Tag Archives: money

Generation 4 – Chapter 1

“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.

Generation 3 – Chapter 10

As the limo weaved its way through the city I thought about the last year of my life. The parties, the travel, the social connections, it was everything I had hoped it would be. So why did I feel strangely unfulfilled?

Dimitri had been everything I had expected him to be. Caring, loving, charming, and always busy. He was hardly ever home, always at the office, most of the time not even in this country, the Athens office needed him more. Obviously there were perks to being Mrs. Stanislopolous which helped make up for his absence, but it was nice to have him with me, like he was now.

“Anyone home?” I shouted after I’d gave Peter, our doorman, a crisp 50 for his help in bringing up the cases. “Dimitri, where is everyone?” He shrugged his broad shoulders, pulling out his phone and reeling off a few emails instead of trying to help me find out. Of course.

The apartment was eerily quiet, but the fire was blazing and I knew Marie had been here, the coffee and fruit I had requested to be laid out on my return was waiting on the island. Where could Electra and Sebastian be? Now that Sebastian was growing up I was going to have to keep my eye on him, I couldn’t have him running around the city alone.

Picking up the house phone and my coffee I settled down at the dining table, 12 messages. Better get through them. The first was from Natasha asking me to a charity event on Thursday, the second was the Mayor gently asking when my campaign donation was coming in; I didn’t exactly agree with his policies but I knew he was going to win the upcoming election and have another term in office, and it was important to have powerful people dedicated to you. Sipping the coffee I listened to more messages which all went the same way, parties, charity events, money, lunch…

However the last message was not what I was expecting. ‘Mrs. Stanislopolous this is headmistress Robbins, we have to have urgent words about your daughter. There have been some issues of late, and as the letters I have been sending to your home seem to not be getting to you it is imperative that you call me immediately.’

What the hell could this be about? Was she okay? I hope she wasn’t being bullied, she was a sweet girl really, and kind. I knew I didn’t spend that much time with her but Marie told me all about her, how she loved to feed the ducks in the park and spend time with Sebastian. It was a shame that we weren’t closer, but I had things to do if I wanted to secure her future; social connections that had to be made in order for her to meet the right boy to marry; parties to attend in order to meet the professors and headmasters that would help get her into an Ivy League school; press contacts to befriend in case (god forbid) she was ever caught up in a scandal. I gazed out of the window as I thought about my daughter, I wanted the best for her; I wanted this city to be her oyster.

Sighing and moving away from the window I picked up the phone and dialed the number of her school.

“Headmistress Robbins please.” I said to the secretary who answered. She delicately told me the headmistress was unable to speak at the moment, I wasn’t having that. “This is Mrs. Stanislopolous, Electra Belgravia’s mother…” I waited a few seconds before the power of a good name got me straight through.

“Mrs. Stanislopolous, I presume you got my message, thank you for calling me back so soon.”

“Yes of course headmistress, now tell me what seems to be the problem?” I hoped it wasn’t serious, that school was the best in the city.

“It is apparent that your daughter and a small group of other girls have been bullying one of our scholarship students, almost to the point of a mental breakdown.”

“What?! There must be some mistake, Electra would never-” I was cut off by the headmistress,

“I know it’s hard to hear, but this type of behavior can absolutely not be tolerated, and my only option is to expel your daughter, immediately.

“You can’t be serious? Electra is a model student, she tells me her grades are wonderful.” I was perplexed. Bullying? Electra? I thought the worst scenario would be if she was being bullied, I never expected her to be the bully!

“Well it seems your daughter has also been lying to you recently. She was a model student, but over the last year things have took a turn for the worse. Her grades are borderline at best, and even those are gained by bullying students into doing her work for her.”

“What on earth?! I-” I was about to go on a rant, I could feel my anger at Electra bubbling over, but I couldn’t scream at the headmistress. What would she think of me if I did. I had to think, and fast. That school had everything she would ever need, the best teachers, the best campus, her classmates were the spawn of the rich, famous, or powerful, and successful graduation would ensure her admission to any of the Ivys. Then it hit me. What did schools always need? Money.

“Headmistress Robbins, I’m sure we can discuss this. Let me tell you what I propose…”

*       *       *

I laughed to myself all throughout the elevator ride. Angela definitely wouldn’t be coming back to school now. I couldn’t wait for the girls to get here in a few hours, we could talk all about our next target.

“Mother!?” I said in shock as I came out of the elevator. What was she doing here?! I thought she was in London for the week. Crap, I’d have to cancel the girls.

“Ah, Electra. Where have you been?” Mama put her book down and stood up, looking at me like she’d never looked at me before. She was really angry, crap!

“Um- fine. I thought you were in London.” I said, looking at her as I walked across the room, trying to edge towards my bedroom.

“Fine?! You got expelled. Expelled!” I didn’t know what to say to her, I just stood with my mouth open as she stared at me. “Well?! What have you got to say for yourself? Are you proud? Bullying a girl to the point of, in your headmistresses words, ‘a mental breakdown’. Electra how could you.” How did she know?!

“Mother I’m sorry, but it wasn’t just me…” She seemed much taller than she ever had in the past, stood with her arms folded, glaring at me.

“No it wasn’t was it, it was your little cronies too. Mrs Robbins told me all about your little gang, with you as the leader, which is why your punishment was so much harsher than the other girls.” No, no, no! I hadn’t meant to get expelled! I just wanted mama to notice me!

“Fortunately I found a way to handle the situation and headmistress Robbins is willing to turn your expulsion into a suspension.” I quietly asked what she was talking about, she had talked her way out of my expulsion? “I’ll be making a donation to the school in order to keep you in it.” So she paid for me to stay there? I guess she was right, money really does solve everything.

“I didn’t mean to mother! I just wanted you to notice me!!” I screamed before I could stop myself, at least now she’d know how I felt.

“Notice you?! Of course I notice you Electra! If you think I don’t care about it then your mind is as messed up as your outfit!” Trust mama to criticise my clothes while screaming at me for getting expelled.

“No you don’t! All you care about is what people think, putting on an act so you can win mom of the year when really you don’t know anything about us! Have you even seen Sebastian recently? I bet I know more about him than you!”

“HOW DARE YOU?!” She screamed at me as she crossed the room, crap, I had never seen her so angry.

“Go to your room right now Electra.” She sighed, her anger quickly simmering down and turning into frustration. She pinched her nose with her fingers as she spoke, as if battling a migraine, was I really that annoying? “And if you get in any more trouble at that school we’ll have big problems. Do you understand?” Okay, so it wasn’t nice what we did to Angela, and I really did feel bad about, in retrospect she didn’t deserve it… but I kind of had to stop myself from smiling, this was the most honest conversation I had ever had with mama.

*     *     *

There she was. Damn she was cute wasn’t she? I thought to myself as I looked across the quad to where Amber Lloyd was in a conversation with her friend Casey. Thomas had told me to ask her to be my girlfriend, but I didn’t know how to. What was I meant to say? ‘hey you’re cute – wanna go out with me?’ she’d think I was an idiot! C’mon Sebastian… pull it together.

Plucking up my courage I walked across the quad to where she was stood with her friend who stepped aside as I came over and stared at me with her eyebrows raised.

“Um- hi, I’m Sebastian…” I said awkwardly, staring at the ground. I glanced over at her friend who had her head down trying to stifle her laughter.

“I know. I’m Amber, nice to finally meet you.” She smiled up at me sweetly, her cheeks getting a little rosy either from nerves or the cold. Probably the cold, why would she be nervous around me?

“So erm, how are you? Want to do something?” I asked hopefully, I didn’t know how to go about being ‘coy’ or whatever, so I just asked.

