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It could take time. Though Nathan knew that this was something he had for the longest been afraid of. He was an artist; he was supposed to be someone that was capable of experiencing the strongest of emotions and he did – still Nathan hadn’t really truly [I loved] since Charlotte. Charlotte was a firecracker, and he felt like it was why he had been attracted to Julia in the first place. They were both enigmatic and spunky – constantly on the move to big and better things. His relationship with Charlotte though had led to quite a deal bit of drama and things didn’t end as pleasant – things weren’t as romantic as one would believe.
There were nights of yelling, their fighting now daily. He’d come home late, his parents confused as to him coming home late and upset – bringing a different definition to the typical [I moody] teenager. She would call in the middle of the night then, Nathan knowing it was her and she would beg and plead for him to forgive her, forgive her for calling him worthless, for attacking him and playing victim when he fought back. He was torn – torn between a woman he loved and a loving himself. Still, he couldn’t deny her and often it didn’t seem like an option. How could he turn her away, when she would threaten harm. He was confused, a young male still maturing and at times just a victim to his own desires as he grew into adulthood. Would there be something considered wrong with him if he passed on his opportunity to lay with Charlotte, someone who saw him as a man?
“I’m sorry – you’re right. I guess I was just a bit guarded.” He assumed that would be a reasoning as to why Julia hadn’t mentioned the deal in Paris. He wasn’t sure if he was ready to uproot – what could happen after his exhibit was still up in the air. “I didn’t know,” he admitted. “She must have wanted to surprise me.” He chuckled, eating some of the food then. “What does love feel like for you?” He asked her. she could be skeptical about it, but Nathan knew humans needed connection – he figured other than thee photographer, she had to have a moment when she allowed herself to think of a what if with someone else in her life.
Milli looked back to Nathan, a little surprised at his response.
“O-Oh.” She said to him, taken aback because now she felt torn. She figured Julia really did have deep emotions for Nathan, otherwise she wouldn’t have stuck around. She didn’t want to judge Nathan, after all.
“Sorry I just didn’t expect that.” She said to him as she tucked some hair behind her ear.
Milli was at a loss on what to say because in her heart, she knew staying with someone you didn’t love wasn’t good but she didn’t want to see Julia hurt.
“Maybe it just takes time.” She said to him and if she was being truthful, it hurt to encourage him to be with another person. The waitress appeared to drop off their food and Milli smiled in thanks to the woman.
She had to admit the painkillers and antibiotics she was on didn’t do much for her appetite in the first place but she had to admit the food was good. She smiled to Nathan, hoping she hadn’t made anything awkward.
“You know Julia has been offered a place in Paris?” She said, hoping that would lighten the mood.
“Vanity Fair wants her. So that’s exciting, right?” She figured Nathan would know or at least Julia would have mentioned. She had certainly told Milli over text a few times that all the opportunities were abroad now.
“I am myself – I just –“ Nathan frowned, realizing then that Julia and Milli must’ve been talking. Of course, why wouldn’t they since they were friends. It still upset him though that she hadn’t expressed anything to him directly. Where was her vulnerability with him? Julia was always on a mission and moving too quick for him. He wanted success just as badly, but he was also a laidback guy – he had no interest in big parties or dates at restaurants that you were bound to be photographed at. Still, he cared for her, and he’d begun to feel bad about the fact that maybe he didn’t seem like someone that Julia could trust and confide in. Maybe he was more closed off?
It seemed like Milli was trying very hard for him to patch things up with Julia and keep the relationship going despite – the reaction she had to them getting together in the first place. What was he doing? What was he working towards? Afterall, Milli was here with him and not Julia – who had a whole day available was now at home without a word from him after denying her a date. He didn’t want to admit that he didn’t think Julia truly had any emotions for him and how closed off he had been since meeting her. He figured he was just another object for her to use as a show off. But hadn’t he sought her for the same reason? They both impulsively jumped at the relationship and though it fizzled for him, it appeared Julia did actually [I feel] for him, which Nathan had not anticipated.
