Chapter 2: Bad Day
“What the fuck is going on here?” I heard myself scream out before they jumped. “Lorenzo, talk. Now!”
“Hazel, I love you. You know I love you. It’s just … things are really complicated …”
“Complicated? With us? Since when?”
“What he means is …”
“What I need you to do … is shut up. I’m talking to my husband.”
“You don’t have to talk to her like that, Hazel.”
I wanted to throw up. “Are you … defending her, your side whore … to me, your wife?”
“Technically, he’s the whore.”
“And this is what you’re leaving me for, someone who will openly call you a whore?”
“It’s not inaccurate.”
My face fell with outrage as I closed in on his eyes. “Who are you right now? You’re a man, my man. You would never let somebody talk to you like this!”
“Except I’m the kind of somebody who can give him the one thing you can’t, the one thing he so desperately wants: a career in lights.”
My eyes tirelessly bounced between the two of them as I tried to silently make sense of what she was saying. “You’ve got to be kidding me. You are walking away from seven years of love and undying support to traipse behind her on a reality TV show?”
“You’re the one who said I should reconsider asking one of our clients to help me book a gig.”
“I meant an acting gig; reality TV is not acting!”
“You clearly haven’t watched my show.”
“It’s not even yours! You are one small piece of a large ensemble, a mini factor. This has got to be the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Lorenzo, think about what you’re doing! She cannot help you!”
“And what can you do for him, huh? Allow him to live a lie in public and lay on top of all the stars he actually wants to be in private?”
“Is that how you feel, Lorenzo? You feel like our home life is a lie? The life we live outside of this madness, the life you promised me when we were in high school when you asked me to marry you?”
“High school,” she cackled. “How cute. The life he is living with you has turned him into a prostitute; I can turn him into a star.”
“Hazel, I love being with you, in our little house, in the little community we grew up in … but you know acting is all I’ve ever wanted to do. I’m tired of being seen as a failure at that.”
“You were never a failure to me. I loved you.”
“And I love you.”
“Love doesn’t do what you’re doing to me right now, what you’re doing to us!”
“This isn’t about us. I don’t want to keep fighting for my dream anymore, Hazel; I want to live it. If my parents would have handed me an acting career like I thought they would have, like I asked them to, then I would be living my dream with you, but they didn’t.”
“So now you’re going to live your dream … with her … because you don’t want to work for it? You’re willing to throw away our life … behind laziness?”
“It’s not lazy; it’s smart,” she jumped in defensively. “You wanted to hear it from him, now you have, and there’s nothing you can say or do to change his mind because the deal is already done. We start filming the new season tomorrow. Oh, and did I forget to mention that I have him scheduled for a meeting with my agent so we can start talking about film and TV auditions too? That’s what my name can do for him.”
“So what, she’s your manager now?”
“You damn right. I manage to get him in the room, so I manage to secure the title that goes with it, and an additional title as his new wife. You’ll be receiving the divorce papers in the mail shortly.”
My eyes were focused on Lorenzo like a laser, burning a hole into the top of his forehead as he kept his eyes to the floor. His mild insecurity was something I was regrettably familiar with, but this was something else. I had never seen him with his head down, shoulders helplessly slumped over, and barely speaking. He just looked … weak … and I couldn’t reach him.
She was right; she was able to give him something I couldn’t, something that he couldn’t even give to himself, and instead of continuing to work for it with me, he was choosing to take the easy way out. A powerless sigh exited my chest as a lonely teardrop escaped each one of my eyes. I wanted to go to war for him, for us, but I didn’t want to do it alone.
I wanted him to give me a sign that it was all a joke …
Tell me that he changed his mind and made a mistake …
Show me that we were still in this together like we promised in our vows.
But he didn’t.
And when she grabbed his hand to pull him out of the room …
I couldn’t think of anything else to say to make him stay …
To remind him of all the reasons he was supposed to stay!
I wanted him to look back at me as he walked out the door.
But he didn’t.
And when I heard that door slam so thoughtlessly …
So carelessly …
My eyes smashed shut before a deafening cry of despair left my mouth.
My phone had been ringing for hours on end, but I couldn’t move. There I was, still sitting in the Ritz-Carlton Suite, staring off into oblivion. I couldn’t believe the state of my life.
