Rich in Love

by Southern Cloud

She came along with Jenny to my apartment on a Saturday afternoon. Jenny didn't mention that she was coming with her friend. I am an old man of forty-eight and living alone with my paintings. She might not have felt the necessity of informing me prior. Jenny was happy to see me. Me too. It was over two years since we met. She was not only my student but also a good friend.

"Hello, Mr. Mistery" Jenny greeted me with joy as she entered my apartment.

"You look pretty, my dear. Happy to see you," I replied. Jenny gave me a hug.

"Come, Selene, come inside. This is like a second home for me". Jenny waved her hand to call her friend inside.

Her friend, who might also be of similar age as of Jenny, wore a navy blue T-shirt and blue denim jeans. Her hair was not combed well. Her appearance was like 'let me live without getting noticed by any' kind.

"Please come". I invited her politely.

"Meet my guru, friend, guide and the great artist Mr. Harley".

" That's right. Except the last one" as I said, Selene lifted her sad little eyes to give me a smile.

We three sat on the couch in my living room.

"How is Milan? Hope you like to be there"

"Oh Gosh! It's a very beautiful place. You should visit once" Jenny started to talk about her new place, about the works she did and the people she worked with. I could learn that she was doing well as an artist. I felt proud about my student.

I glanced Selene and she seems to look uninterested. Her eyes wandered across my apartment and the paintings hung on the walls.

"Do you like to have a coffee?" I asked.

"I will prepare for you this time", Jenny said as she stood up.

"Oh! Sure. You prepare better than me. Moreover, it's been a long time since I tasted your coffee".

"So you are saying that you missed my coffee," she smiled as she walked near the electric kettle in the kitchen. Selene gave a smile.

Selene walked towards one of my paintings hung on the wall". It was looking similar to 'sunflowers' by Vincent van Gogh.

"You do replica also?" Selene asked to me without taking her eyes off from the painting. I walked near her.

"It was an early experiment. I did it in my twenties. It is not a replica. I tried to do it in a similar way as he did. I bought some fresh flowers and tried to sketch it before it dries up". I understood that she has a taste in art, but doesn't have much knowledge about it.

Jenny came with two coffee mugs and handed over to us. "This one I painted. Tell me honestly, how is it?" Jenny looked at Selene for an appreciation.

"It was a gift from her", I said.

"It's nice. But what is it? Is that a cowboy on a rock.... Or mountain... or what is that black thing?" Selene was curious.

I laughed. Jenny was angry seeing me laugh.

"Not that funny, Master. Not that funny".

"No, no. Go ahead. Explain her" controlling my laugh, I told Jenny.

We talked for a long time that evening. By the time they left, I understood that Selene came to the city searching for a job. She came from the same town of Jenny's and they both are family friends. Jenny will be leaving to Milan in two weeks and Selene is staying in Jenny's apartment. I invited both of them to my friend's painting exhibition on next Saturday.

After a week I met both of them at my friends's painting exhibition center. Jenny looked stunning as always. She was busy talking to her old friends who also were present in the function.

Selene looked simple in her pink dress. A shade difficult to distinguish as pink or peach.

"Hey, How are you?" I walked near to Selene. As we talked, my friend came to me and I introduced him to Selene. They both walked and he was explaining about his paintings to her. I was walking behind them.

Selene's perfect figure was eye catching. She got the beauty in her walk. Her sad little eyes mismatch her confident walk. She took each step as if to measure the floor.

As my friend moved away from her, we were almost alone. The painting on the wall was having a red hue and its shade was falling on her face.

I looked at her eyes and said, " You look pretty".

"Thanks," she smiled as she tucked her hair behind her ear, exposing the long neck. I felt like kissing her.

What was I thinking? She might be at her mid-twenties. Oh Gosh!... I wished, I was young. We talked a lot that evening. About the paintings, culture, the influence of culture on art and she seemed to be much more knowledgeable than what I thought about her previously. Selene gave me her personal number. At the end of the day, I knew that I was attracted to her. Jenny said bye to me and told that she would meet me on next winter.

I and Selene became friends in two months. She once came to my art school and we went for some art exhibitions. She helped me in conducting the painting exhibition of my students. She even bought one of my student's paintings. Meanwhile, she got a job in one of the company as an HR manager.

One day, I invited her to my apartment. She came by morning. She prepared coffee and we both talked for some time. She was sitting on my couch and I was sitting across her. She handed over a pencil, which was on the table, to me.

With a cute voice, she asked, "Will you do a portrait of me?"

I smiled, "Why?".

"Just like that. But I am not rich enough to pay you. Is that fine?".

"I don't do portraits now and I don't do for charity" I winked at her.

