She needed a break from the oppressive heat in Alessandro's glassworks studio, needed a drink of water and to wipe the sweat from her brow. She also wiped at the back of her neck and the small of her back. Moisture gathered everywhere it could pool as she worked and it didn't bother her until she stopped long enough to break her concentration. Now it positively itched.
Carrying her towel and a bottle of water outside with her, Pippa sat on a low stone bench and leaned against the building's exterior. Several days ago she'd had a conversation with one of her friends over the internet and since then she'd been having an internal debate over one sticking point: should she call Rory?
Today it seemed as if Pippa had had enough of her internal debate. She was going to call Rory. Just once. And if she got his voicemail, she'd leave him a message.
Her new phone, already filled with numbers and contact information, was missing an entry for the Irishman--not that it mattered. Pippa knew his numbers, his address, his email by heart. Without much thought, her fingers danced over the keypad, entering the digits for his cell phone.
As it rang in her ear, Pippa nodded at a passerby and offered a soft greeting in Italian. Hello, good afternoon.
Rory: .......... so ... are you saying goodbye to me as well as Staten?
Pippa: *gives him an 'are you brain-dead?' sort of look* I'm saying goodbye, Rory. Everyone keeps telling me I need to put my life back together. I -want- to put my life back together. I can't do that here. I can't do that with you. Don't you understand that?
Rory: *long silence, eyes closed*
Pippa: *quietly* I'm sorry.
Rory: *equally quietly* You have to do what's best for you. I want you to have your life back as well. *eyes still closed*
Pippa: *finding this harder than she'd like* You won't even notice I'm gone. You'll be swept up in all the wonderful things going on with your band. You'll fine. You'll be great. You don't need me here. *trying to sound far more upbeat than she feels*
Rory: *utterly bittersweet smile* I'll ... manage. *suspicious hints of moisture at the corners of those closed eyelids*
Pippa: *reaches out to brush her hand over his, hesitates and drops her arm again* I know you will, baby. Rory. *corrects herself hastily, using his name instead of terms of endearment* I know you will. *she's cried this all out on her way back from Boston, she won't do it here, again*
Rory: *sits with elbows on knees, a bit hunched over* Is there anything else? *swallows* I suppose I should return your key.
Pippa: Oh, um...*watching him is becoming painful* Yes, actually. Excuse me. *she leaves him sitting there only to return with a box full of his carefully packed things, it's obvious that she's taken her time doing this and well in advance too* I thought it would be simpler if I sorted this all out before most of my things went to storage.
Rory: *doesn't even look at the box as he pulls out his keys and separates hers from the ring* And Mr. Beaker? Have you made plans for him? *lays key on the table*
Pippa: *finds herself staring at his key* Mike. Mike said he'll take him. I wish I could take him with me but the idea of subjecting him that flight and then quarantine...it would be cruel. *Yes, she's shared her plans with her former boss before talking to you, Rory*
Rory: *nods* If ... other arrangements are needed for any reason, please ask him to call me. Tadhg will take him if need be. *shoves keys back in pocket*
Pippa: I...will. *not going to cry, dammit. not going to...she's going to cry* Ro...?
Rory: *barely above a whisper, still not looking at her* Is there anything you want me to do with anything of yours I find at my place?
Pippa: *shakes her head before realizing she needs to speak* No, not particularly. They're just...things. *gives in and moves closer, lets her fingertips touch the back of his hand* I didn't want it to be this way, Ro. I wanted us to work. I wanted you to be the one for me. *here come the tears* But that was foolish of me, love doesn't make everything better. It's not enough. After everything that's happened, it's just not...enough.
Rory: *nods again, then is abruptly on his feet, collecting his jacket and helmet* I should go.
Pippa: *looks startled at his abruptness but recovers quickly enough, nodding* All...alright. Um...*her hand sweeps over the soft leather of his jacket* Drive safe. *it sounds so...meaningless but what else is there to say?*
Rory: *if he stays any longer, he'll try to talk her out of going* You be safe as well, Pippa. *looks at her at last, century-old eyes filled with tears* Slán agus beannacht leat, a muirnin rua.
