Thursday, July 14, 2016

Studio Time: Thirty-Five

The color of armor

Rayne stood in the open doorway holding a cup of coffee she was not sure she wanted to drink.  She was already hyper and anxious and the caffeine stung.  It was quiet and dim, not light yet, not completely dark.   The walled courtyard didn’t quite light up until after the dawn spread out across the road, so she stood in the dark and waited.

 Last night her brother Eric called to inform her he was picking her up to take her to to Sandy Point to get her car.  Their father told him he needed to help his sister and to make it happen.  She should be ready to go because he didn’t want to wait for her, and he was coming at six o'clock in the morning. Duff was distracted and once he heard it was Eric, apparently comfortable with the idea.

Nobody asked if she wanted to go. 

Rayne heard the car pull up and Duff call down the stairs at the same time, telling her to go on out, so she let the door close behind her and went on out.  There wasn't anything else to do.

Eric was driving a white BMW roadster convertible, and he leaned against the fender and smiled at her.  She’d heard about the car.  Nate put in most of the money to buy it, money he had apparently been hoarding for years for just that purpose, and then had to ask Eric for the amount he was short.   She hadn’t expected Eric to accept the offer, no one expected it, but he had.  The twins didn’t like sharing.

What was not unexpected was Nate’s refusal to go to his father for the money.  As far as Rayne knew he had never even mentioned the purchase to him.

 “Good morning.”  Leaning against the fender, Eric eyed the coffee cup in her hand.  “Don’t spill that coffee on anything; you want me to hold it?”

Rayne turned aside to set the cup down on the curb where Duff would either get it or leave it for the housekeeper.  “I’m not going to spill it.  I’m not bringing it.  I don’t want it.” 

"I didn't mean you had to put it down on the sidewalk.  If you don't want it, take it back inside or put it in the trash.  Don't you have a trashcan out here somewhere?"


Eric stepped away from the car and pulled her into a big hug.  “Are you okay Rainie?”

“I’m fine,” she lied.  “You have jumper cables and everything just in case?”

 “Yeah but we’re leaving it there if it’s a big deal to get it running.  It's too far away and I don't know shit about cars." 

Duff walked through the gate and across the short strip of sandy grass, took her brother's hand and made the usual 'hi how are you nice to meet you' thing. They’d never met before.  Duff hadn’t met any of her family except her father and maybe Wyatt and she wasn’t sure about Wy.  Oh and her mother - Rayne was definitely sure Duff had met her mother.  Since her mother had spent the last several months screwing Blade, they had to have met.

Eric gave him a quick, casual once over then asked, “Aren’t you leaving in like a day?  I’ve seen the ads for the tour, I thought the band would be gone by now.”

Duff gave him a tight smile.  “Not quite yet. “

Rayne had never intended to go on the tour with him and hadn’t thought it was a big deal to blow it off.  Duff didn’t seem to mind.  Rayne found nothing glamourous about a band tour and he certainly knew it. That had changed.  She definitely did not want to stay in this house with the stairway up to that room all by herself for months, and she didn’t know where else to go.  If Jimmy hadn’t died she would be safe in her own house and could fly out to join Duff when it worked for both of them.  In the week since Jimmy’s death, everything in her life had changed.
Duff slipped his arm around her, tucking her close to his body, his hand tight around her waist.  “I will make this work.”  

She stroked the lapel of his jacket with her fingertips, hanging onto his waist just as tightly as he was holding hers. “I know.  I didn't plan it, I didn't think it would happen like this, that's all.

She felt him draw a deep breath before he turned to look at her brother.  “Our tour dates have been rescheduled in the past.  The meeting this morning will be about final arrangements and I intend to bring it up.”

Eric seemed to realize something wasn’t quite right.   He dropped it.  “Yeah, okay, I’m sure you’ll work it out.  I’d like to get back by dark, I’ve got a thing I’d like to do tonight so we need to get going.  That detour for the flamingo ruins is going to add an hour as it is.”

She opened the door and huddled up on the leather seat, pulling her legs up and hugging her knees. If Eric had a problem with shoes on the upholstery, he would tell her.  Duff leaned over the door so close she could feel his breath on her cheek and said firmly.  “You will call me if there is any problem.”

