His gallery was beautiful, given the fact that this was the first time she had ever been to one. They had walked round the gallery twice but the more she looked at the paintings, the more it seemed like they became more alive.
“Did you paint all these?” Priscilla asked full of interest.
“Most of them, like that one”, he pointed at one hanging on the wall beside them.
“Its’ beautiful”, she whispered staring at it as though she was hypnotized by its beauty.
He held her hand and they walked side by side down the hall “It’s not yet open for this season’s exhibition until next week.” He stopped, as he looked at her tenderly “I’d like you to be there.”
Her cheeks blushed furiously and he smiled seeing the effect he had “You know I’d love to but…”
“Sssh” he put a finger across her lips “Don’t say no I beg you.”
Looking into his pleading eyes was her undoing “I’d try.”
His finger tenderly stroked her lips and she found herself staring into his eyes. It had depth and it thrilled her in an odd way “Thanks, you’d make my exhibition a success if I see you there.”
Priscilla threw her head back laughing, “You have a way with words.”
“It’s what you do to me.”
“What do I do to you?” Her laughter subsided and they were back in that awkward position.
“I should be asking you” Richard said softly, his eyes fell to her unpainted lips and he reached out his hand to stroke her hair. “I wish I could take you and make you up and see the way you would look in a painting. You’d look beautiful.”
“You don’t like me as I am?” her heart dropped
“I do…I do” he replied huskily “But it’s every artist’s dream to paint rare beauties like you.”
She flushed as Richard moved closer. Knowing what was next silently she wished for it to happen. She could feel his exhaled breath blow gently on her skin, and he had moved so close to her.
They sprang away from each other, a woman interrupted them and she flushed seriously embarrassed at what she had interrupted. Priscilla moved away from him quickly also embarrassed.
“What is it? Richard asked. His voice was controlled and tight. She knew he was not too happy with the interference
“The events planner has come”
“You know what to do, show her around!” he replied, irritated
“Bu…” the woman stammered confused “But sir you said you wanted to do that yourself”
He threw her a dangerous look and the woman hurriedly walked away flustered and then he turned to her “I’m sorry” he said smiling; her insides could melt “Why don’t we go to my office? We could talk there.”
“I think I should leave now.”She glanced at the cool plain watch reluctantly, “It’s almost three anyway.”
He threw Priscilla disappointed look, “I could take you home. Stay with me for a little while longer.”
“No” she stated firmly “Can’t you see what this is doing?”
“What?” he asked her fustily but she put my head down shaking her head in disagreement “You want to be with me Priscilla, can’t you admit it?” He asked, as he rubbed her arm desperately.
She could not bear to look at his face least she fell prey to his request because she so badly wanted to stay with him but at the same time, she could not break her sacred duty to Tunde for the second time.
He placed his head gently on hers “Ever since that night at the club I haven’t been able to think of anyone else.”
She felt a tremor run through her that she badly wanted to stay. Richard had a way with words. Priscilla wondered how many women he had said this same things to.
He lifted her chin up nibbling her lips gently and tiny sensations were released, her mind was half way gone and she was sure he knew it because he seemed more assured of himself. The kiss spread to her lips, they could hear the voices of people in the east wing but it did not stop them. He pressed her to the wall deepening the kiss with such urgency that Priscilla almost smiled. It was exhilarating to know that a man wanted her much, a man this handsome as Richard.
It took Priscilla a while to realize that her back was on the wall with the tiny buttons on her flannel shirt already half-undone. She could hear herself moaning with pleasure as his hands ran all over her supple body. Richard was a tempting bastard, an aphrodisiac that seemed to have gotten under her skin. As soon as it had begun it ended, she could not believe that she made love with someone with her back against the wall.
He kept staring into her eyes their chests heaving as they gasped for breath; finally, he spoke with his voice filled with desire “I dreamed of this moment so much yesterday night Priscilla”
Priscilla pushed him away slowly but firmly, she was out of breath to fight “I need to leave now, Richard.”
