Chapter 33. March Madness
When I came home for a brief interlude with Megan over Valentine’s weekend, she was sick with the flu, so I spent most of the weekend taking care of her rather than making love to her. Although I was determined to be back in New York full-time by mid-March, Angie had an early spring break this year. Meg wanted to visit L.A., not to mention Brandon, who was determined to get into Daniels’ trousers again, so the three decided that they would descend upon my condo on the twenty-eighth of February for Spring Break. Cool with this arrangement, I couldn’t wait to see Megan again, although I wanted the condo to ourselves so I could make love to her for as long as I wanted to without any interruptions or concerns about a teenager within hearing distance. Once Brandon and Daniel hooked up again, Brandon would be in Santa Monica with Daniel so Angie would be our charge for the weekend. Still, I was cool with that. I couldn’t wait to show off my daughter and girlfriend to my other life. Besides, Meg and I had an AIDS gala to attend while she was out here.
I waited all week for them to come to Los Angeles. I prepared, moved schedules and made reservations, but most of all, I was ready to be with my family once again. Determined to meet them at the condo that evening for dinner, I plowed through my jam-packed day, with a teleconference for most of the late afternoon that followed a lunch appointment with one of my producers.
During my drive home to the condo, almost two hours later than when I was expected to arrive there, all I could think about was how much I wanted to see Meg again. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my daughter, but Meg, she made the sun shine on my darkest days. Over lunch, I learned that I was losing one of my best executive producers to another music conglomerate, and although I could hold his feet to the fire with contract, I would let this man go so he could return to London to be near his family. I knew how it was to be away from those you love. I wouldn’t hold him here, regardless of how important he had become to ACR. Then the teleconference. Another company was trying to buy out ACR, which meant I had a battle ahead of me. We no sooner got off of the phone and went to work, trying to figure out how to save the company from a takeover, when I realized that I had family waiting for me at home. Late as it was, at least I was on my way home.
On top of everything else in my life, my cell phone died that week. Like I needed that to happen. I needed two minutes to get another, but my life had been so crazed lately that I barely had time to sleep, and being out of touch with everyone around me made me even more irritable. My life was too hectic to be without a cell phone, and I knew it.
As I walked through the door, Angie rushed to greet me and wrapped her arms about me.
“Hey Angel,” I said, hugging her, “Gosh, I’ve missed you!”
“I’ve missed you too, Daddy.”
“Wait, something’s missing,” I noticed, pulling her back so I could see her.
“What, Daddy?” she asked me incredulously like I was out of my tree.
“Yes, something,” I said, taking her by the hand. I sat her down on the chair in the living room and sat on the ottoman in front of her.
“I think, this,” I said, reaching into my jacket pocket and pulling out a box from my favorite jewelry shop. By now, Brandon was standing there behind her, his hands on his hips and a smirk across his face. She opened the lid of the box and gasped.
“Oh Daddy!” she screeched, “She’s beautiful!” Brandon came around to see what all the fuss was over and saw an angel pendant on a gold chain. The angel’s face, in rose gold was at a profile as she seemingly flew with wings studded in small diamonds.
“That is incredible. Where on earth did you find it?”
“I looked everywhere for this, but no one had what I wanted, so I went to see Pierre, who made it for the angel of my heart.”
“Oh Daddy, she’s lovely, thank you.” She got up and hugged me, and I held her for a few minutes. How I had missed her.
“What’s this I hear about you nailing the honor roll for the second time this year?”
“Yeah, I did it,” she replied. “Not without Uncle Brandon’s help, though. Trig is killing me.”
“Bad, eh?” I asked Brandon, who was admiring the workmanship of the pendant.
“Yeah, we spend about an hour a night on it. I swear, I must spend more time getting help on the computer during the afternoon so I can help her at night,” replied Brandon as he handed the box back to Angie.
“Bad news,” replied Brandon.
“What do you mean? Where is she?”
