It had only taken a week for him to become used to the surveillance. Except for watching him constantly (with minor privacy allowed in the bathroom), his patron/stalker had done nothing else untoward. He had expected some type of contact by now. Wasn’t that how stalkers behaved toward their obsession? Didn’t they escalate their behaviour if ignored? To educate himself and his patron more on the subject, he gave in and watched a crime series with a stalker as one of the main characters the night before. But still nothing. No one crept into the night to steal him away. No one stopped him on the street to introduce himself. Heck, he even started visiting a café regularly just to let his patron have more opportunities to join him.
A random thought came to mind as he hacked into the security cameras at the café. Did he have a shy stalker? Was it enough just loving him from afar? At that, he shuddered as he imagined some other forms of love. He hadn’t touched a soul since he gained awareness, and he wasn’t about to change that. His host, as well, had seemed disinterested in both sexual and romantic love.
He sighed deeply. If it weren’t for that ridiculous wish of thanking Tristan’s patron, he would be in Canada now, in some deep-in-the-woods cabin with not a single other person to be seen for miles.
He looked up at the voice. A man who seemed to be approaching his fifties looked to be waiting for him.
“Sorry, Mr. West. I was lost in my thoughts,” he smiled apologetically as he invited his guest to sit in front of him.
The man, who seemed to be just as fit and tall as in his memories, sat with a chuckle. “It is nothing, my boy. I was still a bit surprised to see you outside.”
Understandable, for Tristan had been an introvert of the highest order and had wished to deliver his paintings in the safety of his own house. He, instead, preferred business to be done away from his private space, although his privacy now included about two dozen cameras shared with an unknown number of observers.
For the sake of his now fragile heart, it was better not to think about that. Onto more important matters. “I am trying to become a bit more sociable.”
“Although there was nothing wrong with your previous lifestyle, it is good that you are opening up to new experiences, Tristan. Perhaps, you’ll even like how we mere mortals live without paintings, no?” Mr. West replied in good humour.
Tristan resisted the urge to glare. This was probably not his patron. A stalker like him would have been irritated to see his possession socialize with others.
“No chance,” he even allowed himself to pout childishly at the thought of a life without painting. West laughed at his expression.
“So what have you brought me this time, my boy? You said you were starting a new series?”
He passed over the cylindrical container holding his painting. “Yes. This piece is called “The Good Queen.” I am currently working on two others with a similar theme. But I wanted this to be displayed as soon as possible,” he then followed a bit more hesitantly. “Is that OK?”
West frowned as he carefully put the painting in his bag. “That’s quite unusual. Wouldn’t you want the series to be displayed together for it to be coherent?”
He pretended to fidget for a bit. “I can’t wait for this one. It’s different from my other work. It’s special.”
Tristan had scanned a picture of “The Good Queen” for this purpose. Viewing a fragile paining in such a public place was idiocy, so he had prepared an image before his agent could view it critically at the comfort of his own home.
West took it and looked at it once, before his eyebrows rose surprised. “This... is certainly different.”
And it was. Tristan Lewis had never painted a person. He simply had felt no inspiration due to his own lack of experience with people. But it wasn’t just the subject that was different. Tristan’s style had been bright, happy, exciting. While his preferred darker tones and a more traditional touch.
He was not about to pretend to paint someone else’s work. His skill over many years, and his own preference for the arts had made him an excellent forger, but he had his own pride as an artist. He was sure his host would have agreed with him. Rather than steal someone’s muse and spirit, he would create a new legacy, under a new Tristan Lewis.
But the person he chose to paint... His feelings remained a bit complex on that.
“I’ll see what I can do about your request, but... is this someone you know?” West looked a bit conflicted as he asked.
That didn’t sound like jealousy that he painted another person. “No, I don’t think so. I saw her in a dream.”
West nodded at that, looking relieved. Did West work personally with his patron/stalker? Why would he have been worried that Tristan had a potential interest in someone then? He had assumed West was not informed. His host had asked him before, and West had seemed sincere in his ignorance. Had he simply been a much more skilled liar in the past or had things changed recently?
“I see. Was there anything else you wanted before I took this with me, my boy?”
He looked carefully for a reaction as he spoke. He explained his wish to become more independent financially and otherwise. Perhaps, his stalker preferred to control him much more subtly.
But the man was relaxed as he answered. “I’m relieved to hear you say that. You never seemed interested in anything outside your work. You used to feed every stereotype of the hermit artist, you know?” he laughed. “You have filled out a bit, too.”
Okay, that was not what he expected at all. Was his patron that much of a failure of a stalker?!