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What a man does in a GAP year.
It was about seven pm when Alexis looked at her watch. "Oh my goodness!" she exclaimed. "Look at the time! I must get back."
We quickly packed up our equipment. "I hope that your husband doesn't think that we have run off together," I said jokingly.
The frown came back to Alexis's face. "I'm sure that he wouldn't think that anyone would want to run away with me," she said sadly. We walked back to the Vicarage in silence. "Would you like to do this again tomorrow?" I asked. "Oh yes, please," said Alexis, brightening up. We said goodbye and I walked back to the inn.
The next morning Alexis was in her usual bright mood when I called for her at the Vicarage. We returned to the bridge, and this time I was able to spend most of the morning painting. However, I kept getting distracted by Alexis. She was wearing a pale green sun dress, with no sleeves, and it perfectly contrasted with the colour of her skin and her blazing red hair. I found myself wanting to look at her more that I looked at the bridge. And then I thought how much I would rather be painting Alexis than painting the bridge.
"Alex, have you ever posed for an artist?" I asked casually.
"Me?" she asked, surprised. "Who would want to paint me?"
"Well, I for one would like that very much," I said. "Would you sit for me?"
"I don't know," she said thoughtfully. "I would have to ask John."
"And if he agrees?" I asked.
Her face burst into a brilliant smile. "Oh James, I'd love to pose for you!" she gushed.
"Then it's settled," I said. "We will talk to John at lunch, and if he agrees, we can start this afternoon. And I want you to wear that dress."
"Oh that's good," she said. "I love this dress."
We continued to paint and chat until it was time to return to the Vicarage for lunch. Alexis enthusiastically told Reverend Telford that I had asked her to pose for me, and was it all right if she did? He agreed without giving it much thought.
And so after lunch we went up to the loft and I started work on Alexis's portrait. The afternoon light was ideal, and as I started to work I was pleased that I had asked her to wear the green dress. It showed a lot of her lovely skin, which I knew was going to be a challenge to paint, but the result would be well worth the effort. And the dress emphasised her breasts very well. Already I was planning to give nature a little 'help' in that area of the painting.
We developed a routine of going out to paint the bridge in the morning, and then after lunch Alexis would pose for me in the loft. The first couple of afternoons, Reverend Telford stuck his head up into the loft to see how things were progressing, but since I told him that he couldn't see the painting until it was finished, he soon lost interest and stopped coming. Myself, I soon lost interest in painting the bridge, and I found myself becoming impatient each morning, wishing that lunchtime would arrive so that we could continue work on the portrait.
As I got to know Alexis better, I began to understand the cause of her sadness. She told me that her family was wealthy, and her parents had wanted her to marry a distant cousin, whom she did not like at all. To avoid this marriage she had more or less thrown herself at Reverend Telford. He had been completely overwhelmed by her advances, and had quickly proposed marriage. Her father, who was a very religious man, had considered this to be a good match for his daughter and had given his approval for the marriage.
Alexis didn't seem to have very much to fill in her days. There were a few duties associated with the church, of course, but there didn't seem to be much else for her to do. They had a housekeeper who came each day to do the cooking and cleaning. "I'm a hopeless cook," Alexis had confided in me. But she seemed to bask in my attention as I studied her for the painting.
One day, Reverend Telford was away on parish business when we returned to the Vicarage for lunch, and we lingered over lunch longer than usual.