Immortal In Stone

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Adult Romance  |  House: Booksiesilk Classic Group

A woman answers a sculptor's ad for a nude model. Initial attraction evolves into stronger feelings. As her form emerges from a block of marble, her vision of their future fades.


Immortal in Stone





The sign outside Café Paloma said, “Where great food, good friends, and art meet.” I’d walked past it before, but never ventured inside.


“Which am I,” I asked, “friend or art?”


A man in a tan work jacket stood near the doorway. He was only an inch or two taller than my 5’4”, but his presence made him seem larger. He might have been forty. His dark hair had flecks of gray and there were wrinkles around his sparkling brown eyes. Wide in the shoulders and trim at the waist, he moved with quiet confidence. His eyes studied me.


 “No mention of immortal art,” he said.


It might have been a compliment. He might have been poking fun at me. I couldn’t tell. His ad for a model had said, “Immortal in Stone.” We’d agreed to meet at the café.  I wore my jade parka and looked for his tan jacket. He was polite and had a playful smile. I didn’t get a creep vibe.


“I’m Clare,” I said, holding out my hand.


“Cleve,” he said. “My name is Cleveland, but I’ve never been there.”


He held the door open for me and I stepped inside. The cafe smelled of olive oil, basil, and Gorgonzola cheese. A waiter carrying a lamb dish and Pannini sandwiches threaded his way past us. I was famished. I hadn’t eaten anything since yogurt at lunch.


A effusive man with a shiny head and thinning black hair seated us at a small table. Art photography decorated the brightly painted walls.. Menu items like Babaghanuj and Kisir were unfamiliar to me. At least they weren’t expensive.


“How is Michelangelo?” asked our host. He smiled at me, “This could only be Venus.”


“Bring us something fit for Venus, Sedat,” said Cleve. “A Meze would be good. You pick the wine.”


“Excellent.” He took our menus and hurried off.


“Greek?” I asked.


“Turkish,” said Cleve. “Ever read the ‘Maltese Falcon?’”


“Bogart? I loved the film.”


“The La Paloma was the name of the ship whose captain died delivering the Black Bird.”


“Is that why you come here?”


“I was curious when I first saw the sign, but that wasn’t what I was thinking about.”


“What then?”


His brown eyes assessed my green ones. “The Falcon was enameled to conceal its value. Treasure hidden beneath an ordinary exterior.  A piece of stone can be like that. A sublime form visible only to a sculptor’s eye.”


My response to his ad had been an impulse. I’d never considered modeling nude before, but I’d reached a point in my life where I needed to break the mold. Stone might last, but youth was fragile. I was feeling more mortal than usual.


I’d ripped the email tab off one of his posters while I was walking home from work. I didn’t own a car. The nude statute of Venus on the poster had me thinking about how trim my legs and rear had become from walking up and down hills each day. The muscles under my yoga pants were firm. As I walked, the release of a truck’s air brake made me turn my head. I caught the local fire engine crew staring at my backside. I should have smiled and waved. A couple of them were cute.


When I reached my small apartment, I showered and stood in front of the mirror. My thirtieth birthday was a memory. My marriage had been seven years of disappointment and conflict. I’d sworn off boyfriends. Their faces changed, but I kept picking the same jerks. I might still pass for twenty-something, but for how long? My boobs were due to drop before the next leap year. Walking and teaching a yoga class on weekends had gotten me back in shape. I was never going to look any better than I did right now.


I’d responded to the poster’s email address before I could change my mind. Now I was sitting across from an unknown man I was supposed to take my clothes off for.


“I’ve never done a nude before”, he said. We’d finished our meal.


“I’ve never posed for one, I thought all artists did nudes.”


“Maybe. I never went to art school. I’m a tile and stone guy. I do art pieces when I’m not working. Mostly abstract curves I see in the stone. One of the galleries has sold a few.”


“Will I be on a pedestal?” I asked.


“Do you want to be?”


“I need money up front.” I wasn’t sure what was normal, but I didn’t want to be used and left flat.


