By the time she had finished the sketches it was about to become afternoon. While sketching the dragon’s face, Zenia had realized that she’d need to do a few more sketches of the dragons faces and the patterns of their scales. She did not expect painting a dragon to be this hard. Other animals and non-humanoids were no problem at this point, but dragons were a whole different beast.
Zenia let herself fall onto a chair. Moving her arms around a bit she did a couple stretches. Drawing also was hard work. The toll it takes on the body is underestimated by many.
Just as she finished her stretches, Zenia witnessed Jeanne putting a plate of steaming food on the table in front of her.
“I didn’t order anything?” Zenia asked in confusion.
“No, but you still need to eat. And I figured I’d just start handing you the entire menu over your next couple visits. Oh, and don’t you think it’s for free.”
“Of course not. Thank you.”
“You need to eat if you want to work. Take care of yourself a bit.”
Just as Zenia was about to start eating the unfamiliar rice dish, she noticed an odd figure hiding behind Jeanne and peering at the canvas.
“And who might you be?” Zenia asked as if she didn’t have a clue already.
In response the figure’s wings contracted, and it seemed almost like a shiver went through her horns.
“Oh, sorry about that,” Jeanne replied in her stead.
“I am assuming this is the mystery girlfriend I’ve heard so much about?” Zenia asked teasingly.
“Müsteri girlfriend?” The mystery girlfriend replied with a heavy accent.
Jeanne’s entire body stiffened and in a manner akin to a stroke stammered: “Mystery uhhhh ... well??? … Babylonia!”
Jeanne burst into a pile of awkwardness and introduced her girlfriend (subject to change).
“Mhm! Babylonia, me!” Babylonia agreed, momentarily forgetting everything she learned about the human language over the past years.
“Alright. My name is Zenia,” she introduced herself.
“She is Jordan’s wife,” Jeanne added. “He met Babylonia when she first entered the city,” she then explained to Zenia.
“Ah! Nice to meet you. And please give your husband my thanks for suggesting I take the language course. It has been such a help.” Babylonia tried her best to speak as perfectly as possible, after her little blunder just now.
“Of course. So, you are still learning our language?” Zenia asked.
“Yes, I just came back from school. Say, can you tell me, what it says on here?” Babylonia asked, pointing at the canvas.
For her bigger paintings Zenia had adopted the quirk of drawing a frame onto the canvas, featuring the title of the work on the bottom.
“Oh that, that is the title of my painting. What part of it do you have trouble understanding?”
“That very first word. I’m not sure about it, I don’t think I’ve read it anywhere before?”
“Ohhh, that’s the name of my husband,” Zenia exclaimed with a small chuckle.
“Ah, Jordan and the Dragon. Now I understand, thank you. Wow, I really need to get a hang of human names ...”
“Don’t worry about it, even we sometimes get them wrong,” Zenia tried to console her, looking to Jeanne for approval.
“Yes, just watch me taking orders,” Jeanne confirmed. “Best is to ask the person about how their name is written or pronounced. It is common courtesy.”
“Hm, your name I know, Jeanne!” Babylonia exclaimed, though I don’t really know if that’s something to be proud of, in particular.
“Heheh, you sure do …” Jeanne replied fondly. “Anyway Babi-chan, let’s leave Zenia to eat in peace now, ‘kay?”
“Wow, you sure are a different person around your mystery girlfriend.”
“What does that mean, müsteri girlfriend?”
“Enjoy your meal!”
And with that, Jeanne took Babylonia and unloaded her behind the counter.
“Now then …” Zenia took place at her table once more.
“Wow, that’s some amazing work here!”
Just as Zenia was about to take a bite of the piping hot, unfamiliar rice dish, she was interrupted again. This time by a shout of excitement. She turned around to the source: A small, oddly clothed woman, like a doll, was admiring the unfinished painting on the canvas.
“Oh, um, sorry, I didn’t mean to disrupt your break.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that.”