“What?” I asked, getting up. This day couldn’t possibly get any worse.
“She’s okay, Daddy, her sister is really sick.”
“Why didn’t she call?”
“She just found out this afternoon, an hour before we were to fly out of New York.”
“God, did she leave a number?”
“No, she said she’d call here tonight when she knew what was happening.”
“Of all the times for this to happen. I can’t up and leave the label right now.”
“What’s going on?”
“You’ll be lucky if you see Daniel at all. We’re fighting a takeover bid.”
“God!” exclaimed Brandon.
“Breathe, Bran’, I think we’ll pull through this. At least I hope so.”
“I thought you were going to sell the label.”
“Not in a takeover and lose more money than I could make by selling it. Not to mention, I have four hundred some people to consider. If I lose it in a takeover, who’s to say if the new owners will keep them or toss them into the quagmire of this economy’s unemployment rolls?”
Silently Angie sat there listening to us, and I almost forgot she was there.
“I’m sorry, Angel,” I said to her. “I promise to pull myself from the office as much as I can this weekend, okay?”
“I understand, Daddy,” she said, taking my hand. “C’mon, Daddy, help me put on my new necklace. I didn’t know you were such an artist to design jewelry.”
“Your father is extremely talented, Angie,” retorted Brandon. “Don’t let him fool you. He may hate it, but he can design a room better than most of the interior decorators in New York, Paris and L.A. combined, and for less money too.”
“Gosh yes. If he told you, and I know he won’t even go there, what he paid to furnish that house in New York, you’d die, right here in this condo.”
“Was it a lot?”
“Bran’ let it go,” I murmured under my breath.
“Try a third of what the majority of the houses there have.”
“I did it myself, well, that and I enlisted a starving artist at the time,” I said with a wink to Brandon.
“A slave, you mean. God, if I didn’t have acrylics on me from painting canvases, then I was covered in latex or semi-gloss paint spattered everywhere from painting walls. I must have looked like a walking Jackson Pollock painting. We worked, for what, two weeks straight?”
“About that. We repainted, we stained, and Bran was dating an interior decorator at the time. This was priceless, Angie. In order for . . . what was his name?”
“Michael. Ah, Michael with the big brown eyes, he was a lovely one.”
“Right, well, in order for Michael to see Bran’, he had to do two things: bring his sewing machine and come to my house.”
“You’re kidding,” she asked with a laugh.
“No, he’s not. God, what a mess that was.”
“Don’t even go there. We have little pitchers with big ears here.”
“As if I don’t know what either of you are talking about.”
“Shh, you’ll make your daddy feel old saying that,” said Brandon, coming around and sitting with us on the couch.
“Where’s Mrs. Vegas? I smell dinner.”
“She left it in the oven. We just have to serve it up.”
“What did she make?”
“A baked chicken stuffed with walnut and watercress dressing with—”
“Portabella mushrooms,” added Angie.
“Sounds good, let’s go eat. I haven’t eaten since breakfast, and I’ve got to take my pills again before Meg calls and has a hissy fit that I haven’t done so.”
“As if you’ve had time?”
“Well, I was supposed to have lunch, but when we got to talking. Let’s just say, I didn’t have much of an appetite.”
I spent all night waiting for that phone call and I lay awake in bed for hours just waiting to hear the phone ring. Finally, I called Anna around seven that morning (four am PST) and asked her if she had heard from Megan.
“No, Mr. Corwynn. My, you’re up late.”
“I couldn’t sleep, not knowing what was happening with her.”
“She’ll be fine. Her sister’s in a real bad way.”
“Did Meg say what?”
“Her sister has pneumonia. She’s pulled through it before, but this time they have her in intensive care at the hospital there in Montpelier.
“What was her sister’s name again? I only talked to her once, and it wasn’t that pleasant of an experience.”
“She’s rather a rude rat, isn’t she? Maggie, is her name.”
“Let me see if I can locate them. Do you know the name of the hospital?”