Pippa: *she doesn't ask for a translation, the sentiment clear enough and the last of it are words she knows quite well* I will be, I'll be where I belong. *tears are sliding down her cheeks but she doesn't bother to wipe them away*
Rory: *the pain in his eyes deepens; he no longer trusts his voice, but turns toward the door*
Pippa: *she can't let him leave like that* Ro? Wait, please... *she's only speaking to keep him from actually stepping through the door before she can close the distance between them* You'll always be the best thing that ever happened to me. *it's as close as she can come to saying that she still loves him as she tries to wrap her arms around his middle for one last hug*
Rory: *accepts the hug with his hands on her shoulders, if he holds her in return he'll just have to fight with himself to let her go again. She can probably feel the quivering in his stomach muscles* Goodbye. *drops a kiss on her forehead and turns to go*
Pippa: *nods and lets him go, the hug feeling hollow to her and not the soothing thing she had hoped for it to be* Bye...
Rory: *one last squeeze to her shoulder, one last look in her eyes, then he walks out the door, his movements almost mechanical*
Pippa: *she closes the door as soon as he's through it, refusing to watch him leave, it's too painful to know that she's caused that stiffness in his gait, the hurt etched on his features*
Rory: *gets home on autopilot, moving strictly by rote until he toes off his shoes and unwittingly scuffs up a bit of glitter left in the carpet. At that point he curls up next to the couch and sobs*
No loud Christmas parties for her this year. No crowded solemn midnight mass for him. Tonight, it's just...peaceful here in her apartment. The dog is sleeping under the coffee table where her very brightly lit (and incredibly pink) tree sits surrounded by stacks of presents. The stereo is on low, old holiday standards adding to the atmosphere as Bing Crosby dreams of a white Christmas and Rosemary Clooney counts her blessings instead of sheep. Everything smells of cranberries and gingerbread, plates full of cookies are on the dining room table(cooling, except for the ones Rory keeps popping into his mouth) and Pippa is partially following the trials and tribulations of Ralphie as she watches the television on mute.
With a playful smile, she takes a bow off one of the presents and presses it to Rory's chest when he joins her on the sofa. "Do you think you can stop biting the heads off gingerbread men long enough to open presents?" Pippa nods at his stocking, which she has filled with mostly unwrapped gifts: polishing cloths and guitar wax, replacement strings, new picks and a fret board cleaner. There may also be plenty of chocolate in there as well. He's a musician and a púca, the stocking is full of necessities.
The rest of her gifts for him are a bit more heartfelt. There's the leather portfolio she's filled with blank sheet music, a box filled with postcards already stamped and addressed to his family members (so he can keep in touch when Breaker Street begins to tour) along with an atlas and a felt-tipped pen (to keep track of where they have been and where they are going), sweaters Pippa picked out to replace some of his more worn clothing, jeans that she knows will flatter him on stage, and lastly the watch she picked out for him. Rock star appropriate, simple and beautiful and Italian made.
Pippa picks up her mug filled with tea and sips it as she waits for Rory to make up his mind about unwrapping things.
On the coffee table, which had been draped in filmy gauze, sat a cake, rich and decadent in its layers of sculpted chocolate. Beside it lay a carefully wrapped box, silver foil paper to reflect the delicate flames of nearby candles.
Tea lights littered the surface of every table, shelf and window ledge. The miniature candles even lined the baseboards of the living room, bathing the entire space in a warm, flickering glow. The shadows danced up walls and over furniture, almost in time to the gentle rhythm of the music quietly playing on the stereo, making the room feel alive. On the floor leaves had been scattered, all the colors of autumn creating a carpet of maple and oak, hiding the firmly woven Berber beneath. Mingled with the artificial leaves were the very real and fragrant blooms and petals of roses and mums, daisies and baby’s breath.
