The meeting ended, but before I got caught up in talking to people, I managed to extract myself and find Matt. “Hey, I’m going to study for my Psych quiz tomorrow with this guy in my class.”
“The guy that sat with Stef,” I said. He was off by himself now. “He’s over there,” I said, gesturing toward him. Stef and JP had gotten mobbed, and Josh must have been overwhelmed by it, so he’d kind of backed off to the side, and out of the way.
“That guy? And you’re just going to study?” he asked, smiling at me.
“I’m just going to study. I think,” I joked. Matt chuckled at that. “He’s freaked out about being here.”
“Is he gay?”
“He’s not saying,” I told him. “Come on, I’ll introduce you.” I led Matt over to where Josh was standing.
“Matt Carrswold,” he said, before I had a chance to introduce them.
“Josh Eaton,” he said, shaking Matt’s hand. The handshake was confident, but his demeanor wasn’t.
“Matt’s my boyfriend,” I told him. It was funny to watch that register, to see him look a little disappointed. “I’ve got to talk to a few people, and then we can bail.”
I left the two of them and went back to chat with Patricia about a few things, then with a few of the other guys. I tried to keep it short, but Josh and Matt were pretty engaged now, talking away, so I just relaxed and enjoyed socializing. I finally managed to work my way over to Tiffany. She was flirting with a really feminine looking girl named Cynthia. Cynthia was shy and quiet in a submissive kind of way. “Well hey there,” I said, and put my arm around Tiffany affectionately.
Cynthia looked at me strangely, and Tiffany just smiled back at me and shook her head. “What do you want?”
“I want to know how you’re getting home.”
“Um, I can take you if you want,” Cynthia said, then blushed.
“Good,” I said, before Tiffany could object. “We’ll see you at home.” Tiffany just stared at me, daggers flying out of her eyes, but I turned on my heel and hurried over to get Matt. “Come on guys.”
“What’s the hurry?”
“Cynthia said she’d take Tiffany home. I want to bail before she can change her mind.” Matt and Josh laughed, and followed me out of the room. I saw Tiffany giving me the evil eye as we did, but I didn’t really worry about that. If she got into a bind, or got uncomfortable, she could call me. And if she didn’t want to call me, she could always call Escorial. One of the drivers there would come and get her.
“Dude, that was awesome,” Matt said, high-fiving me when we got out of the building. “Maybe she’ll actually get laid.”
“Maybe. Never know about those lesbians,” I joked. Josh was laughing with us, but then it got kind of weird, since we were there with him, and we were a couple. It seemed like he suddenly felt like a third wheel. “So where do you want to study?”
“Uh, we don’t have to study if you don’t want to,” he said.
“Up to you. I have to go through that stuff anyway, and I could use the company. It’s the only thing I have left to do this evening.”
“Almost the only thing,” Matt said, flirting.
I ignored him. “Why don’t you come back with us and you can study there? I’ll bring you back later on.”
“You guys live far away?” He was a little uncomfortable, trying to decide whether to risk it or not. Probably thought we were going to drag him back to some gay love palace. Come to think of it, that wasn’t a bad way to describe Escorial.
“Nope. Real close. Let’s go,” Matt said. We all hopped into the GMC, with Josh in the back seat, and headed up to Escorial. I pivoted so I was sitting sideways and looking back at him, and then I explained that it was JP’s house, that Matt was his grandson, and that we lived there. That I managed to lay out the situation on the short drive home was pretty impressive.
“Dude, this place is fucking massive,” he said as we drove up to Escorial.
“It’s big,” I said, grinning. We parked and led Josh into the house and took him on a brief tour, then made ourselves at home in the kitchen.
“Dude, real food,” Josh said, as he wolfed down some of the sandwiches the staff made for us.
“I know, right?” Matt joked. “So where are you from?”
“Phoenix.” He ate for a bit. “You?”
“I’m from Cleveland, and Wade’s from Virginia.”
“You don’t sound like you’re from Virginia,” he told me.
“He does if he gets real excited,” Matt said, and I felt myself blushing.
I had to change the subject. “So what sport do you play?”
“Track. I run. You guys play hockey, right?”
“Right,” Matt said.
