Fall With Me
Of course Uncle Nate would have difficulty accepting it.
But then the police closed the investigation, citing it as an unfortunate accident. The few witnesses that there were had little compelling evidence to offer otherwise; and it hadn’t been the first accident to occur there either. There were several editorials in the newspaper, letters of outrage, concerned citizens demanding that the city do something to better protect the general population. Perhaps it was a preventable tragedy, but it was only a tragedy at that.
No one wanted to hear Uncle Nate’s insistence that it was actually something more.
I take it as a bad sign that I’m already feeling annoyed with the campers and they’ve only been here two days. It’s a smaller group this year, fifteen kids, seven boys and eight girls, a few repeats, including Simon, who has been coming here for the past four years and specializes in following me around like a puppy.
“When you’re working with the horses,” I’m telling a group of five of them, the ones with no horse experience, “you want to make sure to be calm and not make any sudden movements. Horses are very receptive to whatever energy it is you’re putting out there, too, so you’ve got to act accordingly. If you respect them, they will respect you.”
We’re in something of a heat wave for this time of year; there hasn’t been any fog and the temperature’s approaching the mid-seventies. Clover, the chestnut mare, stands in front of me, eyes half closed, dozing in the warmth of the day. You could detonate a bomb next to Clover and she’d do little more than swish her tail and maybe shift the weight from one side to the other.
“So before you put the horse’s tack on, you have to groom them,” I say. “Each horse here has their own groom box. You’ll each be assigned to a horse for the three weeks that you’re here. It will be your responsibility to take care of the horse, which includes grooming, exercising, and evening feeding. I’ll go through what all the stuff in the groom box is and then I’ll tell you who you’re assigned to.”
Brett, the tall boy with tattoos on his knuckles, eyes Clover warily. “What if you’re like . . . respecting the horse but he ain’t feelin’ you and isn’t respecting you back?”
“I guarantee you that won’t happen here,” I tell him. “And generally, when you give respect, you get it. That’s not something that just applies to horses.”
He gives me a wary look, like I might be lying or trying to pull a fast one on him, but I just give him a smile and raise my eyebrows.
“It’s true,” I tell him. “Remember that and you shouldn’t have any problems.”
When I get back to my cabin that evening, there’s a pink orchid sitting on the small dining room table, plus a note from Lorrie. This came for you today, but there was no card and the delivery guy couldn’t/wouldn’t give me any more info. It’s beautiful, regardless!!
I put her note down next to the terra cotta pot. A few of the little nuggets of bark have fallen onto the table. The plant actually looks a little menacing, like it could extricate itself from its confines and start scuttling around the cabin.
I take a shower, and as I’m toweling off my hair, my phone starts to ring. I already know it’s going to be him before I even look to see who the incoming call is, but I answer, because he’ll just keep calling if I don’t.
“Do you like the orchid?” he asks.
“It’s lovely. And completely unnecessary to send.”
“I thought that drab little cabin of yours could use some cheering up. I’m sure you could use some cheering up.” I can practically hear his smirk.
“I’m fine, thanks.”
“Really, though, Jill. I know it’s coming up on the one-year anniversary of your dad’s death, and I just . . . I wanted to call and see how you’re holding up.”
“I’m okay, Sean, really. Thank you for thinking of me, though.”
“I think about you a lot. I’d like to drive down there and see you. Or take you out to dinner next time you’re in the city. I’m subletting my cousin’s apartment here in the marina for the summer—you should come check it out. It’d be great to have you around.”
“I don’t think so,” I say. “I mean, I’m just pretty busy with work and then when I’ve got free time I need to go see my mom.”
“I wouldn’t mind seeing your mom.”
I close my eyes and take a deep breath. “Listen, I’ve got to go. I had a long day and I’m beat.”
“Jill, hold on. I really thought you’d be ready to talk now.”
“Talk about what?”
“About getting back together. You know we belong together. I understand that what happened last year was pretty fucking traumatic and you needed some space. I get that. But it’s been almost a year and I think that we’re both ready to get things back on track.”
That’s the problem with people like Sean. They’re used to getting exactly what they want, all the time, and have no fucking clue how to accept ‘no’ as an answer.
“Sean, our relationship is over. Which means you can stop calling me and also stop sending flowers. To both me and my mother. Okay? Goodbye.”
“I love it when you play hard to get,” I hear him say before I’m able to disconnect the call.
Chapter 5: Griffin
I’ve never had so much time to just sit and be alone with my thoughts.
It’s a little unnerving.
I’m generally the sort who likes to keep moving, who likes to be doing something—or someone—pretty much all the time. Perhaps at one point Dad thought that such a characteristic would be beneficial in business, but he has since determined otherwise. Somewhere along the way he made up his mind that I wouldn’t be following in his footsteps, and he basically told me to go do whatever I wanted so long as it didn’t involve getting thrown in jail—presumably he didn’t want to have to put up the bail—or get involved in any scandals that might tarnish the public’s impression of him. I doubt he ever had a conversation like that with Cam. When I was twenty-five my trust fund would be released to me. At which point he’s probably hoping to never have to see me again. From what I’ve gathered, Cam hasn’t touched his trust fund yet and instead has followed in Dad’s footsteps and is making money out of money. Or something. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what either my dad or Cam do, but it’s lucrative and gives them the idea that they are somehow better than everyone else.
