|Rafael Atala (freyr) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-07-18 08:01:00
|Entry tags:||freyr, uke mochi|
leaning from a precipice
Who: Alice and Rafe
What: The semi-roomies come clean.
Where: Alice’s apartment
When: Following the June pool party (backdated like whoa)
Alice wasn’t thinking very straight and didn’t quite realize she had left the pool party without saying goodbye to Isobel until she was already in the elevator rising up to the fourth floor. But she was frazzled from the night before and something about the long list of questions Chris had asked her seemed to shake her up. She also still felt a touch unwell--was this what getting older did to you?--and simply wanted to go home. She did her duty with helping Isobel out at the party but enough was enough and she wanted to be in her pjs, in her apartment, and ignoring the entirety of the world.
Her tears of frustration in herself and all that had happened were near to falling when she pushed her apartment door open and spun to close and lock it from behind. Dropping her keys into the little heart-shaped bowl by the door and kicking off her flip flops, she shuffled into the kitchen and filled her largest cup with water before taking a sip and squeezing her eyes closed.
Rafael had been home only a bit longer. He had changed into board shorts and a tee shirt, but his hair was still damp and smelling vaguely of salt water. His bare feet made soft susurrations as he moved into the kitchen beside her.
"Hey, stranger," he teased. "I was wondering if you'd come home tonight." He reached around her and grabbed a second cup, pouring himself a glass of water. He sidled up next to her, leaning back against the counter. Too late he saw the tear tracks on her cheeks. His smile faded, concern darkening his wide-pupiled eyes. "Hey, are you okay? Did something happen at the party? It looked like you were having fun…"
Alice stepped back, a hand going to her face and trying to wipe away what tears had already been shed, but she was obviously shaken and couldn’t easily recover. “It’s nothing... it’s stupid…” She took in a shaky breath and let out one light ha as she looked at the ceiling. “The pool party was nice, it wasn’t anything with that. It’s… it’s super stupid.” Her temporary show of gathering herself faltered and she let out a quivering sob. “I’m just an idiot, you know?”
"No," Rafe said, quite decisively. "I don't." His arm slid around her shoulders, pulling her close. "I'm sure it isn't stupid at all. Why don't we go sit down on the couch, and you can tell me all about whatever is going on. Maybe I can help? And if not, at least you can get it off your chest."
Already he was leading her to the living room, his fingers laced tightly with hers. The couch, though obviously slept-on and in preparation for Rafael's doing so again, was cleared off; he pulled her down to sit beside him and Alice immediately curled up against Rafe and let her head drop onto his shoulder.
“So…” She began and then stopped, finding it all hard to even admit but trying to anyway. “You know how I’ve been having dinner with Gus each week? And that, like, I sort of have a crush on him and Lucas? And it seems like they both have a crush on me?
“Yesterday I had dinner with Gus like usual but I thought it was a good idea to bring a bottle of vodka because work was crummy and we both managed to finish it off…” She let her sentence drift off and lifted her head to give Rafe a look, a knowing look, a look that indicated that this story wasn’t solely about getting drunk.
Rafael only nodded. Given this prologue and her current state he could guess well enough what had happened. But his guessing was hardly her confession, and he wondered if the former would really be the help she required. He softly patted her arm. "Okay. So… did something happen you're not comfortable with?" A slight crease marred his brow. Based solely on what Alice had told him of Gus, he did not think his question was necessary; still, he could not help but ask, unable to ignore the dark feeling now gnawing his gut. "Did he hurt you?"
“No!” Alice replied quickly, her eyes widening. “No, he didn’t hurt me. He’s fine… he’s a good guy. Really.” She paused and rolled her eyes, more at herself than anything else. “We got drunk and we were going to try to sleep it off a little and like… that didn’t happen. Well. Not til later.”
She stopped and swallowed, her cheeks reddening steadily as she licked at her lips. “It was consensual,” she clarified, not wanting any grayness into that area.
At this, Rafael noticeably relaxed. He chuckled and patted her arm once again. "Well… that's not so bad, is it?" He laughed aloud, then. In his current state he had little control over his thoughts, and the first one that came to mind soon slipped free of his lips. "Or was he? I'm sure he'd take suggestions if you offered…"
Alice’s eyes went wide and she leaned back, her cheeks now a deep red. “No! No he wasn’t bad!” She blurted out, quick to defend Gus but immediately throwing her hands to her cheeks as she realized what she stated. “Oh god,” she murmured before slipping her hands over her eyes and bending over. “No, no, it was fine but it’s just that it happened at all.”