I looked at her hopefully, willing her to say yes. I smiled slightly before my face set in an impassive line, watching her thinking about it. What was taking so long?! I could feel my face burning as I waited and I willed myself to calm down.

“No.” My face fell as she said the words, and I was about to slink away in shame before she spoke again, “Well yes, I do want to.” My face rose in hope. “I just can’t, there’s this um- dog that I feed every day after school, a stray. I can’t just leave him to go hungry today.” Yes! She did want to, and she was kind too, feeding a stray dog.

She looked at me as if it was her fault as she spoke, clearly regretting that she had to leave.

“How about if I come with you?” I asked hopefully, smiling at her. She didn’t miss a beat before she clapped her hands together and smiled.

“Oh would you? That would be so great, non of my other friends will come because the parks kind of far away and pretty rough.”

We ran out of the school straight away, both running past our awaiting limos and onto the backstreet behind the school. It took us a long time to reach the park, she was definitely right about both things: it was far away, and it was rough. I had lived in the city for years now, and although there were some rough parts I was usually in a car or if I had to go downtown mama sent a guard with me. I definitely needed one now, because as soon as we stepped in an awful looking man with cuts all over his face came running towards us.

“Kids!! Got any money for a man in hard times?” He asked in his raspy voice. Amber cowered behind me as he spoke, leering over us. I grabbed a 5 out of my pocket and shoved it into his hands before we quickly got away, best not to encourage him. We began to forget about him as we strolled through the park, fighting our way through the thick plants to where she assured me the dog would be, both looking around for signs of danger.

Battling the nettles and little creatures that ran beneath our feet caused us to bump into each other a few times, every time we did we’d look at each other and smile shyly. She definitely liked me, well I hoped she did. After about 20 minutes of walking we finally came to the clearing, where the sweetest little dog was sat, obviously waiting for Amber.

“Hello Dog, how’re you?” Amber asked, rushing over and stroking the little things brown back, it responded with a few barks. “Do you like her?” She looked up at me hopefully.

“She’s cool.” I replied, I thought she was the sweetest thing I’d ever seen, but I didn’t want to sound like a girl or something.

“Here’s what you have been waiting for!” Amber exclaimed, fishing a few treats out of her pocket and dropping them into the dogs mouth.

The dog barked its approval, eating treat after treat after treat as she emptied her pockets into the dogs mouth.

“I wish I could take her home with me but mother would never let me. She’s so cute isn’t she.” She smiled down at her after giving her the last treat, she clearly loved the little dog.

“What’s her name?” I asked as I looked down at her, wondering if I should stroke her. Would she bite me?

“Dog.” She laughed, “I didn’t know what to call her so it’s just Dog.” She turned away and let the dog have a good look at me, and before I knew it she was bounding towards me, I raised my arms in panic, ready to protect my face from the sharp teeth, but as I felt Dog collide with me I realised she wasn’t trying to bite me, just get into my arms.

“Ohh!” I said in shock, awkwardly holding the little thing before it got settled properly.

“She likes you!” Amber shouted happily from behind us as Dog started licking my face.

I could feel myself falling in love with the little dog just like Amber, too bad mama would be furious if I took her home, she said that a penthouse wasn’t the right environment for a pet when I’d asked her for a dog a few months ago. The three of us played for a while, passing Dog between us, stroking her belly and letting her sniff us before she jumped back into my arms, clearly she liked me. We were just about to leave when we heard a rustling through the trees, and the man from earlier burst out!!

“You rich kids!! Of course you have more money, I can tell by your uptown school uniforms, now gimmie some money!!” He yelled at us, brandishing his fists as he stumbled out of the bushes.

“Back off! We don’t have any more money!” I shouted at him, pushing Amber behind me for safety and clinging tightly onto Dog.

“You sayin’ I’m lying?! Why I oughta…” He narrowed his eyes at us, checking out the bulge of my wallet in my pocket.

As he moved towards us I panicked, what was I meant to do?! Just as I psyched myself up to fight him and protect Amber I felt Dog squirming in my arms, barking furiously as she had been since the man first came out of the bushes. Jumping out of my arms she stood in front of me and Amber, between us and the man, baring her teeth and growling at him.

“Stupid little dog! Move!” He aimed a kick at her, luckily missing and allowing Dog to run underneath him and bite at his exposed ankles. “Owwwch!!” He screamed, a pinch of blood on his leg.

“Yeah that’s it Dog, get him!!” I yelled from the sidelines as she ran around in circles biting his ankles.

“You kids are crazy! I’m outta here!” He screamed, running into the bushes with Dog hot on his heels.

We both sung our praises as Dog came back, picking her up, patting her belly and stroking behind her ears. She was a little thing but she was definitely brave.

“We can’t leave her here, what if that awful man comes back to get her…” Amber said anxiously, looking nervously around. She was obviously right, we had to get Dog (and ourselves) out of here before he came back.

“I have an idea.” I announced, picking up Dog and making my way through the bushes with Amber hot on my heels.

I tipped the taxi guy a ten (the guy from the park was right – I did have money, but I wasn’t giving it to someone so rude) as he dropped me off outside my building and waved goodbye to Amber as the taxi drove her to her building which was a few streets down.

“This is your new home.” I said to Dog, letting her look around for a while before carrying her through the lobby.

Luckily no one seemed to be home when we got back, mama and Electra had a big argument a few weeks ago and now both of them were barely home, I think mama was in Paris and Electra had flown to Martha’s Vineyard for a week with her friend, I wasn’t really sure. Me and Dog passed moms work in progress as we walked to the bedroom, a wall of family photos, which even included Dimitri – ugh! Maybe one day Dog could be up there, although mama would probably throw her out if she ever found her. I was going to have to be very sneaky.

Watching her jump onto my bed as we walked into my bedroom made me break out in a huge smile at the events of the day. I’d helped save Amber from an evil tramp, got myself a lovely pet, and I was getting closer to Amber than I ever expected. Not bad for a days work.

Generation 3 – Chapter 6

“Let me start off by saying how sorry I am, it must be really hard for you, going through this divorce. If there’s anything -” I cut off my high priced lawyer mid sentence. I wasn’t interested in the niceties.

“You can drop the concerned lawyer act. You want to make money, I want to make money. Lets just work together and take my husband for every penny he’s got.” She stared at me for a long while after I spoke, probably trying to figure me out.

It was when the smile spread across her face and she said, “Lets take the bastard down.” That I knew I had picked the right person for the job. I proceeded to tell her all about the marriage, leaving out the parts about me withholding sex of course. “How much are you looking for? Ballpoint.”

“I want 100 million.” I said with conviction. I didn’t actually know how much the Elphinstones had, but I knew that they were loaded. 100 million would be fine, I deserved it.

“What?!” She threw her arms up in the air, “100 mil? You really think he’s gonna pay you that amount of money?”

“He will once I show him these.” Fishing around in my Mulberry I pulled out the dossier I had taken from the investigators house, and watched the realisation dawn on her face as she flicked through the pages. “Still don’t think I can get it?” I asked, smiling at her and rubbing my hands together in anticipation of how rich I would soon be.

“Olive, this is a question I don’t usually ask,” She began, pulling her chair around so she was next to me, “but what do you really want out of this divorce? Is it purely for financial gain, as I first thought, or is it something else. I’m happy to help you either way,” I should think so, that’s what I was paying her for! “but I’m just curious.”

It was an understandable question for sure, and one I had held the answer to since I first spoke to Max when I was working at the bar. “I just want what any girl wants,” I gave her a long, penetrating look; I had to get her on my side. “to be free.”

“Anyway I must go.” I said as I stood up and glanced at my new Cartier watch (a parting gift on Maxs credit card – as were the Harry Winston diamonds at my ears) “I have an appointment at Nicky Clarke.”

