Romance LGBTQ+ Drama

"Excuse me, is it possible to speak with the head curator in charge of the Cuisine on Ice Exhibit?" I inquired politely at the Front Desk of the Walton Museum. The woman behind the desk regarded me as if I wasn’t worth her time–glaring like some scab lingering too long.

After a brief pause, she replied in a condescending tone befitting a suburban housewife, "Are you from the Atlantic Star or the Artist Prompt?" Her eyebrow arched as she scanned me from head to toe, seemingly convinced I didn't belong. I could already tell getting past Mrs “I'm worth more than you” would be a task.

"No," I retorted, matching her contemptuous gaze, "I'm from Interestingly Honest Magazine."

“I've never heard of that one. Is it an inner-city publication?”

Her judgmental pause between "inner" and "city" ignited a fiery impulse to slam her face into the desk she sat behind, but I took a deep breath to quell the urge. "It is a culturally versed and community-advocating publication created for everyone," I stated firmly, mirroring her asinine demeanor in hopes of highlighting her distasteful assumptions.

"Oh, so it's for the people with less artistic awareness," she retorted smugly.

Refusing to entertain any further underlying insults, I swiftly intervened. "Look, I'm not here to debate my magazine's worthiness with you. Now, please direct me to the overseer of the event in question." Giving her a warning glare, I dared her to widen her jaw, imagining it cracking her prosthetic face, probably infused with the twelfth Botox injection of the week.

She partially opened her mouth, then reached for the phone, peering at me as she dialed. Pressing a button on the dial pad, she spoke into the receiver, "Ms. Johanson, there is an interesting woman here inquiring about the cuisine exhibit."

After a moment, she listened to the response on the other end before looking up at me with a slight roll of her eyes. "What is your name?" she asked, her tone bordering on impatience.

One would think as a front desk person she would have asked my name before picking up the phone but considering our head-butting interaction, I could bet money she didn't care. I mused silently. “My name is Nichelle Dorjé,” I stated, making sure to enunciate every syllable clearly for comprehension.

The plastic-infused witch told the person on the other end my name then hung up the phone. She sat back in her chair and then snapped her tongue, “You don't have to stand at my desk, there are seats behind you.” I slightly tilted my head and raised an eyebrow, “how is it that someone such as yourself was hired to greet people?” She scoffed,” How is it that people like you can wander in establishments beyond your comprehension?” 

Well, it seems her audacity was at an all-time high and my East Coast demeanor was beginning to take control. However, before I could give her an exclusive version of my versatile background someone with a bubbly voice spoke my name. “Ms. Dorjé?”

I rolled my eyes at the front desk gremlin and turned to lock eyes with a woman about 5’8 wearing cream wide-leg slacks, a black bodice, and an emerald green wrap sweater. She had long wavy black hair, olive skin, brown eyes, and a smile that softened the room. It was refreshing considering only a few moments ago I was about to dive over that reception desk and give that faux face woman a piece of my mind. 

“That's me”, I replied, returning her smile. 

She stared at me for a moment then placed her hands to her face, “I can't believe you're here” she squealed. “Please, come to my office so we can talk.” Before I knew it, I was whisked down a hall and into a small but quaint room with an array of creative treasures. From tiny wooden African statues to oddly shaped vases sitting on the floor next to her glass desk– it was a lot to take in. There was even an embroidered rug that seemed tribal hanging from one of the walls. Oh, and don't get me started on the books. She housed a small library that lined the amalgam of floating shelves. Titles such as “Art and Beethoven”, “Tilted Designs, and “Margo's Take on Van Gough”.  It was apparent that she loved her work and loved to read; the books strode open on her see-through desk sealed the observation. Or maybe she loved the hype of research? Now that is something I could stand behind and relate to. 

I was in such awe with the mass art and information that cascaded through the room that for a moment, I forgot she had snatched me from the library like a giddy schoolgirl. I snapped back to reality when I heard her giggle. I met her eyes once again, noticing in more detail their hazel glimmer. They were filled with delight and matched her smile. She must have realized the strange look on my face as I looked at her puzzled as to why she was so excited to be in my presence. 

“I am so sorry that I whilst you off so quickly but when Cheryl told me your name my brain went into overdrive!” I raised an eyebrow as she continued. “You are the Nichelle Dorje, creator and main contributor of the most honest online magazine and my personal inspiration and girl crush.” She let out a dazzling eek as she finished her statement. 

