Monday, 9 July 2012

Breaths

Ignorance is Bliss. That’s what he kept telling himself. Why she walked out, why she handed him the papers, why she shacked up with that football player. He’d rather not know. He sat at his desk, his head pressing on the edge of his closed briefcase. 3 days he’d spent throwing scotch down his neck, trying to blank out the last three weeks. He knew what she was. Now. She was another Winterdale Country Club wannabe. Now she had the alimony to fit in at the society charity dinners. He groaned and clamped a hand over his right ear to block out the ringing telephone. “Beauchamp Delaney,” he spluttered down the receiver. Glad that whoever it was couldn’t smell the drowning scent of scotch and tobacco on his breath. “Mr Delaney, I act for Ms Lydia Alcott, formerly Delaney. Sir, I’m faxing over some further demands your wife has made on account of your unreasonable behaviour. I need you to read over them and sign them so I can incorporate them into a new agreement.” Beauchamp pulled his aching head from the desk and coughed grittily. “Take this up with my lawyer.” He slammed the phone down, wincing as the banging echoed in his battered head. He peeked cautiously through the closed blinds, another blindingly beautiful spring day. It’s not like he loved her. It was the humiliation to come. The sneers, the guffaws behind his back, set to come at the Spring Fling for multiple sclerosis. The assholes, the fucking assholes of shit wiping society like Cynthia, laughing at him. All these over inflated gold digging coke headed fuckdolls who married their money and couldn’t wait to trample over the cock and balls of the men who’d earned it. She wasn’t like that. Post-paracetamol, Beauchamp’s misty eyes wandered over to her. Allegra Hart. The girl in the wallpaper shop. She helped decorate the sets when he was a runner. The first friend he ever made in San Francisco. Her long blonde curls that Beauchamp would walk over hot coals to clench in his fist while he rocked himself inside her, pushing her to her knees. But she wouldn’t do that. Allegra was a good girl. For some reason friends with that silicone slut Cynthia Goldstein-Klein who was racking up dead Jews faster than Himmler. But Allegra was nothing like her; she worked. She worked hard to pay the bills on her apartment where she lived with her boyfriend. Danny. Sous chef at Via Mia, a good business restaurant. She deserved better than that. He spent his boring business meetings fantasising about taking her off him, giving her a better life. He span his chair round idly, breathing deeply. He couldn’t live in his whisky bubble forever. She wouldn’t want a man who drowned his misery in liquor. Beauchamp opened his briefcase and took out the papers inside the manila folder. He sighed, the words barely stayed straight as he flicked through the pages of his assistants report. The show was hemarroghing money left right and centre. “Jesus, I don’t need this.” He stood up slowly, grappling the edges of the desk for support, his legs still swaying from his 3 day bender. He began swallowing hard, and rapidly, feeling the bile rise in his throat, desperate not to blow the broken load of his failed marriage over his pristine office. Gently, he lowered himself back onto the big leather chair. His breathing was ragged. He swallowed again trying to get up the courage to open his mouth and answer the phone, afraid of what would come out. “Beauchamp Delaney” “Oh, Mr Delaney” It was her. Beauchamp sat upright and felt his heart pulse. “Allegra. Hi. Please, call me Beauchamp.” “OK, Beauchamp. If that’s ok in a professional capacity.” he could tell she was smiling. Her world was so perfect, because it was without him. “You wanted to know when we got in that nursery paper as soon as we got it. Well I just packed it off the truck. Do you want me to drop it off?” She couldn’t see him like this. “No need. I’ll er, I’ll send my assistant out to collect it. Thank you Allegra. I guess you must be busy.” “It’s a slow day.” He had nothing to say to her. Well, that’s not true. He had a million things to say to her. That he fantasized about her when he was in bed with his wife. That he dreamt about her. That he sat in his office and thought about her all the time. That she was the single object of all his desires and affections. But he had no words to offer her. Nothing he could say would make her his. “Well, thanks for calling. I’ll speak to you soon.” “Bye Beauch. Thank you for shopping with Dawson Wallpapers”. His heart raced long after he heard the click of her disconnection. He didn’t know what she did to him, but he didn’t know how long he could live without it. He took a deep breath and replaced the receiver. That fucking siren. He sat and breathed hard. Waiting for his heart to calm. Allegra Hart. The girl from the wallpaper shop. The simple girl working so hard for a life with her man. Beauchamp sighed; he could give her the world. Giver her anything she craved. Give her the life she deserved. And in turn he would get the thing he craved most. To cum inside her. He thought about it. Grabbing her, pulling her to him. Kissing her like he’d die without her touch. Falling in love with her everytime he breathed in her sweet perfume. Holding her beautiful breasts as he pushed himself inside her, making her his. He reached to his zipper and began stroking. Thinking about fucking this virgin princess, marking her his own. Making her bite her lip and take short shocked breaths as he pushed himself deeper and deeper. Beauchamp became frenzied, obsessed with the idea of conquering this almost virgin girl. Turning her into the perfect wife. He leaned back in his chair and sighed as he came. Wishing every drop spilled deep into her. Making her the perfect wife. Cleaning himself, he felt the old familiar wash of disgust that flooded through him. Fantasising about destroying this perfect woman to make her his concubine. She deserved better than him. Allegra was a goddess and he was nothing. What the fuck did that Danny have that he didn’t? Beauchamp’s noticed his breaths had slowed down again. Alone again, spent over her again. It was settling back down into a normal Monday morning. Maybe if he cleaned himself up he could go and see her himself. The brightening horizon on one of the worst days of his miserable life. He took one last breath and drained the remaining drops of scotch in his glass. Tomorrow he would see Allegra himself. And count the breaths until he saw her again.

