Holidays - Part 1

She checked her reflection in the rear - view mirror, and scratched at her chapped lips, knowing Rene would have half a dozen comments to make about anything about her that was not in place. She tugged at her hair tie, and ran her fingers through her messy hair, making its messy appearance look somewhat planned. Thankfully, the assortment of earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings made her intended look complete.

Cider climbed out of the car, and strutted towards the platform; excited to meet her favourite people. They were visiting her for the holidays, well at least three days of the holidays, and she planned to make the most of it. When her phone started buzzing she looked down, at her phone and sighed when she saw the emails she knew she had to respond to immediately. Stock markets never slept, if you had a global outlook.

She was midway typing a confirm response to her banker when a low voice whispered, "there are about twenty people staring at you. And now me." She looked up, squealed and flung her arms around his waist. His lips were already on her cheek, despite his aversion to public displays of affection.

"He was taking photographs of you the steps on the train, until a crowd started watching him too." Chiara chirped in, giving them both a bear hug with a huge grin on her face. "There's nothing like watching my big brother making a fool of himself."

"You look so badass." The voice said softly in her ear. Cider took a moment to register that in her furious emailing, she'd leaned against a railing, her boot's heel against the wall.

"Do I get to see these photographs?" She smiled at him sweetly.

"Nope." He responded.

She shrugged, knowing she'd get her chance to explore his phone later, and bent over to help Chiara with her bags. "Our dear M&Ms should be landing soon too, shall we?"

Rene nodded, kept one arm around her and picked up his duffle with the other.

Chiara led the way, her red curls blazing in the sun.

"How was the ride?" Cider asked Rene, her tone sober. Rene and Chiara had been on a family trip before and then they'd taken a bullet train to her little town. When their closest friends had heard that Rene had finally taken some time off from the multi million dollar company he'd co-founded, they'd planned to spend new years with them too. Chiara's boyfriend's parents coincidentally had retired in the same town Cider and her parents lived in; making this new years one big happy reunion.

"Noisy." Rene responded, his gaze fixed on his bubbly sister. "That one never shuts up."

"She's a sweetheart." Cider responded. She spent more time with Chiara than Rene, since she visited often and had a lot more time than her family. In fact, Cider treated Chiara like family, more so than her own siblings.

"How are the triplets?" Rene asked, just as Cider thought of them.

"Good, busy… school, training." Cider's brothers and sister were twins, and still in high school. As kids they'd adored their older sister but with time they'd gotten busy in their own lives.

"Both their teams made state didn't they?" Rene confirmed. Cider nodded, suddenly remembering why she loved him. He managed hundreds of people, but never forgot even the slightest detail she mentioned. "This year is all about baseball in our household." Cider joked.

Rene didn't respond, instead burying his nose in Cider's hair as she rummaged through her purse to find the car keys. As soon as she managed to unlock it, Chiara and Rene threw their bags into the back, and climbed in, took the passenger seat.

The drive to the airport was almost comic - Rene was busy familiarising himself with Cider's latest playlist, asking questions about songs he hadn't heard. The truth was though they'd been together on and off for ten years almost, they met barely thrice a year.. and usually for no more than a day at a time. And there was so much of their lives that were unknown to the other.

In fact, Cider and Rene had never given their relationship a name. It was what it was; them together when they could be… and the rest of the time life happened.

Their friends and family never understood it, and the pressure to formalise things had put a strain so miserable on both of them a few years prior that they'd ended up not talking to each other for almost eighteen months. They had finally met up again at Mia's and Miguel's wedding, and had fallen back into sync. Since then no one had dared to interfere.

When Cider's phone started playing the tune of "Here Without You", Rene gave her an amused sideways glance before answering the call. While Rene liaised the pick-up with Mia, Chiara started chatting about all the things she thought they should do in the next 72 hours. Cider nodded absentmindedly, she knew it didn't matter what they did, as long as they spend each moment together.

"They're already at the pick-up point" Rene relayed to Cider as he put down the phone. "Mia wants to have brunch at Communal…"

Cider let out a grin at the thought of a best friend, "Already ordering us around is she?" She looked in the rear-view mirror again. "Chiara, is that okay? It opens at ten." She figured it was still around 8.30am. "We can go back and freshen up before…" She knew Rene needed his morning showers.

"Yup, the boyfriend will be awake by then… I guess he'll meet us there." Chiara said happily.

When her Mum's SUV was finally stuffed with ridiculously good-looking people in their late twenties, Cider headed home, hoping her parents had already left for one of their many holiday engagements.

