"Me ? Posing for the great Badoglio ?" Farida went.
The man smiled in surprise. "You know me ?"
"Youíre kidding ? The new Michelangelo ?" She said. "I love your work ! Itís so modern, yet full of classic beauty Ö"
Pierpaolo Badoglio was short, round man in his early sixties with a small moustache sitting opposite the tall and beautiful Farida Breutzmann in a small café in Milan.
"Iíd love to use you as a model, you have a beautiful body." He said honestly.
Farida brushed her long curly black hair with reddish highlights out of her face and put up a phlegmatic face "Of course ! Youíd be crazy not to want to be sculpted by you !"
"When can you start ?"
She grabbed her Filofax and browsed through it. "I have a photoshoot next week, but after that, Iím pretty much free for the moment. Itís the slowest period Iíve seen in years."
"We make an appointment for the week thereafter ?" Badoglio asked.
"Excellent." She said.
There was no doubt that Badoglio was a great artist. He was famous for his marbles, beautiful, but clearly modern women.
Faridaís gaze lingered over the various statues.
"Interesting." She said, sounding a bit blasé. "This stuff has a great investment value."
Badoglio was wearing an old, worn workmanís coat. He smiled proudly, while fidgeting with his sculpting tools. "I hope I can do you justice Ö"
He gazed at the young woman. She was barely twenty, half-German, half-Turkish. From her father, she had inherited a "Teutonic" stature and bright blue eyes and from her mother, she had inherited luxurious dark hair and the exotic beauty of the Orient.
She wore tight black pants with a blouse and a jacket trimmed with leather strips, all in all a bit snobbish in style.
"How long have you been a model ?" He asked.
"Three years." Farida said with the enigmatic, if a bit cold, face that had earned her picture on the cover of several major fashion magazines. "So ! When do we begin ?"
"Whenever you feel up to it. It depends on how you feel about posing naked for an old man like me Ö"
"I am not ashamed about my body." She said.
"Forgive me, but I donít want to rush anybody into taking their clothes off. Some girls needed quite a lot of time before they would undress for me." He said.
"Thatís their problem." She said.
Farida walked into the large converted wintergarden at the back of the old villa. It reached right up to the second floor. She looked at a palm tree that grew right up to the glass roof.
"That tree has been here since the turn of the century." Badoglio said.
The house was a fine example of Art Nouveau. Flowing, organic motifs had been worked into the wrought iron that supported the thousands of small windowpanes, some of which worked into magnificent stained glass displays, resplendent in the bright Italian summer sun. Yet Farida seemed to take it all for granted.
She said nothing, merely waiting for things to happen.
"Have you seen the garden ?"
Farida followed him as he opened the doors and showed the ornate garden.
"Looks expensive, must have cost you a bundle ?" Farida went.
"Itís my ancestral home." Badoglio said proudly. "Fortunately I make enough money with my sculptures to pay for the upkeep of it all."
"Well, with a good decorator, you might make something really cool of it." She said.
"I like it like it is." He said.
"I guess it should have some redeeming features Ö" She said. "If youíre into that "old" stuff."
Pierpaolo showed her through the garden where a few more of his statues were on display.
You could read the personality of the woman who had posed for the statue on each and every one of them. Farida had to admit that not all of the statues were that of gorgeous women, but they way they had been sculpted made up for any "shortcomings" they all would naturally have. Yet Faridaís face became sour whenever she passed a statue with those shortcomings Ö
"Just try to find a pose youíre comfortable with. Just relax and be yourself Ö" Badoglio went.
Farida instantly went into a fashion pose.
Badoglio touched the large marble block and searched for the right spot. His trained eye spotted the minutest variations in the stone and he circled it a few times. Then he noticed Faridaís pose. "Are you sure thatís you ?"
"Why shouldnít it be me ?" She asked.
"Iím looking for something more natural Ö" He said.
Farida grudgingly shifted a bit and looked for the right pose. A Rossini opera was softly playing in the background.
She frowned and got up again. "Do you mind ? The music is dreadful ! I donít relate to it at all !"
"I always play music in the background Ö" He said.