“Yes, of course. I’ll call you when I’ve set up a meeting with his lawyers.” She began leafing through a huge folder covered in stick-notes before she looked up at me, “He does know, doesn’t he?”

*   *   *

Emerging from Nicky Clarke 3 hours later I felt like my old self again.

Now that I was free of Max I could shed the past – including Reena’s makeover. I had finally washed all the reminders of Miami off of me, well, except for the obvious one. As much as I tried not to think about it, I knew it would never leave me. I had booked myself into a spa for the rest of the day, but making my way down the street my plans were washed away by a phonecall.

‘Ellis’, read the screen, my lawyer.

“What is it?” I asked, still making my way down the busy street.

“Olive? Thank god you answered, I’ve been ringing you for the past hour. Everyone’s waiting, I just contacted Max’s lawyers and they came in for an immediate sit down. Get back to my office, now!” Quickly I called my driver, and safely enclosed in the limo I wondered why they wanted the meeting so soon, maybe they just wanted to get it out of the way. Max must have been shocked when he found out, I hadn’t even told him I was divorcing him, he must have thought everything was fine, and that I didn’t know all about his little extra curricular activities.

“So sorry I’m late.” I said as I quickly sat down next to Ellis in the conference room, across from Max and his obscenely overpaid lawyer, Randal Fairclough.

“Okay, we can begin.” Randal said, straightening the cuffs of his whiter than white shirt beneath the pinstripe suit. “In the case of Maxwell Elphinstone vs Olivia Elphinstone we are prepared to go with an opening offer of 1 million dollars. Quite a fair settlement for such a short marriage, with no probable cause for divorce.”

“Ridiculous!” Ellis exclaimed, throwing her hands in the air. “With the wealth of the Elphinstone family, and the fact that my client will be a single mother supporting two children once this divorce is finalised, we are pushing for a considerably higher settlement.”

As the two lawyers went at it me and Max resorted to staring at each other across the table. His face was impassive, I didn’t know what he was thinking, but I wasn’t going to be the first to look away.

“I like your hair.” He said suddenly, interrupting the staring match we had been going at for 10 minutes. I didn’t reply, just smiled weakly, tilting my head slightly and gazing across the expanse of glass at him.

He was handsome, but it was his money that was his appeal. He had no force to him, no driving ambition behind his millions, it had all just fallen into his lap. Elphinstone Diamond had been passed through the family for generations, and was overseen by a board of directors who never let things get out of control. Even his mother had more force in her than him, at least she had fire inside of her. She was probably the one who put Max’s out.

“No probable cause for divorce? Take a look at these.” I heard Ellis shout, sliding the dossier across the table. Max with his secretary. Max with his masseuse. Max with his favourite waitress at the local restaurant. Men were such pigs, I was going to take every penny off him. Although I was only 23 I had learnt that men couldn’t be trusted, ever. They could take care of you financially, entertain you sexually, but you should never trust them, they would always hurt you. Granted I had driven Max to other women purposely, but if he had really loved me he wouldn’t have done it at all.

“100 million?!” Randal shouted in shock, “that’s preposterous, extra marital affairs are nothing knew, and certainly not worth 100 million!”

“Does your client really want a scandal like this getting out?” Ellis asked smoothly, leaving Randal fuming. “Olive? Are you okay?” She asked, looking over her shoulder at me as she noticed the locked eyes of me and Max. I was still looking at him, why couldn’t men just be good?

I didn’t answer, and she was quickly distracted by more bullshit from Randal’s mouth.

“Why are you doing this Olivia?” Max whispered slowly, his face a mixture of anger and sadness. Why was I doing this?! Was he being serious, could he not see the photos?

“They’re offering 50. Olive!” Ellis said, snapping me out of my daze. I wasn’t going to answer Max, he knew fine well why I was doing this.

“100.” I told Randal with conviction. I wasn’t taking 50, it would hardly get me anywhere.

“Pah!” He threw his hands up in the air in frustration, “we are not prepared to offer that. If we can’t settle this here we’ll have to take it to court.”

“Fine by us.” Ellis told him as she gathered her things together. “Don’t worry, the judge will side with you, you’re the cheated woman with two children to support whose done nothing wrong.” She whispered into my ear, patting my shoulder and clicking her heels off down the hallway, followed quickly by Randal and Max, leaving me alone to muse over the situation. Would I really win if this case went to court? I’d make a few calls, try and make sure I had a sympathetic judge, dress myself demurely in a pastel colour, take off all my makeup, maybe pull my hair back into braids…

“Hello Olivia.” said a voice from behind me, jolting me out of my plan.

“Randal just filled me in on your demands. 100 million? Ambitious to say the least.” Elizabeth said cooly, moving across the room to gaze out of the windows of the high rise building to the city beneath. “I’ll give you 60 million, and you won’t need to go to the press about my sons… indiscretions.”

“100 million Elizabeth. A judge would give me that for sure.” I said bluntly. Her being here just proved how much more fire she had than Max, he would never have dared to negotiate with me without the aid of a lawyer.

“Don’t be so sure, you may walk out of the court with even less than 50 million, depending what mood the judge is in. Think about it, are you willing to risk millions of dollars on the hope that the judge will side with you?” She still faced the window, giving her a sinister twist not suited to the pink suit which she was wearing.

What she was saying made sense, if Max’s lawyer was so well paid he was sure to be a skilled negotiator in court, and if he could make the case that I had purposely withheld sex in order to catch Max in a compromising position… it didn’t bare thinking about. The only way out of that situation would be to bring up my past, and that was something I wasn’t willing to do.

“Make it 90.” I told her, suddenly deciding that she was right; this was the best way.

“I’m glad to see you’ve come to your senses.” She finally turned around and faced me as she spoke.

“Ill give you 70. I hope you realise how much money this is Olivia, I’m not going up from 1000 to 2000 here, I’m adding 10 million dollars. Take it.” She was smooth as she spoke, her voice never raising even an inch, only dripping with venom.

“Make it 75 and we have a deal. And I hope you realise I’m knocking 25 million,” I repeated her words, “off my original total.”

“Ah Olivia, you drive a hard bargain, I always knew you were a little money grabbing tart.” She gave me a half smile and tapped her drummed her fingers on the table as she thought about my offer.

“You have a deal. You know,” she said as she fished around in her bag, “you’re lucky you had a boy, if it was a girl I’d be offering you about half of this. And I wouldn’t budge.” She put two contracts down in front of me, one was a confidentiality agreement, that basically said I couldn’t mention the fact that I’d caught Max with several other women, and I couldn’t disclose the amount of money I received in the settlement. The other was the actual divorce paper, all I had to do was sign.

“If that money isn’t transferred to my bank in the next 48 hours,” I said before I signed, “then I’ll call every newspaper in Europe and tell them all about Max, I’ll give interviews on every show that will take me and I’ll drive your families name into the ground. Understood?” My pen flew across the page in a blur. I was officially a divorcée.

*     *     *

Pacing up and down the private lounge of the airport waiting for my flight was driving me nuts. This is what you get when you fly commercial!

“How much longer do I have to wait?!” I barked to a passing receptionist, who quickly went into apologetic mode.

“I’m terribly sorry ma’am, the plane is being refueled. Shouldn’t be much longer now.” She threw me a fake smile which really set me off.

“Get the plane here now. I have been forced to fly commercial after a tumultuous divorce and this is how you treat me? I’ve never seen anything like it, if the plane isn’t here soon I’ll be having words with your manager.”

“Um – I’m sorry. I’ll try and see whats going on. Can I get you anything while you wait?” She squirmed uncomfortably in front of me, so pathetic.