She knew it wouldn't be a bother having her friends over, she'd already prepared the west wing of the family's mansion that was usually closed. So that her friends, the noise and most importantly, Rene and her parents would be kept far apart.

As they turned into the driveway, Cider breathed a sign of relief. Her parent's car was not in the driveway. Rene obviously caught her relief because he placed his hand on hers, as if shifted the gearstick, and squeezed it gently. Neither of their expressions gave anything away.

Once they were out of the car, Mia hopped off and threw the drivers seat door open and hugged Cider till the poor girl had to stutter.. "Can't, breathe.. Mia!"

Mia took a step back before dragging Cider out of the car and gushed excitedly. "You have new hair, I like the highlights."

Cider nodded, smiling with only her eyes. Her best friend was as full as life as ever and why shouldn't she be? After getting married, Mia and Miguel had taken to expanding his parents trucking businesses, and now had orders to service roads in their entire state. Business was good and it gave them lots of opportunities for road trips. Last Cider heard, Mia had even taken up advanced Spanish language courses, since a lot of her work was on the borders.

The girls followed as Rene, Miguel and Chiara carried the bags to the foyer. Cider hurried forward and unlocked the front door, startled to see her mother's head housemaid behind the door.

"Mrs. Stanley asked me to make sure the rooms were in order, Miss Sidera." She offered by way of explanation. Cider nodded and ushered everyone through the doors. Of course her mother had interfered. She watched as Mrs. Riley collected everyone's coats and offered to help with the luggage.

"Is everything alright, Sidera?" Rene said finding his place by her side. He was mocking the use of her full name, though truth be told he used it quite often when it was just them.

Cider squinted at him before smiling as she did only for him, saying, "I'm not the one that has two personal assistants." She winked before catching up with the rest who had already made themselves comfortable on the carpeted floors of the staircase landing.

"We do have sofa sets you know." Cider commented, vaguely remembering all of them crashing for days on each others floors in college. How times had changed.

"Yes, in the parlour… which is way down that way." Mia rolled her eyes, his distaste for the fancy Stanley mansion more than apparent. Cider had to laugh, the irony was that Mia visited the most often and had spend the most time in these rooms.

"Actually, I redid the living room too… come, see!" Since coming back to help sort out her parents affairs, Cider had shifted home and she spent most time in the west wing, where her grandparents had lived back in the day. Her parents didn't have much use for so many rooms, expect for huge family get togethers but Cider was most comfortable in the older part of the house and had spent a lot of time and effort redecorating it.

While Mia appreciated the paintings Cider had put up on the walls, and made herself comfortable on the armchair Rene walked straight to the surround sound system Cider had gotten installed, admittedly with him in mind. Even though he'd barely spend any time in the house she knew he'd appreciate it.

"Alright guys, I mean ladies," Miguel interrupted his wife. "Before you get too comfortable, we have half an hour to get showered before brunch. Mia has about thousand things she wants to do and I'm sure Chiara has a schedule planned too."

Mia stuck her tongue out at him before begrudgingly walking towards the door. "He's right. And I'm getting hungry. Come, Micky, I want the front room."

When it was just Rene and Cider left, she ventured, "Your usual room is ready too."

Rene nodded but didn't move, looking up from the speakers he was examining.

"The house looks nice." He offered, Cider knew he meant it, complements from Rene were rare.

She smiled, after all this time there was still the initial awkwardness between them at times.

She didn't move, letting him decide what to do. Sure enough after a moment, Rene took three long strides towards where she was standing at the door, and closed the door behind her.

"What?" She said, with a small laugh, suddenly nervous.

"You've done well," He said, his voice low again. He stood so close, she had to look up at his face. "The house looks good, you look amazing." He paused and ran his fingers through the back of her hair.

"So do you," She smiled, letting her fingers feel the gap in her rough beard she'd noticed before.

"I should shave it off." He said, putting his other hand over hers, and holding it for a second before pulling it towards his lips. He kissed the back of her hand softly his eyes closed.

Cider felt her heart beat calm, the nervousness left as quickly as it had come. This was her Rene, after all.

She savoured the moment, knowing how rare they were. Her eyes swept over his face, he had more lines than ever around his eyes. His muscles were tight, his veins throbbing slightly through his neck. She knew he was stressed about work, she had known the second she felt him next to her at the train station.

As he looked up, his eyes caught hers and he broke into a rare Rene smile lightening her mood immediately.

"You need a shower." He said, the moment ended as soon as it had come.

She nodded, and turned to open the door she wished she could lock for all eternity.