Whores

Cynthia collapsed on top of him, gasping back her breath. Her slim, sweat drenched body rose and fell on his chest. Blaine Goldby. He sat up, rolling her body roughly onto the firm hotel mattress. He reached to the nightstand and took a cigarette from the carton next to the lamp. Gripped it between his teeth and struck a match. Cynthia leant up on her elbow, taking him in. He was magnificent. He was everything she craved in a man. Athletic, strong, rich. But he dismissed her. He booked her time like a call girl. She sometimes found herself waiting for his call. Knowing that he didn’t go more than a week without seeing her. She hoped one day he would marry her. They could rule San Francisco together. The ultimate power couple. “I was glad you called,” Cynthia said conspiratorially, despite them being alone. “Did you put the Do-Not-Disturb on the door?” Blaine asked matter of factly. “Of course.” Cynthia sighed. “I’m being married you know.” Cynthia sat up and took the offered cigarette from his lazily outstretched arm. “Really?” “Oh yeah. The board think it’s a good idea if I marry a nice, family friendly girl.” Cynthia’s heart sank. She knew he wasn’t talking about her. “Do you know Elizabeth Buchanan?” Blaine looked at Cynthia briefly. “Of course I do. Her father is Beauchamp’s boss!” “Yeah, I think I had to get in there before Delaney did.” Cynthia took some comfort. Perhaps Blaine dismissed everyone. “When?” “In the fall I think. I don’t know. Whenever.” His nonchalance disturbed her. “You don’t love her then?” Blaine laughed callously. “Oh please. Did you love my father?” Cynthia turned and stubbed out the cigarette on the ashtray on the nightstand. Her face flushed with humiliation. “Love doesn’t mean marriage anymore Cynthia. You should know that better than anyone.” “I cared about your father.” Cynthia tried to find strength in her voice. “I’m sick and tired of hearing you say that. Jesus, don’t you have anything else to say? You didn’t love him. The sooner you just accept it, the happier we’ll all be.” Cynthia felt his scorn. She physically blanched at his words. To her friends, she had made no secret of her desire to marry Ishmael Goldby. He was the focus of her move here. A wealthy old man, recently widowed and in need of a young bride to keep himself in the old boys club. “Are you hungry Blaine?” “Sort of.” He had a wry smile on his face. He grabbed the back of Cynthia’s neck and forced her lips towards them. She felt the force of his mouth on hers; he must feel some passion for her Cynthia thought to herself. You don’t kiss someone you don’t care about like that. She returned his kiss and cradled his head in her hands, running her fingers through his hair. She could feel his hands at the small of her back, pressing her closer to him. He grabbed her hair and pushed her on her knees. “You actually think I’d want to marry you don’t you? Jesus, you pathetic piece of shit.” He pulled her hair to anchor her face level with his cock and pushed her lips onto him. She willingly opened her mouth and let him take her. “Fuck, I can see why the old man wanted you around. This is where your talents are. Who needs a wife when you can get a girl like you to do these things? I won’t want to do this sort of thing to my pretty little wife you know. And I won’t need to with a whore like you around. That’s all you are t me. You’re my whore Cynthia.” Tears began to form in her eyes. Whether it was from the choking sensation or her acceptance of his harsh words she didn’t know. Her face was flushed with humiliation. It was true. She did anything he asked of her. He pushed her away from him and slapped her hot cheek, letting her fall onto the bed. Blaine grabbed her hips and forced his way in to her. Cynthia grunted, but put up no fight. “God Cynthia, you know,” He spoke with every thrust, calculating his words to complete her humiliation, “if you just accepted that this is all you’re good for you’d be a lot happier. Maybe you should stop trying to be a wife and just concentrate on being a whore.” Cynthia could feel her tears spilling over. She tried to bow her head but he pulled her hair back, forcing her body to contort. She groaned in pain. She heard him laugh at her discomfort. He pulled her back to him by her throat. “You know you’re beautiful. Jesus, Cynthia your body always drove me crazy. Everytime I’ve come to take what I want from you, you let me. Jesus, so pathetic.” He pushed her forwards on to the bed, laughing at her trying to escape his painful assault on her. Cynthia steadied herself on her lower arms, gritting her teeth and grabbing the headboard with white knuckles. “Touch yourself. I want to see you enjoy this. I want to feel you loving your degradation.” She obeyed him, her tears flowing. He had broken her. She wished she could say no to him, but she couldn’t. She wanted to turn round and push him off her. End this cycle of self loathing forever. “God, for such a whore you’re so tight. This is how you should make your fortune. You’re not worth anything else.” Cynthia closed her eyes. She loved the power Blaine had over her. Her body bucked and writhed in pleasure as he kept pounding. Her chest heaved with sobs. She cried at the pain, at the love she felt for Blaine that he would never return and for the truths he said to her. Who would want to marry her and love her when they could have her as a whore so cheaply? “I hope you’re hurting. Because that’s all a whore like you deserves to feel.” His final degrading words pushed them both over the edge. His fingers dug down at her flesh hard. She was sure she was bruised. He pushed her off him and let her fall to the bed. Without another word he had grabbed a towel went to wash her off him. Cynthia suddenly felt emotionless. She listened to the water from the shower tumble down into the bath below it. Water cleansing Blaine of his whore. It was time to escape. Time to get away from him and what she had become. She grabbed her clothes and got dressed, desperate that she not be there when he gets out. She took one last glance around the room to make sure she had everything when she noticed Blaine’s wallet. She unfolded it, cleaned out every last bill and smiled to herself. If she was his whore, she wanted what she was worth.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Leaves

Another sleepless night. Another empty bed. llegra sat on the chair by the window, thinking of nothing. She ran her fingers over her pearl necklace like it was a rosary. Her elbow resting elegantly on the windowsill. She closed her eyes, keeping the thoughts from her head. Concentrating on letting it all drain away. Wanting to forget it all. It was a classic crisp San Francisco fall day. And Trey was leaving. She watched him stack the boxes into the back of his Jeep, his heavy heart showing on every gently developing line on his face, sycamore leaves tumbling from the trees that surrounded the driveway. The two children they had together watching sadly from the arms of their beloved nanny, not kicking the dried fall leaves that made this their favourite season. Allegra could hear their sobs, the children would miss him. Allegra sat back on her antique lounge chair and sighed, lifting her gaze to the ceiling. She reached out for the vodka rocks on the window sill and sipped it. Who gives a shit if its 9am? Allegra closed her eyes, she fwlt nothing. For the last three years, Trey and Allegra Daly were the most in demand dinner party additions. Last year they could have eaten at a different house every night. They were the power couple everyone wanted to be, the beautiful people in the society pages every Sunday. They’d be loving the story this week. The golden couple, in pieces. Her impending divorce was the kind of thing hack journalists wished for and drooled over. Embellishing the pain and the hurt, digging out long forgotten sources of the past with wild stories to exaggerate and force to fit a pattern of the impending doom of their romance. Allegra had worked so hard to create this perfect image of the perfect couple, now all her efforts lay in tatters because of Him. Beauchamp Delaney, the ever casting shadow over her love affairs. For years he had yearned for her and she played him. Wanting him to pine for her and keeping her control over him. She had no inclination to sleep with him, unless it would increase her power. She’d forced him to destroy his only love based marriage. How she laughed at him when he begged her to be his wife. Trey had his jealousies. He despised the way Allegra used Beauchamp. He wanted her to push him away, but as always, there were three people in their marriage. Allegra took another sip of vodka, relishing the feel of the ice on her lips. She drained her glass. She thought being drunk might force some emotion out of her. She leaned toward the window again to see Trey still packing, the mild autumnal breeze ruffling his thinning hair and littering his car trunk with leaves. His Ray Bans covered his red raw eyes from months and weeks of shouting, crying and not sleeping. She could have been happy with him. He was rich, young, handsome and with real prospects. Not some executive producer of a lame soap opera like Beauchamp Delaney. Trey Daly was the head of Tornado Records; they had produced some of the newest hippest bands of the last 10 years. When they met it was perfect. She was newly but amicably split from Elliot Booth, the tycoon, who had become more of a father than a husband. He had set her up in this gorgeous house, got her staff and invited her to all his hot shot parties, ready to fix her up with some up and coming man about town. Trey had been one of these. She smiled softly at the memory. How Trey had literally done a double take when he saw her, how he couldn’t take his eyes off her as he made his way across the room to her. She accepted all his attentions with a smile and encouraged his inevitable invitation to dinner. They even wrote their own vows. They were actually in love for fuck’s sake! Look at us now! She could hear a voice inside her head scream. Look at us now! She rested her head back and remembered their wedding. A small affair in Maine, in Trey’s hometown of Bangor. How the fall palette painted their wedding pictures, the red maple leaves cascading over her wedding dress and resting atop her veil. How their favourite picture of the day was the one hanging over the fireplace. Caught unawares in a kiss beneath the boughs of a tree. Allegra’s lip trembled slightly. She took quick breaths to calm herself and threw the contents of her latest Vodka rocks down her throat. She leaned forward again, to see Trey unwilling slam the trunk shut. She watched him rest his hands on the car and lean heavily on it, the quickening wind showering the sad scene with tumbling leaves. He was really going. She could see his regrets shake in his shoulders as he fought tears, trying to stay as positive as possible for the children. Allegra cast herself out of the scene. She had no desire to further partake in this hurt. She drove him away; she chose her hold over Beauchamp over her husband’s love. She closed her eyes and remembered that one last fight. The row that finally catapulted him from their marriage bed to one of the guest suites and now to a mansion on Vermont Avenue. How he smacked the martini glass from her smug hand and ordered her to choose between the two men. Yelling in disbelief at her refusing to cut this desperate man from her life. Her utter unwillingness to remove her superiority and concentrate on building a long and happy life. Something inside her wanted to fight for him, but nothing. She had long buried her emotions and found that without them, she had no fight or desire to fight. Right now, she could tear downstairs and throw herself into his arms, declare the feelings she felt for him and beg his forgiveness. She could see it all, she could see him holding her tightly, raining down his forgiveness as he stroked her hair and pressing his lips desperately to his own to seal this last minute reconciliation. The wind would whip a surge of golden leaves around them. Watching the glee on their children’s faces as their parents showed their undying love for one another. But instead, Allegra remained unmoved in the chair, ignoring her glass with ever melting ice and drinking the hard liquor straight from the bottle. Her chest heaved with the desire to cry. To let out the guilt and the wounds she had inflicted on herself. She watched with true sadness as Trey cradled his children, preparing to see them once a week and occasional holidays. Giving up watching them grow and develop everyday. Allegra knew that was his true pain. He would never regret their marriage because of them. Trey Junior and Mary Beth would always keep them bound together. Allegra dragged herself back to bed as she heard Trey’s car pull away. She placed the vodka bottle on the nightstand and threw herself on the mattress. She buried her head in the pillow and let it soak up her few silent tears. It was no one’s fault but her own, there was no blame to throw at anyone else. She had forced the end of her marriage and now she had to live with it.

