Thursday, May 19, 2016

Studio Time: Thirty-Two

In case of rain

Rayne parked along the empty road, fumbling with the unfamiliar clutch and scraping the Jag’s tires against the curb outside her parent’s home.  It was quiet and mild tonight.  She heard nothing but the familiar rattle of palm fronds overhead and the water lapping the beach on the other side of the house - the endless gentle background noise of the peninsula.  It had been a long day.  For the first time in two years she felt relief just sitting outside the house and thinking that maybe she could go in and find her old bed and go to sleep.

There was a red umbrella in the passenger seat.  After Duff’s bombshell that morning, she had crept around his place warily, avoiding him, wondering if he expected her to do something, knowing he was watching her and struggling with the same awkwardness.  His timing had been terrible.  Rayne didn’t know if she should go ahead and make the bed, put dishes in the dishwasher, answer the phone, or just sit on the couch and wait for him to announce it was time to tie her up.

Duff took the two of them out of there.  They’d taken the train to the Crossings where they’d walked through the City Center to the gardens, fed ducks, read booklets on the plants, donated change to save rare cacti, and ate ice cream.  Duff had left her on a park bench while he walked across the street to a little antique shop and returned with diamond earrings, and the red umbrella.  The earrings, he’d explained as he slipped them gently into her earlobes, had been purchased a few days ago.  The umbrella he simply wanted her to have.

She’d left it in the car thinking it might rain this evening. 

She rested her forehead on the steering wheel of his car.  She could love him.  She might already love him.  

Her father was waiting for her on the landing, and as always just his presence comforted her.  Rayne breathed a little easier as she walked around the back of the Jag, avoiding looking at the tires, hoping she hadn’t ripped a hole in one of them.

“Hi Dad.”

“Hey Rainie.”  Rayne threw her arms around his neck in a light embrace, her father gently patting her back.  “You okay?”

“Yes, sorry I’m late, I had to borrow Duff’s car and the clutch is kind of funky.  I should have texted, I’m really sorry.”

“It’s okay, you’re not that late.”  He walked out onto the sidewalk and looked at the Jag a little more closely.  “Where’s your car, Rainie?”

It was where she’d left it, in the dirt and grass beside the house on Sandy Point.  Thinking his objection was probably more about the car’s actual owner than the absence of her car, she avoided the borrowing part and truthfully explained why she wasn’t driving her own.  “I haven’t picked it up yet.  The car’s fine Dad, I just don’t want to go back there right now to get it.”

Her father continued to look at the car for a moment, silent, his face shadowed.  “All right.  If you don’t want to go back there at all, I’ll take care of it.  If you want the car, we’ll work out how to get it, maybe send your brothers.  Come on, let’s go inside.”

He started up the stairs.  “Watch your step.  The power’s been bouncing on and off across the whole damned peninsula and it gets dark when it goes out.”

The power always went on and off on the peninsula and even when it stayed on it could suddenly brown out.  Her father several steps above her already, long strides, steps taken two at a time, Rayne lagged behind.  She hadn’t eaten and the flight up looked steep.  Come on, she told herself.  You’ve climbed those stairs when you were drunk on your ass.   Walk.

The front door swung shut behind them, the little foyer between the plants in the atrium and the living room clearer than usual, the whole space sort of dim.  The windows were open onto the deck, curtains blowing, the smell and taste of the air so familiar, it made her feel strange.  It wasn’t her home, really hadn’t been her home for a while, but it still kind of felt like her home. 

It was also very quiet.  “Where’s Mom and Hugs?”

“Your mother’s up in the Cloud Islands working on the house and Hugs is over at Slim’s house with Garrett – I wanted to give us some privacy.”  He nodded toward the couch facing the deck.  It was the ‘good’ couch, the one people in the family grabbed first because of the view.  “Have a seat.  Can I get you something to drink? We have about a dozen different kinds of soda or there’s water, or I can make coffee.  Hugs made some cookies for you, there on the platter on the coffee table.”

“No thanks, I’m fine.  I ate before I came,” she lied.  “I’m learning how to cook but I’m sure Hugs’ cookies are better than anything I can make yet.”  A stack of schoolbooks holding Hugs’ old bunny sugar bowl stood next to the cookies and on top of some of her father’s staff paper.  She could see the notes he had made in his long left-handed scrawl. 

“They’re definitely good.  You have to eat at least one or you’ll hurt her feelings.”   He grinned at her.  “Cooking’s a good thing to learn, at least you’ll know how to cook something other than eggs.”  It was an old joke, Dad and his one dish, those scrambled eggs.  She had eaten so many eggs when she was a child but didn’t remember ever getting tired of them.  It was kind of a happy meal because the only time she got it was when he was home, when he wasn’t away performing, so it didn’t matter if that’s all he could cook as long as he was there to cook them.  

