I stomped all the way back to my office, ignoring the stares of my employees. “Back to work everyone! Now! Or you’ll answer to me,” I thundered. I smiled viciously as they scattered. “Marcus! In my office please.”
Marcus scurried from behind his desk and followed me into my office closing the door behind him. I immediately launched myself into his arms and broke down sobbing.
“Ay, Lupe! Que paso? What happened?” he exclaimed in surprise, rubbing my back in a futile effort to calm me.
“I don’t think we can come back from this one,” I mumbled through my tears.
“We who? Did you have a fight with Uncle Francesco?”
“It was more than a fight! He--”
I was cut off by the door to my office opening and the receptionist walking in with Brett behind her. I stepped away from Marcus hastily wiping my eyes and glared at the girl who looked to be no older than twenty.
“Oh my goodness! I’m so sorry Miss Marino--”
“Excuse me?” the girl replied, hesitantly.
“What is your name?!” I shouted.
“You’re fired, Elizabeth. Clean out your desk and leave in the next hour. Marcus? See that it gets done.”
Elizabeth and Brett looked shocked by my statement but not Marcus. He was used to my irrational anger. He nodded and guided Elizabeth from my office as she tearfully pleaded with me to reconsider.
The door closed behind the two of them and I gestured to the couch on the far side of my office. “Mr. Jacobson. How can I help you?”
He sat down and stared at me while I reached into my purse and pulled out a handkerchief to wipe my face.
“Is something wrong?” I asked, sitting down next to him.
“You just fired that girl.”
“Yes. And? What’s your point?”
“Because I felt like it. Is that a problem?” I crossed my legs and stared back at him.
“I mean it’s your employee so I guess not,” he said with a frown.
“Rest assured. Marcus will find her another job more suitable for her talents. He goes behind my back to do so. It’s absurd that he thinks I don’t know. Now, how can I help you?”
“Right. Well, I came to see you for two reasons...” he trailed off and I had to fight not to drool as I maintained eye contact with him.
He was just as beautiful as when I met him and images of our night together flashed through my mind. “And they are?” I asked quickly, pushing my sinful thoughts away.
“I was told by your father that you would be my point person through this process as you handle all acquisitions and mergers.”
“I didn’t get a chance to grab your card after the meeting so I thought I’d stop by and get your contact information.”
I stood up. “Is that all? Marcus can give you that on your way out--”
“That’s not all and you know it,” he said softly grabbing my wrist.
I shook his hand off and sat back down frowning at him. “Are you trying to blackmail me or something?”
“What? No! Why would you think that?”
I shrugged. “It wouldn’t be the first time someone tried.”
He shook his head. “Well, I’m not trying to blackmail you. I just wanted to know why you lied. And why you left the way you did.”
“What did I lie about?” I asked with a stony expression.
“You told me your name was Lupita--”
“It is. It’s a nickname. I’m not too fond of the name Penelope, for reasons I’m sure you can understand. And I left because we were just having fun; I didn’t think it was a big deal.”
“Look if it’s going to be too difficult for you to work with me on this, I can pass the project on to my deputy.”
“No,” he replied, his kind expression disappearing. “If you want to pretend that nothing happened between us, I can do that, Miss Marino.”
Somehow hearing my formal title come out his mouth made me sadder than I already was but I didn’t let that show, instead opting to extend my hand once again. “Good. I look forward to working with you.”
He hesitated but eventually shook my hand, and saw himself out of my office. I had never felt so alone in all of my 26 years. I had lost my father and a potential love interest all in one hour. I grabbed my phone and sent a quick text before grabbing my purse and putting on my sunglasses. I buzzed for Marcus and a moment later he poked his head in the doorway.
“Call the car around please. I’m going to lunch.”
Thirty minutes later I was seated in a private room at my cousin Ryan’s restaurant Bellisima. Ryan, Alicia, and their older brother Luke were my Zia Mirabella’s children. Zia Mirabella was my dad’s sister who had passed away some years ago. Her husband, my Uncle Jack, had helped my father start his business when he came to the United States before any of us were born. Alicia, Ryan and I were close but Luke was always distant until recently.
Alicia came in after a while and sat down across from me with a smile. “I’m so glad you decided to have lunch with me! I’m sorry I took so long; I had to drop Aiden with the nanny--” She stopped mid-sentence when she saw my tear-streaked face. “Lupe what’s wrong?!”
The rest of my resolve disappeared as I recounted the story to her.
The look on her face when I finished was murderous. “I can’t believe Uncle Franco would say that to you! I have half a mind to go down there and tell him off myself!”
