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Вы здесь » SACRAMENTO » Реальная жизнь » All you need is art


All you need is art

Сообщений 1 страница 13 из 13

1

Сан Франциско | 23.04.2015 | много

Ayaz Korrh и Anthony MacIntyre
https://i.imgur.com/4dKTkQg.jpg

Они познакомились на скучнейшем аукционе. Вы себе представить не можете насколько банальны аукционы женихов. И Аяза угораздило стать лотом. Так они и познакомились с Тони, выставку которого Аяз организовал совершенно бесплатно, ибо выигрыш есть выигрыш.

Отредактировано Ayaz Korrh (2021-03-11 15:31:44)

+1

2

Аяз терпеть не мог такие мероприятия. Что за ересь. Ладно там благотворительный концерт, сбор средств, аукцион, прекрасно. Но чёрт его дёрнул согласиться провести мероприятие для старого знакомого, что переехал из Сакраменто в Сан-Франциско. Это оказался аукцион женихов. Возраст которых был  в два раза выше, чем его собственный.
Но он пообещал Рони тогда в баре сделать это и из-за алкоголя забыл уточнить что это. Когда ему прислали план мероприятия, он хотел просто пустить пулю себе в висок, лишь бы этого не делать. Но, он же обещал. Поэтому, заткнув свою гордость за пояс, он одел костюм и весь вечер представлял изрядно потрёпанные лоты и говорил что-то типа:
- Посмотрите на мистера Дрюза. Это как дорогое вино, со временем такие мужчины становятся только лучше, не стесняйтесь дамы, у него пять домов в США и один в Париже, - или, - Перед вами образец лондонского обаяния, редкость сейчас в наших краях, - а эта редкость улыбалась улыбкой, по которой брекеты плакали ещё где-то в тридцатых годах.
Мероприятие шло вяло, ставки были маленькими. Ну, что он мог сказать, он старался, какие лоты, такие и ставки. Все уже заскучали на лоте пятом, шестом.
- Аяз, что делать? - был в ужасе Рони.
- Твоя кузина Клэр тут? Она не разучилась танцевать танго.
- Нет, а что.
- Веди её сюда, сейчас же.
Её привели, он вывел её на сцену. Благо дело девочка была не дурой и понимала что к чему. Он попросил её на ушко ему подыграть и  произнёс в микрофон:
- Перед вами цветок этого вечера, юная Клэр, кузина нашего организатора. Надеюсь милая леди не откажется станцевать со мной танго и порадовать публику, чтобы разогнать немного кровь?
- Не откажусь, мистер Коррх.
- Вы прелесть, Клэр, музыку!
Заиграло аргентинское танго, Аяз прикрыл глаза, якобы от удовольствия, на самом деле, он представил на её месте одного из своих бывших и танец пошёл как по маслу. В то время Аяз был убеждённым геем. Но, навык не пропьёшь. Шаг, поворот, шаг, шаг. Девушка была не промах и давала себя вести. И танцу аплодировали стоя. Успез.
Внезапно, когда девушка ушла, на сцену вышел Рони и саркастически аплодировал:
- Давайте же не дадим нашему главному лоту опомниться и сбежать со сцены, - зал взорвался одобрением.
- Чего?! - выдал Аяз нечаянно прямо в микрофон.
- Ну же, мистер Коррх, не упрямьтесь, всё на благо детей. Дамы и господа, организатор мероприятий, ресторатор, владелец клуба, мистер Аяз Коррх. Посмотрите на этот образец турецкой внешности. Но, как то он говаривал, что в нём течёт и итало-американская кровь. И ещё, он хорошо готовит и отменный любовник.  Аяз повернись, покажись дамам.
- Я так тебя отлюблю по морде когда это закончится, Рони, родная мама не узнает, - подумал Аяз.
Но, show must go on, как пел наш незабвенный Фредди Меркюри. Поэтому Аяз нацепил улыбку и выдал:
- Рони, ах ты льстец, я не уверен, что я могу составить конкуренцию таким, как Мистер Дрюз, - тот помахал ему рукой, мол, полно те.
- Ты себя недооцениваешь, начнём со ста долларов.
- Сто двадцать, - выкрикнула дама, которая знала, явно знала, что такое нафталин.
- Сто двадцать от мадам Финифи, - радостно выдал Рони. 
- Сука, если эта "красотка" меня выкупит, то мне хана. Спасите, кто-нибудь. , - пронеслось у него в голове.
Но ставок больше не делали, в этом городе было известно, что он гей, тут Рони разболтал это почти всем. Положение было почти безвыходным.
- Сто двадцать раз, - и Аяз нервно сглотнул, но сам мило улыбался даме.
В итоге его продали за 120 долларов. Он сошёл с парапета и на этом, аукцион был окончен. Мадам Финифи улыбнулась протезом и сказала:
- Я понимаю, что это формальность, но будь я помоложе, ух бы такого как вы, мистер Коррх не отпустила. Вы так танцевали с кузиной. Вы же составите мне компанию на сей вечер.
- А то как же, не оставлять же такую розу как вы одну.
И он стоял на фуршете в её стайке она трещала без умолку, а Аяз выполнял функцию красивой мебели. Просто украшал даму, так сказать. Но внутри ему всё ещё хотелось застрелиться. Но, дело есть дело. Работаешь, работай до конца.

