Many apologies for the delay. I've gotten quite busy, so writing has been tough. Probably two more chapters in this story.
September 23, 2003
New York, NY
I was lying in bed, panting from having yet another amazing round of sex with Jake.“It doesn’t get better than that,” he said, making me smile.
“No, it doesn’t,” I agreed.We lay there peacefully, while I let my mind drift as I pondered his statement.When I’d been with a guy in the past, that would have been a less-than-honest statement, because in the back of my mind I’d compare that guy to Robbie and he’d come up short.Even Cody hadn’t been able to make me feel as satisfied as Robbie had, but Jake did.I was starting to wonder if Jake wasn’t even better.As a lover, Robbie had tended to be a bit selfish, focused more on his own pleasure, something Kevin Carmichael had noticed when he’d slept with us.Jake wasn’t like that.Jake put himself into sex 100%, and he was all about making sure his partner was happy.
“JJ seemed to be in a good mood at dinner tonight,” he noted, bringing up a new topic.
“He did,” I agreed a bit nervously.“He was in a good mood after we got done with the psychiatrist.”
“That’s a good thing, isn’t it?” he asked.
“It is a good thing, and I’m really happy that we seem to have a diagnosis for what’s been causing him problems,” I said.“I just feel guilty for not seeing this problem before, and for not forcing him to get help earlier.”
“You said it wasn’t really a problem until this summer, and then you were adamant with him that he had to get some help,” Jake responded logically.“I don’t know if you could have speeded up the process, especially since he’s not the easiest person in the world to deal with.”
“He’s not,” I agreed.
“I’m sorry,” he said, suddenly feeling guilty.“I shouldn’t have said that. I mean, he may not be like this when he’s got his moods under control.”
I chuckled a bit.“No, JJ’s always been difficult.He likes to throw it in my face that I’m not there for him, and that’s because he knows it’s effective because he’s right.I haven’t given him the attention he probably needs and deserves.”
“When I watch you two interact, it doesn’t work unless you are in full parental mode.I don’t think your relationship has evolved to the point where you’re treating each other like he’s an adult, or almost one,” he said insightfully.
“That’s interesting,” I said, as I thought about it.Maybe this was just part of JJ’s late maturation process, and both of us were unwilling to see him as something besides a child.“He’s going to see a psychologist tomorrow.Maybe if he likes working with her, she can help us make some headway on that.”
“I think that would be a good thing,” he said.“I have to fly out tomorrow.”
“I can’t go back tomorrow.I need to stay here for a few more days at least,” I said, even as I internally chided myself for almost whining when I did.
“I’ll probably be busy anyway,” he said.
“You’ve been away from your office for a while,” I acknowledged.
“That’s not really a problem, but tomorrow I meet with a new client, and I think it’s going to be one of those deals where I’ll be pretty absorbed, kind of like I was when I first started working with you,” he explained.
“So what does that mean?” I asked.
“It means that I’ll probably be gone for a couple of weeks,” he said.
“Gone?” I asked, unable to hide how upset that made me.
“Yeah, gone,” he said, getting a little annoyed with me.“I really like you, and I like being with you, but I’m not going to give up my career just to follow you around.”Like Marc would have, I thought, finishing his sentence.
“I didn’t think about that, that you’d just vanish for an extended period of time,” I said, stalling for time while my mind processed what was happening.
“I told you when we first talked about being together that I wasn’t that guy, the one who will settle down and pretend to be your wife,” he said defiantly.
“I never asked you to do that,” I objected.
“Isn’t that what you’re upset about now?” he demanded.“Isn’t that what you want me to do?” It was funny that I had the reputation for being the hothead, yet here he was, coming a little unglued.I tried to defuse the situation.
“I just wasn’t expecting it, for you to suddenly disappear, and I don’t do real well with surprises,” I said candidly.“Look, I am really enjoying our relationship, and I guess I was sort of into spending time with you.”
“Because it’s so new,” he said, nodding in agreement.
