Authors: Kimber S. Dawn
There’s an invisible line between yourself and insanity. At least in my mind, anyway. And even though you can’t see it, you can feel it. It’s like a rubber band, you can pull it and push it like you can most things. But like most things, if you push and pull and fuck with it too much, it’ll break.
And I may be wrong, but my gut tells me that mine is close to snapping. Too close for comfort. Too close for anymore damn pulling or pushing.
So instead of pushing for more information, or trying to pull answers out of him, I accept my place in his world, in my life, and in this universe for where and who I am in this moment, on this day.
So today, I forgive. Again.
I smile and forgive and forget.
And I vow to take each of the following days, one day at a time.
Because it’s all I can do. To keep my husband and my sanity, it’s all I can do.
After our things are packed away and my wife is sleeping soundly in the massive bed, centering the master suite of the French Quarter penthouse at Ritz Carlton, I glance out over the dark bubbling Mississippi river and frown at the similarities between my foreboding future and the mighty river.
“Such a pathetic waste,” I mutter.
As I walk from the huge terrace overlooking the city, spicy food teases my nostrils and jazz music wafts up through the double doors leading back into the penthouse.
“What’d you say, Liam?” My wife’s sleepy voice comes from under the piles of blankets on the bed as her head pops up. “Sorry, I must’ve dozed off.” She yawns around her latter words.
“Nothing, baby girl. I didn’t mean to wake you. Go back to sleep.” After turning off the lamp on the bedside table, I lean over and kiss her forehead. “I’m heading out for my meeting. Don’t expect me back until late.”
On my way from the room though, her words stop me. “Liam?” When I turn back, she’s sitting up in bed. Her beautiful long, strawberry blonde curls curtain around her frail frame, and I realize…what I said to her earlier today, about her still being so beautiful, it wasn’t a lie. But, when I look through the dim room and into my wife’s eyes, I see the fear. I see the pain and hurt in them.
But I can’t fucking care.
I can’t for many differing reasons, but the main reason, at the center of it all, is a reason I won’t …I
look too closely at.
Because if I do, it’ll fucking kill me.
I watch the contrasting emotions flicker across her face as I stand beside the door leaving the master suite, and other than tilting my head I stay perfectly still. First confusion, and sadness, and hurt. Then hope, turning into hopelessness, gradually…but still turning, all the same. Then, finally…I watch as her tired, stressed mind, simply lets go. “Never mind, I just wanted to tell you I love you. And I hope you have a good time. That’s all.”
“I love you, too, baby girl. I’ll see you in the morning. Goodnight.” I close the door behind me and make my way from the suite.
Settled into the back seat of the limo Travis said he would send, I finally feel the tension in my muscles relax. I breathe for the first time since landing in this town.
I still don’t know what the hell I was thinking when I asked Lexy to come. I’d just walked into the her bathroom after getting home. I was supposed to just run home, quickly pack a suitcase, and head out. I was only required to attend the meeting, not stay three nights in a suite costing two-thousand dollars a night. But when I saw her, so frail and thin, so…pathetic, standing in the restroom without a stitch of clothing on, something beat against my hollow chest. My good mood must’ve taken control of my mouth.
And my mood had been good for only one reason. That was after I told Travis I wouldn’t have a problem picking up his old friend from the airport in New Orleans after my meeting with old man Jackson’s New Orleans CEO of Jackson’s-Orleans’ Agency, something changed. The tension that’d been building between he and I since that ominous phone conversation a month ago, just disappeared.
I’d just walked out of an early meeting with old man Jackson and Travis was coming out of his own office. As soon as he saw me, he waved. And after some idle banter, he asked me to join him for scotch and brunch at ten, slapped me on the back, and said he’d fill me in then. At brunch it was as though the entire last month had never happened. His demand of time with my wife was never revoked, however, but as far as I can tell, it shouldn’t be long before I’m good enough in his graces and paid up enough in favors to breech the subject of my wife again.
And did the favors ever stack in my favor during that brief brunch. First he asked if I could pick up an old high school buddy of his from the airport after my meeting. No problem, I told him of course. Never questioning why Travis could call and have a limo pick me up from the Ritz, take me to my scheduled meeting, then drive me around town fetching his old playmate and getting him settled into whichever hotel before returning me to mine, but
have called for his friend a driver. Nor did I question him when he asked me to keep
between only he and I. By the time he and I had sorted out and split the coke we had between the two of us, and he’d let me know that Rhett Bennett—a friend of his since the tenth grade—wasn’t on his old man’s list of favorite people, but was still a strong business asset that the old man wanted…So when I say it’s safe to assume I’ll be back in his good graces soon, I’m not exaggerating.
I sigh and look out the passenger side window, barely seeing the slick black cobbled roads and sidewalks scattered with happy drunken people.
My monotonous life begins pulling on the edges of my sanity and I feel the tension tightening in my shoulders. I close my eyes and look away from the streets passing by and I can’t help but wonder, when did all
become so weak?
My plans. My ambitions. My goals.
When did my life begin unraveling?