Dreams

Cynthia closed her eyes and felt the shower water drip off the end of her nose, the hot steam rising from the plummeting water below. She stroked her hair back against her scalp, washing the memories of the last 12 hours away. Another husband hunt laying wasted before her, then taking it out on her only true friend this morning.
Leroy Franklin is the CEO of Galway Enterprise Publishing. A very ‘now’ business. They had just signed a hot young British author who was all over the society columns.

God he was boring. She was so bored by him she drowned out his dullness in the champagne that flowed like water to their window side table, making her wasted beyond belief and in no way marryable. Cynthia wiped the drips from her brow. She could deal with his dullness for the promise of the purse. So, she blew it again. One year of miserable failure after miserable failure. When would her time come? When would she find the one, the one man who’d let her charm her way into his will and his wallet?

Allegra. Oh God, she came into the room bearing coffee and sympathy. Cynthia had taken Allegra’s perfect beauty at eight in the morning personally and attacked her. The whole argument came back to Cynthia in waves. Her stomach churned and her heart thudded as she remembered.

“Knock knock”, Allegra edged her way into the room. Cynthia rolled her eyes at Allegra’s Oregon countryside beauty. Even at eight thirty in the morning.

“Don’t even ask about last night”, Cynthia stopped her friend’s questions with a raised hand.

“It can’t have been that bad”, Allegra’s doe eyed optimism was too much to bear BC (before coffee).

“It was worse. I swear I’m never getting married.”

“You will. Of course you will Cynthia. Look at you, you’re beautiful!”

Cynthia waved her off, but knew she was right. She was very in control of her looks. Emphasising her big green eyes, making sure her hair remained that bright, yet sophisticated, auburn. She worked out all the time and only wore elegant black.

“What was so wrong with this guy?”

“Everything.”
Allegra stifled a giggle.

“Tell me about this poor boy you’ve been seeing then.” Cynthia worked hard to disguise her disgust about ‘Danny’.

“Don’t call him that”, Allegra wrinkled her nose.

“Sorry,” Cynthia genuinely felt it.

“Well, he’s amazing. We went to his place and he cooked me dinner and we cuddled on
the sofa watching TV,”

Allegra gushed over him. She was infatuated with this Commis Chef from Illinois. Cynthia couldn’t figure it out. What in God’s name did Allegra think she was doing with him? What prospects could he possibly offer? It would take years for him to get established as a chef and there was still no real money in it. Allegra actually believes that they’re going to make it together and it’ll all be wonderful. How wonderfully naive of her, Cynthia thought. In this day and age who could be bothered with it all? It’s so much easier to slip into a life already made. This ‘Danny’ character couldn’t possibly be an achiever. And even if he was Allegra would be too old to enjoy it. Cynthia had tried again and again to tell her what to do. Marry money first, then mess around with finding ‘love’ if that’s what she wants. Give this ‘Danny’ a few years to become someone of note.

Allegra was dear to her, but how could she invite her to any of her social occasions? When I’m the wife of a real sophisticate, Cynthia mused, how I can I introduce my old poor friend who married a nobody? How embarrassing. There’s no way she’d be accepted by Muffy Tauton-Frost-Muir, the thrice married former Miss San Francisco. How could she possibly move in the same circles as this inspirational social climber and Allegra, the girl who married the poor boy she fell in love with. What a victim.

“So he officially asked me to go steady with him! Can you imagine! I actually found the one in less than a year!”

Allegra’s gushing made Cynthia sit up and listen.

“The one? Oh Ally, honey, please! Don’t throw all your hopes into one loser’s basket. Play the field. Please I’m begging you.”

Allegra wrinkled her perfect little nose again.

“He’s not a loser. He could be a head chef in..” She was cut off by Cynthia’s sneer.

“In what? 10, 15 years? And then what? You’ll be in your mid thirties by then Allegra. You’ll settle down to have children then? Darling, much better to marry money and get the heir to the settlement.”

“You’re wrong.” Allegra found a voice Cynthia had never heard before. It was strong and full of will. Much like Cynthia’s.

“You’re so wrong. I’d rather build a life with someone than be with someone I don’t love.”

Cynthia blinked, taken aback.

“Look, Allegra I’m only being honest. I mean, you work in a wallpaper shop for fuck’s sake, and I know you’re just trying to get by and I know you have bigger plans for yourself, but why work your ass off for nothing?”
Allegra slammed down the coffee cup she was holding, the hot liquid splashing over the bedside cabinet and the poor girl’s hand. She wiped the spill on her GAP jeans and raised her voice.

“I don’t know what happened to you in Seattle, but real people don’t think that way. It’s sick. Marriage is supposed to be between two people who love each other. For life.”

Cynthia worked a wry smile to her tired porcelain face, “Well, it’ll be for his life.”

Allegra wasn’t amused. Her features hardened, unprettying her girlish good looks. Cynthia sat up and looked at her, preparing herself for a barrage of virtuous sermons of love and marriage.

“I couldn’t sink myself low enough to ride an old man’s dick for his money.”

“Hey!” Cynthia leapt to a kneeling puma-like position on the bed. She’d gotten this far.

“Are you going to deny that it’s low? Hunting out a Sugar Daddy like that? And you’re practically stalking that Goldman guy.”

“Ishmael Goldby is my dream man. I’m not going to deny it.”

Allegra curled a sarcastic smile, “dream man? Dream money, more like.”

Cynthia snarled, “Jesus Christ! That was lame, even for you farmgirl. Why don’t you go back to your pathetic dickless no hoper of a boyfriend and come and see me when you grow the fuck up. One day Allegra, you’ll realise what a mistake you’re making.”

