Thursday, September 20, 2012

Chapter 84: Discarded Scenes

Eleanor came down from her office when her receptionist paged her, saying there was someone here looking for.  She was expecting an artist to drop of her portfolio for her consideration, but as soon as she saw the woman looking art Justin's art while she waited for her, Eleanor knew. The resemblance to Justin was so obvious, there's was no way this was anyone other than Jeanette.

Eleanor approaches and introduces herself.

"You know something about Justin?' Jeanette asks, wasting no time in getting to what she came for, "This is his work?"

 "I was expecting you to call me, not just show up at my gallery. In fact, I never said who or where I was, I just left a phone number with your agent."

Jeanette's small smile is just like her brother's "I've been searching for my brother since he disappeared, Ms. Thorne. I know how to investigate a person's identity and location with just a phone number. I had to come myself, as soon as possible, before he gets away from me again. Every time I got close to finding him, he'd disappear again."

"Come with me," Eleanor says, planning to continue this discussion in her office, "You understand, before Ican give you any information, I have to know what it is you want with Justin," Eleanor says as they walk together.

"He's my long lost brother; what do you think I want?" Jeanette asks, raining her brow in a very Justin-like manner.

"You weren't speaking when he left. And you end your book with the main character attending her long lost brother's execution on death row. I don't know what you want, but I do know that if you have any intention of opening old wounds or making any trouble for him, I won't let you near him.

"You're very protective of him, for an agent," Jeanette observes, looking at her knowingly.

He's never been one for surprises, but Justin decided the news he had to give Eleanor was important enough to warrant an unscheduled visit to her office. When he comes through the door, the first thing he sees is Eleanor deep in conversation with his sister.

"Oh, Justin," Eleanor exclaims when she turns to see him.

"It's really you," Jeanette murmurs, "After all this time."

Jeanette make a move toward him, to touch him, r perhaps even embrace him, but Justin grunts in displeasure and turns away, walking up the stairs in quick strides, casting one meaningful glance down at Eleanor on the way up.

"Excuse me," Eleanor breathes a quick apology to Jeanette before she rushes after him, "I have to go..."

"I told you to leave this alone!" he shouts when she joins him in her office.

"It wasn't supposed to go like this," Eleanor explains, "I read a book she wrote, about her long search for her missing brother, and I thought, since she was so important to you, it would be good to reunite yo with her. I gave her agent my number here so I could talk to her, find out how she felt about you, to gauge whether or not it would be a good idea. But she just showed up here...and then you showed up."

"This wouldn't have happened at all if you'd just done as I asked and left it alone," Justin points out.

"I know," Eleanor says, sinking into the chair behind her, "I'm sorry," she sobs.

"Hey," Justin says gently as he kneels in front of her, "Why are you crying?" She's not a crier, he knows that, so whatever made her cry must be a pretty big deal.

"I've worked so hard, and it's taken so long, to get you to open just a little for me. And now, it's all ruined. You'll never trust me again," she sobs, letting her tears fall freely.

"Elle, Princess," he says softly, lifting from the chair and into his arms, "We're a lot stronger than that. One little disagreement isn't going to break us."

"I shouldn't have interfered. I just wanted..."

"You wanted to do something for me, you thought I needed," Justin finishes for her, "It's all right, Elle."

"I was afraid I would lose you forever," she says as her tears dry away.

"Not a chance," Justin says, kissing her, "I came here to tell you I've made arrangements for our wedding."

"Justin?" Jeanette says as she taps lightly on the office door, "Please talk to me."

Jeanette had written thousands of reunion scenes with her brother. The one that made it into print, the one that gave the most satisfying ending to her fictionalized life story, was the ending she most feared for him, left out on his own to deal with his sometimes violent and often volatile nature without help. But even as differently as his life played out from her worst imaginings, this reunion is also most similar in tone to the one she published. All her discarded scenes were emotional, with arguments, tears and tight embraces. The death row scene was cold, with no emotion, no contact between the characters, herself and her brother.

