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Chapter Five-Part 2
Donning the darkest sunglasses I can find, I’m prepared to meet Reggie at the venue an hour before Maura is to arrive.
For all I know, I have no idea how I ended up as party planner. When Reggie leaves to meet Maura for a quiet birthday dinner, I’m left to make sure everything runs smoothly. I’ve committed myself this much so far, what the hell, right?
At a quarter to eight I go through my checklist:
Elegant restaurant slash banquet hall that’s both spacious and intimate? Check.
Thirty-five of Maura’s closest friends and family that Reggie and I found by hacking into her phone and Facebook? Check.
Disgusting French food? Check.
String quartet prepared to play boring yet lovely tunes all night? Check.
Everything is set and as I step back to take a look at my work I could punch myself in the face. This party is everything that Maura could ever want and Reggie will be getting the credit in probably the most delicious of ways possible tonight.
I push the disturbing thoughts of Maura being intimate with Reggie from my mind as the waitress I recruited to be my eyes and ears informs me that the birthday girl has arrived. With a final sigh, I snatch off my shades and face the crowd.
“Okay, everyone, they’re here. Quiet down.”
Running one last nervous hand through my hair and unnecessarily smoothing my shirt, I wait with the other guests. That’s all I am, another guest at the party.
Both my mother and Constance flank me, each grabbing on to a hand. I chance a look at my mother who places a tender kiss on my cheek.
“You’re a good girl, Janie.” Is all she says.
I could both scream and cry at this very moment, but as Maura walks in wearing a snow white dress that hugs her curves sensuously making her look even more vibrant than usual, I’m struck dumb. Even as the room erupts in cheers I’m relegated to silence.
She looks so adorably taken aback that I’m momentarily filled with pride at a job well done. Her eyes search the crowd and I’m wondering who I possibly could have forgotten when her eyes find me and the radiant smile she wears becomes impossibly brighter.
Releasing Reggie’s hand she greets first her mother than mine. I’m left to watch the joyful exchange awkwardly. An inexplicable hush falls over the room as Maura comes to stand in front of me. She absolutely glowing. Ever so slowly she steps toward me wrapping her arms tightly around my neck.
Hushed whispers cascade through the crowd and when I open my eyes I find Frost, Korsak, and both our mothers wearing the most bitter sweet of smiles. When I glance at Reggie I can’t help but think she doesn’t look like a woman throwing a party for her partner. I don’t see any joy on her face.
“Thank you, Jane,” Maura whispers pulling me from my thoughts.
For all I know, I have no clue why she’s thanking me. This was Reggie’s gig, her idea. Maura should know that.
“This was all Reggie,” I reluctantly admit when she pulls away.
I miss her warmth immediately.
Her smile never falters as she says, “No, it wasn’t,” then moves on to greet other guests.
“Well, partner, we did it,” Reggie says as she sidles up next to me. “Is this what being a cop feels like?”
Watching Maura who turned to give us a glance every time she runs into someone she didn’t expect to see I answer without hesitation.
“Not by a long shot.”
The party goes on with little incident. I’m grateful to be able to keep myself scarce as everyone relishes this time together.
“Well, detective, you throw a pretty nice party.”
I smile down at my assistant of sorts for the evening. She’s a cute young woman, blonde, standing at about five foot four.
“Thanks for all your help, I couldn’t have pulled this off without you.”
She places a tentative hand on my arm. “I find that hard to believe. You’re a very capable woman.”
“That she is,” is said from behind us.
I watch as Maura sends the waitress a curious glare. “I think that table over there needs more water.”
“Sure,” the waitress mumbles politely before scurrying away.
What is her name again? Audrey? Aubrey? Jessica? Doesn’t matter.
“Hey, birthday girl. Having fun?”
She nods. “I would be having more fun if you were enjoying this beautiful party with me.”
“Well Reggie seems—”
“Would you stop that,” she interrupts. “Why is it that every time I try to talk to you, you’re talking about Reggie? Do you want to date her?”
She has to be kidding me. “You mean date myself? That’s a bit narcissistic don’t you think?”
Maura falls silent. After all the time spent together and enough people thinking we’re sisters, I’m starting to realize just how much Reggie and I do favor. That fact makes me inexplicably angry.
“She’s your girlfriend, Maur. She’s the one that you should spending time with.”
“So my best friend doesn’t matter?”
Touché. I wrack my brain for a reasonable response, but come up short. There isn’t even some unspoken social norm that Maura may not be privy to for me to play here. I’m left with the childish way out.
“Not in this case.” And I walk away.
Avoiding her tonight may be the best thing to do and it’s a painful realization that avoiding her forever may be my only reprieve in life.
“Detective, your guest is here,” the waitress with the mystery name informs.
Great, this night can’t be over soon enough. I bring my guest over to the quartet before getting everyone’s attention with a fork against a glass.
“Everyone, if I could just have your attention for a moment.” I wait for the room to settle. “Every year I have the hardest time deciding on a birthday gift for Maura. What do you get the woman with everything and that knows about everything?” The group laughs. “This year I decided that I wouldn’t get a thing, but rather a person. No, it’s not a stripper.” More laughter. “It is someone I don’t know very much about, but Maura should know them very well.”
I finish my introduction of some opera tenor that Maura absolutely adores. I was surprised how little I had to pay to get him to do this private performance. Don’t get me wrong, by no means was he cheap, but in comparison to what I was prepared to pay I got a great deal. The room is rapt as he begins a rendition of Ave Maria and for a split second I understand the appeal. I paid this guy for three songs and halfway through the second most of the women and a good deal of the men are in or near tears.
Periodically through the performance Frost, my mother and even Constance look at me with knowing sympathy. It adds an emotion to the palpable mood of the room that I really can’t bear at the moment.
The tenor’s voice soars then dips dramatically and while I hear every note all I can see is Reggie next to Maura, all I can feel is acute pain as she wraps an arm around Maura’s shoulders.
Maura turns to smile at her partner and her eyes find mine in the crowd. My chest contracts so violently that I can’t breath. A stabbing fear shoots through me at the realization that I could pass out this very moment having not ever felt Maura in my arms. At any moment I could leave this earth and never have felt the press of her lips against my own.
“Detective? Detective Rizzoli, are you alright?”
I can’t speak and the waitress thankfully escorts me to the bathroom before I make a total spectacle of myself. Being away helps some, the cold water on my face and neck helps more, but the sympathetic young waitress helps the most.
“You’re pretty hung up on her, huh?”
I find her eyes in the mirror. “Is it that obvious?”
“Only if you look.
“Is it that obvious?”
We share a smile.
“My shift is over in a few minutes. I think its best I make sure you get home safely.”
I finally stop to think for a moment and recognize this offer of assistance for what it is. I could let this woman both allay my curiosities and desires. In the arms of this young woman I could easily forget for a while.
But what about the party? What about the guests? As usual my worry over the needs of others only fills me with resentment. What about my needs? What about how I feel?
“Hey,” she says gratefully interrupting my endless stream of conflicting thoughts. “Its totally up to you. I’m going to clock out and change. If you’re interested I’ll wait for you outside.”
With that choice made I look at myself in the mirror. Its time to face facts, Jane. Maura doesn’t love me, she’s in a relationship. Pining away for her won’t change a thing.
When I make it to the front door of the venue throwing one last look over my shoulder, I see a figure very much like my own quickly turn toward the bathroom.
The waitress’ smile seems truly genuine if not a bit surprised..
“Yeah, it seemed like the right thing to do…for myself.”
She smiles again before taking my hand.
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