Chapter 2 – Alyssa
All I can say about my current predicament is this: Cher is a very, very persuasive woman when you’re feeling super down and liable to believe anything someone tells you.
If you ask me? This was her plan all along. Because not long after I stormed out of Mr. Bradley’s house, effectively breaking up with Julian right then and there, she announced that she was as equally appalled by the truth. This is what she told me after dropping by my place later that night. With a few practiced tears, she convinced me that she could no longer go on with a relationship with Mr. Bradley when that was the truth he condoned. Two days later, we filed a suit against Bradley & Marcus for sexual harassment and other inappropriate conduct.
See, when I talked to HR at the beginning of my relationship? It was a tenuous agreement that completely hinged on me not saying anything negative enough to spark legal proceedings. After all, I was dating my boss. But once I decided to go ahead with a suit, everything fell apart for Julian and Mr. Bradley. Our lawyer thinks they’ll settle out of court to keep this from blowing up and ruining their image. Cher and I are looking at a pair of hefty paydays that will pay our bills for a long, long time if we manage the money right.
The thought makes me sick. If it was money I truly wanted, I could’ve stayed with Julian. At first, I convinced myself that’s all I cared about. The money, that is. Because without that job or prestigious internship, I’m looking at a long road ahead of me after I graduate next year.
It’s not the money I want.
I’m such a basket case! A total fucking hack of a woman! What a classic example of a woman who falls for the first guy she fucks. Even after discovering the disgusting truth, I still want him. What’s wrong with me? Am I really that pathetic?
That man only slept with me because of a stupid bet. While I knew deep down that our relationship was a short-term farce that would eventually come to a heartbreaking end, I never in a million years imagined it would be something as cruel as that!
Can anyone blame me? One day, when I sit down and write a tell-all memoir of this time in my life, readers will chide me for walking out on a man for doing what men do. Of course they play with women. Of course they use us for as long as they want before sending us on our way so they can bone a younger model. Of course they do! Rich, hot men get away with anything!
We’re expected to go along with it. Because they’re hot, rich men and we should feel special that they chose us, even if for a short time.
Well, Julian Marcus didn’t even choose me. Mr. Bradley did. Ordered me up like I was an escort fit for a billionaire. I can’t even be flattered. How disgusting.
Naturally, Julian came after me. Joke was on him, though. Aside from my phone – and I blocked him, thank you – he couldn’t even get through to me because I packed up some of my things and temporarily moved in with Cher. Her parents put her up in a cute one-bedroom apartment in NW Portland. Even crashing on her couch hasn’t been that bad.
She said it was a good idea because Julian would try to talk me out of everything, and if we’re staying together, she can help protect me from him. Likewise, I could help stop her from going back to Mr. Bradley should he come back for her.
Interestingly enough, Julian has made repeated attempts to contact me, but as far as I know, Mr. Bradley hasn’t done anything. I almost feel bad for her.
Lesson learned, I guess. Maybe my next boyfriend will…
Oh, who am I kidding! I don’t want another boyfriend!
I sit in the courtyard of Cher’s apartment building. It’s on 22nd Street, a residential stretch between the bouncing businesses of NW 21st and 23rd. Usually, I love coming here and enjoying the sunshine in these touristy areas. But ever since I ran out on Julian, I can barely enjoy anything but sleep.
Today is no different.
Cher is out with her friends. I should be out with mine, but Selkie went back to California for the summer, and I don’t know what happened to the others. Maybe they’re avoiding me because they think I’m too busy with my billionaire boyfriend.
Eventually, I get up and take a short walk. It’s funny how money is such a non-issue for me right now. With Julian having paid my rent since we got together, I was able to save up all my earnings from that internship and subsequent job as his executive assistant. He also gave me a hefty allowance that I never went through – why would I when he always gave me his credit card wherever I went?
So I don’t even think about it when I stop into the teashop on 23rd and drop almost ten bucks on an expensive drink and a tiny macaroon that I’ll inhale in one bite without thinking. I sink into one of the plush chairs and tell myself I’m not going to obsess over Julian anymore.
I’m not going to think about the money.
I’m not going to think about the lawsuit.
I’m definitely not going to think about the sex. The cuddling – naked – in bed after making sweet love. The whispers as I fall asleep. Waking up to him pressing against my back and saying he wants to start the day off right. The liaisons in his office and how many times we could get away with having sex at his desk…
Nope. Not going to think about it.