He looks at her warily, his posture guarded, like he's ready to flee. And after all the dialogue she's written for this scene, Jeanette finds herself with nothing to say, after all. He survived without her, as she had survived without him. They were close once, but years of distance have worn that away.

"I'm getting married," Justin says, breaking the silence, "You've met Eleanor, my fiancee."


I know, my updates to this story have become sporadic. I am in the process of winding down this story; there will be a few more chapters to wrap up most of the loose ends, and then I'll cap it off with a '5 years later' set of epilogue chapters that looks back in on everyone. After a lot of thought, I decided that ending the story was preferable to keeping on with it, forcing new dramas onto the characters or constantly introducing new characters while letting the characters with resolved stories take secondary roles. While this story is very like a soap opera, I don't want to see it go down the road most soaps take, injecting drama onto the characters' lives just for the sake of drama. 

I'll save all my thanks and goodbyes to all my readers for when this story actually ends, but I did want to alert everyone that the end is coming.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Chapter 83: A Matter of Pride

"Hey, what's up?" Coby asks, coming home to find Stina out on the balcony, watching the sun set.

"I got an internship," she says, not looking at him, "In Paris."

"What, Paris, France?" he asks.

"Well, not Paris, Texas," she laughs, her smile weak and wavering as she meets his eyes. "Coby, this is important, for my future, my career." She swallows those words hard, future and carer being two subjects she'd always swore she would never give a thought to. But she's finally figured out what she wants to do with her life, to be a fashion designer, and this internship is the first step to getting there.

"That's pretty far away," Coby says, wrapping himself around her as though he can hold her in place, "How long will you be gone?"

"The internship is for a year," she says, "After that...I might stay, or go to New York..."

"All right, I gotcha," Coby sighs, "You're saying goodbye."

"I don't want to," she says, her lips trembling, "You could come with me."

"You know that won't work," he says, "I have to be where the surf is. How long do we have?"

"I leave next month."

"All right, we have one month for us. Then, it's goodbye."

"Daddy!" Portia spins around when she hears her father enter the kitchen, "Where were you last night? I was so worried about you."

She puts down her cup to lean in and kiss Bill on the cheek, "You didn't answer my calls, all night. Where were you? And where's Rainier?" He put her to bed last night and promised to wait for Bill. While she slept, her father had come in, and Rainier apparently left, but it just isn't like him to leave her hanging like hat, without even a note.

"Rainier left," Bill says gruffly, wishing he could avoid this whole conversation.

"He just left? Did he say anything? And you still haven't told me where you were or why you didn't pick up your phone."

"I was with a friend," Bill answers, dodging the question about Rainier. Kicking him out was not, in retrospect, the best idea. "I fell asleep. I'm sorry, I really didn't mean to worry you."

"You were with a friend? What friend? And how did you just fall asleep? Where were you?"

"Portia..." Bill says, in that tone he uses when he's reprimanding her.

"Don't 'Portia' me!" she snaps. "I'm not a child, you can't just make up some lame story and expect me to swallow it. You were with a woman weren't you. I mean, Mom was running around on you, so it' no wonder you had your thing on the side!"

"Let me explain," Bill says, realizing as the words come out that there is no explanation, what Portia said was right on the money. She looks at him expectantly, waiting for the promised explanatiion, and he chokes.

She raises her hands and lets out an exasperated sigh, "I can't be here right now," she says, "In the houseof lies."

Rainier is just finished shaving when he hears a frantic knocking at his door. Portia must have had a talk with her father this morning, he thinks, as he rushes downstairs to answer the door.

"I'm sorry," Portia sobs, "I didn't know where else to go."

"Come inside," he says, pulling into the apartment, "Tell me what happened."

What happened is pretty much as he expected; Portia confronted her father and realized he'd been with a woman all night, and this new revelation about her father's secret life coming so suddenly after learning about her mother's is tearing her up inside.

"It's all right," he soothes her, holding her close to his chest, "I'll take the day off to stay with you."

Portia raises her head to look him in the eyes, "You've been taking too much time off work to be with me, since..." she drops the sentence before she has to speak the words, admitting out loud that her mother had died, "I can't ask you to take anymore."