“Just go.” I said, pursing my lips and narrowing my eyes, sending her practically running into the next room. Fortunately for her the announcement that flight 246 was ready to board ran through the airport, and shortly afterwards I was ensconced in the air conditioned comfort of first class. It could never beat the Elphinstone jet, but it would have to do; the use of the jet was (unfortunately) not available to ex-wives.

*     *     *

Driving through the winding streets I kept my eyes closed. I had such nostalgia it was unbearable. Why didn’t I just fly to London or Paris?

Electra, now 7 years old sat beside me, and Marie held little Sebastian. After the divorce a judge had granted me full custody due to the ‘unsatisfactory role model Maxwell Elphinstone would provide for his son, with his hurtful treatment of his wife by indulging in affairs with several different women’ with Max having supervised custody rights for a week every other month. I didn’t really know what to do about it, it would be important for Sebastian to have a father figure; I knew that much. But was Max a good father figure? Maybe I’d have to find someone to fill Max’s shoes, at least for Sebastian and Electra’s sakes.

“Ma’am, we’re here.” The drivers voice came through the car speakers. Getting out of the car I made my way nervously to the front door, I didn’t know what to expect. Time seemed to slow down after I pressed the bell, standing there in front of the door, bracing myself. I took a sharp intake of breath as the door opened a a figure appeared in the doorway, her passive face quickly turning to one of shock.

“Hi Mom. I’m home.”

Generation 3 – Chapter 5

Admiring my body in the dressing room mirror I wailed that it would soon be bloated out with another child growing inside of me. Since the night me and Max had sex I had felt a little better about myself, he actually wanted to be with me, he liked the way I looked. He didn’t want to rape me and defile my body, he wanted to be with me. I was throwing up less and less lately, preparing myself for another pregnancy, I was also happier with my weight, I couldn’t really get much skinnier.

“Olivia?! What on earth are you doing in there?” I heard the shrill, clipped tones of Elizabeth from outside the dressing room and groaned. She was so infuriating, insisting on coming with me on my first major shopping trip, probably to make sure I didn’t buy anything too brash which would taint the ultra-conservative Elphinstone name. Tucking the $400 Calvin Klien t-shirt into the white Halston skirt and finishing it off with a $2500 Chanel jacket I went outside to see what she thought.

“Perfect darling. It seems I’ve still, as so many people say, ‘got it’.” She pursed her lips in a grotesque smile, clearly pleased with her modern terminology.

“It’s very conservative Elizabeth, isn’t it a little old for me?” I asked, tugging on the jacket and smoothing down the skirt.

“No, no, no. Now I know you’re young but you must understand this is the perfect outfit for a woman of the class which you now are. You cannot be seen in hot pants and an electric blue vest top, or something of that sort. Quelle horror!” I stared at her for a long while, trying to figure out if she was genuinely being kind or if she was just making sure I didn’t embarrass the family, probably the latter.

I felt older than my years through many of the outfits I chose over the next 3 hours. I flew through the stores buying everything from tights to sunglasses, from jackets to shoes, with a trip to Bulgari to finish it off, picking out several exquisite diamond pieces. The joy of credit cards eh? Elizabeth had looked disapproving as I bought so much, but surely she knew the price of looking good, she may not look like it now, but one day she must have spent money on decent clothes, and judging by the rocks on her ears she certainly still knew how to spend.

Max and I had fallen into an uneasy routine, still finding our feet, not 100% sure of the way the other worked yet, which was fine by me. We lived our lives pretty much separately. I spent the day at the spa, in the limousine taking in the sights, or out shopping. Max spent the morning in the home office, the afternoon in the work office (Elphinstone Diamond spanned much farther than I originally thought) and the two of us would meet up for dinner or a party in the evenings.

“You okay?” I asked as I padded into the bathroom one day, as we both got ready to go to a party at the cliffside mansion of one of his close friends.

Are you okay.” He said. What? Seeing the confused expression on my face he elaborated, “It’s are you okay. Not ‘you okay’. I don’t mean to criticize….” He continued rambling but I’d stopped listening to him, hurrying over to the small radio I cranked the dial up. ’23 year old Riley Sampson was found dead in suspicious circumstances yesterday at his uncles home in Miami, the family are asking to be left alone during this sad time.”

“Max! That’s him, he’s the one!” I shouted across the room.

“I know. If you ask me he deserves it. Good riddance.” He continued brushing his teeth as if nothing had happened. Riley was dead! What had happened to him, could it have been…? No!

“Max? Did you… did you do this?” I asked slowly, wrapping my arms around myself.

“Olivia! Don’t be stupid, I would never do such a thing and for you to even think that is… well frankly it is both ridiculous and offensive!” He glared at me, willing me to argue back.

“Okay, I’m sorry.” I said, extending a hand of apology.

“Come. We shouldn’t keep the driver waiting.” He hurried me along out into the passageway and into the waiting car. I vowed then and there to stop thinking of Riley. It was over now.

*    *    *

The year of my pregnancy was a whirlwind introduction to the European social scene. Max and I jetted from Saint-Sébastien to Paris, from Rome to Berlin, London to Vienna, Amsterdam to Prague. The private jet that I managed to persuade Max to buy was a godsend, I couldn’t have bared all those trips mixing with the commoners in first class, they let in anyone these days. Max’s friends were an eclectic bunch of socialites, celebrities, businessmen, artists and club hoppers, and they fascinated me. I loved being part of their scene, being photographed for major European magazines and being on the front page of the tabloids, having artists asking to photograph me for galleries or paint me for an upcoming show. For 6 months I was introduced to everyone that mattered. I kept off the drink for the sake of the child, as well as trying to stop my bulimia. I slipped up once, after a roast dinner at a traditional pub in London where we were dining with a new business associate, but otherwise I was doing well. The pregnancy slowed me down a little, in the last few months I went back to the house in Saint-Sébastien alone, Max had flown back home for business, but France had basically became our permanent residence. I couldn’t go back home, not yet. (N.B – There are no pictures of the pregnancy apart from this one due to my games strange choice of attire for her during pregnancy – naked from the waist down and a vest top with bright red heels.)

Another difficult birth produced Sebastian Belgravia, (who definitely inherited the family cheekbones – have you ever seen a child with such a defined face?!) named after his birthplace. The heir to the Elpinstone fortune, and a sure means of me getting as much money as I want if we ever divorce.

*   *   *

“Marie, keep up.” I barked at the au pair carrying Sebastian as I entered the house. “I definitely need a spa break, flying so much is taking it’s toll on me.” I remarked to her as we walked into main living area.

“Just set Sebastian down here if you will, and then go and check on Electra. I told Renee to have her in her crib by the time we got here, but you know what part time nannies are like, they don’t care about the children as long as they get their pay check. I trust you much more.” Marie now worked for me full time, with her own quarters in the house, and I couldn’t have done without her. Quite a cushy job I would say, jet setting around Europe with me. I sometimes even took her out to restraunts and such if I wanted people to meet the children. As she put him down I noticed how he grabbed for her, as if begging her not to leave. He’d never done that to me.

“Come to Mommy!” I scooped him into my arms and swung him round the room, at first he screamed in fright, Marie wasn’t allowed to do such things in case she dropped the children, so he wasn’t used to it, but he soon the screams became screams of joy. I loved both of my children, but I had to keep up a particular schedule now that I was a fixture on the European social scene, and I didn’t have as much time with them as I would have liked.

“Do you want to do some reading? We haven’t done that for a while.” I said as I set him down on the rug and pulled a childrens book from the shelf before joining him.

“Wead. Mama wead!” He shouted, slamming his little hands on the floor.

