As I stare at my mother sprawled out on the couch, I'm not sure whether to feel pity or disdain. In the end, all I feel is weary as I drag her up to her room, tuck her in, and place a bucket next to her bed along with water and some Doliprane.
Shutting the door quietly behind me I lean against the cool wood and sigh. This isn't the first time my mother has drank herself into oblivion after one of her 'boyfriends' leaves her. And I use the term 'boyfriends' very loosely. Really, they're just married men who decided their family was more important than a meaningless affair. I'm no psychologist, but if I were to give my educated opinion on the matter, I'd say she seeks out comfort from married men due to the failure of her own marriage.
But again, I'm not a psychologist.
She wasn't always a full blown alcoholic. It started small at first. Mimosas in the morning, martinis in the afternoon, and gin in the evening. Now she smells like a distillery, and the smell lingers throughout the house like bad breath you can't get rid of.
My footsteps echo throughout the house as I head downstairs to clean up the mess she made in the living room. This house is too big, too much for only two occupants. Everything screams luxe decadence, from the over the top crystal chandeliers to the polished marble floors and high gloss paint on the walls. Luxury isn't anything new to me having grown up in the lap of it, but since the divorce my mothers lavish lifestyle has reached new heights. It's a wonder my trust fund hasn't been bled dry yet.
A strange feeling of detachment settles over me as I take an empty wine glass. Will this be me in twenty or so years? A depressed alcoholic with a failed marriage, living a faux lavish lifestyle to hide how broken I am on the inside, so desperate for any form of love and validation that I'm willing to throw away my dignity to sleep with men who don't even want me?
I finish cleaning up before heading up to my room and pulling out my sketchbook. It's nothing more than a hobby really even though my best friend Auralie says otherwise, but I love to sketch fashion designs. I've always had a love for fashion ever since I was a kid. I'd cut out clothes from fashion magazines and put together different pieces. When I was old enough I bought a sewing machine and taught myself how to sew. My room itself looks like a mini fashion studio, with mood boards hung up for inspiration, racks of finished and unfinished pieces, and fabric, buttons, pins, and ribbons strewn everywhere. But it's the one place I can truly be myself with nothing holding me back.
I'm especially obsessed with haute couture, and I've used Auralie a number of times as my very own personal doll. Luckily she doesn't mind wearing my 'fabulous creations,' as she calls them.
Speaking of her, as I'm putting the finishing touches on a new dress I plan to sew, my phone rings. I answer without a second thought. "Allô?" (Hello?$
"Hey girly. Qu'est-ce que tu fais?" (What are you doing?)
I smile at the sound of Auralie's voice. "Rien de grand-chose, juste regarder ma mère ivre comme d'habitude. Quelqu'un doit s'assurer qu'elle ne s'étouffe pas dans son propre vomi et mourir,” I finish with an eye roll. (Nothing much, just watching my mom as usual. Someone has to make sure she doesn’t choke on her own vomit and die.)
"Tu veux dire qu'elle ne l'a pas déjà fait?" Auralie jokes and we both laugh. It's morbid, but so is my entire life. Dark jokes are the only way I can cope now. (You mean she hasn’t already?)
"En fait, je termine un dessin en ce moment," I say, using my pencil to darken the dress silhouette. (Actually, I’m just finishing up a drawing.)
"Ooh, avez-vous besoin d'un modèle?" (Ooh, do you need a model?)
I shake my head. "Pas aujourd'hui." (Not today.)
I can practically see Auralie pouting. "Eh bien, c'est dommage, mais je suppose que cela fonctionne en ma faveur car nous avons des plans ce soir." (Oh well, that is a shame, but I suppose it works out in my favor anyway since we have plans tonight.)
"Quels plans?" I sit up, frowning. (What plans?)
"Certains amis américains de Francis sont en visite et il veut leur faire passer un bon moment." (Some of Francis’s American friends are visiting and he wants to show them a good time.)
Francis was Auralie's boyfriend. They'd been dating for about two years now and things seemed pretty serious. I was happy for her—Francis was a good guy—but sometimes I felt a little sad watching the two of them. I wondered if I would find love too, or end up bitter and broken like my mother. As it stood right now I was too scared to even attempt a relationship. My last one had failed due to lack of chemistry and because I had a quote on quote 'mère folle.'
