Sigyn absently stirred her coffee, watching cream coloured galaxies form inside the mug, but soon her mother’s irritated tone brought her back to earth.
“Sigyn, are you even listening to me?” Freyja asked.
“Not really,” Sigyn admitted. It was unusual for her mother to require an active listener, and Sigyn didn’t feel like putting in the effort unless it was absolutely necessary.
“Really, Sigyn, you need to get your head out of the clouds.”
“And get a real job?”
“So, you were listening to me?” she noted, sipping her cup of tea.
“No, I just made an educated guess. My stubborn desire for a creative career is brought up at least once per cup of coffee.”
“It’s just not practical, Sigyn,” Freyja droned. “I’m not saying you’re not talented, darling. It’s just that you’re not going to be able to make a living off your art unless you try something a little more… mainstream. Which is why…”
“Mother, what did you do?” Sigyn winced. The last time their conversation had taken a similar turn Freyja had enrolled her daughter in a photography class; the teacher had been much more interested in photographing his female students than teaching them. Sigyn reached across the table and took the printed receipt off her mother, her eyes going wide as they flitted over the words.
“Life drawing classes?”
“Mhmm,” Frejya hummed, a self-satisfied smirk adorning her perfectly applied face. “Portraits never go out of style. If you absolutely had to, I suppose you could do those quirky little drawings at the markets,” she added disdainfully.
“I know how to draw people, mother,” Sigyn sighed wearily, unable to put up much more of a fight.
“I haven’t see you do any. Not in years. And would it hurt to take a break from your little abstract pieces?”
“They are miniscule, aren’t they?” Sigyn teased.
Freyja gave her only daughter a half-hearted scowl. “Just tell me you’ll think about it. They’re already paid for, and the very least you’ll have some new work to add to your portfolio.”
“Thank you, mother.
“You’re welcome. And who knows,” Frejya added innocently, her eyes glued to golden hue of her tea. “Maybe you’ll meet a devilishly handsome life model.”
“Stranger things have happened, dear. And you should be more social, give people a chance.”
“I keep giving you chances, it rarely works out in my favour.”
“You wound me, daughter,” Freyja smirked, signalling for the check.
** *** **
Sigyn loitered outside an arthouse café the following Thursday night, standing apart from the other would-be students. There were fewer people than she was expecting, but a decent mix of genders and ages.
Sigyn spun around to find a dark-haired stranger smirking at her.
“I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“Then why sneak up on me?”
“You’ve got me there,” he grinned. “Loki.”
“Sigyn,” she replied, taking his proffered hand.
“So, Sigyn, you didn’t answer question. Is this your first time?”
“To this particular art class, yes.”
“So you’re a fully-fledged artist, then. Not a hobbyist.”
“I’m trying to be a professional artist. It’s very… trying,” she replied weakly.
“Well, perhaps this class will give your creative juices a boost,” he offered with smile and a wink, throwing Sigyn off.
Before Sigyn had time to properly process the idea that a complete stranger was possibly hitting on her their attention was directed to the café door. In the doorway stood a woman in her fifties, who introduced herself as Jörð. She had a warm smile and wore a purple tie-dyed skirt and had a dozen silver bangles up each arm.
“Hello everyone, come on in.”
The café’s eclectic mix of chairs had been rearranged so that they circled a small pedestal in the middle of the room, and an easel had been placed in front of each of them. Sigyn hovered at the rear of the group, watching curiously as Loki walked straight the circle and headed for the back.
“Take a seat, please. Tonight I just want you to use whatever medium you feel comfortable with. I’ll be moving around the room to talk to each of you about your skill level and what you want out of these sessions, and we’ll go from there. Does that sound good? Good,” she nodded, before any of her students really had a chance to reply. “Ah, here’s our model now. Loki, dear, how are you? Ready to go?”
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” he replied, dropping his bag, full of his clothes, on a table at the back. He strode into the centre of the room wearing nothing but a white bathrobe. Jörð and Loki spoke quietly for a moment, discussing how she wanted him posed. From the seat beside her Sigyn heard a muffled squeal. Sigyn looked over and found a woman not much older than herself, her cheeks turning a vibrant shade of pink.
“Oh my god,” she mouthed excitedly. “He’s gorgeous.”
Sigyn couldn’t help but laugh but when she turned back to Loki - now seated on a chair, his legs crossed at a right angle, one elbow resting on his knee, the other placed on the top of the chair – the breath was stolen from her lungs.
“He’s beautiful,” she whispered, earning a goofy grin from her neighbour. Her eyes roamed over the long lean muscles, the shadows the light threw across his pale skin, and she immediately got to work.
By the time the class had ended Sigyn had completed two full body sketches, as well as several smaller sketches focusing on different sections of his anatomy. Her favourite was the one she devoted to his hand, the one that was resting carelessly upon his knee, his long fingers curling, ending in neatly trimmed fingernails. It was perfect. He was perfect.
The class wrapped up and Loki got up from his seat and stretched out his cramped limbs, completely unphased by his nudity, before disappearing into some backroom to get dressed. Sigyn had to admire his confidence, amongst other things. Sigyn glanced at her neighbour, Lofn, when she heard her sigh.
