Sunday, June 12, 2016

Studio Time: Thirty Four

Signs and Portents

It was after ten on a Friday night when Eric and Nate Stanfield left their college rental, still early enough to find something to do on campus but kind of late to find anyone hanging around doing nothing who might want to tag along with them.  To begin with, they didn’t agree on where they wanted to go.  The campus was small; options were already severely limited.  Eric preferred not to spend evenings with his twin brother, a preference Nate shared, but they were both edgy and bored and after 18 years together, they were used to each other’s company.  They'd go somewhere in the end whether or not they agreed on where.

They walked about fifty feet south past Cadence Mitchell’s place next door.  Their older brother Wyatt’s Porsche was parked out front, the lights turned down inside the house, so there was no point in knocking in case she wanted to go with them.   

Looking at the car, Nate asked, “Are they engaged yet?”

Eric was sure someone would have called them if the big engagement was finally on. “Don’t think so.  There would be a party.”

“You’re right but you mean two parties because Heydon and Camilla would throw one.”

And with that they slid into one of their old, familiar games without missing a beat.  “You mean three parties.  You’re leaving out the grands.”  “You mean four parties.  Peri and Danny.”  “You mean five parties.  Jason and Kes.”  “You mean six parties.  The Taylors.”  “The Taylors?  Why would the Taylors throw a party?”  “They’re friends of Mom.”

Eric considered it done - no Taylors. “Yeah but they wouldn’t throw an engagement party for somebody they’re not related to.  If you claim the Taylors, you may as well claim everybody on the Peninsula and then so will I.  If you can't come up with anything better then we're stopping at five: I win.” 

They could have turned around and walked the shorter route to the north, or cut through the park with the Moon Tower, but Nate strode right on down the street going the long way around.   As they walked past Randi Taylor's rental - one of the Taylors who would not throw an engagement party - Nate started to talk about his band, Event Horizon.  It was a long and almost rhetorical monologue since he didn't expect Eric to have anything new and helpful, but they'd rambled on like that since they were kids. 

“I still can’t find a drummer to replace Justin. I’ve got that friend of Jett’s to fill in for the next two weeks but after that I don’t know, might have to cancel, or reschedule if I can work it out, maybe find someone who can cover and not drop the damned sticks.”

Nate's normal band drama had gone beyond bitching to his friends.  Spread out.  Engulfed the island.  Threatened to flood the world.  The guys in the band quit all the time because Nate was an exacting and demanding son of a bitch, but E Horizon's reputation was rising fast, and Nate didn't give anybody an inch.   He’d replaced the bass player just two weeks ago.  This was the third drummer in six months.   He had gigs lined up across the archipelago through the summer into the fall and he couldn’t keep the musicians from quitting.   If it hadn’t been for his own talent and looks, the band would probably have folded last year. 

They crossed the road and cut through the stand of trees and the thin grass between the library and the Annie's.   Annie's Corner was in this direction and closer than anything else so that's where they'd go, process of elimination of nothing else.   His attention wandered until Nate stumbled on a rock and stopped long enough to bring it back down again.  Now it was about one of the weirder musicians Nate had tried to reach.

“So did you call that guy, the batman guy, the one Duncan likes?”  Duncan, Nate’s other guitarist, was not only a good musician, he understood how to get along with Nate and he frequently paid for gas.  Nate respected Duncan.   Eric had tried to get the batman guy to come see them, or to talk to Nate, despite serious misgivings.  He hadn't succeeded.

“Yeah.  He blew me off.  I had to lie to him to even get him to return the call.  I told him it was an audition for Crux.  He got hold of Wyatt who was pretty pissed off about it.  You wouldn't want that guy Nate - I mean, batman outfits?”

“It was shirts, not the whole deal with the belt.  So he wouldn’t even agree to talk to me?”

“That’s right.”

“Did you check everybody on my list, the new list, the one I just emailed you?”

Up until then Eric still sympathized.  He'd opened the list.  It was short and kind of sad - they'd already approached everybody but some old retired guy out in Millwood and a high school kid.  What would Nate do if he didn't check them?  Fire him?

 “Nate, I’ve got my own shit to take care of.  I made some calls for you, and I did that paper on ancient art for you – why the hell are you taking a class on ancient art?  I’m not making any more calls about the band, and that list sucked.”

“All right, I won't send you another one.  Don’t get your panties in a twist.”

“Shut up asshole.”

That done, they walked pretty agreeably out of the trees and onto the road.

There in the open door to Annie's stood Linnet Carpenter.

Nate stopped talking and grinned.  “Hey Linnet, you’re late.  You were supposed to save us a table.”
Of course she wasn't; nobody had made any plans at all.  Lin smiled at Eric and then aimed an even sweeter smile at his twin.  “My admirers held me up.”

