The last exhibition was from Ian’s personal collection and very special to him. The guests at this viewing were more in number than expected in the afternoon. I got busy with the backup for food and lost a track of time. Maggie popped in from time to time, checking on me and filled me with details of the guests. Based on her comments, I predicted as to when the crowd would thin out.
But late evening, Maggie came in with something on her mind. I was exhausted but Maggie looked like she needed to talk.
“Jenny, am confused about this….” She began as I took a sip of apple juice.
“Of what? The juice?!” I asked choking on my drink.
“No you silly! My feelings….am confused over them”
“Oh…for a second there, I thought the juice was bad and the feelings part was coz of the finger food just served!”
“Ha ha, Funny Jenny…” she wasn’t even grinning. Her eyes were staring into the ceiling and her fingers were twiddling. Something was bothering her.
I smiled. She loved my jokes. But her moods were oscillating since the past week. She was either thinking or just rushing to do things without a thought. I chalked it up to the Joshua factor. “Ok, what is it?”
“What do you think of me being in love?”
“Was that an answer?”
“Ok…let me try again….I think it is a decision.”
“Do you think I take my decisions rashly? I mean, I did with Charlie…but otherwise…”
“Charlie was a loser, Maggie. You did well when you got rid of him. I say, good riddance to bad rubbish!”
“Jenny… ex husbands make you doubt your feelings….after Charlie, I feel like I can’t trust myself around anyone.”
I understood her confusion. I let her talk. The guests were now n the process of leaving slowly. The boys could handle the few that were still lingering.
“I feel special around someone. I can’t explain myself. He makes me feel like there is no one else when he is around. It’s like a drug. I can’t think of anything else. I feel scared. Am I stupid?”
“Was that how Charlie made you feel? Special?”
“Heavens, No! With him, it was all hormones. Once the hormones settled, I felt stupid for having settled down with a loser. I tried to be a good wife, Jenny…I really tried….but when he cheated on me, I just lost it. I sacrificed my ambitions for him. I don’t want to make the same mistake…”
“Maggie, you are a grown up woman. I trust your judgment on a lot of things. So, who is the lucky guy?”
“Someone you know. I will tell you when am sure. Ok?”
I nodded. ‘Lucky Joshua’ I thought to myself.
Maggie walked out with a determined stride. With luck, I would hear the good news tonight. She was lucky. Joshua was crazy about her and Julian.
The lady in the paintings looked sad and charming. Her eyes spoke volumes. I followed the of placement order from the beginning. The first set of paintings showed a lady standing behind a veil. Her face was not clear but the paintings seemed to suggest her waiting. The second set showed more focus on her charming smile and dreamy eyes. She had a dream….just like me. Her face was in the shadows but her body revealed her eagerness to step out. The third set of paintings showed a man who was clearly loved by her… trying to reach her. The paintings were beautiful. They made me think of Jac. Maybe, if I let go of my fear of rejection…I could have him see me. Ian’s paintings touched a chord in me. I stood in front of the last painting, lost deep in my thoughts.
A shadow fell in front of me. It was so sudden that I froze in shock. A hand touched me. My fear got the best of me and I reacted without thinking. I screamed. The shadow closed in on me as a heavy platter of fruits found its way into my hands. Protective instincts took over, the platter landed heavily on the shadow maker’s head. A heavy thud was heard before my arms were pinned in a steel grip. The painful grip made me slip down and I landed heavily on the attacker. A knife gleamed in the shadows.
My nightmares were becoming true. Suddenly, I was 15 and trying to fight off the men who were attacking Grandpa.
‘NOOOOO’ I screamed in my head; I was petrified. The man was strong. His knife was aimed at the last painting that I did not notice. I kicked the floor to wriggle free. The knife was getting closer. The painting needed to be saved; I wriggled and screamed to get him to loosen his grip. He pushed me suddenly and ran forward. The knife glinted as the soft light reflected off the moving blade.
I ran as he lurched forward. The next few minutes were a blur. I remember making a dive for his waist when someone caught his hand simultaneously to disarm him. The impact made the attacker loose balance and fall on his knife. He yelled in pain. The knife sliced through his shoulder and blood gushed out. He was not going anywhere for the moment. The painting was safe.
I looked at the attacker, and then at Ian who had tried to disarm him. Ian had hit his head on the display railing in the struggle. He lay motionless. A million thoughts ran through my mind. Will he suffer from a concussion? Maybe, I should Google concussion to be sure of the after effects….will he need a CT scan….memory loss. Tears clouded my eyes. I took a deep breath and tried to rouse him. The commotion had brought in the security and police.
Ian stirred slowly as I sprinkled water on his face. A bump was surfacing on his left temple. My arms hurt from straining to pull him to my lap. “Are you ok?” I couldn’t stop my tears. I was scared and the adrenaline was just wearing off. Ian gave a crooked smile.
“Do you rescue men along with party cakes?” he asked with a wince.
“I try to, in my spare time” I replied sarcastically. He was ok. I was relieved. The man had a possible concussion and yet he wanted to know my job scope. He was strange.
“Glad to see that Jenny the Master Chef is also a Master Black belt.”
“Shut up, Ian. We need to get you to a hospital” I said before I thought of it.
He looked at me, surprised. His grey eyes looked into mine before he smiled. I have not seen Ian smile. He was always pleasant with everyone, but the smile seemed to be reserved for people who needed to be charmed. I could see why Joshua thought his persuasive skills were excellent. That smile could knock any woman down to her knees within seconds of exposure. Luckily, I wasn’t any woman. “Looks like head injury is not going to score points with Ms. Jenny” he said to the security who assured everyone in hearing distance that I was taking care of Mr. Ian.
I cringed. Ian was embarrassing, his humor made him all the more charming. All eyes were trained to my face for a reply.
To be continued…