Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chapter 73: A Sort of Melancholy

"Are you all right, Nina?" Rainier asks, finding his secretary crying next to her car in the company parking lot. He'd been working late, as usual, and he was quite sure she'd left over an hour ago.

"I just don't to go home yet," she sobs, "My husband..."

"I was just on my way to get a drink," he lies, his only plan was to go home tonight and try not to think about Portia, "Why don't you come with me?"

"You know, you are seriously starting to suck as a friend, Portia," Emma complains.

"I'll go out with you anytime," Portia says, "But I'm not going on a double date with you. I told you, I'm waiting for my birthday, for Rainier."

"I can't believe you'd turn down a date with Jake Irvine. He's on the football team, he's a huge deal on campus."

"I dated Jake Irvine in high school, he was pretty big deal there, too," Portia sighs, "I'm just not all that impressed with the all mighty USC Trojans."

Emma rolls her eyes, "I know, you're too sophisticated for the rest of us now that you are involved with an older man. You'll regret it someday, you know. College is supposed to be about partying and having fun, and you're throwing that away."

"Can't you find anyone else to go out with?" Portia asks.

"Portia, I've wanted a date with Sean Davis since we started classes. And now I've finally got it, but he asked me to set you up with Jake, so we could go out together. It's not like you'd have to treat it as a real date, just dance, hang out. Please, for me. As a friend."

"Oh, fine," Portia sighs. What could be the harm in a few drinks with an old boyfriend?

Rainier quickly regrets his charitable gesture. Giving comfort to the broken hearted has never been his talent, and he's done nothing but down three beers while listening to Nina go on about her failing marriage as she nurses the one glass of wine he ordered for her.

He thinks he's imagining Portia's voice at first, but a quick turn of his head proves otherwise. She's here, tonight, and she has a date.

She stops when she sees him, and he rises awkwardly from his stool. They both know the arrangement, until their birthday, they are free to pursue other relationships, their promise to reunite was always conditional on both of them still wanting it after so many months apart. They both long now, to go to the other and explain the nature of their 'dates', and yet both are shy of intruding on each other. So she passes by him, following Emma and Sean out to the dance floor, while Rainier heads to the bar to order himself another drink.

Rainier moves up from beer to the harder alcohols.

"I think I"m going to head home now," Nina says, "Having someone to talk to has really helped. Thank you, so much, Mr. Lecocq."

If she actually means that, he thinks as he watches her leave, she would have gotten as much use out of a picture of him pasted to a wooden board. He neither said nor did anything remotely helpful the whole evening.

He should leave too, he thinks, but opts instead for ordering another drink. Staying here to watch her out with another man isn't going to do him any good, but he can't tear himself away, either.

Despite their open arrangement, he's been faithful to her, waited for her...stupid, he thinks. He knew all along, she was too young, she would forget about him as soon as she started college. He loses count of the number of drinks he's consuming, and when he's reached the point of at least one too many, he decides he needs to speak to her. To say what, he has no idea, he only knows he cannot take this situation any longer.

"I've wanted to get back with you for the longest time," Jake whispers, suddenly stopping the dancing to take her face in his hands and kiss her.

"Jake, no," she says, trying to push away from him.

Rainier meant only to talk to her, but the kiss was an affront he's not willing to bear, and he lashes out at the intruder shoving him off his girl.

"Oh, Rainier, don't do this," Portia sighs, knowing what's coming next.

No one shoves Jake Irvine. He was like this in high school, and college hasn't changed him at all.

"Jake, stop!" Portia cries out to no avail.

Sean had been making out with Emma in the corner, and runs to join his friend as soon as he senses the bar fight happening behind him. If you could call it a fight; Rainier lost after the first punch, and is now in the position of just taking whatever punishment the two football players dish out, while Portia and Emma shout at their dates, tugging on their arms, trying to stop this.

"Pick him up so I can punch him some more," Jake barks an order to Sean, who immediately complies, shrugging Emma off his arm in the process.

"Stop this right now, you big stupid oaf," Portia shouts, putting herself between Rainier and Jake, shoving the blond back as hard as she can. "What the fuck is wrong with you?"

"He shoved me first!" Jake yells, indignant.

"Well, get over it," Portia says, "I'm with him, not you."


