Chapter tune: Deep Blue Something – Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Raina was still in a somewhat foul mood by the time she arrived at the park to meet Zach. But when his warm eyes caught hers, every bit of her negative emotions vanished just like that.
“Hi” he said, his whole face lighting up. “…wow. You look beautiful.”
Raina blushed, suddenly feeling shyer than usual. “Um… thank you.”
They decided to grab a coffee in one of the nearby cafes. Before they even arrived, Raina had learned that Zach was originally from Appaloosa Plains, moved to Boroughsburg about five years ago to chase an acting career that sadly never took off, that Fourdust (her dad’s former band) was one of his all time favorite bands, that he had a pet fish named Larry and that he loved – no, adored – his mom.
Oh, and he was so, so easy to smile.
They had their first kiss that evening, right before he dropped her home and told her he wanted to see her again.
The only word Raina could think of to describe that kiss was fine, which was pretty impressive, considering that words were practically her bread and butter.
One week later, they slept together for the first time.
Like all the previous times she shared her bed with someone, the experience was just… disappointing.
Not that she was expecting something different. Despite being a hopeless romantic, she held no illusions whatsoever on that front. Nobody had ever rocked her world, and honestly, she didn’t think she was any good either – always feeling too shy, too insecure. Sure, it gave her a sense of closeness and affection, but as for that raw, physical pleasure she read all about in her romance novels? Not once had she experienced it. Maybe mind-blowing sex was only meant to remain in her fantasies after all.
“So, how are things with Zach? You’ve been together for what now, four months?” Allison asked her friend, stirring her coffee and taking a sip to make sure the sweetness, color and temperature were just perfect.
The three girls were regularly hanging out since that night at the club. Allison’s friend Jess was often joining, although she and the cousins still didn’t feel entirely comfortable around each other. This time the girls were meeting for a morning coffee, at Charlie’s sparsely decorated living room.
“Everything’s… fine.” Raina muttered, even though it was obvious from the tone of her voice that everything was anything but fine.
Charlie shot her a piercing gaze. “Just fine? Girl, you are in a relationship at last where the guy is crazy about you! That’s what you wanted, right? It should be more than fine.”
“Trust me, I know! He is very sweet and all, but lately he never wants us to be… you know, alone. Whenever he has the night off, he keeps dragging me to hang with his friends at parties or clubs, while I just want to stay at home and cuddle and watch a movie or something. Plus, all his friends are horrible, I can’t stand them! All they want to do is drink shots and talk about boring stuff like the latest gossip and crap like that. And it’s not that they like me anyway; one of them said to my face that I’m too quiet for Zach, always standing in a corner with my drink like a wallflower.”
“That son of a bitch!” Charlie was livid. “So… why don’t you tell him that? Not the horrible friends part, obviously, but all the rest.”
“I don’t know… I don’t want to fight. Not that we would ever really fight, you know. Anytime we even come close to it, he starts complaining like a…” Raina cut her sentence, not sure how she wanted to proceed with her description.
“…like this whiny little b… kid. Oh god, I’m terrible! I’m a bad girlfriend! And he’s not even that whiny, really. I just… I thought he’d be different, you know?”
“Dude! Telling him you want to relax and stay in once in a while is barely a reason to fight. But it seems to me you have more issues than that; which, until now, you were willing to overlook – for some reason. Is he that awesome in bed?”
Raina stared at her hands and remained silent. She couldn’t lie. And even if she felt like she craved some alone time with her boyfriend, whenever that happened, all she wanted was to get done with it and move on to the fun part; cuddling in bed. But lately, that wasn’t enough either.
“… I guess that’s a no. Then why the heck are you staying with him, girl?”
“Charlie… let’s not push her, okay?” Allison chimed in. “I’m sure it’s not that easy to break up with someone you care about.”
