I sat there on the fire road eating my lunch, so ready to be out of this place. As usual, the two couples also here were completely absorbed in each other, and as usual, I was trying to eat my lunch as fast as I could so I could escape from their cuteness.
“What does your schedule look like for next semester?” Shiloh asked Ryan. They proceeded to do a rundown on their various classes, getting excited when one actually happened to coincide.
Then, as they usually did two or three times during lunch, they remembered that I was there and tried to bring me into the conversation. “What’s your schedule, Will?” Morgan asked me.
“I don’t have a schedule,” I said casually. “I won’t be coming back next semester.”
“What?” Ryan asked me. “What the fuck are you talking about? You’re not going back to Malibu.”
“I’m moving up to the Bay Area as soon as this semester is over,” I said, like it was no big deal. “I’m going to Menlo.”
“When did you decide to do this?” he asked, acting all pissed off.
“Couple of weeks ago,” I said.
“When were you going to tell me?”
“Right now,” I said, smiling at him. “I gotta go. I’ll see you guys.”
I got up and walked off. I was surprised to find Ryan next to me. “Dude, why didn’t you tell me?”
“I don’t know,” I lied. “I figured it would come up eventually.”
“Well you could have said something,” he snapped, and he was bitchy enough that he finally pissed me off.
“Look, you’ve been totally involved in Shiloh, and that’s fine, but you never spend any time with me anymore. We haven’t done shit since I got back. So don’t go giving me crap for not keeping you up to date on what’s going on in my life.”
“Dude, don’t go acting like a jealous chick,” he said disdainfully.
I got right in his face, and spoke loudly without yelling. “I’m not jealous, and I’m not giving you shit about it. I haven’t begged you to spend time with me, or tried to make you feel guilty for totally blowing me off. So don’t even give me that shit, make me sound like some fucking pathetic piece of shit begging for your attention.” I pushed him back, away from me, and stormed off, heading for the library. I spent some time working on homework, and then trudged through my last few classes. I was so ready to be out of this place. So ready.
Tish picked me up, just like she always did. It was so nice to have someone reliable working for me, and to know that I didn’t have to deal with someone like Michael after a shitty day. “You still going to the Mission?” she asked.
“No,” I said. “Let’s just go home.” I was in too bad of a mood to deal with the guys at the Mission. They had enough problems without putting up with me and my bitchy attitude.
“Fine,” she said, and drove us home in silence. She’d learned my moods, and knew not to bug me after school. Somehow, just having someone in my life who understood me made me happier.
“I’m planning to go up to Paly this weekend,” I told her. “You want to go with me?”
“I’ve got a few things to take care of here this weekend. If you need me, I’ll go. Otherwise, I’ll stay here,” she said.
“That’s cool. That means that as soon as you drop me off at the airport on Friday, you’re free for the weekend,” I said with a smile.
“Three more days,” she said wistfully, cracking me up.
I called Stef to line up my ride. “Well hello,” he said pleasantly.
“Hey there. I was wondering if you’d fly me up there this weekend.” I asked.
“Of course,” he said. I heard him flipping through his calendar. “It will be no problem at all. Did you tell your father yet?”
“No, but I’ll give him a call. If you talk to him before I do, you can let him know.”
“Well, the last time I flew you up here there was a considerable amount of drama that came with you,” he teased. “I was just wondering if we should expect more of the same.”
“That’s not my plan, but you never know. Dad and I are fine. Robbie, now that’s another story,” I said.
“What is happening?” he asked, concerned.
“Nothing really. He just doesn’t talk to me, JJ doesn’t talk to me, and I don’t talk to either of them. Dinners are pretty quiet.”
“Well, we are good conversationalists up here, so save up your wit,” he joked, cracking me up.
“I will,” I promised.
I got home and the first thing I did was check the waves. They looked good, so even though it was cold, I put on my wetsuit and hit the surf. I spent a couple of hours out there, letting the waves thrash me, until it started getting dark. I went in and took a long hot shower, enjoying my steam shower. I loved my room, and I loved the ocean, but I was anxious to get out of Malibu, not because of the place, but because of the people.
