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Authors: Sophia Kenzie

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“Will there be another article in the paper tomorrow?”

“Most likely.” I darted my eyes away from him.

“Then you didn’t take care of her like you should have
done.”

“She doesn’t need…”

“Do not step on my words, boy. You take care of her, or I
will.”

 

Then he walked away from me, finding the closest person
outside our little huddle. He made a stupid, overdone joke followed by one of
those laughs where he liked to kick his head back, just to let me know he was
finished with the discussion.

 

If I didn’t take care of her, he would.

 

In normal circumstances, that might not seem like the
biggest threat, but as I mentioned I wasn’t a normal man, nor would I consider
my father one. At the time, he was the chairman, president, and CEO of
Stoneguard Holdings, a multinational holding company headquartered in New York
City. The thing about holding companies is that they don’t produce anything
tangible; they simply own other companies, either outright or in pieces. Stoneguard
Holdings currently owns a number of restaurant chains, a few record labels,
pieces of banks, insurances… the list goes on, but I’m sure you get the
picture. When you spend your entire life overseeing so many different
companies, both in number and type, your stress level doesn’t do a great job of
staying low. One of the ways my father battled his stress was by bedding women
half his age. He said his father did the same thing, and they both promised me
I was following in their path. It was just part of the life we were meant to
lead. And I allowed myself to believe them. I didn’t question them. I never
questioned them.

 

I played bodyguard the rest of the night. I stayed hidden in
the shadows, and every time I saw him try to approach her, I sent in another
high society twit to distract him.

 

There was an article Ashley once wrote about me regarding
that night. She said I kicked her out of the party because I didn’t think she
belonged. That was never the case, and I’m sure, after hearing about my father,
you can better understand that now. She did belong. She actually seemed to
belong there more than anyone else.

 

Ashley carried herself very well among the poised and
proper. She laughed lightly, not in that cringe-worthy, otter-like way she had
introduced her laugh to me. She touched the men with her delicate fingertips
during their silly conversations and danced whatever dance was thrown at her. It
was as though she was meant to live among the rich. She really did belong
there. So why did she hate us so much? Why did she intend to bring us down? Was
it just out of jealousy?

 

Two of my buddies snuck up behind me, tackling me to the
ground. They had obviously had too much to drink, something I wished I had
joined in on.

 

“Teddy, where’s your beverage?”

“Early day tomorrow, gents.” I laughed as I rolled onto my
back, looking up at them. “And I really don’t care to move back into the city
with a hangover.”

 

It was an excuse, and they knew it. It wasn’t as though I
was moving into college housing. My family owned, and still owns, a quaint
little mansion on the corner of 85th street and Central Park West. With five
floors, eleven bedrooms, eleven bathrooms, and twenty-seven rooms, it falls in
at about half the size of our Lloyd Harbor mansion. I had spent about a third
of the summer there, getting reacquainted with the city after four years in New
Haven; so, I wasn’t really moving in the next day. My things were already
there. Being hung over would’ve made no difference.

 

The reason I wasn’t drinking was because of her, and because
of the threat my father had made.

 

Speaking of which… I rolled to my side, trying to find her
in my view, but I was too late. My friends had unknowingly distracted me just
long enough. He was already going in for the kill. I had to do something, and
quick.

 

I didn’t think; I rolled to my feet and jumped on stage,
pulling the cord from the laptop, and stopping the music. Everyone turned in my
direction, letting out a groan of disappointment in the process. I pulled the
microphone to my mouth and pointed at Ashley.

 

What was I going to say? She was walking away with my
father. I knew exactly what he had in mind, and she was falling for it, the way
women fall for it with me. So I called her out. I told everyone who she was and
why she was there. I told them she didn’t belong and never would belong among a
crowd of our caliber. I badgered and embarrassed her in front of the entire
party.

 

I didn’t want to feel bad. After all, she deserved it. What
she had put me through the entire summer was unforgivable. She deserved to be
shown her place. She deserved to be kicked out of my party. At least, that’s
what everyone told me. But I couldn’t shake the terrible feeling I felt in my
stomach knowing I had hurt her and she had no idea why.