He was glad when the waitress came back to take their orders. It was a nice distraction and Julia had yet to text him back. After ordering, Nathan watched Milli, eyes distracted by that soft curve of her jawline, eyes watching the world go past her – a world she’d been pulled from now that she was in the process of healing. Milli’s question was a surprise to him. “I don’t.” He said without hesitation and it only took a second for him to process what he’d just said to her.
Milli watched him as she took a drink of water. She eyed the menu and listened to him. She supposed it was one thing she never really considered. Julia was doing so well and she was a complete social queen and everyone wanted to be around her, she figured it must be difficult for Nathan to feel like he had to play catch up. The cafe was nice and the company was even better.
“You just told me to always be me, you should as well, Nathan.” Milli paused and swallowed a little because there was something incredibly painful about saying this to the man she thought she might have had a chance with.
“Maybe you should try speaking to her? Nathan she’s just feeling like...” she trailed off a little.
“She feels like you don’t care. I know she’s intense and fast moving but I really think you can both make it work.” She couldn’t be the girl who stuck the knife in and broke them up. Of course she only had Julia’s side of stories when they argued and Julia enjoyed making him out to be the bad guy.
A waitress came over and Milli looked a little relieved for a distraction. She had to be a good friend to Nathan and Julia, even if it was so difficult. She smiled to the waitress and looked thoughtful. Eventually she ordered a milkshake and a panini.
“Thanks, Nathan. Honestly, getting out the apartment is such a relief.” She said to him and eyed his dark features. Did he not see how he looked to others? To Milli? He was handsome and strong looking wit the expression of a thoughtful poet. He was beautiful. She looked away and out the window at the streets and people bustling by. She wondered if Nathan thought differently of her now she was in a wheelchair and barely able to stand. She ignored the self doubt which was much easier with the man around.
“Do you love her?” She asked as she turned to him again, those mismatched eyes resting on him. She wasn’t asking him for personal gain, she wanted him to remember what he did love about Julia.
Nathan had been disregarding the messages from Julia and he felt bad, but his time with Milli seemed to have taken priority. Once leaving the museum, they found a nice little cafe spot about a block away.They were led to a table b y the window, able to watch the busy streets outside and still enjoy the comfort of being inside and safe from the brash wind outdoors. Nathan knew he could not ignore Julia any longer and responded to her text, letting her know that he was ‘sorry for being unavailable, just busy’. It wasn't really that personal of a text and he was sure that no emoji could make up for it. Nathan was not at all surprised when she didn’t respond, him assuming her passive aggressive way of letting him know that she was upset by his actions.
Nathan was looking over the menu then, extremely hungry before looking up to find a pensive Milli. Her eyes were showing signs of worry, skirting down to the device in her hands before finally meeting his gaze. She’d finally asked him a question he didn’t think would ever be asked, as he figured she wanted nothing to do with his relationship with Julia. Though, he suspected, as her closest friend that she would be the only person Julia would be reaching out to.
He closed the menu and leaned back in his seat, biting his bottom lip and shrinking some. “We’re okay?” He said and of course his tone didn't deliver any sense of confidence.”I want it to work. I just feel like we’re on two different levels -” he admitted with a sigh. Nathan reached for the glass of water and took a sip. “She expects so much of me and I guess - I just feel like I can’t meet her expectations.” He admitted. “I’ve been so anxious with her so lately and I don’t know why.”
Milli figures he was joking about painting her, not taking him seriously because when he had such a stunning beauty like Julia at home. She enjoyed the exhibit and it was so nice to just get out and around even if she did feel embarrassed slightly when he pushed her chair. She looked back at him and at least was grateful he was so understanding.
“But-“ She gave up before she started an argument about lunch.
“Fine, we can split it.” She said to him and she would make sure it was split. She had to admit it was always difficult to cook now so a good lunch out somewhere would help. She checked her phone and saw another text from Julia and sighed.