We were just laying together. He just said he loved me. He said he was going to an audition. We just made love … and now, he’s leaving me? Who does that?
A harsh pounding at the door interrupted my train of thought. I slowly rose and reached for the bottle of wine that was in the complimentary basket I brought before walking to open the door. I hoped it was her … or him. I was content with knocking the hell out of either one of them.
A twist of the wrist revealed neither.
There Andreas stood, his expression full of relief and concern. The fact that he was a dead ringer for a young Antonio Banderas with his olive skin, short dark hair, and intense brown eyes was probably the reason why Lorenzo thought he would have been a good fit to go out in the field with the other escorts instead of staying in the office assisting me … but I refused. He was only fifteen when he started, and even now at eighteen, I still wanted to protect him from getting lost in this business. I saw how engulfed my husband became once he got a taste of it, and I couldn’t do that to someone as young as Andreas.
“Mrs. Donato, I just spoke to your … to … Mr. Donato. He told me and Talia he won’t be coming back to work.”
“Is that all he told you?” I asked coldly as he shook his head.
“May I come in?”
I shrugged, turning to walk back to the long plush sofa as he closed the door and followed behind me. “Let me guess. Everyone is freaking out at the store and you came to ensure that you all still have jobs.”
“Uh, actually, Talia and I are the only ones who know. Everyone else is still out on their runs, and Chloe and Frank are booking appointments as usual. The shop’s still running like clockwork. Talia is making sure of that. I just came, because … well, you’ve been gone for a while, and you weren’t answering your phone, and I was worried about you. I mean, I wanted to see if you were okay.”
My chest collapsed in a sigh of relief. “Remind me to give you both bonuses in your next paychecks. I appreciate your discretion and leadership skills at a time of … crisis. I’ll make sure to discuss the changes regarding my husband in the meeting tomorrow morning.”
“Mrs. Donato, you don’t have to try to figure this all out on your own. Talia and I are more than happy to help. If you need to take some time away …”
“Time away? The plan was to walk away. As soon as his acting career got off the ground, we were supposed to leave all this behind and live the simple life he promised me. For us to live peacefully in a nice little house in a cute little town, spending the morning gazing into each other’s eyes before starting the day, having dinner on the back patio surrounded by the flowers I’d planted, sipping wine and making love on the beach under the moonlight, planning our future, our kids …”
“You know what’s so funny, Andreas? This shop … was originally started because of my love of flowers and how much fun I had creating these baskets and arrangements. The only reason, the only reason, it became a front for a sex and escort service was because of him. All because of my lying, cheating husband who couldn’t keep it in his damn pants, so instead of walking out on him and taking him for everything he had, I stayed. I stayed and listened to him tell me how he accidentally slept with one of his parents’ superstar friends, and she said she would pay him if he continued to do it. So we started this … to save our marriage … to fund his wannabe acting career because one thing my soon-to-be ex-husband can’t seem to understand is that, even though his parents are talented actors and he has the passion to be one, he lacks the friggin’ talent. The man got bit by the acting bug but did not absorb any of the toxin! And still, I stayed. I stayed and supported him. Even though my family told me I was too good for him, even though his family told me I was too good for him, I fucking staaaaaayyyyyyed!”
My high-pitched scream turned into another uncontrollable flow of tears. Andreas rushed to my side, and held me. He squeezed comfort into my body as my head fell and a heartbreaking shower soaked his shirt. He kept proclaiming that everything would be okay, that I would be okay. I appreciated his enthusiasm, but there was no way in hell that little boy could understand what I was going through.
The pain of losing the only man I ever loved.
The heartbreak of watching the only life I had ever known walk out on me.
The torture in waking up every day without him.
And the sorrow in curling up in the lonely every night.
Other than my parents, Lorenzo was all I knew. We met in high school our freshman year, and we eloped in Vegas immediately after our senior prom, so there was never anybody else for me. Lorenzo was my first and only everything.
My first and only kiss.
My first and only love.
My first and only boyfriend.
My first and only sex partner.
My first and only husband.
And now, he had managed to become a new first and only: my first and only ex.
I didn’t know if I was going to be okay.
To be honest, I couldn’t see me being okay without him.
But I could see me trying:
Trying to manage.
Trying to maintain.
Trying to … remember how to breathe.
But I could not see me being okay … ever again.