“No, she didn’t say. Can’t be too many in Montpelier, Vermont though.”
“Right, let me see if I can locate her, Anna. I’ll call you if I hear anything. Call me if you do, all right?”
“All right, Mr. Corwynn, but you need to get some rest.”
“I will, I promise.”
“Oh, one more thing.”
“Promise me, that if you do one thing for Angie this week that you’ll take her to Disneyland. She’s always wanted to go with you to Disneyland.”
“I’ll make it a priority, thanks, Anna.”
I spent the next fifteen minutes on the phone with information, trying to get the phone numbers of the hospitals in Montpelier. Then, I spent the next hour trying to locate Maggie Beal. Most switchboards were of no help whatsoever and told me to call again in the morning.
Since I knew that her sister was in ICU, I just wanted the nurses’ station, because someone there could locate Megan if she was there with her sister. Finally, tired of talking to switchboard operators, I just called up and asked for the ICU nurses’ station. Then, they put me through and I asked a nurse if Maggie Beal was a patient there.
On my last try, I found her.
“May I ask who is calling?”
“This is her sister’s significant other. I’m in L.A. and looking for her. Is Megan Beal there?”
“Yes, just a minute, I’ll get her.”
An exhausted Meg came to the phone.
“Hi, Love, are you all right? What’s going on?”
“Maggie is dying, they think.”
“Oh God, Megan, I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not.”
“Don’t be like that.”
“It’s hard, you know? It’s been bad between us for a while now. Since what happened with Randy, she blames you and me for it. Said that I deserved it. I almost didn’t come.”
“You need to be there.”
“It just doesn’t make being here any easier.”
“I wish I could be there with you.”
“No, Angie’s been looking forward to this all month.”
“I know, Anna just told me about Disneyland.”
“You’re taking her, aren’t you?”
“If I get my cell phone fixed, I will.”
“Is that why I couldn’t reach you?”
“The thing just up and died, Meg.”
“Go get a new one. That thing was on its last legs as it was. God knows you kill them for as much as you abuse them.”
“I miss you.”
“I miss you too.”
“When Angie goes back to New York, I might not be able to join you then.”
“ACR is in the middle of a takeover bid.”
“God, of all times.”
“If they upgrade Maggie to stable, I’m coming either home or to L.A., depending on if she recovers and when.”
“Stay with your sister. She’s the only one you got now.”
“She’s the only one I ever had. Alex, I’ve got to see you soon. There’s something we need to talk about.”
“I don’t want to talk about it over the phone and not in a public place like I’m in now.”
“Give me a hint?”
“No, I can’t. I need to talk to you, one on one in person.”
“Meg, are you going to dump me?”
She laughed, “Not on your life.”
“What, then? You’re killing me here.”
“It’s not bad, well, at least I don’t consider it bad.”
“What are you talking about?”
“We’ll talk, as soon as I see you again.”
All of a sudden, I heard an alarm in the background.
“Alex, I have to go, something is wrong with Maggie,” she said, and hung up the phone on me.
I woke up Brandon by switching on the bed table lamp, and shaking him until he responded to me.
“What’s Meg not telling me?” I asked him.
“What are you talking about? Jesus, Alex, its five-fifteen in the morning.”
“Meg says she has to talk to me, but only in person.”
“What? She didn’t say anything to me. She’s not going to break it off, do you think?”
“I asked, she said no.”
“Jesus, Alex, then what are you worried about?”
“She says it’s good, but she won’t tell me what, says she’ll tell me when she sees me.”
“Then let it be, knowing Megan it’s probably another grant you didn’t expect that came through.”
“No, this was personal. She sounded like it was personal. If it were a grant, she would have told me. She always takes pride in gloating about her grant awards.”
“What about Ruby? Would she know?”
“Even if she did, she wouldn’t tell me.”
“I have no clue. She’s said nothing to me.”
“I have a hard time believing that, knowing her.”
