“Good evening Miss Washington.”
“Good evening George.” I reply politely to the doorman of my Upper East Side apartment building.
I can see my car waiting for me on the curb and I slide in through the door, which is being held open by the driver. My drivers, all on my dad’s payroll change weekly so I stopped learning their names a while ago.
“Where to Miss Washington?”
“My parents’ house please.”
“Of course Miss.”
The drive is quiet until the ringing of my phone interrupts me staring out at the streets of New York.
“AJ. It’s me.” The familiar voice of my first boyfriend turned best friend, Maxford Milner greets me.
“When am I not? I have a credit card, trust fund and I live in the best city in the world.”
“You’re still the same AJ.” I can imagine Max shaking his head and rolling his eyes.
“So why’d you call?”
“Can a guy not call his best friend?”
“I’m getting married...to Bridget.”
“I should hope it is Bridget! When did you propose?”
“Three weeks ago while we were in Paris.”
“And you have waited this long to tell me?”
Part of me is a little hurt Max didn’t share it with me sooner.
Max chuckles sheepishly.
“Well, actually I knew you’d be heading to your parents tonight, Sunday night family dinner...”
“And your mum probably already has the invite.”
“To the wedding.”
“We are getting married in two months.”
I don’t hear a lot of Maxford after that. I tune out. At some point I’m pretty sure he asks me to be his best man, or woman in this case but other than that, it is just silence and my pulse pounding in my head.
“Miss Washington?” The driver looks down at me though the open door now we are parked on the curb of my parents building.
I mutter a thank you as I hop out of the car.
My cousin Parker is waiting for me when I knock on the townhouse door.
“Welcome to the Lion’s Den.” He says with a smirk pulling me inside by my wrist.
Clearly my mum has already been practicing what she is going to say if my cousin is anticipating my discomfort. It is regular that Parker joins us for Sunday night dinner. Since moving to New York as a freelance photographer my parents have basically adopted him. His own parents, BJ Jacobs and Harper Washington-Jacobs live in Boston.
“Tonight is going to be fun.”
“Is that my princess?” My dad’s voice rings out through the house.
“Aubrey-Jane?” Mum uses my full name as she steps into the foyer.
“Hi guys.” I say awkwardly and my parents embrace me.
“How are you bug?” Mum uses the nickname she gave me when I was a baby. “Come, tell me what is new. How is the apartment? Any job prospects? Men?” Mum leads me to the lounge room with her insistent questioning and I hear Parker snort.
“Serious mum I have been here two minutes…”
“Leave her alone Cass.”
“We agreed Davis.” My mum narrows her eyes in the direction of my dad who is pouring himself a glass of scotch.
“You don’t have to attack her as soon as she walks in.” Dad counters. Mum doesn’t get to reply as Mrs Samuels my parents’ housekeeper appears in the lounge room.
“Dinner is ready Ms Elliot.”
“Thank you, would you mind calling Austin. I know he has a lot of homework at the moment.”
Mum’s comment makes me scoff.
Yeah, homework. That is what to high school freshman is doing holed up in his room on a Sunday night.
Parker appears to be thinking the same thing as me and the two of us share a silent laugh before following my parents into the dining room.
We get half way through the salad before Mum revisits her earlier questions. This time she tries a different tact.
“Have you heard from Maxford?” Mum asks and I nod feigning swallowing before answering.
“Yes, he proposed to Bridget.” I reply before taking a sip of my red wine.
“What about you?”
“What about me what?”
“Don’t you want a man in your life?”
“Yeah Aubrey, don’t you want a man?” My little brother mimics and I poke my tongue at him.
“Mature.” Parker murmurs under his breath.
“Your cousins are both married and starting families.” Mum comments referring to Parker’s younger twin sisters Hannah and Holly.
“You have been home from Europe for ten months. What have you done since you got home? Any job interviews? Dates?”
“AJ, we were happy to finance your trip. Everyone should have a chance to travel but I was hoping that once you came home you would think seriously about using your degree.” Dad starts in and I know they are serious.
“Dad, I could get a job anywhere.”
“Then why haven’t you?”
“I’m still finding my rhythm. I did a year at Romano Industries while I was in Italy and a couple of pro-bono cases in London...”
“It is time you take your position at the company.”
“I have a spot for you at Washington Enterprises. I know Harp will have no problem with you working at the company.”
Dad and his twin sister Harper have been Co-CEOs of Washington Enterprises ever since my grandpa got sick last year.
“It isn’t negotiable AJ.”
“Don’t you think it would be better if I found my own-”
“You start next Monday.”
My shoulders slump in defeat.
No getting out of this one.
“Now, what about a boyfriend?”
“Mum, you have got to be kidding?”
“Bug, we want you to be happy.”
“I am happy.”
“I’m not lonely, I have a boyfriend.” I blurt out and Parker chokes on his mouthful of wine. My brother looks over at me like he knows it is a lie but I’m stuck now there is no turning back.
“You do?” One of my mother’s professionally tweezed eyebrows raises in suspicion. “Why haven’t you told us?”
“I didn’t want to jinx it.” I say quickly.
“And how long have you been seeing…” Mum trails off waiting for me to fill in the blank of my fake boyfriend’s name.
“Mitchell.” Parker jumps in before I can.
“Mitchell.” Mum repeats as though trying out the name on her tongue. “How long have you been seeing Mitchell?”
“Four months?” My answer comes out as a question but thankfully my mum seems to drop the subject. Parker takes over the conversation and I turn my attention to my plate. I came to dinner with no job and no relationship and somehow I’m leaving with both.