“I will.  It’ll be okay though.”  Rayne didn’t want to let go or leave the house, didn’t want to even get out of sight.  She had been uneasy about Duff driving her there and supervising the trip, resentful knowing he would limit her freedom of movement, but now that it wasn’t going to happen she would much rather he come with her after all.  She forced a smile.  “Eric won’t let me fall in a hole or something.”

Eric got in behind the wheel, put the key in the ignition, started the engine and turned on the lights, and looked past her at Duff.  “If her car won’t start or looks like it’s not going to make it, I’m not dealing with it.  My dad will take care of it or you guys can do it, whatever works for you.”

Duff stepped away from the curb and nodded.  “Thank you Eric.”

With a little show of unmistakable drama, one corner of her brother’s mouth twitched with amusement and he inclined his head and said solemnly, “You are welcome, Duff Tyson.”

He drove to the dead end, made a U turn and headed down the road back towards the harbor and the road out of town.  Eric was different; he wasn’t like anyone else in the family and that little gesture was typical: teasing without malice, finding a way to turn a tense situation into something a little less crushingly awful.  Nate laughed at him but Eric didn’t seem to mind. “That was courtly.  What is it that Nate calls you?”

He downshifted, turned right and accelerated hard down the empty road, glanced at her and grinned.   “Nate knighted me.  I'm Eric the Young.”


The Stone Sisters Islands, southern archipelago.  Flamingo Temple Ruins.

Three hours out of South Beach the car stopped somewhere bright and loud and weird.  Rayne had fallen asleep, sleep she needed, and woke with a bang when they parked next to columns and crumbling walls and a waterfall that didn't look natural.  It was a literal bang - people were shouting and knocking things around.   A girl next to some towers struck a pose and winked and waved frantically and yelled something, maybe Eric's name since he grinned and shouted, "Hey Lin!"

She took a deep breath and tried to wake up.  She knew this place, she'd seen photos of it, a dig people were excited about because it was so old and they'd found bodies of people and flamingos.  It was the flamingos that made it so cool, not the dead people.  What were they doing here?

Eric leaned on the car door and talked to a redheaded woman about his age, both of them smiling and chatting just as if they were good friends.  "Of course you can use the bridge.  We'll move the barrier for you or you can move it yourself - it's just a wooden sawhorse with a light hung on it.  Where're you going?"

"Sandy Point.  I'm taking my sister to pick up her car, and it's a hell of a drive.  Cutting through here saves us hours.  I really appreciate it, Emma."

"Oh you're welcome.  The detour scares off the tourists but we try to work with normal people."

He had a way to cut two hours off the trip and he hadn't mentioned it?  Could they go back the same way? Rayne blinked through the light and the oppressive heat - how hot was it - and wondered if she recognized the woman as well as the place.  Maybe.  She was kind of pretty.  She didn't seem like a girlfriend, but Rayne didn't know anybody the twins dated anymore.  It had all sort of slipped away.

"Thanks, you saved me two, maybe three hours.  I'll buy you a drink when we get back."

"I won't be back until the weekend but by then I'll want more than one.  Call me?"

"If I can break you away from Nate."

She laughed.  "Just call.  I'll answer."

As they pulled away Rayne leaned on her elbow and looked away from one of the guys who had been shouting at one of the other guys.  He was staring at her unless he was staring at Eric - either way he was out of luck.  "So who's the girl?"

"Emma de Barra.  You've probably seen her on that show about archeology, Ancient Archipelago, the one that uses Dad's tracks.  She's in a couple of my classes."

So Eric's 'friend' had some kind of connection to their father because she wanted something from him. Maybe that's why she was nice to Eric.  It made her feel bad, or worse since she already felt awful. She snapped at her brother, not meaning to, the anger intended for someone amorphous or at least not physically here. "What did she have to do to get permission to use his music? He never does that. Everyone is always after him for something and the women are the worst."

Eric gave her a narrow eyed glance as he negotiated the rough trail that passed as a road.  "She asked him.  What the hell is your problem?  Dad doesn't need protection you know.  He doesn't need you to get out there and challenge people on his behalf.  He can say 'no' all on his own; he knows how to do that.  He says no and the people go away.  That's how it works."