This indoor garden had been extended to the bedroom where in lieu of candlelight, small white Christmas lights had been wound and wrapped over bedposts and draped along the corners of the ceiling. The bed was another blanket of blossoms, carefully spread over satin sheets and pillowcases.
She surveyed her work with a critical eye and then let out a laugh that was full of delighted mischief. This was going to be such a mess to clean up but it was worth it just to be able to imagine the look of surprise on his face. Pippa had effectively turned Rory’s apartment into a fairytale forest, complete with one impish wood sprite.
With another peel of laughter, she removed her dressing gown and donned a pair of pixie wings before reentering the living room. Along with the glittered blush she wore on her face, brushed across her chest, the wire and nylon accent was all the little redhead was wearing as she folded herself onto the center seat of the sofa. Knees to chest, hands on knees and her chin resting on folded hands, she waited.
She parked her car as near Rory’s building as she could get, which given the neighborhood wasn’t very near at all, and walked the couple of blocks at a brusque pace. Pippa was carrying a brown paper sack by the handles, careful to not jostle the meticulously packed contents. Impromptu visit or no, she insisted on making her apology properly and in true Pippa fashion: with sincerity and not a little bribery for added impact.
Pippa used her keys to get into the building but knocked on the apartment door after she sat her shopping bag down. The only thing she was holding was a single gold-colored chocolate-dipped spoon. She was smiling though, rather brightly.
Pippa fired up the furnace and while waiting for the heat in the glory hole to reach the correct temperature, she prepared the rest of her work area. She wiped down the marver and then covered the surface in the coloring agents she had wanted to work with today. Pippa filled her water bucket, lined up her jacks and files along the workbench, selected her pontils then began to wander the rest of her shop.
She moved between the shelves lined with various pieces, occasionally touching her fingers to a vase, a set of glass pens she’d fashioned in a burst of whimsy, a lampshade. There were bowls and platters, beads and jewelry. The more interesting pieces were the small sculptures, things that were more abstract and fluid, seemingly living little works of art. Resting on a table was a solid piece of flame-red glass, about two feet tall at its highest point, a base for a work in progress. It was something for Ro, a present.
Pippa eventually went back to the lit furnace, opened the door and pulled on her tinted, mirrored sunglasses. She checked the temperature of the melt by visual inspection and the feel of the blast on her skin. The liquid glass was a searing yellow-white sea inside the furnace and just about ready for a first gather. She stood back and reached for a pontil, fingers closing around the cool steel rod with practiced ease. The familiar weight felt good as she lifted it. Welcome and natural as she brought her left hand up to close around the rod about a foot behind her right hand. She smiled. She could still do this.
Pippa continued to smile as she stepped a bit closer, angled the pontil and lowered it to the melt. Then her face faltered. Instead of merely skimming the surface of the molten glass while rotating the rod, she felt the tip grow heavy and unbalanced as it sank, dipping below the surface to submerge itself in the liquid glass. She swore. It was something a novice would do, not the mistake of a skilled master. Not her.
Angry, she withdrew the rod and threw it aside. Dangerous, yes, but she was alone in the studio and not worried about the risks of injury to anyone else. She took a steadying breath and grabbed a second pontil, repeated her grip and moved a bit more slowly. Control. She just had to exercise control. It happened again. The rod, while in motion, became unbalanced in her faulty grip. She couldn’t do this. She. Could. Not. Do. This.
It was one more thing Larch had destroyed, ruined, stolen from her. Pippa felt ill, nauseous, as she pulled the pontil from the melt, shaky as she set it down atop the steel marver. Furious as she flung her glasses from her face, she swore again, then screamed. You can’t do this. You can’t do this…The mantra beat through her head; pounded at her temples and blinded her to what she was doing as she moved across the studio. She threw the first object her hands closed around, a vase. Shattered, she reached for the next and the next, dropping some, throwing others, letting them all break against the floor.