He nodded his head. “Everyone does, that’s why I’m still looking for a model. I spent what I’d saved on the stone. We can wait until after I get another tile job if you like.”


“That might make sense.”


“Okay. Why should I pick you as my model?” He was smiling again.


“I didn’t see a line out front.”


“I get a response occasionally.  The other girls have been younger.”


“So I’m a hag?” I could play his little game if he liked.


“You’re the only one I’ve bought dinner for. I can’t help visualizing your figure in stone,” he said. “Are you interested?”


“How often would I need to pose, and for how long?”


“As many evenings as you can spare. It will take a few weeks, probably more. I work days to pay the rent.”


“I mean how many hours would I have to stand there each time? It was feeling less and less like a good idea.


“I have to see you in the marble. When it’s clear in my mind I can start. We try different poses until your body and the stone make sense together. Are you comfortable with your clothes off?”


“I’m not ashamed of how I look, but I don’t make a habit of parading about without them.”


“I can work from pictures once we establish a pose. It would mean less time posing for you. Decisions about nude pictures are up to you.”


“When will you have the money?”


“I have a job this week. Let me show you the stone,” he said. “I need to see you next to it.”


I hesitated. Common sense said no, but I liked his voice and the way his eyes stayed on mine. I seldom wear low necklines, but men’s eyes still droop toward tits.


Cleve’s loft was on the second floor above an empty retail area. The freight elevator opened directly into the large space. Translucent plastic was stretched floor to ceiling around what appeared to be his work area. The framework of a recycled pair of double doors faced the elevator. Plastic sealed the doorframe. I could see pieces of stone and a workbench through the murky plastic.


He tapped the plastic wall. Fine powder shifted downward. “Dust,” he said. “I use power tools to do the initial shaping.”


A locked door led to a walled-off area with a leather couch and chair, I saw no TV. Hand-painted cabinets with a mosaic counter-top made from bits of broken tile filled one corner. There was a white-enamel gas stove with four burners and an old refrigerator. A newer micro-wave sat on the counter.  On the opposite wall were a bed, dresser, and an old table that served as a desk. The bed was made, but the table was piled with papers. The plaster-board walls were taped but unpainted.


We split the remains the bottle of red Sedat had sent home with us.


“To mortality,” he said.


“I wish my kitchen was as tidy as yours.” He was neat compared to most men.


“I knew you were coming,”


He turned on a space heater beside the chair and adjusted it so it warmed my legs. “This place is always cold,” he said.


“That could be a problem for your model.” The heat blew up my legs.


“Only eight months until sunshine,” he said. It was November.

I looked at him. He hadn’t answered my question.


“You can wear your yoga pants and that turtle neck for now. Do you always wear black? No point in freezing while I rough out the shape.” He seemed to be assuming I’d start immediately. For some reason I did too.





I came every night that week. At first he made charcoal sketches. I’d said no to naked pictures. The dust had been vacuumed up in his work area, but he wore a dust mask and found one for me. He coughed hard if we accidently stirred up dust, and we’d have to stop.  Most of the time I stood on top of a pair of pallets while he walked around looking at the stone and sketching my shape from different angles.


“Stretch your arms over your head,” he would say, or, “turn toward me and show your profile.” I couldn’t wear a bra, but I was lucky that I didn’t need much support. He thought the slight sag made them real.


Cleve had a nice way about him. He was a well-made man with an ass that belonged on a twenty-five year old. His bulging arms and chest muscles were the legacy of lifting stone. He moved lightly on his feet, always in balance. There was something in his walk that I thought panhandlers might shy away from.


With his tools he was precise and efficient in each movement. His polite manner and quiet self-confidence were a contrast to the cocky guys I usually attracted. Shy men were intimidated by my looks. When he wasn’t appraising my shape, Cleve asked me what I thought about everything from politics to art to relationships. He seemed to be evaluating whether I had any brains or not.


