Ah, thanks so much for the reviews. And, as hoped, here is the next chapter. :) Also, I found it interesting that none realized Simone and Hannah as Setsuna and Horatu. Anways, please read, enjoy, and review. Much love.
Falling is Like This
O8: Slip and Slide
It was a slippery evening.
The sidewalks were so frozen-over, residents had to be careful where they stepped for fear of falling. Not that there were many out at this time of night, which was often the beauty of living in one of the boroughs. Instead, much of Brooklyn (more than usual) had chosen to stay out of the cold, warmly cocooned in the safety of their homes. Oh, there were a few out and about, but mostly to walk around the corner to the nearest bodega for a quart of milk or a pack of cigarettes.
And none, it seemed, were headed toward Manhattan. Unlike Serena, who left Graham's bundled up in a new black coat and silver scarf, promising to be back tomorrow morning in time to catch their plane.
She was so glad the semester was over. It was a huge relief to know that a month of idleness (so-to-speak) lay ahead of her. These past three weeks had been one hectic blur. Though, finals always seemed to be like that. It had been coffee, adderall, and half an hour naps in-between classes—always a draining experience. And when it was all over, she had gladly slept for days on end, curled between Graham and his Polaroid-covered wall.
In fact, everyone had seemed to be busy recently, even Darien, who had spent much of his time securing some lucrative deal for his company. He hadn't told her much, only that it was big money and his boss was pressuring him to have it done before the end of the year.
Understandably, due to their crazy schedules, she had only seen him a handful of times since their return from Cape May. Though perhaps, she figured, it was for the best. Things between them seemed to getting more and more tangled, especially after their magnificent mushroom trip. They were forever bound by that experience—unforgettable and uniquely theirs—as all psychedelic experiences were.
Well, regardless of how entangled (or not) they were, she was looking forward to seeing him. Besides, she had gotten him a gift, which was her favorite part of Christmas. It always had been. Sure, getting gifts was great and all, but it was the giving that was the most rewarding. The search, the find, the anxious second-thoughts, the reaction—bad or good—she loved it all.
It made her happy.
And as she descended down to catch the subway, making sure to savor one last glimpse of the night sky--light and misty with the promise of snow—she could hardly contain her excitement.
Serena breezed in around nine, dusting snow from her hair, and Darien instantly sensed her bright mood. Pulling a blue package from her bag, she greeted him cheerfully, dimples flashing.
"Hey, sorry I'm late. It's super icy in Brooklyn. Everything slowed down. You know how it is." She dropped the package and her purse on the kitchen counter and yanked her boots off. They were sage, tops flipped down to reveal navy stripes. She tossed them carelessly to the side with one hand and unwound her scarf with the other, all the while chattering on about the homeless man she met on the subway.
"Why, aren't you bubbly this evening." He observed, half listening to her story, from his spot on the couch. He was still dressed in slacks and a tie, cuffs rolled at the elbow. "Would you like a drink?"
"Actually, I'm starving. We're leaving tomorrow, so Graham's fridge is pretty bare. Is Andrew around? Maybe we could all go out?"
"No, he's in California with Eli." He watched as she shed her multi-layers onto the floor—black jacket, purple gloves, yellow button-up, teal sweater—and spun her hair up, securing it with a large clip. It was good to see her. Bright clothes and fresh-faced, glimmering like the falling snow. "But we can go out if you like. Or would you rather take out?"
"Whatever. Doesn't matter." She looked at him fondly, sliding toward him with stocking-feet. "But first, I have a gift for you."
"Oh yeah? Well I've a gift for—hey! Careful!" Darien stood suddenly, yanking her to the side. Startled, she dropped his gift onto the carpet. "You're going to trample it!"
"What?!" She looked around in confusion as he bent, scooping up a furry black ball that she had neglected to see. Her eyes widened, first in surprise, then in adoration. "Oh! Darien!"
"Darien!" She squealed, snatching the kitten from his grasp. "Oh, it's beautiful. It is really for me?"
"She is." He touched the side of her cheek tenderly. "I thought you could use the company at the studio."
"Oh, she's so darling!" She exclaimed, nuzzling the kitten with her nose. It meowed happily, unfazed by its near death experience. "I love her! Thank you. Aw, she's the sweetest thing. What shall I call her?"
"I don't know. Blackie?" He laughed at her wrinkled nose. It was obvious that she thought his name choice poor and unimaginative. He sat back down, pulling her onto his lap, the kitten safely nestled in the crook of her shoulder. It yawned and burrowed closer. "I'm really not that good with names."
"I see that." She lifted the kitten away so she could inspect it. It had honey eyes and a fluff of black fur, though in parts it appeared more blue than black. On its forehead was a golden splotch of color. She tilted her head, thoughtful. "Luna. Lu-na. Sounds distinguished, doesn't it?"
"It does." He murmured, tilting her head back. "Come here."
She laughed, shifting in his lap. Always the tease. "I am here."
"Darien." It was a protest, but a weak one at that. She set Luna down beside them and allowed herself to be wrapped up in his arms. When he kissed her, tongue demanding a response, she felt it shimmer and bloom down to the tip of her spine. He tasted of scotch and cigarettes. A dangerous surprise, like an exacto blade long forgotten at the bottom of her purse. "Wait—your present…"
"It can wait." He pushed her over his arm, her back a graceful arch, and latched on to her wild pulse. "I'm sure it's wonderful."