"Je ne savais pas que Francis avait des amis américains," I try to think of how he could have met them. Maybe they were visiting tourists? (I didn’t know Francis had American friends.)
"Rappelez-vous, Francis était un échange d'étudiants aux États-Unis?" Auralie reminds me. (Remember, he did that student exchange thing in the United States?)
I furrow my brows before remembering. "Oh yeah."
"Nous allons Le Syndicat," Auralie says excitedly. "Cela devrait être amusant. Qui sait, peut-être que vous pourrez même mieux connaître l'un des amis de Francis si vous voyez ce que je veux dire," her tone is suggestive and I narrow my eyes. (We’re going to The Syndicat. It should be fun. Who knows, maybe you’ll get to know one of Francis’s friends better if you know what I mean.)
"Je sais ce que vous essayez de faire et cela ne fonctionnera pas." (I know what you’re trying to do and it won’t work.)
Auralie's voice is the perfect picture of innocence—if I didn't know any better. "Qui a dit que j'essayais de faire quelque chose?" (Who says I’m trying to do anything?)
I roll my eyes. "À tout à l'heure." Before she can respond I hang up. I don't want to generalize all American men, but given the deterioration of my mothers marriage combined with the fact my father was American—a fact I rarely acknowledge—I don't exactly have a stellar opinion on them. Not that my mother didn't play a role in her relationships demise, but my father wasn't innocent either. (See you later.)
My father. Just the thought of him puts me in a sour mood. He's like a stranger to me. I barely have any good memories with him given the fact he was absent most of my childhood before moving back to the United States permanently.
When my mother describes their relationship she says they were madly in love, but I'm not an idiot. I know I was the result of a drunken night of passion, and their so called 'great love' was little more than a fling. But I do believe my mother loved him. And maybe once upon a time my father was a good man. Why else would he marry her and try to make their relationship work? My mothers family was very old fashioned. She would have been disgraced and disowned if her parents had found out she'd gotten pregnant out of wedlock.
What they lacked was trust. He had a business back in the states, so he was always traveling back and forth, often being gone for long stretches of time. My mother knew he never truly wanted me, and she always lorded it over his head, accusing him of cheating on her and being a bad father. And my father always suspected she had gotten pregnant on purpose to trap him. What I do remember of them from my childhood, is the fact they were constantly at each other's necks, arguing and fighting.
Then one day, he left for good.
He sends me a card, once a year, on my birthday. He also puts money in my trust fund, which I can access once I turn twenty-five. I'm only a year away from that, and I have no idea what I'll even do with the money. I'm not sure I even care. I never wanted money.
I just wanted a father.
And I get that he couldn't be with my mother, but that didn't mean he had to leave me too.
They're not even officially divorced. Legally, they're still married. I can't help but resent him, not only for abandoning me but also leaving me to take care of the shell of the woman my mother used to be.
He broke her. He broke us. And no amount of money can fix that.
Sliding off the bed I shake off those depressing thoughts and start getting ready before Auralie arrives. My mother will be fine. I've given her everything she'll need when she wakes up. Besides, I could use a night out.
And who knows, maybe I will get to know one of Francis's friends better after all.
"Next candidate please."
Beside me Victor sighs as the next applicant is ushered in. Right away I know she won't make the cut. I can see her shaking in her nude heels from here, and she immediately drops the folder she's carrying as soon as she meets my sharp gaze.
"I'm sorry," she says in a nervous rush, immediately dropping to her knees to collect the spilled papers. I'm assuming it's her resume, credentials, that sort of thing. Not that I need to see any of it, but they always put so much time and effort into it, I'd be cruel not to at least humor them. Normally the sight of a woman on her knees gets me excited in an entirely different way, but the only feeling that courses through me right now is disappointment.
When she stands back up she pushes her glasses up her nose and clears her throat. "I-I'm sorry," she stutters again. "I just didn't think that you'd uh, you'd be interviewing me."
"They never do," I respond dryly before gesturing to the seat across from mine. "Have a seat."