"But nothing, Jake! Leave him alone. Leave me alone."

"Oh, baby, your face," Portia says gently, inspecting the damage, "I don't think anything's broken. Let me get you home and clean you up..."

She has to hold him up as she leads him out into the parking lot.

"My car," he says pointing feebly toward the back of the lot.

"You're not driving in this condition," she says, trying not to laugh.

Drunk and beaten, he falls back against her car, trying to prop himself up.

Not even the car can hold him steady, and he slides down to the ground. "I couldn't stand seeing you with another man, Portia," he says, his voice breaking over a sob.

"I know, baby," she soothes, "I just need you to hold it together so I can get you into the car, okay? I'm going to take care of you."

"Where are we?" he asks as she helps him out of her car.

"My house," she says, propping him up against her. She's never been to his new place and didn't have the address handy, and he was too incoherent to direct her, so she had little choice but to bring him home with  her.

"Your parents..."

"Are in Palm Springs for the weekend," Portia says, "They'll never know you were here."

She cleans the blood off is face, gets him out of his clothes and guides him to her bed. "Je t'aime," he breathes against her neck, gripping her tightly to his lap as she tries to get him to lay down, "Je t'adore. Reste avec moi..."

"Sssh," she says, caressing his hair, "You need to sleep. I'll be right beside you."

Her scent, honeysuckle. Her head rests on his shoulder, her leg wraps around him. If he opens his eyes, he's sure it will evaporate, a dream, so he keeps them closed.

"Oh, your pretty face!" she cries in dismay, lifting herself from his embrace.

Her words waken him fully. The memories of the night before are hazy at best, but  he does remember. "Tell me I'm not hideously deformed," he jokes, "My pretty face is my only saving grace, after all."

She slaps his chest playfully, "You know you have a lot more going for you than your looks. Anyway, it's only a black eye. Do you remember what happened?"

"I remember seeing you kissing another man," he says, not hiding his jealousy, "I know, we had an arrangement, but I couldn't stand it, seeing you in his arms. I waited for you, Portia. I haven't been with anyone else, or even thought about anyone else..."

"And neither have I," she answers his accusation, "I was out with Jake as a favor to Emma. That kiss...he took me by surprise, and I was pushing him away. And what about you, you were with a date when we showed up."

"Nina is my secretary, You've met her, at my office," he reminds her, "It wasn't a date."

"We're so close," she whispers, leaning over him to kiss him, "Only three weeks until you're mine again."

"And all those college boys you see everyday...?" he asks.

"Are nothing compared to you, mon amour," she murmurs as she kisses his lips, his chest. She groans in surprise as she feels him stiffening beneath her.

"Portia," he sighs her name as she straddles him, rocking against him. The bit of fabric between is enough to make this unsatisfying sex, but sex it is nonetheless, enough to be trouble for him if her father were to walk in. And so, he should stop it, lift her off him, but his hands around her waist hold her in place, guiding her over him as she groans in pleasure. Her whole body trembles and she collapses over his chest, breathing heavily.

"Wow," she sighs.

He rolls over on top of her, her legs wrapping around him, her face lifting to meet his as she sucks hungrily on his lips. She is no child, he thinks, and this waiting for some arbitrary date to make love to her like an adult is absurd. His hands slide down to her shorts, pulling them away.

"Oh," she sighs, gently disengaging from him, "I can't believe I'm about to say this. I want you, I really do. But, I don't think...I don't want to do this only to have you regret it later."

With a deep sigh of regret, he pulls himself off her.

"I'm sorry," she says as he stretches and rises from the bed.

"Don't be," he says, "You are right to save me from myself," he laughs, "I should shower..."

She points him to her bathroom, "I'll be downstairs when you're done."

He follows the sound of music to find her. "I've never heard you play," he muses, "Did you write this?"

She shakes her head, "It's by Erik Satie. He was very influential on later minimalists like John Cage."

"That's all over my head," Rainier says with a smile, "I know nothing about music."

The sad, lovely song ends, and Portia turns on the bench. "Sit with me," she says, gesturing for him to join her.

Maybe it was the sadness and longing in the music, or maybe it's his hangover, but a sort of melancholy hangs over Rainier. "I love you," he says as he wraps an arm around her.

