Sunday, October 4, 2009
Sessions 16 - By the Way
By the way
You left without saying
Goodbye to me
Now that you're gone away
All I can think about is
You and me
You and me
soundtrack: By the Way ~ Theory of a Deadman
Bay View - Twin Bridges Cafe, 9 PM
Cooper paused outside the café while Rayne described some concern she had over the Gibson he’d bought her. He had made reservations here a week ago, going out of his way to ensure she was available, taking the time to make sure the maitre d' understood he would be there and would do whatever they could do to keep it quiet.
He listened while he watched her talk, the way she talked, the way she looked, a lot like her mother, the same skin, the same great mouth, and the same challenging attitude. It felt good to be here with their daughter. Rayne had never required the kind of attention Wyatt had needed from him. He had let it go, let her grow up, and was only now realizing that he didn't know who she was, or how to reach her.
"That Gibson doesn't quite work for me. It's like butter when I play it. The pickups are weak," she said, continuing the conversation as she strolled behind him toward the table.
"All right," he responded, leaning across the table toward her, wanting to connect and help. "What's the problem with it? You've got the Pro II pickups, warm and smooth, great clarity. It's a classic SG with an innovative pickup."
She was opening up, leaning in towards him, explaining in detail what she wanted. "I don't like warm and smooth. I want something grittier, harder. I want it to scream. I barely get a whimper out of it. I'd rather move to the Kramer; it's versatile. I can shred a Baretta as good as you can, Dad."
Cooper regarded his daughter briefly; his tone was almost patronizing as he responded, "I'm sure you can Rainie, but you need to perfect your sound on any guitar, make it yours. Listen to how Wyatt does it; he uses the Gibson and the Kramer and works them both. You've got to work on it, practice, until you get a sound that is uniquely yours."
She drew back, doors slamming behind those eyes. Every time he mentioned her brother, Rayne shut down on him. They seemed to get along; he didn’t understand it. "I’ll have plenty of time to do that since I’m going to be staying right next to him. You chose that place because it's next to Wyatt, so he can watch me. Not because it's what I want or need."
Cooper took a deep breath; not this again. She’d been moping and sulking about that damned rental for months, and there was nothing wrong with the place. She'd been running wild, he knew that. Beth had mentioned something about a guy Rayne had been hanging with, something she didn’t like about him. He did want Wyatt to keep an eye on her.
"You're where I want you to be," he told her, sitting back and taking her in, everything about her. If he was missing something, some critical factor, he couldn't see it. As far as he could tell, she simply wanted to have what she wanted with no restrictions, and he was not giving her that. "You're there for a reason, Rayne. I want to know you're safe. Don't you understand that?"
“I don’t need a babysitter,” she huffed. “Ryan taught me how to take care of myself.”
What the hell was she trying to do, get a rise out of him? McDermott, even the sound of that name burned through him, infuriating, and probably deliberate on her part. He struggled against the anger, trying to think how to pull the conversation back without engaging in an argument with her, put this shit aside, the rental, Ryan, all of it and talk to her, when a familiar voice greeted him. “Hey Coop, how are you?”
He recognized Stevie’s voice before he looked up at her, and drew a long breath of sheer relief. “Hi there, are you here by yourself?”
“Shaun’s joining me in a few.” She glanced at Rayne, who was sitting there glaring at both of them mutinously. “Hi Rayne.”
Rayne laced her hands, making a fence of them in front of her face, a Rayne stockade, and swept her gaze across them. “Hi,” she responded in an expressionless voice. She seemed to have some kind of antipathy for Stevie, something else Cooper didn’t understand.
Cooper rose and reached out to Stevie, allowing his hand to glide slowly up her bare arm. Leaning in he smiled, dragged his lips along her cheek and lingered near her neck before placing a gentle kiss there. “Come on, sit down with me.”
She laughed, placing her hand against the rough stubble on his face and smiled at him. “I’d like that.”
With one swift and angry gesture, Rayne shoved back her chair, stood up, and without a word, strode away toward the back of the café. Embarrassed, Cooper managed to grind out, “College nerves.”
“I’ll go talk to her, Coop,” Stevie offered. “Maybe she needs to talk to a woman about what’s bothering her.”