"Let me get some CDís I have in my car Ö"
"I donít have a player for them, I still use an old fashioned record player." He said.
"I have a portable set in my car." She said.
Pierpaolo Badoglio recoiled from the fast-paced driving beat of the music. It was time for him to frown.
"I donít think thatís the music thatís suitable for sculpting." He said.
"Oh ! Donít preach to me how music used to be better in the old days !" She went. "You have to live now ! This is the nineties and they are moving so fast you donít have time to sit still and smell the roses." She said.
"In that case, Iíd prefer to do it without music and at my own pace, even if it means missing the nineties altogether !"
Blissful silence returned to the house.
He felt relieved, but for a second their gazes crossed and he could see the disdain in her eyes, the smugness in her walk and the iciness in her completely forced pose.
The music played in his mind and he returned to the large block of white marble. And almost suddenly, he struck the marble and began to carve it.
The sun was warm and bright, but a gently breeze kept the temperature at an enjoyable level.
"Does it bother you if I change pose ?" She asked, clearly bothered by the sun.
"No, it does not matter." He said. "In the end I distill the one that is the best one of all." He gently chipped some more marble. "Have I told you about my family ?"
She shook her head.
"Well, my great-grandfather was a wine-merchant, and he made a fortune with it Ö"
She rolled her head back and feigned listening to him.
Farida had been posing for him for the last week. Badoglio usually was a wonderful man to be around. He was a wonderful storyteller with the skill of making you picture the entire scene down to the last detail, even the smells and the feel of textures were not forgotten, yet Farida did not listen to him. At one time, he noticed she had put on a walkman, while he was not looking. On top of that, Farida was a restless girl and posing proved to be quite tiresome for her. Badoglio had never said a word about it, but her own nervousness began to weigh down on him Ö
He tapped his ear to catch her attention.
She undid the headset and glaring music was unleashed.
Frowning, he asked her if she wouldnít mind something to drink.
"Sure Ö" She went.
She raised an eyebrow, when he came to her with a large up of milk.
"Itís an old family recipe." He said.
Having expected something more trendy and with alcohol in it, she decided to sip it and found it be real wholesome milk, straight from the cow with an unusually sweet aftertaste of vanilla in it.
Farida suddenly realized she felt very relaxed. It had been a while since she had drunken the brew, but time had passed so quickly, it almost seemed like a blackout.
"Enough for today, the light is dimming and my eyes are not as good as they used to be." He said.
Farida was reluctant to get up and lose her pose somehow. In fact she was a bit stiff and it took her a moment to get her limbs to move again.
"Iím sorry, but Iím busy ! Itís been a madhouse lately !" Farida said over the phone. "And on top of that my sister arrived in town and I donít even have time for her, and sheíd love to see the place !"
"Iíd be glad to show her the city Ö" Badoglio suggested, but suddenly realized this might not be a good idea.
If anything, Farida had been a pain in the neck up till now, and as he got into his little "Topolino" Fiat, he wondered how bad Sidika would turn out Ö
Sidika had the loveliest smile a girl could have, and she was round, very round, extremely round, quite unlike her razor-sharp sister Ö He saw the family likeness and discovered that if Farida had great if cold beauty, Sidika had a warmth of heart that instantly showed.
"Are you really the famous sculptor ?" She asked, eyes filled with awe.
"Yes, yes Ö" He said and held the car door for her.
She eased herself into the tiny little car. "Sorry, Iím a bit on the broad side." She said and her cheeks flushed.
"Iím getting there myself !" He joked and patted his belly. "If I keep going like this, Iíll have to switch over to a Mercedes !"
He showed her Milan, but she was very curious to see his work and he decided to take her to his house.
She seemed awed by his work as he explained her who the woman who posed for him was. He was an unending source of anecdotes and wonderful stories and she hung onto his lips.
It was late and they found themselves in the garden talking to each other.
"Sidika, would you mind posing for me ?"
She flushed again. "Uh Ö I donít know Ö I donít think I have the body for it Ö"
"Nonsense Ö You have a fine body !" He tried to say.