My eyes widened as I’ve never met a true fan of my work before nor a girl crush. Wait, did she say “girl crush”? My brain glitched at the thought of having one. She continued and shared how much she adored a few of my signature articles and how cutthroat and honest they were. She specifically loved the piece I did on Harvest Bear, a local vegan establishment that’s not only known for creating tasty meals that are made with natural ingredients but how they pride themselves in helping the LGBTQ community.

“You seem to be really taken by my work”, I said neutrally. “Oh goodness, I am but I know you are not here to listen to me gush all over you. So please, tell me what I can do for you. I hear you are inquiring about the Cuisine on Ice exhibit.”  I had to chuckle at her earlier mention of gushing before I spoke, “Yes, I wanted to know if I could get a personal and more detailed tour?” 

Her eyes lit up, “Yes!” she exclaimed. “But, I’m not the lead on that exhibit, my brother Alexander is.” She sighed when she mentioned her brother. 

It might be too soon to gauge but I get the distinct feeling her brother wasn’t as eager an individual as she was. “I do apologize but in the midst of you wheeling me off to your office I don’t think I caught your full name.” She face palmed and turned a shade of red. “I guess I blew my first impression, huh?” I laughed and replied, “I think you would have to be more like your front desk person to blow an impression with me”

“Oh no, what did Cheryl do now?” Her face turned to concern. I sighed and said, “It’s nothing and I’ve already let it go”. I was lying through my teeth and had every intention of giving Cheryl the plastic front desk witch a death glare before I left. 

“Oh good!” She clasped her hands together indicating she was relieved. “And my name is Melissa Johanson, but please, for the love of all things artistic, call me Melissa.”

“Well Melissa, it is very nice to meet you.” She couldn’t help but give me another eager schoolgirl smile as I continued. “So what is it that you do here at the museum, are you their head researcher or something?” I wandered my eyes around her office gesturing to the collection she housed. She laughed, “Why yes actually, I am, but there’s a little more to it than that.” 

Melissa rose from her desk to retrieve a tiny vase from one of the shelves, so petite it could have been made for a Barbie doll. “I enjoy delving into the history of artifacts or works of art,” she explained, “comparing them to books and articles, then distilling the literature into a cohesive narrative.” Handing me the delicate ceramic vase, she continued, “Each piece carries a tale woven into its fabric—ceramic binds and colors, but it also bears stories from external sources. With that, I breathe life into each piece by crafting an encapsulating synopsis for display.”

"So you write the information for visitors to read when they encounter a work of art?” I interjected.

She chuckled softly. “To put it simply, yes. I also journey to the lands where some of these artifacts originated, immersing myself in the cultures they represent. I pour my heart and soul into my work because art deserves nothing less.” Returning the vase to her, I stole a moment to admire her face as she carefully placed it back on the shelf.

Melissa was captivating, especially when she spoke with such passion about her career. She didn't hesitate once in expressing her research methods and appeared deeply connected to her work. It was as if her profession was tailor-made for her. If I didn't know any better, I would have thought she was deeply in love with what she does.

“Do you always get whimsically lost in your work?”, I inquired softly, noticing a blush creep across her cheeks as she dropped her head, attempting to hide her smile.

Continuing, I teased, "Is that a hint of shyness, Ms. Johanson? You've already revealed so much of yourself since bringing me to your office; no need to hold back now." I couldn't resist playing into her moment of vulnerability.

She turned to me, glancing at the chair I occupied, “I am far from shy Ms. Dorje, and if this is your attempt at flirting it might be working.” She winked before returning to her seat. 

Smiling faintly, I acknowledged her comment but decided against pursuing it further. "Please, call me Nichelle," I offered.

Her smile widened as she replied, "When you adhere to my request of calling me by my first name, then I will adhere to yours." Her voice grew more poised and matter-of-fact as she leaned back in her chair, taking a moment to gather her thoughts before continuing. "My brother is not an easy man to persuade, especially when it comes to someone like yourself." I raised an eyebrow at the phrase "someone like myself," sensing a subtle implication. She picked up on my reaction and elaborated.

"While I find your work spectacular, well-versed, and inclusive, my brother tends to gravitate towards more prestigious circles. In other words, you may not be prestigious enough for his audience."