“Thanks,” he replied, uneasy, watching his daughter stalk off. This did not feel right. The evening had gone wrong, gone wrong in a big way, and sending Stevie out there after her…he wouldn’t stop her if she wanted to try it, but no, it did not feel right. He should go after her himself. What the hell, he hadn’t been able to say what he wanted, make it happen the way he wanted, maybe he was wrong about this too. He’d let Stevie take a shot at Rayne. She couldn’t make the situation any worse.
Stevie pushed through the iron gates leading to the patio at the back of the café, knowing the way. It was kind of a favorite, right on the water, between the bridges, and the owner was good about keeping things quiet. The gate squeaked a little as she opened it. This was where the girl had gone, wasn’t it?
It was. The patio overlooking the embankment was dimly lit, but Stevie saw her down at the western end under the long sweep of the Bay View Bridge. Rayne was looking off into the distance across the bay, her back turned to her, poised in that familiar stance she had often seen Cooper take.
Hesitating, Stevie took a moment to study the girl. She knew very little about her, and, despite her offer, she wasn’t sure what to say to Rainie. Was she leaving a boyfriend behind? And if she was, what could she say to her about it? Get over it? Stevie had never had many female friends, and she certainly had no experience with emo teenage girls.
She approached her, walking past the fountain, stopping at the line of shrubbery between the patio and the embankment, and, in a cheerful tone said, “Rayne, want to talk about it? Your dad’s kind of concerned, but if there’s something you don’t want to share with him, I’ve been around. Can I help?”
Her face half lit, Rayne seemed to stiffen. As a child she had resembled her mother more than her father, but the young woman standing there was now strikingly like Cooper. Strong and unexpectedly mixed emotion swept through Stevie. The same fire and passion in her eyes, the same strong jaw line, even her hair, the silky texture, the way it fell across her face, it was disconcerting. She could still feel Cooper’s touch on her skin from only moments ago; looking at this girl…it brought back memories.
Before she had a chance to deal with it, Rayne crossed her arms, her expression cold and closed, and said, “You want to help. You came out here after me because you want to help?”
Stevie took a deep breath, already realizing this wasn’t going to be easy, and tried again. “I thought there might be something you didn’t want to share with your dad, something that’s bothering you. Like a guy? Somebody he doesn’t know you like? If there’s something going on, I really would like to help.”
Rayne took a step closer, her hands clenched in fists against her chest. She was pissed as hell about something. Fireflies blew around like sparks cast off from that anger. Her voice low and tight, a whip coiled ready to crack, Rayne retorted, “You have got to be kidding me. I didn’t step out of a candy box, Stevie. I know what’s going on. Whatever you’re getting from my dad, I don’t come with the package.”
This was definitely not what she had anticipated. College nerves? This wasn’t college nerves. The girl was what, jealous? Scared? Did Coop have any idea what was going on here? Stunned and off balance, Stevie stammered, “Rayne, that’s not – there’s nothing – you don’t understand.”
Stevie’s attempt to try to explain fell into some kind of volcano and it erupted with a bang. The girl freaked, started shouting, her long hair falling in her face as she slammed her hands together, long-fingered hands, Cooper’s hands, and raged out on her.
“Oh my god do you think I’m stupid! You want Cooper and you’re stepping right over my mother and right over me to get to him! And then you have the fucking nerve to come out here and make nice with me?! I don’t want to talk to you! I don’t want to see you anywhere near him!”
If she had been concerned about anybody hearing the kid lose it…well fuck that! This child, this brat, was going to get in her face? After everything she and her mother had put Coop through? No way was that going to happen! Stevie squared off, setting her hands on her hips, and staring her right down, let it fly.
"You listen to me, little girl. It is because of your mother and you that Cooper gave up a part of himself. You are too spoiled and too self-absorbed to see that but I'm not. He isn't getting what he needs from either of you. I know him. He is my friend and I will be there for him; I'll give him what he needs whenever he needs it!"
Rayne did not react, blink, didn’t appear to even draw breath; she just stood there, sizing her up, a long and thorough assessment. Something about the girl, it was like she was looking for the next move in a game, strange and kind of unnerving. That wasn’t Coop; from what Stevie knew about Rayne’s mother, that wasn’t her either. She was backed up against the fountain and felt the water spray on her shoulders and hair, making her even more irritable and angry and uncomfortable.
Then Rayne unexpectedly smiled, tilting her head, another old and familiar gesture somehow rendered very different on her.
“Hello, Shaun,” she chimed, her voice sweet and cool. “Stevie was just telling me about my dad, how they’re such great friends that she’ll give him whatever he needs anytime he needs it. Isn’t that nice?”
