“Argh! Why won’t this thing work?!” Electra screamed, shooting a kick at the rusty old oven as she threw her hands up in frustration. The apartment was the bane of her life, never having done anything domestic in all her eighteen years she was struggling with the day to day basics, leaving clothes all over the apartment; blobs of toothpaste and makeup all over the bathroom; wet towels on the beds; (another irritation – the only accommodation they could afford was a tiny one bedroom apartment which they had managed to squeeze two bunk beds into) and any other sort of day to day mess which would have usually been cleaned up by an army of maids.
“Sebastian! Can you help?!” She demanded, glaring at her brother who was sat on the very uncomfortable sofa looking for job vacancies in the Bridgeport Tribune.
“Mmhm.” He mumbled back, not really listening. He had learned to block out his sisters outbursts after they had moved into the apartment a few weeks ago.
“Sebastian!!” She screamed again, the hunger pains in her stomach becoming worse as the minutes ticked by.
“Dunno, sometimes a good kick works, or maybe its finally gave up the ghost and broke, order pizza or something. Hey look, here’s a job I can do – cashier at Crustys Big Burger.” He threw down the paper in irritation at the lack of job prospects. He wasn’t the most academically inclined at school, and as they had left without graduating they had no formal education to speak of – not in an employers eyes.
“Someone strike me down! Please, kill me now!” Electra screamed dramatically, throwing her hands to the sky. “What are we going to do?” She asked, hanging her head, sufficiently deflated. When they had ran from Belgrave Ranch they had all thought they would have the time of their lives, but money, or the lack of it, came between the four of them and the good times. Ryan and Liberty, both street smart kids who had been in and out of school over the years, had found jobs easily – after growing a five o’clock shadow and lying about his age Ryan had managed to get a job bar-tending, and Liberty was working at the local theater, although her wages didn’t help much as she spent them all on her weekly acting classes.
“We’re useless.” Electra whispered quietly, hanging her head.
“Hey, hey, it’ll all be okay.” Sebastian comforted as he jumped up from the sofa and headed towards his sister. Privately he thought she might at least try to find a job instead of insisting no one would hire her, but he didn’t want to make a bad situation worse.
“How will it be okay?! We’re going to starve to death in this tiny apartment and be found half eaten by cats three weeks later!” She screamed as Sebastian tried not to laugh.
“Shh. It’ll work out.” Sebastian held his sister gently, trying to calm her down.
“You know,” She tried to get her words out through the tears which were about to brim over, “that mama called me, right?” Her confession took Sebastian by surprise, he had heard nothing from his mother apart from the brusque message from the bank saying that all his and Electra’s cards and cheques had been terminated.
“What did she want?”
“She wants to meet. She’s in Bridgeport, at the Breach House apartment. I wasn’t going to go.” Electra told him, beginning to think more about the meeting with her mother – what harm would it do to just go and check it out? It might be interesting.
“Hey – come on, what’s up now?” Electra’s tears had subsided for a second, but now she hung her head once more.
“It’s just – well…” Electra was embarrassed by how she felt, she had thought she was so different. “I hate having to rely on money, but I don’t know any other way. I need money Sebastian.” She blushed red as she confessed, feeling like her mother. She had hated that world when she was in it, but now she realised what her mother always told her about money bringing security and freedom was true.
“You should go meet her.” Sebastian said after taking a big sigh. He found having money much easier too, who wouldn’t? But he didn’t think Olive was going to give their trusts back so easily.
“Really? You don’t think I’m selling out?” She asked, smiling at her brother. She was glad he understood.
“Just don’t agree to anything you might regret.” He said, embracing her in a hug before he watched her leave, he just hoped she would return – he knew his mother could be very persuasive.
* * *
As she came out of the subway she smiled, she had always enjoyed it down there; no matter how hot and stuffy it was she found it amazing to watch all the people, all the different cultures mixing together on one long metal tube. Electra just loved Bridgeport in general, she had never thought the East Coast would be for her, but once she arrived she found it a relief to be away from the heat of the California sun which beamed down on Redcliffe every day, and the family ties with Bridgeport (her great-great grandmother, Lily Belgravia, had lived here all her life) made it a fitting choice for her and Sebastian. She could see Breach House ahead now, and dreaded what would happen once she arrived.