"I know, but at times I really wish I could look like my sister Ö" She said, looking a bit ashamed of her body.
Perhaps in the end she was indeed a bit too round. And on top of that, he had noticed she had a bit of trouble walking.
"Papa ?" A voice suddenly interrupted them.
Badoglio turned his head and looked up at a young man in smart naval uniform.
"Antonio ! Youíre back !" He got up to hug him.
"I wanted to surprise you." Antonio went.
"This is my son Antonio. He has absolutely no talent for sculpting and went into the Navy instead."
Sidika shyly nodded to him and limply shook his hand.
"This is the sister of my latest model, Sidika."
"Sidika, unusual name Ö"
"Itís Turkish. Iím half-German, half-Turkish." She said.
"Iím just plain Italian !" Antonio replied.
The doorbell rang and Pierpaolo went to the door.
Farida waltzed into the room wearing a designer outfit of decidedly dubious taste and wowed when she saw Antonio.
"And who is this hunk ?" She went and grabbed him as if afraid Sidika would run away with him.
"Iím Antonio, Pierpaoloís son." He said.
"Iím Farida." She said. "Iím a model Ö"
"I thought you looked familiar Ö" Antonio said.
"Look, there is a party tonight and I was wondering if Sidika wouldnít join us Ö" Farida went.
"Oh, Iím tired, Iíll just go to my hotel and sleep a bit." Sidika said.
"What about you ?" Farida asked Antonio.
"I just got off the boat into a taxi Ö"
"Oh, come on ! Everybody will be there ! They will love that uniform of yours." She was already tugging at him.
"Could you drop me off at the hotel ?" Sidika asked.
"Iím sorry darling, but you know my car only seats two Ö" Farida went.
"Iíll call a cab." Pierpaolo said.
"So, what about it sailor ?"
Antonio remained silent and thought for a moment.
"Iíll take that as a yes !" She said and dragged him off."
As they left, Pierpaolo noticed the sad look in Sidikaís eyes.
"Iíve never seen a person so in infatuated with herself." Antonio said at the breakfast table, cringing as he bubbling of the pain-killers dissolving in the glass rang through his head.
"She is beautiful, though." His father said.
"Hers is only skin-deep." Antonio said and rubbed his head.
"If only Ö" Pierpaolo thought out loud.
"Only what ?"
"No, nothing Ö I just was thinking about something Ö" His father said with a mysterious look in his eyes.
"Are you really sure you want to sculpt me ?" Sidika asked.
"I make it a point to sculpt anyone I find interesting, and you, my dear are interesting." Pierpaolo said.
She hesitated to take off her robe and looked at the old man.
"Trust me, everything will be all right !"
She let go of an embarrassed smile and dropped the robe that was many sizes too small for her.
"Youíre the first man whoís seen me naked Ö" She said, but then realized something. "Outside you-know-what Ö" She added and averted her eyes as if she was affraid of some deeper truth.
Time passed and Pierpaolo was still preparing to sculpt the marble block.
"Would you like something to drink ?" He asked her seeing she was getting tired.
She nodded and he brought her a cup of his special brew.
"Itís delicious !" She said.
"Would you like another ?" He asked.
"Could I ?"
"Of course !" He said and fetched another cup.
Sidika was too ashamed to ask for a third helping, but it was so good she could not resist Pierpaoloís offer.
"Itís just milk, vanilla and a secret ingredient !" He said. "Nothing that can harm you !" He said.
Sidika drank it to the last drop and resumed her pose.
She suddenly noticed Pierpaolo was looking at her and no longer busy with the marble block. She wanted to ask him why he looked at her, but discovered she couldnít open her mouth. Trying harder, she sensed something wrong as the warmth of the drink slowly coursed through her body.
She discovered that she couldnít stir a muscle and looked down at her body Ö
Her eyes opened wide as she saw her skin had turned white !
Panic set in and she willed her body to move, but nothing reacted. She could not cry out or lift a finger Ö
Pierpaolo walked up to Sidika. He brushed his hand over her cheek and smiled warmly at her.
"It will be all right !" He said. "It will just be all right ! Trust me." His voice was gentle and comforting.