Отредактировано Ayaz Korrh (2021-03-11 15:36:30)

+1

3

Энтони мрачно рассматривал блики на стенках своего бокала. Он мысленно обещал себе - и даже частично в это верил - что больше не поддастся на уговоры Вивиана. Мсье Лоран - толковый бизнесмен, настоящий делец, предприимчивый и ловкий, и со своей работой агента художника он справлялся великолепно, стоит отдать ему должное, и именно поэтому Энтони всегда слушался его беспрекословно. И что в итоге? Покорение нового континента - чрезвычайно амбициозная, мать её, идея, и художник на неё повёлся и очутился в стране, где не хотел проживать, в городе, где не хотел находиться, на очередном пафосном мероприятии, которое было ему не интересно.
Вивиан уже растворился в толпе, смешался с прочими гостями - отправился заводить новые знакомства и налаживать связи, не иначе, и, по-хорошему, Энтони следовало заняться тем же, но он продолжал упрямо цедить вино, неожиданно недурное. Что ж, если не выйдет хорошо провести время - по крайней мере можно надраться хорошего вина. Так себе альтернатива, но что ему остаётся? Как многие творческие личности, Энтони порой любил излишне драматизировать.
Спустя полбокала он начал вяло соображать, что вокруг него происходит.
Дамы - изрядно поднабравшиеся - выкрикивали какие-то цены, будто боролись за антикварный комод XVIII-го века или утончённый кофейный столик той же эпохи. "Не я один оценил прелесть местного вина", - усмехнулся Энтони, глядя, как одна смуглая леди вскочила со стула от нетерпения и едва не завалилась набок, зацепившись высоким каблуком за некое препятствие на полу. Эксцентричный художник прекрасно знал, насколько коварен высокий каблук - прямо сейчас на нём были ботинки из натуральной кожи, лимитированная коллекция, приехавшие прямиком из Италии, на прочном каблуке, по высоте не уступавшей туфлям нетрезвой дамы, вот только Энтони ни за что не допустил бы подобного конфуза, потому как что может быть более нелепым, чем человек в дорогой обуви, едва переставляющий ноги? Собственно, поэтому он и мусолил один и тот же бокал весь вечер, не желая становиться врагом себе.
На самом деле он почти угадал - дамы мерялись ценами, как заправские торгашки, но комоды и столики были здесь ни при чём. Они сражались за мужчин, которых выставляли на лоты, словно в древние времена рабовладельческого строя, по сути и превращая бедолаг в рабов на один вечер. Энтони, претенциозный англичанин, был поражён дикостью и абсурдностью местных нравов. Америка, чёрт подери! Страна демократии! Им - всем собравшимся - действительно кажется, что они устроили нечто развлекательное? Даже чучело Гая Фокса сжигать куда веселее!
Но определённая польза у дурдома с лотами всё же была. Ведущий этого безобразия расхваливал каждый "лот" не хуже опытного пиарщика, и Энтони обратился в слух, по большей части от скуки - никто из перечисленных мужчин не мог ему пригодиться с профессиональной точки зрения. Зато когда волшебным образом тот, кто прежде называл чужие имена в микрофон, сам оказался на месте жертвы расточительных женщин, Энтони коротко посмеялся в бокал. Какой неожиданный поворот! Судя по растерянному лицу мужчины, неожиданный в том числе для него. На долю секунды художнику стало почти жаль его - особенно после того, как цену назначила страхолюдная кошёлка, увешанная драгоценностями. С таким-то количеством золота в ушах - могла бы и побольше перечислить на благотворительность, чем  жалкие сто двадцать баксов. Американцы - жуткие скряги. Нет, Энтони определённо не нравилось в Штатах и вряд ли когда-нибудь понравится.
Его, однако, заинтересовало, что мужчина - как же он представлялся? Мистер... Коррх, такое странное, непривычное британскому уху имя - управляет таким количеством сфер одновременно. Клуб, ресторан, ещё и организация мероприятий... конечно, всё это не стоит и выеденного яйца, если он каждый раз устраивает подобную безвкусицу, но всё же мистера Коррха можно посчитать потенциально полезным знакомым. Вивиан бы наверняка посчитал... И потом, у бедняги такое искренне измученное лицо, как бы он ни пытался храбриться! И вино в бокале как раз закончилось. Теперь Энтони решительно нечем себя занять.
Художник поднялся, пересёк часть зала, аккуратно лавируя между небольшими группками людей, и подобрался прямо к "хозяйке" мистера Коррха, разглядывающей представленные на фуршете блюда в компании своей добычи и нескольких собеседниц.
- Добрый вечер, леди, джентльмены, - вежливо улыбаясь, Энтони поочерёдно кивнул присутствующим, обращая на себя их внимание. Впрочем, ему не обязательно было говорить, чтобы привлекать внимание окружающих - уж слишком он выделялся на их фоне. Не потому, что как-то иначе выглядел или держался. Он просто казался другим, заблудшим туристом с таинственного туманного острова, пришельцем с другой планеты, и его безукоризненный британский акцент выдавал художника с головой. - Прошу прощения, что вынужден прервать вашу, без сомнения, увлекательную беседу, но, если позволите, нам с мистером Коррхом необходимо обсудить кое-какие рабочие детали. Видите ли, я - Энтони МакИнтайр, художник, и мистер Коррх был настолько любезен, что согласился организовать мою выставку. Мы как раз договорились обсудить подробности на сегодняшнем вечере.
Ложь, выдуманная буквально на ходу, так легко соскользнула с языка, что Энтони сам удивился - когда он успел научиться так мастерски лицемерить? Общение с прессой помогло, наверное. Цели он добился - дамы, к счастью, признали, что работа превыше всего, и позволили художнику увести ошалевшего организатора подальше.
- Не благодарите, - усмехнулся Энтони, хватая на ходу бокал вина с фуршетного столика, - у вас был настолько отчаянный взгляд, что я не мог сидеть сложа руки.
Он устроился за столиком в углу и жестом пригласил спасённую жертву присоединиться.
- Мне, однако, крайне любопытно, какими мероприятиями вы занимаетесь? Не только ведь лоты распродаёте, правда? 

