He knew where everything was, he just couldn't bring himself to touch them. They weren't his.
It would be too domestic to say that she had her own space, but a couple of dresses hung, bright and patterned, next to the line of desaturated grays and blacks and the occasional dark brown or streak of white. He folded them over to fit in the bag, knowing that she'd hate the wrinkles and creases. They'd come in wrapped around her and that was how they were supposed to have left. Not flat, empty and lifeless.
A few pairs of panties and a bra, silk nightie and even more interesting frills had co-opted part of his sock drawer. He hadn't exactly offered and she hadn't exactly asked, but the first time she'd come over straight from the studio with lingerie in her bag he'd tossed her cast-offs in his hamper for his laundry service to sort out.
When she'd looked for them later, he'd pointed to the dresser. When she left the next morning, that was where she left his favourite black corset.
It was easier.
They were already neatly stacked, but he piled them in one at a time anyway.
His bathroom had been easier for her to move into. The toothbrush hadn't even been hers - it was one of the spares his decorator had left for guests – few that he had. She'd brought her own brand of toothpaste because she hated his. Sometimes he used hers when she wasn't around. He thought she probably knew, and didn't seem to care. It was what he used at her place anyway.
These weren't things she necessarily wanted back, but he thought she'd want the proof that he didn't still have them. He tucked them into a side pocket, along with her brush and comb, lotion and conditioner, shampoo and body wash. He liked that it left her smelling pink and scrubbed when she came out tucked into a towel. Sometimes he wished she would use his things again, like when she first spent the night. It was fascinating how different they smelled on her hair and skin, close and secret.
The room looked bare without them.
Her razor. She'd been very touchy the first time he wandered in while she perched on the edge of the tub, running the blade up her calf. He'd rolled his eyes and sighed, walking right back out. Then found a little too much fun when she was done, tickling behind her knees and testing every inch of skin for a stray hair.
The next week they'd had a break in the production schedule, and she'd gone for a wax, stowing the razor on the shelf above his.
There was a handful of jewelry in his nightstand. Nothing she cared too much about: a couple pairs of large earrings, a necklace, chunky rings and a ridiculous bracelet that had dragged cool and heavy down his chest.
The bag was still only half-full. He felt like there should be more. She was – she'd been – all over his place, or at least it had felt that way. As it turned out, she'd never left much of herself at all.
Maybe it was because he'd never seen the point in having much of his own. And her apartment was layered with her things, each and every one somehow making sense.
Or maybe it was because he'd thought he liked things clean, smooth, black and white in updated modern, straight from a magazine. Which it was. When he was done with it, his designer had kicked him out for a day so he could bring a camera crew in.
She was nothing but colour and texture and carefree laughter dusting the walls. Next to her, his place felt like a blank canvas, waiting...
Not that there'd been much to laugh about, lately. He'd assumed it would be back when this latest stressful phase of Bombshell had passed.
He ignored Tom, waiting near the door, and crossed into the kitchen instead. A box of her tea – technically he'd ordered it with his weekly groceries, but she'd used it, smiling over the rim of her mug. It wasn't like he would ever drink it. An empty water bottle, left behind at some point he couldn't remember. It had been there for so long it looked like it belonged there, next to his highball glasses.
They were dropped into the bag, carelessly, self-conscious now that he had an audience.
She had some things in the fridge, but he was hardly going to send them over. Fruit and her mandated skim milk and yoghurt would be going a bit far, even if the goal was to pull her completely out of his life.
Was there anything else?
A few CDs by his stereo. Life was digital, nowadays, but there were a few things she would only listen to "uncompressed." He suspected she would prefer to use records, if she had the space or the cash.
He would have bought them for her, if she'd ever brought it up. Would have put it anywhere she liked. For years he'd had one, even a large-ish collection of vinyl lined up, vaguely alphabetized and gathering dust. He'd hired someone to take them away, years ago.
That was all, he thought, mentally walking through every room, imagining her there, what she would be doing. He pulled a scarf off his coat rack. There was nothing else but memories.
The zipper hissed finality in an empty sort of way.
Tom took the bag without a word.
He was relieved about that. He didn't want to talk about it.
As soon as the door shut, he sat on the stairs, staring at the bag Tom had left behind.
"Oh good, you're home!" Tom had announced, rather unnecessarily.
"Clearly." He'd sighed. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
"Well, Ivy was doing some spring cleaning, you know, out with the old, in with the new range of lipsticks..."
He'd winced. "She just thought you might like these back – some things you'd left over at her place."
He'd glared down at one of his own duffels, a little confused, though hell if he'd admit it. When he hadn't moved to take it, Tom had put it carefully to the side.
"And she thinks she might have left some of her things over here."
Prevarication was a trait he'd never liked in Tom. "She thinks?"