He hadn’t gone to college, and had only been married once. He read the kind serious books I seldom waded through. History, biography, literature, and some of the same mysteries I liked. He wasn’t the stereotype of the impassioned sculptor I was expecting, but his thoughtfulness and depth were something few hunks from a romantic novel could have aspired to.


His sense of humor was playful. “Direct those Venusian blossoms in my direction,” he would say when he wanted me to turn toward him. He claimed he meant my eyes. He found ways to make me smile each time I felt down, and we talked when I wasn’t posing. When he was imagining me, I tried not to interrupt.


I came after work and helped him finish preparing dinner when I got there. Italian dishes, fajitas, stir-fry. Something tasty we could throw together quickly. It was fun. I hated cooking for one. I sensed sexual tension building between us, but he kept a discreet distance. When he got paid in cash for a job, we ate out again.


When we got back to the loft I had to ask. Maybe it was the wine. “I’m sure you’re not gay, but you haven’t tried to touch me.”


He smiled, “How can you be so sure?”


“I think I could tell if you were gay,” I said.


“I mean that I want to touch you.”


“You’re male,” I said. Males were a tribe I knew something about.


“Any man would be aroused by you, but as sculptor I have to hold it all in order to transform those feelings into art.”


I checked his eyes. “Of course you’re right,” I said.


“I’m full of shit,” he said, grinning.


“So why no move?” I stood facing him and extended both arms over my head. I could be playful too. He liked that pose.


He held my eyes. “I’ll be fifty soon. You can have any man you want.”


“Your body is about thirty-five, better than most thirty-fives. Those flecks of gray are sexy.” I said.


“Every man you meet hits on you sooner or later, sooner if they have the balls. I don’t want to be one more pain-in-the-ass guy. We’re having fun together, why mess it up with sex?”


His eyes were smiling again. I pulled my turtleneck over my head and gave him an eyeful. “We should get back to work,” I said, shaking my hair into place.


“Back to the dust? It might get in places you don’t want.” He put his arms around me. Our eyes stayed together.


He put his lips on mine very gently, and kissed me softly around the edges of my mouth. He didn’t seem to be in a hurry. Finally my tongue found his and we kissed with passion. He pulled away.


“You realize there’s no future with me.”


I put his rough hands on my breasts. They were inviting even if I say it myself. My nipples were up. “Our future is breakfast together,” I said.


I made him use lotion on his hands.


We made love simply and sweetly that first time, exploring each other in a gentle, tentative way. He was patient to a fault, and I had to prompt him once my body was ready.  He learned fast.


The stone began to take shape.


I’d always been ambivalent about my looks. They attracted men, but seldom the right ones. Males couldn’t see beyond my body. They wanted a beautiful woman in the same way they wanted to win a competition. Once they had their prize, either they could only think of the next one, or they were overwhelmed worshipping their trophy. Either way I was more a prop for their ego than a person. Cleve routinely challenged my intellect. He worked at making me feel good about who I was.


My hands and lips sought to satisfy needs of his lean, hard body. I loved the way his chest muscles stood out, and I liked running my fingers though the hair on his chest. I am not fond of hairy men, but he had just the right amount.  When I came in the door each evening we kissed our long kiss. Sometimes he couldn’t wait and had me on the small Oriental rug just inside the door. He wrapped his belt around my hips and used it to draw himself deeper into me. No twenty-year-old hunk could have done better.


The stone was finely grained white marble. He said its surface would become translucent when it was polished. That was the future. It started as a block seven feet high and thirty inches square with marks from the quarrying drill still in it. I stayed out of the work area when the power tools were on. The noise was as bad as the dust. At least the sandbags under the marble soaked up most of the vibration.


He was obsessive about the dust. He had a vacuum that attached to some of the power tools and automatically came on when they did. He had an overhead filter that sucked dust out of the air. He even had a tall cylinder he called a cyclone whose intake sucked dust away as he worked.


Eventually he had a rough shape of me stretching both hands together over my head. My hips were forward and my arms lifted my breasts just so. He spent a weekend cleaning up from the roughing out process. I heard him coughing through the wall. Monday he began with his chisels.


