Casablanca, My Heart

I've got a fab excerpt to share with you today from the romance Casablanca, My Heart by Hannah Warren...


Amsterdam, 14 February 1996

I take another deep breath before I’m prepared to face the students. When I look at them, I immediately connect with two clear grey eyes studying me from under a mass of long, dark, uncombed hair.
The intensity of his stare makes me grab Rita’s hand and squeeze it.  Alert as she always is to my needs, she scans the group, then bends towards me and whispers rapidly.
“Heather, you lucky girl. Luuk has spotted you. Damn, I’ve been trying to catch his attention ever since I walked into this room eight weeks ago. You just sling your ass in this linen chair, and voilà, he’s
found you straightaway. He’s the one I was talking about. I guess he’s the most sought-after student in the entire school, the only acceptable one. Crazy as hell, but so talented.”
The crazy one smiles a thin smile as if he’d been listening. He raises one eyebrow and turns his attention back to Monsieur Gérard.
Although he doesn’t look at me again during my entire first session of nude modelling, I am acutely aware of his presence. Rita and I aren’t supposed to talk, since Monsieur Gérard demands absolute silence during class work. I’m dying to ask her about this Luuk. He looks more like a tramp than a civilised human being, and his baggy clothes hide all possible masculinity. The unravelled locks of dark hair look like they need a wash, while his attitude seems aloof and disinterested in anything that isn’t art with a capital A.
Still, when I glance at him, which I can’t help doing, I am attracted to his expressive personality. He is the artist. He breathes the intensity and determination of his passion with every breath, and his sharp eyes
seem to x-ray any object that comes in his view, probing to its marrow. The long slender fingers of his left hand work incessantly -a lefthanded painter; his entire body works together with the hand. I’ve
seen this way of working before and loved it then, but differently. Daddy had been left-handed too.
I am sure Luuk is using Rita as his model. He throws quick glances at her, then works without looking up for minutes at a time. His long hair falls in a curtain over his face, and with an impatient movement he
pulls an elastic band from his pocket and ties it into a ponytail, never taking his eyes from the paper in front of him. The strong line of his jaw is visible now, the firm mouth set with authority. He looks to be around twenty-five or twenty-six. Older than the other students, who look like soft milk-pudding babies next to him. Monsieur Gérard strides over to him, stares over his shoulder and grumbles.
“Encore plus precise! Les flanks, Lucas, les flanks. What iz wrong wiz you today? Les lines are too gross. Start again.”
Luuk crumples his paper into a ball and hurls it to the floor next to his table. He raises his eyes to Monsieur Gérard, and his facial expression transforms from a frown into a smile of reverence. He
addresses his teacher with a soft voice in what sounds like perfect French. Monsieur Gérard listens and nods enthusiastically, his pointed beard moving up and down in quick, jerky movements.
“Oui, oui, plus, plus. Zat iz ze way, Lucas! You know you can do it! Alors, work, work. Don’t talk, more of this. Yes!”
Soon the modelling session is over and I have been so occupied by my own thoughts there was hardly time to feel embarrassed or shy. Rita throws my bathrobe at me and laughs.
“You see? You got the knack of it straightaway, didn’t you? Get dressed now. Monsieur Gérard wants us out of here before the boys finish drawing so they don’t decide to throw themselves on the delights they were gaping at. So come on, Heather. You’ve done fabulously, really. Let’s go.”
I still feel dazed when Rita and I walk hand in hand out of the exclusive Rietveld Academie. Rita, as usual, babbles at me, but I’m distracted, hardly listening.
“Hey, look,” Rita stops and yanks my arm, staring straight ahead of us. “What’s going on? If it ain’t Luuk Routers, waiting for us.”
His name is a wake-up signal for me. I glance in the direction Rita points and see Luuk, bent over an old red bicycle. When he sees we have spotted him, he smiles and pushes his bike across the Frederik
Roeskestraat to where we stand.
“Sorry to bother you, ladies. I know Monsieur Gérard would kill me if he knew I was here, but my curiosity got the better of me. I must ask: are you Franklin Simpson’s daughter, by any chance? I saw your name on Monsieur Gérard’s desk, and there is such a striking resemblance between you and him. You must understand that he is – was -my absolute inspiration, my muse. I don’t think I exaggerate when I say I know almost all his work.”
There is a prolonged silence in which a blush, partly based on pride, partly something else, completely covers my cheeks. Rita is looking at me with those familiar arched eyebrows. Her voice breaks the
awkward silence.
“Speak up, woman. The lad wants to know about your famous dad. Answer him, for God’s sake!”
I manage a nod.
Rita claps her hands together. “I think this calls for a celebration, don’t you? How about an early evening cocktail at Bar Américan on the Leidseplein, mes enfants?”


Oooh, la la!  *fans face* I think I need to sit down now!
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Happy Reading!

Sibel XX