"But—" She gripped his hair, her equilibrium off-center.
"Shh, my girl. It can wait. I've missed you so." He confessed, sincerely.
She dropped her protests and, instead, helped loosen his tie.
"Why'd you become a business man?" She asked him hours later, stretched out on the white sofa, gloriously nude. She settled a container of Chinese on her stomach, popping a piece of broccoli into her mouth. Luna was curled in a ball between her knees.
He laughed, her question catching him by surprise. "What do you mean?"
She shrugged, her shoulder a warm gold in the lamplight. "I don't know. It just seems so boring. Why would anyone go to business school? Is it just for the money?"
"It's not boring. I guess I could see how you'd feel that way about it. But I was always good with numbers. It came easy to me. I'm sure, just as painting comes easy to you."
She nodded, offering him a piece of chicken between her chopsticks. "Okay, fair enough."
"And, yes, I did it partly for the money." He told her, chewing thoughtfully. "But I want to help people. I want to work hard now and make lots of money so I can take care of people later on. I mean, you can donate little things here and there, but what kind of difference are you really making? To make a true difference, one you know is making a difference, you need a lot of money. You need that sort of power. I've always wanted to set up a place for older orphans, you know? A place for the kids that no one wants. I want to show them that someone gives a shit and that they can achieve…what?"
"I—nothing—you just surprised me. That was last thing I would have ever expected to hear. I can't even tease you about that."
"See, I'm not a complete asshole."
"Oh," She giggled, setting her Chinese aside, and dropped onto his lap again. "That's not what I meant. Not at all. I know you aren't like that."
She kissed his hand as proof of her sincerity.
"What about getting married? Are you just going to work hard, retire early, and give all your money to this charity of yours? What about a family of your own?"
"You mean a wife and kids. The white picket fence?"
"Yeah." She played with the hair at the nape of his neck. "Is that something you want?"
"Someday. Yes. It would be nice."
"Have you ever been in love?" She finally asked, because she was honestly curious. Darien didn't seem like a man who fell in love easily, if not at all.
He ran his thumbs along her jaw and then down the side of her neck. "I thought so. Once. But, now, I'm not so sure."
"What happened? Was it Simone?"
He smiled, a boyish look in his eye. "Oh, pet, won't you let that go? I guess I loved Simone. A childish sort of love. But I'm not talking about her. A few years ago, I thought I had been in real love. You know? The kind everyone hopes to find one day. But I think I was in love with an ideal, rather than the actual woman. But enough about me. What about you? Have you ever been in love?"
She swatted at him—half playful, half serious. "Of course. You know I love Graham."
"Well there's a difference between loving someone and being in love."
She hated when he took that all-knowing tone with her.
"Are you in love?"
She scowled. "Madly."
"Then why are you here? And not there?" He challenged, though he regretted it as soon as he said it.
But she didn't rise to the challenge. Instead, she sighed. "I don't want to fight. It's pointless. Come on, I almost forgot, you haven't opened your present."
She got off his lap to retrieve the package, hips swaying. She had a charming back-side. She handed him a card first, a handmade one on a sheet of Bristol. She had painted a snowy owl. When he raised a brow in question, she only shrugged.
"Random. There's no significance. I was in an owl-ish mood."
He opened the card and two pictures fell out. One of his grandparents. The other of him and his parents. His heart stilled. "Where'd you find—"
"In a wardrobe at the beach house. I was putting away our clothes. I…here…you should really open the gift first." She shoved the package at him. It was small and carefully wrapped. She twisted her fingers nervously.
He tore the wrapping paper, revealing a hand-sized box. Inside, there was what appeared to be a silver pocket-watch. "I don't get it."
"Well, I have a friend that makes pocket-watches. It's one of Graham's friends, actually. But it's a locket, kind of. See?" She took the watch from him and pressed a small latch on the side, causing the clock face to pop up and fold out. Inside, there were replica images of his grandparents and parents. He swallowed the lump in his throat. "I thought, I don't know, it'd be nice to carry them with you. Do you like it?"
He smiled, mouth warm. His eyes were soft, crushed cobalt, and his hands gentle. "I love it. Thank you."
"You're welcome." She took his offered hand.
"Come on. It's kind of cold down here."
Scooping up a slumbering Luna, she let him lead her upstairs to the loft and spread her out across his bed. He kissed her ankles and trembling knees and told her she was a sweet girl. A good girl. His girl.
And when he fucked her, it was much like that first full night they'd spent together—him on top, slow and in control, with her shuddering beneath him. And it was good. Because it was always good. But there was a sweetness there that hadn't been there before.
When she came for the first time, with a wild cry, he held her hands and kissed her glowing face until she was liquid beneath him. Relentless, but in a soft way, their mouths grazing, he brought her up again. A slow ascent. So that the second fall was hazy, like the sky had been, and he couldn't help but join her.
Together, they were like two snowflakes, complexly inter-wound. But it felt too delicate. Too crystallized. Too perfect.
In fact, it felt a lot like making love.