“I’m not going back to the city.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Jake said. “Of course you are.”
“No. You can drop me off at JFK.”
It was safe to say I had never felt more like pond scum in the entirety of my life. It wasn’t just the hangover, but this sensation of being an empty shell, devoid of feeling, of emotion. I couldn’t have cried or laughed at gunpoint.
“Come on, man,” Jake said. “Keep going, remember?”
“You can make a few phone calls for me. I’m heading south.”
“But Lila asked you not to –”
“I’m not chasing her. I don’t know where she is. I’m not going to track her down. I just need to get the fuck out of here for a while, Jake.”
“I can’t come with you.”
It was true. I wished he could and I could see he wanted to be there for me. To help me get through this, if I could. “I need you here. My companies can practically run themselves. My investments are secure. I live entirely off of savings. I can get you to oversee things, get an interim CEO in place for a while. It doesn’t matter. I can leave for six months and it won’t matter. I’m going.”
“I thought I might head to the Keys for a while.”
He was staring at me. He knew I had a little place down in Florida that I hardly ever went to. I’d bought it four years ago and I’d been there twice. Jake never went to Florida. His demons still lurked there. For me, the place had something else to it. Memories from before Jake was even born. A weekend with my father, my one golden memory of him. I’d been five years old at the time but I still remember it with perfect clarity. Before my father had gone bankrupt and killed himself, he’d been a beacon of light in my young life. He’d taken me away for a few days to Key West where we’d fished and spent time together. It was one of the reasons I’d worked so hard in my own life, so I wouldn’t repeat his mistakes. In a way, I’d wanted to fix my father’s problems, by following in his footsteps, by getting it right where he’d fucked up. It was stupid, really. He was long gone. And Jake knew nothing about that memory. “You can’t just run away –”
“Why not? Why can’t I?” I could have tried to explain. Instead I just said, “I need a break.”
If anyone was going to understand that, it would be him. I hadn’t had a break from my responsibilities, well, ever. Not since Jake was a tiny little kid. I’d never wanted a break before. But without Lila, what was the point? She’d taken everything: my will, my drive. All the fun, the beauty. “I don’t want to go back to that apartment … without her in it. The office …” I trailed off. I imagined walking into my office now, remembering the jolt that hit my world when Lila had walked into it, that first day. The way she looked. That immediate freight train of attraction.
I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t go back to that. Everything would seem so goddamn empty. I couldn’t explain.
Jake surprised me by saying, “All right. Tell me what you want me to do.”
We talked through details all the way to JFK. Then I gave my brother a hug and stepped out of the limo.
I booked my flight and I left the world behind. I’d never felt so free. Or so incredibly sad.