The doorman had her name on a list and held open the doors for her as he thought what a beautiful girl she was, he didn’t see too many California blondes out here on the East Coast; he hoped she was moving in, although she didn’t look like the usual inhabitants of the building. Walking into the lobby of the very exclusive building she could tell Olive would feel at home here, the building was so her – old money, WASPish, and completely pretentious. The elevator took her to the thirty-fifth floor and before she knew it she was being ushered into Olive’s overstuffed apartment by a Hispanic housemaid.
She craned her neck to see of she could spot Olive anywhere, but she was nowhere in sight. Probably waiting to make her grand entrance. The maid deposited her in a horribly (to Electra’s eye) chintzy and traditional living room, the hoards of jewels in an antique case glittered in the light streaming through the windows, her feet sunk into two priceless Persian rugs, and the Picasso on the wall taunted her with its ridiculous price tag. Olive lived in a world of very visible money – this wasn’t what Electra wanted. She just wanted to be able to live comfortably, maybe then she could get her music going again – perhaps they could even start booking some gigs. A life doing nothing was not for Electra, her mother lived off her multiple divorce settlements and would never dream of lifting a finger. Electra wanted to do what she loved – music. She just needed a little help.
It wasn’t long before Olive appeared in the doorway, dressed – as always – to the nines, her hair perfectly coiffed and groomed, diamond pin holding it together at the back, her makeup done, as it was every day, by a professional who stopped by the apartment in the morning after Olive returned from her daily tennis match – she was looking more like she was ready for a cocktail party than ready to sit down and have a private talk with her daughter.
She said nothing, just standing and staring at her. Electra found herself wishing she had never came, unnerved by the cold stare of her mother. Finally taking her eyes off Electra she came around and sat on the plush chair opposite her.
“So, you finally realised you couldn’t hack it?” She asked with obvious mirth.
Electra said nothing, wishing more than ever that she hadn’t came, her mother obviously just wanted to gloat about her daughters failings.
“I’ll take that as a yes then. You know, it doesn’t have to be like this -” Electra interrupted her mother, who was getting ready for a long speech.
“I’m doing fine on my own. I came here because you asked me too, now just tell me what you want.” She said, wishing she could teleport back to the tiny apartment, she didn’t want anything from Olive.
“Fine. I’ll open your trust once again if you cease any contact with that awful boy.” The cards were laid out, but Electra wasn’t taking it, she had came here hoping that her mother would give her some money, now she would rather die than submit to her blackmailing ways.
“Well if that’s all you have to say then I’ll leave, I’m not going to stop seeing Ryan.”
“Come now, we both know that you won’t last much longer in that tiny apartment; Sebastian may fare better, but before long he’ll come running back to me for money.” Electra hung her head as her mother spoke. If she took her money she knew she would turn out just like her, bitter and shallow.
“By the way darling, that skirt is far too short. A hem should never come more than a few inches up from the knee.” She smoothed down her own dress as she spoke, thinking that Electra should put on something more respectable than that tiny little thing, and those boots were a mess.
“I don’t need to be taking tips from you.” Electra spat back, “in fact, I don’t need anything from you.”
“I can keep that money from you forever, I can keep it from Sebastian too! Don’t you realise that I’m trying to help you?! You think you’re so different from me, but money is clearly what drives you – just own it. Cut that boy out of your life and you can have it all once more.”
“Why would I want this?” She gestured around the ornate room with disdain, “You have nothing really – you may be the darling of high society but in the real world that counts for nothing. You may be praised for your philanthropy but you don’t care about the causes you donate to, not really. You have no real friends, and both your children have ran away from you. And guess what? We don’t even want your money.” Electra took a deep breath, the words may have been harsh but they were true, and Olive had to realise it before life passed her by.
“I’ll ruin you.” Olive said quietly, perfectly composed. “I could make a few phone calls and make sure no one ever, and I mean ever books you for a gig. I’ll ruin Ryan too.” Olive was about to continue with all the awful things she could do with her huge net of influence when they heard a voice from the hallway, and watched as Arielle Belgravia, Olive’s mother and Electra’s grandmother, strolled into the room.