 

She left, as she was told to do. She disappeared and the
party went on.

 

My father found me later and with a small chuckle, whispered
into my ear. “All she needed was a good fuck from me and she would’ve known her
place. She would’ve shut her mouth forever.”

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, that was the motto of the man meant to
be my role model, the man who was supposed to teach me about the important
things in life.

 

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

 

HUNTINGTON HERALD

You Can Take the Bad Boy out of Long Island…

By Ashley Leigh

 

I know I told you all that you would have to wait until
next summer to hear of the tales of Teddy, but it looks like I’ve found a
loophole! Yes, I am writing this article from the heart of New York City, and
our favorite billionaire is up to his old tricks.

 

Only three months into law school, and he’s already
developed a reputation on campus. My avid readers, Theo the IV has started his
own gambling ring. Craps, Poker, Black Jack: you name it; he’ll take your
money. His games have become so popular that there are even professors rumored
to frequent his tables. Look out, Columbia, there’s a new kingpin in town!

 

As of the penning of this article, nothing worth
reporting has come from our billionaire’s new hobby, but hey, it’s only
November!

 

What is worth reporting, however, comes from a very
credible source. We all know Teddy is used to having his way with any woman he
deems worthy, but last night things might have gotten a little too heated. While
I wish, as I’m sure you do as well, that I had more details on the matter, all
I know is Teddy left an off-campus apartment with shame on his face, and by
shame, I mean a bright red handprint. It looks like his successful sex
endeavors might have finally come to an end.

 

Poor Teddy! At least the gambling seems to be bringing
you a handful of wins!

 

Until next time…

 

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

Teddy

 

 

I wish I could tell you that the dying process was peaceful,
but it’s not. It’s really not at all. Especially when your body is thrown over
the steering wheel, through the windshield, and into a two hundred year old
tree. You feel every bit of that death. You know how people always say when a
loved one dies that they’re “in a better place”? Well, I truly believe that the
pain you feel as you’re dying is to get you ready for that “better place”. There’s
no possible way that heaven wouldn’t be absolute nirvana compared to the pain
you just felt leaving earth. They planned that nicely.

 

And then, not only are you forced to feel this extensive
amount of physical pain, but you are also obligated to watch emotionally
scaring scenes from you past. Needless to say, I don’t recommend dying.

 

So, back to the next scarring scene: I landed on campus at
Columbia. It couldn’t have been much more than a few months after I began law
school. I was sitting on this stone, or maybe marble structure, that reminded
me of the funny sink that opened into the secret chamber in those wizard books
that were so popular a few years back.

 

Okay, hold the phone. You were just judging me for not
really caring much for those wizard books, weren’t you? I’m allowed to have my
opinions and you’re allowed to have yours. And if my opinions make you hate me,
so be it. I’ve had my share of hatred pointed in my direction. Nothing new. You
don’t have to like me. And anyway, you shouldn’t like me, because you’ve
previously promised not to become attached to me. I die, remember? If you’re
feeling sad right now, you’ve already broken our pact. This story is about
Ashley. Become attached to her. If it makes you feel any better, she loves
magic. We’ll talk about that in more depth later, but believe me; she was all
over those books.

 

So I was sitting there, reading case files for an upcoming
class, when something compelled me to look up. What did I see but her bouncy
little blonde bob coming right my way? Her mouth dropped and eyes widened when
we made eye contact, but then she darted to the right, down the stairs of the
courtyard.

 

“Oh, no, no, no.” I called to her as I chased her to the
bottom of the platform. “You get back here.” I reached out my hand to stop her,
but she twisted away from me.

“You lay one hand on me…”

“Whoa,” I shot my hands up, letting her know I was harmless,
“I’ll keep my hands to myself. Just tell me why you followed me here.”

 

She began to laugh, the laugh that made my face twitch, as she
looked up to the sky and reached into her back pocket, producing her wallet. She
flipped through the cards until she came upon the one for which she was
searching. Ashley then handed me her student ID.

 

“You go to school here?” I was shocked.

“I do.”

“And you didn’t tell me?”