+1

4

К тому времени бабочка уже жала на горло Коррху так, что он хотел снять её и удавить ею мадам Финифи собственноручно. Она всё веселилась и сыпала неуместными пошлостями. А один раз, проталкивая его к бару прошлась по его спине и чуть ниже экватора:
- Да вы моя шалунья, - флиртанул Коррх, с улыбкой дружелюбного аллигатора, но в этот момент ему хотелось сквозь землю провалиться.
Плюс, ему хотелось набить то лицо, которое вякнуло в толпе:
- Смотрите, а педика то старая кошёлка заарканила, так ему и надо, нечего приличные мероприятия вести.
Убийца внутри Коррха всполошился не на оскорбление его лично, на такие оскорбления ему было плевать, но вот старушку это могло оскорбить. Слава небу, она оказалась видимо уже слаба слухом или успешно притворялась. Она вяла его под локоток и отвела к бару:
- Ну что, угостите даму бокальчиком вина?
- Непременно, миледи.
Он взял пару бокалов и произнёс тост:
- За детей, которым пойдут сегодня деньги.
- О не от меня, - сказала мадам, опрокидывая бокал залпом, - я бы и кошелёк не достала, если бы на стенд не вывели такого восточного жеребчика как вы.
- Вы мне льстите, - сказал Аяз и нервно сглотнул, вот теперь ему точно хотелось её придушить.
Он уже было смирился с тем, что весь вечер ему прийдётся отвечать на подобные скабрезности, как внимание к себе привлёк  юноша с очень необычной внешностью. Его трудно было не заметить. Это было как в песне Стинга "I am englishman in New York".  Так этот, даже на первый взгляд, был творческим человеком. Что он и доказал в эту же секунду. Он стал говорить откровенную ложь, всю, кроме своего имени и рода занятий. Но глаза, которые были разного цвета, что делало его ещё более интересным, так и просили Коррха подыграть.
Аяз изобразил на лице узнавание и сказал:
- Точно, мистер МакИнтайр. Простите меня ради неба, я совсем позабыл о нашей встрече. Я не ожидал, что мой друг пошутит и представит меня в качестве лота. Но я не жалею, ведь вечер я провёл с такой очаровательное мадам Финифи, - он обратился к ней, - Душа моя, к сожалению я вынужден вас покинуть, так как меня обещали Энтони, гораздо раньше. Я не планировал быть лотом, но, чтобы ваша душа была спокойно все напитки сегодня за мой счёт.
- Вы негодник, Аяз Коррх, - наиграно возмутилась дама, - Но я вас прощаю. Если от вас будет приглашение на выставку джентельмена.
- Непременно, миледи.
И дама удалилась в гордом одиночестве, а потом Коррху прислали счёт на пятнадцать бутылок шампанского и надушенную записку "За притворство", но это того стоило и Энтони буквально спас его шкуру в тот момент.
- О да, вы меня буквально спасли, да ещё так искусстно, что даже вышел сухим из воды. За это всё-таки спасибо. Я уважаю женщин, но для таких, как она, мы ещё солоды и не на столько устали от жизни, - сказал он, присоединяясь к нему с бокалом вина в руке, к которому он так и не притронулся, - Да, меня действительно зовут Аяз Коррх и, что касается мероприятий, то тот вертеп, который вы сегодня видели, это необдуманное обещание другу за алкогольным напитком. Я обычно  от такого отказываюсь. Плюс приехал из Сакраменто, чтобы возможно открыть тут свой ресторан в дальнейшем. Что до мероприятий, я устраиваю мероприятия любого класса, включая выставки картин. У меня в городе есть двое знакомых в картинных галереях и я мог бы вам с этим помочь.
Он всё же сделал глоток вина и сказал:
- А, учитывая что вы спасли сегодня мою шкуру в буквальном смысле, вам я готов сделать скидку тридцать процентов на проведение. Только я должен видеть предметы искусства и понимать, какие вам дать рекомендации по проведению. Некоторые любят с шампанским и апломбом. А некоторые просто приветственный коктейль, музыку или без неё и просто посмотреть на картины. Нужно ещё понимать,  планируете ли вы продажу картин на самом мероприятии. Это немаловажно, - сказал Коррх, вручая свою визитку, - И я вижу, что для вас подобное мероприятие, как бы это мягко выразиться, раздражающе скучное. Мне было бы интересно, кто же вы и как видите свою выставку.
Знакомство знакомством, но Коррх тоже любил налаживать связи, так чего же было затягивать. Ему было приятно, что Энтони так виртуозно его спас от общества мадам. Но он видел, когда человек просто сделал это из вежливости или когда видел в нём выгодное знакомство. Впрочем, Коррх был не против этого.
Он всегда имел хорошую хватку. Почему-то и он не мог прояснить себе почему, Энтони располагал к себе и с ним хотелось пообщаться, даже если сделка не выгорела бы. Аяз снимал в Сан-Франциско апартаменты на время визита, и мог бы задержаться на более долгий срок задержаться.
- Впрочем, - он добавил, - если я ошибся и вам мои услуги не нужны, тоже приношу свои извинения. Деловая привычка сразу видеть детали, в случае если хотя бы огласили формат мероприятия.
Он сказал это потому, что у Энтони могли быть и другие интересы, к примеру, просто поговорить с таким же, как он человеком, кому были не по душе подобные рауты. Коррх больше любил мероприятия в своём клубе и ресторане, там он не давал налёту старины проникать в расписания и его мероприятия, всегда были с налётом весёлости, хорошей кухни и музыки. Однако, Аяз заинтересовался Энтони ещё и потому, что уважал и боготворил искусство в любом его проявлении.