“Well, and because it’s so good,” I said.“I don’t ever remember being with someone who made me as calm and as centered as you do.”
“You make me sound boring,” he responded with a smile.
“You are not boring,” I said emphatically. “Is it so wrong for me to want to monopolize your time when this is so new and exciting?”
“It’s not wrong, but it’s not fair,” he said.
“I didn’t say you had to stay here with me, I just don’t want you to be mad at me for wanting you to,” I explained.
He grimaced.“I should have told you about this instead of springing this on you.I know you don’t like surprises, like you said.”
“It’s alright,” I said soothingly.I didn’t want him to feel guilty.
“I think I didn’t do it because I didn’t want to have this conversation and ruin our time together,” he said.
“You didn’t ruin it,” I objected.
“And I don’t want to leave any more than you want me to go,” he said, and gave me a really loving kiss.“But this is my job, and I need to do it.”
“Maybe when this one is over, we can take a week off and spend some time together,” I offered hopefully.
“Let’s plan on that,” he said.We made love again and drifted off to sleep, with him seemingly contented and me on edge at having to deal with him leaving for at least a couple of weeks.
September 24, 2003
I walked into the kid’s playroom looking for Matt, dreading the conversation ahead of me.“Daddy!” Riley said enthusiastically, and ran over to give me a hug.That put a big smile on my face, to have such a positive impact on this neat young boy.
“Hey there, Riley-boy!” I said, as I picked him up and spun him around.I had to repeat my maneuver with Maddy or risk a tantrum.She was a lot more emotive than Riley.
“Hey,” Matt said pleasantly.“What’s up?” It was irritating that he thought I would only be up here at this time of day if I had something to talk to him about, and even more irritating that he was right.
“Come down and talk to me when you get a chance,” I said.He gave me a knowing look, and we took a few minutes to extract ourselves from the kids and made our way down to our room.
“What’s going on?” he asked, now that we were in our world.
“Alex called.They’re having a funeral for his father this weekend in Britain.He asked me if I’d attend,” I said.
“You’re serious?” Matt asked me, getting as fired up as I knew he would.“You almost got killed this weekend, we all almost got killed the weekend before that, and you want to go to England and risk it again?!”
“I seriously doubt I’ll be murdered at the Marquess of Preston’s memorial service,” I said insincerely.“Besides, I’m not the prime target.”
“That won’t make any difference if you’re murdered,” he said.“Just because they didn’t mean to blow you up, they’ll still blow you up.”
“You think I should not go because I’m afraid of some thugs?” I asked him.It probably sounded idiotic, but I was basically telling him that I wasn’t about to be a coward.
“We’re not talking about you being a coward,” he said, mirroring my thoughts in that annoying way that he could.“We’re talking about some common sense.”
“I actually had a plan,” I said.He knew how I worked, but I had just as big a grasp on his mindset, and I was taking him away from his outrage and making him think,
“Alright, let’s hear it,” he said skeptically.
“I thought I’d call my mother and ask her what she thought, whether she thought I should go or not,” I said.
“Like she’d worry about you getting assassinated,” he said.
“I thought I’d invite her to go with me,” I said.“If nothing else, she is most certainly focused on self-preservation.”
“You’re taking her as a human shield?” he asked.I rolled my eyes at the way he put that.
“No, but I think that if she won’t go, it gives me a good excuse to bow out, and if she does, it will be pretty safe,” I said.
“I still don’t like it,” he grumbled.Having him argue with me about this would have been annoying if I didn’t know he was doing it because he loved me.
“The other part of this is that I really want to meet these people,” I told him.“I want to meet Sabrina Granger.”
“I don’t know,” I answered honestly.“I just want to see the person who we’ve been battling.”
“Know your enemy,” he summarized.
“More or less,” I agreed.
“You don’t need my permission to go,” he said, grumbling again.
“I want your input,” I said.
“I don’t like it, but if you think it’s important, you should go,” he said, caving to my bizarre desire to risk my life for the sake of my own curiosity.