"Well, I love you too," she says giggling.

"What does love mean to you?" he asks.

"You started this conversation," she answers, "Maybe you should start by telling me what love means to you."

Rainier sighs, dipping his head to kiss her soft shoulders, "Douceur," he whispers, "To me, it means I want to be with you, always. I think of my future, and I see you there, with me. But I worry, also, that, being so young, you aren't ready for this, that you'll grow tired of me and move on."

"You've had a lot of lovers, haven't you?" she asks, and he nods in response. "Well, have you ever felt this way before, with anyone else?"

"No, chère," he says, "I've been in love before, but I've always known it wasn't forever."

"How do you know something like that?" she asks.

"By listening to your heart. My heart tells me you are the one."

"I don't have anywhere near the kind of experience you have," she whispers, turning to face him, "And I've never really been in love before you. I might doubt what my own heart says when it tells me we belong together, but I can't doubt yours."

"Petite amie," he says, caressing her face, "I will love you, always. I won't ask you to promise me as much in return, I only ask you to love me for as long as you can."

"Mon dieu," he breathes in awe when they enter the garage, "Was this here last night?"

"Of course it was, silly," she laughs.

"I must have been very drunk if I didn't notice it," he says, "It's magnificent. Do you know if it has the original engine? What kind of work has been done on it?"

"The only thing I know is it's my father's baby," Portia says, "Do you want to get in?"

Rainier gapes, "I shouldn't even touch it..."

"You'll have sex with a man's teenage daughter, but you won't touch his car?"

"This isn't just a car," Rainier says, "It's a 1965 Shelby Cobra. Do you have any idea what this baby is worth?"

"Just get in it," she laughs, "It won't explode, I'm sure."

Some temptations are too much to resist, and Rainier sits behind the wheel. "What I wouldn't give to take this out onto the track..." he sighs.

"Well, you'll have lots in common with my dad," she says, "But, honestly, the car talk bores the hell out of me."

"Then I won't bore with you talk," Rainier says leaning over to kiss her.


I listened to a lot of Satie while writing this chapter. It's very melancholy.
The 1965 Shelby AC Cobra is by Bloom
My husband is a car guy, as his his boss, who owns a 1967 Shelby Cobra. And thus, I've heard more about this car than I ever really wanted to know about any car, ever. And I guess that's why it is so far the only CC car I've ever added to my game.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Chapter 72: Cicatrice

His body inspires lust in some, fear in others, and Justin has never cowered from using any advantage he has to gain control over a situation, a person. Even Eleanor, when he has to.

She caresses him gently, and kisses him roughly, biting his lip, "I know what you're doing, Tiger," she whispers as she pinches his ear, "And it's not going to work. If you don't want to marry me, that's fine. But you aren't going to get away with not telling me why you say you can't."

So he rests back against her, resigned to the conversation he sought to avoid. "Princess, you know I'm yours. My whole life, I've never let anyone touch me. I never got close to anyone, and that was the way I  liked it. And then you happened, you broke me open and got inside; I can't go back to what I was before. I can't live without you. And not in some sappy romantic way, I mean I need you for my own survival. I'm married to you; you don't need a piece of paper to prove or enforce it."

Eleanor smiles as she runs her fingers through his hair. No matter how long they are together, she never loses her sense of wonder at him, his beauty, his strangeness and alienation, and the almost intimidating force that is his devotion to her. "I'm not worried about you leaving me, Tiger," she says, "But I do worry about your situation if something were to happen to me. My trust fund doesn't mature until I turn 25. While I'm unmarried, that money would go to my mother, not you. And I'd want it to be yours."

"This is about your money?" Justin asks, surprised to find himself hurt by this revelation.

She laughs lightly. "My mother would say that marriage is always about money. But, it's not like I'm proposing a marriage of convenience entirely. I do love you Justin, and I want to give you everything I have."

"I have you. The rest..." he waves his hand dismissively at her wealth and worldly concerns, "Honestly, Elle, I don't like talking about anything happening to you. Having your money wouldn't..." he stops because he can't go on with that line of thought. Just imagining her gone, forever, tightens his heart, spreads emptiness and despair through him.