“Hey, Talia. I’m with Mrs. Donato right now. She has a couple of runs to make in preparation for tomorrow morning’s meeting and I’m going to help her out, so I don’t think we’re going to make it back into the store today,” Andreas smiled into the phone while winking at me. I wanted to smile back, but all I could form was a lackluster smirk. Nevertheless, I was proud of how he was handling the situation. Listening to him and Talia tag-team actually put me in mind of the way Lorenzo and I were when we first started the business. “Yeah, and Mrs. Donato asked if you could confirm that Chloe and Frank have the schedules made before they leave … Cool. Don’t forget to lock up the shop, and we’ll see you in the morning.”
“Thank you, Talia.”
“She said thank you … She said you’re welcome, boss … Will do. See you tomorrow … Bye.”
“And thank you too, Andreas. I wasn’t kidding about those bonuses.”
His chuckle was light and musical, a vast difference from Lorenzo’s. “Don’t mention it. Besides, you need a minute to get your head back in the game, especially if you plan to keep the business going. Do you … plan on keeping the business going?”
“I didn’t. I only kept it going for Lorenzo’s sake, to fund his career, to help us support ourselves, but now … I don’t know what to do.”
“Sounds like you haven’t had the opportunity to think about what you’ve wanted to do for a long time, like your life has revolved around what Mr. Donato wanted.”
“More or less.”
“Well then, that’s the first thing on our to-do list: to figure out what you want.”
“Andreas, sweetheart, I really appreciate you trying to be there for me but you don’t have to do all this.”
“Do all what? I’m your personal assistant, so right now, I’m going to personally assist you in pulling yourself together for tomorrow.”
“And how do you plan on doing that?”
“By cracking open this wine you brought, eating this lovely spread you packed, and ordering whatever amount of room service it takes to make you feel better!”
“Uh, that’s very sweet of you, but I have no intentions of spending a ridiculous amount of money in this hotel just to ease the pain of my heartache.”
“What do you mean? You’re not spending any money! The room is still in Silvana Nicol’s name. You’re getting room service on her tab, not yours.”
A smile slowly shone on my face. “In that case, let’s go crazy.”
Just as the sunset cast a multicolored hue of denim, orange sherbet, and lavender over the sky, Andreas and I were drunkenly jumping on the California King Bed. I guzzled two bottles of wine, and we split a colossal sushi platter and gourmet chocolate desserts while I cried more salty water than that of the Pacific Ocean. In addition to the crumbling of my heart, I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders, a weight I used to have a partner to help me carry.
“Lorenzo really screwed me over with his impromptu fade to black!” I screeched to Andreas’s surprise. “If I shut the shop down like I want to, it puts me out of a job, you and everyone else out of a job … and I can’t live with that, especially on such short notice.”
When my head and tears found their way to another pillow to soak it in its entirety, Andreas softly tapped my back. “You know, my mom … she’s kind of had her fair share of marriages and divorces.”
“Is that why you’re so skilled at how to handle a heartbroken woman?”
He smiled lightly. “Maybe it would be good for you to talk to her.”
“I … appreciate that, but I don’t know. I mean, I’m sure she’s a really nice lady, especially since she raised someone as sweet as you.”
“But I prefer to keep my private life private.”
“Well, it is private-ish. It’s this support group that …”
“Oh no. No no no no no! I’m not sitting in a room full of man-hating women listening to them complain about their no-good husbands …”
“You mean like you’ve been doing since I got here?” he callously countered to my surprise, and silence. “I don’t mean to offend you, Mrs. Donato. I’m just saying that I’ve seen my mom deal with this by herself and with help, and from my observation, it’s better to have people to lean on in these types of situations if you can. The group can help you figure out a game plan without your husband so …”
“Without my husband? Andreas, I don’t want to be without my husband! Those women can’t replace him or the years we’ve shared or the life we’ve built together!”
“They’re not supposed to replace him; they’re supposed to help you move on from him so you can decide what kind of life you want for yourself. You’re the one who said that the past few years have been all about what Mr. Donato wanted. Now you can shape and mold the kind of life you want.”
I didn’t want any kind of life that didn’t have Lorenzo in it, not after all the time and energy I put into making our life work, but if talking to his mother – and whatever She-Female Man Haters Club she was a part of – could help me survive this heartache, I figured it was worth trying.