+1

5

The lights in the hall were blinding, the noise was making any conversation impossible, the indistinguishable voices were creating a horrible cacophony straight from the depths of Hell, but here, in the very corner of the room, the hum made by guests was slowly dying out, clearing the air for a casual chat.
Anthony smiled. He had asked Ayaz not to mention the cunning rescue mission, yet here he was, thanking his rescuer quite sincerely. In a way Anthony could understand it - in fact, he could understand it very well. He of all people knew the feeling of blissful relief; he had felt it many times when he'd escaped the claws of predatory reporters. Escaping the claws of a bored lady couldn't be much different.
- So, art exhibitions are on the list of the things you organize, is that right? - the artist made an elegant sip of his wine. - Very well. I'm interested. As long as you sell paintings instead of people, - he gave a short, quiet laugh and shook his head, - uh, forgive me. I didn't mean to seem rude - it's just... Let's say, it's the first time I see a... show... of such a sort.
Well, whatever was going on there actually looked like something promised over a drink. Even if Ayaz was lying, he was a really good liar. Almost like Anthony.
He went on talking about possible concepts, and Anthony listened carefully, thinking and sipping the wine. He liked what he heard, Ayaz was obviously quite good at his business, but Anthony had neither power nor confidence to make a decision right on the spot. He had to discuss it with Vivian, introduce him to Ayaz, maybe, and let two gentlemen bury their heads in financial philosophy. After all, he was never good with money. He was just an artist.
- A true businessman, I see, - Anthony smiled again, - no need to apologise, sir. Like I said, I am indeed interested. You see, my agent is constantly persuading me into organizing an exhibition here, in the United States, but I'm out of ideas. I've just arrived and know very little about how American business world even functions. I'm not really sure I know how America functions at all... people are loud and scandalous, mass-media workers have never heard of personal space, the sun is always shining and local tea is absolutely disgusting. God, I sound so British, don't I? - the artist laughed at himself. He usually tried to keep his displeasure with anything American-related deep inside - yes, he might've been just a little bit too patriotic, but he wasn't a fool and didn't want to cause any trouble. Still, Ayaz didn't look American, didn't really sound American - he had some sort of a southern accent, perfectly matching his appearance - and the man with the microphone had mentioned Turkish blood... Anthony believed he was safe. Even if Ayaz disagreed, he wouldn't have acted offended. Hopefully.
-Anyway, - the proud Englishman shrugged, - while I am certainly curious about your professional skills, I cannot make such a decision all by myself, therefore... Would it be okay if I have your phone number, so I could give it to my agent later? He will contact you shortly. Do you have a card?
He made sure to keep the provided contacts safe in his pocket and absent-mindedly gazed down at his glass, only to discover it was close to being empty. Where did all the wine go? And, most importantly, did he need more?
- Now, can we set business issues aside, Mr. Korrh? - Anthony offered Ayaz a faint smile. - You were right, I am bored to death. Would you spare some time to talk to me? Just to talk and enjoy the wine and, hopefully, my company?
The artist's pale fingers found a beige napkin lying on the table. He carefully pressed it against his lips and wiped away the last wine drops.
- "It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves," - Anthony quoted, staring right at the man's face, - do you recognize this phrase, Mr Korrh? It's William Shakespeare. I do find it... fascinating... that everyone holds different beliefs. Someone is religious, someone is a fatalist... Is there anything you believe in? Anything specific?

+1

6

Did Ayaz believe in anything in particular? Probably more of a yes than a no. His mother tried to teach him the basics of Islam, but have you ever seen a gay Islamist? No, but he would have been if he had gone into religion. Now, even as a bisexual, Korrch was far from religious dogma. He could not believe in the good grandfather on the cloud and the words "God's will be done". Everything, in his opinion, was the will of the person himself, and not of any other higher forces. Ayaz didn't really believe in people, let alone God. He always believed and relied only on himself. And now, he was in the right place at the right time. But, in further conversation, he did not start with this:
- Oh, as for such events, I do not understand them at all. Well, why should people sign their own loneliness and powerlessness by buying other people for money. It's just that my friend asked me to host an event and I agreed without thinking. He helped me in one case, so, alas, it was a quid pro quo, " - Korrh clarified about the auction situation, -  As for the business. Well, Socrates also said that " 80% of success is to appear in the right place at the right time." And so it is with you, Mr. MacIntyre.
He ordered a whiskey and coke and more wine for Tony:
- Since we decided to talk, this circle is at my expense, - Ayaz smiled, holding out a business card, - the first number is mobile, you can find me almost around the clock. And yes, you can just call me Ayaz.
Tony complained about the tea and Korrh nodded eagerly:
- Yes, in America, a good Darjeeling is not even found, the Americans are obsessed with bags, as well as with Turkish coffee, it's still an epic to find the right variety, - he nodded, - as for your partners, yes, let them call at any time, I will answer questions and then, everything will be decided, I will no longer tire the creative person, in a good sense, with numbers and facts.
Ayaz wasn't lying. I must admit, he didn't know how to lie at all in his life. This was noticed by everyone, friends, relatives, colleagues. Moreover, as a child, the cat jumped on the shelf and broke the vase. Ayaz felt so sorry for the cat, he thought that Korrh senior would kick him out, so he took the blame. But Damian only had to look into the boy's eyes to know that he was lying. But, for trying to save the cat's skin, then I did not punish him. Not that Damian was a tyrant, but the concept of honor was drilled into Ayaz's head from an early age.
Now it was the turn of the answer to the question about religion, and Ayaz answered honestly, but as correctly as possible:
- I do not adhere to a particular religion. I have the blood of not only Turks, but also Americans and Italians on my father's side. I was greatly influenced by the eastern culture of Aikido and Bushido. But if we talk about faith in higher powers in general, then I used to rely more on myself, - Ayaz shrugged and sipped his drink, - And what do you think about this?
He didn't even lie to the truth and said what he thought. He had never been prejudiced about the faith, but he had heard that most British people were Catholic and did not want to inadvertently offend the feelings of a believer. That would be bad, at least for business, so he added:
- But I am very positive about the faiths of my friends and relatives, and I even congratulate them on the holidays, my mother on Ramadan, and my aunt on my father's side on Christmas.