"It's all right, Tiger, I'm not going anywhere," she soothes as she pets him, "I won't press on the marriage issue. But I do want to know you said we can't get married."

Justin sighs, "I don't legally exist," he says, "My whole identity is a lie. I've changed my name at least a dozen times since I went off on my own. I get fake IDs, but I have no birth certificate, no social security number."

"What's your real name?" she asks.

"Names are just labels, Princess. You call me whatever you want, and I'll come."

"Sorry I'm late," Astrid says, in her slightly exasperated, put out tone,  leaning on the bar beside him, "The traffic was insane. Are you going to buy me a drink, or what?"

Gavin turns to the bartender and orders Astrid a drink.

"You know, you don't have to treat our relationship like a punishment," Astrid sighs, "Since you're forced to be with me, you might as well get some pleasure out of it." Having an image to maintain has kept Astrid faithful to her supposed partner, but the fact that Gavin won't touch her beyond what's necessary to make a convincing public appearance has left her celibate for longer than she cares to be.

"I can't imagine anything I'd find less pleasing than being with you," Gavin says, "And it's time for us to end this charade."

"What?" she exclaims, purposefully loud enough to be heard throughout the room, "You're leaving me? You're breaking my heart!"

"Cut the drama," Gavin says under his breath, "There's no audience here to appreciate it. I'm tired of living this way, and I'm moving on."

"I don't think so," she hisses, dropping the broken hearted act since there really is no one here to notice it but the bartender, the pianist and one lone barfly, "We had a deal. If you break it, I will go to the media."

"And tell them what?" Gavin asks, "The whole drugging thing is kind of unbelievable at this point, since you've been going out with me, in public, for weeks."

Astrid pouts, "I can still tell them about your sick perversions," she threatens.

"Do your worst," he dares her, "I can live with it, as long as you are out of my life."

His 'date' cut short, Gavin goes home early, and watches night fall over the city. Whatever revenge Astrid has planned, he's free now.

"It used to be a gym," Eleanor explains, "But it's perfect for our gallery. There's even a deck out back to display sculptures," She moved quickly on his plan to open a new gallery, and has scouted out several locations, this one being the best of the lot. "The lease is a little higher than you wanted..."

"That's fine," Gavin says, "This space is perfect. I think we should take it."

"I was thinking we could call it 'Cicatrice'," Eleanor says.

"What does that mean?"

"It's French, it means 'scar'."

"Perfect," Gavin agrees, "Let's move on this."

"I've established relationships with some of the artists who show in Mercedes' gallery; I might be able to convince them to move along with me."

Gavin laughs, "The cut throat world of art. I'm glad I have you to handle the business, Eleanor."

Gavin has left Regan alone these past weeks while he got his own life in order. Now, with Astrid out of his life, more or less, as she continues to spread her lies about him to any media outlet that will listen to her, it's time to see her again. She's playing in a production of Lysistrata in a small North Hollywood theater, and Gavin attends the opening night show with his acting coach and her friend, Chance.

The theater is more than small, it's tiny, intimate, and the actors come out in costume when it's over to greet the audience. Regan heads straight for him.

"So, I've heard a rumor that you're into gerbils," she says with a laugh.

"I hadn't heard that one," he sighs, "My agent has been going nuts with the damage control on this."

"Well, I was sorry to hear you'd broken up with Astrid. You were such a sweet couple," she says with a wicked smile, "I thought you two were forever."

"She's probably the biggest mistake I'd ever made in my life," Gavin admits.

"And now you're expecting me to just jump into your arms?" Regan asks.

"I'm not expecting anything," he says, "But I was hoping you'd agree to spend an afternoon with me."

I've added more pictures to the Breaking Immersion page

Apologies to Daijah for not presenting more of Lysistrata. I just couldn't fit it in and do it justice. In compensation, have this video:
Lysistrata, with phallii

Friday, June 22, 2012

Chapter 71: Grab the Handle and Not the Blade

"I don't know, Regan," Violet says, "If you hold sleeping with Astrid against every guy that's had her, you'd have to give up on all our of male friends. The straight ones, anyway."

"It's not just that he had sex with her," Regan answers, "It's...he's just not who I thought he was."

"Who did you think he was?"

"A decent person. Real, you know? Not some fake Hollywood asshole."

