“Did you tell JJ you were coming?” Jake asked as the car stopped in front of the condo.
“If I didn’t it’s a little late now, isn’t it?” I teased, as we grabbed our bags from the driver and dragged them into the condo building.He rolled his eyes at me.“I called him and told him.”
“I was hoping we were on his approved visitor list,” he said.
“If we’re not, it’s just too fucking bad,” I growled.I was here on a mission, a mission to help JJ get himself on an even keel, and I was trying to be sympathetic to his situation, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t express some frustration to Jake.
“Go easy on him,” he counseled.
“I will,” I snapped, then gave him an annoyed look as we got into the elevator.“It’s just that I know this is not going to be easy.”
“Maybe he’ll surprise you,” he said.
“Maybe,” I agreed dubiously, because I knew better.
We got off the elevator and headed to the condo door.I rang the doorbell, but went on in, and found JJ strolling over to greet us.“Welcome to New York!” he said cheerfully.
I gave him a warm hug, while Jake gave him a man hug.“It’s nice to be here,” Jake said.
“Jacinta is making dinner for us,” JJ said.“I figured that since it’s already seven, you’d rather do that than go out.”
“That’s perfect,” I said.“How long until dinner is ready?”
“Half an hour,” he said.
“That gives me enough time to unpack and meet you in the dining room,” I told him, and led Jake to the room I always used.I was used to traveling, so it didn’t take me long to get my things organized, and Jake was just as efficient.
I found JJ sitting in the dining room at the head of the table, which was interesting: his way of projecting power.It was appropriate, since this was his house, but it made me dread this discussion.“This wine is left over from when Stef was here,” he said, as he poured us each a glass.
“That explains why it’s so good,” Jake said, as he took a sip.
“How was the show?” I asked JJ.
“Pretty interesting,” he said, and regaled us with his thoughts on some of the designs he’d seen while Jacinta brought food out for us.
“This looks wonderful,” I said, and we paused our conversation to eat.
“What are your plans for this week?” JJ asked Jake, then looked at me.“I assumed you’d be at Triton during the day.”
“I’m actually here to spend time with you,” I said.He blinked at that, since that’s not what he was expecting at all.
“I’ve got a lot on my schedule,” he said cautiously.
“What’s going on?” I asked him.
“I’ve got school, and I’m supposed to spend some time at Mode,” he said, referring to the magazine.“There are events on Tuesday and Thursday night I have to go to.You guys may enjoy them.”
“I have a few things I’d like you to do with me on Tuesday and Wednesday, and I’d appreciate it if you’d work that into your schedule,” I said nicely.
“What do you want me to do?” he asked suspiciously.
“I made a few appointments,” I said.
“Appointments?” he asked, getting annoyed.
“On Tuesday morning, at 10am, you’re scheduled to meet with a psychiatrist,” I said.
“Why am I going to see a psychiatrist?” he demanded, now getting angry.
“To help you deal with your moods,” I said.“Then in the afternoon, at 2, you have an appointment with a psychologist.You have another appointment with a different person on Wednesday at 2.”
“You can’t just come in here and run my life!” he objected strongly.
“JJ, we’re just trying to help you out,” Jake said soothingly, trying to calm the situation.
“What are you, my mother?” JJ demanded obnoxiously.
“There is no reason for you to be rude to Jake,” I said, and did it assertively enough to warn him Jake was off limits to his anger.He ignored my comment and turned his rage back onto me.
“So you ignore me for most of my life, and the times when you do show up, you totally fuck up my life.If I need to see a shrink, it’s because of you!” he shouted.
“You are largely independent and don’t want a lot of interference in your life,” I acknowledged.“And while that works most of the time, there are times when you can’t handle things, when they get out of control.We all have that happen, but in your case, when it does, you don’t ask for help.That’s why I leave you alone unless it’s a problem.”
“I have problems with Stef, which were entirely his fault, and that convinced you that it was time for me to get mental help?”