Отредактировано Ayaz Korrh (2021-04-10 01:27:21)

+1

7

Anthony actually listened, paying attention to every single word he heard, because Mr Korrh was getting more and more intriguing to him. He didn't expect to hear anything specific, not really; it would be terribly inappropriate to judge someone based on their look. Anthony could relate to that very well. Maybe the majority of Turkish people are loyal to Islamic beliefs - though it was nothing more than a casual assumption, since Anthony has never been to Turkey and therefore had very basic ideas of its culture - yet Ayaz, being a modern businessman who obviously felt perfectly comfortable in the western world, had no particular reason to follow a certain religious path. He could be an atheist, could be agnostic or even a buddhist, damn, why not? Oriental teachings seem to become more popular these days, especially with those who got somehow disappointed in everything else.
He liked the answer he received. Ayaz relied on himself, plain and simple. Isn't it a perfect thing to say when you discuss controversial topics? A true businessman indeed, Ayaz surely knew how to hold a proper conversation, even more so with people who could be useful for his financial benefit.
Oh God. Now Anthony was thinking exactly like Vivian, his agent. "Come on, man", - he scolded himself, - "you might be a public figure, but it doesn't mean that everyone's trying to use you for their profits. Some people just want to talk. Some people naturally like you. You have to trust a little. Especially when you are the one who initiated the conversation in the first place".
He totally forgot what it's like to have friends, didn't he?
"And whose fault is that, huh?" - Anthony looked at another glass of the wine, red and thick as blood. - "You want to blame someone for your own life - you can start with yourself".
There he was, a famous artist, all happy one second and gloomy the next one, folding the same beige napkin in a vague attempt to distract himself from the dark thoughts.
- Sorry, uh... you lost me for a moment, - Anthony offered an apologetic smile, - please, blame the wine. It is way too good.
He took a sip to support his words and continued:
- Your words are full of wisdom, Ayaz. What could be better than focusing on yourself rather than fictional deities? - it was kind of funny, the way they both tried to break the invisible wall of formalities. Ayaz suggested using his first name instead of a surname, while Anthony was okay with using whatever names, really, but attacked the poor man with, come to think of it, extremely personal questions. Many people, when asked about their personal beliefs, would respond with "none of your business" and be entirely right.
- As for me, I do consider myself a member of the Anglican Church, though not a very devoted one, - of course, as a typical Englishman Anthony was raised an Anglican and would die one, and he was damn proud to say it! The artist could be hilariously patriotic sometimes, up to the point when it was absurd and annoying; he believed England to be the best place in the galaxy, and the population to be the most intelligent, educated and respectable. He never thought of it as a superiority - otherwise he would be completely fascist - but rather as a privilege. The good thing about Anthony was his sincere curiosity about other countries and cultures, and, to be fair, he didn't despise them - he only truly disliked Americans, Frenchmen and Scots (and still his agent was a Frenchman, but Anthony treated him as the only exception).
- And by saying that I mean I don't think of going to Hell or Heaven too much. Frankly speaking, I don't see that big of a difference. Anyway, "Hell is empty and all the devils are here". That was William Shakespeare again, - Anthony smiled, but there was a weak sense of sadness in this smile, because Anthony knew very well: he was going to Hell. For him Heaven was never an option.
- Ayaz, do you smoke? - he changed the subject. - How about we go outside for a cigarette? I think the balcony is right this way, if I'm not mistaken.

0

8

-Heaven has a climate, but hell has more acquaintances, - Ayaz agreed.
Yes, he noticed that Tony was immersed in his thoughts, but Ayaz also suffered from it from time to time, so it was natural.
- Yes, the wine and liquor here is wonderful, and I can rarely give high marks to the catering unless I've ordered it myself. I was only asked to host the event, not organize it. I would offer an auction of some rich people's collection to other rich people; it would be more profitable to have the money from such an event go to charity than from a ridiculous auction where only a few hundred bucks are given for each soul. But that's our modern world.
And really, he didn't understand why he disliked the event so much. Not that the lots were shabby, or the sheer absurdity of the topic. It would have been nice if they were selling Nicolas Cage or other celebrities here. But not this moneyed rabble. He wasn't even pissed off by the joke of a friend who made him a lot himself, and probably after he realized that these lots couldn't be sold at a profit. But that didn't save this creche. And then how much money will those children get, for which rich people can tick off in their life experience that they helped someone.
- By the way, we'll have to find out later where the money was raised today, I would rather personally transfer the amount to them than go to bed tonight thinking that I participated in a showcase of rich people who really don't care about children. I understand, of course, all of that, the image. But this is too much.
Tony expressed a desire for a cigarette, and Ayaz agreed.
- Sure, but I left my cigarettes in the car, so if you don't mind, buy me a couple." There's a wonderful smoking area overlooking the park, as I saw it on the way here, and yes, it's a balcony. 
As they headed for the balcony, the same miss caught up with Ayaz and started babbling something:
- Where does my lot go?
Ayaz barely restrained himself from wincing:
- Excuse me, incomparable, I need some fresh air, I was working today, the weather is changing, and I suddenly got a migraine. So I'm going to go to the smoking room, and when I come back, let's dance, okay?
- Come on, Ayaz. I was joking. It's not good to make you have fun with a headache, you'd better go home, young man. You need some sleep. And then you get circles under your eyes. I know you, today's youth, you don't take care of yourselves at all.
Ayaz pretended to kiss the lady's hand and said:
- You're just an angel who fell from heaven.
- Just don't flatter me.
Satisfied, the lady went off to chat with the others. On the way, Ayaz learned from the receptionist that the money would go to the Rosa Fund for Saving Children with Cancer, and immediately transferred exactly ten thousand dollars from his bank account via his cell phone. This is something he has always done personally. In good faith.
They went out on the balcony, away from the view of the sunset city, and for a moment Ayaz forgot about cigarettes and took a deep breath. It was lovely after the stale and stuffy air of the room. He just decided to wait to see if Tony would offer him a cigarette.