"So, he turns out to be a dick, and now you don't talk to him. It seems like that should be the end of it, right?"

"It is."

"Except for all this moping," Violet says, nudging her friend meaningfully, "Maybe you've been spending too much time with Hollywood drama queens and you're becoming one of them. Or maybe this guy meant more to you than you're admitting."

"He was just a friend, if that. I was helping him with his scenes."

"If you say so," Violet answers, rolling her eyes.

"Why do you keep this painting of her hanging here?" Astrid demands.

"It's my painting," Gavin answers simply.

"She doesn't even like you, you know. She's a theater snob; she hates both of us on principle."

"I'm not taking it down, Astrid," he says firmly, "There's no reason for you to be in here anyway. No paparazzi around to take our picture." Blackmailed into a relationship with her, Gavin's not about to start opening up to her about his feelings for another woman. He knows Astrid  doesn't love him, and her little fit of jealousy over the other woman's image is nothing more than vanity; she cannot stand to be second place. 

Astrid tosses her hair and flounces out of his studio, leaving Gavin to paint in peace. If Regan does hate him on principle, Gavin can't find it in himself to blame her for that; he's not all that  happy with himself these days. What he would like is a chance to talk to her, to find a way to make right what he wronged. But Regan is rarely on set anymore, with most of her few scenes shot and  done with, and she refuses to take his calls. He'd probably have a better chance at  getting a hold of Tori, who has every reason to despise him. He takes a strange sort of comfort in the extremity of Regan's anger at him, for she would not have felt the sting of his affair with Astrid so deeply if she didn't have some feelings for him, and when this thing with Astrid ends, as it inevitably will, there remains the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation with the woman he actually wants.

"I think you're ready to join our workshop," Chance, the acting coach the studio hired for him informs him after their latest session. He doesn't seem to remember the one workshop Gavin had attended in this very apartment with Regan, not all that long ago, and Gavin has chosen not to remind him of their previous meeting, mostly because he'd rather not have to explain why Regan is no longer speaking to him.

"I'm not sure I'm ready for that," Gavin says, wondering if Regan will be there, and if surprising her like that will help or hurt his cause.

"You need to do this sometime," Chance says, "And I think this is your time. You just have to put yourself out there."

"Gavin! What are you doing here?" Regan demands when he and Chance show up at her place for their workshop. "Thanks for not telling me you were bringing him along," she says, turning to Chance.

"Maybe I should go," Gavin suggests.

"I don't know what you did to make her so pissed at you," Chance says, "But I'll make it right."

Gavin wishes it were that easy.

"So, what is he to you? Ex-boyfriend?" Chance asks Regan in a hushed tone as Gavin joins the others on the couch.

"No. I worked on a movie with him."

"So you're totally over-reacting. I'm sorry I didn't mention I was bringing a student, but I'm getting paid to coach him, and I'd appreciate you not making such a big deal of it."

Regan bites her lip. Chance is right, of course, she is making a much bigger drama of this than is necessary. She should be able to be in a room with Gavin without freaking out about it. She could be in  the company of her most hated ex-lovers without making a fuss, and given the small theater circles she moves in, she often finds herself in exactly that position. So what is her problem with Gavin? That's not a question she dares give any deep thought to. "Yes, of course," she says, trying to convince herself more than Chance,  "I was just surprised to see him. I'm fine."

Regan and Hunter take the first turn at performing. They've been cast in the roles of Myrrhine and her husband Kinesias in a small theater production of Lysistrata, and rehearse one of their scenes together for the group.

Gavin and Chance take the next turn. They've rehearsed this scene over again until Chance felt Gavin was good enough to perform it in front of even this small audience. And the hard work pays off, as Gavin's acting skills have increased dramatically under Chance's tutelage. Regan finds herself actually moved by his performance, something she never thought possible.

"You're acting has improved," she comments, joining him out on her small balcony.

"Chance has really helped," Gavin answers, "And you had some influence on me."

"I doubt I had anything to do with it," she laughs, "A good teacher instills confidence in a student. I always thought you were hopeless."

Gavin takes her criticism with a smile, "I'm trying to be better at it, but I'd still rather be painting. Listen, I thought I might run into you at one of these things, but I didn't know we were actually coming to your house."