“The issues with Stef were just a catalyst but aren’t really related to the overall issue.I’ve been talking to you about this for a long time, and you’ve done nothing, so now I’m here to make sure it happens,” I said to him firmly.
“Well I won’t do it!” he said, tossing his fork down on his plate.
“You were down before, you got professional help, and it made all the difference,” I said, reminding him of how seeing Casey and a psychiatrist had helped him get his shit together after he’d been molested by his coach.
“That was then,” he said dismissively.“I’m fine now.”
“Professionals can sometimes help you make things better, even when you don’t know there’s a problem,” Jake said.
“Look, I’m really happy that you and my father are together and you’re getting along,” JJ said to Jake in a semi-sarcastic tone.“I’m so fucking happy about that, I can’t stand it.But that doesn’t mean that you’re one of my parents, so don’t even go there.”
“I was just trying to be a friend, not your parent,” Jake said evenly.It was kind of funny to see that, despite all his urgings to me about being patient, he was getting pretty annoyed with JJ.“I had a team, a psychiatrist and a psychologist, and those guys saved my life.That’s why I said something.”I paused, waiting for JJ to back up with him a bit, but he just glared at us.
“JJ, I’m trying to help you out, so you can be independent like you want to be and still be happy,” I said plaintively, hoping to get him to understand.
“I’ll be happy if you’ll just do what you always do, and leave me the fuck alone,” he said.
“That is not going to happen,” I said, reverting to a firmer tone.“All I’m asking you to do is go to three appointments.”
“I’m not going, and that’s all there is to it!” he insisted loudly.
“We can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way,” I said, in a more menacing tone.“Are you going or not?”
“I’m not going,” he said, glaring at me, “and if you don’t like it, you can get the fuck out of here!”
“I’m not going anywhere,” I said firmly.
“Well I am,” he said, and got up to storm off to his room.
“See you tomorrow,” I said to him, as he flounced off.
“That went well,” Jake said sarcastically.
“Pretty much what I expected,” I said.“He’ll see things differently tomorrow.”
September 22, 2003
New York, NY
I walked into the kitchen in a horrible mood, still so incredibly pissed off at my father and his bullshit from last night.It was so typical of him to come rolling into my world and issue orders like he’s a fucking dictator.The easiest thing was probably to just do what he wanted me to do, then he’d go away and leave me alone, but at some point, I had to stand up to him, and I’d decided that this was the time for me to do that.It was bullshit that he thought he could come here and force me to go see some person and compel me to pour out my problems to him or her.There was no way I was going to share my most inner thoughts with some idiot he selected.If I wanted a psychologist, I’d get one.This whole nightmare was probably the result of my talks with Will and Stef, and how I’d told them how moody I was, which just emphasized how important it was for me to keep my mouth shut when I was dealing with my family.It also reminded me of how badly I’d acted last week and that only made my mood worse.Besides, I knew I’d been moody, but I was no worse than the rest of them.
“Good morning, Mr. Jeremy,” Jacinta said a bit nervously.She reminded me of Rosa, in that she watched out for me, and if she was nervous, that probably meant that my father and Jake had been talking shit about me this morning.
“Good morning,” I said pleasantly, burying my bad mood.I’d been a lot nicer to her lately, and that was important since she was about the only person left in this city I could rely on.
“Your father and his friend are both gone already, but they left you a note,” she said, gesturing at the table.
“Thanks,” I said.I sat at the table and picked up the envelope that had ‘JJ’ written on it.It felt like it had coins in it, which was odd.I opened it up and read the letter, leaving the other things inside.
Being a member of this family comes with lots of privileges, but it also comes with obligations.You and I agreed that you would see mental health professionals, but you didn’t do as you promised, and now you have refused to follow through on that commitment.Your lifestyle will change accordingly.