“Don’t bet on it. I’ll never be like you.”

Cynthia snorted in derision as Allegra flounced out of the room and flung a pillow in the country girl’s direction for good measure. This morning seems to have turned into a shit storm, she thought. She grabbed the towel resting over that vintage dining chair she bought in the market and wrapped herself in it. If only she could shower all the ick off her body.

So now that’s where she found herself. Standing under the hot running water, closing her eyes, wishing it would all go away. She wished she could wash away all the hurtful things she said to Allegra. Good for hr, if she found happiness in poverty. Cynthia screwed her eyes up tight as she could and shook her head, half tempted to see if the memories had fallen out. What a bitch I can be sometimes, she thought to herself.

Cynthia reached out and turned the shower tap all the way off, staying where she was. Head bent against the tiled wall, one hand clasped behind her neck. Today would be a new day. Finally Ishmael Goldby would be staying at the San Francisco Hilton, and Cynthia was going to make damn sure that he was charmed beyond belief by the beautiful red-headed girl who checked him in at the front desk. So charmed that he’d think about her all night and have to invite her up for dinner. So infatuated that he’d ask her to spend the night. Then so obsessed that he’d ask her to marry him. Cynthia picked up her towel and pulled it closely around herself. She stepped out of the shower and looked in the mirror. If Allegra had found her dream man, why shouldn’t she?

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Doors

It felt like an eternity. Her eyes opened into darkness, the blinds streaking street light across the bed. Allegra lay motionless. Still.
Allegra sat on the edge of the bed, the wardrobe doors flung open. She bit her bottom lip and breathed sharply though her nose. She bowed her head and closed her eyes again. She glanced up once more, just to check.

Definitely.

With a heavy sigh, she flung herself back onto the mattress, arms splayed. She stared up at the ceiling (badly needing painting) and sighed.
Not a word. Not a clue. He kissed her on the head this morning and said “See ya tonight!” The fucking nerve of him. He must have planned this for months. Just waiting for the right time. He let her think he was actually planning to propose. All that time, he was thinking of an escape route. Allegra propped herself up on her elbows and gazed at the darkening sky through the window. She had no idea of the time. She’d been in there, staring at the half empty closet for what felt like an ice age. Theory after theory pouring into her brain as she asked herself why. Why? What’s wrong with us? With me, I mean. She mentally corrected.

No warning signs. Nothing. He never gave her a notion of what he was going to do. She was furious. But who with?

Maybe there were signs, but she’d missed them. She’d been so wrapped up in bagging this promotion that maybe she neglected him.

Or maybe he was a selfish asshole who planned on hurting the woman he pledged to spend the rest of his life with without so much as a goodbye or a forwarding address. God, where is he living?

Between them, they could clear the $800 a month rent. Plus utilities and food and treats. But alone? Where could he find? Unless.

Allegra sat bolt upright. He was living with someone else. She put her head in her hands and sighed, heavily, raggedly, trying not to give in the demands of the tears pricking at her eyes. Trying not to give in to the hurt and humiliation that she could feel pulsing inside her. Trying not to think about what a situation he’d left her in. She had nowhere to live. No back up if her money ran short. No Danny.
She blinked, rapidly, trying to desperately disperse the tears as they formed. She was better than this, she was stronger than this! Oh Jesus.

Silent sobs. Her head started to pound as she cried. She could feel the pulse in her temple throb as she gripped her head, trying to silence her thoughts. She wanted to feel nothing. She allowed herself to be overcome. She wallowed in her self pity and almost didn’t want to escape. She felt her throat dry up and her stomach clench as she let herself drown in her emotion, falling asleep.

It was dark when she woke. Wiping her tears on her sweater sleeve, Allegra made her way to the kitchen, not bothering to close the wide open closet doors. The kitchen too, had doors flung open. Trying to find some hint of where he’d gone. Desperately clawing at a reason. Allegra tried not to look at the Danny shaped space sitting at the table, drinking a protein shake. She looked all around where the TV used to be. Where he’d cook along on a Friday night. Before they went to a club. She reached into the cabinet next to the sink and pulled out a rather dusty bottle of nothing. Napoleon brandy. The basis of Danny’s ‘patented’ Beef Jus. Allegra gripped the cap; it took all her strength almost to screw it off. She forwent the glass and poured the sweet burning liquid straight into her sob dried throat.
She coughed. Lots. Perhaps a glass would be better. She poured herself a generous glug and set off to the bathroom. Some clue, a message, a note.

She closed her eyes and clasped her glass, preparing herself for the fantasy that she would find the answer. She gently leaned herself into the door, letting it open under her. She opened her eyes slowly. He’d wrenched his shaving mirror off the wall. Well, he’d tried. In his desperation to get away from her, he’d left it half hanging off its fixtures. He must have been rushing. Bottles in disarray, knocked over by his careless hand as he stuffed his worldly possessions into bags before she got home. She put the toilet lid down and sat on it, swigging her brandy some more, preparing herself with deep breaths before the stinging spirit was thrown down her gullet. She sighed as she looked around; she let the tears tumble down as she drained her glass.

He had left her. The life they had together was as ripped as that damn shaving mirror. And she had never known. Maybe he’d known about her flirtation with that soap opera producer. Delaney. But nothing ever happened, not for his want of trying. Allegra ungracefully wiped her face on the back of her hand. Not caring. Who was there to care for anymore? She was homeless! There’s no way she could afford anything on her salary! Not only had Danny ripped her life from her, he’d taken her home, maybe her job. If she couldn’t live in the city, she was finished. And there was no way she was going back to Oregon, not now. She had fallen in love with San Francisco.

Where was he? Where the fuck had he gone? His cell phone was switched off! He knew that she would have questions and he didn’t care. He’d disappeared completely. Without a word. She meant nothing to him.
Allegra’s head pounded from the wave of Brandy she’d chucked down her neck. It was getting so dark. As she slowly shuffled into the main room. She looked around, cupboards open, doors ajar, stuff everywhere covering surfaces and floor space. But it felt empty. Allegra poured herself another generous glass and collapsed on to the sofa.

“Ow, what the..”

She stood up again sharply and picked up what had caused her so much pain. An envelope. She opened it, her hands trembling. Into her hands fell a set of keys. Danny’s keys. Shaking and sobbing, she pulled out the piece of paper that came with them. She unfolded it and read its brief message.

“From Danny”

Such small words and no sentiment. Perfunctory. 4 years, and 2 words. Allegra wanted to spit and cry. She wanted him here so she could hit him! She wanted to cause him as much pain as she felt. All the times Cynthia had told her to get away and all the times she stood by him. Every day that Delaney guy asked her out or begged her to go for drinks. When he begged her to get in his car, Allegra could see the guy’s desire standing out.

And she turned him down! The guy is a producer on a television show and she rejected him for the guy who makes his crab cakes at a business meeting!