“Alright, I need to work on this shit and get it out of the way,” I interjected, before Matt could start chatting again. They humored me and we pulled our books out. Matt worked on something else, while Josh and I trudged through the Psych stuff we had to know.
We were just finishing up and putting our books away when one of the guys from the garage came in. “I am going to pick up Miss Tiffany,” he said. All three of us snickered.
“Maybe he can drop me off too?” Josh asked.
“That works,” I said. I was kind of disappointed that he didn’t stick around, but this had probably been a pretty intense evening for him. We walked him out to the limo, and then wandered back to our room.
“He’s a nice guy,” Matt said. “He wants you.”
“He wants me?”
“Yeah. I could tell by the way he looked at you.”
“Dude, he couldn’t even get up the nerve to go into the building tonight. He’s trying to convince me he’s not gay. How’s that jive with him liking me?”
“Classic closet case,” he said dismissively. “He wants it.”
“You know, that really doesn’t matter. Right now, there’s only one guy I want,” I said, moving toward him aggressively.
“Yeah,” I said, as I pushed him onto the bed. “I’m gonna fuck you so hard your eyes are gonna pop out.”
He got that awesome look in his eyes, when they totally glazed over with lust. Fortunately, his eyes didn’t actually pop out, but it was still one amazing fuck.
October 5, 2000
“Good morning,” I said cheerfully to Tiffany as I walked into the kitchen.
“You are dead meat.”
“What did I do?” I asked, feigning innocence.
“You left me there with her!”
“She said she’d give you a ride home,” I insisted. “What happened?”
“Nothing happened,” she snapped. I looked at her funny. “Never mind.”
Matt came strolling in and got a glare from Tiffany. “What’s wrong?”
“Tiffany stayed with Cynthia, and Cynthia made her do something really kinky, but she won’t tell me what it is,” I joked. Only Tiffany blushed, really blushed, which was rare. It was a good thing, too, since she turned a really bright red.
Matt started laughing. “What did she make you do?”
“You guys are assholes,” she said, and got up to storm out. I stood up and stopped her.
“I’m sorry. I was just joking. It was just a lucky guess.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.” She sat back down, and so did I and we started eating. I looked over at Matt and he was trying not to laugh, and that was really testing my reserves. He finally busted out laughing again.
“I’m sorry,” he said, but couldn’t stop.
She finally laughed with us, more because we were laughing than because it was funny. “So what happened? You’re OK, aren’t you?” Now that I was done embarrassing her, I was genuinely worried about her.
“You guys will just make fun of me.”
“Probably,” Matt said. “But who else are you going to tell?”
“Certainly not Jeanine,” she said, looking around nervously. “We started making out, and it went a little farther.”
“So. I usually don’t stop there either,” Matt said.
“Duh. You’ll do anyone, anytime.”
“Pretty much,” I said, piling onto Matt.
“Whatever,” he said, frustrated that he was the subject of teasing. “So what happened?”
“She started playing with my boobs. Then she started sucking on them, and she really got into it.”
“Dude, she was stealing Riley’s stash?” Matt asked, and then started laughing again.
I gave him a dirty look, more to placate her. “I guess some women are into that. So?”
“It just weirded me out.”
“So what did you do?” Matt asked.
“I told her I had to go, and I went outside and called the house to have them pick me up.”
“Dating can really suck,” I said. “Remember how well I did with Ben Solomon?”
“The dude that groped you all night, and you still wouldn’t put out?” Matt asked.
“Yeah, that guy.”
Tiffany looked at me, and then gestured toward Matt. “Now I get why you settle for what you have.” Matt gave her a really dirty look, while I laughed my ass off. I finally pulled myself together enough to say goodbye and head to campus.
I walked out of my first class and saw the message light flashing on my phone. I smiled, knowing exactly who it would be. I hit the button and called my mother back.
“It seems you and I need to have a conversation,” she said coldly. “I’m planning to fly out there tomorrow.”
“I will be in LA tomorrow,” I said just as coldly. “You are welcome to meet me there, as long as Dad is with you.”
“Your father is very busy, Wade. He is in the middle of a very difficult campaign.”
“Then I won’t see you. You’ll be wasting a trip.” I could feel her fury over the phone, the fury that came from not getting her way, and from not really having any way to extort obedience.
“Why is that so important?”
