"Let me take your shoes off," Rainier says as Portia stretches her leg out onto his lap.
Her shoes drop to the floor and she gives a little moan as Rainier massages her foot. She smiles, just a little, and that in turn makes him smile, because it's been days since he's seen any hint of happiness from her.
It doesn't last long, of course. They only just returned from her mother's funeral, and grief hangs in the air.
"It's like I never even knew her," Portia say, tears welling up again, her smile gone. The police reports have been made public, and Portia has had to learn more about her mother than any girl should know. "How did this happen? What went wrong?"
There aren't any answers to questions like those, so Rainier doesn't even attempt it. All he can do is hold her as she cries, soothe her words with mean nothing, and wait for time to dull the pain.
"The public defender he's been assigned is one of the worst lawyers I've even encountered," Corrine says, "He's going down, there's no doubt about that."
Bill nods vacantly. Though Corrine has often brought his family's legal issues into bed, it only now feels wrong to talk about anything to do with his wife while he's with her. It's only a few days after Mercedes is buried that LAPD catches the prostitute she had been with on her last day of life in a sting operation. If nothing else, he'll be convicted for prostitution and drug possession, but the D.A. wants a manslaughter charge;there haven't been any high profile gang arrests lately, and elections are coming up.
"Bring your crying daughter to the witness stand, and manslaughter is a slam dunk," Corrine continues.
"Portia stays out of this," Bill says, turning to sweep Corrine down against the pillows, "If I were here to talk business," he says, "I would have met you in my office."
It's past midnight, and Rainier is working at home, trying to make up for the hours he's lost by being with Portia during this family crisis.
"My father hasn't come home yet, and his phone is kicking me straight to voice mail," Portia sobs into his phone as soon as he answers its ring. "I'm so afraid, something has happened to him. Like...like my mother."
"I'll be right there."
She greets him with a tight embrace when he arrives, crying onto his shoulder. "I called the police, but they said they can't do anything," she sobs.
"I'm sure he's fine," Rainier assures her as they sit together in Bill's office to wait. He suspects, but doesn't say, that he's probably with someone, that his phone has been turned off so he's not interrupted. "He'll be home any time now, you'll see."
Portia tries to share his optimism, but her fears won't dispel so easily, and in moments she's crying again. "What if...what if he's lying unconscious somewhere? He might die while we're just sitting here," she sobs.
"Don't do this to yourself," he says softly, caressing her neck, "This is hard for you, I know, losing your mother. And it's hard for him to, to lose his wife. He just might need some time to himself. When my father..." Rainier starts, but drops it just as quickly.
"When your father what?" she prompts him, he tears momentarily drying as her curiosity takes hold.
It's not something Rainier likes to talk about, but if it will distract her from her own fears and misery for even a moment, it's worth reliving it for her. "My father had a hard time after my mother died," he tells her, "He stopped working, stopped living, really, beyond just going through the motions. He'd disappear for days, sometimes. It got so bad, I had to go live with my aunt. He didn't like being around me, because I reminded him of what he lost."
"That's so sad," Portia whispers, "What happened to him?"
"He became ill," Rainier says vaguely, because telling her how his father drank himself to death probably isn't the best thing to help her right now.
He tilts her face toward him for a gentle kiss, "Don't worry about your father. He's a strong man, and he loves you. Everything will be all right," he promises.
He coaxes her down to rest her head on his lap, holding her while the hours pass. With every minute that goes by, Rainier's anger grows. Though he spoke to her of patience and tolerance, Rainier has neither for a man that would leave his child sleepless with worry, without so much as calling her with some excuse for his absence.
When Portia finally drops off into sleep, Rainier carries her up to her bed.
She makes a feeble protest as he lays her down, insisting that she wants to wait for her father, but he shushes her with a kiss and a caress. "You need to sleep," he whispers, "I'll wait for your father."
It's yet another hour of waiting alone before Bill comes in. Rainier confronts him as soon as he's in the door.
"What are you doing here?" Bill demands.
"I'm here because your daughter called me. She's been sick with worry all night, afraid you were dead in some hotel room. What were thinking, staying out all night without letting her know you'd be gone?"
"This is none of your business!" Bill yells at him.
"Anything to do with Portia is my business," Rainier answers, his voice cold, hard and edged with anger. "I don't care what you were doing, or who you were doing it with, but you can't just leave Portia here to worry about you like that."
The words cut through Bill, sharpened by his own guilt. He fell asleep with Corrine, but that's no excuse. His long standing affair surely contributed to the growing distance between himself and his wife. If he had been with her more, rather than with his lover, if he'd been paying attention to her, he might have seen the signs. The self doubt eats at him, and he knows he's in the wrong here, but he can't bring himself to admit it, and instead turns the anger outward toward the man accusing him of the crime he knows damn well he's committed.
"Get out," Bill snarls, "Out of my house. Out of my life."
"I'll go, for now," Rainier says, walking out the door, "But I'll never be out of your life. Remember this; I'm the one your daughter calls when you've failed her."