The hardest part of being an artist for Shannon has always been the selling of himself and his work, having to explain the unexplainable just to be able to display his work. Maybe it's easier for the conceptual artists, he thinks, their work is all about ideas that can be discussed, but his work is purely visceral, his hands work the clay, work the stone, making form from the formless. Trying to distill that process into words only diminishes its power.
Eleanor smiles and nods through his practiced spiel. It's when he shows her his portfolio that he wins her over. "We're having a group show here next month, and I have room for two of your pieces. After that we can discuss a solo show."
Shannon gives her the number of the gallery that normally handles his work so they can take care of whatever arrangements galleries make with each other; Shannon tries to have as little to do with that side of the business as possible.
"He was hot," Stina observes after Shannon is out the door.
"What he looks like is irrelevant," Eleanor answers, "Talent is the only thing that matters. Anyway, I thought you were pretty steady with that Belgian guy, Rainier?"
"No, we broke up. I'm back with Coby."
"Huh," Eleanor says, "The surfer again? That's...surprising. Either way, I'd prefer you don't flirt with the artists we work with. It's unprofessional."
Stina rolls her eyes, "I'm not going to flirt with anyone. But I can't blind myself. The guy was hot, that's all I was saying."
"I had a meeting with a gallery today," Shannon tells Rebecca when they meet for a picnic in Griffith Park, "They're going to take two of my pieces for a group show next month."
"So you didn't just come down here after me," Rebecca laughs.
"I had to do something to justify the expense of traveling here," Shannon says, "A show in L.A. will be good for my career. But I'm here for you."
She turns to face him, he cups his fingers beneath her chin, and they kiss, their first kiss since she ran away from from him, from everything. "I missed you, you know," she says.
"Tell me why you left, Rebecca."
Rebecca settles her head on his lap. "In high school, everyone labeled me a genius," she says, starting at the beginning, "And I made Dean's List every semester at Berkley. Everyone expected so much from me when I graduated. I was supposed to be this great writer, I should have the Pulitzers lined up by now. But all I have is a couple of stories published in a magazine and a job in a coffeehouse. I haven't even written anything in months. It's like, I don't know, I lost it, everything I was or was supposed to be, and I just had to get away from it, go somewhere where no one would know me and see me as a failure, wasting my potential. Start a new life."
"But this is your hometown," Shannon points out.
"Yeah, I didn't mean to stay here. I came for Heather's wedding," Rebecca says, leaving out the part about trying to interfere with her friend's relationship, "I was going to move on right after, but I didn't. And now, after what happened, I don't want to take off again until I know she's okay, you know?"
"I don't understand why you didn't talk to me about this. Why you had to leave me that way."
"You're a success," Rebecca says, "You're doing what you're meant to do, living up to your potential."
"So, what? You resented me? Thought I wouldn't understand what you're going through?"
Rebecca sighs. "I honestly don't know, Shan. I was just so frustrated with myself, everything. I wasn't exactly thinking clearly. Leaving you was a mistake, I know that now."
"It sounds to me like you don't understand what you were doing any more than I do," Shannon says, "I want us to be together, but you have to promise to talk to me, about everything. Don't just walk out on me."
"I promise," Rebecca says, and they kiss again.
"I have a confession to make," Rebecca whispers, "While I was down here, I kind of...I was with another guy."
"What do you mean 'with'?" Shannon asks.
"I mean sleeping with," Rebecca says, "But that's all it was."
Shannon disentangles himself from her arms. "So you cheated on me," he says coldly, standing with his back to her.
"I...well, I thought I'd left you. I mean, I didn't think I was cheating. But, yes, I was. But, Shan, it wasn't romantic, it didn't love him. I was just trying to make myself move on, because I couldn't forget you..."
"Stop talking, Bec," Shannon says, "Stop explaining, stop giving me excuses." Without a backward glance, he walks off, stopping to stand beneath a tree some distance from where they'd been sitting.
Rebecca follows, not willing to just let him go. "Shannon, I'm sorry, I really am," she says gently.
"Next month is our anniversary," he says, "Of the day we met. I was going to ask you to marry me. I saw us together forever, Bec, I saw us with children. And I thought you saw the same things. But I was so wrong, wasn't I? I never really saw the real you at all."
"Shannon, if anyone knows the real me, it's you. I've just been going through a hard time"
"Yeah, and at the first sign of trouble, you locked me out. You ran away from me and took up with another guy..."
"It wasn't like that," Rebecca explains, "He didn't mean anything to me. He was an old friend, and we were both broken hearted and looking for a way to forget."
"How can you be intimate with someone without it meaning something?" Shannon asks, "What do I mean to you?"
"Shannon, you mean everything."
"And yet you left me, just like that."
Rebecca sighs. She can't explain it any better than she already has.
"Can we...can we work our way through this?" she asks gently, "I know I was wrong, and I hurt you. I'm sorry. But I don't want to lose you."
"Bec, I love you. But I need some time. This...it's all a little too much for me right now. I have to go home, get my pieces ready for this show. I'll be back down here next month. If you haven't moved on by then, we'll talk. Okay?"
"I'm not going anywhere, Shan. I'll be waiting for you. That's a promise."
"I sent your portfolio up to a gallery in San Francisco," Eleanor tells Justin when she gets home from work, "We're going to be showing pieces by one of their artists here, and I've offered your work in trade."
Justin wasn't aware that he had a portfolio, he's just been turning his pictures over to Eleanor when he's done with them. "I thought you wanted them for your gallery," he says.
"Mercedes gets 20% of everything that comes through her gallery," Eleanor, "I'd hate to see her make a profit from your work. Plus, me giving you a show smacks of nepotism, though I suppose no one would necessarily connect us without knowing us. But still, it would be better for your career if you established yourself outside my gallery. Even better for you to have your first show in another city."
"This is my career now?" Justin laughs, "I'm not an artist, really."
"But you are," Eleanor smiles, "A brilliant one. And you're mine to represent."
"Whatever you say, princess," Justin shrugs.