As he learned what my body needed and responded to, he began to coax it into uncontrollable shudders. His tongue was so intuitive it left me feeling out of control. I’d been with better looking guys. I’d been with guys who had more impressive equipment. I’d never been with a guy who made my pleasure the source of his own. He approached learning my responses like his art. Soon he had my nerve endings hitting notes a master violinist might draw from a Stradivarius.


“This is the fun part,” he said as he refined my form. “I may have to cut you off at the wrists, the stone well tell.”


He started with my hips. The complexity of their interconnected curves fascinated him. I can’t say there wasn’t any dust, but the stone tended to peel off under his precise strokes. He would get on a roll, but I could only stand there naked for so long. I wrapped myself an old velour blanket between sessions. I used a radiant space heater, the other kind tended to stir up dust.


While he honed my body, I was curious how the face would turn out. “I do that last,” he said, “I need to capture your shape first, then concentrate of your essence.”


“You’ve been immersing yourself in my essence for weeks.”


“Complaining?” he asked.


“Dreaming,” I said.


“It’s late enough,” he said, putting aside his chisel. “I have something special planned for desert.”


“Me?” Even with his eyes on me, it was boring just standing there.


“You’re the platter. Strawberries and whipped cream ala Venus.”


“On my breasts?”


“If you like.”


“Too sticky down below.” I said.


We slept at his loft on weeknights.. I didn’t like walking back up Capital hill late at night. Since I didn’t want to be immortalized with a fat ass, I started walking up hill every day at lunch. On weekends he sometimes had cash jobs. When he got home, we celebrated.


One Saturday after teaching my yoga class, I was hanging around the loft waiting for him to get home. There were new sketches of me on top of a pile of bills. They were far more detailed than his previous ones.


I started looking through them and found a large manila envelope underneath. He must have managed to take nude pictures of me even though I’d asked him not to. I opened the envelope and found an X-ray. It showed his lungs. I dug in the pile of papers and found a letter from a doctor. I read: “plagues metastasized; extensive SCLC.” No wonder he hated the dust. I put everything back the way I found it and walked hard and fast for an hour–and-a-half.


After that, every time I heard him cough it was a dagger in my own chest. I noticed how easily he fatigued. He had to have pain, but he never said a word. I wanted to help him, and it hurt that he wouldn’t let me. The statute was becoming more and more my twin, but he was showing signs of wear. I took my cue from him and focused on his needs. Instead off confronting him directly, I suggested we take a break until he got over his cough. He wouldn’t hear of it.


He’d been promising we’d go up to Vancouver for New Years. I was looking forward to getting away from Seattle. With the clouds settled in it could be depressing. He still hadn’t told me about his lungs. For Christmas he gave me a framed sketch of myself in the final pose.


We took the Saturday morning Amtrak train. The tracks ran close to Puget Sound and alternated between water views and fir trees. Some of it was boring, but we read our books and snuggled. Our hotel was within walking distance of the station. Vancouver had a more cosmopolitan flavor than Seattle. It was bigger, too. That night we found a cozy restaurant not far from our hotel. I was too exhausted for clubs, and he seemed worn down. The coughing had become worse lately. When we got back to the room we showered together and I helped him find his energy again. It was a sweet night interrupted by periods of exhausted sleep.


On the train home he was thoughtful. Not talkative or playful as usual; he was getting ready to say something. When we got back to the loft he went into his work area and stood looking at the statue.


“It’s taking shape,” I said. I could see myself brought to life in stone whiter than my pale skin. Even my features were beginning to emerge.


“It needs final polishing,” he said, looking in my eyes.


“The face?”


“That takes more skill than I realized. One false stroke can ruin it.”


I’d never heard him doubt himself before.


“When you finish what happens?”


“It sells quickly, and you collect the five hundred dollars I was suppose to pay you up front.”




“Or, it sits and I get to appreciate you every day.” His smile was sad.


