Eleanor has been looking forward to talking to Xtina. Eleanor doesn't get very close to people: she keeps her secrets to herself, so even her closest friends don't really know her. Xtina is the closest thing Eleanor has to a 'best' friend. While Eleanor keeps her real self private, Xtina tells her everything, divulging every nuance of her feelings, every detail of the action in her rollercoaster lovelife...before Justin, listening to Xtina was Eleanor's entire romantic experience. When they meet at the Rage Cage, Eleanor first informs her about Gavin being 'discovered' in a cafe & getting the starring role in the Sandman movie Byron Palisades is making. Eleanor watches Xtina's reaction: it was hardly a month ago she was pining for Gavin, after dumping him. Now, she's just thrilled to hear her favorite comic is being made into a movie, "and it's being done by the man who made 'Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch'..this is incredible, Eleanor!" Xtina enthuses. "And starring your ex-boyfriend, Gavin," Eleanor reminds her, but Xtina just laughs and jokes about the role being suited to him. It's so strange, Eleanor thinks, Xtina can seem so miserable about a guy one day and then the next time you see her it's like she never loved him at all. So what is love, then? Eleanor wonders.

Eleanor starts questioning Xtina more seriously as they start a game of pool. "We haven't really talked since the party," Eleanor says. "That guy you brought, the surfer, he's your neighbor, isn't he?" Xtina murmurs her 'yes', a little embarassed, perhaps. Well, the boy is everything Xtina has always claimed to despise..."So what's the deal, Xtina, I'm dying to know?" she continues her questioning. "Well, we'd been hanging out a lot since Gavin & I broke up and, at the party, you know.." Xtina answers, blushing, very obviously embarassed. Eleanor isn't accepting that for an answer. "Hmmm, I saw, but I don't really know...what did he say or do that made you go for him?" she insists. Xtina grins demonically, "He showed me his scar," she teases.

Eleanor pauses & looks up at her friend. "Really? Does he have a lot of scars?" she asks, suddenly finding the blond surfer intriguing herself...she'd like to see a body with lots of scars..."Well, actually, yeah, Eleanor, he does...but what about you, what did Justin say to you, Eleanor, after over a year of haunting you, what did he finally do to you? I'm dying to know that! I mean you were going to stay a virgin & then, bam, out of nowhere I hear you're spending every night in Justin's room..." Xtina answers, turning the table on her. Eleanor blushes & concentrates on the pool table. "I just realized Justin and I have a lot in common," she murmurs stupidly, angry at herself. How can she explain Justin to Xtina, how can she tell her about the year of sharing fantasies online with 'Stalker', of having found someone at last who understands her, and the shock of discovering that someone is the neighbor you've seen as nothing more than just another guy with a stupid crush you? She can't even tell her friend that she is still a virgin, despite spending every night in Justin's bed. How would that sound? Who would believe it?

Xtina isn't interested in the subject anymore, anyway: she wants to talk about herself. Apparently some new guy has moved into her building and is moving into Xtina's heart. She agonizes over which guy she wants, the surfer or this exotic Rainier from Belgium. Again, Eleanor wonders what love is that it makes Xtina so crazy, falling in love with someone new before she's even fallen out of love with the last guy? And what can Eleanor say to her friend, who is clearly looking for some advice? Xtina brings it on herself. The Gavin ordeal was absurd, she knows she only had to call him & apologize & she could have had him back. "That's a real bummer, Xtina. Especially with you all living in the same building like that, that will make it pretty tense if you get involved with this new guy," she says, knowing it is of little help or comfort. And Xtina will no doubt make the worst possible decision and end up alone, no matter what Eleanor says, anyway.

Since the Diego incident in the kitchen, Justin gave her a key to his outside door, and she has slipped in while he's out to go through his drawers, everything so neatly folded she's afraid to touch anything, to disturb the perfect folded clothing. She goes through his closet, shoes lined in neat pairs. He has nothing but his clothes, a small box of jewelry, no books, no photographs, not even any of his 'toys', for those he only brings home on the days they are set to 'play', nothing personal, nothing that tells her anything about him. Justin is a mystery, Eleanor longs to solve him, to decipher his quirks and see into his soul. She brings her sketchbook into his room when she comes to wait for him, draws his body from memory. Strange, how she'd never noticed his physical beauty before, the grace with which he moves: she always considered herself so observant, an artist, a writer.

When he comes home she leaps into his embrace, drawn to him magnetically. He holds her face in his hands, looking at her with his hungry cat eyes, "Eleanor," he says, his voice a gravelly growl kissing her ferociously, biting her lips teasingly. "I had to break up a nasty fight tonight, Princess. One guy would not back down, so I had to punish him," he tells her, eyes shining. Eleanor shivers with pleasure: they usually spend their nights curled together like lovers in his bed, whispering fantasies to each other like they used to type to each other in the chat rooms: but tonight he'll have a real story to tell her, she'll be able at last to hear about a bar fight. Eleanor shudders & sighs with every detail, and he goes into depth for her, describing each punch, each grab, like he were describing a scene from the Iliad, all the while kissing and stroking, biting and pinching, her neck, shoulders, breasts, stomach...Eleanor pictures it in her mind, Justin's strong muscled arms, his hammer fists driving into another man's face, she hears the slap of flesh on flesh, the crunch of bones, and she smells the blood. "I'm pretty sure I broke his nose with that last punch. There was blood everywhere," he concludes, rising up to kiss her on the nose. Eleanor moans softly, biting her lip, looking up at him, his green eyes glowing the moonlight. He is very animal like, a gorgeous sleek-bodied predator, she thinks, and a poem comes to her, one she had been made to memorize in high school, "Tyger" by William Blake.

Tyger Tyger. burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes!
On what wings dare he aspire!
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

(read entire text of poem here. opens in new window)

She recites it now in a respectful whisper, for the first time understanding Blake's poem as she looks up at Justin. "Did you just make that up?" Justin asks her. Eleanor blushes, she'd never recite her own poems like that. "No, that's Blake," she says. Justin lovingly strokes her hair, and bites his lip, pausing & starting before he speaks. "Eleanor, I never finished high school," he says. Eleanor just stares, mouth open. She can't even imagine it: her parents are Harvard professors, her mother a Pulitzer prize winning poet, her father a Nobel prize winning physicist, Eleanor's world is a place of education & privilege "I'm not good enough for you," he says flatly, chewing on the inside of his cheek. "Don't say that, Justin," she whispers, pulling him down to hold him against her breast. "I adore you," she says, petting his hair, stroking his back with her nails. It doesn't really matter to her that he doesn't recite poetry, he makes her happy, but her parents would be furious if they knew he hadn't even graduated high school. They were angry enough that she chose to go to an art school, and in L.A. of all places...if they found out about Justin, they'd make her come home, and go to Harvard.