I went down to dinner at seven and was surprised to find Dad, Robbie, and JJ there. Dinners here were nowhere near as predictable as they were at Escorial. I found that I liked the routine, and the schedule, at Escorial much better. “Evening,” I said pleasantly.
“Good evening,” Dad said to me. Robbie and JJ said nothing, which pissed him off. I rolled my eyes at him to tell him that their behavior didn’t bother me.
“How was your day?” I asked Dad. JJ and Robbie just gave me dirty looks.
“Busy, but not bad,” he said.
We started eating, and things would have been calm, except JJ sat there, fuming about something. I just stared at him while I ate, making him more and more uncomfortable, waiting for him to finally snap. Eventually, my strategy worked. “Thanks to you, Mom is worse,” he said to me hatefully.
“What’s going on?” I asked Robbie. He ignored me. “You want to tell me, or you want me to call the doctor myself?”
“He won’t talk to you,” JJ snapped.
“He will if I get a court order requiring him to,” I said, still staring at Robbie.
“I have power of attorney, not you,” Robbie said to me scornfully.
“Then you’d better be using it wisely,” I said. “Now tell me what the fuck is going on with Jeanine!”
“Enough!” Dad intervened. “What’s going on with Jeanine?” he asked Robbie. I was surprised that Robbie hadn’t told him yet.
“The doctor says that she’s taken a step back. We don’t know what caused it,” he said firmly, looking at JJ and me.
“It’s pretty obvious,” JJ said. “It was after Will didn’t go see her with us for Thanksgiving.”
“You mean after you guys went to the hospital and tortured her,” I corrected. “Did the idiotic doctor you hired finally figure out that as long as JJ’s around, she’ll need to stay in the looney bin?”
“Don’t call it a looney bin,” Dad said to me firmly. “It’s offensive.”
“You’re right. I’m sorry,” I agreed. Just because I didn’t like my mother and brother was no reason to diss people that were institutionalized.
“You’re not sorry for anything,” JJ spat. “You don’t care about anyone but yourself.”
I waited for Robbie or Dad to jump in, but they didn’t say anything. “I think you two have totally fucked up her care. I think you have set her up for even more pain and suffering. I think that’s the ultimate in selfishness.”
“That’s not true at all,” Robbie said.
“Have you gotten a second opinion on her condition and treatment?” I challenged.
“I don’t need a second opinion,” Robbie said dismissively. “I’m happy with how they’ve handled things.”
“I’m not,” I told him. “I think that if this quack you hired is going to let you two dipshits go in there and mess her up every time she makes progress, she’s not getting very good care.”
“I’m responsible for her care, not you,” Robbie said loudly.
“For now,” I said. I got up, threw my napkin on the plate, and went up to my room. I locked the door and sat there, staring out at the ocean. It was foggy, so with the ambient light I could just make out the surf. I sat there, conflicted over this situation. Part of me wanted to not give a shit about my mother. Part of me wanted to just let her go fuck herself. She hadn’t really shown me much love or warmth, and she’d made it clear, ever since I was a little kid, that I was pretty low on her list of priorities. At the same time, I knew that I did care about her, and watching Robbie totally fuck up her treatment was like fingernails on a chalkboard.
I fired up my computer and searched for the number I was looking for, then made a phone call to her doctor. He wasn’t there, obviously, but I left a message with his service and sat down to do my homework, waiting for his call.
About an hour later my phone rang, and the area code showed it to be a Bay Area number. “This is Doctor Madison,” he said curtly in response to my greeting.
“I’m calling to check up on my mother’s status. My mother is Jeanine Graves.”
“I thought this was an emergency,” he said coldly. I didn’t really get what he was talking about. I mean, in the past, if I needed to get in touch with a doctor, I called the doctor.
“It is. I need to know how she’s doing,” I said.
“Well, I am not allowed to discuss her care with you, but even if I were, I would expect you to call me during normal office hours unless it’s an emergency.”
This guy was a total dick. “You can’t tell me how she’s doing? My own mother? According to who?”