I have commandeered your Maybach and driver for the day, and will need both through Wednesday.If you don’t go to the appointments as I have outlined, I’m going to sell the Maybach and fire your driver.Enclosed in this envelope you’ll find some subway tokens to give you a way to get around.
You will also find that none of your credit cards work.I have enclosed in this envelope $500.That will have to last you until next Monday, when you’ll get your next weekly allowance.Your condominium fees and expenses, along with Jacinta’s salary, will continue to be paid, but anything else you plan to spend money on will have to come from your allowance.
I stared at the letter, and felt the anger and shock surge through my body, followed almost immediately by despair.When they’d been mad at me before, I’d been absolutely paranoid that they’d end up cutting me off, and now they’d done it.I was poor, destitute.I immediately began a mental inventory of my closet to decide how long I could survive without shopping, and realized I could make it for a while if I was willing to be seen in the same clothes.I mean, it wasn’t like I didn’t ever wear the same thing twice, but it was important to not wear the same thing too often so people remembered that you’d just worn it.
I took the five one-hundred dollar bills out of the envelope and stared at them.I’d either have to eat here all the time or I’d have to take the subway, because cabs would chew up this money fast.I remembered going with John on the subway and how rank it was, and I cringed at being closed in with all those strange people.I briefly fantasized in terror about all the horrible things those people could do to me, and got some small satisfaction about knowing how guilty everyone would feel if I was accosted or worse.I stood up and grabbed the envelope.Did these people think I was just a whore, and that I’d do tricks for them for money?Is that what they thought?I was so enraged I almost stomped my foot.
“You did not eat your breakfast,” Jacinta said, even as she looked at me with her worried mother-hen expression.
“I’m not hungry,” I said, and all but fled to my room.I got there, threw the letter and envelope on my dresser, then collapsed on the bed and kicked and hit the mattress until my body was sore.
September 22, 2003
“Dude, you look like shit,” Ryan said to me as I sat down at our lunch table.
“Fuck you,” I said, then sighed. “I am still hung over from this weekend.I rolled on Saturday night, and did some coke, then crashed hard yesterday.” I was dealing with one massive ecstasy hangover.
“I think you look great,” Cam said, perking up my mood a bit.He’d been a little hunk when he was a freshman, and now two years later, he was even hotter.We were friends, and he flirted with me like he’d just done, even though he seemed to be pretty much straight.
“I think I do too,” I agreed, getting a chuckle from him.Ryan rolled his eyes.John came up and sat down, followed almost immediately by Marie.She was on cloud nine after pulling off that major success with the talent show on Friday night.“Hey,” I said pleasantly.
“How was New York?” she asked.
“Amazing,” I told her.Patrick had treated me really well, and it had been impossible not to contrast this weekend to some of the disaster trips I’d taken to see guys in the past.I thought back to a few summers ago when I’d flown out to go on a float trip with Tony, and how he’d fucked me over time after time.Patrick, on the other hand, had gone out of his way to make sure I had a good time, and more than that, he’d been really good at reading my moods, and figuring out when I needed space and when I wanted him to be around.That he did that while he was in the middle of a major event that was probably pivotal for his career made it that much nicer.“How was your weekend?”
“We had to have a family discussion about our tattoos,” Marie said, rolling her eyes at them.
“I was very disturbed that you chose to expose yourselves in that venue,” John said, imitating his mother and cracking me up.He mimicked her so well.
“I would have thought that you would have at least considered the feelings of your grandparents,” Marie continued, also imitating her mother, although not as well as John did.
“Grand and Grandmaman were fine with it,” I said when I was done laughing.
“Yeah, but my dad’s parents weren’t,” she replied.
“My father gave me a bunch of shit about how dangerous that could be, getting a tattoo, if they use dirty needles and there are unsanitary conditions,” John said, totally annoyed. “Like I’d go to some sketch tattoo parlor.”
“True that,” Marie agreed.
“So what happened?” I asked.
“They just tried to make us feel guilty, and then left it at that,” Marie said.