Mom always liked to refer to us as her “good boy” and her “wild one.” I’ll let you decide who was who. But clearly it was apparent early on that Cam could do no wrong. In every holiday photo, he’s looking straight into the camera, perfect smile, not a hair out of place. It was always on account of me we had to do half a dozen or more retakes, my dad’s smile getting tighter and more forced with each one, until the official Alexander Family Christmas photo always resulted with Dad scowling. Somehow, though, the look on Cam’s face never faltered.
For a few minutes, I let the self-pity wash over me. I sit there and wallow in it. What if these fools actually are for real and they kill me? I think of Imogen, and her lovely, perky tits, and the sad fact that I only got to spend one night getting to know them. And then there’s Harper, and her beautiful gazelle legs, and Amanda, and her tiny waist and voluptuous ass, and Stella, who really did give the best head ever, and Marion, who screamed so loud when she came that I actually had ringing in my ears for a day afterward, and Alicia, Laura, Tess, Zoe, Kelly, Rebecca, Katy, Elizabeth . . . I can’t even remember all their names. All lovely ladies.
But perhaps this is a fitting end. I mean, not to be all dramatic or anything, but I haven’t really done much in way of a positive contribution to the world. Don’t think that I don’t know it. It’s just easy to get caught up in all of it, in the lifestyle, in upholding this certain image, though what that image is I can’t quite say. All I know is, word gets out there, and people expect you to be a certain way, and, for some reason or another, you try to do exactly that.
I stand up and feel my way over to the door. I’ll just break the news to them myself. Carl Alexander III is not going to pay your ransom. He is not going to confess and he is not going to give two shits if you kill his son or not. In fact, he might even applaud you if you do, or perhaps wish he could’ve done the deed himself. Maybe they’ll let me go. Or maybe they’ll kill me like they said they would, because it would be just as fun.
I bang on the door. “Guys! Open up. I’ve got to tell you something. It’s big. You’ll want to hear this.”
There’s a moment of silence, it’s almost unreal, like someone pressed the universal mute button or something, and then I hear one of them shout—shriek, really—and the boat lurches violently one way, then the other. I lose my footing and fall to one knee before I’m able to catch myself. There’s more screaming, followed by thunderous footsteps. The door flies open a minute later.
“A fucking whale hit the boat!” Bandana screams. “Get your ass out here and help us!”
They’re trying to bail the water out, but I can tell the second I get out there that the boat’s fucked. It’s going down, and it’s going down fast, and from the look on Bandana’s face, I’d be surprised if any of them can do more than the dog paddle.
The whale is nowhere to be seen, though I’ve heard of this happening once or twice. Some juvenile whale who breached and misjudged the distance between here and there. Like driving after you’ve skied, or on one too many hits of LSD. Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.
I dive into the water. It’s cold but tolerable, and I don’t think they even notice that I’m gone. I don’t look back.
I swam competitively all throughout school, not because I particularly loved it but because I was good at it and also because girls can’t resist a swimmer’s body. The broad shoulders, narrow waist, the tight, toned muscles. So while my parents thought I was doing it for the glory of all those championships, really, I was doing it for the glory of being with all those girls, and yes, there were plenty of them.
This is what I think about as I swim. What I try not to think about is the fact that I could be going in the wrong direction and may never see solid ground again, or that I might be headed straight for a shark or an infestation of jellyfish. No, I push those thoughts to the very back of my mind and instead think of Sadie-Heather-Jen-Tara-Gwen-Alexa-Nicole . . . the list could go on forever . . .
I stop periodically. Tread water. Dead man’s float. If something about my situation doesn’t change soon, that’s exactly what I’ll be, dead man floating. The sun is setting. My lips are dry, cracking, my muscles ache, but they’re nowhere near failing. These babies can go all night, and it’s looking like they’re going to have to. My brain buzzes from lack of sleep, but this isn’t the first time yours truly has had to do something completely strung out.
Other things I think about aside from the girls: this alleged confession my father needs to make, worth approximately the same value as 7.2 million dollars and his son’s life. Or maybe worth more than that.
My father is the CEO, president, and chairman of the Concord Frazier Group, a multinational conglomerate holding company. CFG owns a few airlines, several insurance companies, several more manufacturers, and a popular soft drink company. They even jumped on the natural food craze bandwagon a few years ago with Organica, that whole food company that touts itself as being “as natural as if you just dug it out of the ground, but as convenient as if you just pulled it out of the microwave.”
My relationship with my father wasn’t always so contentious. Somewhere, in some forgotten-about desk drawer somewhere, there might even be a photograph or two of Dad and I. Look, there I am, seven years old, at Yankees Stadium, Cam, ten years old, sandwiched between me and Dad. Or at nine, on Dad’s yacht, me with a huge grin on my face because I love being out on the water, Dad trying to look like he’s not about to toss his cookies.
Something happened, though, right around the time I turned thirteen. Maybe it’s because I grew taller than him, or because my voice got deeper than his, or any number of things, but one day it seemed like Dad woke up and decided he just didn’t like me anymore. He didn’t laugh at my jokes, he didn’t come to my swim competitions, he said he was busy with work and that was that. It’s like he made up his mind and never looked back, which is basically how he lives his life. Maybe it’s because he realized Cam could fulfill everything he wanted in a son, so I was just extra, unnecessary, a needless liability.