As she continued between the shelves, glass crunching and being ground beneath her heels, Pippa systematically emptied one after the other. If she couldn’t make glass, she didn’t want the reminders of what she had been capable of here to mock her. She was so engrossed in what she was doing that she didn’t hear the studio’s heavy fire door open. The sounds of shattering glass masked his footfalls on the concrete floor. The blood pounding in her ears kept her from hearing his somewhat aghast, “What are you doing, sweet?” And her rage caused her to forget that she had asked him to meet her here, to keep her company and to serve as a second pair of hands if need be.
It wasn’t until he raised his voice and called “Pippa!” sharply that she realized she wasn’t alone. Realized that someone had witnessed her tantrum, her unseemly fit. How much had he seen? She stood stock-still for a very long moment and then the anger was back, as heated and dangerous as the molten glass in the furnace. How dare he? Pippa whirled to face him, grabbed the piece of red glass off the table and flung it with as much anger and hatred as she could muster.
Rory caught it. He caught it. The scream that had been building in her chest died and she simply stared at him, her chest rising and falling with the pounding of her heart.
Her mood swings had been so drastic lately, Pippa was beginning to get on her own nerves. She wanted to be alone, she wanted Rory with her, she didn't want him there at all. She wanted to scream. She wanted to cry. She needed to laugh. Dear God, she needed something.
She needed to answer the door.
Bringing the mug of coffee with her, Pippa went to the door, stepped over the dog and checked the peep hole before undoing the series of deadbolts and the slide chain keeping the door locked. This wasn't leftover paranoia, it was just a fact of life on Staten Island. You locked your door even when home.
"Cait, hello. Come in, please. Don't mind Mr. Beaker, for whatever reason he's taken to lying in front of the door when Ro's not here." She stepped back to let the other woman into the apartment. "I'm sorry I'm not quite ready to go, do you want some coffee? I won't be long, I just need to find my shoes."
"You're doing this, Kerr." Muttering to herself, coffee mug in hand, Pippa went back into her bedroom. She even managed a smile as she caught sight of her puppy curled against the sprawled form of her lover, both still sound asleep. She'd be tempted to rejoin them and cancel on Aryn if there were any room for her in the bed.
Instead, she showered and dressed in a favorite fall ensemble, something with long sleeves that afforded her the opportunity to hide her hands from view. From there she played with the hopelessly choppy lengths of her hair, finally giving up and leaving them in what she hoped passed for artful disarray. After Larch had butchered her long curly locks, Pippa resorted to straightening and further trimming her auburn mane in an attempt to rectify the damage. She wasn't satisfied with the results but until her hair grew out, there was little else she could do with it.
She left the apartment with those thoughts in her head, turned off the alarm on her car (recently returned to her after the mechanic's massive repairs) and set out for the bridge that would connect her with the much larger city. The radio was conspicuously silent for the duration of her drive. She hadn't been able to listen to anything by Breaker Street and other music held even less appeal to her.
Reaching her destination, she opted to valet park at Jaques'. Finding a place to self-park was never something she enjoyed and if she was going to put on her happy face and pretend life was wonderful, she didn't need that aggravation. Pippa shrugged her purse onto her right shoulder and tugged the sleeve of her left over her hand, holding the hem with her fingertips, hiding the missing pinky and the dark bruising as she handed over her car keys and got out of the green VW Bug.
She was at a table. She kept trying to focus on the wood grain pattern in front of her, the one slightly darkened knot on center plank. She couldn’t, not for long, not with her vision swimming. He’d drugged her again. The side of her neck was becoming ugly and bruised from the repeated unskilled and unkind injections. Holding her head up was becoming more difficult as well. It felt so heavy and she was so tired.
He was still there. She hadn’t realized it until now. Thought he’d left her alone again. But she could hear him behind her. He was at his sound board again, at the computer. And the music that was playing—familiar but wrong.
She couldn’t stay awake any longer...