“Nathan.” She said, not wanting to spoil the light hearted atmosphere they had created but it was starting to bug her a little.
“Are you and Julia okay?” She asked him and watched his expression.
She wouldn’t have mentioned anything if she hadn’t gotten the endless texts from Julia complaining about how he was always late, how she didn’t think he was serious about her because he buried himself in art over her. She understood his passions, and if it was her she would just do her best to give him space to create whatever masterpiece he wanted but Julia wasn’t like that. She was demanding and intense, which wasn’t a bad thing but maybe it was starting to clash a little.
“Well you we can always jazz up the chair, maybe put flames on? Make the portrait a bit more exciting and livelier.” He said with a smile. It was just a suggestion and Nathan didn’t think that Milli would have agreed to it. She didn’t seem to hesitate or pause in her answer or even defend as to why Julia should be the one he painted. Brushing his hands through his hair, he looked at the artifacts, Milli’s words playing in the background. It was so interesting to him just how much she knew – who did she talk to about this stuff besides him? This wasn’t really everyday conversation he would imagine if she was on set or when behind the counter at the bookstore. Historical books he was sure was not so much the best-selling at this time really. The idea of [I working] at a bookstore alone was rare he would think. He liked that about Milli – she was a rare gem in the dullness of life and in a sense like Julia, her rarity brought something thrilling.
“You don’t have to apologize. It’s nice . . . being with you again. “ He admitted. Days on his way home had been so lackluster – though Michael was showing to be a great friend and would talk his head off the minute he got to the apartment. “I mean it’s interesting – hearing the [I history] behind these items. I would imagine love was much richer back then. I often wonder about if that’s something that still exists. A shrine? That’s a tough act to follow.” He joked. He knew she probably thought that she was boring him, but he genuinely did like to get this alone time Milli. “And don’t ever apologize for being you.” He said with a waggled finger. He grabbed hold of the handles of her wheelchair without asking and began to push her, he didn’t want to seem obvious in being able to graze her shoulder with his hand. Nor the fact that he didn’t care what they talked about or how much she talked, hearing her voice was pleasant.
The day was going by pleasantly and Nathan was amazed at how much Milli knew. Eventually they had reached the end and not wanting the day to end, he suggested she pay up on her offer of coffee. “I’m paying for lunch though, we’ll split it.” He told her in defiance.
Milli smiled at him when he mentioned meeting a crazy person on the train. Well it hadn’t done them much good in the long run of things because now he was seeing Julia and Julia was constantly complaining about him over text. She looked to the some of the artefacts and heard his words. She raised an eyebrow at him,
“Paint me?” She was a little surprised because surely Julia was his muse and his inspiration.
“I mean I’d be honoured if you painted me, pretty sure after your own exhibition your name will be very sought after. Just- leave the chair out.” She said to him and eyed some of the artwork. Nathan was so talented and yet so humble and down to earth. The past few days had been a real challenge for Milli and her frustrations at not getting better quicker were starting to mount but being here certainly lifted a lot of pressure.
“They had so many Gods and Goddesses. They said that Anubis would take your heart when you died, and weigh it against the Feather of Truth. If your heart was lighter, Osiris himself would let you into eternity. If it was heavier then you would watch your souls heart be eaten by Amut who had the face of a crocodile. Then your soul just ceased to exist.” Milli explained and eyed a very old looking enshrinement.
“That’s the book of the dead.” She said to Nathan and she realised how she must sound to him and she smiled, a little sheepish as she eyed the inscribed symbols behind the glass.
“I remember reading the story of Isis and Ozris.” She said and eyed some of the depictions before pointing.
“Ozris died very suddenly and Isis buried him and she wept at his burial site and they say her tears made the Nile.” She murmured as she pointed out the pictures depicting the event.
“Ramses had a shrine made for his Neferati and enshrined ‘For whom the sun shines’.” She leaned back and smiled a little. She looked to Nathan apologetically,
“Sorry, I get a little carried away.” She said to him.
