"Mr Lecocq? There's a Ms. Archer here to see you." Nina says over the intercom.
"Send her in," Rainier answers, and tries to prepare himself.
"Well?" she says as soon as the door is shut behind her, "You haven't returned any of my calls, answered any of my texts..."
Rainier can hardly bear looking at her. "I'm sorry, Portia. I have been taking the coward's way out," he admits.
"Out?" she asks, her voice just below a shriek, "You're dumping me, just like that? After we...after everything..." her voice quavers on the edge of tears.
Rainier comes around his desk to face her, like he should have done in the first place. "Portia, you lied to me, about your age, your name, where you live..."
"I had to lie about my age," she admits, "The other lies were just cover for that lie. I didn't want to lie to you, but I knew if I didn't, we couldn't be together. I just wanted to be with you."
"It's not the lies I can't handle, Portia, it's the truth. You're underage. You understand what that means, don't you? I've committed a serious crime in being with you. I could lose my business, be deported..."
"That won't happen," Portia assures him, "I'd never tell anyone."
"I can't take that risk," Rainier says.
"Well, I'll be 18 in a few months," she says brightly, "Then everything will be okay, right? I'll be totally legal."
"I know," he says, smiling fondly at her, "We share a birthday, actually." His smile fades quickly, "I'll turn 27 the same day you turn 18. But it's not just the legal issue, Portia. You are starting college this autumn, your life is just beginning. It shouldn't start with you being tied down to an older man."
"I don't know," Portia teases, "Being tied down might be kind of fun..."
"Sssh," Rainier says, smiling again despite himself, "We can't do this. I'm too old for you."
"So, this it it then?" Portia demands, "Despite everything we had, what we feel for each other, you've decided that 27 is too old for 18 and you're just letting me go?"
"Portia, when you start college, you'll be happy for your freedom, believe me."
Portia doesn't believe him for a second. She's had enough of the college experience already to know that it's not what she wants. What she wants is him, and she's not prepared to just let him go, not without a fight. She could blackmail him, of course, threaten to expose him if he doesn't stay with her. But a quick mental calculation tells her that's the worst possible route to take, that she'd have him at the price of him hating her for it. She could try tears and pleading, a more emotional type of blackmail, but that's also only a short term solution at best, as it would plant the seeds of resentment that would strangle the relationship in the long term.
'Never appear to be chasing,' her father had told once, 'Always make them come to you. Make sure they know that you have something more valuable to give than whatever it is you mean to get from them. Even if what you have is nothing, make it look like the thing they want most in the world.' His advice was meant to be taken on a professional level, but Portia sees how it could be applied to relationships just as well.
Portia puts her father's advice into action, and withdraws from the chase
"You're right," she says gently, with an edge of sadness in her voice. She reaches a hand to stroke his cheek, "I may not have been a virgin when we met, but I'll always think of you as my first lover, and my first real love."
She leans close, but not too close, to kiss him one last time, a soft, quick kiss. "Goodbye, Rainier. I won't forget you."
And with that she walks out of his office, leaving an impression she knows will linger on, haunting him.
Rainier watches her go, then stares at his office door with a bemused expression. That was not at all how he expected this to end.
"Dad is few years older than you, right?" Portia asks he mother as they lounge by the pool.
"Every year, he gets one year older than me," Mercedes laughs.
"I'm trying to be serious," Portia says.
"Yes, your father is older than me. Why does it matter?"
"I'm just interested in how you guys got together. What made you attracted to him, and him to you."
Mercedes gives her daughter a knowing smile, "That Irvine boy, Jake? He was a few years older than you, if I remember correctly. He's been at USC for the past two years. You used to have quite the crush on him..."
Portia rolls her eyes. Jake Irvine was so three years ago. "This isn't about Jake Irvine. I'm starting college this fall, I don't want to relive high school."
"Smart plan," Mercedes says, "I got over college boys fairly quickly, myself. Women mature much faster than men, it's a fact. You want someone with real life experience, someone who knows how to take what he wants."