“Yeah?  Isn’t it past their bedtime?  I thought they’d all be asleep by now.”

“Not all of them.  You’re still up.”

Linnet earned extra cash babysitting for the faculty, something she did when she could and if she left you hanging, she felt bad but did it anyway.  Somebody must have let her off early tonight and she was happy and shining in the light from inside the cafe.  His brother laughed and hugged her.  “You can come over and play with me anytime, Lin.”

Annie turned up the cafe stereo and Mercury Rising's raucous signature anthem song blasted out the open windows.  Nate glared.  "Why the hell does she keep playing that old worn out piece of junk - you think she'd play something written in the last 30 years."

Eric groaned and stared off into space.  If they got through one night around here, ONE FUCKING NIGHT, without Nate griping about their father, it would be a miracle.  Linnet tapped her chin thoughtfully and said in a serious voice,  "First Bad Dad fine of the night.  Keep it up and I can buy that car."

Nate shifted his weight.  Eric didn't look at him but he could almost hear his brother trying to decide whether he wanted to keep grinding on about their father or flirt with Linnet.  "I never agreed to that whole Bad Dad fine thing.  I don't have any cash on me anyway."  That was probably a lie.  He wouldn't be here without some kind of cash.  Eric quit covering for him months ago.

"You've been paying, that's implicit agreement.  I'll put it on your very long tab."  She smiled, and he smiled, and Eric considered himself lucky that she'd shut him up that fast.

He walked past them to get to the door.  Nate stepped aside, let him open the door for Lin and then pushed on through with another quick grin and a low ‘thanks’.  Typical.

It wasn’t crowded.  There were three open tables and space at the bar, but Nate glanced around as soon as he was inside as if hunting for someone he couldn't find in that small open space.  “Eric the Young, get us a table.  I’m gonna check out the other room.”

Eric shrugged and grabbed the middle table – the one closest to the door took elbows as people came and went from the pool table in the next room, and the one by the bar took kicks.  “Who’s he looking for?” he asked as Lin settled down opposite him.

“Probably Emma de Barra.  She's usually here on Friday night.  She’s leaving for the flamingo ruins in a couple of  hours so he’d better hurry if he wants to see her. “

Emma de Barra was the smart and charismatic and photogenic co-host of a smallish community tv show about ruins and other archaeological topics of more than esoteric interest.  Eric had met her a couple of times but only briefly, and he wasn’t sure she remembered him.  She definitely remembered Nate since he flirted with her every time he saw her, and Eric had seen her flirt back. “How do you know she’s leaving?"

“Because I'm going with her.”  Linnet flipped her hair.  “I’m digging or hoisting crates or something that doesn’t require me to know anything important about archaeology.  They’re paying me and they’re filming the show so I might get my face on tv.”

The money he understood.  He didn’t know she cared about being on tv but it seemed like a good idea.  Maybe someone would hire her – she was beautiful.  “Wouldn’t want you to miss that.”

Lin took a sip of the beer that the waiter brought and smiled at him again. “If I wave, you’ll know it’s for you.”

When Eric first met Linnet, he’d been smitten, charmed, and just as certain that Lin was equally smitten and charmed by his twin.   They’d done a weird dance for a few months before things settled down, Nate always flirting and friendly, Lin friendly and sometimes flirting, Eric just friendly.  Nobody did anything at all.    

"So I have to ask, if you're Eric the Young, who's Eric the Old?"

He grinned and leaned back in the chair.  "Maybe our grandfather?  I think it was supposed to be kind of a jab, you know, the dumbass knight who goes around trying to rescue people.  I don't care, it's kind of funny, ridiculous funny, but he's called me worse things.  Anyway nobody could survive my brother long enough to be the Old."

Eric heard his brother's voice, and Linnet looked toward the doorway where Nate was emerging with Emma.  Duncan, Nate’s reliable guitarist, trailed after both of them trying to get Nate’s attention.  Nate hesitated.  He was pretty obviously torn between wanting to follow Emma out and focusing on what Duncan had to say.  He gestured toward the door - he wanted Duncan to follow him out so he could follow Emma.  He was going to try to have both.

Emma glanced down the room and caught Eric’s eye and stopped and smiled.   He was surprised, so much so that he wondered if the smile was meant for someone behind him. Lin watched her with a flat expression and said nothing.

Emma walked out, and Nate walked out with Duncan, and Eric’s phone buzzed.  He pulled it out of his pocket, glanced at it expecting to see someone like Devlin Holloway asking where he was, and there was his father’s ID.  It wasn't all that unusual to get a call from his father but neither was it an everyday or even every week occurrence.  His first reaction was unease.

“It’s my dad,” he explained. “I’m going to take it outside where I can hear - the music's kind of loud.”