Watching her, leaning forward, he paused as if trying to come up with the right words or trying to repeat something he’d rehearsed.  Or both.

“Rayne, about Jimmy, I’m really sorry, and I’m sorry if I’ve seemed unsympathetic.  I know it’s a shock, and I know how close you were, and I know how lost you can feel when something like this happens.  You’ve got a few things on your mind, the issues you raised with Slim, and I want to hear them and find out if I can help.  I don’t know a lot except what I’ve heard on the news, some crazy gossip along with pretty limited facts.  What happened and what can I do?”

If he had rehearsed any of that, it didn’t come across that way.  She had rehearsed some on her own and carefully folded her hands now, looking at her fingers, trying to find a way to tell him about ‘issues’.  That’s probably what Slim called them.  Slim was probably concerned about the impact on the ‘stakeholders’ because it’s not every day one of your new artists dies of an overdose, the artist who just happened to be dating one of the company owners.   It looks bad.  It looks like an issue.

Her father was quiet, waiting.

“Did you know,” she said, starting out carefully then abandoning any attempt to follow her script.   “Dad, Jimmy died out on the beach behind his house all by himself while I was five minutes away with another man.  He was holding my photo when they found him.  I left him when he was still fighting to stay sober and when I did, he died.  I should not have left him alone like that, I should never have done that.  That’s the first issue.”

The tears started.  She didn’t have a tissue but she wasn’t wearing eye makeup, and Jimmy deserved all the tears she could give him.

She saw her father pull in a deep breath.  “Were you going to marry him?” he asked.  “Did you want that kind of commitment?  Would you have been willing to watch him all the time to make sure he didn’t use again?  It’s horrible sweetheart, I know it’s bad, but you can’t put a leash on a grown man, and you probably kept him alive longer than he would have lived if he hadn’t met you in the first place.  Can’t you find a way to be fair to yourself?”

Unable to stay seated, Rayne got up, slid around the end table and leaned on the back of the couch for support.  No she wasn’t going to marry Jimmy and yes she understood nobody could watch him all the time.  It didn’t absolve her of any guilt, and it didn’t mean she could walk away from the damage whether or not any of it was her fault.

“You and Slim didn’t have to void that contract.  You did it deliberately.  Jimmy has a sister who can’t come up to bury him because she doesn’t have the money.  The rest of the guys in the band were counting on something, maybe not a lot but something, and they can't even pay the bills they ran up to try to do the album.  People think I did something wrong just for being there and being your daughter.  This is totally messed up, and I want you to tell me why."

Crossing his arms, the ink standing out on his biceps, her father sat back and suddenly reminded her of his other persona, the rock star, the frontman for Mercury Rising.  He'd entered 'stop the bullshit' mode.  His eyes narrowed and her father's famous rough voice had a firm edge to it.  “Slim and I voided the contract because the band violated the terms.   It was a business contract not a sixth grade homework assignment they didn’t complete.  I’ve heard a little about his sister, and if you give me the details, I’ll do something for her, but Rayne, you’re spinning conspiracy theories and you need to cut it out.”

She choked, bit down hard on her lip and looked back at him, the man she’d loved more than anybody else in her whole life.  “Someone I cared about a lot just died, and people are saying I drove him to it, that I stole from him,  I don’t even know where I’m living right now, and you want to tell me I’m making things up.  Why are you doing this?”

“Rainie, no, I’m not saying you’re making anything up, I’m just saying you don’t understand – “

She stood over Hugs’ platter of cookies and cut him off.  “You set Jimmy up.  You presented a contract that you hoped would fail, and you made sure he knew that you didn’t want him.  How do you think that made him feel?  That should have been one of the happiest days of his life, the great Cooper Stanfield showing up to offer him a contract, but it wasn’t anything like that, was it Dad?   You were forced to offer it.  It was a shotgun wedding and Gemma Wilson was holding the gun.  Now what am I making up?”  

Rayne tripped as she tried to stride right across the room past the second best couch and out through the doors onto the narrow deck.  She had to stop and turn to face her father who of course had gotten up and was following her.

He shoved the table out of the way with a loud scrape of table legs on wood.   “Rayne, come on, calm down, you’re going through a lot right now and you’re blowing things out of proportion.  What you’re describing isn’t reality, not even close.”

“What difference does that make?” she snapped.  “I’m making it all up remember?”

Rayne reached the end of the deck and realized she’d boxed herself into a physical corner, and there was her father bearing down on her looking determined.  Well what did she expect when she’d challenged him?  If she was lucky, she’d get some kind of answer and help.  If not, she’d listen to the same excuses, grind out the next few minutes without collapsing, get in the borrowed car and go back to that house with the ‘playroom’. 

