Saturday, August 13, 2016

Studio Time: Thirty-Six

Stopping Your Own Heart

Rayne downshifted and slowly pulled her car up in front of Jimmy's house. Tire tracks still marked the worn path behind Jimmy's vintage truck. Large drifts of sand rose behind the tires proof that the vehicle hadn't moved in a long while. On a good day the old truck barely started. No doubt the battery was dead. Dead. Rayne drew a shaky breath.

Rayne made her way past the truck, stopping briefly to look inside the cab before continuing on. The air hung thick and still. Deathly quiet. Even the surf was nothing more than an eerie whisper as it whooshed in and out along the shore. You can do this, one step at a time.

The house looked like it was collapsing, like Jimmy had been the only thing holding it up and now that he was gone, it sagged in on itself. It had no bones, it could no longer breathe. Rayne gulped air, thought maybe she shouldn't be here, and kept on walking. She could close her eyes and hear the faint strains of Jimmy’s guitar, hear his voice whispering in the gentle breeze. Ren. Rennie.

Rayne reached the back of the property and glanced up. An image of Jimmy and her sitting on the roof flashed in her mind. Some nights the house was so hot they’d escape up there. Toad would play his guitar and make up stupid songs for her. They’d drink, they’d laugh, and they’d make out. In hindsight, that probably wasn’t the smartest thing they’d ever done but they’d both been high and it had been thrilling. 

She turned away, hesitated, and then started down the beach toward the palms. She'd seen enough images in the media to know they'd found Jimmy propped next to those trees. Rayne kneeled and sifted through the sand. Jimmy always buried things, dug them up, and buried them again. Nothing was there except broken glass. Shards of it littered the area, proof that he'd held her photo like they'd reported. Her heart shattered just like the glass between her fingers. One of the smaller pieces pierced her finger but she barely felt the sting. 

Rayne sat back, dug the heels of her sneakers into the sand, and wrapped her arms around her knees. One of Jimmy's biggest fears had been abandonment. His parents both left him, his father by choice and his mother by death. He lost his older brother to a senseless war, lost touch with his baby sister. When his gran finally passed, all Jimmy had was this place and Rayne. But she left him too. 

Struggling not to break down Rayne stood, walked toward the water, and sat in the wet sand and surf. The last time she'd been alone and scared she'd been a child wandering around an isolated beach a lot like this. Gabe found and rescued her but who would come for her now?  She wanted to cry for that little girl who searched in vain for a prince who never existed, for the young woman that kissed a toad not expecting a prince and finding love she couldn't return.  The little girl needed a slap though, not tears, something to wake her the hell up.

She brushed off the back of her jeans and made her way up the rear steps.  The door was open. Jimmy never locked the door.  He always believed there was nothing worth stealing.  He was wrong of course - all that gear upstairs, his guitar, all worth more than the house itself, but he seemed to want to ignore that. 

Rayne closed the door behind her and made her way to Jimmy's bathroom. She riffled through the shelves and found his stash hidden behind a dried up plant. He never remembered to water the damn things and they always died. A flare of anger surged up and then dissipated. She dumped the drugs in the toilet and flushed them away. 

Going back to the shelves, she found a small bandage in an old, rusty first aid kit Jimmy kept and wrapped it around her finger even though it wasn't bleeding anymore. Jimmy bought kids bandages because he thought it was funny. This one had dinosaurs on it.

After a last look around, she headed to the bedroom. She sat down gingerly on the unmade bed, listening to it creak. An empty bottle of beer, a wadded up sock, and a vial of pills cluttered the floor. She fought the urge to drape the throw blanket around her. It would smell like Jimmy. Memories of their last night together came flooding back. They'd had an argument so stupid that Rayne couldn't remember what they'd fought over. They'd had makeup sex and wrapped themselves in that blanket afterwards. And then she'd left to meet Duff. Rayne squeezed her eyes in an effort to shut down the memories. What she wouldn't give to have Toad walk through the door, laugh and tease her, and call her Ren one more time.

The sound of a car, footsteps on the front porch, and the rasp of the front door before it slammed shut startled Rayne from her thoughts. The floorboards in the kitchen creaked. Someone was in the house. Rayne's heart thudded in her chest. She stood, picked up the flashlight Toad kept near the bed, and carefully crept toward the sound.

"What are you doing here?" Gemma Wilson stood just inside the kitchen arms folded and glaring at Rayne. 

She could almost believe she was imagining things. Rayne gripped the flashlight hard, briefly considered bashing in Gemma's head, and reluctantly set it down on the table. Gemma looked surprised, off balance, and her question was predictable. Her heart hammered but she steadied herself and looked back at the other woman with what she at least intended to be complete calm. "It’s not your house, Gemma. I lived here. You didn’t. What do you want?” 