"Hope everything's okay,"  She turned the chair sideways and watched him walk away, still quiet, the music recycling again, and his father's iconic anthem rocked the room again as well.  Annie had a short playlist.

There was no sign of Emma but Nate and Duncan were still there.  Nate looked and sounded about as anxious and frustrated as he had when they got here and it didn't seem Duncan had good news.

He still couldn't hear over the music coming from the open windows.  "Hang on Dad, give me a second, I can't hear a damned thing."

Eric walked all the way past the bike rack and into the alley of trees where the sound dropped into leafy muffled silence.  It was a startling change.  “Dad?  Everything okay? What’s up?”

“Everything’s fine."  He sounded all right, not like somebody was hurt or sick, and Eric began to relax.  "Listen Eric, I need you to do something for me.  Are you free tomorrow?”

Oh shit, he thought.  The last time he had been ‘free tomorrow’, he’d escorted Hugs and her ballet class to a recital way out in the desert, a long trip by rail with a bunch of anxious little girls.  One of them threw up.  “I’ve got a thing tomorrow night,” he said cautiously, although it was more a study date than anything like a real date.  She probably didn't even remember he was supposed to show up. “Nothing during the day.  What is it?”

“I want you to drive Rainie out to Sandy Point to pick up her car.  Drive her out, get her mind off things, talk, maybe get lunch.  Can you do that?”

Eric stared at the phone, and then, increasingly uneasy, up at the sky.  There was a full moon but light  cut a crescent along a strange sharp curve. "Uh...I don't know Dad. Can’t Duff drive her out there?”

There was an edge to his father’s voice when he replied.  “She needs a break.  Spending the day away from him will be good for her.  You know how to deal with your sister.  Keep it light, don’t talk about what happened with Jimmy Breaux, let her catch her breath.  She’s struggling – she needs help and if there’s anyone in the world she can turn to now, I’d like to think it’s her family.”

Eric walked further down the path in the dark.  He didn't want to get involved in something about Duff and Rayne.  The man had a weird rep; knowing his sister was into that..well he didn't want to know about it. 

On top of that, Rayne had been pushing a strange plot involving Wyatt's relative who looked like his mother and he wasn't crazy about sitting in a car listening to it for a whole day.  If she really needed to get some time away to look at scenery and bullshit with her brother, and he happened to be the available brother, then of course he'd do it, and it looked like he was it.

"Yeah, okay, I know she’s got it all coming down on her.  I’ll take her out there as long as that's all I'm doing, not lecturing her or anything.  What’s she think about it?”

There was a long pause.  “She’ll be okay with it.  I mentioned it to her when I saw her yesterday but we didn't have time to work out the details.”

He was stunned.  “You haven’t asked her?  She doesn’t know?  Dad, she probably won’t want to go.”

“She’ll go.”  He sounded firm, certain.  “Tell her I ordered you to take her.”

Ordered.  Yeah right.  This was about Duff,  Rayne knew it and wouldn't want to cooperate but might if her little brother asked her.  Unhappy, Eric muttered, “Sure.”

His father said goodbye, have a good night, drive safe, all that crap.  The connection stuttered then briefly strengthened.  “Eric, tell him I said hello.”

Shoving the phone back into his pocket, Eric started back, stopped, and looked around in a state of confusion.  Should he call his sister first?  Should he go first and find Nate and tell him he’d need the car all day tomorrow?  What if Rayne freaked out and hurt herself, maybe drove off the road while crying?  Would it be a good idea to get Nate to go with him? 
“Eric? What's going on?”

Nate and Linnet stood by the street where someone had parked an old car. Linnet propped her bare arm up across his brother's bare shoulder, casual, kind of proprietary, and completely out of character. Was she making sort of a statement?  If so, he didn't know if it was directed at him or what it was supposed to mean.  She liked Nate more?  That wouldn't be a surprise. Nate didn't appear to even notice what she was doing as if she was a jacket he'd tossed over his shoulder.  Maybe he was making too much out of it.   He felt tired, exhausted tired, tired and blank and stupid.

"What's going on?  Is Mom okay?  Something didn't happen to Hugs did it?"

Trying to ignore the girl, he looked directly at his brother.  "They're fine.  Everybody's good."

Nate stepped forward and shrugged off Linnet who looked at him under her eyelashes.  Eric glanced at her and then turned back to his brother who asked, "So what's he want?"

"I'm taking Rayne out to Sandy Point to get her car.  No big deal, she needs a ride, that's all." 

Nate looked wary.  "That's it?"

"Pretty much.  I'm taking off early so I'm gonna head back."

Eric started to go when his brother took another couple of strides forward and away from Lin.  "You okay?  Something seems off."

"Yeah man, no worries about me."  He decided to go ahead and say something to her, he couldn't just walk off and pretend he hadn't seen her.  "Good luck tomorrow Lin.  I'll watch for the wave."