“Oh, he’s fucking gorgeous. I want to take him home,” she admitted, her cheeks heating up again.
“I want to take him home and paint him,” Sigyn countered with a wistful sigh of her own. “He looks like was carved by Michelangelo himself.”
The girls shared a giggle as they packed up, not noticing Loki’s return until he spoke.
“You’re very talented,” he remarked, glancing over Sigyn’s work.
“Um, thank you,” she said nervously, only remembering to breathe when he had moved on to Lofn’s easel where a detailed sketch of his face was still pinned.
“Hmm, I do think you got my best side,” he teased. “Well, goodnight ladies.”
“Will you be here next week?” Lofn asked, wearing her libido on her sleeve.
“If you’re lucky,” he winked.
As it happened Loki wasn’t there the following week, or the next two weeks after that, not that Sigyn minded terribly. The other models were just as interesting, with enough differing body shapes and poses to keep her muses occupied. On the fifth Thursday, the second to last class, Sigyn saw him again. He was already seated and posed, naked but for a length of white fabric that fell across his lap, creating an array of softer shadows that broke up the sharpness of his form. When the class was let in and Lofn quickly got herself a seat directly in front of Loki and gestured wildly for Sigyn to join her. He was seated with his knees apart, the sheet barely hiding his modesty, his elbows on his thighs, his hands clasped in front of him, and his head bowed. Once again Sigyn was overwhelmed by his effortless and almost ethereal beauty and made sketches as fast as her hands would allow her. She focused on his hands again, and then on his face, which she hadn’t paid a great deal of attention to the first time. He looked so broken, with his long hair hanging down casting a shadow across half his face, that Sigyn felt the image tugging at her heartstrings.
“I’m going to try a different seat,” Sigyn said to Lofn when the portrait was finished. She glanced at her neighbours work and snorted. “You’re supposed to only draw what you see,” she said pointed, referring to the area between Loki’s legs which should have been nothing but shadows.
“Oh, I see it. Don’t you worry about that,” Lofn smirked.
Sigyn stifled a laugh and took her things to an empty chair that gave her a view of Loki’s back: the curve of his spine, the sharpness of his shoulder blades, and the stark contrast of his pale profile against the curtain of black hair. She sighed longingly, loud enough for Loki to hear her it seemed for Sigyn could swear she saw him flick his dark green eyes in her direction. She cleared her throat nervously and focused on the blank sheet of paper in front of her, completing another three smaller sketches before the class was dismissed for the night.
Lofn caught Sigyn by the arm on their way out and spent several minutes gushing about Loki’s perfection before her ride turned up. Sigyn laughed good-naturedly at her friend’s enthusiasm and waved goodbye before setting off to her own car.
“Are you parked far away?”
“Oh!” Sigyn yelped, almost slapping the grinning Loki across razor-sharp cheekbones. “You’ve got to stop sneaking up on people.”
“Never, it’s too much fun. Where are you parked?” he asked again.
“Just a block over.”
“I’ll walk you, if that’s alright?”
“Sure, thank you.”
Sigyn did her best to make small talk and discovered that Loki was an artist himself, preferring sculpture and more tactile art, and had started modelling for a little bit of extra cash, and that he was the black sheep in a military family, which Sigyn could sympathise with.
“My parents are old money, country club types. They’re pretty good about having a struggling artist in the family, but still don’t want it made known to their exclusive circle of friends. How could they possibly face them?” she said with a roll of her eyes as they stopped beside her car. They shared a smile before averting their eyes.
“Well, I don’t think Jörð’s having me back for this round of lessons, so I’m afraid this is goodbye, until we see each other at a one of our own exhibitions one day,” he teased.
“About that,” Sigyn blurted before her courage failed her. “I know this is going to sound inappropriate, but I’m being totally professional I swear,” she babbled. “Could you model for me again sometime?”
“Privately?” Loki asked, grinning wolfishly.
“I’m being serious, really. I… Your form’s amazing, and I’d really like to paint you. If I could,” she added nervously, biting her lip and keeping her eyes downcast so she didn’t have to deal with Loki’s reaction.
“Can I see?” Loki asked, gesturing the folder of sketches tucked under her arm.
Sigyn relented after a second, opening in up on the hood of her car, watching Loki’s expressions intently as he flicked through them.
“I like this one,” he said of the sketches of his hands. “Wow,” he mused, looking over the sketch of the side profile of his face. “I look like I’m about to burst into tears.”
“Well, you did look rather pensive. What were you thinking about?”
“Aside from whether or not Lofn was ogling my junk?”
“Aside from that,” she giggled.
“I was making a grocery list in my head,” he laughed.
“It must have been a very depressing list.”
“Well, I’m an art student, darling. There are no steak dinners in my future.”
“Well, I’m an art student who lives off her parent’s generosity. If you model for me I will pay you with a home cooked steak dinner.”
“Whilst that does sound delicious, I have more of an art exchange in mind: You paint me, I paint you?”
“Ah, I don’t know about that. Some of us aren’t as comfortable with nudity as you are,” Sigyn blushed, pushing back an errant strand of hair.
“Okay, addendum to the original agreement: You don’t paint my junk, I don’t paint your junk.”
Sigyn covered her face as she snorted with laughter before eventually agreeing to Loki’s proposal.