Gemma cautiously walked past Rayne into the living room. "I'm Jimmy's agent. I have every right to be here.  His sister is arriving today, and I'm meeting her here." Gemma looked over her shoulder at Rayne and smiled although it never reached her ice-cold blue eyes. "I have an obligation to look after his interests unlike some people."

Really. That was how Gemma wanted to play this?  "No you don’t. That contract, the one Slim voided, you do remember that contract, that contract never gave you any right or obligation to walk into Jimmy’s house.”

She took one casual step toward Gemma, running her hand along the back of the couch. Gemma did not retreat. “You’re not going to find anything in here you want. It’s all gone. The only thing that was ever here that was ever worth one single little thing was Jimmy.”

“That’s a particularly stupid thing to say for someone brought up in the business. As his agent I have an absolute obligation to ensure my client’s well-being,”

Rayne clenched both of her hands and felt Jimmy’s little dinosaur band aid tighten around her finger. Anger struck through her. “His well-being? You were never interested in Jimmy’s well-being. You used him, you used him to get a contract with my father’s label, you didn’t give a damn about him.” She forced herself to pause and to take another step closer to the other woman.

“And about that contract…how did you manage that?  You’re not a very good agent - you made a fool of yourself chasing my father - but suddenly there it is. Like magic!” Almost in her face by now, Rayne raised her voice and this time deliberately. “Why are they protecting you? Is it really because you slept with him?”

"You think I slept with Cooper? Slept?  You're a child," Gemma snapped back.

Taken aback, Rayne stared at her for a moment before cautiously responding. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Grow up Rayne. I have other things to do today than stand around chatting with you about Cooper. Whether or not we had a relationship is none of your business.  It's an adult relationship, and you are definitely not an adult."

As stupid and meaningless as that was, if that got out, Jimmy would become just the guy with the Girlfriend Contract. Jimmy's talent, his creativity, his charisma, his unique style, none of it would ever matter. All anybody would remember was that. Gemma leveraged whatever happened into getting what she wanted, and now it all came slamming down on Toad.

“You are using Jimmy. You show up here, walk into his house, and all the while you know what you’re planning will take what little he has left. Even dead, you’re still using him.”

"Between Cooper and Slim, they are ruining me."

And with that, Rayne lost her control.  "How in hell are you ruined?! Because Slim was a fucking asshole? Go someplace else! Go across the street to Red! That’s Blade’s label! You’re going to scald Jimmy's memory because Slim tore up your precious contract?  You horrible cow, nobody gives a damn about you or that stupid fake contract! This is about Jimmy's memory!"

Gemma whipped around. "I don't care!"

"But I do…" A voice, smoky and low just like Jimmy's only softer, floated into the room. A girl, the spitting image of Toad and no older than Rayne, watched them both from the doorway.

Silent and graceful, the girl walked in, offered a brief, forlorn smile at Rayne, and glanced down at the table where Jimmy's tarot cards still lay. "Abandonment, betrayal, and death. Jimmy must've threw those down at least a dozen times."

"You must be Jimmy's sister. I'm so sorry for your loss." Gemma reached out for the girl but she shrugged her off and went instead to Rayne.

Jimmy's sister looked like a mirror image of Toad, the same blonde hair, same turbulent and unusual eyes, and the same gentle soul. The girl wrapped Rayne in a warm embrace anchoring her in a shared bond with someone they'd both loved.

"You're just like he described. Jimmy told me we'd meet one day. I'm Remy."

Remy linked her arm with Rayne's, walked her toward the door, and whispered conspiratorially, "Go on now, you go on home and don't you worry. I'm gonna have a sit-down with the Dragon Lady here."

Rayne knew her hands were shaking and she clenched them, checked them and willed them to stop it.  She was fine, she was almost positive she could get in her car and drive.  She looked at her hands again to make sure they weren’t shaking and saw the little dinosaur band aid on her finger.  It was a red one with blue eyes.

She looked down the road at her car and thought miserably that she probably could not drive after all which would make her look like an emotional baby.  Of all the humiliating ways to end this, sitting on the curb bawling was just about the worst.

Sunlight reflected off something bright, the sound of a car pulling up behind her on the worn road, parking behind Jimmy’s truck with a crunch of tires on gravel and seashells, and there was her brother walking across the weedy grass.  He wasn’t supposed to be here.  He was supposed to be miles and miles away, but here he was with her.

She should be surprised but she felt flat.  Oh.  I'm surprised.  I’m past feeling it. I don't know what to do.  In his quiet voice Eric asked her, “Rainie are you okay?  What’s going on?”