( Read more... )
Tuesday Evening, The Circe
She was tied to wooden chair, hands bound behind her back. The way he had pulled her arms over the backrest rungs of had been intentionally painful—her muscles forced into a state of constant strain. Her ankles had also been secured, rough corded rope digging into her skin and tied tight enough that her bare feet were beginning to lose circulation. And she was cold, her skin clammy.
( Read more... )
She didn't return his calls or even show up at the bar. By the time the musical act of the night started their second set, Mike was getting worried. Not agitated. Pippa wasn't the irresponsible type. Where some of the other girls might simply pull a no-show for a shift, Phillipa Kerr had never once done that in the almost three years that he'd known her. Not once.
A thought occurred to him and he went back into the storeroom/office and pulled out the binder that held contact information for the bar's bookings. Pippa was dating one of the musicians that played at the Call regularly. Rory, wasn't it? The Irish guy...Stone. Finding the cell phone number for the man, Miked dialed. Maybe she'd been whisked off somewhere. Or maybe Rory knew where she was...hopefully.
She didn’t like knowing that she was intentionally causing havoc at the bar she dearly loved or that she was going to give Mike, the owner, one hell of a headache to sort out. But she also refused to be treated in such a demeaning manner and then turn around and meekly continue to ensure that the business ran smoothly. She was so much more than just a waitress there. The nights she worked, Pippa generally ran the place from open to close. She handled all the paper work, dealt with the talent (all of the talent, not just her boyfriend’s band), made certain that stock never ran low or went unordered. She kept in contact with all the vendors they used and made sure Last Call was in good standing with them all.
If she wasn’t there, she knew by and large all of these things would be left undone. Some because the other waitresses never stopped to consider all the extra work Pippa did and what it actually takes to run a busy little night spot and the rest simply because Kelly didn’t have the business savvy or the people skills to fill Pippa’s shoes. And then there were the customers. Pippa made serving drinks look easy. She rarely wrote an order down and even more rarely did she get an order wrong. She remembered the names of regulars, let them run a tab, recalled their preferred drinks and ordering habits. She treated them like friends, not just patrons with cash.
All of these things ran through her head as she got dressed, fixed her hair, made herself up. She was going out tonight; into the city proper. Manhattan. Breaker Street had a gig at a larger venue for a change and she intended to show up not only to support their efforts but because she genuinely missed hearing them play live.
Pippa gave a self-conscious laugh at the notion. Rory Stone, leader of the band, was her boyfriend. Her significant other.
Still, she knew she was blushing as she took the ferry across the water. Butterflies danced in her belly during the short cab ride into the trendy part of town. She had to concentrate to subdue a slight tremble once in the club, her hand stamped as proof that she was old enough to drink. Unhindered by the need to wait on people, Pippa circulated through the crowd a bit aimlessly, lips twitching with a secretive smile as she caught the tell-tale signs of the band running a final sound check. Hopefully she’d be able to find a spot near the stage once they began to play. She was here to listen, not necessarily dance.
She had toyed with keeping her presence unknown for the time being but as soon as she caught sight of Rory, his back to the crowd, adjusting the strings of his guitar, and heard him laughing at something Morrie was saying, she gave up the idea.
“So, I heard this was amateur night. You guys any good?” The look on her face was all innocence as Ro turned around to look for the owner of a voice he knew very well. “Hi, Ro.”
She closes her eyes and forces herself to take a deep, calming breath. Normally, she loves Wednesdays. Loves being the only one here as they set up the stage with their instruments, tune up. She usually helps Morrie run the sound check. Chats with the band and gazes longingly at Ro whenever he’s not looking at her. But tonight—
The red haired woman has a feeling that tonight’s going to be
She hears the solid cadence against the metal fire exit doors. That’d be Kreske, the drummer tatting out some ridiculous rhythm instead of just knocking.
At least she doesn't have to think about the digits involved, she only has to hit redial and let the phone reconnect her to the musician. Pippa says a little prayer that Rory isn't still asleep, waking him from slumber twice really wouldn't be a good sign.
It's ringing, she's waiting with a looming trepidation.