“Why is it so important for you to see me?”
“There are some things I want to talk to you about, but not over the phone.”
“And I want Father there, so he understands that entire process. I want him to look me in the eye and tell me that he condones your manipulating me, hurting me, and causing me emotional pain, just so you can pay back the people who contributed to his campaign.”
“Aren’t you being just a little bit melodramatic?”
“And aren’t you just one small step away from being Hitler?”
“Very funny, Wade.”
“It’s not funny at all, Mother. It’s most definitely not funny.”
“I don’t want to have this conversation over the phone,” she insisted.
“Why not? You’re worried your phone is tapped? You’re worried that they’ll hear how you engineered this whole, complex scheme to screw some guy out of a land deal so you could hand it to your contributors?” I knew that our lines were relatively secure, so I took the small risk to make my point. She wasn’t so calm about it.
“Wade!” she hissed.
“If you’d been conducting yourself in an honorable fashion, we wouldn’t be having these conversations in person, we could talk about them over the phone,” I said, moralizing.
“They could be tapped.”
“There’s nothing to worry about, Mother. It will be in the press soon enough, anyway. You have fucked around with me for the last time, and now I’m going to bury you.”
“You wouldn’t dare!”
“I’m thinking I’ll start with a piece in the Daily about what it was like to grow up with an alcoholic mother. I’ll save this salacious land deal thing for the Washington Post.” I knew she was shitting a brick now, and I was loving it.
“You wouldn’t do that.” Now she was nervous.
“Your confidence is misplaced. You clearly don’t believe me. I think a demonstration is in order.”
“Wade, that’s enough.”
“No, Mother, it’s not enough. You and Father can cancel whatever plans you have and fly out to LA this weekend. If you can’t do that, after what you’ve done to me, then you’d better be ready for some serious damage control on Monday. Do I make myself clear?” She said nothing. “Do I make myself clear?” I repeated, only louder.
“I will call you if we can make it.”
“Have someone else do it. I’m done talking to you. Period. Don’t call me again.”
“Wade, don’t be ridiculous.” I hung up the phone, truly smiling, knowing that she’d be in a near panic over this. She called me back and I answered the phone and hit ‘end’ before she could say anything.
I was actually in a good mood as I walked into my Psych class. I put my books in the chair next to me, since I figured Josh would be late as usual. The professor arrived, and started getting the exams in order, when Josh came in. He was pretty out of breath. I moved my books and he sat down next to me, grinning. “Made it.”
“Good job,” I said.
“It’s a good thing I’m on the track team,” he joked.
“Dude, why did you schedule classes so far apart?” I took that into consideration when I planned my quarters.
“I just transferred here, so I didn’t know any better. I’ll know next time.”
“You just transferred here?” That hadn’t come up before.
“Yeah. I went to a community college for my first two years. Got my grades up, and saved my parents some cash.” That was all we had time to talk about. The professor gave us a brief set of instructions, then let us loose on the exam. It took me almost the whole period to complete the thing, and it was a bitch. The freshmen that walked out of there looked shell-shocked. Probably just like my mother did, I thought.
I hung around for a few minutes to wait for Josh to come out, and just as I was ready to give up on him, I saw his handsome form ambling out of the building. “Damn, that sucked,” he said.
“I’m so glad we studied last night. I don’t think I would have gotten half of that stuff if it weren’t for you.”
“You probably would have,” I said, trying to be encouraging, “but I’m up for it if you want to do that again.”
“Cool. What’s on your schedule now?”
“Lunch,” I said, smiling. “You want to eat?”
“I’m all over that,” he said, and followed me to the cafeteria. I didn’t usually have lunch with Matt on Thursdays, because he had a lab that sometimes screwed up his lunch hour. We got our food and found a table off in the corner.
“So where are you living?”
“Over in Lag.”
I nodded. “I lived in Lag West my freshman year and I’ve got a lot of friends over there.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty good.” He took a few bites and we said nothing as we ate. “So what’s it like, being gay on campus?”
“It’s not a big deal,” I said. “I mean, I’ve had it easier than some guys probably would, but the environment here is pretty relaxed. Most people don’t give a shit.”
“Why is it easier for you? Because your boyfriend is rich?”
