Chapter tune: James Morrison – Just like a child
“So you’re really going through with this?” Charlie asked her cousin. It was a strange feeling, having her move out after so much time of living in the same building, practically together. Of course, Raina would still be close but it wouldn’t be the same.
“Yup. I gave my landlord the thirty days notice two weeks ago. There’s two more weeks to go and then I’m out of here!”
“Fuck man, this is a huge step! I have been waiting for you to chicken out or something. But hey, between you and me… you can still call it off, you know.”
“Nope, I’m doing it. I know it’s sudden and all, and it might seem a little soon…”
“…only a little?”
“Okay, very soon. But it just… it feels right. You know?”
“Eeeh… Does it really?”
Raina stared into the mushy contents of her strawberry-banana milkshake. What could she possibly say? That not only she was unsure about her moving in with Zach, but also that deep down, she had doubts about their relationship at its whole?
“I don’t understand though” Charlie continued “why leave your apartment? It’s bigger, prettier and in a better neighborhood.”
“Yeah, but… Zach’s closer to the bar. I mostly work from home.”
“Your place is not that far from the bar either, it’s like fifteen minutes more, dude! And he has a motorcycle! I don’t get why you have to leave.”
“Charlie… can we not do this? It’s happening, end of story.”
“Alright, alright. I’m just saying that it’s not too late to back down if that’s not what you really want.”
“Yeah, I got that… but no. No, I want this.” I wish, she thought, but chased that thought away.
“Alright, if you’re certain then… I’m happy for you, really. But I’ll sure miss having you in the building, you nut. Who knows what loser is gonna come live in your apartment now.”
Raina’s eyes filled with tears. Truth be told, she wasn’t just going to miss her apartment and having Charlie so close. She was devastated. But, against all odds, she’d said yes when he asked her to move in; so now there was no way she could back down.
The next week, Raina had already had made an appointment with the movers and had packed most of her things. She wasn’t used to such hard work though, so her mood was not at its best. That, plus her increasing doubts about the move, and the fact that she was practically already living with Zach while she thought she still had more time to be by herself, had transformed her into an irritable, over emotional creature who had withdrawn from everything and everyone, in a desperate attempt to have the alone time she needed.
Despite that, the following Saturday she pushed herself to have a little leaving party at her apartment. Except for Charlie and Allison, there was the whole rest of the crew attending, including Andrew. Of course he did not seem too happy about it, like he had been dragged by force or something – which Charlie did not fail to point out.
Still, he had the courtesy to bring a – quite expensive – bottle of Barolo, which he promptly opened and poured for himself. As soon as Raina approached him, he offered her a glass too.
“Wow… this wine tastes amazing!”
“I know, that’s why I picked it.”
Raina cleared her throat. What could one possibly respond to that? “Um… well anyway, you didn’t have to bring me such an expensive drink. Thank you!”
“You’re welcome.” he replied, and then it was silence again.
She still wanted to carry the conversation between them for a while though, as she found him interesting, but he sure wasn’t making it easy. Before she half-heartedly headed to talk to someone else, he finally asked her a question, like a normal human being. “So where is your boyfriend?”
“Zach? He works tonight, but he’ll drop by as soon as he finishes” she replied, and took another sip of her glass. She didn’t want to talk about Zach really. “Wow… this wine is truly great. I don’t think I’ve ever had anything like it.”
“I’m glad that you can appreciate it, but you might want to take it a little easier… it’s quite strong.”
“Oh, I’ll be fine; I ate four slices of pizza so I have a full stomach tonight! And I’m already at my place anyway, so I can pass out here if I get too drunk.” she half-joked.
“Believe me, it’s so much better with steak or pasta with red meat sauce. Or even dark chocolate. You should try it someday.”
“I will, thanks for the tip. Do you like expensive wines?”
“I do, although I suppose it’s not really a matter of cost, but rather a matter of quality.”
“You should definitely visit Champs Les Sims then. My grandparents own a house there, and me and Charlie spent some summers at their house. There are so many vineyards at that place! And you can schedule tours and wine tastings almost every day of the week! It would make for a nice trip.”
“You are very lucky. I always meant to visit Champs Les Sims, but never got around to it. Maybe I should schedule it soon.”
“You should! One thing that had really grabbed my attention when I was there was that in many of those vineyards, there were rose bushes planted at the end of each vine row. It was so beautiful! But I learned that in the older days there was a practical reason for it too.”
