"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.
"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.