She smiled. I continued " I used to do a lot. But, it was long ago when I was struggling as a young artist".

"Hmm. But I liked to see myself through your sketches". She was insisting

I took a paper and made a sketch in five minutes. She sat very seriously. As I finished, I handed it over to her.

She smiled and soon made a serious face. I drew a caricature of her holding mobile phone and taking some serious stuff over the phone.

"Ha, very funny. This is not what I meant", She rolled her eyes.

"Then, what did you mean?"

"You know what I meant".

"I like your eyes. Let me see what I can do", I took another piece of paper and drew her eyes.

"Thank you", she said, holding the sketch. She came near my side and sat next to me.

She wore a fruity perfume.

"Will you teach me to draw something?"

"What do you wish to learn?".

"How did you draw my eyes? They look alive. How do you do that?"

"Join the art school. I will teach you", I teased her.

"No, Teach me please", She bit her lower lip and when she released it, it looked reddish.

We both were staring at each other. Without looking away from her, I took her cold hand and made her draw a tulip flower. She looked down as I ended and her face lit up to see flower we drew. She loved it. I could see her blushing. She moved closer and wrote on the paper under the tulip flower sketch 'to my dearest artist who stole my heart...'

For a moment I was shocked. Blood flowed from all over my body to my head. She had sensed my feelings and now we both knew that we are in love.

She leaned over me and kissed my cheeks. I held her shoulder and kissed on her lips. She stayed with me that night. Next day morning she left to office directly from my apartment.

We both were happy. It was unexpected for me. We traveled to different places together and some of my friends were curious to see me with a girl, a young girl. She was in love with me with her whole heart. That was the danger I felt in our relationship. I didn't want to get married. She was young. She could have a good family life. I won't be able to provide her that. It was not good for her to stuck with me.

She asked me one day about my future plans. I honestly told that I don't have plans for marriage or family life. We have argued for some time and she left the apartment in anger. Before leaving she asked me to think about it. I had already thought well and my decision was a final one.

She didn't call for a week. I tried to call, but she didn't pick up the call. Later I went to her apartment and rang the bell

"Why did you come? she asked me as she opened the door.

"I need to speak to you".

"I don't want".

"Please don't be angry. Listen to what I have to say"

"I told you I don't want to speak to you".

"Please Selene, please".

"Ok, we will take a walk". She wore a jacket and we both walked to a park nearby.

I tried to convince her about my decision and told the possibilities of her having a better life. She was not willing to digest my words. After two hours of discussion, she finally agreed to my words. I hugged her while she sobbed. 'I will miss this sweet little angel. But I won't repent this moment', I thought that time.

We departed and there were a few calls and SMS. We didn't meet after that evening. On the Christmas eve she called.

I answered nervously.

"Hi, Selene".

"Hey, where are you?".

"I am at my apartment".

"Do you wish to come to my place today evening?"

"Today?"

"Yeah. I have prepared dinner and you can bring wine", she sounded cheerful.

"I think it is better I don't come. I am bit busy finishing one work. If I left it now, it may take weeks to complete".

"You are avoiding me, right?

"No, sweetheart, I am busy now".

"I wish to spend the Christmas eve with you".

"Why don't you go out with your friends?"

"No, I wish to see you"

"See, dear, it will be better if I don't come".

"I don't want to celebrate Christmas alone".

"Don't be silly. Be strong".

"You know how much I love you right. Please don't ignore me now", she told in broken words... I felt that she might cry. I felt sad.

"Selene, Don't be like this. Don't beg for love. You might never find it. I told you this long back, right? Instead, be rich in love. Then you might not need it from anyone. Be strong my girl. Please, Selene, try to understand", in soft and kind voice, I preached her about 'love'.

She kept quiet for a moment, "Ok. Bye. Thanks for everything", she sounded calm.

"That's my good girl", I appreciated her for being strong. But she cut the call before I could finish.

I didn't bother to call her and wish Christmas. Neither she called.

After a week, I tried to call her. But the call didn't get connected. I send a few messages and no reply came. I thought, she might have moved on with her life.

My friend called me to conduct a workshop in different universities. I traveled a lot in the next year, gave lot talks at conferences and workshops.

After a year and a half, Jenny called me. I asked her about Selene. Jenny told that she got married almost a six months ago.

I felt happy hearing that. But somewhere, I felt sad too.

Last week, as I was walking the neighborhood, I saw Selene getting off from a car with a man. He was young and athletic.

She saw me. I expected she would come and talk to me. But I was wrong. She continued to walk with him.

I stood on the road quiet for a moment.

Then I told myself 'be rich in love. Then you might no longer need it from anyone'.

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