"So basically, I'm not his type!" I quipped sarcastically, feeling a surge of amusement at the situation.

Melissa couldn't contain her laughter at my sly remark. "Oh my word!" she exclaimed, her laughter infectious.

While I may have injected a bit of humor into our conversation, the ongoing presumptions about me since arriving at the museum were beginning to wear thin. However, Melissa's refreshing demeanor stood out, and I found myself drawn to her.

"Well, Nichelle, it seems you're quite hilarious and even more interesting in person," Melissa remarked, her tone warm and inviting.

Was she flirting with me?

Before I could dwell on the thought too long, she continued, "How about this? Join me at the Walton Ball tomorrow evening, and I'll ensure you have a one-on-one audience with my brother."

My observation was confirmed; she was indeed flirting. "And here I thought I'd have one-on-one time with you," I teased, testing the waters of flirtation even further.

Leaning in slightly, she replied, "Oh, believe me, you will.”

I reveled in the anticipation of my encounter with Melissa that night, allowing myself to daydream about the potential passion we might share.

As the night of the Walton Ball arrived, I made my entrance with my hair styled in a fishtail side braid, towering 4-inch heels, and a sleek black suit that commanded attention with its vivacious allure. The suit jacket left very little to the imagination, revealing only a bra underneath, while the snug slacks accentuated the silhouette of my Blasian curves. Standing at 5’6" and weighing 130 pounds, I was a vision of coke bottle curves.

Making a beeline for the champagne tower at the center of the ballroom, I helped myself to some liquid courage. "Well, someone certainly knows how to bring sexy to a ball," a sultry voice remarked behind me. Turning around, I found Melissa adorned in a cream form-fitting gown with a plunging neckline and a daring thigh-high slit. Unable to resist, I smiled as my gaze lingered on her from head to toe.

"Do you like what you see, Ms. Dorjé?" Melissa purred.

"Yes, very much so, Ms. Johanson," I replied, matching her gaze. "So where is this brother of yours?"

"Are you truly that eager to meet him?" she teased.

"No, what I am is eager to learn more about you in a private setting," I confessed boldly.

Melissa's smile widened, and she subtly indicated a door across the ballroom. Without hesitation, she began to walk towards it, and I followed eagerly.

Upon entering the room, I noticed it was an office similar to Melissa's but meticulously organized. "Whose office is this?" I inquired curiously.

"Does it matter?" Melissa replied, stepping closer to me and slipping her hand inside the open lining of my jacket, guiding it to the small of my back. "I don't know what it is about you, Nichelle, but I've wanted you since I laid eyes on you."

I smiled seductively. "Well, it seems you have me right where you want me, so..."

Before Melissa could lean in to kiss me, a clearing of a throat interrupted from the background.

“Do you think it's appropriate to utilize my office for your routine rendezvous, Melissa?” a voice questioned sternly.

“I guess we've been caught," Melissa whispered seductively. She then turned, “Dear brother, don't you know it's rude to interrupt a woman in mid-arousal?”

“Firstly, eww, and secondly…” He paused mid-sentence as he looked in my direction. “Ni…chelle,” he stammered.

My eyes couldn't believe who I was seeing, and my heart couldn't either as it raced, not missing a beat or a memory. “Alexander,” I questioned, feeling a mix of emotions flood over me.

“You two know each other?” Melissa asked curiously.

"She's… she's my," Alexander's voice filled with emotion as he stared at me.

My heart flew to my throat as I saw that olive-skinned man gaze at me with such desperation and intensity.

He walked toward me, “Nichelle,” he said once more. “Please.”

I couldn't speak, feeling frozen in the moment.

Melissa watched in confusion as her brother dropped to his knees in front of me and began to cry. “I still love you,” he managed to say, repeating the phrase once more.

“Someone needs to tell me what's going on!” Melissa demanded.

"He's my husband," I said softly, placing a hand on his head. "And I..." Before I could finish my sentence, Alexander stood up and hugged me so tightly that the lack of air could have suffocated a fire, but not the fire that still remained between us.

Two years, 12 days, and too many hours later, we were brought back together at a ball and in that moment, in that brief and very intense moment, my heart was forced to fall in love with him all over again.

March 23, 2024 03:35

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