+1

9

Anthony was grateful for Ayaz's compliance. As they started walking towards their destination, the poor man was once again caught, but the lady, and Anthony had to politely step back to give the two some personal space for a conversation. He, being an artist, surely wasn't the most patient person ever, but at that specific moment he didn't mind waiting; in fact, he was having quite some fun watching Ayaz trying to free himself from the lady's iron grip. My, my... Ayaz definitely knew his way around women. His eastern charm, alongside the smooth talk, was absolutely irresistible.
Finally Ayaz managed to escape, and the men continued walking down the hall. Anthony was slightly surprised by Ayaz's sincere concerns about money investment - surprised in a delightful way, of course. It's hard to find someone who truly cares for the lost and the deprived these days. He even felt a small twinge of remorse; Anthony was a rather successful man - in a financial way, too, yet he never considered fund donations seriously. How so? Yes, yes, that's the first thing he'll do once he gets home: he will find a good trusted fund, make a generous donation and thus calm his conscience a little. Helping children is better than doing drugs, right? That's right. So even if he does both, he's still not completely evil... is that how it works?
- I think, we're here, - Anthony nodded at the balcony in a questioning manner, and Ayaz agreed, pushing the door open. They went outside. The late April evening was warm enough to feel comfortable despite the wind, and the sunset view was marvelously breathtaking.
Anthony slowly walked to the balcony rail and leaned on it, admiring the magnificent sky.
- I love the colours, - he confessed, even though Ayaz didn't ask him anything, - look at this perfect tint of purple. And the way it transforms into pink is just... so right... It would look stunning on a canvas. 
Unfortunately, due to the long-forgotten eye injury, Anthony didn't see the world precisely the way other people see it - the light perception was totally wrong, which caused him to confuse colour shades sometimes, but the artist never complained. He actually believed that his unique experience helped him to stand out even more. He was a madman among the madmen, a surrealist among other surrealistic colleagues. The ideas created by his artistic mind mixed with his unique perception turned into extremely exceptional content and very special form of art.
It was a perfect time and place for a cigarette. Anthony got his pack out, opened it and held it out for Ayaz with an offering gesture. Anthony MacIntyre was selfish, alright, but he wasn't a greedy person, not at all.
- I'd like you to try them, - he smiled, - it's a very delicate sort of tobacco. Straight from England, - of course, because where else?! Every little detail in Anthony's image was screaming "English". So were his cigarettes, long, thin, ridiculously expensive, the luxury British brand he indeed brought with him from London. He let Ayaz pick a cigarette, then took one for himself and handed Ayaz a lighter. Lighting someone else's cigarette seemed like a too intimate gesture.
- You said you wanted to know more about my art, if we talk business, - a sudden idea came to Anthony's mind, - which makes sense, I guess. So, I contemplated it for a moment and would like to suggest something. Do you have the rest of the evening free? I feel like you're starting to enjoy my company.
He didn't really mean to sound flirtatious - well, maybe ju-u-ust a little, to make things more fun... Anthony has never been serious with his flirting anyway. It was a part of his nature, so it came out naturally, but didn't have to lead to anything more than words and smiles. Maybe, he enjoyed shocking people with all the weapons he had at hand. Why maybe, though? He definitely did. His whole life was about being as shocking as possible.
- So, I was thinking I could actually show you my art. Right now. I have a place you can technically call my office here, in San-Francisco. It's closed now, of course, but I have the keys - it's _my_ office, after all. We just need a cab.
The artist stubbed out his cigarette on the ashtray in the corner of the balcony.
- You might not like it, mind you, - he warned with a short laughter, - oh, Ayaz, you should see the things people write about me!.. Even if you like my art, you can't say that to the press - otherwise they will call you a lunatic, too. If you don't like it, it's fine, just be honest with me, alright? I hate it when people lie to my face. I have thick skin. I can survive whatever you have to say. One thing I can promise you: whether you like it or not, it won't be boring.
He had a coy smile on his face.
- So, Mr Korrh, are you coming?

