Eight months had passed since she knew him and things had changed. So many things. The once upon a time stranger, Bakare, had left that zone. Ivie knew not how it happened, but it had happened, and it happened right under her knowing. There were no regrets, though. He was a man, and she was a woman. Those were the only requirements. They had been friends for over eight months, yes, friends, and he still seemed like that stranger who once walked into the gallery and ordered a painting of twins.
One thing was sure. Bakare Damijo did not know of the devil that played within her. And he would never know. There would be more stories to tell whenever the devil showed itself.
He stooped behind her and watched her apply colour. His belly touched her back, and his hand rested on the canvas. She found him on every side she turned as if he was a part of her body. One of those stiff, dogged parts impossible to pluck out.
“You still fear painting people in person?” he asked.
“Imagine them as a thing other than Homo sapiens. It could work that way.”
She struggled for a curve of her lips.
“I used to have that hole in my teeth.” He placed his left hand on hers. They enveloped hers. “I don’t know how it left. But yours shouldn’t go. It’s one of the reasons I like you. One of them.”
“You don’t have to tell me that.” She smirked to lessen any coarseness that might have slipped into her words, and yet prayed for a little, so he might opt not to utter that again.
“Telling you would make it more real.”
What would become more real? She knew. It existed, already real, already budding with life.
He folded her left hand into a fist and stroked it with a thumb in a manner impossible to ignore. But she had to ignore, and the only possible way to do that was to kill the receptors living in the hand.
“I love you, and you know that. I don’t know if it’s mutual, but I believe it can be. I want you, Ivie.” He braced his right hand with hers, stroked her hand and its paint stains, spreading the blue paint all over it, giving it an azure. His cheek was near hers and the throbbing thuds coming from his heart hit her spine. He tightened his hands against hers. “I want you to be my wife.”
She threw her eyes to him. “Huh? What did you say?”
“I’m asking you to be my wife.”
His voice was clear enough. “U-Um—”
“You don’t have to answer now. Take time to think about it.”
“I’m—” Many obstructions blocked the flow of words up her throat.
“I said you could think about it.”
She returned to her canvas. She had just been proposed to. By that man. It was too fast. Very fast.
“We could work. We would,” he said.
That was true. They could work. He just proposed.
He drew his head towards her, mixing his breath with hers. His lips approached hers, slowly and steadily. She had to answer the call. Why wouldn’t she? No reason. She was a woman, and he was a man. Nothing else mattered. She let his lips touch hers, and let him kiss her. A kiss was not a hard thing to give. All she need do was gum lips to the man’s. She gave her lips to him, and he swallowed all of it. He was a man, and nothing else mattered.
With his lips apart, his breath yet lingered inside her. She was breathing his air, and no more hers. He touched her cornrows and ran his fingers through them. Then, he kissed them. “This could work. Don’t rush. Think about it. When you’ve decided, let me know.”
Why did she feel this way? He adored the things of nature and loved paintings. They both had those in common, but it was not enough to complete the incomplete completeness. It couldn’t be because he lacked square shoulders or did not have those things army men possessed. No, not that.
Painting became hard. Spikes grew round the brush. They poked the flesh of her palm, but she had to continue painting. It might be what she needed.
He continued fondling her hair.
She thought of the devil’s urge.