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Justin makes lunch for them & Beatrix tells Eleanor how happy she is for her, how impressed she is with what she's done for herself. They don't talk about her mother, about the fight & the fact that Eleanor has been cast off, like it never happened. Her mother probably expected Eleanor couldn't live on her own and would come crawling back to her in defeat. Once Beatrix reports back to Helen how well Eleanor is doing, it will be her mother who will have to admit she was wrong and respect her daughter's choices.

Beatrix's report & Helen's reaction come swifter than Eleanor anticipated: Justin picks up the phone, and after a moment of tense silence, says "Helen?" in a way that immediately reveals to Eleanor how uncomfortable he is. Eleanor snatches the phone from his hand. "Really, child," her mother's venomous tones melt away Eleanor's confidence, "Why didn't you tell me he was an artist? You really are insufferable, it's like you do things on purpose just to vex me..." Of course, Eleanor should have known better than expect anything else, her mother has never admitted to any fault & always had had someone else to blame for anything that didn't go as she planned. She judged Justin as unworthy on sight, began villifying him without even taking anything Eleanor said in his defense into consideration. Now that Beatrix has given her a different perspective on Justin, her mother cannot admit to having judged wrongly, but must blame her daughter. "You didn't listen to anything I told you about him, you wouldn't have believed this either," Eleanor answers impatiently, wondering if it would even help to point out that Justin wasn't even making art back when she met him. "Beatrix says he's brilliant. I cannot believe you hid him away from me, child. You always were selfish: it's your father's fault, he spoiled you so," her mother says, her version of events so different from what Eleanor remembers, it leaves her completely baffled & largely unable to reply. So her mother goes on, "You really must bring him home & introduce him around. You've had your little fling of rebellion, now it's time for you to act like an adult & take on your family responsibilities....Dear Lord, what is going on down there?" she interrupts herself, her attention drawn from the phone by something happening in the house: her father has a way of causing minor catastrophes that always resulted in a lot of unecessary shouting by her mother, "Child, I really must go and see what your father is up to in his study, do congratulate Justin for me, Beatrix says she expects the reviews to all be glowing," her mother finishes the one-sided conversaton and hangs up. Tears sting Eleanor's eyes, she almost drops the receiver, barely able to see the phone to hang it up. Seeing her distress, Justin rises quickly to hold her, ask her what her mother wanted. Eleanor falls against the solid warmth of his chest: the smartest thing she ever did was throw her mother over for this man, she thinks. "Beatrix told her about meeting you. Now the bitch is mad at me for not telling her you were an artist...She says to congratulate you. I guess she doesn't think my opening a new gallery was worth remarking on," she says, trying not to sob, but sobbing anyway. Justin takes her chin in his strong hand, lifts her face gently, so she's looking up into his hypnotic green eyes, "Not two days ago, that woman despised me. Now, because I've got pictures in a gallery, she wants me to call her 'mother'," he says, his voice growling with anger & contempt, "She's..I don't even have a word for what she is, I don't want or need her approval. And you don't need it either, Elle. The bitch is trash, she clearly enjoys putting you down. She'll never approve of anything you do, because she's already made up her mind about it, she doesn't want you to be happy. She wants to keep you down. Don't take it, Elle, you're stronger than that." Justin's words have the immediate effect of stiffening her spine and setting her jaw with renewed confidence, his assessment of her mother opening a whole new perspective for Eleanor to consider. She can't believe she actually asked, probably insisted, for Justin to call her 'mother', as though the bitch hadn't insulted him to his face when Eleanor told her about their relationship. "You don't have to call her 'mother'," she tells him, offended for him. "I had no intention," Justin answers, smiling as he leans in to kiss her. "I've taken down bigger bullies than your mother, Princess. I'm not caving to this one." Eleanor never thought of her mother as a bully before, but Justin is right, she realizes, and uses his inner strength as a guide for her own.