“Okay, okay, I’ll read and you can tell me about the pictures, okay? Come here, sit closer to me.” I smiled down at my little son, reaching my arm across his shoulders so he could see the book.

“..and the whale swam faster and faster, looking for his friend.” I watched him smile as I read him the story, which was about whales looking for friendship, as well as doubling up as a maths book, helping with counting. “How many whales can you see on this page Sebastian?” He looked at the page, clearly confused.

“Mama?”

“How many whales?” I asked, pointing to one of the pictures.

“No! Next!” He yelled, trying to turn the page and giggling.

“Mrs. Elphinstone?” I heard from behind me as I giggled along with Sebastian.

“Yes?” I asked, turning around to face the two women who were framed in the doorway, cameras and notepads at the ready.

“We’re here for the photoshoot. So nice to see you here with your son, such a candid moment.” She smiled down at us, she would probably write about how she found me reading with my son, still making time for my children even with such a busy schedule, which would increase public opinion of me. The photographer behind her snapped a few pictures before I stood up, might as well put a face to the story.

“It’s so kind of you to travel all the way to the house for me.” I said graciously as I stood up and a team of makeup artists and hairstylists made me camera ready. A quick fluff piece followed, questions about my fashion, children, and my charity. I evaded all questions about my childhood and the family wealth, which Elizabeth had told me I was to under no means discuss.

“Thank you for the interview. Can you just turn your head, we want to get a few shots of you. We’re putting you on the cover you’ll be pleased to know. Oh that’s perfect!” She clapped her hands in delight as I turned my head and stared at the camera, showing off my profile.

“Well that’s a wrap. Thanks for your time. Magazine should be out next month.” She slipped me a card as she left, telling me how much she hoped for another interview someday. I probably wouldn’t give another one, there were many more magazines to be conquered. As the day began to wind down, the sun not yet casting its orange glow across the world I settled down to enjoy a book I had just recently purchased when Max came barging into the house.

“Olivia!” He exclaimed, clearly surprised to see me. “What are you doing here, I thought you were in Geneva until Tuesday?”

“I had a photoshoot.” I mumbled, barely looking up from the book. He didn’t approve of all the publicity I was doing, he preferred to keep a low profile, only being known to the elite of Europe, not the commoners who devoured the magazines his friends owned. I knew he was glaring at me, he did every time I did publicity.

“Olivia.” His voice was so commanding I put the book down. “You know I don’t approve of all your publicity, and neither does mother.” I didn’t give a rats ass what his mother thought of me, I had secured my place in the family by having Sebastian, there was nothing she could do now. “And frankly you’re spending too much money. The bank showed me a bill for three hundred thousand euros a few weeks back. How did you spend all that in one weekend?”

“Oh Max just leave it, it’s only money.” Why he was so angry I didn’t know, it was only three hundred thousand.

“I know how you can make it up to me.” He whispered as he came over to the sofa and attempted to put his arm around me.

“Max!” I shouted, shrugging his arm off of my shoulders.

“Why Olivia?! We are man and wife, and sex is part of it!”

“You know why!” I shouted, giving him my sad eyes. I would have been quite happy to go to bed with him in reality, but that wasn’t part of the plan. “Just stop.”

“Okay, okay.” He replied, throwing his arm up in defeat.

“Can’t you understand that I can’t do it?”

“Olivia, we haven’t had sex since the night we conceived Sebastian. You have to break down those walls of defense again. Or,” He added, raising his voice, “I’ll find it somewhere else.”

I knew he had meant to hurt me with those words, but what he didn’t know is the exact thing that I wanted was for him to find someone else.

*   *   *

“Olive Belgravia?” The raspy voice asked as I picked up my cell a few weeks later.

“This is she.”

“I have some information, will you come in?” The voice was impassive, showing no emotion, giving nothing away. Ten minutes later I raced from the house in my car, speeding much to fast to the shabby offices downtown. Entering his office gave me the feeling of being in an old movie, the smell of smoke was overpowering, the dark blinds filtered out the light, making the never ending dust which floated around glint in the strips of sunlight that managed to get inside the room. Books and folders were crammed on every available surface, and a side table groaned with half empty bottles of various spirits.

The investigator stood up and moved to the window, strips of sunlight falling on his lackluster skin as he lit up his forty fifth cigarette of the day. “Take a look at that.” He took a drag on his cigarette and nodded to a pile of tightly bound dossiers.

“It seems your suspicions were right.” He said blankly, taking another drag. “You might wanna have a listen to the tape too. More evidence.” He looked out of the window again, turning his back on me. As I opened the dossier a sly smile spread across my face. These files contained everything I needed to finally be free, to finally be independent. And I intended to use them for just that purpose.

Generation 3 – Chapter 4

My heart ached as I typed ‘Belgravia’ into the search bar on Redcliffe’s leading gossip website, the host of entries that popped up made me want to break down and weep. The first one detailed the wedding of Kitty to someone named Laurence Williamson, whoever that was. I wish I could have been there for her, she must think I was the worst sister in the world. The next one told of the death of grandfather Chace, who died peacefully at the Chace Belgravia Wing of Redcliffe Memorial Hospital last Tuesday.

He joins his wife, celebrated actress Lily, who died 2 years ago.’ Lily and Chace were both dead?! Why wasn’t I there, I should have been there to comfort mom, who must have been crying her heart out. Ugh, I hated myself so much. More entries told me of the marriage of Oliver and Celeste, as well as the births of their children (I was an aunt now, what was I missing?!) and many posts showing Cora tearing up the Bridgeport nightlife scene after performing shows with her band. As bad as I felt, looking down at little Electra playing by my feet brought me back to reality.

I had to marry Max, it was the only way to ensure our financial security. And I would marry him, tomorrow. But first I had to get to Elphinstone Manor, where Elizabeth had set up a room for me, ready for the big day, such a hassle, but clearly a necessity with a pushy, traditional mother like Elizabeth. Throwing Electra into the baby seat of my new car (a gift from Max) I raced well over the speed limit through the winding streets until I saw the house looming over us in the distance, as imposing and overbearing as Max’s mother.

“Anyone home?” I shouted as my heels tapped on the marble floor.

“Darling, finally. You know how I simply hate to be kept waiting, get up here at once.” Elizabeth chided from her position on the upstairs landing, “and for goodness sake get rid of the child. Why do you think God invented nannies?” She said with a sigh, looking distastefully at Electra.

Hurriedly I handed Electra to one of the nannies and made my way upstairs, I thought I heard a little cry of ‘mommy’ from downstairs, but it was probably just my imagination.

After a restless nights sleep I sat in front of the mirror, trying to apply my makeup, but I was shaking so much it wasn’t going very well. Was I really doing the right thing, marrying this man? I barely knew anything about him, except that he was rich. We hadn’t even kissed yet, except for the peck I gave him when he proposed. Oh well, it was too late now.

He stood alone by the wooden arch decorated with flowers under which we were to married. Most of his friends lived in Europe, and he had told me he didn’t want to hassle them by asking them to fly out. So our wedding was a hassle was it? I didn’t mind, I had no one of my own to invite apart from Darcy, whom Elizabeth had promptly crossed off of the list for ‘being too common’. ‘She’d feel silly at such a formal wedding darling, better not to embarrass her.’ Elizabeth had told me. What a bitch, sat there in her white, didn’t she know only the bride was supposed to wear white?

I made my way nervously through the small crowd, feeling myself blushing as everyone stared at me. I felt fat and disgusting, I had thrown up last nights dinner but it hadn’t made a difference, I still felt ugly. Max smiled at me as I stood in front of him. I forced myself to smile back. As  he slipped the ring on my finger it became official, I was now part of the Elphinstone family, the biggest exporter of diamonds in the country.