“That’s not necessary,” I said with a slight laugh. Alicia was the youngest of all of us and was the definition of a spitfire, always ready to tell someone off.
She took my hands and smiled softly. “Everything’s going to be fine Lupe. I won’t say you don’t need him, because he’s your father and you love him. This is all going to blow over eventually though. You two fight all the time; You’re both pig-headed and stubborn.”
I shook my head. “It’s different this time Leesh. He really hurt me. I get that he’s the only parent I have but I can’t take it anymore.”
Alicia frowned. “Well, that’s not exactly true,” she said slowly.
“What do you mean?”
“Alicia. What are you talking about?”
“I may have overheard my dad talking to your dad the last time I visited.”
“And?” I probed.
“And...from what I could hear, your mother may still be alive.”
Alicia winced but continued. “Apparently, your father pays her a lot of money to stay away from you. My dad was telling Uncle Franco that he needed to tell you but your father insisted that you weren’t ready to know yet.”
My mouth opened and closed repeatedly but no sound came out. “Are you kidding me?! That bastard! How dare he keep something that important from me! Why would he keep something like that from me!?” I eventually replied.
“Lupe, calm down!” Alicia pleaded. “I don’t know for sure.”
“That sounds like something he would do and you know it!” I sat there fuming while Alicia shifted uncomfortably in her seat.
“I shouldn’t have said anything,” she started. “I probably misunderstood.”
“No, you should have told me the moment you heard. You’re supposed to be my best friend!”
“I am your best friend, Lupe! I did what I thought was best at the time.”
“And now you think otherwise?” I said coldly, folding my arms angrily across my chest.
“I do,” she answered. “Or I did before you started freaking out!”
“What did you expect?! How am I supposed to react to this kind of information?!”
“I don’t know Lupe!”
I stood up and grabbed my bag. “I have to go.”
“Lupe, please don’t be angry with me,” Alicia said, trying to follow me.
“I’m not angry with you. Or at least I don’t think I am. I’m just angry in general. A lot has happened today and I just need some time to process.”
She nodded but I could tell that she was upset. “I understand. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“Will I still see you at the summit this weekend?”
“I don’t know,” I answered honestly. “But I’ll text you.”
That night, I was sitting in my bed trying to figure out how to get information about my mother. Obviously asking my jackass of a father about her was not an option. I didn’t have much to go off of considering I didn’t even know her name. All I knew was that she and my father met while she was on a study abroad trip to Italy and that they had a whirlwind romance that resulted in her pregnancy with me. My father told me she died giving birth to me but apparently this was not the case.
I was already angry with him so I was not too pleased to see an email notification from him pop up in the top corner of my laptop.
I would like for you to do a surprise run through of the Jacobson Design Firm tomorrow morning. Evaluate everything and report back to me. Eyes sharp, Lupe.
CEO Lucia Marino Inc.
I typed out a quick reply.
As his majesty wishes.
Your disloyal subject,
CFO Lucia Marino Inc
I closed the tab and googled myself. It felt oddly vain. Another notification from my father popped up and I groaned as I clicked on it.
Your sass is as unbecoming as ever.
As is your treatment of your only child.
I returned to the google search and was surprised to find that I had my own Wikipedia page. The picture was from my Forbes cover and the page even listed my job title and notable ex-boyfriends.
Penelope Lucia Marino
Penelope Lucia Marino was born August 9, 1992, in New York City, New York to Italian businessman Francesco Marino and artist named Guadalupe Martinez. Her mother died in childbirth and she was raised by her father as the heiress to his massive business empire...
I was so shocked that Wikipedia knew more about my mother than I did. How had I not thought of googling myself before?
Balancing my laptop on my knees, I picked up my phone and dialed Alicia.
“Lupe what the hell! Do you know what time it is?” she answered groggily.
I frowned and looked at the clock on my nightstand. “It’s ten o’clock.”
It was silent for a beat. “Oh. I must have dozed off watching the bachelorette. What’s up?”
“My mother’s name was--or is, Guadalupe Martinez.”
“You found her already?!” she asked excitedly.
“Yes! Well, not exactly. Her name is on my Wikipedia page.”
“You have a Wikipedia page?”
“Apparently,” I laughed.
“Wow, Lupe that’s great! At least now you have somewhere to start.”
“It’s not much--”
“But it’s something,” she interjected, optimistically. “Now get some rest and we’ll continue this tomorrow.”
“We? You’re going to help me?”
“Well duh! As you mentioned earlier, I am your best friend. What kind of best friend would I be if I didn’t help you with this?”
“A pretty shitty one,” I admitted with a laugh.
“Exactly. Good night Lupe.”