I’m Dot. Excuse my briskness—thinking on my feet, you know.
“Who are you? You can’t just pillage my stuff.”
That’s Rockford’s voice, not mine; as if I’d say ‘pillage.’ Or ‘stuff.’ I mean, come on; but it is my doorway and £925 per calendar month to move into a mess of his discarded possessions confers the right to be territorial. Only a profitable week of ebay selling had made the place liveable. C’est la vie.
Behaving reasonably wouldn’t help him. Accumulated pressure from another day hocking topaz jewellery to hello caller had kneaded me into a monster.
That said, I might have folded until his ‘You’ll realise I’m right’ smirk piqued me. I expect better from the handsome former owner of three pairs of Isabel Benenato trousers.
I deliver my mirror-proven, automatic smile. “I’m not sure I remember it.”
Behind me, Impersonation of Arrabbiata sauce simmers on the hob.
“I sense you want something from me.” I’ll admit he played that well.
“About this big.” His palms slide away from each other in frustrated anti-piety. “Hardwood frame. Charcoals. A girl, glancing over her shoulder.” He’d sketched it, alright, that study in reckless beauty. I’d decided to name her Camille.
“Don’t know. Twenty? About your age.”
I knew what Camille would do.
Rockford selected the restaurant. God, he ate intently, wielding cutlery with sudden sweeps. I’d been envisaging wine-as-you-go. “Well?”
He crumpled his napkin onto his plate and lunged with a credit card at the waiter. “Well what?”
“Tell me about her.”
“Does it matter?”
Formalities of card, machine and number were attended to.
“Then you forgot her whilst escaping rent arrears.”
“Cheap,” he muttered disdainfully.
I sensed I’d had my sport. “OK. I surrender.”
“So, Camille, may I please have the picture.”
Dot again, I slid it from my glossy, peony blossom tote bag.
Undoing clips, he liberated my charcoal life-coach from her frame, scrunched her, then dropped her unceremoniously for a gravy soak with the napkin.
An envelope had been stuffed behind the sketch.
“If you like the damned frame so much, Camille, take it.”
Reader, I didn’t.