“Didn’t work,” John said.Jacob Bornstein chose that moment to come up to our table.I was pretty surprised to see Christian with him, since those two didn’t usually hang around together.
“Hey,” Jacob said to Marie.
“Hey,” I said back to him, even though he obviously wasn’t talking to me.He gave me an annoyed look, then turned back to Marie.“Hey Christian,” I said to him flirtatiously.
“Will,” he said, and smiled shyly.
“You did a really nice job on Friday night,” Marie said to Jacob.She was being very polite, but also a bit formal.
“Thanks,” Jacob said, grinning a bit.John and I looked at each other, trying not to laugh at this whole exchange.“I was wondering if you wanted to go to the dance with me on Friday?” John raised his eyebrow, while it took all my powers of restraint not to laugh my ass off.Still, I had to give Jacob props for being brave enough to come over here and hit on a girl who was way out of his league.
“That is so sweet of you,” Marie said, and stood up as she said it, which made her seem even more sincere.She put her hand on his shoulder.“Thank you for asking me.Unfortunately, I already promised I’d go with someone else.”
“Bummer,” Jacob said, looking pretty dejected.I felt sorry for him, even though he was a douche.“Who beat me to the punch?” John and I looked at each other again, and actually giggled a little bit; since we were both pretty sure that Marie didn’t really have a date, and had just used that as an excuse to turn him down. We watched Marie floundering a bit, trying to figure out how to answer him, while Jacob looked at her knowingly.
“I did,” Ryan said, standing up for emphasis.It was hilarious how that took the wind completely out of Jacob’s sails, and it was even funnier to see Marie try to pretend not to be surprised.
“Cool,” Jacob said.“Have fun.”He and Christian walked off, while the rest of us watched them go, then turned back to Marie.
“Thanks for that,” Marie said to Ryan.
“No problem,” he said.“We’ll have a good time.”
“You really want to go?” she asked, stunned.
“Yeah,” he said casually.John and I were chuckling at how shocked she was, so she took that opportunity to give us a dirty look before turning back to Ryan.
“Pick me up at seven,” she said.
“You got it,” he said casually.Lunch was almost over, so we all got up to leave.I walked with Ryan, since we had classes close to each other.
“So what was with that?” I asked.He looked at me questioningly, even though he knew what the fuck I was talking about.“Asking Marie out.”
He shrugged.“She needed someone to save her, so I did,” he said.I just stared at him until he frowned and opened up a bit more.“She’s fun, and she’s a friend.It will be a good time.”
“What about Kayla?”He’d been hot after her since he’d moved up here.
“She’s not into me,” he said.
“What do you mean?She seems like she likes you.”I didn’t get that.Kayla seemed to pay a lot of attention to Ryan when he was around.
“Yeah, she likes me, but that’s where it stops,” he explained.“I can just tell that she doesn’t want to be, you know, with me, and so why get all into it only to get hurt.”I wondered if he was reading her right, or if his whole breakup with Shiloh had scarred him.
“Makes sense,” I said, and went to my next class.School seemed to drag after lunch, but I managed to pay attention more or less.
I was driving home when my phone rang.I was going to ignore it, but the caller ID said it was JJ, so I figured I’d better hear what his deal was.He’d acted so strangely when we were in New York, I was pretty worried about him.“Hey,” I said pleasantly.
“Hey,” he said.The anger in his tone was unmistakable.
“What’s up?” I asked, dreading whatever latest crisis had caused him to lose his cool.
“Dad came to town with his new boyfriend, and they both sat me down and told me that I had to go see a psychiatrist and a psychologist,” he said.
“Didn’t you already promise you’d do that?” I asked him.I thought this was a done deal.
“Are you in on this too?” he demanded.
“In on what?” I asked back, just as rudely.“What the fuck is going on?”