“Her guardian has made it clear that the only people I can talk to regarding her care are Mr. Robert Hayes, Mr. Bradley Schluter, or Mr. Jeremy Schluter.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” I said. “It looks like I need to talk to a lawyer first.” I hung up the phone after that, absolutely fuming. I was pissed off that I wasn’t on the list, but I was even more pissed off that Darius wasn’t on the list. It was like Robbie and JJ were putting up a wall around her, so no one else could get to her.
I pulled out my phone and called Wade’s lawyer next. “It’s almost my bedtime,” Sean said cheerfully.
“Yeah, but I know you’re used to working late,” I joked. “I need to find a lawyer to help me get information on my mother. And I need a better guy than that guy who helped me out down here.”
“He got you emancipated,” Sean joked.
“Good point. Can you help me out?”
“Hang on a minute,” he said. I heard him flipping through some papers, and then he gave me two names. “The first guy is good. Really good. Don’t know if he’ll want to work with a pain in the ass like you.”
“I’ll bet he does,” I said, acting cocky.
“You owe me, big time,” Sean said.
“In about three and a half years, when I’m 18, I’ll pay you back,” I said in my sluttiest voice. “Unless you want to break the law?”
“Very funny. I’ll see you around,” he said, chuckling, and hung up.
The lawyer that Sean said was good was a guy named Ronald Goldberg. I checked out his website, and there was a link to contact him via e-mail. I thought that was pretty cool, and pretty convenient, so I’d sent him a brief e-mail telling him who I was, who referred me, and what I wanted. I was pretty shocked when he’d responded and asked me for more information. So we’d gone back and forth, exchanging e-mails, until midnight. We’d agreed to talk on the phone tomorrow.
November 30, 2000
I went down to breakfast, feeling pretty confident and organized. I’d gotten all of my homework done, and I’d set up an appointment to talk to Ron Goldberg on my way to school.
Robbie and Dad were eating; I’d been hoping to avoid them. They both looked pissed off; clearly they’d spent time arguing about this shit last night.
“I understand you called Doctor Madison last night,” Robbie said to me in a nasty way.
“I figured I’d get the information directly from the source, without all the editorial comments from you and JJ,” I said, just as nastily.
“And you found out he wouldn’t talk to you,” Robbie said.
“I did,” I agreed calmly. Dad looked at me suspiciously, while Robbie seemed pleased with himself. “I’m going up to Palo Alto this weekend. I just thought I’d let you know,” I said to my dad.
“Any particular reason?” Dad asked.
“It’s comfortable up there, and a lot less stressful,” I said, looking at Robbie. “Besides, I can see Darius and meet Wade’s grandmother. Plus Matt and Wade have games this weekend.”
“Sounds like fun,” Dad said. “Claire says that Wade’s grandmother is a neat lady.”
“Pretty amazing that she went through hell, and came out of it alright,” I said, wondering if my mother would fare as well.
“I was thinking that I could drive you to school today,” Dad offered.
“I have a phone conversation scheduled for my drive in,” I told him.
“With whom?” he asked. I just smiled and said nothing.
“I’ll check to see if you’re around after school,” I told him.
“Will, don’t go do something stupid,” he said.
“I’m not planning to,” I said, even as I got up and walked out of the room. His definition of stupid and my definition of stupid were very different, I surmised.
I greeted Tish and then called Ronald Goldberg on the phone. He was great to deal with: he didn’t beat around the bush; he just wanted to get the facts. I’d given him a lot of background information last night, but I filled in the details, explaining my strained relationship with my mother, including my encounter with her in Norway and my emancipation hearing.
“So what do you want me to do?” he finally asked brusquely.
“I want to know what’s going on with her, and I want another doctor to look at her situation and evaluate her. I’m not convinced this Dr. Madison guy is doing her any good.”
“You mean because of the visit on Thanksgiving?” he asked.
“And my conversation with him last night, when he was a total asshole,” I responded.
“Alright, I’ll draw up some papers, and file a motion for you here. They’ll serve papers to Robert Hayes, notifying him. That should happen tomorrow,” he said.
“Can you make it Friday?” I asked. “I’m heading to Palo Alto that afternoon and that way I won’t be around when he gets them.”