“Interesting. What was the reason?”
“The main one was because roses and grapevines are prone to the same diseases, only roses get them a week or so earlier. They acted like an alarm of sorts, so that vines could get proper treatment before they got sick too. Nowadays they use modern technology to monitor those things though, so I guess the roses have only stayed for aesthetic and nostalgic reasons.”
Raina noticed his lips twitching upwards. Was he… smiling? “Of course, you can’t go wrong with technology. But I admit, this was a very impressive fact, Raina.”
She chuckled. “Am I dreaming? Did I really manage to impress Andrew Thorne?”
“…I think I need to apologize. I know I sometimes come off as rude or pretentious, and that is never my intention. Well, not always anyway… but never to you. So I’m sorry if I have ever offended you.”
It was her turn to smile. “Oh… thank you for saying this. But it’s okay. Sometimes we show the outer world a whole different face. I understand.”
His gaze drifted elsewhere for a second. After a short pause, he spoke again. “I have to say I quite like your place. It’s very… you. There’s too much pink for my taste of course, but it has character.”
“It’s very me and you like it? Does that mean you like me, too?”
“I wouldn’t go that far.” he replied, but it was obvious by the sudden warmth of his eyes and his half smile that, for the first time since they met, Andrew Thorne was joking.
A couple of hours later, Raina, despite Andrew’s warning and having had half a bottle of wine and a couple of other drinks, was feeling quite tipsy.
She noticed Andrew walking though the door and she instantly remembered that he had come to say goodnight not five minutes earlier. But she didn’t want him to go so soon. Whether it was about just him leaving or because that meant the night would end and that she would be forced deal with her life choices soon, she wasn’t sure. But, nonetheless, she found herself following him outside.
“Hey! Why are you leaving so soon?”
He turned around, looking quite amused at the sight of her all blushed from what he assumed was the amount of alcohol in her system. Maybe that wine had also mellowed him out, at least for a while. “I wish I could stay, but I have to get up early and work.”
“B-but it’s Saturday!”
“Yes, I know. Unfortunately I have to refactor the code of a platform I’m working on and I’d rather do it tomorrow when the company and especially my team won’t call me as much. I had a good time though, thank you for inviting me. I wish you good luck with the move and… your life. That’s quite a big step. And may I suggest the next drink you have should be coffee? You obviously have a low tolerance for alcohol.”
Suddenly feeling dizzy, Raina tripped and grabbed his hand to steady herself. He didn’t stop her or let go. In fact, she got the vague impression that his fingers moved along her wrist, ever so slightly. But she wasn’t in any condition to dwell on it. “You’re so much fun to be around! Hey… can I ask you something? Do you honestly like me now? I want to hear you say it!”
“Why is it so important that I like you?”
“Because! You are very smart and I like you! I always did, since we were kids!”
“Sure. You’re quite fun to be around too, Raina.”
“Do you love me?”
“Ah, I see now that you’re quite drunk; even more than I thought. The answer is no, Raina, I most definitely don’t love you.”
“It’s alright! You will someday! Hey, now that we’re friends, can I tell you a secret?”
“I don’t want to go live with Zach! I’m not even sure I want to be with him! …crap. I’m so screwed!”
“I can’t disagree with that.” Andrew replied, but he wasn’t looking at her anymore. His gaze was towards the stairs where, as Raina came to realize right after, there was Zach standing. Following that realization, came another one: her hand was still holding Andrew’s. She quickly removed it, even though Zach had probably seen and heard everything.
To say that the poor guy looked properly hurt, would be an understatement.
“I can’t fucking believe it…” he muttered.
“Zach… I’m so sorry! I was drunk, well dizzy, I… I didn’t know what I was talking about” Raina whispered, having gotten all sobered up in a second.
“Oh, really? And what am I supposed to do now, Raina? Just carry on like I didn’t hear a thing?”
“No… but, please let’s talk about it for a while! …Alone. Please.”
Andrew didn’t seem at all fazed by the emotional overload of the atmosphere, and began walking away. “So… I’m gonna go. Seems like you two have a lot to talk about. Goodnight, Raina. And… good luck, if you believe in that sort of thing.”
Zach glared at him, like what his girlfriend blurted out was his fault somehow. “Yeah, whatever man, just move along.”
Raina was not even daring to look him in the eyes. “Zach, I… I’m so sorry..”
