But this early evening duty summoned, and he had to leave for a little while. Before locking the door to the cool, dry, well-ventilated room he called his gallery, he stood before a vertical glass container titled Number Six. It showcased the glorious legs that had belonged to his most recent conquest, their length sheathed in silky sheer darkness with straightened seams and preserved in formaldehyde.
With a shaky hand he reached out and touched the glass, and traced a line up the calves with his fingers.
He could not introduce any of them to his family. They would not want to understand.
“Oh, there you are, dear.” His mother looked up from the table as he entered the dining room and greeted the waiting guests.
“Sorry.” He kissed her cheek and pulled out the chair at her right and sat.
“I was finishing my latest piece and . . .”
“Don't worry, dear,” his mother interrupted and patted his arm, “I've made sure no one took your favorite part.”
She held out the platter of roasted chicken and he speared a drumstick. He planned to eat quickly and return to his apartment. Though his mother would narrow her eyes and make those annoying tsk sounds to show her displeasure with such a short visit, he knew she would not keep him from his business. He was an artist, after all, and she always supported his need to follow when the Muse beckoned.
Later that evening, as he walked out of his home to patronize unfamiliar haunts and find fresh material for Number Seven, he left a new pair of stockings on the bed.