She had to admit she was really enjoying his company and there was something about him, something tolerant and patient. He wasn’t judging her and he was doing his very best to keep her spirits up. Milli was falling for him and every fibre in her being was fighting it because he was with Julia and she was currently in a wheelchair and too much maintenance. But they could have this, the small moments together stolen away.
Nathan was more than glad to get to looking at things and being with Milli excited him even more. A part of him hated himself for what he was doing and it was true that he had kind of withdrew from Julia when he got the chance, but that was only because everything turned into an opportunity for her. They were never just in the moment. Last time they went to dinner and it turned out that she was just there to meet the owner. Still, he knew that he liked her, but wasn’t quite sure if it was fair to either of them to keep egging on these dates if his feelings were changing. In a way, he had grown [I bored] and Nathan didn’t know how to express that without coming off like a prick, nor not sure how Julia would take it. Someone who had been admired all her life surely wouldn’t understand. He tried to push those thoughts to the back of his mind though, he was here with Milli and that was all that mattered. He knew after a few days with the wheelchair he surely knew what she was doing and he didn’t want to make her feel like she had to be pushed around. He knew it must be weird to stand out in such a way, and weird in the sense of comfort – he didn’t want her to feel like anything was different.
“Just tell me when you get tired, I’m sure these things are good for something after years of lifting . . . pens and pencils.” He said with a smile. The exhibit was the King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh – the last tour of the world apparently with never before seen artifacts. History was something that Nathan was interested in, but it would be a lie if he didn’t invite her to this purely knowing she would be interested. “Oh you know, I met some crazy person on the train – piqued my interests.” He commented with a smirk. The event wasn’t solely his chance to see Milli, he was interested in the paintings and different styles – art could be found anywhere.
They were in a large room then, the exhibit was coming to an end so fortunately for them they didn’t have to fight through crowds much like the opening day. “You know – maybe I can paint you in such a way,” he said then. He thought about the story she had told him when they first met. Just a suggestion – Sharon is on my back about finishing and I’m at a loss now it seems.”
There was a definite sense of relief when Nathan came into view. She had started to panic a little and she couldn’t help but laugh at his joke. It was good he could make light of the situation, at least. She looked to him and waved off his apology’s it couldn’t have been easy dividing up his time with Julia, work and now this catastrophe.
Milli figures it was best not to mention the text she had gotten from Julia of her complaining about Nathan constantly. It had become a regular thing by now. She felt bad for Nathan because she knew he was a whimsical soul and a bit of a daydreamer but she liked that. Julia was much more organised. She smiled to Nathan,
“Physical labour but I’ll buy us a couple of coffees after, alright?” She said, cutting him a decent deal as she looked around.
She could cheek herself just fine and she was excited for this in all honesty. And Nathan, Nathan was being so sweet and so kind and so gracious. He wasn’t looking at her funny.
She felt her phone vibrate again and read the text from Julia. More complaints about how Nathan never seemed to do anything with her and Milli felt a pang of guilt because she was keeping Nathan from her, without meaning to. She put her phone away and eyed Nathan.
“So, when did you start getting all interested in Ancient Egypt?” She asked him with a wiggle of her eyebrows.
“You know, Egyptian art can be quite pretty and they always did paint their gods and Goddesses quite beautifully.” Maybe he could find inspiration in that aspect. She hoped so. She entered the exhibit and immediately she was in awe, forgetting the wheelchair, forgetting the incident that had happened as she looked around at the array of ancient art, artificers and items.
“Wow.” She breathed.
“I thought we were going to Vincente’s today?” Julia said. She was in bed, pouting and eating her grapefruit. Nathan sighed, scratching his scalp and wincing at the tangled strands he’d somehow managed to get his fingers through. He wasn’t late for once and a part of him knew that it was because of Milli. He hadn’t seen her for the past couple of days since she was out of the hospital, but had texted her and knew she was doing well. They’d settled on a day that would work for them to attend the exhibit. He’d lied to her at the hospital, as he hadn’t told Julia that he wanted to go. His only hope was that this wouldn’t backfire. Chewing on his bottom lip, he straightened the dark green flannel before sitting on the bed to lace up his shoes.