"So, how did you meet Dad?"
"At a fraternity party."
"Oh," Portia says, disappointed that her parents' first meeting was so banal, "Which one?"
Mercedes laughs, "I'm sure I knew at the time, but at this point, I can't remember which one is which."
"You don't remember which frat Dad belonged to?"
"Oh, Portia, no, your father wasn't in the fraternity, he wasn't even in college. I told you, I'd gotten over college boys by then. Bill was promoting bands back then. That's why he was at the party, one of his bands was playing there. My parents were livid the first time I brought him home," Mercedes remembers with a fond smile, "He was so poor then, you see. They wanted 'better' for me. They didn't see what I saw, Bill was going to be big. And now he owns my father. Quite literally," Mercedes concludes with a smug smile. Mercedes' father owned a chain of car dealerships which had nearly folded in the recent crash of the automotive industry, until Bill bought them out, keeping them afloat. "I showed them."
Portia goes down to the lawn to watch her father practice his stroke.
"Dad, did you marry Mom for her money?" Portia asks. It's always best to be direct with Bill.
"Making a lifetime commitment for a quick cash bonus is a bad way to manage your life," Bill answers, "And of course, her parents cut her off when we got engaged. All of this is mine, sweetheart, I built this up from nothing."
"Then, why did you marry Mom?"
"What are you really asking?" Bill returns.
"Well, I want to know what it was about Mom that got you interested. I mean, she was younger than you, in college, and you were past all that, on your own, managing your own business..."
"Knowing what I saw in your mother won't really tell what you want to know, sweetheart," Bill says, swinging his club, "You aren't your mother, and I'm sure that whoever it is you're asking me about isn't me. Tell me who he is."
Portia frowns. Her father can be utterly clueless most of the time, but in moments like these, when he cuts through your words to get right into your head, she wonders about him. "Daddy," she gives her best exasperated teen sigh, but she knows it's too late.
"Don't 'Daddy' me, Portia. You started this. Tell me who he is."
"Okay, there is a guy. But we're not...he hasn't touched me," Portia goes on the defensive, "He won't, because of my age. And of course, I wouldn't..." Bill raises an eyebrow at her. Of course, he knows she's on the pill, her mother arranged that for her. "Dad, he's like you were when you met Mom. He has a business he's just started. He's ambitious, like you. And he's what I want. I just wanted advice on, you know, getting past the age thing. I mean, when I'm over 18 of course."
"How old is he? What business?"
"Early twenties," Portia fudges Rainier's age, "It's a video game company."
"That's a good industry to be in," Bill says, "I've been thinking about investing in that field myself." Bill rests against his club and turns to his daughter, "Sweetheart, you don't need my advice. You need to go with your instincts on this."
"Thanks, Daddy," Portia says brightly, and gets up to dive into the pool. Bill continues practicing his swing while considering his game plan. It won't take much effort to find out who this young entrepreneur is, and have a little chat with him.
Rainier meets up with Coby at at local sports bar after work to play some pool.
"Well, she seems pretty mature," Coby says after Rainier tells him how his break up with Portia went, "I mean, most teens wouldn't take it that easily."
"Yes," Rainier agrees, "I'm surprised it went so well."
"Are you okay?" Coby asks, noticing Rainier is way off his game today.
"No," Rainier sighs, "I've been lied to, cheated on and dumped often enough, but I've never felt this shitty about the end of a relationship."
"Maybe when she's old enough..." Coby suggests.
Rainier shakes his head "I can't even go down that road. I need to just get over her and be done with it."
"Good luck with that," Coby says, knowing from very recent experience you can't just force a girl out of your heart once she's moved into it.
When Rainier gets into his bed that night, he notices for the first time the empty space beside him, and goes to sleep thinking about lovers past, things that were and will never be again, and Portia rising above all of them, the only one he regrets being with, and even more, regrets losing.