She would stay still for hours if he asked her to. But he would rather draw her likeness from a photograph he had taken earlier. She watched her son’s hands draw line after line and felt her pulse beat almost the same rhythm it did when his father did same for her, days before he sat himself steady in her heart.
They met at a time when a salary of N450 was a sign of hope for brighter days. His home was no palace but it was always a haven of sort. The girls were always there. Laughing too loudly at a joke he found funny. There was Harriet that never seemed to know his name and always called him ‘babe’. There was Feri; the dark skinned one that gushed over his paintings even though she had no fiber of aesthetic appreciation in her bones. And there was her, Kikiola. The one that found her way into places that he only discovered after she had taken room in them.
Jeremiah was a man of colourful words and he painted with them just as well as he did with his brush. Kikiola fell for him in one fell swoop. She would tell her children later on that she ran or she tried to. But he painted himself into her dreams that she needn’t see him for weeks and his features stayed etched in her mind’s eye.
She was not one for competition much less when the price was a man’s attention. Yet, she found herself dreaming up grand schemes to scratch and hurt his retinue of overzealous admirers.
‘So, what made you stay’, her daughter had asked.
He’d made a pastel painting of her on a Saturday evening, sitting in her mother’s garden, asking her to let down her guard. She was who he wanted and he would come for her, he’d said. She wasn’t sure if it was something she did or if he’d just loved her like she always wanted. Yet she believed him. A belief laced with strings of doubt. But she found herself his guest the next Wednesday evening; welcomed to his home with the portrait he had painted of her, smiling shyly from a plated frame above his television set.