+1

10

They finally went out onto the balcony and Ayaz was finally able to breathe in some fresh air and even loosened the butterfly on his throat, because it was just such accessories that prevented him from breathing evenly. Thank heavens the one who ransomed him was an adequate woman, and she understood everything without words. Later on, he would find out that she, as well as he had donated that day to that very fund, more money than Ayaz himself was worth to her, and he would even feel a little embarrassed before her, for he had so suddenly retreated from her sight.
But, for the moment, he was extremely grateful to Anthony for saving him from all the noise and commotion.
- I love the colors,- he admitted, looking at the sunset, though Ayaz didn't ask him anything, - look at that perfect shade of purple. And the way it turns pink is just... so right... It would look amazing on canvas.
He paid attention to the sunset himself and was immediately surprised, because there was no smell of purple there, rather this sunset looked more like a vanilla sky belonging to Claude Monet's brush. But Ayaz did not argue with him, maybe he was an artist, and he saw it that way, he was always polite, so he only found it necessary to look at the sky and say:
- Yes, Anthony, you're right, very beautiful, here in general, as I noticed, amazing sunsets sometimes, I wish I were a painter, however, for example, when decorating halls or celebrations, I sometimes have to be one. But this is, so to speak, the minor work of a decorator rather than an artist.
He offered him his cigarettes and Ayaz decided to try them. Ayaz thanked him with a nod of his head, took the cigarette, the lighter, lit it, and took a drag, handing the lighter back to Tony.  He actually rarely ever smoked, but today, when he was a little tired after a long day and the day was already drawing to a dusk. Korrh let out a ring of smoke and noted:
- Wonderful tobacco, no chemical aftertaste, I like it, thanks.
- So, I've been thinking for a moment and I'd like to suggest something. Do you have the rest of the evening free? I sense that you're beginning to enjoy my company.
He was surprised by this turn of events and was already beginning to wonder what it could get him. Yes, it had been a long day, but Ayaz's thirst for adventure was something that couldn't be killed, even when he was completely exhausted. So he decided to listen to the offer, and then decide whether to accept or refuse:
- So, I thought I could really show you my art. Right now. I have a place that you could technically call my office here in San Francisco. It's closed now, of course, but I have the keys - after all, it's my office. We just need a cab.
- Well, okay, I guess that would be the logical end of the day and no, Anthony, your company is my pleasure. Even considering the fact that theoretically we're talking about business, I'm still interested. So yeah, let's go. My car is in the parking lot at the hotel and well, we've both been drinking and we can't drive yet. So, yes, a cab would be the best option. Let me call one.
He expressed his fear that Korrh might not like his painting and asked him not to lie to him about it:
- Don't worry, Anthony, I have one trait. Some people like it, some people don't. But I always say what I think, and I'm not prone to lying, except at times when I have to keep my mouth shut to keep a secret. Otherwise, I don't lie. Yeah, come on, the cab's waiting for us. Not this way, and there's another way out, I don't want to run into the crowd again.
They went the other way and within minutes, they were in a cab.
- Just tell the driver the address, -  Ayaz asked.

+1

11

Of course Mr Korrh agreed. Somehow Anthony didn't doubt he would. Ayaz was probably getting sick and tired of the ridiculous event just as much as the artist, maybe even more, since his name was well-known among the guests while Anthony, still being new to the country, had a chance to enjoy a certain level of privacy.
Anthony's curious eyes watched Ayaz, the way he finished the cigarette - with obvious pleasure, no less, which left Anthony quite perplexed; many men had politely refused his cigarette offers, and those who hadn't... had clearly regretted their decision. Ayaz seemed to have genuinely enjoyed the tobacco, though. That's something for a promising partnership.
The artist let the man call a cab. He actually smiled at the word "cab" coming out of the Turk's mouth. Here in the States people usually used the word "taxi". Ayaz truly was a fast learner and quickly picked up another man's manner of speech. So very business-like.
- You're not trying to mimic my accent, are you? - Anthony laughed. - Yes, avoiding the crowd is a fine idea. Please, lead the way.
He followed Ayaz, and soon they went outside and then settled in a nicely looking, comfortable car. Anthony gave the address and relaxed his back against the car seat. The driver promised the trip wouldn't take long as the roads were luckily free of traffic. Anthony watched the city in the car window; neon lights were blinding his bad eye, but otherwise San-Francisco didn't actually look too bad. It couldn't compare to London, certainly, nothing could compare to good old England, but at least it wasn't stupid New York with its tall glass skyscrapers and office buildings with Starbucks on every single corner, neither it was the Hollywood-hyped Los-Angeles, a place promoted as the gem of the cinema industry, which in fact turned out to be a stinky village full of homeless drug-addicted gangs. No wonder everyone insists on carrying guns here. The concept of free gun sale seemed shocking to Anthony, so he thought best not to ponder too much over it.
Finally they arrived; the cab parked next to an elegant building. Anthony paid the fare (including some generous tips) and climbed outside. He heard the other man's footsteps right behind him.
- I'll have another smoke while I'm looking for the keys, if you don't mind, - the artist smiled and offered the pack to Ayaz, - you should join me if you'd like. Tell me something, - he took a drag, - do you really like them? The cigarettes, I mean. Usually men tell me this brand is a pretentious crap for ladies. Well, not with these words exactly - though it depends on their manners.
He smiled again:
- Forgive me my bluntness, but it's hard to tell honesty from mere politeness these days. I don't think you were quite honest with me when you said you never lied. Everyone does from time to time, that's just... life. Think of how nicely you spoke to the lady I rescued you from. Think of that little lie we made up on spot to let you escape. See? - Anthony gracefully flipped the ash from his cigarette. - That's why I'm asking you to be as sincere as you possibly can. Trust me. Lies will hurt me much more than the truth you might have me swallow.
The cigarettes were done.
- Actually, here. If you do enjoy the tobacco, please, feel free to take as many as you wish. Or, you know what, it would be better if you take the entire pack, - Anthony almost tossed the pack into his guest's hand, - it's perfectly fine. I've brought many of those with me.
Finally he fished the keys out of his pocket and glanced at Ayaz with a coy smile:
- Ready to go inside?
Anthony slowly opened the door. The hall was dark as hell, but it was to be expected. He stepped forward and felt the wall, trying to locate the light switch. His fingers stumbled upon the button and pressed.
The reception hall wasn't too spacious, but it only made the atmosphere nice and cozy. Anthony lured Ayaz further down the corridor until they hit another door - the one that lead to the artist's personal study, his artistic domain.
Anthony let Ayaz in first and entered right after, closing the door behind them. The office was a splendid mix of luxury and comfort, creativity and chaos. Sketches of all sorts covered the desk completely; a few easels lined up on the other side, each of them had a canvas on it, the canvases depicted some unfinished experimental attempts.
- I hope you don't find my office too messy, - Anthony wasn't ashamed of the mess, not really, but good manners made him offer an explanation. - Pardon me, please, but I didn't expect any visitors at such a short notice. Ignore the chaos and come here, would you?
He gestured to the corner containing finished paintings, all covered with protective covers, of course, so Ayaz couldn't see them - not yet.
- What should we start with... - Anthony muttered under his breath, trying to choose a good start. - Would you rather get scared or sad, Ayaz? 