“I want to go, but – I really need to finish these pieces and I think I’ll find some inspiration at this exhibit Sharon has me attending.” Julia placed her tray to side, edging across the bed to wrap her arms around him.
“Well, why don’t I come with? You always say I put you in the mood,” she whispered before suckling on his ear. He was surprised she was actually trying to spend time with him, but Julia was always in a good mood when she wanted to persuade you to give her the attention she required.
“I have to work sometime,” he said with a chuckle as he held her hand.
“Fine! Just don’t come back here after.” He’d upset her. She was in one of her moods and honestly Nathan didn’t want to deal with it. Standing, he walked over to her. He could already see she was texting Milli.
“Not even for dinner?” He asked, smiling as she looked up at him. What was his game? She finally acquiesced.
“Dinner and you go home right after.” He bent down to kiss her then, knowing full well she would have him sleep over.
Nathan had left the apartment then and hailed a cab, late to his disliking, he arrived finally at the museum. He was still getting used the idea of Milli in a wheelchair, to what had happened to her truly.
“Oh don’t tell me this date comes with physical labor?” He joked, thinking then to his words and hoping she didn’t think too much into it. He offered a smile. “Sorry I’m late – Julia – I.” He shrugged. “On we go yeah?” She looked beautiful and he didn’t want to say that and make things weird. Why was he so nervous?
Milli watched Nathan go and gave him a small wave as she looked to the nurse.
“A doctor will help you home and help you get settled, dear.” The nurse explained and Milli nodded along as she took her bag of things and clutched it close to her.
“He’s a lovely young man, you make a sweet couple.” The nurse commented and Milli stammered and went a furious shade of pink, feeling stupid. The nurse just laughed a little, amused by her own antics it seemed.
The journey home was tough, it was exhausting if she was completely honest but she was not one to admit defeated. It felt weird being alone in her own home like this. She felt vulnerable, realistically she was worried if someone broke in. She would have no chance against them. She did her best to adjust and get comfortable in bed but everything was just frustrating.
The next couple of days were the worst. Milli tried and failed to do things herself. She was due to meet Nathan for the exhibition and she had a cab all booked for that morning. Even cooking was a real pain. She didn’t want to order out all the time, so she was doing her best. She had managed to sit on the edge of the bed, thankfully she could at least shower and wash herself, able to stand just long enough for that sort of thing.
She pulled on a shirt and managed to get some jeans on. Her heart was racing because not only was she meeting with Nathan, she was going out in a wheelchair for the first time in her life. She hadn’t left her apartment and she wasn’t sure if this would affect how Nathan looked at her. She pulled her hair up and figured there was no point in hiding her eyes given the metal contraption she would be wheeling about in would draw the most attention. The cab beeped outside and Milli manoeuvred herself into her chair and headed out, her bag sat on her lap. The cab driver was great and she figured she was glad of the kindness in the world.
She hadn’t seen Julia since getting out and part of her was glad. She got out the cab and pushed herself to the entrance of the museum, chewing her lip. Maybe she had made a mistake, maybe she shouldn’t be doing this. She waited in the foyer of the museum and checked her phone. She wouldn’t blame Nathan for cancelling, realistically. She tapped her phone anxiously and eyed the banners that announced the exhibit they had come to see. What if he cancelled? What if he didn’t want to see her like this? What would she do?
Nathan was glad that Julia was moving forward in her career, but being with her didn’t feel like being with her – it felt like he was trying to keep up. Julia was keeping him more than busy. There was so much to focus on, every detail mattered and so many appearances – anything to keep her name and face present. Nathan had a hard time being a boyfriend of a model that was rising in fame. Her life was busy, and [I busy] in the sense that there was never a time to breathe or relax. While his busy gave him moments to lament on what was going on – with Julia, his art had become more than a hobby, it was a break. There were moments he would just stare at a half finished canvas and breathe and – GOD did it feel fucking fantastic. How odd someone like him who wasn’t for the limelight had fallen into a relationship with someone who feared being so far away from it.