That was not what she meant, not the way Rayne made it sound. She’d taken it out of context; she’d turned everything upside down. She’d used her own words against her. Furious, shaken, caught between wanting to slap the girl and try to explain, Stevie looked around and directly into Shaun’s luminous eyes. He gazed back, silent and unreadable.
The little bitch was still smiling. “Bye Stevie,” Rayne cooed. “Don’t forget me. I totally won’t forget about you. I promise.”
Bay View - Holloway Residence - 11 PM
Stevie dove into the pool, her body slicing gracefully into the warm crystal water as ripples cascaded out toward the edge. Her face broke the surface and she looked up into the midnight sky. It was a warm night and the water felt good against the heat of her body.
Turning over Stevie floated aimlessly staring at the stars that were strewn above her. Hearing the garage door open she smiled and called out, "Get those clothes off big guy and join me in the pool. We can work on our synchronized swimming."
Shaun walked toward the edge and knelt down allowing his hand to sweep across the surface of the water. He was unusually quiet as he crouched in the darkness. Stevie turned and swam toward him playfully splashing as she teased, "Since when did you get all shy? Come on baby; get in the pool with me! What are you waiting for?"
Rising, Shaun walked toward the diving board, sat down on it and looked over at her. "Stevie get out of the pool please. We need to talk."
Stevie grabbed the ladder and pulled her body out of the water. The confrontation and subsequent "discussion" on the way home from the restaurant came seeping back into her thoughts. Stevie thought they had resolved it; maybe she was wrong. "Shaun what is it?"
Moving away from her past surf boards, clay pots and sports equipment, Shaun stared at the ground before speaking. "I've always loved you Stevie, even when we weren't together, I loved you. So what I am going to ask you is hard for me..."
Stevie walked toward him as her face turned serious. "Shaun...I love you too. Whatever is bothering you, whatever it is, just ask. I've always been honest with you."
"Have you?" Folding his arms, Shaun looked down on her, hesitated as if trying to form the words, and spoke quietly. "When Coop was John, that day at your old loft, if he hadn't remembered who he was or hadn't run back to his wife, who would you have picked?"
Stevie's jaw dropped, her voice sounded incredulous. "What?! You can't be serious! Shaun I picked you! How can you even ask me that?" She exhaled sharply, "So you're jealous? Is that it? You don't seriously think I would pick him do you? Shaun, do you?"
"How can I ask you? That's easy, Stevie; you never really got to choose did you? He ran back to his wife, end of story. I can't help but think if he hadn't run off, hadn't remembered, you would have stayed with him."
Stevie turned her back on him and walked away clearly angry and confused. "This is ridiculous Shaun. I love you, married you, and had your baby." Looking back over her shoulder she continued in a barely audible voice, "I don't love Cooper. He needs a friend, that's all."
"He has friends Stevie and he has a wife, a fact you seem to have forgotten or maybe you're just overlooking that fact."
Stevie whipped around eyes flashing anger. In a scornful tone she responded, "You mean a wife who cheated on him and then stood by and let him rip his heart out of his chest for her?"
"You don't know that Stevie!" he shouted, "No one tells Cooper Stanfield what to do, no one, you know that and I know that! You're making assumptions about something that is none of your damned business! I'm not going to sit by and watch him hang all over my wife because he made a bad decision and needs to feel good!"
"What are you saying...that's ridiculous...no way he...Shaun, that's not...it isn't like that!" Stevie stammered, paused to catch her breath, compose herself and continued, "I am just trying to help him find his way back where he belongs. You would do the same thing if your male pride wasn't getting in the way of your judgment."
Shaun was silent. His face was partially hidden in shadow but the lights reflecting off the pool lit his eyes which were focused on Stevie. He moved closer to her, never taking his gaze from her face. "You're holding onto him just like you did before, your pet project. I remember how it was baby; I was there the first time. He isn't a stray puppy who needs to be taken care of anymore. He's a grown man who knows who he is and what he has. If he wants to fuck it up, let him figure it out."
He turned, brushed a stray lock of silky black hair out of his face and headed for the house leaving Stevie stunned and speechless. Before going in he hesitated and spoke without looking back at her, his face was hard and his voice resolute. "You can't keep trying to fix him Stevie. I'm telling you to let it go, let him go. Make your choice."
NEXT CHAPTER: Passages First Day