It couldn’t have been the move to New York. The glass ceiling I left at Jackson’s in California was worth the move alone, add the bigger and newer house, and no—it wasn’t the move. It damn sure wasn’t riding myself of the constant burden that was my father. Other than the one little tie up I had with Travis, everything about New York has been fine.
Could it be the baby?
It wasn’t Summer. I mean she was a nice piece of ass. And her cunt was always warm and wet, but…
No. It wasn’t Summer.
It probably is the loss of mine and Lexy’s child. I’m sure if my mother were here now she’d be chastising me for not ‘
feeling it fully
’ yet, or some ridiculous notion.
“Mr. Dean, we’re here.” Drake’s voice pulls me from my darkening thoughts just as the limo pulls to a stop in front of August, one of New Orleans’ finest French restaurants.
While smiling and nodding, I make my way through the room and polite causalities. When I spot Mr. Brighton, Jackson’s New Orleans CEO, I direct my path towards him and in no time at all I’ve made my way to our table and introduced myself.
The business part of my job has never plagued me, and I like to think it’s because I really like to win…that, and I’m damn good at winning.
But in reality, I think it’s the chase. The thrill of it.
I like the business part because there’s no emotions. No feelings are needed. It’s black and white. Money? Or No? Are the dividends there? Of course they are, I said they would be.
If I’m pitching, you’re batting. And that’s when I’m on the phone, or when I’m in front of old washed up broker’s in frumpy suits.
Playing the referee.
I barely notice I haven’t heard a word he’s said in the last fifteen minutes when exhaustion settles in and the jet lag finally begins taking its toll.
Fuck. It’s like I can’t even focus.
“…if I’m the main southeastern branch, it doesn’t seem plausible.” His tone reminds me of the actors on Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, repeating, ‘
I take a guess at whatever it is he was just rambling about, and attempt to pacify him at the same time, “Yes, sir. And that was a main issue Mr. Jackson struggled with, but after months of deliberation, there just simply is no other way. And it must be twenty percent. The original fifteen purposed was an undershot.” I point to the area explaining his fifteen percent, no sorry, twenty percent lay-off proposal in exchange for his new office space and buildings. “Look, Jesse.” I motion between the two of us, trying to show trust. Ever the referee. “You don’t mind if I call you Jesse, do you?”
He vehemently shakes his head, “No. no. It’s fine, son.”
“I was side by side with Mr. Jackson during this entire process. And I know it seems…”
“Catastrophic?” He deadpans.
“No.” I chuckle. “I don’t think I’d go that far. Not yet. Difficult. I was going to say difficult.” I square off with the man in front of me, look him in the eye, and tell him the best version of the truth I can. “But everyone’s making change for the change that’s coming. This company is growing at a rate much faster than anyone anticipated. And these are just our growing pains.”
A smile slides across my face when I see the defeat in his eyes just before he glances down at the table. “Jesse? You are growing, are you not? How much has your salary increased with the stress of this shit? Huh? No one likes firing people. No one.” I tell the defeated man before me, point blankly.
He must be lost in thought for a second because it takes him three to finally answer. “Well, I mean everyone’s salary has. And yes, my district is growing. That does make sense. I guess.” He dawdles a bit and his hesitation causes my anger to spike.
There is nothing worse than a man being afraid to fucking speak.
In an effort to hide my gritting teeth, I yawn, looking down at my watch. And even though it’s nowhere near ten, I decide I can’t endure any more of my new business acquaintance’s company and call it quits as he weakly blabbers on about some shit I cannot stomach further.
“Damn, that time already. Well,” I stand to make my excuses.
And it doesn’t take half the explanation it would have to excuse myself, had Mr. Brighton really come to this meeting prepared for battle, and even that pisses me off just a little more than his ho hum attitude.
This is the shit that I do
like about my job.
The meetings, I can handle. The pathetic men I’m forced to associate with, no big deal.
But it’s the meetings with the pathetic men, who are still holding the higher positions, when
the ones whose bones need swept out.
After my half-hearted goodbye, I make my way from the table and the tension in my muscles knot, getting tighter with every step I take towards the curb. Before I’m at the limo, I feel the beginnings of a migraine fraying the edges of my consciousness.
And at some point when I’m sliding into the back of the car, or maybe when I was informing Drake of our next stop, I decide I don’t care for New Orleans. I don’t like the smells, or the music, or the bloody river trash who resides here.
Damn, I shouldn’t have asked Lexy to come. Why did I?
As soon as the thought crosses my mind for a second time, I resolve a solution—
We’ll leave. Simple as that.
I’ll pick up Travis’s friend, get him settled into his hotel, and drive back to the Ritz. I’ll inform Lexy there’s been a change in my business plans, and we’ll be leaving first thing tomorrow morning.
That’s how a real man takes care of something. You handle it, head on.
Decide. Then act.
I’m thirty and I’m more of a man than the pathetic motherfucker I just meet with. I’ve been in this business for a quarter of the time Mr. Brighton has, and in one seventeen minute meeting, I might as well have been the grim reaper sinking his scythe into his withering stock firm tonight, and he knew it. He knew it coming in. He knew it sitting before me. And he knew it as I stalked from the table.
And not once did he put forth an effort to save it.
Not once did he fight.
His loss. My gain.
Or gains, whichever.