“Thanks,” I said, and gave him a nice kiss.
“I’ll leave you alone so you can call your mother,” he said, and wandered out of our room and back up the stairs to where the kids were.
My mother’s phone only rang twice before she answered it.“Good morning, Wade.”
“Good morning,” I said.“Have you heard that they’re having Lord Preston’s funeral this weekend?”
“I had heard that, and I am quite surprised that he is being buried in England,” she said.It was impossible that she didn’t know all the details about this, but I humored her and played along with her feigned ignorance.
“Evidently he was explicit in his will, asking that he be buried in the family vault at Bridgemont,” I explained.“There is to be a memorial service in London on Friday, then a burial service at Bridgemont on Saturday.”
“I would have thought that he would have been buried in South Africa.”
“That would have been my expectation as well,” I said.“In any event, I was thinking of going, and I wanted to get your opinion.”
“My opinion?” she asked, genuinely surprised.
“I want to know if you think it’s safe for me to attend, and if you think it’s a good idea to go,” I explained.This was a huge olive branch for me to throw at my mother, to actually seek her advice on a personal matter.I could almost see her evil grin.
“I think it will be safe for you, but whether you go or not is completely up to you.”
“I have nearly been murdered twice in the past two weeks,” I said wryly.“Why would this be safe?”
“It is too public an event, and too much of a spectacle, for anyone to risk creating a scene,” she said. “They have already gotten several Federal agencies on their back over their attack on Goodwell.There is no reason to risk antagonizing British authorities as well.”
“I appreciate your insight, and I hope you’re right, but you assume these people are thinking logically, and I’m not sure that is the case,” I said ruefully.
“That is certainly a risk,” she said.Her tone made it sound like she was anxious to get off the phone, now that I had presumably gotten my question answered.
“I’m not sure if you were thinking of going to those events or not,” I said.“Have you decided on your plans?”
“I have not,” she said, stalling to see what this was about.
“I was wondering if you’d like to accompany me,” I said.
“That is a most interesting offer, and it was most devious of you to get me to commit to whether it was safe or not before asking me to go,” she said, with a slightly playful tone in her voice.
“I thought it was clever rather than devious,” I said in a similar tone.“I won’t hold your advice against you.”
“I’d love to join you,” she said.
We agreed to meet in New York and fly over on Thursday, and return on Sunday.
September 24, 2003
New York, NY
“Where is this place?” I asked my father, wondering what the fuck we were doing this far from Tribeca.
“Just east of Central Park,” he said.
“In Harlem?” I asked, stunned.Didn’t he know we were white?We’d probably get killed, driving around the ‘hood in a Maybach.
“East Harlem,” he said, and gave me a dirty look for being a snob.“It’s safe.”
“Right,” I said skeptically.“That other doctor wasn’t available until next week?”
“No,” he said.“Casey says you’ll either really like this lady or not, so just give her a chance.”
We pulled up to a rather non-descript building that was no more than five stories tall.I let myself out of the car again, primarily because I didn’t want the locals to pounce on me when they saw I was in a Maybach.My father walked behind me, then passed me to open the door for me like I was a chick.“Thanks,” I said insincerely.
The building was pretty tacky, one of those places that hadn’t been redecorated in decades.Surely anyone who was good at their job could afford a better location than this?We got into an elevator that was old and slow, and seemed to strain at the effort it took to raise us up to the fifth floor.We got out of the elevator into a hallway with tacky industrial tile floors and gray paint on the walls, and walked up to a door that simply said “Dr. Lawanda Jones.”There were no letters after her name.I decided that maybe that was because it cost extra to add on additional signage.“This is it,” Dad said, and opened the door for me again.There was a small reception area with a reception window that was closed off with frosted glass.We walked up to the window and rang the bell as instructed, and the window slid open.
“Can I help you?” a young black woman asked, with a bit of attitude.
“Jeremy Schluter, to see Dr. Jones,” my father said.