"You never mentioned me to Chance at all?" she asks.

"What would I have said?" he asks in return, "How would you explain why it is that you won't talk to me?" His question gets no answer. "I'd love to hear your reasons, Regan," he persists, "Because I think about you all the time." He pauses again, waiting for a response that doesn't come, "I have my own theory, maybe you could tell me if I'm right or wrong."

"I don't care what you think," she says, her voice meek and small.

"I think you do care," Gavin answers, standing in front of her so she's pinned against the railing, "I think my being with Astrid hurt you because you have feelings for me." He moves closer to her, their faces nearly touching, and, despite herself, her arms instinctively wrap around his waist, holding him there. "I think I broke your heart."

She stands still and silent, encircled in his arms, wanting to deny every word he speaks, but unable to do it, not even to herself.

"If I hadn't been so blind, I would have seen it before," he continues, his hands moving up to caress her shoulders, her face, her hair, "I would have acknowledged my own feeling for you, and everything would have been different." He leans in closer to her, her eyes close and her lips part, waiting for his kiss.

But before he can taste her lips, she shoves him away. "Get off me," she snarls. "The only feeling I have for you is contempt. Honestly, did you think I'd fall for your lies while you're having avery public relationship with Astrid? I know your type, Gavin, and I'm not having it."

"I'm sorry, I got caught up in the moment," Gavin apologizes, undeterred by her rejection, "I don't blame you for hating me." She crosses one arm across her torso defensively, but doesn't remove his hand on her other arm as he speaks.

"You, your friendship, has meant a lot to me," he says, looking her in her emerald green eyes, "I lost your respect and I don't expect to get it back so easily. But I will, Regan. You are worth every effort I can make to set this right between us." He doesn't wait for  response this time; there can be no answer until he acts on his promise. Nothing can be made right with her until he's made peace with himself.

As he's chopping the ingredients for the Dim Sum he's preparing for lunch, Justin tosses the knife into the air.

It spins over his head, rising up, and the coming down. He'll have to be very careful to catch it at just the right moment, to grab the handle and not the blade.

It could end in a bloody mess, but it never does.

Justin's knife-throwing performance goes unnoticed by Eleanor and Gavin, who chat over wine as they wait for lunch.

"The most important thing to me is anonymity," Gavin says, "I'll put up the money, but I want everything in your name. I don't want it to be some movie star's gallery, some celebrity hobby. I want a legitimate space for art that will be taken seriously."

"You're putting a lot of trust in me," Eleanor observes.

"Of course I trust you, you and Justin are some of my oldest friends."

Eleanor thinks about the way Justin once ran off with the rent money and car belonging to people who considered him a friend, but Gavin doesn't need to know about that. The opportunity he's offering her is too good to pass up, partnership in a new gallery, and complete curatorial control, with no money of her own invested in the endeavor. The only say Gavin is asking is to host his own work once a year.

"I can't tell you how much I miss your cooking," Gavin comments to Justin as they sit for lunch, "I've been to the best restaurants in the city, but nothing compares to what you can do."

"I don't want it to be in Beverly Hills," Eleanor says, having made up her mind to enter into a partnership with Gavin.

"Of course not," Gavin agrees, "Silver Lake would be ideal."

"Los Feliz," Eleanor suggests. "Slightly more upscale, but with the right bohemian vibe."

"Find the space, and I'll get the lease," Gavin agrees, happy to have taken the first steps toward taking charge of his own life. He can't just walk away from the acting job he's contracted to, and he's even begun to enjoy it enough to continue pursuing it when this current film is complete. But his art was always his priority, and he's not going to neglect it any more. Owning a gallery where he can show his work without enduring the publicity machine any other gallery would start up while hosting a celebrity's work is a huge step in the right direction. 

"I'll be so happy to be done with Mercedes Arthag and her gallery forever," Eleanor says as she explains Gavin's plan to Justin after he's left them, "And we'll be able to host your work there without  her getting a piece of it." She smiles as she considers the future opening in front of her. She may not even need to go back to school at this point, with the trajectory her career has taken. High on her excitement, she gives voice to an idea that she's been toying with for the last few weeks,  "You know, this might be a good time for us to get married."

"Princess, you know I would do anything for you. But I don't think we can do that."