“Can I have a look?”
“Not yet,” he smiled, “you’re always so impatient.”
“One day I am going to paint you.”
“The stubbornness of your jawline, immovable when you’re focused, the slight arching of your right brow when you measure an important subject and the intense look in your eyes when you study an object, piercing it through with the precision of an x-ray.”
He raised his head, grinning at Sophia. “I think I title it, The Sacred Poetess.”
“Sacred?” She frowned.
“As sacred as the goddess who sows my art.” He placed his palette and brush on a small trunk and walked towards her. “The very personification of beauty and poetry,” he continued, sitting my her side and tacking a blonde lock behind her ear. “You’re my Proserpine.”
London, May 2017
Their cab pulled up in front of the elegant façade of Browns Art Gallery. A deep burgundy awning, displaying the words Browns, crowned the double front door, where a couple of young men dressed in dark suits greeted and checked-in the VIP guests. Sophia alighted from the car and gripped her clutch, as if the tight hold kept her in balance. She had prayed for Tom to be on an emergency call, but instead, he had come home early, excited about the prospect of meeting the mysterious artist. “He might be relatively good to be exhibiting at Browns,” he had remarked. Callum wasn’t relatively good, Sophia thought in disdain. Relatively good was the equivalent to be acceptable. And Callum wasn’t acceptable, he was sublime.
But he could not know, she had never told him. Tom was a pragmatic guy with a factual mind. “I’m not entirely sure why you are so fixated on publishing your poetry,” he had constantly told her, “I make more money than we are able to spend. Most women would die for a life like yours. Why can’t you be happy, Sophia?” Because I don’t love you, she felt like crying. Because I should have never married you. He offered her his arm and she reluctantly accepted it, stretching her neck in search of Meghan and Adam, anything or anyone that would detach her from him.
The door opened into a small entrance, carpeted in the same burgundy as the awning, which ascended onto a circular lobby, connecting two rooms opposite to each other. In the middle, a marble plinth supported a white and blue porcelain vase, displaying a beautiful array of ivory peonies, Sophia’s favourite flowers. Callum was expecting her, she thought.
Overwhelmed, Sophia glanced around the room to see if he was there. A pretty waitress offered her a glass of champagne and willingly, she accepted it, gulping it down at once.
“You seem very tense tonight,” she heard Tom saying, “have you taken your pills?”
Sophia’s eyes rested on the beautiful flowers, unwilling to meet his face. For Tom, pills were the answer to everything. She had not taken the bloody pills. With the anticipation of seeing Callum, she had forgotten. Besides, she hated them, they made her feel drowsy. “Of course I have,” she lied, flashing him a smile. “I had a couple of coffees this afternoon, that’s all.”
“I told you to drink decaf, Sophia. Caffeine affects your medication.”
Meghan’s husky voice prevented her from picking a quarrel with her husband. “There you are!” Her friend called, “sorry we’re late. We were held up in traffic. Hi Tom,” she greeted him cheerfully, kissing his cheek, “how are you darling? It’s been ages since I last saw you. Sophia tells me you’ve become a partner in the clinic.”
“I have,” he grinned, in that infuriating conceited manner Sophia detested so much. “Doctor Partridge wanted an early retirement and offered me the post.”
“Congratulations!” Adam interrupted, shaking his hand. “That’s indeed great news!”
“And as a partner I guess you won’t need to perform as many surgeries as before.” Meghan commented.
“Quite the opposite,” Tom replied, “we have a very high-profile clientele, who would expect that I or one of the other partners conduct the operations.”
She reached for her nose and tapped it gently with the tip of her forefinger. “Umm, I’m still thinking of getting a little nip and tuck.”
“What’s wrong with your nose?” Adam asked, raising his brows in surprise.
“Exactly,” Sophia added, “you have a lovely nose. It suits your face perfectly.”
“We could lessen the tip and make it appear more even. It would improve the symmetry, for sure.” Tom suggested, examining Meghan’s face.
Sophia scowled at him. “I can’t believe you’re actually considering it. There is nothing wrong with her nose, for Christ’s sake!” She cried.
“Darling, it’s all right.” Meghan clasped her friend’s hand. “Tom is just giving me his professional advice,” said she, soothing her.
Tom clenched his jaw, glaring at Sophia. “This is what she does, you see. She overreacts to everything I do or say. She’s psychotic.”
“There is nothing wrong with me! I’m simply expressing my opinion. Please excuse me,” she apologised to her friends. “I could do with some fresh air.”
“Would you like me to come with you?” Meghan offered.
“I’m fine, thank you. I just need a couple of minutes to myself.”
Sophia strode across the lobby towards the exit. She would not cry, not tonight, and she would do it for Callum. A large cluster of people were chatting animatedly by the main door, obstructing the entrance. She glanced around attempting to find a single gap that would lead her to her freedom, when her eyes caught a glimpse of one of the paintings. It was at the far end of the room on her right, occupying almost half of the wall. Turning her head, she gazed in awe at it.
Sophia found herself standing alone in front of the painting. The guests had disappeared and the room stood empty, engulfed in the black cloak of darkness. The only light came from the twinkle of a flickering flame where the painting was suspended. She saw her hand reaching for the eyes, those eyes she was so familiar with, as they were her eyes. Her eyes as they had been all those years ago, confident and bright. At length, she perused her old self — the buoyant writer, whose passion defied conventions. A black card hanging next to it drew her attention. It was the painting’s title: The Sacred Poetess.
The sound of his voice startled her. “I did finish it. It took me over twelve years.”
“It’s beautiful, Callum.” Sophia observed, keeping her gaze on the painting. She felt the presence of the crowd returning, accompanied by their lively chatter.
“Have you been around yet?”
“No, not yet.”
“Good…I want to be the one who shows you my collection.”
© 2018 Isabel GG
Kashaf Ghaffar on November 23, 2018:
I realy like your article