Insulted and annoyed, Rayne kicked at the floor of the car and glared steadfastly out at some huts hanging out over the water.   The roofs were falling in.  Maybe Emma de Barra had to spend the night in one of them along with the other sweaty stinky angry digging people, although that didn't seem quite fair.  Eric obviously liked her.  She probably hadn't actually done anything,  However, Rayne knew who had. "Maybe you're wrong."

"Rainie, I've got Nate protecting Mom and you protecting Dad and both of you convinced you're right and pounding on me all the time about it.  You're both crazy.  You're not a white knight and neither is Nate and I don't want to hear it anymore.

"I'm not the black knight either.  Nate's closer to that than I am."

The car bounced and she accidentally bit her lip and winced, thought about complaining and then didn't.  Eric gripped the steering wheel with both hands.  "You don't even know what that means, and you both wear it well.  Shut up and go back to sleep."


Sandy Point.  House by the bridge

She hadn't intended to sleep again but the long ride and the quiet wind lulled her right back into it. When Eric pulled up outside her house, he had to wake her up.  The street was empty.  It was full summer in Sandy Point, it should be crowded, but the weather had been cold and unsettled so the whole place looked sad.

Rayne sat in the car and looked at her brother.  She felt sticky with sleep.  She felt like telling him she didn't want to get out of the car.

He didn't look very happy either.

"Go check your car, Rainie.  They're calling for more rotten weather and I want to get out of here."

Rayne slammed the car door, stepped over one of Sandy Point's worn out curbs and strode down the sidewalk toward the driveway.  Eric was the one who demanded she meet him, and Eric was the one who scheduled it for that insane time of the morning.  She hadn't called him and begged him to drive her somewhere she didn't want to go.  "I didn't ask you to come in the first place."

"Yeah, I'm aware of that.  Start the car and we can both leave."

The engine sputtered but it caught, and settled in and purred happily and efficiently.  It ran.  She could drive it back.

"Okay," she said, climbing out, knocking her knee against the door, "it starts.  We can go."

Eric crossed his arms, stepped irritably away from one of the more intrusive palms and demanded, "What's going on?  All the way here - no, since I picked you up at Duff's place - you've acted like going to Sandy Point was the last thing you want.  You don't want the damned car or you don't want it enough to come all the way out here to get it.  You look terrible.  You look like being here is making you sick.  Why did you want to come?"

Rayne shivered in the heat and clutched her bare arms.  "I didn't want to come.  Nobody asked me. Duff told me he thought it was a bad idea, and he was right.  It's all empty, and there's nothing but bad memories."

Eric stepped out into the road as if he intended to get in his car and drive off and for a moment Rayne was afraid he was going to do just that and leave her here alone.  He paced across the street and turned back, looking exasperated.  "If you didn't want to come, why didn't you tell me?  Why didn't you call Dad and ask him why he set this up? What the hell is the matter with you?"

It was complicated.  She felt guilty, and scared, and anxious about what was going to happen with Duff, and underlying all that she was angry.  Something terrible was going on and her father was still lying about it.  She needed to stay in control but there was so much, and she wasn't used to feeling so overwhelmed and so helpless.  She just went with Eric and she didn't know why she didn't refuse.

"I don't know.  All I know is I didn't want to go but here I am."

He came back across the street, briefly touched her on the shoulder, walked around her car looking at it, then and started back toward his car, keeping her by his side by watching her every move now.

"Okay, you're here but you're leaving.  You want me to drive you back or do you want to go ahead and drive your car?  If that's what you want, I'll follow you and make sure you're all right. What's it going to be?"

They stopped right in front of the gap in the fence that led to the blue stairs and the screen door and the porch behind it.  Duff said the place was almost completely empty.  They'd left a few things they could get later: a couple of lamps, a chair in the kitchen, a mirror that Shooter accidentally broke but he thought she might want it repaired, and some items on the porch.  Rayne didn't really want to go strolling around the house but it seemed to call to her.  It was the place she went when she moved out of Jimmy's house.  She probably should not have left him, not at all, he needed her and she let him down, and the house sort of stood for that terrible decision.  She should go in one last time.

"You go on ahead, Eric.  Duff said he left some things and I'd like to take them if I can."

Eric glanced down as if trying to keep his calm, and then in his quiet voice said, "You don't want me to hang around, do you?"

"I want you to give me a little space to think, that's all.  It's not like I don't want you around."

