Babine stood back to survey her finished work. It was six days since she began the portrait and she was done. She’d called Allen to intimate him of her progress and he’d asked her to bring it over.
Armed with his address which he’d sent five days back, she’d called a her regular cabbie and was carefully wrapping the painting.
A horn sounded- the signature greeting of the cabbie whenever he arrived- and she carried her package outside.
“Emeka, long time”, she called out a greeting to the young driver and he grinned.
“Aunty, good afternoon”, he replied. “I be think say you don forget me.”
“Forget you, ke”, Babine laughed. “No naa, business has just been slow. I have some other things to carry. Please come and help me.”
He nodded and followed her inside. She had her easel, fresh paints and her working tools neatly arranged and he assisted her in carrying it to the car. She wanted to start on the second job today and was going prepared.
“Where are we going today”, he asked.
“GRA, Ikeja”, Babine replied, handing him a small piece of paper she had scribbled the address on. She settled back in her seat as the ride began.
The drive took thirty minutes as there was very little traffic this time of day. They got to the destination and she got out. Emeka lingered on while she went closer and rang the bell by the gate.
“Who is it, please”, Allen’s voice rang out.
“Babine”, Babine replied. “I’m here with the painting.”
There was a buzz and the gate suddenly slid open. Emeka got down from the car and helped her carry the painting down from the car and into the house, dropping them just by the door.
He beamed when she handed him some wads of naira and waved his goodbye as he left.
She was inside and by the door, and was about ringing yet another bell in front of her when the door suddenly swung open and Allen stood in front of her.
He was dressed simply in polo over knee-lenght shorts and had a casual, carefree air around him. “Hi”, he greeted.
Babine smiled. “Hi”, she replied. “I came with the painting. Could you help me with it?”
Allen’s eyes fell on the small load in front of her and he bent, lifting one up. “You were quite fast. I didn’t think you’d be through so soon, even though you said you would”.
Babine picked up the other package and followed him in. “I work quite fast when I put my mind to it. And I don’t like disappointing my clients once I’ve given time a deadline.”
“That’s a good principle”, Allen replied, returning to pick up the rest of her package and he shut the door quietly behind it. “Integrity and punctuality will take you far in business, something a lot of people lack.”
“Where do I put this?”He asked, indicating her working tools which he still held.
“Just put it over……there”, she pointed, watching him lay them carefully on a table. “And here’s Ava’s finished painting.”
She stood her easel and set the package on it, going on to slowly unwrap it. She removed the final wrapping and turned to hear his views.
Allen stood quietly surviving the painting. When she said she did painting he hadn’t realized she was this good. The painting was so real; so life-life. It was like he was staring at Ava in the flesh. She had captured the very essence that was Ava and interpreted it so beautifully.
“You are good”, he muttered finally. “Ava will be so pleased. This is beautiful.”
“Thanks”, Babine beamed. She always felt happy when clients were pleased with her work and today was no exception.
“How come I’m just seeing your work if you are this good. You ought to be somewhat of a household name by now.”
“Guess I’m not heavy on advertisement”, Babine replied modestly. “A flaw Simone keeps harping on and one which I plan on rectifying.”
Allen nodded. “You should. Such talent as yours shouldn’t be kept hidden but should grace every home. I’m glad I’m getting one myself.”
“Thanks, appreciate the kind words.
Allen nodded and smiled. “I’ll just put this inside and get ready for our session.”
Babine nodded and took the time to survey her environment when he left. The room was cozy, but also had an urban touch to it. It looked like it had been done by an interior designer, but lacked that impersonal feel that most designed homes seem to portray. It was done in a fusion of white, cream, brown and a splash of red.
“Yea, so where were we?” Allen asked breezing into the room. He had changed into a red and ash plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled halfway over blue jeans.
Babine was aware of his muscles which seemed to be bursting from his exposed arms and the broad expanse of his chest heightened by the shirt which stretched across it.
She shook her head to clear it of such errant thoughts, bringing her mind to the present.
“We should start so we can get a lot done before I leave.”
“Ok”, Allen replied. “But do I get you something to drink first, so you are more settled?”
Babine shook her head and went to work setting her easel. “Maybe later, when I’ve gone a long way. It would be a sort of reward for the work so far”.
Allen grinned. “Ok. So, is this room okay?”
“Yea”, Babine nodded. “But we’ll be needing more light let in. So you might want to open those drapes some more and also turn on a few more lights.”
Allen went about effecting the changes and came back when the room became quite bright. “I’ll like the painting done with me lying on this sofa.”
Babine nodded. “You can take your stance now. Ready when you are.”
* * *