Taking the turn past the convenience store, she braced herself for the wind. That street was somehow always windy. Probably some tunneling effect, or what not.
The crisp serenade of cold air freshened her up, and gave her chills down her neck.
She picked up her pace, eager to get to the gallery. It didn’t make sense, her work. She knew that. But they loved it. She knew why they did, and why they think they did.
Tonight, she was going to finish her latest addition to the collection. It had started off with a deep indigo hue, pleasing to the eye, and interspersed with flowing lines of grey and black.
She wondered what tonight would bring. Would it end off soothing? She knew, deep down, it would not. As usual, she would inevitably paint on dark, shadowy figures, or crisp geometrical shapes, which would either blend in with and subtly alter the quality of the work, or shear a stark contrast that disrupted the peace of the canvas.
She wondered how much of her art was still his. Could her repeated strokes, her own intuition and muscle memory, have assimilated his art into her own psyche?
She hoped that was the case. After all, she didn’t know for sure how long he was going to be around. Her work was gaining momentum in the art world, and she didn’t want it to stop any time soon.
Perhaps she’d talk about that, at the gallery. If anyone asks, she could say she has a muse. This would be close to the truth. She would merely neglect to mention that this muse did not just inspire her, it inhabited her once in a while.
The gallery was within sight. Her purposeful strut clacked to a halt. That familiar sensation was there, in her palms. It felt the way it usually did, as if he were there in front of her, gently holding her hands.
She’d have to go back to the studio now. She typed a quick text to the others, knowing that they would attribute her absence to the quirks of a genius, and assume that she had been overcome by the urge to paint, right there and then. And who could possibly blame her for that?
She felt him throughout that night. Felt him within, moving her hands, her arms, craning her neck. She focused on being mindful as he occupied her body, to be curious and open, trying to intuit who he was as a person.
That night, when the last stroke of the brush had graced the canvas, he stayed.
She was intrigued. He wanted coffee. Coffee, in the middle of the night. He hasn’t tasted the creamy, nutty flavor of a good cup of coffee in a long time. She knew this. It wasn’t a voice in her head, it was more like waves of emotion and intuition. It was hard to describe. It was, perhaps, as if she felt his wants and desires as he felt them, in her body.
She had a cup of coffee, carefully made. She could feel his enjoyment, the sheer happiness of tasting the earthy concoction with an appreciation she had never experienced before.
He didn’t leave for quite a while that night. When she was tucked into bed, ready to sleep, she felt her body become hers again. It wasn’t as if he had forcefully taken over her body, and she had no control. It was more like a quiet agreement, where she would relinquish control to him for however long they would like.
In the weeks that followed, he would stay for longer and longer periods. Their art work developed a softer, more nostalgic quality. Yet, her adoring public loved it still. Everyone was obsessed with her art pieces, which had transformed gently, naturally, over time, yet never losing the haunting intrigue she was famous for.
He was almost always there now. Some days, when she did not feel like facing the world, she would retire into her mind for the entire day, and he would take over, painting for her, greeting others for her, doing her chores and her social obligations. It was all still new to him, still exciting.
He had always been gentle with her needs, never overstepping his boundaries when in control. He had never done anything he thought she wouldn’t want done, and had never offended or made acquaintances that she would not have made.
It had been seven, eight months now. She believed they were in love. Unlike a usual relationship, she could feel how he felt about her, directly. She felt deeply for him too, and he knew it. It was a beautiful relationship. To others, she seemed like a hermit sometimes, spending night after night by herself, sometimes wandering the streets with a soft, beatific expression on her face, sometimes cooking and eating elaborate meals at home, and generally, appearing to seek no social interactions beyond what was necessary. She radiated an aura of contentment, of being whole and complete, without any apparent need for anyone else in her life
He had started developing his own persona, preferences, and routines. She was happy to experience this. He was no longer avoiding acting in any way that was not in line with her personality and habits. He had his own hobbies, quirks, likes and dislikes. She wondered what people thought about her different presentations. Perhaps they thought nothing of it. They weren’t, after all, very much different.
He did, however, tend to dress her in more comfortable clothing, pay less attention to her makeup and hair. Again, people loved it. They were awed by her random appearances in slacks, loose shirts, no makeup and messily tied hair. It was the artist thing, they were sure. On these days, she must have been so lost in the passion of her art that she forgot herself and her usual routines.
Life was really good. It went on that way for quite a time.
Then, there was that first time when she wanted to dine at a beautiful new restaurant that had just opened. The food menu looked fabulous, and the chef seemed pretty renowned for his skills.
He wanted to stay in and paint. She had assumed control of her body as usual, and headed toward the door. That was when he stopped her. She had been frozen, or rather, they had been frozen, rooted to the ground. Their muscles were completely tensed. She felt her fear and rage building within. He felt it too, and quickly relinquished her body. She could feel his contrition and sadness. She then felt the waves of reassurances and love he beamed at her. She also felt his hollow emptiness, as he drifted out of her body that night. He must have felt futile. Sad, empty. He had begun to believe he had a life, a proper life, with her. That incident reminded him that ultimately, he was but a passenger in her life’s journey.
As she fell asleep that night, she sensed him near, emanating an emotion she couldn’t quite name.
Two years later, he walked into the gallery, now practiced and fluid in her heels. He graciously accepted the praise of his adoring fans and eager contemporaries. He had had a great night of painting, and had started the morning with a strong fresh cup of coffee. Things were going his way, totally his way. It was going to be a good day, he knew.
Hours of socializing, interspersed with necessary work duties, and he was once again at his favourite time of the day. Evening.
He sat quietly on the patio, feeling the cool breeze on his face, contented, silent. The red wine he was having reminded him of her. He untied his hair and ran a hand through her long locks. In the quiet of the night, nostalgia tooko hold. They had been happy together. He contemplated spending some time with her. The last time they had a meal together was a couple of weeks ago. She had been a joy to be with, though touched with a hint of resignation.
He felt a twinge of guilt. He had been enjoying his solitude, and had not once thought of her.
Well, perhaps, tomorrow, he’d relax his grip and let her emerge. For a nice cup of coffee, together.