The screen door swung open and banged on the wall as Gemma left the house, Remy following her.  Remy hung back to one side, catching and holding Rayne’s eyes, but Gemma stared directly at Eric. They looked at one another as if neither recognized the other and they probably didn't.

Eric took a step away from Rayne toward the porch.   He nodded at both Gemma and Remy in acknowledgement before he said anything.  “I’m Eric Stanfield.  Who might the two of you be?”

Remy slid around Gemma and made her way quietly down the steps.  “Gemma Wilson,” Gemma responded in a tight, angry voice.  “You’re Cooper’s son?  You don’t look like your father.”

It was an odd personal remark maybe intended to imply he wasn’t Cooper's son at all.  At first glance Eric really didn’t look much like Cooper.  Eric pulled his heavy dark hair off his face as the wind whipped off the channel.  He would recognize the name; even though he'd never met her, he knew who Gemma was.  

“No,” he agreed. "I don't, but you’ll know who I am the next time we meet.”

Remy was pressing her phone number into Rayne’s hand, and she touched the band aid with one gentle finger. “Jimmy’s band aids?”


“You should take the rest of them.”

Eric was waiting, Gemma was still on the porch, and it felt like Jimmy himself was in there watching her.  Rayne didn’t want to go back into the house.  Remy patted her arm. “I’ll get them for you.  We can talk another time, don’t worry.”

Eric turned back to her and for the first time looked directly at Remy.  She looked back, and a red blush rose in her cheeks before she broke the contact and studied the toes of her boots.  Her brother still didn’t move, a stunned expression across his face, then he said, “Hi, nice to meet you.  Remy is it?”


“Okay.”  Looking like someone had hit him across the back of his head with a heavy board, but recovering enough to find his smile, Eric repeated himself.  “Yeah, okay, it’s nice to meet you Remy.”

Rayne watched the exchange in disbelief.  Remy was pretty, and Eric was nice, and the whole situation was horrible, so maybe he was trying to reassure her.  It didn’t look like reassurance.  It looked like what it probably was, and right now that was as strange as finding a diamond in the dust behind her.

Eric tore himself away from Remy with obvious regret and took her arm, steering her away from the view of the porch although Gemma had gone back inside.  “Can you drive Rayne?  You don’t look like you can drive.”

Maybe.  She still wasn’t sure she could drive the length of the whole long road through the islands to South Beach but she was sure she wasn’t going to fall down in front of Gemma. “I’m driving out of here.  If I can make it back to the lighthouse, I can make it all the way back to South Beach, but if I can’t I’m still driving away from this house.”

He nodded.  “Okay, let’s hit it.  And Rainie?”

She ran her hand across her face and then dropped it and marched on.  The long rough calls of the crows rose above the sound of the waves, all of it familiar and shockingly unchanged. “What.”

“Jimmy's not there, Rayne.  Jimmy's gone.  Don’t look back."


  1. Aargh. Never liked Gemma. But Aargh, way to make a bad thing worse.

    1. Hi Kiri! Yes Gemma did make a bad thing worse although at this point the downhill slide seems inevitable. Too many stones all lined up on the precipice ready to fall, it didn't take much once one of them went. Thank you for reading!!

    2. Thanks for reading Kiri! Gemma is misguided at the very least. Her initial reasons for coming to town in the first place were selfish and motivated by ambition. She really is in a no-win situation and at some point she might realize it.

  2. Remy seems cool. Rayne could probably use a friend like her, when she's ready--someone who also knew Jimmy, really knew him, and someone who doesn't have any ulterior motives in getting to know her.

    Tough as the encounter with Gemma at the house where Jimmy lived was bound to be for Rayne... well, she leaves with more knowledge than she had before. And she does have a point about Jimmy's fate. Given the unfortunate way the world sees rape, Cooper himself probably wouldn't suffer much of a consequence beyond the initial scandal. If Gemma comes forward, she'd probably be painted as a liar and a blackmailer and her career would be over. Jimmy and his band would be an incidental casualty as The Guy with the Rape Contract. There are no winners here.

    1. You're absolutely right. No matter what Gemma's personal flaws might be, the awful truth is that she could not report a rape by someone in Cooper's position without suspicion and mockery. Her career would be over, and it's over now if she decides to go public. She completely destroyed her credibility by taking the contract. Coop damaged his own credibility by paying Gemma but the scandal wouldn't last, he wouldn't be seriously damaged, and he knows it. That's why he was ambivalent about including Gemma in the 'death payout' to the band. He doesn't really care what she says. The fallout would hurt his family though - Hugs in particular - and everything he's done to keep Gemma quiet has been an effort to keep that from happening.

