings her arms around his shoulders. “Hey,” she says.
“Hi,” he says.
“You look tired. How was work?”
“Tiring.” He grins and pulls her closer. “I’ve got a few hours before I need to be at the club though.”
For the past three months, Charlie has been working Friday and Saturday nights as a security guard at a popular club downtown. His day job has varied but he’s finally found something he likes; building. He mostly works on big jobs in people’s homes, remodelling or knocking down walls or expanding their rooms to make bigger rooms. His job pays well, really well, and they’ve been discussing the idea of buying a house on and off for a while. He wants to go into property development full time and eventually start his own business but Molly fears it’ll take up all of his time which neither of them have much of anyway.
“You sound like you want a really long, hot bath,” Molly says teasingly.
“No, you sound like you want a really long, hot bath and you want me to run you one.”
“Fine,” he sighs, bringing his lips to hers slowly. “You got me wrapped around your finger, Molly Harrigan.”
“I can have you wrapped around more than that.” She winks as she backs away. “I’m gonna undress, I’ll meet you in the bathroom.”
He stares after her, his lips twisting into a dreamy smile. She enters the bedroom and starts taking her clothes off as she hears the water running next door. She throws a bathrobe around her naked body and ties her hair up, entering the bathroom a few minutes later. Charlie is still wearing his builder clothes and she stands against the wall watching him kneel next to the bath, running his hand over the bubbles. Everything about him turns her on. The muck patches on his tanned, thick arms; his heavy and loose workwear pants that have several pockets hanging over the side of his leg. And then to his tattoos. He had the sleeve completed last year, his arm is covered in beautiful spiralling patterns, some of the design is like cigarette smoke leading to the queen of hearts card on his forearm. He’s planning to get the other arm completed but he's still deciding on what he wants.
“Are you coming in with me?” Molly says.
“I’m not really a fan of baths,” he sighs. “You know I prefer showers.”
She drops the bathrobe to the ground and Charlie turns around. He looks at her body and swallows, turning the tap off.
“That’s not fair,” he whispers.
“How about now?”
Charlie grins and walks towards her. He scoops her up in his arms and she laughs as he gently drops her into the bath.
She gets comfortable in the water, swishing her arms around the bubbles as Charlie takes his pants off. She bites on her lip when he pulls his underwear down, and she moves forward to allow him to lay behind her. He moves her hair over and kisses her throat and then the top of her back.
“Do you really have to go work tonight?” she says sadly.
“Yeah, sorry. I’ll be there when you wake up though.”
“But you’ll be asleep. I have a client at ten.”
“I’ll be awake by then; I’ll probably be awake before you. I promised you breakfast and I’m planning on keeping that promise.”
“Okay,” she says, dropping her head back into his shoulder. “Are you still coming to Lauren and Perry’s dinner party tomorrow?”
“I plan on going with you to it,” he says. “But I have to leave for work around eight.”
“It starts at seven,” she sighs.
“Moll.” He turns her around and she reluctantly allows him. “I know that I’m working a lot, we’re both working a lot, but remember what it’s for. It’s for our future, so we can buy a house and have vacations and kids. . . one day. We talked about this.”
“I know we did. But I don’t just want our lives to be work and tiredness, you know? Being an adult is difficult.”
“It’s exhausting.” He grins and touches her cheek. “But getting to come home to your face every day makes it a little more bearable. I love you.”
“I love you too,” she says.
She turns back around and he strokes her arms with a flannel. They spend some time relaxing, playing with bubbles in between washing themselves and then his hands squeeze gently around the top of her shoulders, massaging her slowly. She closes her eyes and bites on her lip, trying to fight it, but she can’t.
Molly sits on top of him and closes her eyes as their tongues touch. She runs her hand along his wet body, both of them becoming hotter and hotter until he picks her up again and takes her into the bedroom. She is placed on the soft mattress and Charlie rolls his tongue down her stomach then softly kisses her scar. That scar is a reminder of everything they’ve overcome together, how powerful their connection is, and how grateful they are every single day that they survived what most others wouldn’t.
She knows how lucky she is to have Charlie as her boyfriend, her protector, her soulmate, and to never have to question her place in the world again. The years they have spent together have flown by, they have supported each other and listened to each other, they compromise better than most married couples. But time is the one thing that Molly can’t slow down and a year ago she was given a life-changing diagnosis that rocked her whole world.
After suffering from severe chest pains and collapsing at work, she was rushed to hospital where the tests concluded that she had developed angina. She manages the condition with medication every day and although most of the time she feels okay even the slightest strain of overactivity can bring on a small attack. In the event of major stress or extreme exercise, her condition can lead to a heart attack.
At the hospital they asked her if she had been under any unusual stress in the last couple of years. She had no idea that all the pain and worry from that night on the bridge when she was stabbed—when she thought she had lost Charlie—would have led to a permanent heart condition. She had experienced unpredictable chest pains often after the incident but they always went away after a few minutes and she didn’t want to cause a fuss over nothing.
As long as she remains relaxed and calm then she can have a normal, long life with no complications. Charlie helps her with that. He keeps her life as peaceful as possible; he even went as far as to hide bill payments from her when she had to take a month off work following her angina attack. She offered him her inheritance money from her savings account but he wouldn’t take it. The whole ordeal really tested them and Molly often wonders what the universe could possibly throw at them next.
She lays on the bed as Charlie kisses her throat but she knows he’s observing her heartbeat. If it’s too fast then he’ll stop and that’s exactly what he’s doing now.
“You need your spray?” he asks.
“If I said yes would you judge me?”
“I’d take it as a compliment,” he says.
She laughs and grabs the spray from her nightstand. She sprays the medicine into her mouth and then pulls him back to her. She takes deep breaths and relaxes her muscles, enjoying the sight of his toned body that leans over her. She counts down the seconds until her heartbeat becomes slower, but just the mere touch of his fingers makes it soar once more.