“That’s one of the problems…” Raina continued “I do care about him, so much. He’s really nice, and he’s very sensitive – I’m sure he’d not take it well if we broke up… which, side note, has never happened to me. I mean, someone actually wanting to be with me. What if I never get another chance at a relationship? I don’t wanna blow it and I don’t want to hurt him… And I guess we are still learning each other. But I also feel like we have nothing in common. He never wants to watch the movies I want to watch, he zones out whenever I mention a new book that I read or a random idea that I have, and he never wants to talk about… you know, interesting stuff!”
Charlie smirked. She knew exactly what her quirky cousin was talking about. Even if she was shy, she could ramble for hours to people she knew well; but the topics were either books and stories she obsessed about at the time, or the most random topics anyone had ever heard. “Like discussing about what would happen if the appliances had feelings or whether our dreams are simply images from alternate realities? Honey, in his defense, the aren’t many people around who are willing to hear about that stuff. …it’s okay though, you like what you like. But you’ll stay with him because he’s sensitive and you don’t want to hurt his feelings? What about your feelings? Girl, if you don’t break up now, won’t it be harder six months, one year later?”
“Yes… yes of course, you ‘re right. And to be honest, I just… sometimes I miss being single, you know? At least before, I was hoping that I’d meet the perfect guy, but now that I have Zach I keep wondering if he’s the one… and then, when I even consider he could be, I think… so that’s it? You know what I’m saying?”
Allison looked at her friend with sympathy. “Sweetie… I think this might be a sign that it’s not working out… and that he’s probably not the one. It’s a new relationship and you should be excited to be with him, not have so many problems already.”
Charlie shook her head in agreement. “I’d say keep him for the sex, but you already told us it’s no good, so…”
Raina realized she was done with the conversation. She’d already shared much more than what she initially intended, and she belatedly realized that Zach didn’t deserve that. She would have to talk to him about it instead… eventually. “Yeah… can we please change the subject? So how are the wedding preparations going?”
“…Ah yes, I’m so exhausted! Oliver is working too many hours and I’m doing everything myself. But we finally decided on a venue, at last. And in about a month I have my first wedding dress appointment. You two will come with, right?”
“Yes!! Of course! Oh man, this is so exciting! Will your mom will be there too?” Raina asked, realizing a little too late that the mom topic was a little uncomfortable for both of the siblings.
Allison’s face darkened, a blatant contrast to her usual sunny demeanor, but it only lasted for a second. Clearly both she and her brother were capable of hiding their true feelings, each in their own special way. “No… she’s quite busy this time of year. But it’s okay, she said she’ll probably be there next time, or as the wedding is approaching… probably.”
“Well anyway” Charlie chimed in to lighten the mood “as long as there’s free champagne, I’m going anywhere.”
That afternoon, Raina asked Zach to come at her apartment. The conversation with her friends left determined to deal with her relationship problems head on. She’d either demand what she wanted out of it or break up; there was no other way.
When Zach arrived, he had the widest smile Raina had ever seen. “Babe! You will not believe it!”
She internally rolled her eyes. So much enthusiasm… he was behaving like a little kid on steroids sometimes. Well, this is not very nice Raina, she told herself and forced a semi-sweet smile. “What happened?”
“I met a director at the bar yesterday, and he told me I have exactly the face he wants for a new series he’s working on. He called me today to set up a date for an audition! Babe… you should see the cast. It’s got some major names. This is my big break, I can feel it!”
Well. This was huge. She immediately regretted her first reaction. “Really? That’s so great, congratulations! I’m so happy for you!”
Raina sat on the couch and he promptly followed. “So… do you want some coffee? I made one for me already, but I can make you some too, if you want.”
“Nah, I’m good. I’ll just have a smoke if you don’t mind. So hey, maybe if I get famous and if one of your books gets turned into a movie someday, I can play the part.”
“Well… I wouldn’t count on it.”
“Babe… why all the negative energy? You’ll get published soon, I know it!”
“First of all, I believe that most books are positively ruined if they get made into movies and second, I have to actually finish one first. But someone is bored to read it and give me some feedback, so I’m stuck.” …Well that wasn’t very nice either Raina. It’s not his fault you can’t finish your damn book.