"Rayne, I can't do that.  I can't leave you here.  If you feel like you have to go in and you want to do it alone, I get that, but you have to come right back out again and get in your car and leave the island. I'll wait somewhere.  I'm not going all the way back unless I know you're okay."

She smiled, walked around the car and leaned over and gave her brother a kiss on the cheek.  "Thank you sweet knight.  Don't worry."

He left.

Rayne hesitated, watching his car, then with a falling heart put down her head and went up the stairs through the screen door and into the little painted porch.

The floorboards creaked in the empty room.  Someone had closed two of the three windows but left the middle one open and a curtain still hanging.  It could have been either Shooter or Duff since Duff came home exhausted and she assumed Shooter was equally wiped.  Who cared about a window and a curtain?  However, they left her old chess table too and the pieces along with it.  She’d thrown a sheet over it to protect it from the weather, intending to move it inside, and then Jimmy died and here it was.   It was the sort of thing they would have decided to leave behind for now along with the chair in the kitchen and the table lamps.

What was strange though is that the game had been abandoned with pieces still in play.  Rayne had the bizarre thought of Duff and Shooter taking a break from moving furniture, sitting down and playing a game of chess only to be interrupted and then leaving it that way, pawns set aside, the knight advancing, the future unknown. 

Jimmy bought those pieces at a yard sale even though she had never been a good chess player.  One pawn had been missing, a black pawn.  Jimmy had given her a seashell to use for the pawn and joked that it would probably be the first one to ‘die’, and usually chose black since he considered it somehow 'fair', but there was no sign of it.  Maybe someone had knocked it on the floor and swept it up and thrown it away. 

He had touched those little pieces of carved wood, held them in the palm of his hand, tossed them up in the air, sometimes tossed them at her.  The piece in the center, standing there as if he had just set it down, that was Jimmy's.  It was his black knight.

It was not something she considered or decided.  It simply happened.  She turned and slammed through the screen door and down the porch stairs toward her car. She would come back for the chess set, she wouldn't leave it, Jimmy would not have liked her to leave it.  There was nothing else here, not in this house, and she was here in Sandy Point and she was alone and there was something she had to do.

She was shaking.  She was determined.  She was going to say goodbye.


  1. No one did ask Rayne. She's determined that she needed to say goodbye, but yeah... no one else really had the right to make her do so. She hasn't had much "seize the day" in her since the incident with Ryan, but I don't think letting the men in her life make her decisions for her is productive. Rayne needs to get her fire back, some way or another. I hope there's a light at the end of her tunnel, wherever it happens to lead.

    The situation with the Stanfields is so sad. Rayne and Nate are so firmly Team Cooper and Team Beth that their relationships with their non-team parent will probably never recover even if they do eventually get all of the information from both sides. Eric and Hugs are caught in the middle, which is a tough place to be as an adult or as a child. And then Wyatt... well, Beth isn't his mother, but his relationship with Cooper is complicated.

    I hope Eric has something in his life that's just his. A hobby, an interest, a friend or two with no particular connection to any of the other Stanfields.

    1. You're right. Everyone is protecting Rayne without asking her if she wants the protection. She's not a child. She didn't want to go get that car. She resented being shepherded into the whole car trip but it was just too much effort to refuse. She is leaning on Duff although she's anxious about it. He's there. He wants to take care of her. It's easy to lean some more.

      The relationships between Nate and Rayne and their respective 'team' parents keeps hardening with time. Nate has seen things he hasn't shared with Rayne, like his father in the men's room with Stevie. Rayne of course has the whole sordid Ryan mess and the way her mother, driven by jealousy, lit into her instead of attempting to help her. She hasn't shared that with anybody. Beth knows what's behind Rayne's anger. She thinks she knows why Nate is protective and has attempted more than once to tell him he's overreacting, out of bounds, and to cut it out. Hasn't worked, and after Gemma certainly will not. Cooper doesn't really know that his son has the amount of detail he actually has, nor does he understand why Rayne is so protective. Nobody is going to tell him. It's a mess with no way out.

      Eric hasn't escaped his twin's gravity well yet. Nate keeps him pretty close and doesn't understand Eric's frustration. At this point Eric's life and interests have been his brother's to direct.

      Poor Hugs is just beginning to realize that people in the family really do not like each other.

      Thank you so much.