“You didn’t ask.”

 

She was so clear and to the point. I wanted her to show some
emotion. I wanted to see that I affected her, but she was so put together. Nothing
seemed like it would break her.

 

“Going to class?”

“No.”

Oh, this woman was driving me crazy. “The correct response
would then be to tell me where you’re going.”

“But you didn’t ask.”

“Assume that I did.” Never once had a girl made me so much
want to physically hurt her.

“I’m going to the library to study.”

“Mmm, no you’re not.”

“I’m not lying to you.”

“Oh, I’m sure of that.” I narrowed my eyes at her, grabbed
her books out of her hands, and wrapped my fingers in hers.

“What are you doing?”

“Getting you drunk.”

 

She didn’t argue. She didn’t actually say anything to me. She
simply let me lead her to a little local bar on 106th and Columbus.

 

I ordered a shot of whiskey for each of us. And then I
ordered another. And another. Then we moved onto beer, but by this time, she
was exactly where I wanted her.

 

“Ashley?”

“Yes, Teddy?” I could see her waning, her eyes drifting from
their normal focus. She was beginning to flirt with me.

“Did you follow me to Columbia?”

“You are so full of yourself!”

“Okay, I’ll assume then the answer is ‘no’.”

“You’re correct. It is ‘no’.”

“But you knew both of us would be coming here at the same
time.”

“I do my research.”

“And yet you haven’t written an article about me since we’ve
been here.”

“Do you really believe you’re my whole life? It was a summer
job. It’ll be a summer job again. But I’m in grad school. I’m not going to
chase you around just for the fun of it.”

 

I was oddly hurt. For some reason, I wanted her to be
obsessed with me. I didn’t want it to just be about a paycheck. Is that weird?

 

“So you admit it’s fun?” I teased.

She cackled, spitting just the tiniest bit of beer onto the
small cocktail table between us. “Okay, you caught me. It’s a little fun.”

So I sat up straighter. “Why me? Why do you write about me?”

“Because you were born into a life of privilege, and you’re
not deserving of it.”

 

I have to tell you: I have asked a lot of women a lot of
questions, but never once had I been given such an honest answer. She didn’t
need to sugar coat anything. She wasn’t scared of me, and she wasn’t in awe of
me. To her, I was just another normal person.

 

“I really thought you were going to tell me that you found
me to be a fascinating specimen who could keep your readers forever
entertained.”

“You know, I was kind of kidding before when I said you were
full of yourself, but that comment might have just put you over into the
self-love category.”

 

I wanted to touch her, in some way. Either give her a
friendly push to jokingly show her that she affected me, or give her a huge hug
just to get her closer to me, but instead I acted the way I was now so used to
doing around her.

 

I touched my pinky to her nose.

 

“What did you just do?”

 

I was asking myself the same question: what did I just do? Who
puts his pinky on someone else’s nose?

 

“I just wanted to touch you in some way.”

“Teddy…” She tilted her head.

“Pretend that didn’t sound as creepy as it did.”

 

We both just laughed as we took another swig of our beers.

 

“The truth?”

“Please.”

“Of course I knew of you. I grew up in Huntington. You’re
like royalty. But when I started working at the Herald, you must had just slept
with my editor and never called her, or something to that extent. She was just
looking for a way to get you to pay attention. Apparently it made you pay
attention to the wrong girl.”

 

Now that definitely sounded like something I would do. It
was all starting to make so much more sense. Ashley didn’t have some
long-standing vendetta against me. I had never personally affected her. It
really was all about the paycheck.

 

“But then after my first ‘stalking’ I spent a night in jail,
thanks to you, so I begged for a full column instead of just one scathing
article, and the rest of the summer was my own revenge.”

“Which I did deserve.”

 

Oh my God, I almost put my pinky back on her nose.

 

“Did you almost put your pinky back on my nose?”

“I can’t control this thing!”

 

We took another swig of beer, both finishing our pints.

 

“Why did you kick me out of your party?”