      Rayne's been her father's fierce protector and apologist and can't believe or understand what Gemma told her. She thought she could somehow right a wrong once she discovered the truth behind the mysterious contract - her belief in her own power is unrealistic but it's Rayne. It's all swinging out of control though, and she's sort of a vanishingly small figure in a threatening landscape.

      On a happier note, Eric handles himself very well and met a very pretty girl.

      Thank you, always, for such enormous support. It means so much.

      And BTW, I spent all morning fixing the spacing on this post. It's been about 3 months since I put the draft up on Blogger and in the interim I forgot I hadn't made the changes. AGGHH...

    2. Hi Van and thanks again for reading. Sad thing is the accusation of rape is false. Gemma knows it, Coop knows it, Slim knows it. While it would have hurt whatever fragile foundation Cooper had with his family, it would have passed and Gemma would not have the power she thinks she has now. Cooper's family has been divided and in separate camps but the possibility that they could have fixed the foundation and moved on would have been better if they'd let Gemma do whatever she threatened to do.

      It would be interesting to see where Jimmy and Rayne would be without that contract although ultimately he was not the man for her. And now the picture makes sense to her, she has more answers and clarity than before but the devastation of the entire day will stay with her for a while I think.

      @Beth, I certainly hope the draft I put up doesn't cause another formatting nightmare lol! I think I fixed them....

  3. This was so emotional and beautifully written as always. Sometimes when I'm reading I get a jolt and I'm transported right into the story. That happened when I was reading this and the description of the bandaid: 'Rayne clenched both of her hands and felt Jimmy’s little dinosaur band aid tighten around her finger.'That little detail added a physicality to the scene that was just magical. I was right there. Amazing writing skill.

    1. Thank you so much for leaving a comment Treason! It makes me particularly happy to know the writing transported you into the story and the characters. It's important to me that the words convey as much as the images.

      This was a particularly emotional chapter to write and hit on some personal emotions as well. Thank you again, so much.

  4. Wonderful update, very emotional!

    Poor Rayne, she is really beating herself up. :( How horrible to hear her father may have raped Gemma, I really wonder if that's true or if Gemma is simply making it up to get money or fame. I hope her father didn't rape Gemma, for the sake of Rayne. How would she cope with knowing that on top of everything else that is going on.

    1. Hi Jennifer and thanks for leaving a comment. Rayne feels responsible and guilty on top of the simmering anger she has held for years. She is her father's champion and doesn't believe the rape claim (which it wasn't). Gemma used a potentially harmful claim to get something she wanted. It never crossed Gemma's mind that the collateral damage of her actions could be as far reaching as it was.

      Thank you again!

  5. What an emotional and ultimately eventful visit back to Jimmy's house that was for Rayne!

    Okay, I definitely do not like Gemma one bit. She's a troublemaker in the worst possible way. :\

    I do like this first impression of Remy though, not least because she brushed off Gemma's insincere condolences and made a beeline for Rayne instead. I hope we get to see a little more of her and learn more about her. :)

    1. Gemma took the opportunity to get what she felt she should have had without thinking it through, and then Jimmy died of course so everything fell apart. I don't think she deliberately used Jimmy, not at the beginning, but she was getting nowhere.

      I really love Remy, too. She's not going away.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and leave a comment. I'm sorry it took me so long to respond.

  6. So....Gemma is a bit of I get that she feels screwed by this whole thing but that's not excuse to be just awful to Rayne when she knows she's suffering. And adding insult to injury by laying that whole rape thing on her is just cruel. But I guess in her position what does she have to lose? I feel bad that Rayne had to find out those things that way especially in the middle of facing everything about Jimmy. That's a lot to handle in one day. Thankfully Remy is a sweetheart and my goodness she is the spitting image of her brother; so beautiful.

    I love the exchange between Remy and Eric. There is definitely something there between them. He is such a good brother to Rayne, the perfect person to be there with her on this draining day.

    I love the shots in this so much. The overcast sky is beautiful. It's like there is a storm brewing that won't come or that won't leave, much like the turmoil in Rayne's life right now. It's just circling waiting to pour when she least expects it. Another wonderful piece. Thank you both so much for sharing your work with us :).

    1. Muzegoddess it is so GOOD to hear from you! Gemma is used to getting what she wants and isn't afraid to play dirty to achieve her goals. Right now she is resentful of Cooper, his family, and what she perceives as his power over her future. I doubt Rayne believes the rape accusation but it isn't what she needs to hear right now. However the pieces of the puzzle she wants to solve are falling into place.

      Remy is definitely a sweetheart and I think Rayne will find some solace once those two have a chance to talk. There were sparks between Eric and Remy for sure. I don't know if either of them knows what to make of it.

      I have to say I am amazed that the correlation you drew between the sky and Rayne's life. Really spot on! Thank you so much for taking time to read and comment. It means a lot to both of us.