By 8:30am, AJ was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He started all over again. He dipped his paintbrush in the thick maroon paint and fixated his eyes on Eva, the beautiful model he had chosen to work on. Her frame was impeccable, light skin, a touch of blush on her round face, freckles on the cheeks – an amazing imperfection, broad shoulders as she lay bare before him, absolutely stunning!
He threw his easel on the floor and muttered angrily. His tools cluttered on the floor and Eva felt her heart skip a bit but said nothing. Joe walked in from the room adjacent to theirs, saw the debris and looked squarely at AJ.
“Eva, may you excuse us?”
Eva hurriedly grabbed her dress,threw it loosely over her slender body and made her way outside the room.
Joe exhaled sharply and spoke up, “What happened, AJ?”
He ran his hands across his face, shook his head and grabbed the can of water beside him. He corked it open, gulped on it and turned to face Joe but somehow, the words got stuck in his throat. What was there to say? That he had lost his touch for no reason whatsoever? That he was not able to focus and work for three consecutive days?
“AJ?” Joe snapped his fingers as AJ shook away the thoughts that clouded his mind.
“I have nothing to say.”
“I don’t understand. Here’s a mess and you have nothing to say?”
“I….”,they said in unison.
He tucked his hands in his pocket and said, “I don’t know what is wrong with me, Joe. Whenever I pick up my brush, I can’t feel my hands. I see Eva ,but then I don’t. I try working but everything seems a bit wobbly in my head. Something is obviously wrong, right Joe?”
Joe chuckled, “Sorry, but I find it funny though.”
He folded his lips, “Really? How is this even funny?”
“Hey, don’t get angry at me. I’m not the one seeing Eva but then not seeing her. You have issues. Something must have happened, definitely. Anyway, you need to sort it out.”
Joe moved to the door and AJ stood up quickly, dusting his hands off on the crimson cotton of his top. “Where are you off to?”
Joe snorted, “You didn’t think I was idle before I got here, did you?”
AJ was cut short by the cellphone that chimed in his back pocket. He slid his hand into his baggy shorts and squinted at the screen. He blinked in surprise and placed the device to his ear, “Good morning, Mr Festus….”
Joe mouthed to him,”Mr Festus?”
“Yes, this is August… really, that’s today?… Ten minutes ago? Alright… Ok, I’ll do that.”
The line went dead and he looked up to see Joe staring at him as though wishing to know more about the conversation he had with the caller.
AJ said, “In the words of Mr Festus…” he coughed lightly and mimicked, “The 15th Annual Art gala is to take place today and we are hosting it. The decorations has been done few days prior to today, aren’t you aware Mr.. eh…. August, you say? Well, the gallery should be open at once. We are ten minutes late.”
Joe laughed hysterically, “We really need to get going then. At least to welcome the guests and perhaps, see someone more dazzling than Eva so that you can finally work with ease.”
“I have worked with Eva on several occasions, why is this different?” he bemused.
They strode towards the gallery as time was of utmost importance and unlocked the large mahogany doors, intricately designed by the best craftsman in the area. The gallery was only opened during rare and important occasions such as this and it still looked and felt as magnificent as ever; the chandelier shining brightly, the ornately carved furniture round the room, the lavender drapes hanging on the walls and the artworks propped on easels.
An hour later, the hall was flooded with a large number of people, dignitaries from round the world; ladies and gentlemen alike emanating auras of power, wearing exquisite dresses and tuxedos of quite outlandish colours laced with different whiffs of exotic perfumes and body sprays.
Then his gaze met hers. Those pale-blue eyes, her dark curly braids, full lips with a touch of red, orange-sized bosom, well curved hips that made that sequin dress of hers to cling tightly to her dark skin; he was enthralled by her.
Joe nudged at his shoulders and asked, “You’ve met her?”
“Yes, once at the studio last week. She needed a painting of herself. She gave me her number to chat her up for more info, i guess” he spoke with his eyes still fixated on her.
“So she’s the reason why you see Eva and don’t see her” Joe snorted loudly and continued, “Her name’s Ava. She’s married, August. Two kids. She was being friendly, nothing else. Take your mind off her, she’s not worth it. Keep your eyes on the prize man.”
“And what is the prize?” AJ turned to face him.
Joe shrugged, “It’s up to you. Might be your career, your family, anything at all. Anything but a distraction.”