“You get that anyway way.” My tummy was tense.


“No, I don’t. Either way we have to say goodbye.”


“You’re dumping me?” I started to shake.


“I can’t keep you.” His eyes were wet. So were mine.




“Because the scar tissue in my lungs has metastasized. I have cancer. It’s spread to my lymph system. I won’t to die tomorrow, but I don’t have medical coverage. The only money I have is what I earn on each job. When I can’t work, I’ll have to sell my tools for whatever I can get. There won’t be money for rent.”


“Move into my place.” My voice was under control.


“So you can nurse a dying man? Change his diapers and feed him jello? You’re too young. You have a whole life ahead of you. This will be a slow process. I’ve been selfish not telling you, but it’s so good being with you I was afraid to ruin it.”


“Did you think I was going to run away from it?” I was sad and angry even though I knew I shouldn’t be.


“I didn’t want you feeling sorry for me.” His eyes were sad, but I was hurt anyway.


“What do you want now?”


“To say goodbye while you remember me the way I am.”


“That is selfish.” My voice was louder.


“I know.”


“Just like that? Goodbye so you can heroically die alone?” Could any man be stupid enough to think that made sense?


“I don’t want to die, but I will do it on my own terms.”


“How brave of you.” This was a macho side of him I hadn’t seen coming. That made it harder.


“Being with you has been the apex of my life, I want to hang on to you more than you can understand. I want it more than I want to live.”


Now he was being melodramatic. I was dry-eyed for reasons I didn’t understand. Inside I was numb. I was angry beyond words and wounded that he would push me away. Tears would come soon enough. I gathered my things and took a cab.


I didn’t contact him for a week even though I ached. I checked my cell and email five times a day. I wanted to go to the loft, but I couldn’t. He wouldn’t want to see me beg. It had to be as hard for him as it was for me. I wasn’t sure what to do. I was angry, but I needed his arms around me and mine around him.


Weeks passed. I couldn’t stand it any longer, but he was the one who had broken things off. I went to Café Paloma.


Sedat seated me himself. He brought me coffee and a pastry. He seemed at a loss for words. Finally, he handed me a large envelope. My name was written on the flap. Inside was a new sketch of my face. Clipped to it was a note.


I first appreciated that you were more than a pretty face at Café Paloma. Your spirit transcends any shape or beauty. I’ve asked Sedat to deliver this. He will know something has changed between us, but I’ve shared no details. I am taking a journey I need to face alone. The statue is yours to keep or sell. It is polished, but I couldn’t complete the face. Your features lurk there, shaped, but not fully defined. They will always be clear in my mind. The glance of Venus has proven too immortal for my skill. Each moment with you was precious. I am so sad to leave you. Loving you made my life make sense. I love you. Cleve.






Four years later:


Remains Of Hiker Identified


SEATTLE - Remains found near Venus Lake south of Stevens Pass were identified by the King County Medical Examiner's Office late yesterday as that of Cleveland Clarke, 50, of Seattle.


Clarke disappeared in January of 2016. Avalanche conditions delayed ground searches of the steep terrain.

A hiker in the area last Saturday reported finding skeletal remains, he marked the site, leading deputies to the location on Monday. A map case found near the remains contained sketches of an unknown model.




Like, Jacobi, the Master of the La Paloma, Cleve brought a treasure greater than mere gold. I sometimes close my eyes and run my hands over the statue’s smooth surface sensing his talented touch. I touch the unfinished face. Immortality is the wound carved in my heart.

Submitted: October 25, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Dark Eyed Stranger. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:


Amy F. Turner

What a truly wonderful story. It was intensely romantic, sweet, and sadder than I thought it would be. Very sensual in delivery and so we're the characters. You made me care about them. Awesome job!

Thu, November 5th, 2020 11:05am


Thanks Amy. A bit different story than what I've been posting. Glad you liked it. I need to take time and read some stories too. Thanks again. J.

Thu, November 5th, 2020 12:19pm

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