“Dad came in and dictated that I go to these three appointments with him.He didn’t give a shit that I had other things going on, he just told me I had to change my schedule around and go with him!” That was so typical of how my father dealt with JJ.He’d try to be persuasive, but that usually didn’t work, so then he’d swing into his autocratic mode, which ironically enough was usually pretty effective with JJ.
“You told me on Saturday that you were having massive mood swings,” I noted.“Maybe it will be good to get some help.”
“I didn’t say my mood swings were massive,” he objected.
“Don’t be so fucking literal,” I snapped. “You said they were bad.Dad’s just trying to help you out.”
“So you did know about this!” he accused.
“JJ, I didn’t know what Dad’s plan was, I just thought he was going to New York to visit Triton,” I said firmly.
“Jake was just as bad, acting like he was my fucking mother,” JJ growled.
“So that’s where things are?Dad told you to go, and you refused?”I was trying to figure out what happened without all his editorial comments.
“No, this morning Dad left me a note,” JJ said, and read it to me.I listened and managed to not laugh my ass off.JJ was pretty unaware of how things were set up.Even if my father wanted to cut him completely off, he had enough income from his trusts to survive just fine.The only problem he had was that he was a minor.I didn’t know how that impacted things, but it was unlikely JJ would end up as broke as my father made it sound.I’d have called his bluff, but JJ hadn’t obviously thought that through.
“That sucks,” I said sympathetically.
“It’s horrible,” he said.“I had to take the subway to school today.There must be a major deodorant shortage in this city.”
I laughed at that.“No Maybach, and no shopping,” I noted.“Dude, that sucks.”
“I can’t believe he’s doing this,” JJ groaned.
“Is it worth it?” I asked him.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Look, all you have to do is go to see these three doctors, and pick one of the psychologists to work with,” I said logically. “You know you need to do this anyway.Is it worth giving up your lifestyle?”
“You think a Maybach and some credit cards are worth giving in to Dad?” JJ asked, outraged.
“You really want to fight a battle with him over this?” I challenged.He said nothing, as we both pondered how stubborn and determined our father could be.“He’s blocked out the whole week to be there with you.”
“Shit,” JJ said, contemplating a week living with my father as he tried to make JJ’s life as annoying as possible.
“The longer you hold out, the longer he stays there,” I said.“Seems to me you should pick your battles, and this one you won’t win.”
“Who says I won’t win?” he challenged.
“A fight with Dad?” I challenged back.
He sighed.“I’ll think about it.”
“Good luck,” I said, and ended our call, even as I laughed my ass off at my father with his dictatorial mode running into JJ at his bitchiest.I was determined to get some homework done and get a nap in before dinner.Despite that, I opted to stroll by Grand’s office just to see if he was around.I was lucky to find him and Stef, sitting in his leather chairs.
“And how was school?” Stef asked me cheerfully.
“I made it through,” I told him.“Guess who’s taking Marie to the dance on Friday?”
“That young man who was the magician at the talent show,” Stef said, as if that was the most outrageous thing that could happen.
“Nope, he asked her, but she already had a date,” I said smugly, since I had his total attention now.
“Then who is Marie going to the dance with?” Grand asked.
“Ryan,” I said, raising an eyebrow to emphasize the surprise.
“Interesting,” Stef said.Before he could start asking me about that, Grand cleared his throat in a subtle way.“Well, you can tell us all about it at dinner.”
I stared at him and blinked, since that was so unlike him.They clearly wanted to get rid of me, and since that worked with my plans, I decided to go with it.“See you at dinner,” I told them, then strolled down the hall to my room, even as I tried to figure out why they wanted me to leave.I’d had a great trip with Stef, so I didn’t think there were still problems between us.Maybe it was my father, and he wanted to talk to me about his big battle with JJ over seeing shrinks?If that was the case, my phone would be ringing shortly.I got to my room, opened my door, still pondering what their issues were, only to find someone there waiting for me.Zach was sitting in one of my chairs reading, but when I walked in, he stood up and smiled at me, then frowned, then smiled again.