Grabbing each others hands we smiled, and then he moved in for the kill. The big finish, the kiss. I felt sick as he moved towards me, as if the world itself was closing in on me, crushing my body. My breath was coming in short gasps, I wanted to push him away but I couldn’t make a scene. Then his lips were on mine, the gentle touch felt amplified fifty times over, it was Riley all over again, on top of me, ripping the dress of my body, forcing himself onto me. Hurriedly I backed off, and forgetting the crowd I ran to the wall, hoisted myself over, and ran.

The world seemed to melt away as I ran, I was back in Miami, running from that house, away from him. I ran and ran, right to the edge of the cliff, which overlooked a beautiful waterfall. This was all mine now, I was an Elphinstone, and as they owned all the land around here, it was mine. But not if I kept this up. I had to sleep with Max, or he’d be allowed to annul our marriage by law. But I couldn’t do it, it was too painful.

Surely Max would look after Electra if something happened to me? If I just happened to slip now, and crash onto the rocks below, she’d be well cared for, wouldn’t she? I didn’t want to leave her with no mother, but I’d rather have money than a dysfunctional mother like me. It was always an option. I must have sat by the cliffside for hours before I made my way back to the house. Sneaking into the bedroom, expecting Max to be fast asleep I was shocked to find him awake, laid on the bed, no doubt waiting for me.

“Thank God you’re alright.” He said as I came in, heaving himself up a little.

“I just couldn’t Max, it was too many memories, too much pressure.” I stuttered, looking down.

“Well you bloody well could have tried to make less a scene, people actually laughed you know!”

“I’m sorry.” Was all I could say. I looked down at the floor in shame, why was I such a screw up?

“It’s okay, I’m sorry.” He stood up, coming towards me as if to comfort me, but thinking against it he moved to the fireplace instead, poking the flames which were threatening to go out. “Why don’t we get away? We can take Electra, show her some culture, get a bit of relaxation. This could be our honeymoon.” He looked at me hopefully, god it was hard seeing him like this, he clearly liked me a lot more than I liked him.

“Okay.” I mumbled, still extremely embarrassed. A few hours later we were on the Elphinstone jet on our way to France.

*   *   *

After 10 hours in first class Max, Electra and I emerged into the heat of Saint-Sébastien in the Côte D’azur, or the French Rivera. I was awestruck by the beauty of the place as the limousine drove through the dense forest that kept the house secluded and down the huge tree lined driveway that led to the house. Electra loved the place, I’d sit outside, gazing out across the lake, occasionally catching glances of Electra screaming with joy as she ran around with her French au pair Marie.

The place was so peaceful, totally cut off from the outside world. Unlike Elphinstone Manor it was not grand and imposing, it was more of a farmhouse, although it was still huge. Smiling to myself I thought about how I could really get used to it here, it was much better than being back home, plagued with memories of Riley and of my wedding antics.

“Olivia? Olivia!” I could hear Max’s voice ringing through the house, he had started calling me Olivia recently, which infuriated me. My name was Olive. Okay so my given name was Olivia, but everyone called me Olive. “There you are.” He said as he came out onto the terrace.

“Aren’t you a little hot in that?” He asked as he sat down next to me.

“Aren’t you a little hot in that?” I chided back, fingering his thick jumper.

“Point taken.” the corners of his mouth raised fractionally. “Olivia, we need to talk about it you know.” I knew what he meant, the sex. I had been preparing myself for it since we had arrived 2 weeks ago, but  I was still weary, what if I couldn’t do it?

“I’m ready.” I smiled at him, trying to reassure him. He was sure to divorce me if we couldn’t have sex, it was always part of the equation for men.

“I really think I can do it Max. You know I love you.” We hadn’t said those words to each other yet, which was kind of odd I suppose, weren’t you supposed to be in love before you married? I didn’t know what love felt like, but I loved that Max could protect me and Electra with his millions, so I suppose that was a kind of love. The only kind that mattered was the monetary kind.

“I love you too sweetheart.” He said it with such conviction, his voice lowering and his hand touching his heart, I felt kind of bad that I didn’t love him back. Maybe I did love him, how was I supposed to know what love felt like?

“I’m ready Max, I swear.” I didn’t take my eyes off his as I spoke, when I read a murder mystery while pregnant with Electra it said the first sign of a liar was that they didn’t keep eye contact, so I forced myself to.

“Hmm.” He sighed, looking out to the gardens.

“Max what’s wrong?” I said, staring at his stoic profile.

“If you’re sure, I’ll be waiting upstairs.” With that he stood up and left, heading up to the bedroom. I waited a few minutes before I got up, it was too late to turn back now. We were man and wife, we had to have sex, it just wasn’t logical for us to not. He was fluffing up the pillows when I arrived, he hadn’t noticed me pad silently into the bedroom in my bare feet. He was handsome I suppose, at least I hadn’t had to marry someone ugly.

“I’ll take things slowly, I promise.” He told me as I joined him on the bed. I just tried to breath, I had been doing some research online, and it seemed like you just needed to relax. A lot of the websites I visited told me to call ‘Rape Victim Hotlines’, no thanks, I could barely think about the experience myself, never mind pour my heart out to a bunch of strangers. As his lips came towards mine I shut my eyes and tried to remind myself that this wasn’t Riley, it was my husband.

After a few minutes of kissing he broke away, waiting for my hysterics. They never came. The kissing was actually quite enjoyable, goodness why had I only just caught on?

“Are you okay?” He asked, his mouth agape a little.

“Max, I told you I’m fine. Let’s do this.” I said with a smile, throwing off my jumper and darting under the covers where our child was to be conceived. Part 1 of my plan: complete.


Generation 3 – Chapter 3

Giving birth was the worst thing I had ever done in my life. I never imagined it would be so painful, the nurses had thought I was dying the screams were so loud. Electra Belgravia came out of the womb with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, which the doctors had thankfully fixed. I hadn’t chosen her name until the moment I saw her, when I thought of the tumultuous circumstances of her conception, and of her delivery, Electra had came straight to mind.

She was the most incredible thing, with her sweet smiling face, bright blue eyes, and lovely blonde hair. Strangers would remark how alike we were ‘she has definitely inherited her mommys hair!’ they would skquark as they leaned over the stroller to inspect her. If only they knew it was Riley’s hair, not mine.

She soon became adapt in everything a toddler needed, learning to walk, talk, and poop in quick succession. Watching her making those first tentative steps towards me was one of the proudest moments of my life, and from that moment on I knew I’d never sleep safe again unless she was safe.

Money brought safety. Being a Belgravia had taught me that much at least, which was why I had been on several dates with Maxwell ‘Max’ Elphinstone. He was actually rather interesting, totally not my style, but he had money, and I had to make sure Electra was cared for. Tonights date would be our 8th since I had first met him at the bar, which I was still doing shifts at. I knew I had to look great for this one, although it was kind of hard to make sure I looked good when the only mirror in the house was in the bathroom, which had a blown light. Trying to achieve beauty by the moon light was not for me.

When I arrived at Perdrix D’Or an hour later, after putting Electra in her crib and making sure Darcy (who I had bribed into babysitting by offering to cover one of her shifts) had my phone number, I was thrilled to find we had a private room, just my style. After downing three bottles of wine between us my tounge began to loosen, if I was going to marry this man I should at least tell him the truth, shouldn’t I?

“Max, I know you want to know about Electra’s father, yes?” I couldn’t seem to stop myself telling him, I hadn’t told anyone about my brutal rape, I just had to get it off my chest.

“If you’re ready to talk about it yes.”