“You will do nothing of the sort.” Arielle announced grandly, standing over the two of them. Arielle had been informed by her good friend Thomas, the doorman, who always kept her up on the gossip of the building, that a beautiful blonde with orange streaks in her hair had arrived a short while before Arielle got back from her shopping trip. She had known instantly that it would be her granddaughter, who she didn’t see as much as she would have liked but still loved very dearly. She had headed straight for her daughters apartment, which was much smaller than the Triplex Penthouse Arielle had owned since she was in her twenties and never ended up selling because of some sentimental attachment to her ‘young and foolish days’ as she often described them to her grandchildren. Slipping in just as Olive had sat down she had heard the entire conversation, and knew that something finally had to be done with her wayward daughter.
“Mother! What are you doing here?!” Olive said in shock, feeling like a nervous teenager again.
“Something I should have done a long time ago. Electra, you can have the money, but know right now that once you spend the trust that it’s gone. You won’t get any more from me, and as you can see you won’t get any from your mother either.” Electra was in shock, the last person she had expected to come to her rescue was her grandmother, a rather eccentric woman who had lived her life out of the public eye in a huge, family orientated house in the Redcliffe hills and still resided there with Electra’s grandfather, Noah, and their six cocker spaniels.
“Grandma, I don’t know what to say – I really can’t take the money from mama.” Electra said, feeling slightly guilty, but unwilling to take the money from Olive as if she would catch her greed.
“And it’s no right of yours to give away my money.” Olive interjected, regaining her composure.
“Actually darling –” Arielle mocked, mimicking Olive’s voice, she had always thought the high society world her daughter lived in was beyond silly, “- the trusts for Electra and Sebastian are operated by me and you have no right to close them. You may have your own money that they would inherit but their trusts from me are considerable.” Electra felt her body relax as she listened to Arielle, knowing that the money wasn’t Olive’s was a huge relief.
“How dare you do this?!” Olive screamed, jumping up and coming towards her mother. “And in my own house – get out!” Arielle merely gave a small laugh.
“I’m not one of your society friends you can boss around. I won’t be thrown from your home, I am your mother. I had always hoped that you grow out of this phase, I was in it myself once, it was in that phase that I bought that ridiculously large penthouse upstairs.” Arielle sighed, feeling guilty as she wished that Olive could have turned out more like her siblings.
“Oh well I’m so sorry to disappoint you but I’m not a child and will not be treated like one.”
“Well you’re certainly acting like one!” Arille snapped back as her daughter backed away, her cool exterior once again shattered.
Giving Electra one last withering look Olive turned on her heel and marched out of the room as Arielle made her way over to the fire, sadness in her eyes.
“I never wanted this for her.” She said, more to herself than to Electra.
Electra didn’t know what to say to Arielle – she had a sense that her grandmother wasn’t up to talking about Olive, so she just sat for a few moments in silence, letting Arielle have her own private moment. Crossing the room Arielle lowered herself onto one of Olive’s overstuffed sofas.
“I’m not as young as I once was.” Arielle smiled. “Anyway, you better get yourself back to this Ryan. He sounds a little like my first husband…” She trailed off, staring into nothingness. Electra had never heard much about her Uncle Tommy’s father, all she knew was that he had never wanted to see his child again after his and Arielle’s marriage had fallen apart. “He was a good man, poor as dirt but exceptionally talented, and we loved each other.” Electra listened with deep enthrallment as her grandmother spoke, she loved stories of the old days, “But in the end the money was too much for him, it always is. Who would have ever thought that lavish wealth would cause so much trouble? Luckily I found Noah, rich in his own right, but still… Leonardo was quite something. We lived upstairs you know.”
“It must have been hard.” Electra said, respecting her grandmother even more than she had a few hours ago; she was much deeper and wiser than the gregarious woman she presented to her grandchildren.
“Yes, yes. Anyway, life is for living – so you better get back to it.” Getting up from the sofa with surprising vigor for her age she embraced her granddaughter in a tight hug. “Live life the way you too sweetheart, or you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.”