She does so, stumbling over herself along the way. Victor snickers under his breath before covering it with a cough. I nod at Colin who closes the door behind him before I face nervous jittery girl. Her eyes erratically flick from mine to Victors face, and I'm not sure who terrifies her more. It should be me obviously, but Victor can be pretty intimidating when he wants to be. And right now his gaze is fixed on her with a cold stare. I almost tell him to tone down the dramatics, but if Victor scares her this much then how will she ever survive working for me?
The answer: she won't.
"Let's see your resume," I start, cutting right to the chase.
She shakily hands me the now haphazardly organized folder and Victor makes a clucking noise of disapproval. The girl shrinks further in her seat as I glance over her files. Degree from Columbia. Several judicial and summer clerkships, legal externships, and pro bono projects. Her profile section is also quite impressive.
And yet, I'm not impressed. I've seen resumes like this a hundred times over. My last paralegal had a graduate degree from Harvard and had five-hundred logged hours total of community service and internships combined. She was as smart as a whip.
And then she became pregnant and had to go on maternity leave.
I snap her folder shut and fold my hands on top of it, nailing her with a no-nonsense look. "Quite the resume Miss Keeling. I just have one question."
She stares at me wide eyed.
"Missionary or reverse cowgirl?"
It takes exactly two seconds for her face to turn fire engine red. "W-what?" She stutters, shaking from head to toe.
"You heard me," I calmly lean back in my seat, my facial expression never changing. Her gaze swings from mine to Victors, who's still wearing the same cold look, although his lips twitch. Finally she manages to speak.
"F-forgive me sir, but I'm not sure how that pertains to the interview."
"It doesn't," I gesture to Victor who finally moves to hand her back her folder. "You can see yourself out."
She stares at me uncertainly for at least a full minute before scurrying out of the room, tail tucked between her legs.
And another one bites the dust.
Once she's gone and the door is shut Victor sags into the seat she'd vacated. "No more man," he groans. "I don't think I can handle it."
I rub my temples. "Damn Taylor."
"Yeah, damn Taylor for having a life outside the office," Victor says sarcastically.
"I have a life outside the office."
"Sorry, I meant for having a husband and wanting to start her own family. You couldn't possibly relate."
I roll my eyes. I got enough shit from my sister and mother for my bachelor lifestyle, I didn't need flack from Victor too.
"You probably sent that poor girl straight to a bathroom stall sobbing," Victor continues. "And what the hell was with that last question?"
I shrug. "I wanted to see if she'd crack under pressure. She did. Case closed."
Victor sighs. "Look, I know these applicants are less than ideal. But we have to pick someone. Anyone at this point. You need a paralegal. The interns, while amusing in their youth, are not equipped or educated enough to continue handling your cases."
"You could be my paralegal," I suggest and Victor scoffs.
"Hell no. I'm not about to be your little bitch boy."
I have to laugh at that. Victor is one of my best friends as well as my legal partner. We started this firm together. Besides my family, there's no one else I trust as much as I do him.
"Let me borrow yours then," I suggest.
"No. Shelly stays with me. Besides, she's already shouldering most of your cases along with mine because again, the interns can't. The stress is starting to get to her, and she's asking for another raise. I've already given her two man."
I groan. "Then what am I supposed to do?"
There's a knock on the door before Colin pokes his head in. "Sir? Should I send in the next candidate?"
I shake my head. "No. That's enough interviews for today thank you. Compensate them for their time and then send them home."
"Right away sir," Colin closes the door and I swivel around in my chair to stare outside. My office had the best view of the city skyline, much to Victors chagrin.
Victor is right. I need to hire someone, and soon. It just seems like every applicant isn't the right fit. It's no secret that I can be very intense at work given the high stress of the job, and working with me is no easy picnic. I need someone who can handle that.
The question is: who?
dinner tonight. don't forget asshole
I chuckle to myself as I read my little sister Kennedy's message. She had just recently graduated from Yale and moved in with her boyfriend Winston. Decent guy. I liked him enough, and he was good to her which was the most important thing to me. They were having a housewarming dinner. I'm exhausted from work, but this dinner is important to her so of course I'll make it. I don't have a lot of soft spots in my life, but Kennedy is one of them.