“Well the truth is…” Could I really say it out loud, it all began to feel so real, it felt like a distant memory if I just focused on the good that came out of it, the birth of little Electra, but now that I was about to say it I wasn’t so sure, “…I was raped Max. Sorry to just blurt it out, but I had to tell someone. I’m so ashamed.” I was tripping over my words in nerves, my hands shaking so much that my glass fell out of my hand and shattered to the floor, staining the Persian Rug with red wine.

His mouth dropped in horror for a few seconds before he regained his composure, oh god he was going to run out on me, then Electra would grow up with nothing. “Mary, don’t be ashamed. It should be the despicable thing that did that to you that should be ashamed.” He looked down gravely for a few seconds, “I assume this man is Electra’s father?” I nodded back slowly, wiping away a tear that threatened to spill onto the dress I had stolen from Carlie’s wardrobe before I left Miami.

“Max while I’m telling the truth I have another confession,” he was going to think I was a nutcase, with all my lies, “my name isn’t Mary, it’s Olive. I changed it when I ran away, I didn’t want anyone to find me, I was just so embarrassed and ashamed…” what had I gotten myself into? Saying things out loud made me realise the severity of my situation. I was a single mother, working in a bar, trying to raise a child who was the result of a rape in a one bedroom cottage while living under a false name. How had this happened?!

“I know.” he said, throwing his arms up. He knew? What?!

“What do you mean you know?” I asked, deeply confused.

“I know that you’re Olive Belgravia. You’re far too beautiful and cultured to be common Olive. I had my PI do some research on you, and now that you’ve told me the truth…” He jumped out of his chair and got down on one knee. Was this really happening?!

“Olive. You told me the truth, about everything. You are a beautiful woman that I now know I can trust, I can give you the life you left behind back. Will you marry me?” He opened the box, flashing the huge diamond in my face. I hesitated for only a second.

“Of course I will!” I screamed as he slipped the diamond onto my hand, my plan had come together even better than I expected.

Returning home in a daze I found Darcy asleep on the sofa. Quickly shooing her out and running upstairs I grabbed Electra out of her bed and swung her around the room in joy. “Mommy’s getting married sweetie, you hear me, we’re moving out of here!” As happy I was that I could now buy my own Chanel, I was happier that Electra had some security, Max would take care of her, I knew he would. Besides, I had a plan to make sure he couldn’t leave us with nothing.

*   *   *

Three weeks later I went to meet Max’s parents, which I was actually nervous about. I’d never even had a boyfriend before, and now I was engaged to be married, it was surreal. As the taxi pulled up outside the gates of the ancestral Elphinstone manor I felt the nerves getting worse. What if they hated me, what if they refused to allow Max to marry me? What on earth was I saying, he was 52 years old for god sake, he could do what he wanted.

In the foyer I was met by Elizabeth Elphinstone, an overly made up woman in her eighties in a pink Chanel suit who reeked of old money, supposedly a great beauty in her day although I didn’t see it, and Albert Elphinstone, Max’s ruthless father, who had clawed his way to the top of the business, destroying anyone who got in his way.

“It’s so nice to meet you.” I said, extending a hand, which Elizabeth ignored and Albert shook so hard I thought my fingers may break.

“Come dear, lets leave the boys to talk. I want to show you the grounds.” Elizabeth hurried off ahead of me. I was impressed by the gardens, especially the pond, but I had to admit the house was a little daunting. It was a true manor, grand and imposing, whereas my childhood house was really a home, cosy and friendly.

“Now dear I hope you will agree to be married here, just I as was, and my mother before me, and her mother before her. This house has been in my family for generations.” It was becoming clear that this was the woman who ran the show. Her husband had taken her ancient family name when they married, Mrs. Rom wasn’t a name that had appealed to stuck up Elizabeth.

“Yes of course, I couldn’t think of a better setting. I was thinking of doing it over there by the pond.”

“Yes, I think that’s doable…” She mused, looking around her perfectly manicured gardens.

“Maybe have a band over there, and a whole bunch of doves released when we exchange the rings.” I hadn’t really thought about the wedding, I just wanted to get it over with.

Darling! Doves? You simply cannot, now I know you’re relatively new money but you must have some class.” New money? I was a third generation heiress, or I would be if I hadn’t ran away. Now why don’t you just leave everything in my very capable hands, I’ll make sure it’s the perfect wedding.” She spread her arms wide in what I guessed was supposed to be a caring gesture, god she was definitely going to make things hard for me.

“Oh and darling, I took the initiative and booked you a dress fitting, it’s at 5.” She began to walk back to the house before spinning around with a last thought, “Oh, and I do hope you’re not hiding any post-baby weight under that black jumper. A fat bride is most unbecoming.” Yep. Definitely trouble.

Generation 2 – Chapter 6

“You’re gonna love the apartment, it’s fabulous. It may be a little more than you were expecting to pay but… it’s to die for.” It better be, Deborah Mendelson had taken me and Leo around like, at least 15 other apartments, and none of them were what we were looking for. They were all either too small, or just had awful views. It had been tough getting Leo to understand that city apartments cost a lot more than an even bigger house in the country, but you had to pay a price for city living. I was trying to keep price off the conversation, it was still strange to him that I had millions of simoleans while he struggled to get by in a one bedroom studio. I grazed my hand against his, I wanted to make sure he knew that money didn’t matter to our relationship, but I just didn’t know how to make that happen.

“I sure hope so Deborah.” I replied, walking two steps behind her. I grazed my hand gently against his, I needed to reassure him that this was our decision, I so did not want him to be thinking about the money, he seemed to hate it.

It was beautiful if that was what you were into. The entire place had been stripped bare, obviously, with only a few chandeliers remaining. Deborah told me the previous owners had lived here for over 40 years, and were a very traditional couple, hence the wood panelling everywhere.

“You can definitely pull all this panelling up, though I think the original arches have to be kept, it’s part of the contract, but whatever. I think the lay out works, but you could always hire an architect… this view is fabulous isn’t it? Sweetie, just imagine sitting out on that terrace on a morning with a cup of coffee and the papers, ah, fabulous. There’s nothing like this on the market right now, and I don’t think it’s going to stay on for long… oh I should  show you upstairs, 5 bedrooms honey, you’re not gonna find that anywhere else… the kitchen too. I think this room would be a great living area, with the study just through here. Isn’t the hallway window just fabulous. Hon, take a look around.” I could hear Deborah going at it in my ear, but nothing she said would sway me, if I thought I could do something with the place than that was that, and this one definitely had prospects. I ignored Deborah, her voice was totally grinding on me, but my mom recommended her, so I had to stick with her.

I was definitely considering this… She’d shown me both floors now, and although covered head to toe in wood panelling, which totally reminded me of being back at The Howland School, the bedrooms were huge, and would in no way be a squeeze. I could probably knock two together to make a master suite, the other three for guests… or perhaps children? I hoped me and Leo were on the same page about kids, I definitely wanted a few of my own, and would raise them way better than Lily raised me.

“Come on you two love birds, I have one final surprise to show you.” Surprise? She took us through to the area which would probably become a study, off the main living area, and that’s when we noticed more stairs, this time going down.

“Its a triplex?” I asked in shock. I had to make an offer. This must be the only triplex in the city, and in such a prestigious building…

“Now this was used as a little art gallery by the previous owners, for all their modern art that would look well, out of place in the upstairs rooms.” It was a huge room, and the white walls and floor made it seem even bigger than it actually was. The light in here was so great, it even had its own terrace. Most of the entire apartment actually had terraces, which was another odd thing for the centre of the city. I could see Noah getting excited as he walked around, it would be a perfect studio for him… a place where he could work in peace, away from the main floors.