“Got some forms for you to fill out,” she said abruptly.She handed us a clipboard with forms on them and shut the window before we could say anything, which was just rude. It wasn’t like there was anyone else here that she had to shield herself from.I gave my father a dubious look, then sat down and filled out the forms with his pen just like I’d done last time.
I took them up to the window and was annoyed enough to knock instead of ringing the bell.“Here,” I said rudely to her after she opened the window.I all but tossed the clipboard on the counter, then went back to sit down before giving her a chance to say anything.I smiled to myself, thinking that I could do a New York attitude as well as the next person.
I figured it would be a little bit of a wait, just as it had before, but it was only a few minutes before the office door opened and a large black woman came out.She was wearing slacks with a short-sleeved blouse, both of which looked like they could have been on the clearance rack at Macy’s.She had to be almost six feet tall, and had large arms and legs.I swallowed a bit, since this amazon could probably break me in half.“Mr. Schluter?” she asked.
“Jeremy,” I said, smiling slightly.I shook her hand, noting that her grip was firm but not like a vice.
“I’m Dr. Jones,” she said.“Come on back.”She led me back to an office that was decorated a little nicer than the waiting room, with a leather chair for me to sit in.I looked around her office, looking at the degrees on her wall, and noticed that one of them was from Stanford.
“How do you know Casey Bridgeport?” I asked her.
“We went to school together,” she said. “He called me and told me all about you.”
“Is that a good or a bad thing?” I asked, joking.She was eyeballing me pretty strongly, and it was not a little intimidating, but I managed to stare back at her calmly.
“Both,” she said.“Why are you here?”
“My father is making me see a psychologist, so here I am,” I said a little petulantly.
“Nice attitude,” she said in not the nicest way. That made me mad enough to throw some attitude back at her.
“I figured that based on how well your office is decorated, you could probably use the business,” I said in a snarky way.
“I have more business than I can handle,” she said assertively.“I could spend all my money on trying to look pretty, but then I wouldn’t be able to work with the people who can’t afford help but need it.”
“Oh,” I said, backing up because I had just been exposed as being a total snob.
“The only reason I’m meeting with you is because Casey called me and asked me to.He said that I can help you out, but I’d have to put up with a whole lot of attitude from you,” she said.
“He said I have attitude?Seriously?” I asked, thinking of how bitchy Casey could be.
She chuckled.“That is saying something, isn’t it?”
“It is,” I agreed, chuckling with her.
“So I can work with you, but when you walk through that door, you gonna leave that white boy elitist act behind or I’m gonna shove it right up your ass, we clear?” she asked me assertively.
“We’re clear,” I mumbled.
“Good, so let’s talk about what’s bothering you,” she said, in a friendly way.It was strange how this obnoxious woman in Harlem was able to prompt a stream of ideas, events, and emotions from me.I almost felt like I vomited my internal thoughts, in a figurative sense, all over her.I told her how my family had shit all over me, and how Stef had come into town and trashed my condo, and how he and Will had embarrassed the fuck out of me at the fashion show.
I paused for air and realized I’d been talking with little interruption for over an hour.“That was kind of a lot,” I said sheepishly.
“It was, but I was planning on our first meeting taking some extra time,” she said calmly.
“How’d you know I’d work with you?You blocked out a couple of hours.That could have been a total waste of time,” I said.That didn’t seem like a smart way to run a business.
“You need me,” she said, making me blink a bit in surprise, since I wasn’t so sure about that.“It sounds like pretty much everyone in your family is a complete asshole.”
“There are a few that aren’t,” I said.I’d done nothing but bitch about these people, but now that she was attacking them, I instinctively felt the need to defend them.
“I think the first thing we have to do is get them out of your life as much as possible,” she said.
“That’s why I’m in New York,” I said with a smile.“They don’t live here.”
“Yes, but that’s not enough,” she said.“The way they have treated you, having them in your life could just cause you more damage, more pain and suffering.”
