"I hope you're all in the mood for some serious drinking," Rainier says as he pours drinks for his guests. After his game went gold and he got in a few days of solid sleep, he decided he needed a change, got the mess his hair was becoming cut back into something more manageable, and bought a condo in Santa Monica. A risky thing to do, given that the game hasn't been released and may not bring the money he anticipates having, but Rainier was never one to shy away from risk. Except one, he thinks, and tries to shake off the thought of her. August dwindles and September looms just days ahead, with October and their birthday following on. It's not long to wait, he tells himself, as long as she doesn't meet some new guy when she starts college, and forgets about him...
The two couples gather in his living room with their drinks, and Rainier starts to prepare dinner, but is interrupted by his phone.
"Rainier," she says his name, and he can hear the smile in her voice.
"Hang on," he says to her, "Dag, shoes off my new furniture," he calls out over the counters.
"Are you having a party?" Portia asks when he returns his attention to his phone call.
"If you can call it that," he answers, "It's just two couples."
"And what about you, no date for your own party?" she teases.
"I'm saving myself for someone special," he teases her back.
"So special that you can't invite her to your party?" she says, a bitterness underlying her joking tone.
"Portia," he sighs, "You know we can't see each other socially until..."
"Not even around other people?" she asks, "Or are you embarrassed about being with me?"
"You know it's not like that," he says, "You're more mature than at least half the people here tonight. I want you to be here, more than anything, chère."
"Then why aren't I there?' she asks.
"Because we made a deal, and I'm trying to stick to it. But if you want to come, come."
"No," she says, "Forget it. I'm sorry I called." And then she cuts off.
Rainier returns to making dinner for his guests. He'd already been failing at putting her out of his mind enough to entertain his guests, and her call and its bad ending crushed any possibility of that happening.
Over dinner, Rainier and Dag tell Stina about their plans for a new game, about dating, shopping for clothes, and furnishing your home. "We were hoping to take you on as a consultant for this project," Rainier concludes.
"Really?" she asks, "I've got school starting up again in few days..."
"We won't need you to come in on any set schedule," Rainier says, "Come into my office this week and we can talk terms. I don't want to turn this party into a business meeting."
"Dude, what's up?" Coby asks him, "You've been kind of down all night."
"I'm fine," Rainier says.
"You know you haven't made a single smart ass comment all night? You are not fine. You're hardly even here, and this is your party."
"I'm just...torn up about her. I want her, I'm ready to spend my life with her. But she's so young, and I feel like such a fool to be so crazy about her."
"Okay, yeah, I know where you're coming from," Coby says, "Just, go for whatever makes you happy. Don't over think it. You'll make yourself crazy."
Rainier smiles, lifts his glass to Coby, "I'm having a hard time picturing you over thinking anything, Sheffield."
Coby laughs, "There's the smart ass. I knew you were in there somewhere."
After his guests leave, quiet falls over his apartment. He's lived alone long enough that he should be used to it, but lately, the silence feels more and more like the absence of someone who should be there.
"I know it's late," he says when she answers her phone, "I hope I didn't wake you."
"I'm up," she says, her voice wavering, "I'm glad you called. When we talked before..." she trails off, choking away a sob.
"Are you crying, chère?" he asks gently.
"No," she says, and then sobs again, "Maybe a little."
"Merde," he breathes, "I didn't mean..."
"I just felt so bad about the way I hung up on you. You were right, we have a deal. I shouldn't have pushed. This waiting is just so hard."
"Je sais," he sighs, "Tu me manques. I wish you were here, so I could hold you, kiss your tears away."
"Me too," she says, "But just your voice is enough to make me smile. I'll just have to imagine the rest."
Just little over a month to wait, he tells himself as he falls heavily into his bed, his arm reaching out for her as sleep takes him. She's not there now, but soon...
Check out the Breaking Immersion section for some pics of Rainier's new apt. I didn't build the building, but I gutted the original interior and spent hours decorating. And I'm really happy with it.