She sat up again, dropping her hands on her lap but managing to laugh slightly as part of the edge was taken away by Rafael’s commentary, yet the laugh turned sad. “It’s that he’s BB’s little brother…”
Rafe's echoing chuckle trailed off. He stayed close to her, his hand soft on her skin as he tried to soothe her. He thought carefully before speaking, and when he did, it was with marked hesitation. "Do you think she'll be angry with you?" he asked. "She's your friend, right? So… if he makes you happy, or you had fun together, don't you think BB will happy for you? Both of you?"
Rafael’s words caused Alice to pause but after a moment, she slowly shook her head. “BB has always been weird about me dating… anyone. Like. At all. She’s hated every single one of my boyfriends. I just feel like… her baby brother is so off limits and I think it’s sort of mutually agreed.”
She fidgeted with her hands and looked down. “You know we’ve been having dinner and everything… yet we never mentioned it to BB. We never told her we were having dinner together or watching movies. We never admitted we were hanging out. And like… there was nothing wrong with doing that and yet we both kept it from BB, you know?” She lifted her gaze and met his. “It’s like we knew even then what we were doing was somehow wrong.”
The subtle cant of Rafael's mouth was enough to make clear his feelings on the matter. But he held his tongue for a moment, trying to see this tangled situation through her perspective. It was difficult, and in the end, he more honest than perhaps he should have been.
"I don't think it's wrong," he said. "You're both consenting adults. I don't know BB, not really, so maybe it's unfair of me to say this, but it sounds like she might be a little jealous. Maybe worried about losing you as a friend, but maybe... there's more to it."
“You know BB, you just don’t know her. She’s the one that often posts on the community about noise complaints or articles or whatever. She’s a journalist...and she’s very loud and very opinionated.” Alice stared at Rafael and blinked as a frown appeared on her face and a worry line creased between her eyebrows. “What do you mean though, that maybe there’s more to it?”
"Well…" Rafe chewed at his lower lip, picturing the diminutive journalist who had so unexpectedly, so effectively, thrown him in their very first conversation. Their second—the interview—had gone no better. She was intimidating in her way, and Rafael could understand at least some of Alice's hesitation. But he could not allow that to keep him from speaking his mind.
"Do you think she might… well. Have feelings for you?"
Alice laughed and shook her head. “No, no way, she… she couldn’t like me that way.” She tried to laugh it off, tried to ignore the idea, but there was something deep down that disagreed. Alice liked her lips and crossed her arms over her chest. “I mean… we’ve known each other for eons and she knows I’m straight. Like, there’s no chance there. I’m not into girls, you know? So she couldn’t possibly…” Her eyes met Rafe’s and she slumped backward. “Do you really think that’s a possibility?”
Rafael shrugged. "Like I said, I don't know her that well. But I think it's possible, considering what you've said. I'm sure she knows your preferences, and maybe that's why she's never said anything outright. But that doesn't necessarily change what she feels. Or doesn't feel." Rafe was all too familiar with this. He frowned slightly at his own words, reminded of his own continued feelings for Gabe, in spite of them both having evidently moved on. Eshan's presence meant Rafe would make no move to rekindle his old flame, but it by no means kept him from feeling as he did. He cleared his throat, ignoring the blush that had risen to his cheeks.
"I might be wrong," he said. "Of course."
“Yeah, maybe,” Alice said quietly with a small laugh that faded all too quickly. “It was really nice though… I just feel like I did something I shouldn't have.” She gave a little shrug, before leaning in to Rafe. “I'm sorry I came home in tears. It's just… I don't know, awkward? I’m glad you're here though, this floor has been too lonely and I didn't realize it until you came to stay.” She slipped her arms around Rafe’s thin waist and gave him a hug.
Guilt reared its ugly head. Rafe hugged her tightly, pulling her up to rest her head beneath his chin. "I don't think you did," he said, more softly than before. "You shouldn't apologize for how you feel. I'm always here to listen, and if I can help you sort through these things, I'm happy to. You know that, right? Even when I get my own place again, you're always welcome."
He cleared his throat, pulling away as gently as he could manage. He held her still, but leaned a little back, where he could see her face as he spoke.
"So about that…" He shifted a little, suddenly uncomfortable. "I got a place on the eighth floor. I um. I hope you don't mind too much…"
Alice blinked rapidly, the surprise and hurt apparent on her face. Yet, she only said a quiet “oh” as she pulled back from Rafael. She withdrew her arms, biting at her bottom lip, and looked to the floor. Already being emotional, this news didn’t necessarily work in well with her feelings and she found herself falling into the pit of questions she so often thought to herself, particularly when it came to men losing interest in her.
While her relationship with Rafael wasn’t a romantic one, she still found she loved him in a platonic way, and his surprise admittance to moving four floors away, rather than down the hall, felt like a stab to the gut. What had she done to push him away? Was she too clingy? Too desperate? Too needy?