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12

Ayaz really enjoyed the cigarette, the tobacco had a good taste and it relaxed his mind, which was rushing after such a plentiful event.
He always noticed too many details, it was the way his brain worked. And the cigarette muted the effect a little, blocking the channels of perception that prevented him from focusing on something specific. The details were no longer obvious one by one, for which he was grateful to Tony personally and to his tobacco in particular.
- You're not trying to mimic my accent, are you? - Anthony laughed. - Yes, avoiding the crowd is a fine idea. Please, lead the way.
- No, it's just that I have a fairly good ear and the ability to reproduce, it's completely random, - Korrh shrugged and they got into the car.
The taxi took them away from the noise of the party, and he was one hundred percent sure that he had done his duty to his friend and that he would continue to cope without him. Luckily, Anthony saved him twice, you might say. He stared at the passing day through the car window. They arrived quickly, so the trip didn't take long. Traffic was moderately heavy at this hour.
They came to the right building and Tony said:
- I'll have another smoke while I'm looking for the keys, if you don't mind, - the artist smiled and offered the pack to Ayaz, - you should join me if you'd like. Tell me something, - he took a drag, - do you really like them? The cigarettes, I mean. Usually men tell me this brand is a pretentious crap for ladies. Well, not with these words exactly - though it depends on their manners.
-Of course, - Korrh nodded, he didn't light a second cigarette himself, because he knew that after the break it might turn his head, especially considering the fact that at the event, he was more likely to drink than eat anything at all, - as for tobacco, I'm not inclined to divide things into men's and women's. I don't know if it's because I'm bisexual or because I just don't care. But the tobacco is really good and it gave my head a little rest, thank you.
- That's why I'm asking you to be as sincere as you possibly can. Trust me. Lies will hurt me much more than the truth you might have me swallow.
- Hmm, I'll keep in mind that you are more sensitive even to what can't be called a lie in the understanding of an ordinary person, rather flattery. Besides, I didn't lie to her about my illness. In a crowd like this, I really do get a headache a lot. But, well, I'll be as direct with you as I can be.
- Ready to go inside?
Korrh simply nodded, and soon they were in his office, where the usual creative mess reigned. Tony seemed worried about it, but Ayaz smiled and said:
- You have not seen my office, after a month's report, there is no way to get there at all, - he replied without lying a drop , - besides, I am rather alarmed by people with absolute order everywhere. You know, those who have a house that looks like it's for sale and doesn't look like it's residential. Otherwise, I also like creative clutter, and if it already crosses the boundaries, I clean up the workplace only myself.
- What should we start with... - Anthony muttered under his breath, trying to choose a good start. - Would you rather get scared or sad, Ayaz?
- I think the sadness of the evening has been enough, but it will come to that, too. So let's get scared, - he nodded.
He was really curious about what works the artist would show him. Tony himself was extraordinary, as it seemed to Ayaz at first glance, but what were his paintings like?

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The artist smiled and nodded in agreement:
- Scared it is, then.
He walked over to one of the canvases and carefully removed the protection. He then stepped back to let Ayaz get closer and admire the view in the painting's full glory.
At first it looked like there wasn't anything scary at all. The painting showed a forest, huge thick woods that probably would creep someone out upon direct encounter, but there were no monsters, no blood, no gore - nothing that could turn the forest into a horror movie set. If anything, the painting was giving off weird vibes thanks to the colours and the light-shade perception, clearly showing that whoever had painted this piece was struggling with some kind of eyesight issue. One could easily blame the mix of unusual colour schemes on colourblindness, but that diagnosis wouldn't explain the lighting in general, besides, Anthony wasn't colourblind in a medical sense and hated when people assumed it.
Anyway, as a painter Anthony had always believed in small details. Details make the entire scene wholesome.
So did the details here.
Okay, a forest. A little bit trippy-looking, but definitely just a forest... hold on...
The more one was staring at the painting, at the surprisingly realistic landscape, the dark trees entwining in a united web, the more uncomfortable and uneasy they were feeling. Upon close inspection once could notice unfriendly faces hiding behind the bushes, animals baring their teeth, broken branches and torn leaves... The forest actually was full of something scary, something hiding there, behind the impression of a pretty view, something dark. Hiding... waiting...
- Can you see it? - Anthony glanced at Ayaz, standing right next to him, and chuckled. - I mean, can you _really_ see it?
He looked back at his art, and his proud elegant posture suddenly changed; his shoulders caved in, his intent stare fell to the ground, his fingers clenched together. Anthony was obviously nervous. As any creator, even more than that - as a father, a father of his own creations, his pieces of art so unthinkable and surreal, the man felt dangerously exposed when he was about to take in some criticism. Truth is, Anthony had never had a problem being psysically naked in front of other men, and an impressive string of lovers can support that fact, but baring his soul - which is precisely what art is itself - made him feel more naked than he'd ever been.
Yet Anthony couldn't afford showing his worry, of course. He couldn't afford showing weakness. His voice didn't break; it sounded as perfectly calm and steady as before.
- I want you to understand that this painting is more than a nightmarish forest infested with demons and such. This would be phony and childish. This paintings is quite literally a look into your soul - yours, mine and anyone else's, because we, people, are complex and complicated creatures and each of us owns the same forest deep inside, the one full of fears and regrets. We are the true horror stories. Everything we bear inside, everything we've been through - now, that's what is truly terrifying.
Anthony studied Ayaz's face for a moment to catch his reaction.
- I call this piece "A Look Into Your Soul". I want people to think a bit as they observe it. What's good of a piece of art if it doesn't make you think, right? - he laughed and gently tapped the other man's shoulder. - Penny for your thoughts, Mr. Korrh.

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