She crumpled the paper in her fist. She picked up her glass and hurtled it at the wall, watching with rage and satisfaction the brown droplets running down the wall from the mark, glass shining up from the floorboards. She let the paper drop from her hands and strode back to the bathroom, to finish what he started. With a loud grunt she began pulling the mirror off the wall. She hung her whole body from the arm, trying to wrench it from the wall, half hoping it would hurt her, wanting to feel a physical pain that would overshadow the hurt inside, something she could treat, pain she could control. With a short throaty satisfactory scream Allegra felt the mirror come off in her hands. She opened the bathroom window and threw it outside, not giving a fuck if landed on someone. She slammed the door behind her and caught her breath as she leant against it. She stormed over to the kitchen, picked up pans and hurling them back in the cupboard. She slammed the cupboard doors as she went past them, banging them so hard it echoed in her brandy overdosed brain, but she didn’t care. She stood breathing hard, staring out the window. She walked back to the bedroom; she resumed her place at the foot of the bed and looked up at the half vacant closet. She leapt up and banged the doors to, knocking a crack in the plaster board wall. She held her palms against the doors, almost trying to stop them opening again. Not wanting to let anything out, not wanting the demons to come out. She turned the key in the lock and turned her back. She let herself slip to the floor, promising herself that she would never cry again. That she would never let herself feel this way.

Her knees buckled beneath her. Breathing hard, resolving that these tears would be the last, she sat on the floor, her back resting against the closet doors.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Rings

Allegra gazed over the picture. She looked so young. She traced her manicured finger over the glossed face of her first husband; Elliot Booth. She propped the photograph against her antique dressing table mirror and continued to apply her lipstick. It seemed wrong somehow to wear her usual red; she was not her usual self.
13 years ago, she married Fforbes millionaire Elliot Booth. She achieved what she had set out to achieve. The one dream that she and Cynthia had promised themselves to make true. To marry into wealth.

It was the only way to make it in this city. You needed power, influence. Men had to make their millions, women could marry it. Sometimes it was hard to distinguish which path was harder.

Allegra remained sat on her silk covered chair, staring at her reflection. In the 13 years since she had married Elliot, she hadn’t aged a day. She smoothed the injected skin on her forehead to check for more wrinkles. Nothing. Her hand stroked the skin on her face and moved down over her tightened neck to her firmed breasts. She patted her flattened stomach and smiled vaguely, pleased with what she could feel.

Allegra stood and walked across the cream wool carpet to her walk-in wardrobe. She found today’s outfit hanging up, as she had requested. She lifted the outfit and carried it over to her super king four poster bed. She gently laid the dress over the cream satin duvet and placed the black peep toe stilettos, bought especially for the occasion from her favourite designer boutique, on her pedicured feet. She sipped her silk negligee over her slim hips and let it drop to the floor. She walked to her drawers and picked out a smooth lined strapless black bra, and a pair of seam-free black panties. She stood in front of her mirror and watched herself put her lingerie on. She looked at her figure in the mirror, her breasts held by the soft cotton cups. Again, she vaguely smiled. A knock at the door startled her.

“Are you decent?”

Beauchamp Delaney was a very influential movie producer, and one of Allegra’s oldest friends.

“Not quite. I’ll be ready in a minute.”

“Alright, well Kahlen and I’ll wait downstairs for you.”

Allegra stood still and waited until she could no longer hear his footsteps. Kahlen. What a bullshit name. Allegra knew for a fact that the new supermodel, and new wife of Beauchamp, was Kansas trailer trash. Allegra smiled in her own superiority and stepped into her 1 shoulder black cotton dress. She zipped the side up and placed her new, especially bought black hat on top of her perfectly coiffured hair. She collected her black leather clutch bag and gave herself one last glance in the mirror and went to leave the room. The cold metal touch of her old wedding ring. She and Archie had been separated for months. Their divorce was to come through in a few weeks. She walked back to her dressing table and slid out the top left drawer. She reached below her hairdryer and felt the smooth velvet in her fingertips. She pulled on it. She held the small red velvet bag in her palm. She put her clutch on the chair and opened the bag, hearing the hollow jingle. 8 rings. She dropped the two in her hand into the bag and gave it another shake. 10 rings. She put the bag back into its hiding place and left the room.

Allegra walked the long corridor to the front stairs, Beauchamp and Kahlen would be waiting in the front sitting room. She gracefully navigated the wide staircase and was mindful of her thin high heels and the polished marble stairs. Determinedly, yet reservedly, she made her way to the sitting room door.

Beauchamp sat on the lime wood oriental loveseat that Allegra had bought at the auction in New York that time. He had taken her there to help her cope with the collapse of her second marriage to Trey Daly, the music producer. He looked over at his perfect bride. Her long St. Barts tanned legs, her shimmering blonde hair. She was everything most men craved. Beauchamp’s lust stirred as he stared at her. Kahlen was beautiful, but only beautiful.

Allegra opened the carved Cedar door to her sitting room. Her eyes searched for Beauchamp and she smiled warmly into his handsome face.

“I think we’re a little early. Although, I don’t know how bad the traffic is.”

Allegra tried to make conversation.

“This is a nice house Allegra. I like the colours. Beauchamp likes drama in décor”.

“Beauchamp likes drama in a lot of things.”

Allegra smiled triumphantly at him. Beauchamp looked at her as he spoke on his cellphone to his driver. Allegra was perfectly groomed, as usual. He knew her before the money. Before the big house and the house in Long Beach, and the L.A. apartment, and the Manhattan apartment. When she used to wear Old Navy jeans that she would customise herself. When her blonde hair was brown. Money changed people. It had changed them all. He closed his cellphone and lightly coughed to interrupt.

“Traffic is fine. Raoul thinks it’ll take about 20 minutes to get there. He’s pulling up out front now.”

Allegra motioned for her guests to leave before her. She held the door and smiled warmly at the newlyweds. It was a pity that their honeymoon was cut short.




Cynthia and Marcus stood shoulder to shoulder looking out over the bay. After being so shrewd in collecting husbands and last names, Cynthia found Marcus, a wine importer. They met at Allegra’s fourth wedding, to Andre Porter, the former Giants star pitcher.

Cynthia had been Elliot’s secretary, before her marriage to film producer Ishmael Goldby. He widowed her. It was a short marriage, even by San Fran society standards, but at least it lasted long enough for him to change his will.

“Are you alright?” Marcus put his hand on his fiancée’s waist.

“Yes. It just brings back memories. Of Ishmael.”

“I can imagine. Do you want to stay?” He asked.

“Oh yes,” Cynthia blinked behind her Ray Bans, “Elliot was my friend. And Allegra, I know she’s upset. Even though she won’t show it. She needs friends around her.”

“She wasn’t married to him anymore though.”

“No,” mused Cynthia, “But they stayed friends.”

Cynthia had always had it easy. She’d always been beautiful. Tall and slender, pale skin and sleek red hair. Marcus always kidded her about her beauty regime, or 'perfecting' as she called it. Cynthia would affectionately laugh with him when he said it. As they looked over the water crashing into the rocks of Alcatraz, Cynthia could feel herself about to fall. The grief that she had learned to block out was consuming her. She began to regret wearing her skin tight stretch satin pencil skirt. Her tightly bound corset top prevented her breathing deeply to control her sobs.

“Hey. Come here.”

Cynthia turned to Marcus and allowed him to hold her head against his shoulder. She could feel the warmth of him radiate through her slim body. Warming her against the invisible cold.

“Come on,” she pulled herself from his grasp, “I can see Beauchamp’s limo pulling up.”

The three solemn figures stepped out of the sleek black limousine. Their grieving exacerbated by the uncomfortable car ride.

“Morning!” Marcus called to them. Allegra walked forward and greeted him with a kiss on each cheek, before moving behind him and embraced her best friend.

“How are you?” Allegra knew that Cynthia would be hurting.

