“Yes! Yes! Yes!” he said. This man was not another fuckbuddy. I was sure of it. He was small, thin, extremely clean and colourfully dressed, with glasses and thin grey hair, and an air of complete femininity. He was clapping his hands together under his chin occasionally, and seemed to be engrossed in these paintings.
“Yes. This is what I’ve been looking for, Clara, you are right. You did these, Benjamin? Well, I know a buyer who would likely pay a high price for work like this, I’ve never seen anything like it. The emotion, the pain, the energy of it is so strong that it is almost palpable, as if it is in the very air that it exudes from itself. Let me show you the paperwork, and if you agree, I will take these paintings and sell them tomorrow night at Archer’s, the auction house on Brainsley Street. You can come if you like, to see how much it goes for.”
We went over the paperwork. I would get a very fair percentage – 75%. I signed, not particularly caring for what would happen, but out of interest, I went down to that auction house the next night, alone, and I saw Clara there, sitting in the audience. When I walked in the room she smiled at me, excitedly, as if I should just smile back at her like nothing had ever happened. I looked up to see my first painting being put up on display for the bidders.
“This piece is from a local, unknown artist, who has just most recently come to our attention. We do not wish to make overstatements, but I believe it is fair to say, from looking at the work on offer, this may well become known as one of the great works of our time, and may indeed be a priceless work at some point in the future.”
The bidding started at one hundred thousand pounds. That was well over double what I would make in a whole year. It went up by the hundreds of thousands. The old guy, the auctioneer, was talking slowly and calmly, not hurried and rushed and ridiculous as I had seen auctioneers before. The whole place was a different level to anything I had experienced before, and as the price kept going up, I could see Clara becoming more and more excited, brighter and brighter and brighter until she looked over at me like she would burst, and I wondered why she was so excited. I couldn’t believe they were my paintings. The second one went up for sale, then the third, then the fourth, then the fifth. By the end of it they had all sold together for four million pounds, and I was to walk away with three.
Clara came up to me after the auction, when I was standing outside the main room, in the warm light of the corridor.
“Amazing!” she said, hugging me. “Can you believe it? What will we do with all of that money!” she asked me.
“We?” I asked, calmly, mildly dazed. “Why do you say, ‘We?'”
Her smile stiffened, and the joy behind it disappeared.
“Well, we are together. If it wasn’t for me, you would have never created something so wonderful as…”
“Oh, so you shagging another bloke in my flat entitles you to all this money, does it? Really? You really believe that?”
“We are married.” She said, her voice deepening and her face becoming sharp. She looked around the corridor to make sure no one was in earshot. “If you don’t share the money with me willingly, then I will take half from you if we get divorced.”
I felt joy arise in me again. I had waited for this moment since it had begun hitting the millions inside the auction room.
“Married?” I said. “What exactly do you mean, married?”
“Don’t be silly, Benjamin, we got married in Spain by that vicar who lived next to you in the hotel.”
“Aah, yes, of course,” I said, smiling, noticing I was being called over by the lady at the front desk to collect my auction receipt. “Yes, you mean Barry, the one I was friends with, that rather red-faced, embarrassed-looking vicar who was fumbling his words, and struggling to look you in the eye?”
She looked frozen.
“Are you sure he was a real vicar?” I asked.