    2. I think it's interesting how Rayne continues to do things she doesn't want to do. You're right, Van, about Ryan being the last definitive decision she's made. To an extent, she even did what Jimmy wanted (selling off her furniture from her college rental comes to mind). She is struggling with who she thinks she is, what she thinks she wants, and dealing with all the heartache she has experienced in her young life. Everyone thinks she is fragile and worries she will fall back into a bottle or worse (remember she met Jimmy in rehab). No one is really letting her stand on her own. In my opinion, Duff is better for her than anyone else in her life right now.

      I think Eric and Hugs will come into their own in time. Eric probably sooner than Hugs.

      Thank you for reading as always.

  2. I loved the flow of this chapter, the different scenes, characters and the writing. Wonderful shots as usual. :)

    I feel for Rayne though. She seems to have so much going on in that head of hers. It must be so tiring. I hope with her going back to her beach house that she is able to reflect and say goodbye and hopefully let go of some things. I loved seeing her and Duff being close again and the little sweet touches that Duff does to her. I really want to see these two happy and together!

    1. Thank you! It was interesting to watch unfold - sometimes the characters go unexpected places. Trying to take the shots is always a challenge but not too bad when the emotion is already right there!

      Rayne's having a tough time. She could have saved Jimmy if she had been there, but she couldn't always be there, and that's a recipe for some serious guilt. She's still trying to protect her father. She's anxious about Duff. Her brother is exasperated with her. And she really has nothing going on in her life except these emotional messes. She's floundering.

      I love those two together. I loved them together the moment I realized what was happening.

      Thank you so much for continuing to read and for taking the time to leave a comment. It means a great deal.

  3. so many feels! Especially re Rayne's guilt. (Also I wonder if Eric really left.)
    Your comment about Hugs starting to realise that people in the family dislike each other really tugged at my heartstrings too.

    1. Thanks again for taking the time to read through this! Really appreciate it - it's such a morale booster.

      Rayne doesn't have anything in her life to balance all this emotion either. She doesn't have an actual job or vocation or hobby or anything. Even though she's pretty young, bouncing around from one intense relationship to another with nothing to do but plot and brood hasn't been good for her.

      Eric takes things seriously, even things he isn't technically responsible for. He knows he can't do much with his sister but he's worried she's going to explode or otherwise annihilate herself. It would be like him to wander around for a while.

      Hugs is getting old enough now to notice and see the patterns. Rayne and Nate avoid family gatherings so it's not as obvious as it could be, but it's there, and it's large. She's a very gentle girl. Denial will be like her favorite blanket.

      Again, thank you!

  4. Sorry I'm so late on this. I'm sitting here wondering if there was ever a time in Rayne's life where she wasn't in the middle of a tragedy. I'm sure there was but it seems like she's be in and out of them since she was a youngster. They have definitely changed her but it seems to have been in this strange dichotomy of fueling her in one sense and poisoning her in another. And Van is right, now that I think about it, as tough as she is she does have a tendency to allow the men in her life to call the shots in one way or another. It's like her white knights always come charging in on a black harley saving her before she's actually screamed.

    I will say that Eric is a better choice to play the night here. He doesn't want to control the situation but just help and I'm glad he's giving her the space she needs. That said, this isn't going to be easy for her but I'm proud of her for facing on her own.

    By the way, I just love Sandy Point. All of the colors and the rustic feel are just beautiful.

    1. Muze, there's no such thing as late for something like this. We both appreciate the time you take to read anything we've written, any time.

      This was so roughly formatted, I went back in and fixed it up!

      Rayne came along when Cooper was just taking responsibility for Wyatt and all that terrible situation entailed, was traveling a lot, and Rainie grew up with a strong attachment to Ryan since her father was either not there or was distracted. She's never been quite settled, attaches strongly but not well, and the violent break with her mother pushed her into a corner she's never quite escaped. She reached out to Ryan. She reached out to Gabe. To Jimmy. And now to Duff - who out of the bunch of them is the most stable. She won't scream. It's like admitting weakness is asking for attention from malevolent gods.

      Eric is wonderful. He'll give her space but he's not going to abandon her either. Sometimes brothers are a fabulous thing.

      Sandy Point is based on an island I visited frequently as a child. I loved every minute of it and every single street. Blue houses, yellow houses, red diners, it has its downside but it's an inspiration.

      Thank you so much.