Can't Buy Me Love
Marina Beaufort opened her eyes then groaned. Her head throbbed ridiculously, but then she had known it would, her last memory was snorting tequila from a teaspoon in a party in a kitchen...somewhere in the early hours. Opening her eyes again she realised three things. One she was in her own home, her own bed, secondly it was well after midday, and thirdly she was having her first real hangover...that’s what you got for mixing spirits, beer and wine.
She closed her eyes once more and rolled on to her front, burying her face in the pillows. When her headache started to ease, she managed to open her eyes again; her large Gucci shades were resting on the bedside table, so she reached for them and pulled them over her eyes. Life was suddenly a little more bearable.
Sitting up she reached for her robe and pulled it over her short vest, and lace panties. Pulling back her curtain she looked to the front of her father’s large mausoleum style house and saw her blue SUV parked haphazardly diagonally in the driveway.
With a groan she walked into her en-suite bathroom and winced at her reflection, her short black hair wasn’t at its best, sticking out at right angles to her head, her face beneath the shades was ghostly pale, no sign of the days spent ‘relaxing’ at the yacht club over the last three weeks.
How long until the excesses of alcohol, greasy food and more broke out in spots all over her skin? Marina didn’t like to think, but the thought of food both churned her insides and appealed...coffee and carbohydrates on top of an alcohol depleted stomach were the perfect combination. She pulled on a pair of lounge pants and her Uggs, then headed downstairs.
Thomas a greying middle aged man who reminded her of Alfred in the Batman TV series in more ways than just his looks, had been in her father’s employ as a ‘house manager’ for a few months apparently, and already he was indispensable. He had the ability to look down his nose at her in a sneering manner whilst arse-licking her father more than anyone she’d ever witnessed. He was waiting in the hall as she descended the huge marble staircase, looking like she’d not slept all night...and it felt like she hadn’t.
“Thomas! I want Marco to drive me to a drive through? I need breakfast!”
“He’s cleaning the cars Miss Beaufort!”
She laughed haughtily, “and I want some food Thomas, so he can stop cleaning the cars and take me to feed me! And if you have any objection, then call my father and debate it with him!”
Marina burst past him into the lounge and flicked on the fifty two inch plasma hating that this man made her snap so readily. She turned on MTV loudly until she heard the door to the staff area close then she flicked on the International news and caught up with the goings on in Europe...bad news about somewhere she loved was better than no news. But today a Military coup in the Congo and a hijacked vessel off the Somali coast dominated any headlines, so she was left with no link to her past.
A honk outside alerted her attention, so she made her way to the front door. Marco a young Italian-American chauffeur from New York was sat behind the wheel of her father’s Mercedes, skipping down the four steps to the drive, she dived in and didn’t speak until he hit a major road and he picked up his speed.
“So what have you done Miss B? Thomas isn’t very happy!”
She groaned again Marco was the only man she trusted at the moment; he was beautiful, dark skin, hair and eyes, a really friendly guy in a world of rudeness and condescension, but disappointingly, he was also obviously gay, though she doubted her ultra conservative father had even realised, the fact that he was still employed spoke volumes.
Marina hated her current life, teasing Marco was as good as it got, and she used that to maintain her sanity. She had left her father’s London based apartment to head to a luxurious Finishing School in Switzerland. Her father was ‘new money’ and he saw her attending this course as the ultimate sign that he was a bona fide member of the hoi polloi! So she’d spent a year learning how to ‘run a household’, ‘how to plan a dinner party’, and the most important ‘how to manage staff’. She’d studied with twenty other pretentious girls from stalwart aristocratic families from India, the USA and of course Britain. She made few friends as she was so obviously not from a blue blood line like them, but she had been able to spend weekends and holidays with her older brother Alex in the French Alps, he and his wife Heidi had two small children and she’d loved being there more than anywhere.
Unbeknownst to her, whilst she was acquiring the education that every high society daughter would crave, her father had been romanced by the wicked witch of the West, Anna LaFaire. Paul Beaufort only had two drives, money and sex. So whilst she’d been holed up in Switzerland, he’d been enticed to California by a younger wannabe actress he’d met when she was stripping in a London club. She’d learned that bit from an Internet gossip site, but hey, they’d predicted Angelina Jolie’s last pregnancy and were first with Madonna’s divorce. So it must be right?
So here she was living in a rented gothic mansion in Beverly Hills. She didn’t know anyone, or know where anything was. It stunk. The only good thing had been an unlimited membership to a beach club on the coast. She’d hung out there most days, hence the partying. Last night had been the moving in party of one of the hostesses. How she’d ended up in a house in east LA, and even more worrying how she’d managed to drive home, drunk, was a mystery. But she was here to live another dreadfully boring day, waiting for her father to return from yet another business trip to London. At least when he was around there was excitement, even if that just meant fighting with him.
Marina turned back to Marco, shaking herself out of the reverie, “I don’t need to do anything to piss off Thomas, his disgust at me is evident in the way he looks at me!”
“He’s ok, just a little old school....” he glanced over his shoulder and half smiled at her, “and you behave anything but. I garaged the car by the way!”
She groaned, “I really didn’t intend for that to happen last night.”
He laughed, “It may be different in the UK, but here DUI’s carry a heavy penalty. You are one lucky girl.”
“SO lucky!” she replied sarcastically before he signalled and pulled into a drive through.
Later that afternoon she was once again ensconced in watching the news when the phone rang. She ignored the first few rings, but Thomas didn’t. He answered, then brought the handset to her.
“Your father Miss Beaufort!” He sneered looking down his nose at her.
She groaned and took the phone.
“Hi Dad. How’s London?”