I laughed at that. “No. I’m way richer than he is.” He looked at me, blankly. “You don’t know about my story in the paper, when I came out?”
“No. Like I said, I just got here.” I figured I’d let him do his research and find out about me if he wanted to. I really didn’t want to talk about it, about my family, especially right now.
“Matt thinks you like me,” I said, just to freak him out. It worked.
“Dude, what?” I laughed. “I’m not hitting on you.”
“Bummer,” I said sincerely.
“Even if I were, you have a boyfriend.”
“I do, and I love him, but we can see other people.”
He looked at me strangely. “You can? Is that weird?”
“Well, it kind of bothered me at first, but now it’s kind of fun.”
“So do you see a lot of other guys?”
I shook my head. “Matt does, but I don’t. I’ve gone out with a couple of guys, but we’ve both been pretty mellow about it lately.”
“So it’s okay if I hit on you,” he said, flirting with me.
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
“It’s the least you can do if you want me to save you a seat in Psych.” We chuckled at my lame joke, and then he glanced at the clock on the wall.
“I gotta run,” he said.
“Hey, you want my digits, in case you decide to follow through?” We exchanged phone numbers and he headed off to his next class. He was a really cute guy, and would probably be a lot of fun, but he was nowhere near as awesome as Matt.
As I was walking out of the cafeteria, I actually saw Matt, sitting at a table eating lunch with John Carullo. I really liked Carullo. He was a huge, hulking linebacker, but he was a gentle giant. He and Matt had been an item in the past. I walked over to their table, and Carullo characteristically got a little nervous, as if I’d caught them fooling around. “Hey Carullo! How you been?”
“Good to see you Wade,” he said. Matt kicked a chair out for me.
“How’d your test go?” Matt asked.
“It was tough, but I think it went OK. I’m not interrupting you guys, am I?”
“Nah. It’s all good,” Carullo said, giving me a big smile. “I gotta run anyway.” I felt guilty about busting up their lunch, but his tray was empty, and neither one of them seemed bothered by that. “See ya guys,” he said casually, and got up and left.
“I didn’t cock block you, did I?” I asked Matt.
He laughed. “No. We were just having lunch. He’s a great guy.”
I nodded and changed the subject. “My mother called today. They’re probably going to be in LA this weekend.”
He laughed. “That will be fun.”
“I scared the crap out of her.” I made him look at me. “I’m really sorry for what she did. I’m going to do whatever I can to make sure she doesn’t fuck with you again.”
He nodded, and then swallowed, something he did before he took on controversial topics. “I thought about what you said last night, about how maybe our problems weren’t all her fault. You may be right. It may not be all her fault.”
“I may be right? Really?” I joked, implying that I usually was right. He laughed at my idiocy. “Still, they have fucked up my life enough in the past; they should be doing what they can to make it smooth and easy at this point.”
“No shit,” he agreed.
We’d just finished dinner and had collapsed into the lounge chairs in the television room when Anna interrupted us. “Mr. Wade, they just buzzed your parents through the gates.”
Matt looked at me and chuckled. “Guess you got their attention.”
“Thank you, Anna. Will you have someone tell Tiffany that I’ll probably be sending for Riley shortly?”
“Certainly,” she said, smiling at me. I got up and walked out into the Great Hall, then into the foyer. The limo pulled up to the front and they both leaped out. My mother looked very angry, while my father looked like his normal, calm self.
“Welcome to California,” I said, as I opened the door for them. My mother approached me to give me one of her faux kisses, but I moved away from her. Instead, I gave my father a warm hug, the kind I knew that he needed.
“You pulled us away from a very important dinner,” she snapped.
“I really don’t care,” I said to her evenly. “Follow me.” I led them down to our room, away from the public areas, more to shield the other residents here from their crap than to keep things more confidential. We walked into our room and Matt was sitting there, just as I hoped he would be. They were both dying to ask him to leave, but they knew better. Before either one of them could say anything, I addressed my father directly. “Do you know why you’re here?”
“I understand there was some confusion about a land deal.”
“Confusion?” I asked. “I want to know what you know about this thing.”
He hesitated, and my mother started to speak, but I rudely held up my hand to tell her to shut up. “I want to know what he knows.”