“I don’t need to completely cut them out of my life,” I objected.“I just need some distance.”
“Jeremy, you said that they abused you, they didn’t love you, and they came in and made your life at home intolerable,” she said, parroting back some of my complaints.“You need to sever your ties with them.”
“Completely?” I asked, stunned.
“Completely,” she confirmed.
“You want me to cut off ties with my father, and my brothers?” I couldn’t believe she’d suggest that, although I guess as big of assholes as they’d been, it kind of made sense.
“Yes, especially them,” she said.“You said that the only time your father pays attention to you is when he wants to dominate your life.You said your brothers are a constant source of embarrassment and they seem to derive pleasure from teasing and torturing you.Why would you want them in your life?”
“They’re not always like that,” I said, defending them.
“Alright, tell me something that your father did that was nice, that showed you that he loved you?” she asked.
I rummaged through my memories, and tried to conjure up things my father had done for me.At first it was hard, because even though I probably knew he was there supporting me, it wasn’t always obvious.“I had a guard that took nude pictures of me, and I didn’t want to report him to the authorities because I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.Will was determined that we do just that.My father let the guy go.”
“In other words, he chose you in that battle over Will?”
“That may be part of it,” I said, as I thought about it.
“What else?” she asked.
“I think when he trusted me to handle my relationship with Alex, that was a pretty big step for him.”
“You mean because he had planned to break the two of you up, and he decided that it wasn’t his place to do that?” she asked.
“He got a little help with that from Will,” I said, chuckling.“My father and Will are a lot alike, and their fights are epic.”
“So Will helped you out with that too?” she asked.
“Yeah, and after Alex dumped me in England, he came over and picked me up, and stayed with me here in New York until I landed on my feet,” I said, acknowledging that Will had done nice things for me too.
“What about Darius?”
“After 9-11, at my mother’s funeral, I’d been doing really well but I was starting to lose it.Darius was there to prop me up, and it was like he’d known in advance that I’d need him, and he’d made sure he was there for me.”
“And what have you done to show them that you love them?” she asked.
I stared at her, even as I felt my mouth falling open in stunned confusion.“I don’t know.”
“Maybe you just need to take some time and think about it,” she said, then sat back and crossed her legs, as if to signify that she’d wait as long as I needed her to.
“I mean I know I’ve done stuff for them, but I just can’t remember what it was right now,” I said, since I couldn’t think of anything.
“I’d like to see you the day after tomorrow,” she said.She pulled out her calendar and I pulled out mine, and we worked out a time.After that, she continued.“In the meantime, I want you to do two things.”
“Alright,” I said cautiously.
“First, I want you to try and think of those times when you did something nice for your father or your brothers to show them that you love them,” she said.
“I’ll try,” I grumbled.
“And I want you to think about this. I hear you demanding that the people in your life treat you like an adult, but then I hear you acting like a kid.”
“So it’s all my fault?” I demanded, my ego defenses at full force.
“It’s not about fault,” she said firmly, calming me down.“But you keep demanding that they treat you better, maybe you should help them out by giving them a reason.”
“You’re telling me not to be so bitchy,” I said.“I don’t know if I can do that.”
She laughed. “I’m telling you that you can help them treat you the way you want them to if you do the same thing for them.”She seemed to sense me floundering around, trying to figure that out. “What are your plans for tonight?”
“I don’t really know,” I said.I’d just been focused on getting through this nightmare.
“Why don’t you take your father out to dinner, maybe even to a play.Set it up, and tell him that when you go out into the waiting room,” she suggested.
“He likes to be in control,” I joked.“That may really freak him out.”
“He’s not the only one who likes to be in control,” she said.I stared at her, totally freaking out.There was no way I had control issues like my father did.Or did I?“I’ll see you on Friday.”
She stared at me until I got my act together and stood up.I shook her hand. “I’ll see you on Friday.”I walked out of her office, and paused to use the restroom there.While I was there, I did what she suggested, and spent five minutes making dinner reservations and getting us tickets for a play.