He saw the white surge go through her body up her neck, over her face and draining the color out of her hair. A final blink and her eyes blanked, even the pupil turning white.
He caressed the surface of her body and felt its hardness. He felt the milky texture of the marble and continued to pat her.
"I know you can still hear me." He began. "Iím sorry that I had to trick you into this, but I really felt there was something wrong to be righted." He gently played his hands over her body. Not a caress, but gauging, feeling his way over her body.
"You see, one of my ancestors was an alchemist and he discovered an amazing substance with very unusual effects as you can see." He explained. "I know youíre falling asleep now, so relax and dream Ö"
"I found a gap in my schedule, but I only have three hours !" Farida charged into the house.
"Enough time to finish the work." Pierpaolo said mysteriously, trying to keep up with her.
"Is it finished ?"
"Almost, just a few minor adjustments are required."
"Do I have to pose again ?"
"One last time Ö" He said.
"How long ?" She asked.
"Half an hour at best Ö" He replied. "But first something to drink Ö"
"Spare me that cholesterol-fat-milk-valium drink ! It made me sleep a whole night !"
"Isnít that a good thing ?" He asked
"I wanted to go out and party !" She complained.
"I have here a wonderful little local wine, youíll really like Ö" He said and reached for the bottle.
Farida didnít notice Pierpaolo hadnít taken a drop of it.
"Itís got a crisp taste Ö" She said, reciting from the handbook of "wine connoisseur posing" "It tastes of leather and begoniaís." And tossed the liquid once more around her mouth and tried to come up with unusual tastes for what was to her but only diluted alcohol.
"Curious, I thought I tasted like wine." Pierpaolo said.
"And there is that unusual aftertaste againÖ" She said and felt a deep numbness drop over her. "And itís got a naaasty ki Ö ck Ö" Her speech became slurred and she became aware of it.
Pierpaolo pulled the glass from her hand just before it stiffened.
"Iím sorry, Farida, but I donít think you realize what a lucky woman you are Ö" He said. "You have been given many things in life, but you donít even take them for granted ! You show contempt for everything and everyone Ö I think itís time you learn a lesson."
Farida was outraged, how dare this old fossil lecture him ? If she could move, she would show him, slap him silly !
Yet she was stiff and drowsy. She barely felt him pose her before she became rock-hard.
Within moments, her skin became as hard as marble, in fact it became indistinguishable from the smooth milky-white marble he made all his statues off.
"Iíll leave you to sit there a while and ponder over your lack of inner beauty Ö" Pierpaolo said.
Pierpaolo went to his atelier and looked at the other statue. He picked up the hammer and chisel and continued the work Farida had so rudely interrupted.
With the greatest care in the world, he worked on it, gently removing the surplus layers to reveal the most beautiful girl he had ever sculpted.
He polished her all night long and as dawn broke over the Italian countryside, he wiped the sweat from his brow and felt great pride.
Pierpaolo turned around and saw his son look at him.
"Are you up to your old tricks again ?" He asked.
"You recognized her, didnít you ?" Pierpaolo said.
"Do you think sheíll mind ?"
I donít know, but I donít think she had a choice Ö" Antonio said. "Like mama Ö"
The old man sighed deeply. "Ah Ö Titiziana ÖI wasnít half the sculptor I am now !"
"Sidika ?" She felt her hand being held by warm soft hands.
She opened her eyes.
Antonio smiled at her. She turned her head and then saw Pierpaolo with an even brighter smile.
"How do you feel ?"
"Tired Ö" She said and tried to get up.
Her body was stiff and she almost Ö
Her eyes opened wide as she caught sight of her own body.
"I hope you can forgive an old romantic fool Ö" Pierpaolo said. "I wanted your body to match your inner beauty Ö"
"How ?" She began, but then remembered. He had sculpted her ! And the memories of her transformation flooded back.
"There is something else Ö" Pierpaolo said and gently, with the aid of his son, helped her to her feet.
Despite her stiffness, Sidika felt lighter than ever before.
"How long do you think your sister should remain a statue before she learns her lesson ?"