Her father sounded like he was in a cave, his voice distant and echoing. “It’s cold! I won’t be back on Friday; I need to stay a few more days.”
Her heart sank, as dictatorial as her father was, at least he was company. Without him she rattled around in this huge house like a marble in a shoebox, “what am I supposed to do until then? Can’t I go back to Alex’s house?”
Her father immediately changed, “No! You’ve spent far too much time there! It’s about time you got used to the fact that we’re in California to stay! You’d better make friends, and not like those bloody people you met in London!”
She sighed, here we go again, everything always went back to the fact that he found a pregnancy test in her bag one day. That it was her friend Sarah’s didn’t seem to matter. He thought the worst, had ‘banished’ her friends and her current beau Michael from her home and she was shipped off to the aforementioned finishing school.
“You don’t seem to accept that you were wrong about that Dad...”
“Ha! I’ll see you on Monday!” With that he hung up. So much for family, love, comfort. She looked around the large reception room. The house was rented furnished, and she struggled to imagine who had purchased such an eclectic mix of accoutrements! Leopard skin rugs, diamante chandeliers, glass fronted cabinets, antique chairs and then the most modern kitchen, a swimming pool, it was such a mismatch and she had no idea who would live in a house like this.
Grabbing the handset from the sofa, she flicked channels until she found a Green day song on a music channel. Turning the volume up full she climbed the stairs singing “Don’t wanna be an American idiot!” Seemed to sum up her mood, and she knew it’d piss off Thomas even more.
Changing into a bikini, shorts and a vest, spiked up her short black hair, then found some suntan lotion. Coming back down to the hall she spotted Thomas grimacing in the dining room and she smiled to herself. Annoying him almost made up for her total boredom. Clicking off the TV she headed out to the garage to retrieve her car.
“I’ve stuck it away at the back!” Marco smiled, “I don’t think you should be driving this if you’re going to be drinking again!”
She shrugged, “it’s that or the Merc. Your choice handsome!”
Marco threw her the keys with a shake of the head, “you seem to want to make things bad for yourself!”
She laughed, “no one really cares that much Marco, so I can do what I want I suppose!”
Within an hour she was at the beach club. The club had a gym, tennis courts, a restaurant, but the best feature was the beach front. Comfortable sun beds facing out over the Pacific, waiter service...bliss, just what she needed to help the day fly by. She’d spotted a few movie stars, the odd musician, generally B-listers there but mainly the clientele were older woman, ‘House Wives of Orange County’ came to mind, she’d hated that TV show, and couldn’t believe that she’d somehow teleported into the middle of it.
She’d had two large cokes and flipped over several times to even out her tan when she spotted him, she’d seen him the night before, he worked as a waiter in the restaurant, but here he was bringing ice cold drinks out to the leery older women who sat in groups around the veranda.
Thankfully he couldn’t see that she was leering as much as they were, her eyes were hidden behind huge shades, but she hadn’t seen someone as good looking as him in a long time. He had sandy fair hair, and blue eyes, she was a sucker for blue eyes...must’ve been that her mother was Sinatra obsessed when she’d been pregnant with Marina - apparently it was all she’d listened to. This boy epitomised your typical clean cut American.
Rolling on to her back she closed her eyes and drifted off into nowhere...
“Can I get you anything?” a clear voice cut through her daydream.
Opening her eyes she was almost blinded by the harsh sun, so covering her eyes, she glanced up to see him ‘him’.
She nodded, “I could murder a diet coke!”
“Coming up!” he grinned a dazzling white smile, then disappeared indoors.
A few moments later he was laying the drink beside her when he offered, “you got home ok then, last night?”
She nodded, quickly racking her brain; she had no recollection of seeing him at the party.
“Great night! But then staff parties always are. We’re going to another one tonight if you fancy it?”
Marina smiled, “I’ve not brought any party clothes with me.”
“Lydia lives in Malibu, her house backs on to the beach, and everyone’ll be in swimwear!”
With a smile she sipped her drink; maybe California wasn’t that bad after all.
Marina tried to open her eyes. She was uncomfortable, everything hurt. As she managed to raise the lids enough to see around herself, she started to panic. The cast iron door, the twelve foot by six foot room, the flat bed...she was in a police cell...with NO recollection of getting there.
Tears threatened to fall as fear and nausea took over, this was bad, really bad. She tried to piece together any memories from the previous evening...at least she presumed it was the next day, but failed.
She had no idea how long she’d laid there, waiting for someone to come for her, to tell her why she was there. But when the door rattled and a deep voice called, “Beaufort!” she started to panic all over again.
As she stood and walked to the door she froze, stood next to the huge policeman was the man she dreaded seeing more than any other, her father!
“Well you have truly fucked up this time Marina! There are some things even your father can’t dig you out of!”
She shrugged nonchalantly, her father always brought out the worst in her. She followed him into a side room where another suited man was sat. The two men started conversing and as they spoke she started to draw together from snippets of information what had happened the night before. She’d been driving, on a highway, alone, three times over the drink limit; they were waiting on tox screen results for drugs. She’d been unconscious since they’d deposited her in the cell. She was now facing a fine, possible jail time....it was all such a mess.
“Plea bargain?” Paul Beaufort was wide-eyed. “Just what does that entail?”
The older man, her father’s lawyer looked at him with a smile, “Judge Cooper is pushing a new rehabilitation project. He’s got a buddy system for teens. Community service, suspended licence and a buddy to ensure that she doesn’t do anything stupid again. It’ll reduce the fine, stop any jail time, but there’s no room for error once you’re on the scheme.”
Her father looked at her then grunted, “you had better appreciate how much shit you are in!”