He said nothing. “I shouldn’t be here. This shouldn’t have happened,” she said buttoning her shirt. The voices on the other side of the building faded away with only the faint sounds coming from the cars outside but he did not attempt to stop her, he was just staring. She seemed so lost that she could almost weep in frustration.
She moved away from him heading towards the glass doors shakily. She had no choice but to leave. Whether or not she chose to stay here with this man, she was still bound to Tunde with the marriage certificate; her heart was heavy with grief as tears welled up in her eyes.
“Priscilla” he finally called out her name so softly making her turn around as though she was under a spell her expression distorted.
“Let me spoil you. Let me treat you the way you deserve to be treated.”
She laughed in response; laughter filled with so much scorn for herself “The way I deserve to be treated, how I deserve to be treated?”
“You should be bathed in honey and clothed with diamonds; there should be pearls in your hair and gold as your slippers…”
“..And jasper as earrings?” she cut him short sarcastically, he seemed wounded by her words “This is not a poem Richard, this is reality. Not one of your pictures and story books.” Priscilla said scornfully. She hated the way they stood so far apart from each other as though they had not just been intimate.
“Why can’t you give yourself a break?” Richard replied sadly. “Why can’t you see that life doesn’t have to be as bitter as you take it?”
“Well you don’t know me, you don’t know anything about me so don’t judge me”. It hurt to reply him the way she did with his eyes so full of plea.
“Then let me know you” Richard spoke in a small voice “please let me see the real you Priscilla.”
“Don’t you get it? Don’t you get the fact that I’m married?” Priscilla replied frustrated, she wanted to shake him, to shout at him that being this way with this man was tearing her apart but she continued in a small voice when all she wanted to do was screaming.
“Richard please don’t make this harder than it already is, I’m sorry but I cannot be your lover.”
“Is that what I really want?”
Her heart did a flip and she swallowed. “Please let’s stop this before it gets out of hand.”It sounded so frail. “I don’t want to do this, please.”
He looked away as though trying to cover his emotions but she could read him like a book, his mind was clouded with so many emotions it was hard to pick which one exactly as so many played across his face; but she was grateful he did not come close to her. It was the best option.
“Can we be friends? Let’s start afresh.”
She scoffed “like that would go well”
“I promise nothing will happen: I just want to be next to you and maybe you’d see that I really care about you.”
“You’re moving too fast Richard. I have no plans on divorcing my husband.”
“I don’t care; being with you is enough for me.”
“I think I need to leave. It’s what is best.”
His phone vibrated in his pocket and he brought it out looking at the number. “Yes” she heard him say sorrowfully “and I suppose you would not let me take you back”
She shook her head sideways.
“Then let me call a cab Priscilla”
“No” Priscilla replied hurriedly “I think I’d like to make a few stops.”
She could tell he did not believe her but it did not matter she needed space. Richard finally sighed in weary resignation “Would you still consider coming for the exhibition?”
She made an attempt to speak but he raised his hand cutting her short in disappointment “I understand” his words made her eyes glint with tears “Its next week Tuesday in case you change your mind.”
“I won’t” she replied slowly, she could not bear to look up at his face. “Goodbye”, she said to him in a small voice and walked out of the building, heading home.
riscilla kept thinking of him, she could not seem to think of anything else, which was more terrifying. The thought that she could be pregnant with a stranger’s child scared her, of which it was too late to do anything about or the idea of being in love with him.
Her head was in the clouds, with a throbbing headache but she got up from the bed nevertheless. Tunde was in the sitting room with Folake with the faint sound of the television coming from the sitting room. It almost drowned out the sound of the familiar tunes coming from the chapel, which she desperately wanted to hear; her heart was full of grief. She wanted to die, living this way in a loveless marriage on the verge of collapse. She decided she needed a long walk, maybe to the chapel, the environment there did her good. It had become her safe haven. It felt good to stand under the shower though as though it washed away all her questions, well, a good thing was that Folake was leaving today
‘At least things wouldn’t be so embarrassing anymore’ she thought sadly to herself, as she got dressed.
Safe Haven continues on Friday, 20th Nov
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