Eric headed down the path alone, already trying to come up with a way to tell his sister he was picking her up about six in the morning.  Behind him he heard Lin asking Nate what was going on, what he'd meant, what was 'you mean', and his brother's short response, "You wouldn't understand."

He cut across campus through the Moon Tower instead of walking the long way around.  It was supposed to be bad luck to walk under the tower when there was a full moon, and the moon was full tonight.  Eric didn't feel particularly hunted by luck, good or bad, and he glanced up curiously through the arches toward the light at the top of the tower.  If Luck lived up in that tower and came down to hunt under a full moon, it had been hunting someone else.

Maybe Rayne would get through the trip tomorrow and come back okay, in one piece, not shattered, not broken on the side of the road.  That's why I'm going, he thought, because she needs more than luck.


  1. I enjoy the contrast between the twins. They're very different, to the point where they'd be unlikely to gravitate to one another if they weren't family, but all the same, there's no hostility there--not real hostility, anyway, and none that isn't really about someone else.

    So Nate needs a drummer. How's Brew been holding up without Jimmy? If they've split, maybe Nate can pick up the drummer. That could prove interesting, since it's bound to complicate the Brew/Cooper/Slim/Gemma situation if Cooper's semi-estranged son gets involved.

    Eric is so sweet. He's the perfect person to go with Rayne on the errand. Supportive, but not forceful.

    1. They do understand each other and the sniping, while sometimes serious, is mutually tolerated. They both mean well in their own different ways. Nate might come off as the 'bad' one, but he's also the most focused and the most accomplished, and he's not really taking advantage of anyone. Eric is drifting but there's a lot of strength and clarity in that young man.

      Woody is one drummer option. He attacked Nate's sister and made her cry which could be sort of an issue. He may or may not feel that he's still part of a band that Gemma is representing even if the members are wandering all over the place now.

      Thank you, as always, so much!

  2. I love that these twins are as different as night and day. The dynamic of their relationship leaves so many doors open with regard to how it can change. I can just see so many exciting possibilities. I find myself identifying with Eric the most, though I feel like there might be a dark side beneath the surface with him. I just love characters with depth, with a past, with...secrets, which I feel like these two share despite possibly not wanting to really share anything (certainly not the girl). I'm interested to see how Eric and Rayne interact, I think Cooper was right to ask him to help her out. He may be exactly who she needs. And who is this spare drummer for Nate? So many things shifting and so many people intertwined. Very excited to see what's next.

    1. Well I can think of two spare drummers, one probably more willing than the other but if anyone can come up with a way to get both, it's Nate. I've followed these two boys since they were born, and they're so different, but they don't block each other or back stab. The girl can't have both and has probably waited too long to get either.

      Eric's a good choice. Nobody really handles Rayne but she's not going to intimidate him, and he's steady enough not to let her temper and moodiness drive him crazy.

      Thank you so much. It's been kind of a down week so getting a comment means even more to me than usual.

  3. Great to read about Nate & Eric! Nate kinda looks like his mother and it was good of Eric to agree to help Rayne. It's probably just what she needs, to be with one of her brothers. Just how many kids does Cooper have too?

    Lovely night time shots with the moon and stars out. I particularly loved Eric's walk through the path with the foliage of the trees hanging over. :)

    1. Nate does look like his mother in some ways but he has Cooper's attitude and eyes. Eric has his mother's hair and eyes but in the jaw and mouth, he looks like his father. Always interesting to see how the genetics work!

      Coop has 5 kids: Wyatt from his first marriage; Rayne, Eric and Nate, and Hugs from his second. No More Kids!

      I'm glad you like the shots - they were more difficult to get than I expected. I was moving the trees all over the place.

      Thank you thank you. I've been fighting with headaches and game crashing - your kind comment means so much.

  4. I really enjoyed the dynamic between the twins. It feels very real and natural. Nothing is forced in this story, the writing is so fluid and elegant. Can't wait to read the updates with Rayne! What's up with Lin though? There's a lot of intrigue there!

    1. Thanks so much for reading and leaving a comment - I'm really flattered!

      The twins come at me fully formed and yakking at each other so writing is like simply plugging into the conversation. They're very different but they're twins - they snipe and pick and bitch but it will take a lot to make them turn on one another. Lin doesn't know quite what she wants but she sees her options vanishing. What seemed to be two cute twins to choose from (or have both) is turning out to be no cute twins. I like her. She's pulling the wrong tool out of the tool box though.

      Thanks again!!

  5. I really enjoyed the dynamic between the twins. It feels very real and natural. Nothing is forced in this story, the writing is so fluid and elegant. Can't wait to read the updates with Rayne! What's up with Lin though? There's a lot of intrigue there!