I pour myself a glass of scotch and recline back on the couch, loosening my tie. After taking a sip I swish the glass around, watching the ice cubs clink together. Evening settles over the city, the light from the floor to ceiling windows bathing the living room in orange and pink hues. Just like my office, my apartment gives me a perfect view of the Manhattan skyline and the bustling city beneath.
After graduating from Harvard with my degree in law, I moved back to the city. For a while I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I could have followed in my fathers footsteps and went into criminal law, but it didn't interest me. All I knew was that I wanted to start my own firm. In what, I wasn't sure yet.
Then one day while we were eating lunch Victor made an offhand comment. "Maybe you should be a marriage counselor instead of a lawyer."
"What makes you say that?" I asked dryly.
"I don't know, just that you're oddly good at giving relationship advice given the fact you've never actually been in a relationship yourself."
"Which is exactly why I'd make a terrible marriage counselor."
Victor shrugged. "I don't know. Coaches don't play, right?"
For whatever reason his words kept replaying in my head. And he wasn't lying. Back in college my friends always came to me for relationship advice. I'll never understand, but they did. I'd like to think it's because when it comes to most things in life, I tend to think more logically and clearly than others.
Then suddenly, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Maybe I couldn't dole out helpful relationship advice, but I could certainly help those who were in the process of a relationship split. And hence, I became a divorce attorney. Half of the time I'm dealing with either hysterical or vindictive clients, male and female, but it keeps me on my toes. In short, I love what I do.
Also after witnessing some pretty nasty divorces, it re-affirmed my stance on relationships.
The problem with love is that it's fickle. Any moment the tides can change, and you don't realize you're drowning until it's too late. I've seen some relationships completely wreck people to the point of no return. Why give someone that much power of you?
Sure there are the few exceptions like my parents who I do believe truly love each other and have stayed together 'for better or for worse,' but for every successful marriage or relationship there's ten more that just end up in the gutter. Why take that chance? Why risk it? It just doesn't seem like a good gamble to me.
Kennedy says I have commitment issues. I don't. There's nothing wrong with me. I don't have some deep sated trauma or trust issues from a past relationship.
I just don't think one is worth the hassle. It's that simple.
As far as my life goes, I consider myself a pretty lucky guy. I come from a good family. I'm well off. I have a nice career. And I love meeting beautiful women. I'm not an asshole. It's not like I just sleep with girls then dump them like trash. Every girl I've ever been involved with, I've treated well. I let them know my intentions from the start so there's no confusion, we have a good time, then go our separate ways. And for the most part this works. I'm even good friends with some of them. Of course there's always one who still manages to catch feelings despite my warnings that I don't do relationships, but that's not my fault. I've never intentionally lead a girl on.
I receive another text message and glance at the screen, thinking it's Kennedy reminding me again about dinner. Instead it's Olivia, one of the girls who did not take my warning about getting involved with me seriously.
Olivia: how come you've been ignoring my calls and texts?
Already I feel a headache forming.
Me: I thought I made it clear I wasn't interested.
Olivia: no you didn't. You made it seem like you actually liked me. Like you wanted something more
Me: I do like you. As a person. Not as a girlfriend. And I never implied I wanted something more. I was clear from the start that what we had would be short lived. You're just not used to guys actually treating you well, so you're confused
Olivia: fuck you. You just used me for sex
I sigh. I hate it when girls try to play the victim.
Me: I'm sorry you feel that way
Olivia: I really like you...you're the first guy I've actually been with who makes me feel good about myself. Can't we still see each other? We don't even have to put a label on it.
They always say that. Can't we just be friends? It can be causal, I promise. I won't pressure you into anything you don't want. I used to believe them, but now I know better. Experience has taught me that once feelings are involved, there's no going back, and I don't want to be responsible for breaking any girls heart even though I'm sure I already have.
Me: I'm sorry, but no. You're a great girl Olivia, and you deserve to be with someone who treats you well. But you also don't need a guy to realize your own worth. Remember that. However as far as we're concerned, it's over.
I don't bother reading any of her messages after that. Instead I drain the rest of my glass before standing.
Better start getting ready for dinner.