Eliza was happy that she was going to meet Rafe at his sister’s gallery opening. Meeting him there, she could blame her state of mind on jetlag and not having eaten. Quickly leaving her luggage at the coat check, she had barely walked into the space before she was handed a glass of champagne she gladly accepted.
Fiona rushed to hug her. Eliza enjoyed the genuine warmth from her sister-in-law-to-be. Fiona was the artist her parents had not expected to have in the family, and the reason why they and Rafe tried to mold Eliza into the daughter they had really wanted.
She was perfect by their standards and Rafe’s.
Her husband-to-be stood behind his sister, his appraisal of her was appreciative and she felt placated. Her back in New York dress was one Rafe had selected himself. As soon as Fiona let her go, Rafe moved forward, caressed her hip and took her in his arms.
“I missed you,” he breathed behind her ear. She smiled more so because she was ticklish there as opposed to returning the sentiment.
She was not unhappy to see Rafe, but it was not as easy this time to leave Oscar…
Oscar, she whispered his name over and over in her head since she learned it, saying it to herself when she thought about him which was often.
Paris had been Oscar and Eliza. Oscar was in Shanghai now without her, and she was in New York with Rafe. She looked up at Rafe, into his eyes that studied her as if he was making sure there was nothing different about her. He closed his eyes, and pressed his lips to her forehead. Later when they were alone, she knew that the darkness in those eyes was going to be her very sensuous reality and she was very eager for that. To learn him again, her hands pressed to the expanse of his wide chest before she buried her face there. His lips were on the top of her head, as he caressed her face and pushed her hair away from her cheek.
Her eyes were glazed as she stared at the Francesca Woodmanesque photos that Fiona had filled the gallery with. It was clear that Woodman was an influence on her, Fiona’s work was a happier expression of that style. Champagne and delicacies flowed about them, as they strolled through the gallery.
“Fiona, this is gorgeous,” Eliza said, still in Rafe’s embrace.
“You always know the right thing to say,” Rafe whispered to her after his sister walked away.
The sepia photos were lovely, and Fiona was young, fearless and not afraid to use her body as an instrument.
Eliza wished that she had that kind of confidence.
Rafe’s parents appeared around a gallery corner and kissed her before they kissed their own daughter. Eliza had that kind of relationship with his parents. She had now come full circle from her accidental transgression.
This was where she belonged.
“How was Paris?” Rafe’s mother asked her beaming.
“Paris is Paris!” she exclaimed brightly, as Rafe squeezed her.
“It was more lovely while you were there,” he said.
She closed her eyes as Rafe kissed the tip of her nose. His mother continued beaming,
“You lovebirds! Let’s go have dinner, we have reservations close by…”
Dinner was pleasant talk about Paris reinvented by Eliza without mention of Oscar. Fiona was silent all throughout, having expressed dismay at her show.
“It was a lovely show Fiona, I am not sure why you are so miserable,” her mother said to her.
“I need inspiration Mother. Everything I am doing seems so homogeneous…”
“So you are saying you have come full circle with your art?” her father asked.
“You want to travel again?” Rafe asked with weak patience for his younger sister.
Fiona played with the gooey chocolate cake she had ordered, not looking at anyone at the table.
“I have only really ever gotten grants to work in Europe. There is a grant I could get in Shanghai…Eliza, you speak some Mandarin don’t you?’
“Yes, I can write a bit too.”
“You said you wanted to go somewhere exciting for your next vacation. Maybe if Rafe will loan you to me, we could go to Shanghai I want to visit anyway. I have a friend there who is an artist, and the scene there is kind of ambitious and if one of us speaks the language…”
“Of course Rafe will loan Eliza to you Fiona,” Rafe’s mother eyed Rafe and Eliza strongly which Fiona could not see because she was sitting next to her.
Rafe and Eliza were silent. She was going to be the obedient faux daughter, and go to Shanghai with Fiona.
Oscar, she almost said out loud, but caught herself as she exhaled a whoosh of air to disguise the sound of his name.
Home later with Rafe, he took off his tie.
“This would be the second place that I cannot come with you. Paris, now Shanghai…”
He held his tie, and opened his shirt.
“I can still say no,” she said walking over to him, putting her hands on his chest.
She wanted him to tell her no, wanted him to tell her not to go. She would have listened.
His dark eyes appraised her.
“I cannot disappoint my parents, they will not let Fiona go without you, and that means Fiona will go however she has to. We are a family, sometimes we have to make sacrifices…”
She nodded, looking down, he raised her chin so she looked up at him and kissed her.
“She can borrow you, but you are mine. My perfect girl…”
Eliza looked up at the cracks on the ceiling, moaning as he kissed her and again on a deep whoosh of exhaled breath, she hid the name she almost moaned and thought of Shanghai…
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photo via wikipedia