I took a deep breath. I wanted to tell her. I wanted to tell
her so badly, but I… well, I had never talked to anyone about that. I had never
confessed to another living soul what I had personally witnessed for more than
ten years of my life, what every girl I had brought home after I turned sixteen
had had to face. And they never talked about it either. It was just one of
those things.

 

“If I make a promise to one day explain that all to you, can
we save that for another night?”

 

Maybe something changed in me first, but her entire body
moved in a way, after I made that request, that seemed different: more open,
more comforting. She had obviously reached a topic that was too close to me,
and she knew that. And she was being respectful of that.

 

“Of course.”

“Thank you.”

 

And then she put her hand on top of mine. That magnetism
that I have already spoken of, the way she was able to draw me in, multiplied
exponentially with her touch. I needed her after that. In the days, weeks, even
months following that simple moment, my hands craved her.

 

The waitress came around, dropping off two more beers on the
table and giving me a wink.

 

“What’s it like?” Ashley looked at me as I thanked the
waitress.

“What?”

“Being the object of everyone’s affection.”

“Stop it.”

“I’m just saying.”

“Enough about me.”

She sat back. “Fine. What would you like to know then?”

“Why journalism?”

“I like to write.” She casually announced.

“Try again. Why journalism?”

“Excuse me?” She shifted in her chair.

“People who like to write keep journals. They don’t decide
to spend their life going after the truth.”

“Teddy, I write a gossip column for a silly small town
paper. Please tell me why you think I care about the truth.”

 

I swear, the next thing I said to her set in motion the
remaining events of the evening. It was the reason we had three more drinks,
the reason we stumbled into her apartment at two in the morning, the reason I
left with a slap across my face, and the reason she called me out, yet again,
in her column.

 

“I’ve read every single article you’ve written about me. You’re
passionate, you’re accusatory, and you’re giving. But you’re hiding something. You’re
hiding your heart. You’re saving that for something bigger: bigger than me,
bigger than you, and definitely bigger than that paper. So what is the truth
you’re searching for, Ashley?”

 

If I’m being completely honest with you, it was a total
bullshit line. Deep down, and four drinks in, I meant it, but seeing it again,
I knew it was a line. With that amount of alcohol in my system, all I was
thinking about was stripping her down and fucking her any way possible. I
wouldn’t deny that for a second.

 

And it worked… as all my lines did. But it was her answer to
my question that caught me off guard. If there really was a rhyme or reason to
these flashes, this specific encounter was the one that proved to me that
Ashley was a real person. She wasn’t just some manic pixie dream girl that was
placed into my life to show me the error of my ways. She wasn’t there to help
me get over some issue I had been struggling with for a time. And she wouldn’t
disappear when I didn’t need her any longer. Ashley Leigh was a flesh and blood
woman with her own goals and her own life.

 

“…So what is the truth you’re searching for, Ashley?”

 

She stared at me; at the time, I wasn’t sure why. But once
she finally confessed, I knew she had been searching my eyes to see if she
could confide in me. She was searching for a friend.

 

“My father was killed about ten years ago.”

“Oh God, Ashley. I’m so sorry.”

“No, I’m not looking for your pity. I just…” I could tell
the alcohol was going to her head. She slouched in her seat, her words began to
slur, and her ability to hold eye contact became outstanding, if not slightly
awkward. “He was working for the government. In what capacity, I am not sure. Then,
he, umm…” She kind of laughed as she spit out her closing. “Well, he died. They
say he was in an accident. I’m not sure what kind. They paid for the funeral
and everything, and we never asked any questions. Another shot?”

 

She stood up and ran to the bar, no doubt retreating from
her sudden burst of honesty. When she came back, she was balancing four shot
glasses in her palm. I gladly took two and toasted her with each one. But now,
instead of just regarding her as some dumb reporter who was out to ruin my
life, I saw her as a person.

 

“Ashley,” I lightly placed my hand on top of hers, as she
had done for me, “thanks for telling me your story.”

She quickly smiled, but deflected just as quickly. “Race to
the bottom?” She held up her last beer to mine.

“Ready, set, go.”

 

The rest of the time at the bar was a blur, even in my
flashback. We talked about the requirements for a Master’s in Journalism:

 

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