Looking at Milli, cheeks flush from the nurse’s words, the smile on her face still from his invitation – how could he get bored of her? “Well, I mean you know surely I try my hardest to dress to impress.” He watched as the nurse helped her into the wheelchair, eyes glancing anywhere but at her. “I’ll be sure to text you.” He said with a smile, offering her a wave and a goodnight to the nurse before leaving. It was weird, a part of him wished that he was taking her home, making sure that she was safe and inside. Wanting more than a fraction of time with her.
He was glad to know that Emilia had taken him up on his offer to help out. Though, splitting such time between her and Julia would be hard. He felt the need to admit o her that he was the man on the train.
Milli watched him and smiled.
“She did mention Vogue, that’s great news! That’s every models big dream to be on the cover of vogue, everyone will want to photograph her!” She said to Nathan and she wondered if he was equally as excited. They would no doubt have opportunities to jet set across the world and see amazing places. It was bound to be exciting for them both. There was a soft pang somewhere in her chest then, the thought of Nathan going to wild and exotic places far away somehow causing a tug. She didn’t mention it though.
She shifted and sat up a bit more when he mentioned a mummy exhibit.
“That sounds great.” She had to admit that was something she greatly wanted to visit and even though she would no doubt be confined to a wheelchair, she knew it wouldn’t stay in town for long.
“As long as you won’t get bored, text me though, I’ll do my best!” She said to him as she looked to the nurse with the wheelchair. It was her worst nightmare being stuck in one of those things and she sighed out.
“Alright Emilia. I see you snuck some food in.” The nurse laughed a little and Milli gave a sheepish smile.
Milli could stand with some support as she got into the wheelchair and it still hurt a lot at the site of injury but it wasn’t so bad.
“I promise I’ll wear something nicer than pajamas.” She said to Nathan with a small laugh. It was probably going to be home and to bed with her because tomorrow Stephen would come over and that man would want her back on her feet quicker than lightning.
“You find out a date and I’ll come with you to the exhibit, I’m excited.” Milli said and she was because sitting in and staring at the four white walls was no fun. The nurse had started to pack her things away. She glanced between the two of them, both younger than her by a lot and smiled coyly. Young love, what a sweet thing to see blossoming in a place of ill health and death.
Nathan didn't want to come on too strong. Though, he felt that he had to be somewhat pushy in the case of helping Milli after seeing how stubborn she was already.He shook his head and chuckled. “It’s no pressure. Honestly, I just want to make sure that you’re okay. I don’t want you to feel alone.” He felt weird seeing her without Julia there and it was odd to him how she was more invested in her career instead of her friend. Though, that was their friendship dynamic and he realized just how much it seemed Milli was willing to settle for in this friendship. Even more than he could imagine, considering that he hadn’t bothered to bring up the fact that he was [i seeing] someone. Though, time with Milli put him in a different mindset. Being with her didn't make him think of his outside life - that hour spent with her on the train was just about [i her.] Though, Nathan was sure that eventually Julia would become upset with him splitting time and he knew that he couldn't make both women happy, considering how [i demanding] Julia was already.
“Things are good,” he said and maybe a bit too quickly. He didn't want to think that he was second guessing his decision to date Julia - he did like her and she was interesting. But, there was something about that look in Milli’s eyes the night they met at the party that he couldn't erase from his memory. There was no denying the familiarity and desire he had for her - muffled and subdued by his relationship with Julia.”I mean, I’m sure she’s told you about the Vogue account she picked up. She’s been dragging me to anything I’m free to go to.” He said with a despondent chuckle.
“Hey if you’ll be up to it, I’m trying to go to the museum for this mummy exhibit, figure that it’s more your speed and well Julia has a shoot that day.” The nurse was entering then with a wheelchair, ready to get her discharged.
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