“Whoops… sorry about that. But I guess I’m not really a bookish guy. I wouldn’t be much help anyway.”
“What about scripts? Won’t you have to read those?”
“I guess… but those are just scripts. Totally different thing.”
“Ugh, okay. But you didn’t want me to give it to someone else either.”
“Yeah, but only because you wanted to give it to that asshole, Andrew.”
“Hey. He’s my friend’s brother, don’t talk about him like that.”
“So? He’s your friend’s brother, not your friend. And I see how rude he is to everyone, especially you. Why would you want to give your drafts to him? Hell, why are you even defending him? To me?”
“Because you’re wrong! He is kind of blunt sometimes, but he always gives his honest opinion about things. I… I admire that. Plus, he actually likes books and he’s really smart.”
“Oh, and I’m not?”
“What? N-no! I didn’t say that…”
“Fuck babe, you are really mean sometimes, you know that?”
Oh crap, here we go again… “I’m sorry, alright? I don’t even know what we’re arguing about…” This is not going where it’s supposed to go…
“Listen babe… I don’t wanna fight either. In fact, I was going to ask you to come to the Docks with me tonight to celebrate. The guys are gonna be there too.”
Oh, hell no. Raina would rather die than spend another night with Zach’s friends in such a short amount of time. She had suffered their presence only two nights ago and desperately needed a break. Preferably a permanent one. “Oh shoot, you know what? I can’t tonight… I wanted to tell you earlier, I have a deadline and I have to work.”
“Alright, then how about tomorrow? I don’t have to be at the bar till the day after.”
“I have to work tomorrow too.”
“Come on babe… not even for like one hour or something?”
“No, because going out will require me to get ready, so it will take me more than an hour. Can’t we just stay inside? Just the two of us?”
“But… how is that celebrating babe?”
God, this guy… he could be so dense sometimes. Deal with your issues head-on, Raina… Still, she would rather die than be direct about what was on her mind, especially if doing so would lead to conflict – until, of course, it was too late and all her repressed feelings came flooding in.
“Okay sure, let’s go.”
“You don’t seem too happy about it.” Zach said, finally noticing that something was wrong.
“Well what do you want me to say? I told you I had to work, I told you to stay in and you’re not listening!”
“But I don’t understand… even if we stay in, won’t you have work to do?”
“God, you’re so frustrating!”
“I’m frustrating? Something is clearly up with you and you won’t even tell me about it!”
This lead to a second round of arguing which, funnily enough, was exactly what Raina was trying to avoid by not speaking her mind when she was supposed to.
“Babe…” Zach finally muttered “…are you unhappy with us?”
“I… I don’t know…”
“Well… that’s so not what I wanted to hear.”
“It’s just… sometimes I feel like you don’t get me at all…”
“But you never tell me what’s in that head of yours baby…” he said gently “how should I get you? I’m not a mind reader.” God, he was sweet. Raina felt embarrassed. She was the frustrating, flighty one most of the time, and he had been nothing but patient. But why couldn’t she feel head over heels in love with him, no matter how hard she tried?
“I know… you’re right, I know that.”
“Babe… where do you see us going from here? This relationship I mean.”
“What? I… I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about that.
“Because I really think we should talk.”
The next morning, Charlie was doing her usual morning run, when her phone rang.
It was Raina, at a time when she would normally be sleeping; she almost never woke up before 10 am.
“Yo! What are you doing up so early?”
“I haven’t slept all night!”
“…And now everything is right in the world again. Why, what happened?”
“Well, Zach and I had a long, hard talk yesterday… I’m still kind of shocked.”
“Aren’t you supposed to not be shocked by long hard things anymore?”
“Charlie!! I’m serious.”
“You’re right, I’m sorry! So…” Charlie’s voice grew more concerned “Do I need to go shopping for ice-cream?”
“No… we didn’t break up.”
“So what happened girl?”
“We uh… we are sort of… moving in together.“