Montparnasse was undoubtedly the centre of artistic creativity in Paris, housing numerous artists' studios, many of which were situated in deep courtyards of dusty old apartment buildings, often constructed flimsily, very poorly heated, built (so it was rumoured) with left over construction materials from the regular World's Fairs. Such was the support of the French government towards the artistic community in Paris that artists were pouring into the city, making studio space more and more difficult to obtain - Montparnasse itself was all the more attractive to traveling artists such as myself, having announced itself a 'free zone', where eccentric behaviour, freedom and experimentation were actively encouraged, permeating all aspects of life in the district, whether artistic, intellectual, political or sexual. The place breathed art, and life, and sex.
It was just the kind of environment I'd been searching for. And of course the cafes and bars were always full - most of the artists were so keen to escape their cold, dark, unheated little hovels of studios that the cafes became their second homes. If this encouraged prevarication, if work was more often talked about than actually achieved, so be it - at the very least, we were all determined to have a damn good time.
However, I had yet to pay any rent to Vanessa for my own rather delightful apartment: warm, secure and filled with soft, expensive furnishings, bathed in light for much of the day, magnificent views over the rooftops, I had to admit to a certain amount of trepidation over how I was going to afford such a place to live. When I broached my concerns with Vanessa on the rare occasions that she drifted by to see me, she assured me that she had in mind an arrangement that would suit us both, and brushed away my offers of initial payment, telling me we would discuss it once I had settled in.
Having spent much of my first week spending more of the money from my commission from the Austrian composer, whom I had met in London, (most of this money, I must admit, spent on good food, alcohol and prostitutes, as seemed to be the custom for gentlemen, at least in this part of the city), I really did feel it was time to make some sort of financial arrangement with Miss Aldaine, independently wealthy or not - at the very least, I was prepared to accept a commission from her to assure my continued residence in the apartment she had found for me.
So it was that I sent her a note asking her to visit me that evening in my rooms, where the arrangement she had mentioned would be discussed. Vanessa happily agreed, and arrived only slightly late, dressed, as ever, simply but provocatively, and we sat together by the window, watching dusk fall over the Parisian rooftops, sharing a bottle of the finest wine, talking a little about art, before the conversation gently turned towards the matter of my outstanding rent.
"I have decided," Vanessa began, smiling rather demurely at me, "to completely waive any rent you may consider is due for your residence at this apartment. Instead, I intend to allow you to live here rent free, and additionally provide you with a generous amount for your personal expenses, for as long as you choose to stay here. In return, I wish to propose an... arrangement... which I believe you will find is to your satisfaction..."
Intrigued, I allowed her to continue.
to be continued...