“I’m OK. Just shocked I guess. Oh my God what is she wearing?”

Cynthia’s mourning was interrupted by the sight of Kahlen’s split to the hip dress.

“Lord knows. Shall we go?”

The five of them moved towards the arrangement across the street. Over a hundred seats had been laid out in front of a pedestal. Lilies adorned the furniture and a black carpet had been laid down in the centre of the arrangement. The seats were filling up. So many people had come to say goodbye.

Allegra positioned herself between Cynthia and Beauchamp. Sat in between each couple, she had the people she needed on either side of her.

6 of Elliot’s sons carried his coffin down the black carpet, followed by audible grief. Allegra took a deep breath and kept her emotion in check. She had worked too hard to throw it away now. She could see tears fall from behind Cynthia’s Ray Bans and saw Marcus gently rub his fiancée’s knee to calm her down. Kahlen was holding Beauchamp’s arm, needing comfort. Beauchamp sat stony- faced, as ever.

The priest spoke. He told of Elliot’s achievements and his good character. How he lived a good life, giving to charity and bearing no grudges. And how he would leave a void in the lives and hearts of everyone who knew him. Allegra kept breathing deeply.

Of all her husbands, she had only kept friendly with Elliot. She only stayed in contact with Trey because of the children. But only Elliot thought of her fondly. And now she was alone again. She closed her eyes and drowned out the words of the priest and remembered what Elliot had said to her before he died.

“Don’t throw it away. Not for your pride. Don’t throw it all away. Life is shorter than you’ll ever know Allegra.”

Allegra had sat in the chair, holding his right hand. Elliot had no daughters, and came to regard his ex-wife in that manner. He realised as soon as he met her, that she had no one to look after her. Her father deserted her and her mother, leaving her to cope alone. Shielding her emotions and problems from her mother. Allegra had made herself tough and risked turning herself to stone, cutting herself off from people. And that Danny did her no favours.

“I’m not throwing anything away. I’m happy.” She said. Plainly.

“no you’re not. You’re accepting.”

“Accepting? Oh come on Elliot, you can do better than that.”

The old man smiled at the precocious woman, whom he loved. She was still young, not just because of the surgery and the appearance, but the way she looked at him, her green eyes shining.

“I want to see you happy.”

“I am happy Elliot.”

“Allegra, you’re hard headed. And I love you for it.”

Allegra had kissed his head and left the room. That’s when it happened. She echoed his words around his head, knowing she would never hear his concern again.

The priest had stopped speaking. The coffin was being picked up and carried to the private burial. Family only. They sat and watched the coffin slowly move past them. Kahlen was dragging Beauchamp on his feet and pulling him away, so she could get her nicotine fix. Allegra stood, smiling graciously at Ashley, Elliot’s youngest son. He walked over to her, appreciating her figure.

“Morning, thank you for coming.”

“I couldn’t not be here. How are you Ashley?”

“I’m coping. It’s still all so new.”

“I’m sure it will get easier. Elliot didn’t want any of us to suffer.”

Ashley smiled, “He wanted us to make everyone wear bright yellow. He said no one could be unhappy wearing yellow.”

They said goodbye, and hollowly promised to meet for lunch. Marcus and Cynthia had already made their way back to Marcus’ Lexus. Cynthia didn’t want anyone to see her so upset.

Allegra made her way to the limo. Beauchamp was standing, resting against the hood of the car. His brown hair was cut very short, trying to combat his receding hairline. Beauchamp appeared to have undergone a mid-life crisis after his 40th last year. That was what Allegra blamed his marriage on.

“Where were you?” He asked.

“Talking to Ashley.”

“Do you want to go home?”

“Where’s Kahlen?” Allegra noticed a vacuous gap by Beauchamp’s side.

“She’s gone shopping. Past her boredom threshold.”

“Tell me, when did she stop calling you ‘Bow-shomp’? How many times did we tell her its pronounced ‘Bee-chum’? ”

“Why do you hate her so much?”

“She’s not good enough for you.”

“She fits the pattern though. The pattern you followed when you were her age. Marry a rich man. Be influential. Be powerful.”

“She’s different.”

“How? You just don’t like her.”

“You didn’t like Trey.”

“And you know exactly why.”

“Don’t bring this up again.”

Allegra sighed sharply.

“Raoul, I’ll call you when I’m ready. We’re going for a walk.”
The chauffer nodded and curtly stepped into the limousine driver’s seat. The car pulled away into the distance, leaving Beauchamp and Allegra to stare at each other.

“I thought we were going home.”

“We will.”

Beauchamp walked past her, looking directly in her eyes. She turned as he walked towards the opposite side of the street. His skin was lightly tanned and his athletic physique had faded in his recent years, but it was still pleasing to watch. Allegra followed him, trying to walk quickly on her stilettos. She removed her hat as the bay breeze started to more than caress her.

“Wait! Beauchamp.”

She tried running in her heels, but could only totter across the road. She tutted and flicked her hair from her eyes. He didn’t stop. She was chasing after him now. Calling for him to slow down.

“Wait!”

“Keep up Allegra!” He called back. Taking advantage of his years of captaining Track.

Finally he stopped, outside a small tatty diner. ‘Franny’s’. It was the diner they had spent every Sunday morning in, before they were who they are. Allegra couldn’t believe the place was still open. And although these days she barely ate a thing, the smell of an American Slam breakfast made her stomach ache with desire.

“Care for lunch?” Beauchamp smiled at her. He pushed open the dusty door with the peeling window sticker. She shook her head in amusement and followed him into the diner.

The smells; perfectly cooked bacon, the sweet batter of pancakes and waffles, the sugary aroma of maple syrup. She could have been 22 again. Beauchamp had taken his traditional position at their usual table. Allegra smiled quizzically and took her regular seat opposite him.

“What made you think of this place? Ooh! They still do my breakfast!” Allegra was lost in it already.

“I thought you only ate brown rice and boiled fish.” Beauchamp teased her.

“Yeah well, I can’t come here and not have, and they still do refillable root beer! Or a root beer float! This place is amazing. Why did we stop coming here?”

“We found new places," Beauchamp watched her shoulders gently shrugged.

Allegra looked around her. The faded Coca-Cola mirrors, the peeling stickers, the chipped melamine tables. It had fallen into disrepair, but it was perfect.

“Well, well, well. Who do we have here? It’s been a long time since you two hot shots were in here!”

Allegra couldn’t believe Ben still worked here. He must have been nearly 80 by now, but he still looked sprightly and spry.

“Ben, it’s great to see you.”

“What’ll it be? Mrs?”

Ben had lost track of Allegra’s current surname.

“Turner. Mrs Allegra Turner.”

“Mrs Turner! Still married to Archie I see. The football coach.”

“Well, the divorce isn’t final yet. But it will be. Later this year.”

Ben’s face took on a look of pity.

“Oh, no Ben its fine. We had a good two years.” Allegra saw his face grow into concern. She remembered when she used to come in here for cheer-me-up root beer floats after bad dates. She would sit at the counter and tell Ben all about her heartbreak. She never used to want to marry for money or power. She wanted to find the one. But that changed after Danny.

“The usual for you two?”

“You still remember the usual Ben? After all these years?”

“Thing is Mrs Turner, you and Beauchamp here were always my favourite customers.”
Ben winked at her, took their menus and walked to the kitchen to give in their order. She glanced up at the counter where she would sit. When she used to work in the wallpaper shop, she had no money. Ben never took her money for a float. He would patiently listen to her problems and never judge her. He took care of her. When she, Beauchamp and Cynthia had no money Ben wouldn’t let them go hungry.