Beatrix was right: all the reviews of Justin's show are all glowing. Important collectors are buying his work, and the gallery is off to a more successful start than Eleanor and Gavin had anticipated or even hoped for. Being open by appointment only isn't convenient to anyone, not even them, as they both have their primary careers outside this venture. "We need staff," Eleanor admits. Gavin agrees, adding "Xtina was saying she's really in a bad situation financially, now that her parents found out she dropped out of school, they aren't paying her rent anymore." Eleanor rolls her eyes, "Yes, she told me her sad story too. You & I both advised her not to drop's no reason to give her a job. It's a reason not to give her a job," she says, hoping to cut off Gavin's line of thought before he takes it to its conclusion. "Eleanor! She's our friend," Gavin admonishes. Eleanor wonders sometimes how she ended up with Xtina as a friend in the first place: they don't get along very well and Eleanor is mostly disgusted and/or horrified by everything Xtina does or says. In class, Xtina was an amusing distraction: outside the school setting, carrying on the relationship seems pointless. Eleanor would have no qualms cutting the girl off now before she becomes a sponge, but Gavin is unfortunately soft on his ex-girlfrends. "Gavin, you asked me to go into this with you because you wanted to be taken seriously. You know Xtina takes nothing seriously, she's irresponsible and completely unqualified to manage a gallery: we'd look like fools with her representing us. If you want to have her on salary, make her your personal assistant. You need one, you know, no one can get hold of you while you are on set," Eleanor tells him. Gavin sighs & rolls his eyes. "You're right, I've resisted it, but I do need a 'personal assistant'...horrible as it sounds. So...personal. But I can't hire Xtina for that, Astrid would completely blow up. I just don't understand it, it doesn't bother her at all that I work with Shay, but if I just mention Xtina, she's insanely jealous," he says. "Maybe we could let Xtina be a receptionist or something? There must be something she could do?" Eleanor promises to figure something out, vowing to herself that one day she'll have her own gallery & no partner to make these concessions to.

Eleanor ends up conducting all the interviews for the gallery, as her schedule is far more flexible than Gavin's. Of course her own schedule is already packed tight with meetings and responsibilities to Livin' Large, so Eleanor selects carefully from the resumes, narrowing the candidate pool to something manageable. She grants a job interview to Xtina, though it's mostly for show, Eleanor has already decided Gavin's receptionist suggestion is the best option for Xtina, if they must pay her to hang around. She can answer phones competently, at least, Eleanor hopes. Before Xtina's appointment, Eleanor meets a 'serious' candidate, Rebecca, recently moved to L.A. from the Bay Area, a photographer herself with experience in gallery management. A brief questioning reveals an independent, quick thinker, and Eleanor puts her at the top of the call back list.

Xtina comes in right after Rebecca leaves, laughing as she hands Eleanor her resume. Eleanor doesn't need to look at it, of course, she knows everything she needs to know about Xtina's qualifications & experience. She tries to impress the seriousness of the situation on Xtina, but it's fruitless. Eleanor can only offer the position she grudgingly created for her, a part time receptionist position, not very well paid, no benefits of any kind. Xtina isn't as grateful as she should be. "I thought we were friends!" she exclaims. "You aren't qualified to manage a gallery, Xtina. Gavin & I are doing what we can to help you out, but we need the gallery managed professionally." Xtina gasps and looks like she's going to cry. Eleanor sighs: she has to get back to her office, she doesn't have time for this. "Xtina, take the job we're offering or find another," she says, and Xtina takes it.

Eleanor's professional life is active & full, but she doesn't forget Justin. Even on her busiest days, there's always time for a quick phone call, an online chat, and they make the most of their evenings and weekends. Sundays belong absolutely to him, no matter what, she schedules nothing on that day. They wake together on Sunday mornings, wrapped around each other, knowing they won't leave the bed until they've made love, and in no particular hurry to get to it. "I had the most beautiful dream, Elle," he says, biting her shoulder, his large toe sliding down her instep, "We were playing in the snow. You're so beautiful in the snow." Eleanor wishes she could get inside his dreams, they always seem so innocent and wonderful when he tells her about them, so unlike anything you'd expect from him. She rolls over and wraps one leg around him. Eleanor's hand caresses him, making languid circles over his skin, and her eyes watch his face, like the saints in Baroque paintings, his eyes glow and turn heavanward in ecstatic rapture, just at the touch of her hand on his stomach, his thigh. He sighs as his hands move lightly over her skin, he whispers her name as she rises over his chest, and they make love with eyes open, looking into each other.


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