“You’re going to stand here and listen to me.  Can you do that Rainie?  Do you want to sit down?”

She shook her head.  The chairs on the deck would be wet, they were always wet, and even though she was trembling, she felt more in control on her feet.  She may as well stand.

“Okay, “her father started in a calm, steady voice.  “We’ve gone over this before.  I hope this is the last damned time I have to do it.  

"The contract was real Rainie - no fake contract. We expected Jimmy to stay sober and produce an album – nothing nefarious about that.  I wasn’t happy about offering it to him – he was an unreliable drug addict, but I would have made a profit if he had pulled through, so I took the risk.  He knew he was lucky to get it – I didn’t break his heart.  Gemma isn’t pointing a gun at me.  We have our differences, most of them professional, a few personal, but it’s over.  Now you, you’re trying to blame someone for Jimmy’s death – me, Gemma, yourself – when the truth is the man made a choice that killed him and he had been making that same choice for years, he just went too far this time.  Am I making this up as you put it?  Why would I?”

Because of Gemma.

He was wrong about Toad, but she could understand that.  He hadn't known him.  Making wrong assumptions about people you didn't know made more sense than believing crazy things about people you did.

Gemma though...he was still lying about Gemma.  He might get the rest wrong but what he said about Gemma was a total and pretty stupid lie.  She was so tired of people protecting Gemma that if she wasn't somehow tied up with what happened to Jimmy, if her father wasn't obviously afraid of her, she would drop it and just hope the woman strangled in her own web. Rayne pulled back and waited until her mind cooled and cleared before she picked up her point and jabbed him again.   

“It said 'stay sober', it didn’t say don't die.  It’s not the band’s fault he died. And Jimmy’s sister, she needs the money he would have made to travel and to bury him.  It’s wrong, it’s just cruel.”

“I’m sorry, Rainie, I never intended to hurt the rest of the band, and I didn’t know about Jimmy’s sister.  The circumstances surrounding Jimmy's death…I wish you didn’t have to hear that kind of graphic description.  You don't deserve any of this shit.” 

Rayne drew her hand across her cheek, brushing her right ear and unexpectedly touching the diamond earring Duff had placed in her earlobe only a couple of hours ago.   Jimmy would never in a million years have had enough money to buy her diamonds even if he finished the album.  He would not have been able to keep going.  The gift from Duff was no less sweet though - he couldn't be blamed for what Jimmy did not have.

“But you can fix all of it.  You can give the band back their money.  You can give some money to Jimmy’s sister so she can bury him.  Nobody even wants Jimmy’s body.  Woody asked me if I was going to dig a hole myself.”

Her father’s mouth tightened into one hard line.  The wind picked up and he wrapped his arm around her shoulders.  “And you want me to settle money on those assholes? Oh Rainie…I’ll make sure the sister gets help.  Don’t worry about that.”

The band, too. She had to get him to take care of the band. He could just tell Slim to do it, and even if Slim didn't like it, he'd have to do it.  They were technically partners but Slim would do what he told him to do.  Probably.  If he put it the right way.

“And the band?”

He hesitated.  She watched him glance aside, looking out over the deck rail at the water before he went ahead and nodded his head. “The band, too.  I promise.”  

Thinking she was going to cry again, maybe from relief, maybe from sheer exhaustion, Rayne ran her fingers across her eyes and leaned against him.  She could feel his tension and somehow that made her feel worse.

“Why don’t you stay here tonight?  I’ll make up a bed; Hugs will be home soon and she’d love to see you.”

“I can’t. I need to get Duff’s car back.”  

They started back down the long deck past the empty hall on the left, windblown spray coming harder on the right.   Her father brushed at his own face and then held out his hand as if to disguise the gesture.

“It’s going to pour down."  He stopped near the door, took her hand, dropped it, then gently touched her hair.  When she was very small he had braided her hair once when her mother was away for some reason she no longer remembered.  He had taken it very seriously and used ribbons.  When he was home, when he could be there, he had been completely there. If he said he would fix this, he would fix it.  "I think I felt the first drops.  You’re sure you won’t stay?”

She wondered how hard it would storm and if she could get home before it did, and then smiled.  “It’s okay, Dad.  I have an umbrella.”


  1. Yay! Another update :). First of all I'm loving the views from Cooper's house, so beautiful. And to see Cooper again is a real treat. I'm glad he and Rayne had a chance to talk even though he isn't being totally straight with her about the situation with Gemma, but that's nothing she'd want to know about her father anyway. I hope he makes good on the promises he's made about Jimmy's sister and the band. I have a feeling that those are the least of his worries at this point because what's done is done. What's coming with Duff...well that's another matter that I'm sure he wants more information on. No matter his shortcomings Cooper has always been a loving and protective father to her and it's nice to see the two of them connect in that way.