“You’re painting the incident with that dragon a few days ago, aren’t you?” the woman inquired.
“I am! How did you guess?” Zenia got up from her seat and now stood next to the woman.
“Incidentally, I happened to arrive in the city just as all this transpired. And I even got to talk to Crimson the dragon and Jordan the hero!” No, I am not exaggerating. This was her actual reaction. At least according to Zenia.
“Oh, he is my husband.”
“No, the Jordan.”
“In any case, you don’t happen to be putting your drawings up for sale?”
“I am!” Zenia tried to hide her excitement, but that was the first time anyone seemed to be calling dibs on an unfinished drawing. “In fact, I am preparing an exhibition, this here being the center piece.”
“My name is Martina. Would you care to show me some of your other pieces? I don’t mean to pry into what you’re working on for the exhibition for free, but I might have a business proposal that might interest you.”
At Martina’s behest Zenia led her behind the counter to the storage room. Not only did Zenia store her utensils here, her finished paintings also found a temporary home in the back room.
“Ahhh, these are splendid,” Martina looked at them one by one with growing satisfaction.
“Thank you,” Zenia wasn’t sure how to properly react to her compliments. Instead, she tried to follow the scripts that have been hammered into her head as a child. She realized that planning an exhibition may go over her head. If she didn’t know how to properly react to just Martina seeing her paintings, what would it be like, if there was a room full of people in a room full of her art?
“Ooh, and what are those?” Martina asked, as she approached a bundle of papers laying on a shelf. Zenia wasn’t quite sure what she left there herself, so she also took an inquisitive look.
“Ah, of course, those are my warm-up sketches,” she then explained. “I spend most of my time painting in this cafe, and as a warm-up I sketch whatever food or beverage I order. Some of them I’ve even colored for fun.”
“Excellent!” Martina exclaimed once more, going through all of the sketches one by one.
“In any case, you said you had an offer to make?” Zenia couldn’t take it any longer. Having Martina go through all of her drawings like that felt as if she was being put on trial.
“Of course, right. What would you think about providing me with illustrations for my books? I’m an author, you see, and I’ve been looking for something to help upvalue my books a bit.”
“Sure, but why me?”
“Well, it’s hard to find someone with such a passion and dedication for the arts. Really, your output seems unmatched. Most people can only afford to paint on the side, so I don’t think contracting them would prove to be fruitful ...”
“I understand ...”
“Also, I just so happen to be writing something about the dragon incident, and the detail of your dragon painting is simply unmatched!”
“Oh why, thank you. Well, certainly, I am intrigued...”
“Do you plan on selling any of your paintings during your exhibition?”
“Oh I... didn’t actually think of that. I mean, it’s worth considering.”
“Well, how about during the exhibition, you reveal the dragon painting as a centerpiece and I also announce my acquisition of the painting, as well as our future partnership?”
“Woah there, lady. Don’t talk about owning something before buying it! I will consider your offer, but I’d still need some time to reconsider. And, also, a proper contract would be in order.”
“Well then, how about we meet in another couple days, to negotiate terms? A week should give us enough time to figure out what we each want out of this partnership.”
“Alright, sounds fair enough.”
“I assume I’ll find you in this very establishment?”
“You assumed correctly.”
“Great, until next week.”
And with a firm handshake the two parted ways.
By the time Zenia returned to her table, her food had gotten cold.
That evening, when I returned from work, Zenia almost immediately fell into my arms.
“Today was exhausting,” she muttered.
She told me what happened during the day later when we were both sitting in bed.
“Wow, you’re becoming a businesswoman,” I commented. To get so many offers in one day ... maybe that could be me someday.
“God, that makes me so happy. And also, I feel honored to be the subject of the centerpiece of your exhibition.”
“If only you knew how many sketches of you I’ve done in secret,” she teased.
I kissed her on her forehead in response, my arm wrapped around her shoulders.
up and falling asleep next to her was truly the best.