"Shush," he says, touching her lips with his finger, "You're more important than my work. I always have time for you."

She smiles and her tears evaporate, "You're too good to me," she says, "Now it's my turn; I'm sending you to work. You know you can't take this much time off and not have it impact your company. I'll be fine, I promise."

"You're sure?" Rainier asks.

She nods, "If it's okay with you, I"ll hang out here until you get home. I'm not in the mood for classes, so I'll just stay here and work on my paper."

Rainier leans in to kiss her gently, just enough to taste her lips before he dresses for work, "I have a couple of friends coming over tonight. I can cancel, if you aren't up to company."

"Oh, don't cancel!" she enthuses, an excited gleam in her eye, "I want to entertain your friends."

Evening comes, and Coby and Stina arrive as expected.

It's not the kind of company Portia was raised to entertain, but she still shines as a hostess, riding on the high of being the lady of the house rather than the daughter.

"So, she's just going, just like that," Coby says when he gets a moment alone with Rainier. "I'm still in shock, it just doesn't seem real."

"I was surprised to see you handling it so well," Rainier says, "You were a mess before, when she..." Rainier just drops that one right there, not wanting to reopen old animosities. "I guess I should be surprised that you even talk to me," he laughs.

"No shit," Coby laughs, "But, you know, you're a better than you make yourself out to be."

"He's totally different with you," Stina remarks, "When he was with me...well, I just felt like a distraction to him, you know? But watching the two of you...I didn't think it was possible for Rainier to fall that hard for anyone. It's nice to see him so happy."

After a few more drinks and small talk, Coby and Stina make their goodbyes.

"You didn't tell me you were with Stina," Portia chides him gently once the guests are gone and they are alone in his room.

"I didn't think it was important," Rainier says, "It's long over. Did she say something to you?" Stina did have a habit of making inappropriate observations, and he's now a little concerned about what she might have said to Portia.

"Just that she was happy to see you really in love for a change," Portia answers.

"She could be a little dense sometimes, but she has this way of seeing right into the heart of things," Rainier says, turning Portia around to rest in his arms.

"It's only three days away," Portia says as they lay back on the bed, "We don't have to wait..."

"We do, chère," he whispers, "Not just for legal reasons. At this point, it's a matter of pride. I haven't been celibate for this long since I was your age. The fact that I've made it this far...well, I have the day marked on my calendar when it ends, and to break down before that day would feel like a failure."

Portia laughs, "Are you expecting to get an achievement for waiting?" she asks.

"I expect to be sainted, I think," he answers.

The pounding on his door comes early in the morning, much as he expected. Portia had turned off her phone early in the evening, knowing her father would try to call her. Rainier had try to convince it would be better to just answer it, but she was determined to give her father a taste of the worry she had felt waiting for him.

"Portia's car is parked in your driveway," Bill says, like he's accusing Rainier of something.

"That's because she spent the night here," Rainier answers flatly.

"I could have you arrested!" 

Rainier sighs. This is getting old. "You could, but the simplest medical exam would prove that nothing illegal happened here. I'm not some testosterone fueled frat boy who can't control himself. And you know, Bill, that that is exactly who your daughter would be with right now if it weren't for me. Knowing that, and knowing that Portia will never forgive you if you try to have me hauled off, do you really want to get the police involved?"

Bill continue to frown, but he doesn't have any real response, knowing how very right Rainier is. If he had caved, begged Bill for mercy, he would have lost respect for him, but, as much as he hates being confronted, Bill has to admit to himself that Rainier is the only guy Portia has ever dated that he felt was  even remotely worthy of her.

"You screwed up, BIll," Rainier continues when Bill gives no answer, "You can either be a man and own your mistake, or you can stick to it and let it take you down."

Waking to an empty bed, Portia comes down stairs to find her father at the door.

She makes a show of kissing Rainier affectionately on the cheek. "Good morning, sweetheart," she whispers.

Then she turns to her father, daring him to criticize her.

"Portia, I came apologize to you. And to Rainier," Bill says, taking Rainier's advice.


Thanks to Zhippidy for Portia and Bill's cheek kiss pose. =D