Tom dropped the act. Derek thought he was happy about it – not being foolish was something Tom used to say he liked about him. "Look, now that you two have broken up, she wants her stuff. And she is, understandably, a little afraid to come over herself, so I said I'd do it."
He wanted to know what that was supposed to mean, but he certainly wasn't going to ask Tom.
So he'd taken the bag and gone upstairs without another word.
She was curled into a ball waiting for Tom. Their brief phone conversation hadn't made perfect sense from her end, but he'd picked up the gist and promised to come right over.
Her closet stared back at her, and it was like she was a little girl, afraid of monsters in the dark. Or, in this case, a big girl shying away from a dark stripe in a row of colour and light.
The plan was to have someone help her, but the waiting was too much and she wanted, needed, to root him out herself.
His duffel was under her bed alongside her own luggage. She'd packed it for him. Not exactly. She'd pulled it out of a closet and pitched it next to him one morning, telling him to put something in it so he wouldn't always leave her place smelling like sex.
He didn't (usually). But she already had a few outfits at his condo, and didn't want to be the only one. Not that it was a big deal. They were only clothes, after all.
Everything he owned looked roughly the same, all grays and blacks, soft stretchy materials with the occasional dark denim or dress shirt with the crisp worn out.
She folded a couple of long sleeve tops, starting a pile on her bed. A dark dress shirt. Another, worn to a soft finish. She ran her fingers along the collar and down the buttons. She'd put it on for him once, when they were in the middle of a relaxed night in. Almost every night was a night in, though they weren't always relaxed. Unbuttoned just enough to hint that she had nothing on underneath, she'd panicked a little at his serious reaction, examining her critically with a hint of glare. She'd been halfway back to the bathroom, fingers fumbling at the front, before he caught her around the waist and smoothed the fabric against her stomach.
He'd finished unbuttoning her not long after that, but the shirt had never quite made it all the way off.
Jeans and trousers joined the stack. A pair of his loose rehearsal pants. If she didn't need to give everything back, she would keep them. He was tall but lean, and the net result of her curvy figure meant they fit her just as well. So long as she rolled the bottoms up a foot.
She'd borrow them sometimes, when she was lounging around and her usual yoga pants weren't feeling comfy. One night he'd come over unexpectedly when a meeting was canceled at the last minute, and found her in them.
She'd been blushing pretty badly. All he'd done was raise an eyebrow, laugh, and spend a good portion of the evening finding all the interesting ways in which he could not take them off of her.
A quick guesstimation later, and one pile became two, roughly level in the bottom of the bag.
She emptied her sock drawer on top, and fished her things out. It was easier. When she wasn't in sneakers at the gym she was always in dance shoes, or in regular heels.
There was something pleasant about pulling her laundry from the machines and sorting out the male from the female. It was fun to be one of those people who were instantly more interesting, by virtue of the invisible person who fit that second set of clothing.
She washed all his clothes that way, when he tossed them into her hamper. He had everything dry cleaned, but most of it was marked washable and the alternative would be a ridiculous bill.
They didn't smell the same, fresh from a dryer, he had to have noticed. But he never seemed to care.
There wasn't much in the bathroom. An electric razor, lying next to her tampons. It was funny: Derek was always a little rumpled, like he didn't give a damn. Really, he was a little vain, keeping his scruff at his preferred length. Even his trademark shock of hair had a little help. She put the cream respectfully under his shirts. He liked to pretend it didn't exist.
He always used her shampoo and soap, which was a weird way to hold back from the intimacy of shared toiletries. His usual brands left him clean and manly. Hers left him vaguely floral and citrusy. It always made her giggle, sniffing down his neck and chest and burying her nose against his scalp.
A couple of times someone else had noticed, shot him a strange look as they stood too close and he railed about something or other. She'd giggle, and when the other person had gone off he'd give her an annoyed look that meant he wasn't really annoyed at all.
Maybe that was why he did it. The sniffing and the the insider secret. That thought caused a pang.
Toothbrush, which she dropped in the trash.
A belt, hanging off the side of her dresser. A scarf that had been looped over her dressmaker's dummy for so long that she'd forgotten it didn't really belong.
A couple books on Marilyn she'd borrowed. The library could only offer up so many, and she'd picked up a few from Amazon, along with the DVDs. But Derek had everything, or near enough.
An old script she found under a pile of movies on her TV. It was one he'd read when Bombshell was up in the air. Probably she should recycle it, but he might want it. Into the bag it went. Along with what turned out to be a marked up score for Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Oops. It had looked like scratch paper when face down, and she'd doodled on the back, keeping tally for an ill-fated game of charades with Sam, Dennis, and Jessica.
That was it.
She was taking a last scan when Tom knocked on the door.
"Hey, are you okay? What's happening?"
Leaving him to close the door, she zipped up everything of Derek she had (minus memories she couldn't shake), and held it up, helpless. "I did it."