“My understanding is that there were a number of parcels of land that were put together. Once they were all acquired, the land would be worth about twice what it was as parcels. A group of investors that consisted largely of my contributors bought up all of the parcels but one. That parcel was inadvertently transferred to you, and now you’re refusing to transfer it back. That’s causing us some embarrassment with our key donors.” I’d watched him as he’d rambled that off, and it was completely clear to me that he believed that. That was the story she’d fed him.
“Do you really think I would be all that upset about a parcel of land?” I asked him. “Because I am really upset, upset enough to embarrass Mother so badly that she has to leave Washington and go live on the farm.”
He looked at my mother, who just stood there with her arms folded, glaring at me and my blatant threat. “We didn’t have time to go into all the details,” she snapped.
“Well then, let me enlighten you,” I said to my father. “The parcels of land in question were owned by a guy named Gordon Taft. He’s the stepfather of a student here at Stanford named Carl Haupt, and a student at the University of Virginia named Jason Haupt. You may have heard of Jason, since he’s dating Mary Ellen.”
“I’ve met Jason. He seems like a nice enough guy,” my father said, more to show me that he was tracking with me.
“So Gordon Taft gets all these parcels together, spending about $20 million to do it, and he only needs one more parcel to complete the deal. That parcel is in Grandfather’s trust. Now Mother can’t just refuse to sell the parcel to Taft, because she has an ulterior motive. So she has the master trust distribute out its assets to our individual trusts, and she makes sure that parcel of land in Idaho is in my trust. It kind of threw her for a loop when I took over control of my trust after Riley was born, but she’d already had a backup plan. It was an ingenious solution. She made sure there’s a clause in the agreement that lets her pull it back out of my trust within 30 days if there’s a change of control.” I’d been talking to him, but shooting scorning glances at my mother as we went. I was worried that my father would just look at me obliquely, zoning this out, but he got how important this was to me, and he was totally focused.
“That’s a normal clause, Wade,” she insisted.
“No, it isn’t,” I said coldly. “And please don’t interrupt me again.”
“Go on,” my father said.
“She needs to make sure I don’t sell that piece of land to Taft, so Mother enlists Mary Ellen’s help. Mary Ellen talks her boyfriend into feeding Carl personal information about me, information he uses to try to drive a wedge between Matt and me. Carl befriends Matt, and then confronts me with things that he says Matt told him. Things about our problems,” I said, freaking my father out. “And things about Uncle Roscoe.”
“What about Roscoe?” my mother interceded.
“I told you not to interrupt me,” I snapped. “If you do it again, you will leave this house.” She looked to my father to stand up for her, but he said nothing. “So while I was in the middle of welcoming my son into the world, and trying to get things organized with him, and while I was trying to do damage control for you with Jeanine, I also had to deal with the biggest conflict I’ve ever had with Matt. When we needed each other the most, Mother was driving a wedge between us.” My father glanced over at Matt apologetically, and my mother did nothing. I paced about the room, collecting my thoughts. “When I found out that I owned this parcel of land, I unwittingly did just what she wanted me to do. I refused to sell it. That forced Mr. Taft up against the wall, and he sold out to your investor group for $23 million. He made a couple of million bucks off the deal, but nothing compared to what it was worth. Then, as soon as the investor group got that land, my attorneys got a notice that the parcel that I own is being recalled into the master trust.”
My father glared at my mother, and with such force that it had an almost physical impact on her. “That’s not the story you told me.”
“I left out a few of the details,” she said.
“Unfortunately for Mother, I’m smart enough to figure this out, and I transferred that parcel out of the trust, and out of her reach.”
“My attorneys are convinced it’s not immune to recovery,” she said, then seemed to regret her statement, as it all but validated what I had just said.
“It will make for one salacious lawsuit,” I said to her coldly. I held up my hand to shut her up again, and looked my father square in the eye. “I want you to look me in the eye and tell me that you think that transferring $20 million to your contributors is worth hurting me, and worth messing with my life. I want you to explain to me how that is consistent with what it’s supposed to mean to be a Danfield, where I was taught that it was all about the family, and that we have to stick together. How does that jive with our indoctrination, on how we are family above all else, and that we can’t ever screw over other family members? I want to know if you consider it honorable to have Mother pitting her children against each other just to make some campaign donors happy.”