She slipped her hands around her waist, not wanting to touch Rafael anymore, perhaps she had been too affectionate and that pushed him away, and let out a little breath before something else dawned on her. Looking at Rafael with a small spark of both jealousy and a need to protect, she questioned, “Doesn’t Gabe live on the eighth floor?”
"Um…" Rafe blushed, more deeply than before. He had expected her to be upset; in truth, he had experienced his own sadness, a sort of mourning that seemed foolish when he thought too long upon it. He had come to like their arrangement: sleeping on her couch, where he could hear her come and go and move about in their shared space, cooking together, sharing desserts and television shows. He did not want their friendship to be strained by a distance he had thought would be wise.
"Yes. He does. Do you…" He swallowed hard. He did not want to ask the question, but there was nothing for it. "Do you think that's a bad idea?"
Alice swallowed and pulled her gaze toward Rafael’s after a moment. “You still like him, don’t you?” Alice surmised, admitting all she had witnessed and assumed since knowing the both of them. “And isn’t he in a relationship with someone else?” The words came out more harshly than she intended, making Alice pause. “Why….” Why do you have to be so close to him? Why do you not want to be close to me anymore? Alice wanted to say and the turmoil to speak what she was thinking was evident in her expression. Finally she managed to ask, “Why there?”
The color in his cheeks had only deepened. How quickly she had seen through him; how sharply she had called him out. He felt stung, and then guilty, though he continued to tell himself he had done nothing wrong. Self consciousness ate at him, making him hold his silence longer than he should have.
"I just… I've been helping with his book," he answered, lamely. "And I can watch Spot when he's busy or away. Almost like having a pet of my own. I'll still come visit you, Alice. I'll see you all the time. So much you'll get tired of me, you'll see.
"And yes, I, um, I met Eshan." His voice seemed to catch on the name. "His boyfriend." Another catch. He pushed ahead. "He seems very nice."
Alice was still blinking and biting at her lip, a mixture of hurt feelings and a need to point out the wrongness of it all boiling within her. She wouldn’t usually speak up, she’d keep her thoughts to herself, that’s why she was always seen as so nice. She supported her friends through their stupid mistakes and was there to clean up the pieces but between the hangover, her guilt from the night before, and now the fact that having her friend close by would be completely removed to the same distance as before, she felt the words bubbling from her lips before she could stop herself. “You have to be on the same floor as him to help with his book and watch his dog?” She stared at Rafael as he flinched, surprised by her own bluntness, then felt her cheeks color. “I’m sorry… I’m being mean. I just…”
She shrugged and looked down. “If that’s the reason, then we should be living on the same floor as Isobel to help her out. Or you should be staying on this floor with me, to be there when things go oddly in this ridiculous apartment. I just…don’t know what I did, why you don’t want to live on this floor anymore…” And there it was, the thing that often plagued her when friends pulled away.
A deep crease marred his brow. "Oh Alice, no. No, it isn't that at all." He frowned, grabbing for her hand with his free one. He gave it a too-tight squeeze. "No, you didn't do anything at all. You took me in. You fed me and gave me a place to stay. You looked out for me when I couldn't take care of myself. It's nothing to do with you." He brought her hand to his lips, pressing a kiss to her bent knuckles. "Alice, I'm sorry. You're probably right. It's probably stupid for me to move up there. But just…" His voice cracked. He could not meet her eyes. "Let me be selfish. Just this once."
Alice leaned a little closer to Rafael, although still hesitant to reach out to him. “It is a little selfish,” she admitted quietly. “And possibly a way to set yourself up to get hurt.” She lifted her gaze and glanced at his before looking down again. “Just… could we maybe still do this? Like, the sleep overs and dinner and stuff. Going from having someone always here to being the only person on this floor is going to be hard, even if you’re four floors away.”
Rafe was nodding before the suggestion had even fully formed. "Of course," he said. "Of course. As often as you like." He latched too quickly onto anything that would help him avoid the topic of his potentially getting hurt; the past was a decade and more behind them, after all, and Rafael would continue to insist it had no power to hurt him now. He pushed all thoughts of Gabe aside—a feat more difficult than it should have been—and focused entirely, intensely, on her.
"You just say when and I'll be here. I promise." He smiled softly. "This is going to be good for us both. You'll see. Maybe you can have Gus over to celebrate having your place back to yourself…"
“Oh god!” Alice laughed, her hands immediately raising to cover her face. She had, for a moment, forgotten entirely about the antics of the night before and now that it was brought up again, her head pounded as if to remind her of her emotions and the liquor seeping out of her system. “No, no, there will be none of that.” She laughed, giving Rafael a playful push.
For now, everything was better. It was the future that Alice was worried about. But that could be ignored, a future problem for her to deal with, in order to be present in Rafael’s company and the topics they both were trying to avoid.