I want to listen to some music on Spotify, but I forgot my charger at Cher’s place and I’m already down to fifty percent on my phone. Good thing I like the music they play here.
Too bad I can hear all of the conversations going on around me.
Two young women sit at the table by the window. They both carry designer purses and walk in shoes that scream money. Even though one of them is wearing flats and the other stiletto heels… I recognize those brands now. One woman wears a black Chanel dress, simple but radiant on her petite body. The other wears distressed denim shorts, a white tank top, and a blue plaid long-sleeved shirt that accentuates her tomboyish personality. Looks like that don’t fool me, though. These are women who could shop at low class thrift stores and dress their thrifty clothes up with expensive jewelry, hair, and shoes. They carry themselves like they know what they’re about.
Their mere presence puts a sour taste in my mouth. I really wish I had drained my phone battery on Spotify, because their conversation does nothing to make me feel better.
“Told him going to Mexico City was going to be a huge mess,” the woman in the Chanel dress and sunglasses says. She threads her fingers through the stray dark hairs uncoiling from her Audrey Hepburn bun. She’s so Portland I almost want to gag. “Half his family is there and they hate my gringa guts.”
“That’s what you get signing on for that kind of money.”
“I mean I definitely love his money, but I love him more, you know? I almost wish he would cut off contact with that side of his family, because it’s bad enough I have to deal with his mom’s boyfriend next door. We spent a whole night arguing about what to name the bed and breakfast.”
“Call it Halls of Fornication, ‘cause that’s all it’s ever going to be.”
“God, I wish.”
“Yeah, so, meanwhile, my boyfriend’s mom keeps calling me to give me the 411 on how many little heirs she expects me to have. She wants no fewer than three grandsons one day, okay? Honestly, I think I’ve been cursed. Three boys? Who wants to deal with that?”
“I’m hiring the best nanny in Portland if I ever had a kid. You’re going to need five to raise three boys around here.”
“Seriously. I’ve been cursed. With any luck they’ll want to go to some boarding school.”
“Hope and pray!”
Listening to their rich lady problems makes me both roll my eyes and want to gag. I can only imagine what Serena Marcus would expect of me had I ever married Julian…
Me. Marrying Julian. Having his kids and spending the rest of my life with him, whether I had to deal with his mother or not.
I get up before I even get my drink. Because if I don’t get to the bathroom right now these rich ladies are going to have to see me cry, and none of us want that.
As soon as I latch the door behind me and turn on the loud, grinding fan, I let the waterworks start.
I haven’t cried much since I left him. My brain has been too consumed by anger and humiliation to give a fuck about crying out of loss and sadness. But now? I don’t know what else to do. I miss him. God, do I miss him. I almost wish he would call me one last time. I want to hear his voice. I want to hear him calling me out of this nightmare. I’m going to wake up in his bed and realize that this was all a terrible dream. He wanted me, damnit. He invited me up to his office for seduction not because he wanted to win some stupid bet, but because he wanted me. I need to know that none of that was a lie.
It takes me a few minutes to regain my composure. By the time I step out of the bathroom, my eyes are swollen and red, but at least it’s the right time of year for me to pass it off as allergies. My drink is waiting for me by the rest of my stuff.
I can’t stay here. Not with people glancing at me, wondering if I’ve been crying. I pick up my to-go cup and purse and leave.
It’s still a sunny day in this part of Portland. I half-trudge back to 22nd Street, bypassing lost tourists and people asking for handouts, only to have the strange feeling that someone might be following me.
My head cranes over my shoulder. Nobody, except for a woman on her phone and walking her Pekingese.
Cold black tea washes over my tongue as I resume my walk. I’m in no particular hurry to get back to Cher’s place. What’s waiting for me there other than her disinterested cat and my pride?
I stop at an intersection. Cars come to a stop, two different drivers gesturing for me to go ahead and cross the street. But I can’t. I’m frozen.
Of course, I had been crying pretty hard… it’s only natural that I would think I hear Julian’s voice…
One of the cars honk at me before the other gives up and smashes on the gas pedal. I slowly turn around.
Oh my God, is he wearing a polo shirt and jeans?
I’d laugh if I wasn’t so freaked out!