“Two root beers. And remember, they’re refillable.” Said Ben with a smile as he placed the two condensation covered glasses in front of them. The bittersweet taste filled Allegra’s mouth. It took her back.

“Remember, this is how it all was. Before.”

“Before everything,” Allegra agreed.

“Before Michelle, before Elliot.”

“Before money.” Allegra grimaced.

She looked at Beauchamp smiling. His straight white teeth had never had braces, or so he said. They had been whitened the day before so didn’t betray his weakness for strong black coffee.

“Why did you bring me here Beauch?”

“This is how our lives should have been. We should never have abandoned this place.”

“What?”

“We haven’t been here in 15 years. We have all the money we could ever want. We’ve been through so much. But we were never happier than the Sundays we used to spend sat here.”

Allegra sighed in agreement and took another sip of her drink.

“We should do it again. Come here.”

“Why?” Allegra scoffed.

“I know it’s not Diamond Lodge or Cube, but its more than that.”

“I suppose.”

“I know that you don’t want to hear it. And I know that after all these years you still won’t see me as anything more than a friend. But Allegra, I love you.”

She sighed, impatiently. For years, Beauchamp had pined over her and had asked her to marry him 3 times. But she had never accepted. Even when her affair with him ended her third marriage to John Foster, the movie director. She had felt it then, but she never told him.

“I’m tired of having this conversation Beauchamp.”

“I know. Allegra, I loved you before everything. Before you had money or influence or Botox. I’ve been married 3 times, you’ve been married 5, and we’ve never been happy. Never since we spent every Sunday in each other’s company right here.”

Allegra said nothing. It was true. She had never been happier than those times. She looked into his hopeful eyes. Ben arrived at the right time and put their food in front of them. He said nothing, and neither did they. Their meal passed in silence. But it wasn’t awkward. They paid, and left, and were collected by Raoul in the limo.

The car pulled up to Allegra’s house. The gates opened, from the butler’s button inside. Raoul pulled the car to the front door, where the butler, Jason, was holding the door for his mistress.

“Thank you. For the ride.”

He looked at her sadly.

“No problem, Mrs Turner.”

Allegra stepped out of the car and watched solemnly as it drove out of sight. She turned on her heel and stormed into the house. She ignored Jason’s greeting and ran up the marble stairs and along the cream corridor to her bedroom. She slammed the door behind her and slid down it. After years of resisting it, her tears streaked down her face. And she couldn’t stop it. She cried for everything. For her marriage, for Elliott, for Him. She picked herself up and sat opposite her dressing table mirror. She looked at her reddened eyes, betraying the emotions she had trained herself to block out. She took a tissue and used it to dab her face. Thankful she was alone. She threw her hat onto the bed behind her and unzipped her dress. She let it fall to the floor. A knock at the door startled her.

“Are you decent?”

She recognised the voice as Beauchamp Delaney.
“J-just a minute.”

She reached into her top left drawer, reached under her hairdryer and caressed the velvet pouch. It was feeling kind of full. 5 engagement rings and 5 wedding rings. Could it hold any more? Maybe this time, she’d have to keep the rings on her finger.
She walked to the door, opened it and saw him standing there. She smiled at him, and he saw through her tears. She turned to go into her wardrobe and find something to wear.

“I know you’re tired of hearing this,” he said, “But I love you Allegra.”

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Bleeps

The lights were piercing. Why did it have to be so bright in here? Cynthia sat back in the polyurethane covered chair and sighed. Better it was all over than sat here watching it all collapse piece by piece beneath her. She picked up her Jacklyn Susann and tried to block out the incessant hum and sporadic pips of the hospital. Even in the best room insurance can buy, it still felt like a hospital.

Cynthia turned the cover of the book to find her page, struggling to resist not looking at the Harry Winston that now seemed so dull. It all happened so fast. Here she was Cynthia Bax-Goldby, 27, about to be a widow. This isn’t how it was supposed to be. She’d had everything planned for years. Meet a rich old man, get a few years out of him until he gets bored or dies. She never expected to actually develop feelings for the old bastard. God, this would be easier if she didn’t care about him. Then again, she never thought she would lose him so suddenly.

She thought about Blair and Kendra, his children. God, they adored him. Inside she was screaming to get them out of her life. There was no love lost between them. But now it was time to swallow pride and be there for them. Losing their Dad. Cynthia thought about her own parents back home in Seattle. Maybe it would be time for a visit. Once everything’s been, finalised.

Cynthia looked over her husband. So frail. He had been so strong. She never thought he could just fade away like this. In spite of herself she let herself cry. She put down her unread novel and held her husband’s hand, begging God to help them both. She wiped her face on the back of her hand and took a deep breath. This wasn’t going to help him. She slipped off her stilettos and walked bare foot to the window. She gazed over the busy car park, watching the day turn to dusk.

“Mrs Goldby?”

Cynthia brushed her tears away and turned to see Dr Kosovich, the best heart surgeon in California.

“Yes?”

“How are things?”

“The same George. Still the same.” Cynthia sighed and swept her hair out of her eyes.

“It shouldn’t be much longer. I’ve had a call from Blair, he and his sister are on their way. How are you feeling?” Dr Kosovich lowered his glasses on his nose, watching her carefully.

Cynthia couldn’t find her voice. She tried to say she was OK. She felt alright, considering.

“Cynthia,” Dr Kosovich closed the door behind him. “If you need to talk, I can call the councillor.”

“George, I’m fine. Honestly.” Cynthia forced a weak smile while she blinked away more tears.

“Cynthia, don’t let it bottle up inside you. It’ll destroy you. I know you’re a strong woman, but this is a tough thing to go through, especially at your age.”

“George", Cynthia sighed, "just give me something to help me sleep. And I’ll be just fine.”

She managed to give him another watery smile as he silently wrote out a prescription. She didn’t really need it, but anything would help.

Alone again, Cynthia returned to her station at her husband’s side. She took his hand and waited with him. He’ll just hang on for the kids.

“God, Ishmael. How did we get here so soon?”

Cynthia watched her step-children enter the room in silence. Blair took one look at his father and walked straight to the window. Looking through Cynthia, ignoring her presence.

“How long?” asked Kendra, dabbing her reddened eyes with a handkerchief, sniffling her perfected nose.

“Not long they said.”

Kendra sat down on the chair next to Cynthia and the two women clasped each other’s hands, letting all resentment and anger between them ebb. There were more important things.

“Have you eaten?” Cynthia asked Blair quietly. But her question went unanswered. “I was thinking of getting some dinner later. If you wanted to join me.”

“That would be nice.” Kendra smiled at Cynthia.

“Cynthia, would you like a coffee?” Kendra asked, formally. Not knowing what else to say.

“Thank you Kendra, yes. No milk. Sweet ‘n’ Low.”

“Sure”, Kendra managed a small smile and briefly gripped her young step-mother’s shoulder, “Blair?”

“Sure”, he answered dully.

Blair waited to hear the click of the door behind his twin and turned on his heel. He stared hard. He looked through Cynthia, well he tried. He watched her wipe her green eyes dry. He watched her slender shoulders shake as she held in her sobs. He walked over to his father’s deathbed and looked over him. Part of him was overjoyed. Now, suddenly he would be CEO of Goldby-Kaufman Industries. At 29 years old. But it came at a cost.