“We didn’t have lunch this week, I had a buyer in.”
“How’d that go?”
“I sold another one. Not bad, three in the last month from the gallery. This one wasn’t that much, but it will pay the rent for the gallery and the mortgage for the brownstone this month.”
“Did she have anything to tell you then?”
“No, at least I don’t think so. She was pretty busy herself.”
“Why didn’t you tell me that Angie wants to go to Disneyland?”
“I thought you knew.”
“Anna and Meg both told me tonight.”
“Sorry, I really thought you knew. That’s all we’ve heard for the last three weeks. ‘I hope Daddy takes me to Disneyland.’ She was hoping like an all-day thing with just you and her.”
“I’ll make time for it. I got to get a cell phone in the morning.”
“I know. Please, Alex, will you please go to bed so we can sleep?”
“Yeah, all right. Thanks, Bran’. Let me know if you think of anything.”
Whatever Meg was so cryptically talking about I had to put in the back of my head because I couldn’t think about it when I needed sleep. I felt like Atlas again. The label’s takeover bid, Megan’s mysterious secret, Angie wanting to go to Disneyland, all of it, I just wanted a break from holding up the world for five minutes, so I turned on my light and called Ruby at home. Because it was early, I knew that I’d wake her up.
“Alex, what’s going on?”
“We need to talk.”
“So call me at the office. Do you know what time it is?”
“It’s five a.m. here.”
“You’re in Los Angeles. How nice. Is Megan with you?”
“No, she’s in Vermont.”
“Why do you say that?”
“That’s like the last place she needs to be right now.”
“She’s been dealing with her sister a lot. Hormones haven’t helped much either, for that matter.”
“Hormones, what do you mean?”
“You know, PMS and all that,” said Ruby, realizing what she had said and began covering up. “Why is she in Vermont of all places and not in Los Angeles with you?”
“Her sister is dying. Pneumonia.”
“Oh. Maggie’s done that a few times and won’t let herself go, even in her living will. It’s very distressing to Megan.”
“I’m sure it is. Her sister is an albatross.”
“Yeah, that’s a good analogy. More lately than ever, it seems.”
“I heard about how she feels about me.”
“That’s not all. Financially, Meg has taken a beating from her sister.”
“What do you mean?”
“Her sister demanded a private room after her last roommate fiasco. It’s costing Meg another seventy five hundred a year now.”
“You didn’t hear that from me,” she said, realizing what she just said, “Damn it, Alex, don’t you screw me up with privilege. You know better to ask, and I know better than to tell you that.”
“Sorry, Ruby. She said something to me that I didn’t understand.”
“I don’t even want to know what it is. You won’t get it out of me, Alex, you’ve gotten your tidbit for the morning.”
“She says she needs to talk to me one on one.”
“She says it’s not bad, or that she wouldn’t consider it bad.”
“Then what are you worried about?”
“I can’t lose her.”
“Breathe, Alex, you’re not going to lose her.”
“How do you know?”
“Do you know what she’s talking about?”
“No comment. We’re not going there.”
“You do know!”
“Maybe I do, maybe I don’t.”
“Don’t even try to bribe me, Alex. That’s dirty pool.”
“Ruby, this is killing me,” I whined.
“Then get your ass on a plane to Vermont and find out what it is!”
“I can’t, I’m in the middle of a takeover, my daughter’s here and wants to go to Disneyland, and on top of all else, my damn cell phone up and died on me.”
“So go get a new one.”
“I will, in the morning.”
“Alex, quit fretting. I know what she needs to discuss with you. It’s not bad at all, but I think that you need to see her within the next week or so. Don’t let this go. You need to see her because she really needs to see you, understand? Meg needs some reassurance that everything is going to be fine.”
“As soon as I can break free, even if it’s only for twenty four hours—”
“Right, or twelve, I’ll go see her.”
“Good, now get some sleep.”
“Good night, Ruby.”
“Go to sleep, Atlas.”