“Honey, I know you want this place. There can’t be a single person out there who wouldn’t want this place. This building is extremely prestigious, full of old money, you can shake it up girl, hire a fabulous decorator for the apartment, pull out all that wood. Come on, do I even need to persuade you? Three floors of heaven, its a mansion in the sky.” She was right of course, we would never find something like this again.

I was desperate to make an offer, but I could see Leo staring out of the window, I couldn’t tell if he was excited or not, he was quite good at concealing his emotions.

“What am I going to be paying?” I leaned closer as I asked her, I hated talking about money around Leo, like, in my mind it didn’t matter to our relationship at all, but clearly it did.

“Well it’s on the market for 8.5 but I could probably get them down to about 8.1, at a push. I know, I know its a lot, but come on, look at this place, it’s beautiful, so spacious, so bright, so-“

“-Look can you just stop with this line of persuasion, I don’t need swaying by you, I can make this decision for myself. Sweetie.”

“Hey I didn’t mean any offence, it’s my job.”

Okay so it was her job, whatever, I didn’t need it. Leo was the one that needed convincing, not me

“What do you think about this place Leo?” I asked as we moved out onto the terrace, to be away from Deborah. “The studios great, right? You could work down here in total privacy.”

“I suppose.”

“You suppose? Don’t you like the place, it’s amazing if you ask me.”

“Arielle, I can go into a room and shut the door, I don’t need a whole extra floor. This place is huge, and it’s just me and you. From what I overheard  the price seems ridiculous…”

“Well maybe we could talk about making this house… less empty?” I hoped we were on the same page, I really did want children. It might seem pretty soon, just out of school, but to tell the truth I didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t bear to become one of the ladies who lunch, maybe I should just become a housewife. I’d started painting a little, setting the old cogs from my childhood back in motion, but I really wanted to do something more, like being a lawyer, but that would mean more school, which I hated the thought of since Howland.

“Kids? I wasn’t aware it was an option… yes I want kids, but aren’t we going a little fast? An apartment together is one thing, but children? We’re not even married.” Um- well this was like, totally new. Who thought we were moving to fast? I didn’t know anything about relationships…

“Okay well we can talk about that later. I’m going to buy the apartment. It’s my money, and I want to live here, you’re welcome to live in it with me, and I really want you to, but you have to get over these money issues. Focus on becoming an amazing painter in this great studio and then you can sell all your masterpieces and have millions more than me, okay.”

We stood side by side for a long time, in a totally awkward silence…

“Okay, we should buy it.” We? At least we were making progress.

*       *       *

“Hi daddy… yeah, um- listen I need a favour.”

“Anything? Aw you’re so sweet. Can we meet? It might be a long conversation. Okay I’ll see you in an hour.” An hour was too long, I had to talk to him now, I was so bored, there was nothing for me to do. I’d read the Architectural Digest interview like 100 times and cringed the whole way through. Who was this Caroline bitch, I only met her for like, a second. ‘Miss Belgravia’? Please, she made me sound like a 45 year old spinster. Ew! I had to burn some time, there were dishes to be cleaned so I got to that.

Stopping for a second to think about what I was doing I almost threw up! I was cleaning dishes! I smashed one on the floor, argh! I was becoming domesticated, next I’d be sat in a cardigan knitting jumpers for my niece! I had to get out of this house, the move had kept me busy, the long months renovating and decorating, but now we were all settled, Leo was always in the studio, where he insisted on not being disturbed. A few of his paintings were actually quitegood, I’d snuck down there one night and checked them out. Pouring a cup of coffee (my new addiction) I went to settle down and wait for dad, I just hoped he could help me find something to do.

He was, of course, 35 minutes late, as I headed to the door to let him in I realised that it’s kind of became his ‘thing’ for everything now, he told me when I was younger that it’s always better to make your opponents wait, that way they’re caught off guard when you burst in with a new offer or something, whatever- I just wanted him to be on time.

The grille gate mom insisted on having installed was actually kind of cool. She said she always wanted me to be able to see who was at the door without having to open it, she must have like, an irrational fear of kidnapping or something, it’s not even like she’s ever been through something like that, but whatever. We embraced for a few seconds in the doorway before he headed off to the living room, they’d only be round a few times, but I think he was a little wary of my apartment, it wasn’t really to his taste. I mean, my parents liked modern, but they liked it homey at the same time, not like this, although their apartment was floor to ceiling glass all the way round… maybe I should think about changing a few of my rooms to glass.

“Arielle, you said you wanted to talk. Come.” I was totally dawdling, I always forgot how brusque he was, always on the go. Probably why he had so much money. “So what did you want to talk to me about?” We were stood on the terrace overlooking the city, and I could tell he was interested, but I didn’t really know how to broach the subject.

“Well…” I began tentatively,

“You know how… I got quite good grades at school,” (4 A’s, 3 B’s and 1 C – don’t ask how, I guess I was just really smart inside or something) “Well I’m sick of being in this apartment, I think I need to go back to school, or get a job…”

“Oh Arielle” He began laughing softly, “Don’t worry about money, we have plenty, we don’t expect you to work sweetheart.” Don’t expect me to work?!

“But Alex is doing really well with her novels, and Oriana has just joined that band as a back up singer… why wouldn’t I get a job? They have just as much money as me.” Did he think I was dumb or something?

“Well- yes, but we know that you have… other interests.”

“Are you saying I couldn’t get a job? I want to do something dad. I asked you here to get your opinion, on like, colleges or on some sort of intern-ship were I could work my way up.”

“If that’s really what you want then of course me and your mother will support you, but we thought you might be thinking of having children… you know how much we want grandchildren.”

“Um- excuse me? I’m not a conveyor belt spewing out kids for your pleasure. I do want some, one day, but I want to work, or how can I set a good example for them?” What I was saying made perfect sense, why was he looking so awkward? I needed to get a job, I couldn’t bear by in this apartment all day, Leo was great but well… I think he needed to make a few sales before he could really feel comfortable around me. It would probably be wiser not to even get a job, if I wanted to keep our relationship, but I was like, not going to not get a job because of him. “I know you can get me a job at the company.”

“That’s probably true, listen I’ll get you a low grade position, but you’re going to have to work your own way up the ladder. There’s a secret about business, you don’t really need any particular skills to be good at it, just a lot of drive and determination.”

“So what that makes it perfect for me? You’re saying I’m dumb aren’t you.” I couldn’t believe him, who did he think he was? Okay so he was my father and could sort of get away with it, but… no!

“Sweetie I have to go, I have a 12 o’clock lunch with a new client.” He pecked me on the cheek and was away, in and out, quick as can be. Did I want to end up like my father? Always working, always busy, with barely any time for a family? I didn’t know yet.

*     *     *

“Leo, come to bed.” I asked Leo’s back as he continued to work on his paintings.  It was 2 in the morning, and Leo was still hard at work in his studio, geez. I couldn’t sleep, I had fears of Howland coming back for his revenge, and I felt much safer with someone else in the bed with me, I needed Leo.

“Yeah. I’ll be up in a minute.” He didn’t turn around, maybe this was some sort of ‘artists trance’ where he had to work. whatever. We needed to become closer, and the only way I could think of doing so was sex. I couldn’t get him to talk to me about anything, so when he came upstairs 45 minutes later we just did what we knew how to.

Things were still strained between us, but at least the attraction hadn’t left the relationship, oh no, no, no, that was totally still there. The next day I got ready to head to the local stores, I had to go shopping for my new work clothes, I couldn’t wear my usual clothes, however much I wished I could. I had to go all business like and serious, but I was determined to try and make it look hot. I was about to open the grille gate when I noticed someone stood behind it, about to press the bell. This was just what I needed. Noah.