“Thank you for everything grandma. Without you I don’t know what I would have done!” Electra still couldn’t quite believe the help her grandmother had given her, she had been more of a mother in the past half hour than Olive had ever been, not just by helping her with the money but with the sentimental stories, the advice, and the love.
After giving Arielle another hug Electra raced from the apartment, hoping Olive wasn’t waiting in the lift ready to stab her to death; she wouldn’t put it past her. Resisting the urge to throw up as she ran past a huge pile of trash outside her apartment building she ran through the dark hallways to their apartment, located in the centre of the building, giving them no natural light whatsoever, there wasn’t a window in the place. Entering the apartment after struggling to open the door she saw Ryan cooking – the only one of them that could.
He had grown his hair out since the summer, choosing to dye it back to its original black, and was wearing some of Sebastian’s clothes – because all of his own were dirty and they could neither afford a washing machine or to have their clothes washed at a laundromat right now.
“Hey Slim.” He said, calling her by a new nickname he had coined when he had admired her slim figure in her favourite cotton dress. Leaving the food for a second he came over to her, he was a surprisingly good chef, having cooked most of the meals for him and his mother growing up he had learned fast – it was a blessing they had him in the apartment, they would have starved without him.
“What’re you so happy about?” He asked with a grin as he took in the glee on Electra’s face. Glee that she soon felt bad about, she knew Ryan wasn’t into the money side of her family, and the words of her grandmother were ringing in her ears, ‘the money was too much for him, it always is.’
“Here’s the thing…” Electra began, proceeding to tell him everything that had happened with Olive and her grandmother, watching his unmovable face very carefully for any sign from him. After she had finished he just stood there, taking it all in.
“Aren’t you happy?” Electra asked, wishing he would just give her something. He looked down uncomfortably as she waited for an answer.
“You know me,” Ryan said, “I don’t really care about that kinda stuff.”
In her moment she felt like blurting out that he didn’t seem to mind living in the comfort of Belgrave Ranch for a summer, but she held her tongue, it would only make things worse.
“Listen, this isn’t going to change us.” Electra said, holding his shoulders, “Like my grandma said, once this money is gone that’s it – and compared to all the money Olive has this is nothing, but it can buy us a great place, and give us a base to set up our music, we need new instruments,” she gestured over to the keyboard and guitar which were stacked in the corner and were in desperate need of replacing, “and we need to get our name out there again, the hype of that first show is fading fast, with Rasta and Josh still in California we need to either convince them to come out or find some new members, it isn’t gonna be easy.” She continued in this fashion for a while, and slowly Ryan came to understand what she was saying, the money would make things easier, he had just really wanted to succeed without it.
“Listen to me, I love you – that’s the main thing. I know you think moneys dangerous to relationships but you know I’m not like that – nothing can tear us apart.” Electra said, begging Ryan to understand her.
“I get it Slim. I guess I was hoping for too much, just expecting you to go from the life you lived to this one – I suppose this is a kind of compromise. I love you too.” Ryan replied, embracing her in a hug before kissing her over and over; they fell onto the sofa and spent the rest of the day there, just enjoying each other.
* * *
A week after Arielle had called and told her the trust was open Electra, Ryan, Sebastian, and Liberty set about finding a place to live. They wanted it to be perfect, as their group was made up of two couples it didn’t have to be huge, but they wanted a good living space with room to practice, even if it meant having to push furniture aside, good light, and an office space for Sebastian, who had taken up his role of managing the band once more, this time officially. They found a big, beautiful loft on the edge of the city and fell in love, and moved straight in.
“We’re home!” Sebastian had exclaimed when the move in date finally came. With the new found security of Electra and Sebastians trusts from Arielle they could set about doing what they wanted without the pressure of scraping enough money to get by hanging over their heads. Sebastian got straight to work trying to find Electra and Ryan gigs, but they both knew they needed more members before anything serious would come of it. Liberty continued with her acting classes, dropping her job at the theater and working full time on going on auditions. And Electra and Ryan worked on what was most important to them: the music. They were all determined to succeed, and with each others support they knew it was possible.