“You have no right to sit there and play the innocent bride." Blair watched the shock cross Cynthia's face.

“Excuse me?” Cynthia rested back in her chair, her eyes wide.

“Not 3 weeks ago, you started happily jumping my bones without a second thought to him, and now you sit there so wounded. You make me sick Cynthia.” He hid the pleasure he took in torturing her well. If only he'd gotten around to telling his father that he married a whore.

“Your father and I wanted a child. We were trying for a baby. Then this just happened so quickly.”

“That would have been the icing on your Sundae wouldn’t it? Beget the son and heir? Take everything away from Kendra and me?”

Cynthia sat there, stunned. Blair didn’t even have the nerve to look into her porcelain face as he put her down. His voice shook with his words. Suddenly, the noises she’d been trying to block out all day were gone. All she could hear was the thud of her heart. She couldn’t even hear Blair’s words anymore. Not that she wanted to.

“I care lots about your Father Blair. We made each other so happy. But I am not going to deny that you and I .. You and I make more sense I suppose. In the wider world. We’re a similar age. Both intelligent, active. But I’m committed to your father. Despite what you and the society columns might think, I do care about him.” Cynthia just about convinced herself.

“But you don’t love him.”

Cynthia couldn’t deny that either. She looked away from Blair and stared at the rapidly slowing heart monitor. Soon it was all going to be over.

“What did he leave you?” Blair pressed.

“Pardon?”

“What did my father leave you Cynthia? Was it money, stock, property. All 3? I don’t want you a stockholder of the company.” Death is business. The Goldby way.

“Blair, the company is publicly traded, there’s nothing you can do to stop me buying shares.” Cynthia stared hard at him. God, she hated him. She wished he would burn up in front of her, right now.

Blair found satisfaction in watching Cynthia. God she was so perfect. Tall, slim, poker straight red hair parted on one side covering her left green eye. Pale smooth skin that felt like it would shatter under your rough touch. Full pouting lips, slicked in gloss that covers your skin when she kisses you all over. He closed his eyes and remembered. His beautiful step-mother, who was younger than him. The day he bent her over the bath in her en suite and did what he wanted. When she stopped pretending to be the world’s perfect wife.

“He better not have given you the house.” Blair said quickly, seeing his a shadow heading for the door.

The turn of the door handle shut Blair up, to Cynthia’s relief. She couldn’t bear the sound of his voice. She hated the bloodsucking moron.

Kendra returned, bearing caffeine. She handed the drinks out in silence. Feeling the air thick with fury. She returned to her seat and sipped her coffee gently.

Silence fell over the room, except for the bleeps. His heart rate was dropping quicker and quicker. No one spoke. As the beloved old man slipped away, memories had drowned out the words of his children, and guilt crept into the mind of his wife. All three watched the monitor slowing, the bleeps getting further and further apart.

“Ishmael, I wish you were coming home tonight.” Cynthia garbled her words, tripping over her tears. She wanted to tell him what he wanted to hear. But she couldn’t. Maybe he would hang on if she could say it to him. If only.

Now, it was too late.

Cynthia held Kendra as she sobbed hard. Blair stared, stony faced at the machine. Dr Kosovich silently ushered them down the corridor to the hospital chapel. Kendra sobbed harder the more they were taken away.

“Jesus, Kendra. Calm down. We knew this was coming,” Blair snapped at her.

Blair’s sister was lost in her tears. The forever Daddy’s girl.

“Blair! Come on! Just leave her be.” Cynthia's voice echoed in the empty chapel.

Kendra pushed herself further to Cynthia, sobbing hard into her shoulder.

“For fuck’s sake Kendra. Get out of here! Go home. To that meathead 49er. You know dad hated him. Not that it matters now I guess.”

“Blair that’s enough!” Cynthia shouted at him.

“And you! A baby? That’s rich. You and a baby? You would hand him off to the nanny til graduation.”

Cynthia pushed Kendra aside gently and strode to Blair. If she had the strength she’d slam her fist straight in his arrogant mouth.

“Now, is not the time for this. We all need to grieve," Cynthia tried to reason with the arrogant bastard.

“I don’t see why. We knew this was coming. Your tears dried up pretty quick. Didn’t they? Man, you make me sick.”

Cynthia lost her temper. She couldn’t stop herself. She threw her open palm into his face. Blair staggered backwards, clutching his cheek and sweeping his fringe from his face, staring daggers at his assailant. He grabbed Cynthia by the shoulders, putting his face right against hers, feeling her fearful gasps on his lips.

“Don’t fucking hit me you little slut. That’s all you are to me . He’s dead, you’re nothing to me now.”

Kendra stared in confusion at the scene in front of her. She was so sure Blair was going to hit Cynthia. It was their business. The Goldby way.

“Please. Show some respect. Your father just died. Go comfort your sister.” Cynthia knew she had pushed him too far.

“Kendra,” Blair’s eyes never left Cynthia’s terrified face, “Go home. The driver is downstairs. Get the fuck out of here now.”

She obeyed her orders. Avoiding Cynthia’s pleading eyes. Kendra always did what she was told. The soft click of the door latch made something in Blair snap. He threw Cynthia over a chair, taking satisfaction in her scream. She scrambled up from the floor, pulling her sweater around her again, trying to regain her calm composure. Her breathing was hard and stuttered.

“Let me out of here. I swear, if you lay another hand on me I’ll take everything you’ve got.”

Blair wanted to control his smile. He didn’t want to show her just how much he was enjoying himself.

“You know, for 2 years, you played my father. You made him look a complete dick in the press. He nearly became a laughing stock. Investors left when he married you. We were all so sure you’d take everything he had.” Blair advanced on her.

Cynthia backed away. But he followed. She could climb over the chairs, but he’d get her. Shouldn’t there be a goddamn fire escape in here?

“But you played the good wife. When it suited you.”

“What are you talking about? Are you hearing this? You sound like a Bond villain. Let me out of here now Blair!”

Blair grabbed Cynthia’s wrist and used it to reel her towards him. He put a hand round her throat and the other on her back and kissed her. She tried to pull away, tried to push her hands into his chest, wanting to get away from his desperate clawing of her clothing. It was the en suite all over again. Blair taking what he wanted, and her giving in. Letting him use her whenever he felt the urge to fuck something.

“Get off me.”

He forced his hands up her Dolce jersey skirt and pulled her panties aside.

“Unzip me. Now,” Blair snarled.

Cynthia let herself get caught up in his energy. Knowing how much he wanted her worked like an aphrodisiac. Something inside her wanted to please him.

The Good Whore.

He lifted her against the wall and started his frantic desired assault, giving her the pain and pleasure he felt in his own grief. Cynthia gritted her teeth and let him take what he wanted from her. Letting him use her body til he was spent. His hands tightened on her waist for his last push.

They stood, almost frozen but for the breath each of them was trying to catch. Blair slowly released Cynthia until he let her drop to the floor.

Done.

Then, there was a bleep. And another. And another.

“What the fuck is that?” Blair was agitated by the incessant noise.

“It’s nothing. Just my pill alarm.”

Blair rounded on Cynthia, seeing her almost for the first time.

“Baby? That is some joke.”

Blair picked up his jacket and strode out of the chapel. Cynthia sat on the floor, avoiding his eyes and the mirror on the opposite wall. She could feel the shame start to overtake her. She’d degraded herself in front of the one person she truly hates.