“Not only did you not tell me how you felt about the move or our relationship – me, your boyfriend – but instead you told the one person I can’t stand. What is the matter with you?”
“You’re right… I’m so sorry…”
But he wasn’t listening. “You know what, I’m too tired and I’m so not in the mood to talk about it now. Go to your party. I’ll guess I’ll call you tomorrow.”
The next day passed and Zach didn’t call, and the same thing happened the day after that. On Tuesday though he finally sent Raina a message asking if she had time to swing by and have a chat. Of course, she accepted.
They sat on the table, his gaze glued to its surface as he began talking. “Raina…”
She stayed silent, waiting.
“I… about a week ago I received a call from the director. I… I got the job I was telling you about.”
“Yeah… turns out the filming will mostly take place in Starlight Shores. I said no. Didn’t wanna leave you, you know… but that was dumb. I called him again today, asked him if the job was still available. He said yes. I’m leaving in a week.”
“Wow… okay… For how long?”
“At least six months… and if it goes well, indefinitely.”
Raina snapped her head up, eyes opening wide in surprise. “What?”
He finally raised his head too and looked her in the eyes. “Babe… Raina. It’s not working out. I get it now. I wanted us to work out so bad, I… I missed all the signs. You don’t wanna be with me.”
“That is not true! I told you, I was drunk! I was talking nonsense!”
“It is babe… I don’t understand why you won’t admit it. And I should have known, judging from your behavior and all, so… I guess that’s a little on me too. I pushed you.”
“No, I… I haven’t been myself lately. I think it was the move, it stressed me out. Can’t we get past this? Please…”
“No baby… It wasn’t just the move. Why can’t you just admit it? It’s so clear that we shouldn’t be together. Fuck… I can’t believe I’m the one doing this…”
“Then don’t do it..! Please!” Raina didn’t even realize her eyes were full of tears until they started to stream down her cheeks and mouth.
“Since it all happened so suddenly, you can still stay at my place. If the show tanks though, I’ll be back in about six months. But you’ll have plenty of time to search for a place until then. Just a heads up though… Arnie might also need a place to crash for a couple of weeks, so I told him to use my apartment. It was before we agreed to move in together though, so… I’m sorry about that.”
Raina didn’t realize how mad she got at the mention of Zach’s friend and the prospect of sharing a house with him, until the words started flying out of her mouth. “What?! Are you for real? I’ll definitely not stay at your place with Arnie! I don’t even like that asshole enough to grab coffee with him!” Ooops… she’d said it. There was no turning back now. “…not that I’d stay in your apartment at all anyway!”
But Zach, ever the good natured guy, didn’t even seem to notice her attack towards his friends. “Raina, come on… I don’t want us to part like this. I still care about you. It’s not your fault or mine that it’s not working out…”
“So what? You want us to just be friends? I’ll have you know that I’ve heard that a lot already and I’m not interested!”
“You didn’t seem like you were interested in a relationship either! At least with me!” he shouted, finally getting angry at her.
“You know, you seem like a sweet, easy-going girl, but the truth is, it’s impossible to please you! Maybe you were like this with all the guys before me too, I don’t know!”
And boy did he struck a chord with that statement. Raina knew she was difficult sometimes, especially the moment she felt comfortable enough in the relationship. She wasn’t high maintenance or fussy, that wasn’t the issue; quite the opposite. But as much as she craved romance and intimacy, her need of space and alone time always prevailed in the end, making her gradually withdrawn from everyone. And maybe that was one of the reasons all the previous guys didn’t feel like she was worth the trouble eventually. And as it turned out, she even made Zach realize it. She knew that it was her fault he was breaking up with her. But what was even more shocking to her, was the small sense of relief in the back of her head – which, strangely, filled her with sadness and regret all over again. She was a mess.
“I’m so sorry…” she whispered between sobs.
“Raina… shit. I’m sorry too. I didn’t mean to yell, but… I meant what I said before. I really wish things weren’t like that…”
“Well, it doesn’t really make a difference if you meant it or not… does it?”
“I guess not…”
She didn’t reply. There was no need really.
“I guess I’ll go… my offer still stands by the way and… I hope you’ll find what you’re looking for, babe, I… I really do.”
After Zach left, she went into her bedroom to cry and reflect. While doing that, she noticed the many little things she had lying around, left for the last minute, and started stressing over how much time she had until they should be all packed and ready to go.
And it suddenly hit her. She was not only heartbroken and miserable.
She was fucking homeless.