    1. Coop and Rayne have always been close, closer than the rest of his children although that doesn't count Hugs. As long as Duff doesn't mistreat Rayne her father isn't going to intervene. He'll keep offering her options but as long as she's okay, that's about as far as he'll go.

      Coop has two big things to worry about. Gemma wasn't happy about the voided contract and he's spent the last year trying to keep her more or less 'happy'. And he made a promise to Rayne that he can't deliver without Slim's cooperation.

      Thank you so much, and thank you for the compliments on the house and the views. I am absolutely obsessive about that and will go back and forth moving distant objects if they get in the way or look wrong. Crazy.

    2. Thank you again Muzegoddess. Beth's decor and building skills are amazing.

      Coop doesn't like the choices Rayne has made regarding men so he is wary and watchful but he won't blatantly interfere. As for everything else, that will be seen in the next couple of pieces.

      Thank you again.

  2. Agreed on the gorgeous house!

    While I do hope the band can get their album out somehow, I'm glad Rayne convinced Cooper to at least help them and Jimmy's sister with their money issues. Given the whole situation, it doesn't inconvenience Cooper to help them out anyway, especially given Rayne's connection with Jimmy and how she's had to bear so much of the fallout.

    As for Duff... well, that's not Cooper's business right now, so I'm glad he didn't pry. As long as anything that happens between Duff and Rayne remains mutually consensual and respectful, there's no reason for Cooper to get involved.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Hi Van. It isn't likely the band will release their album any time soon. Hitman owns the masters currently. Cooper will do what he can without doing too much (as far as he is concerned). That will be revealed soon. As for Rayne, he will be watchful and wary and as I told Muzegoddess he won't blatantly interfere (which isn't to say he won't still try to extract Rayne from a situation he thinks is unsafe). After all, he knows Duff.

      Again thank you. We appreciate your continued support and encouragement.

  3. Shit...what a mess. I don't know how Cooper's going to weave himself out of this one, ugh! It's a good thing Rhaine didn't run into Gemma or she might've gotten a much different story about the whole situation...

    I'm not sure about Duff still. I just get a weird vibe off of him :s I mean, he may love Rhaine, but...I just don't know - jury's still out on him.

    1. Coop will do what he can when it comes to his family. As for Duff, don't write him off yet. He's a good man. Thanks for commenting!

  4. Oh my gosh, the ending is adorable! Rayne is adorable when she isn't being moody! lol Nice little chat between father and daughter to clear things up. Makes me wonder what little Hugs will be like when she grows up, if she'll look and be like Rayne.

    Lovely shots and writing as always. Great to see another update! :) I see what you mean about getting the lighting right too, it's a little project within a project. ;)

    1. Yes that lighting was a real challenge.

      Rayne loves and defends her father, and Coop will do what he can for her. She's sentimental about Jimmy but beginning to feel she can depend on Duff, not just her father. I adore Hugs so I'd prefer that she escape some of Rayne's volatility!

      Thank you so much!

  5. It was nice to see Cooper again. Since you started posting again, I'd been wondering about him and what was going on on his side of all of this. That was a...difficult conversation with Rayne here but I think a necessary one. Maybe not everything is straightened out yet (and maybe it won't ever be) but getting that promise from Cooper that he'll help out was obviously a big deal for her.

    I think I'll have to go back and refresh my memory about Gemma/Cooper. I don't quite remember what happened there.

    1. Well I had a comment all set to go and my browser crashed. Anyway...

      Thank you so much for reading and leaving a comment. I am always surprised (pleasantly) when someone returns to read after all this time.

      As for Coop, we decided to write about the other characters in our world and focus less on Coop. As for Gemma/Coop, this chapter might help explain:

      Thank you again for commenting after all this time. We plan to update more regularly than once a year now ;)

    2. It is so good to get a comment from you! Thank you!

      What Gayl said, and I want to add my small bit.

      The very unfortunate encounter between Cooper and Gemma continues to threaten his family and his friendships. It caused friction between Coop and his oldest friend. It threatened to shatter an already shaky marriage. It drove a wedge between Coop and his son Nate. It's been consuming Rayne for quite a while as she blames whatever happened for some of Jimmy's depression. Coop and Gemma met at a bad time, and she used the worst possible method to try to get his attention and further her (perfectly reasonable) professional ambitions: she used her relationship with his first love and ex wife Julia. It backfired on both of them. He used her to vent his anger, and she used him right back. They're still both caught in it.

      Cooper isn't the main character but he still impacts just about everybody else at least to some extent and probably always will. I hope.