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.