“Elizabeth,” he said to her, shaking his head in disappointment.
“Don’t you moralize to me,” she said to him. She had no choice but to let me shut her down, but with him her normal assertiveness returned. “You keep your head in the sand while I make the machine run behind the scenes. I’m the one who keeps your campaign coffers full. You know it’s not pretty, and that’s why you don’t ask questions.”
“But you don’t hurt family to do it. You just don’t do that. That is wrong. It’s so very wrong,” he said. She didn’t get it, but I did, I understood him. All the things I’d just questioned him about, the obligations and duties of being a Danfield, he’d been raised with those same core values. He sat on my bed and put his head in his hands as he grappled with this. “Between the two of us, we have done more to damage these kids than most could handle. We owe it to them to make their lives easier now.”
“You can’t have it both ways. You can’t ask me to raise money for you, and then question my motives.”
“You’re right. I can’t,” he said to her. He stood up and looked her straight in the eye. “You’re fired.”
“What?” She asked incredulously.
“You’re fired. You’re no longer involved in fundraising.”
“You can’t do that! We’re a team!” She moved closer to him and pointed her finger right at his chest. “I made you who you are!” She was really losing it now, and it was one of the most gratifying things I’d ever seen.
“Then maybe it’s time that I took stock of that person that you made me into,” he said. “What you did to Wade and Mary Ellen is despicable. It is just despicable.”
“And you haven’t done worse?”
“I have done worse, and I’m trying to atone for that as best I can. I don’t even see any recognition on your part that what you did was wrong. All I see is that you’re upset that you got caught.”
“This is ridiculous. We’re going back to Virginia, and things are going back to the way that they were, the way that they’ve been.”
“No, they’re not,” he said to her flatly. “I think you need to get away from Washington. I think the power has corrupted you.”
“You can’t tell me where to go,” she said.
“No, but I can tell you where you can’t go: I can keep you out of government functions.”
“One good thing came out of this,” I told my father, but I was really speaking to my mother. “It reminded me how important Uncle Roscoe had been to me. I’m going to try to think of a suitable way to memorialize him.”
“He was an embarrassment to the family,” my mother snapped.
“No, Mother, he was a man who died serving his country. He was an honorable man. You are the embarrassment. You are the one without any shred of honor.”
“So you will find a way to do this, and to embarrass me as you do,” she said. “Go ahead. Do what you must.”
“I’m glad you understand,” I said.
“I gave those investors my pledge on this deal in Idaho, Wade. That has to go through. You have to give me that parcel,” she said, trying to reason with me.
“It’s for sale. Twenty-five million. Take it or leave it.”
“That’s over five times its value! That’s extortion!”
“You seemed to think that hurting Matt and me was worth that much money, so that’s how much it’s going to cost you. We’re the ones who sacrificed for it, not you, and not your contributors.”
She tried to give me her most wicked look, but I was impervious to it. “I will see you in the car,” she said to my father, and stormed out of my room. The door slammed shut behind her after she left, and that sound seemed to stun us, as we all just stood there, thinking about the whole encounter.
My father got his wits about him first. “I really am sorry about this, Wade. And I’m sorry you got stuck in the middle of this too, Matt.”
“That had to be tough for you, to stand up to her like you did,” Matt said to him. Then Matt did something that totally blew us all away. He walked up to my father and extended his hand, then pulled my father into a ‘man hug’. “I’ll go see if Tiffany can bring Riley in so you can see him before you go.” My father just stared after him, amazed, but with a slight smile on his face. I wonder if he ever thought he’d earn any respect in Matt’s eyes. Standing up to my mother like he did, it seemed like he had.
“I’m sorry to rip you away from DC in the middle of your campaign, Dad,” I said to him. “I needed you to hear what had happened, and I need you to put a stop to this.”
“For the first time in my entire political career, I almost wish I’d lose.”
“Danfields don’t lose,” I said to him with a grin. He laughed at that with me, and then Tiffany came in with Riley. My father was always good with babies, and Riley was an especially good baby, but it was still a touching scene. When he was done with his brief visit, I walked him out to the car, and gave him a parting hug, and then they were gone.
“Dude, what the fuck?” Matt asked me, as we watched the limo drive off.