“Life is always crazy.” Viggo tucked Dana hand into his arm and gestured for them to follow him. “Come in, everyone, come in.”
Viggo’s house was long and low, a cross between a hacienda and an organic creature sprung from the ground. Paintings and framed photography hung on every wall, and Henry proudly pointed out pictures he had taken and gifts from friends. There were tools and instruments and books everywhere, giving the house a comfortably chaotic air.
The grill was outside, down a gentle slope several yards from the house. There were chairs set up to enjoy the view beyond the garden, and Viggo had put out fruit, cheese and small slices of hearty bread to eat while tuna steaks cooked on the grill.
“Oh, this is beautiful,” Dana said in a voice of soft awe and squeezed Dom’s hand. He squeezed back.
Viggo smiled in appreciation and said, “Who wants to play bartender?”
Elijah made something with fruit and rum, coercing Dana to try it with, “You haven’t taken your pill for two days, you can handle a drink.”
“One,” she said, and nursed it slowly as they ate at the backyard table and talked.
It was an enormous table, like something Viggo had swiped from the Edoras set, made from heavy boards and ornately carved. “Did you get this from WETA?” Dom said, but Viggo shook his head.
“Got a friend to do it.” He ran his palm over the smooth tabletop. “He does great work.”
“It’s beautiful,” Dana murmured, imitating his motion. “Do you leave it out all the time?”
“Most of the time,” Viggo said. “The weather’s mild enough that I don’t worry about it harming the wood, and if they say it’s going to storm I bring it in.”
“He calls over a few friends,” Orlando said, “pays them in beer . . . this thing weighs a ton.”
“You have to admit it was a good night,” Viggo said. “We watched the storm from the sun room,” he told Dana. “I set a camera on a timer but there wasn’t any lightning. This is a bad place for it anyway—not enough open space.”
“Is that how you take pictures of lightning?” Dana’s hand was cool in Dom’s, thumb moving restlessly over his palm.
“You can’t watch for it and take a picture when it strikes—by the time you’ve pressed the shutter the lightning’s gone.”
“Lightning in a bottle.”
“Exactly.” Viggo smiled at her and Dana smiled back, then leaned her head on her hand a moment. Dom touched her cheek.
“Are you all right?”
“I don’t drink much,” she said quietly, pushing her glass away. Elijah picked it up and stood to get her something else from the wet bar.
“Don’t try to keep up with us,” he said cheerfully.
“Then I get to drive you all home,” Dana said. “Three drunk men and me. Fun.”
“I’ll go easy tonight,” Dom said.
“Thank you,” she said softly.
Elijah came back to the table with ice water and a slice of lime, and said as he put the glass in front of her, “We don’t get drunk when we’re out. Only when we’re staying in. It’s just smarter, you know. Even when you’re going out to a club there’s no point in overdoing.”
“We should do more clubs next time,” Orlando said.
“I’m taking you dancing,” Dom said to Dana.
“And we need to go back to Goodtime Charlie’s,” Elijah said, then blushed and drank deeply from his glass.
Viggo smirked, drinking too, and Henry said, “What’s that?”
“A strip club,” Orlando said. “Lij went for his twenty-first birthday, right? With all the boys?”
“Yeah,” Elijah muttered, still holding the glass to his mouth.
“A strip club,” Dana said, raising her eyebrow.
“It’s fun,” Dom said in his defense. “It’s like seeing a movie. Like going to a show. Just watch the girls, have a few drinks, hang out with your friends—it’s fun.”
“I’m not saying anything,” Dana said. “Thank you for adding the lime, Elijah.”
“And it was before I met you,” Dom added.
“So you’ve only been once.”
” . . . no.” She waited, and he said, “Sean went and Christine didn’t mind. She knew it was harmless.”
“I am not saying anything,” Dana repeated. “I’m not asking questions, I’m not making judgments. You’re a healthy young man—you have urges.”
“I don’t do anything!” Dom protested, and pointed at Viggo who was openly laughing, “And you should be on my side, thank you.”
“I think,” Viggo said, “you are in over your head, little brother.” He took a large bite of tuna.
“I’m not trying to be difficult,” Dana said, starting to look offended.
“No, no,” Viggo said. “You’re not difficult. But are you sure you really want a boy?”
She put her hand on Dom’s thigh beneath the table. “I’m sure. I kind of like him.”
“Ta very much,” Dom said, but wrapped his hand around hers.
“You don’t really think I’m in over my head,” Dom said. At the bottom of the garden, Elijah and Dana were trying to teach Henry how to waltz. Orlando slept, sprawled out on a wooden lounge chair in the shade, and Dom had more rum in a glass.
The sun was setting, shining golden on Dana’s clothes–a low-cut, low-backed sundress in vibrant orange like nothing Dom had ever seen her wear. That she had packed it, and possibly bought it, just for him gave Dom a quiet little thrill. “It’s not the person that’s difficult. It’s the circumstances. I mean, she’s not crazy. She’s not into drugs. She’s not sleeping around on me. She’s . . . she’s a good girl.”
“But she’s not easy, either,” Viggo said.
“No.” He added hastily, “But not in a bad way, yeah? She’s a challenge.”
“You don’t have to defend her to me, Dommie.” He took a long drink. “I think Orli’s right: she’s good for you. She’s not who I would have chosen for you, but you know better than anyone what you need.”
“Why wouldn’t you have chosen her?”
Viggo chuckled, drained his glass, and said, “You always seem to fall for people you can’t keep.”
“It’s not about keeping,” Dom said. He watched as Dana used Elijah to demonstrate a turn. “It’s about her wanting to stay.”
Viggo got up and leaned down to kiss the top of Dom’s head. “You’re learning.” He took Dom’s glass and went to the bar for refills.
“And Bloom gossips like a girl.” He nudged Orlando with his toe. Oblivious, Orlando moved onto his side, muttering to himself.
“How long would you have kept her a secret if this weekend hadn’t happened? Lemon or lime?”
“Lemon. As long as she wanted to be kept a secret. It’s more for her sake than mine.”
“And not telling any of your friends . . .”
Viggo handed him a glass of ice water with a slice of lemon, and said, settling back in his chair with his own glass, “We worry about you, you know.”
“There’s no need. If you want to worry about anyone, worry about Lij.”
“I worry about all of you. I worry about Bean, I worry about Ian, I worry about Billy.”
“I know,” Dom said quietly, watching Dana dance with Henry now. They were laughing, Elijah was laughing, and Dana was beautiful in the sunset.
“‘She taught me turn, and counter-turn, and stand,'” Viggo said softly.
“She reminds me of a poem. Do you know Roethke?”
“Never heard of him.”
“Heathen,” Viggo said affectionately. He quoted, “‘I knew a woman, lovely in her bones, when small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them . . .’ You’ve never heard that?”
Dom shook his head.
“That’s Dana. Lovely in her bones. I think you’ve got a good woman there, Dommie.” His camera had been tucked away all through dinner: he took it out of its bag and focused it at Dana and Henry.
Lovely in her bones, Dom thought. That is Dana. He smiled when he heard the camera’s shutter click, and closed his eyes.
“I would like to do a portrait—do you think she’d let me?”