It amused Eliza that Bebel Gilberto was playing in the background at the bar where she and Oscar had agreed to meet. She knew that she could not say anything to him at Fiona’s house, but it was time to address him in some way. She had been in so much pain since their long talk in Shanghai.
When he walked into the bar, she felt a sense of deja vu. It was like how he had twisted all of her goals that night when she met him. Her goal was to face him, and tell him about how hard it had been for her no matter how selfish it was for her to feel that way.
He sat beside her and looked at her.
“So am I really going to be able to talk to you? Or are you going to put up all your walls?”
Eliza stared at him, let her fingers rest on her cigar. She was not a cigar smoker really, but she had been here enough times with Rafe smoking and drinking. The cigar was kind of like a crutch, a reminder she was with him and that she knew they were unbreakable. But she also loved Oscar…and it was breaking her.
“You expect me to be okay, you expect me to act like nothing happened in Shanghai? Like you did not break my heart there? You want me to be okay that you have this perfect woman, who honestly if Rafe had met her first he would not maybe have wanted to be with me!”
Oscar grabbed her shaking hand, she relinquished the cigar.
“Do you think it was easy to let you go? It was the hardest thing I ever did, you lying on my bed in Shanghai. But I was with Polly, and I know that I could not have given her a fair chance if I got involved with you. It would not have been fair to her.”
“So you are in love with her?”
“Yes. I did not plan anything with her in Shanghai, but it happened after years of us not wanting it to happen.”
“So I was just a substitute then?”
“Eliza, stop it! Stop this victimization process! You can have any man you want, you can be with any man you want.”
“I want you.”
“You’ve had me.”
Eliza picked up her gin and tonic, and her cigar. Was it Paris or nervousness why she was smoking like a chimney? Actual, or electronic, she was constantly puffing on something.
“I know it is selfish Oscar, but it is how I feel. I have been in a bad place ever since I left Shanghai…”
“Is it me, or are you just not happy?”
She sipped her drink.
“Are you happy?” he repeated.
Eliza looked down at her hands: gin and tonic in one, cigar in the other.
“Do you care?”
“Eliza, I care about you. I–“
“What,” she pressed.
Oscar looked at her with stern eyes.
“Stop acting like a stray cat.”
Eliza pushed her drink off the table, and stubbed her cigar out on the top of his palm.
Oscar grabbed her wrist, Eliza felt her eyes widen.
“You’re hurting me!”
“You are hurting yourself!”
He thrust her hand to the side, and got up.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she mewled, clinging to him, scratching. That flimsy touching of his body, she savored like a child’s first communion wafer. She needed his body, and she knew she would not get it.
“Stop it, Eliza!”
“Keep saving yourself for your precious Polly!”
Oscar threw her off of him. When she came back toward him, he raised her chin up to face him.
“What is precious to you Eliza?”
Her eyes watered, she sobbed soundlessly. Oscar drew her to him, caressed her cheeks and temples.
She heard “Precious Things” by Tori Amos in her head.
“Just because you can make me come does not make you Jesus,” she said, pushing him away.
She walked away from him, dabbed at her eyes but did not turn back to look at him.
She had different goals, as looked down at her phone. There was a message from Adrian that she had avoided. Hoping Oscar…
Will be in New York. Axxx
Her labia felt tangled the way it did every time she thought of Adrian.
When she looked up from her phone, Oscar stood in front of her.
He pressed her to the wall, his face so close to hers…Eliza did not realize she was not breathing until she felt his breath on her upper lip. Oscar caressed her hip, she closed her eyes.
She waited for him.
When she opened her eyes, he was gone like smoke and she fumbled through her bag for her cigarettes because she needed one. Ashes hit her calves as she chain-smoked, and she did not notice…
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