Mia is almost done working on her painting but she is still clueless as to the title. To her surprise, it’s her grandfather’s visit that solves the problem.
For the week leading up to the painting contest, Mia was quite excited. Painting, in general, always calmed her down and gave her joy, but her current project was giving her a pleasure she had never experienced before. It gave her a daily sense of satisfaction, something integral for the well-being of any artist. Stagnation is the enemy, and purposeful satisfaction is the solace. All of them strive for it, but only those with flair and the will to put in the hours achieve it. Mia did not know all this yet, but she had certainly got the first taste of artistic satisfaction.
The last day of the contest was in a day’s time, and she was almost done with her work. After applying the final touch, she took a few steps back to take it in, to see if there was room for improvement. She wasn’t looking at its general idea but trying to find ways to show the details better. As she was busy doing that, she heard their car coming up the road.
Her mother opened the back door as soon as she got out, and her grandfather stepped out. He was not in the best shape, but Mia could not remember the last time he hadn’t looked like that.
“What’s wrong, grandpa?” said Mia, walking up to him and giving him a light, hurried hug, as people do when worried about the other person.
“Why, can’t I come to my house?” came the hoarse reply.
“No, I didn’t mean that. Of course you can. I just thought that you weren’t fine,” stuttered Mia.
“He wouldn’t eat anything over there. They told me he hadn’t eaten anything in almost four days. He thinks that the food there tastes funny off late, as if something is being mixed into his meals,” said Brandy, sighing as she closed the door behind Joshua.
“I don’t think that, I know that!” said her grandfather.
“I’m sure you’ll find the food here alright, Francis. I know you like Brandy’s cooking the best. Well, I need to get to Mrs Lindemulder right away. I hope you don’t mind if I leave right after dropping you off. She’s experiencing chest pains again,” said Connor. Mia’s grandfather grumbled softly. She knew it was because her father had said that he liked Brandy’s cooking best. Francis wasn’t one to acknowledge his feelings in public. Mia exchanged glances with her mother, sharing a smile with her.
“That old hag. She just wants attention, I tell you. She’s been that way all her life!” said Francis. Connor chuckled at him.
“Well, even if that is the case, I need to make sure. The wolf did come eventually, didn’t it?” said Connor.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. I won’t keep you, son. You can leave,” said Francis. Connor gave him a brief nod and a smile before getting in the car and driving away. “He’s a good lad. I’m glad I let you marry him,” he said to Brandy as he walked beside her while Joshua held on to his finger and poked his hand with his index finger repeatedly.
“So am I, although you did make it as hard for me as it was ‘Francisly’ possible,” said Brandy. He laughed aloud at her remark. It always made him happy how his daughter considered him inhuman when it came to letting people do what he didn’t approve of.
“You can’t blame a father for being sceptical about his prospective son-in-law. Mothers approve easily but then disapprove of them all their lives, while fathers disapprove initially but then approve of them soon enough.”
They walked into the house and Brandy immediately set the table for Francis. She beckoned Mia to have some brunch as well. Mia complied readily, for it was past almost lunchtime and she hadn’t eaten anything. For some reason, she didn’t like having breakfast. She loved mornings way too much to stay indoors and eat breakfast.
She remained sitting there staring out into space for a long while after her mother had served her food. Francis, although he would not admit it earlier, devoured the food presented to him in a flash. He was so engrossed in his meal that he didn’t notice Mia spacing out until after he had finished his meal.
“You painting anything right now?” asked Francis. Mia noticed him looking at the smudge on her shorts and the colour on her hands.
“Oh. Yeah, there’s a district painting contest. I’ve been working on the painting I’ll be sending in tomorrow.”
“Uh-huh,” said Francis, wiping his mouth and hands with his napkin. “Are you done with it?” he asked.
“Almost. There’s just a bit of touch-up work left.” Francis nodded at her before turning his face to look out the window.
“It’s quite a pleasant today. Would you mind if I go out and sit in the garden for a while?” he asked. He was always particular about keeping people company at the table and always asked for permission to leave from anyone sitting on the table. He would even ask Joshua for that matter.
“No, of course not, Grandpa. I’m yet to touch my food, and you know I’m quite a slow eater,” said Mia. Francis nodded at her again before rising up and going outside.
“Urgh, it smells like paint here,” he said as soon as he walked towards the service room. Mia smiled at how strong his sense of smell was, even at his old age. She saw Joshua running towards her grandpa. Suddenly, Mia got up from her seat and rushed for the door. She realized that she had left the door of the service room open, and Joshua was scampering towards it. She almost hit the lamp post on the porch as she got out of the door. As she jumped down the three stairs, she saw Joshua running towards the open service room. However, to her relief, he tripped on his own shoelace and fell, scraping his elbow on the small pebbles protecting the rose bush. The fall hurt him as he shrieked and began crying immediately.
Mia’s relief, though, was short-lived, for she saw her grandfather looking at the painting inside the service room. She ran as fast as she could and placed herself between the painting and him.
Francis didn’t move his eyes to look at her. Mia noticed that his eyes were open wider than usual. He gently nudged her aside and continued looking at the painting for a long while. They both stood there. Mia was panting because she had run to the room, while Francis was panting because the painting was smothering him. They could hear Brandy pick Joshua’s crying body up and take him into the house.
“Grandpa, please, it’s not finished yet,” said Mia softly after a few minutes. Her grandfather didn’t seem to notice her presence as he was enthralled by the painting. Mia remained looking at him for some minutes. The sunlight fell on his face, giving his skin an even yellower texture than usual. But after a few minutes, Mia saw a twinkle in his eyes. He turned away and walked out that same instant.
Francis asked Connor to drive him to the home for the elderly early the next morning. It surprised Brandy and Connor that he wanted to leave already, but he was resolute in his decision. They were a little worried at his quiet and detached demeanour, but they agreed to his demand. Before leaving, he thrust a folded piece of paper in Mia’s hand. It had the words ‘Title’ written on top of it. Mia opened it as Francis got into the car. She smiled after seeing its contents.