“Are you safe there?” he asked me. It was actually kind of nice; since it was the first time he showed any concern.
“I’m fine, I just don’t want to deal with bullshit and drama,” I told him.
“I’ll contact you when we have things set up, and let you know when we file on Friday.”
“Sounds good,” I said. I hung up as we were pulling into the school.
“You’re at it again,” Tish said to me. “You’re gonna piss them all off again.”
“Probably,” I said, winking at her.
“What happens next week when you get back?” she asked.
“I have to work on that after school,” I told her. “Don’t worry. It will be alright.”
“If you say so,” she said dubiously. I jumped out of the SUV and went straight to my first class. For lunch, I grabbed some food that you could eat on the go, primarily fruit and chips, and then went to the library to work on homework. I didn’t want to go out to the fire road and deal with those people.
I found a table off in the corner where I could work and eat without being busted, since we weren’t supposed to bring food into the library. I figured that even if I was, the worst thing they’d do was throw me out. I was pretty engrossed in some English problems when Alistair sat down across from me. “You’re not usually here,” he noted.
“I am today,” I said, smiling at him. “Are you usually here?”
“I am. I can more fully utilize my time if I study here,” he said.
“Optimizing the use of your time is wise,” I said, but he was so serious he didn’t get that I was teasing him.
“It is. It allows for leisure time later in the afternoon.”
“And what do you do with your leisure time?” I asked.
“I don’t know. Stuff. Sometimes I play video games.”
“You want to come over and hang out with me, and play video games sometime?” I asked.
He blinked at me for a bit, as if surprised that I’d ask him. “That sounds like fun.”
“How about tomorrow, after school?”
“I can’t,” he said reluctantly.
“Next week then,” I said.
“Next week,” he agreed, and actually smiled. The rest of the day was pretty boring, and when I got home, I avoided everyone by ordering a pizza for dinner. I got a strange look from my father when it arrived, but he didn’t say anything. It seemed to work best that way in our house, when no one said anything.
December 1, 2000
Van Nuys, CA
“You sure have a lot of stuff with you for just a weekend,” Tish said. She pulled the SUV up to the plane.
“I only need to unload some of it. The rest of it you can take over to the Hotel Bel Air,” I said.
“The Hotel Bel Air?” she asked, confused.
“It’s real close to school. I got rooms for both of us there, starting on Sunday night,” I explained.
“You’re moving out?” she asked.
“You’re real smart,” I said with a smile. “I have to be here for another three weeks. I don’t want to put up with a bunch of crap every day. This way I can focus on getting done and getting out of here.”
“If you say so,” she said in her skeptical tone. I went to the back of the SUV and showed the guys which bags to toss in the plane, then climbed on board and got comfortable.
Once again, as soon as the plane taxied and took off I felt relieved, just like I’d felt when I’d left before my emancipation hearing. And just like that time, they would be serving Robbie papers this afternoon. I was kind of surprised that they hadn’t gotten them to him already, but I wasn’t going to complain about that. It was about time I had some luck.
We were halfway to Palo Alto when the phone in the plane rang. “Hello,” I answered.
“You’ve certainly developed a penchant for lawsuits,” Dad said in his seriously pissed off voice.
“I’ve learned that when other people try to fuck me over, they can be useful,” I said.
“One minute you’re fighting to make sure your mother is out of your life, and you’re unwilling to even call her ‘mom’, and the next minute you’ve filed a suit against Robbie alleging that she’s getting substandard care.”
“I didn’t say she was getting substandard care, I’m demanding to be kept informed about her condition, to have access to discuss her condition with her doctors, to have input in her care plan, and to engage doctors for a second opinion if I feel it’s necessary,” I said simply, quoting from the notes I’d memorized. “Tell me what’s wrong with that?”
“You have to do this through a hearing?” he asked.
“You were there. You saw how he treated me. You saw how happy Robbie was when the doctor was a complete douchbag on the phone to me and how he totally ignored me. So now he has to pay the price. Now he has to answer for his decisions.”
“He was just pissed off about Thanksgiving. He would have gotten over it,” Dad said.
“I’m pissed off about Thanksgiving too, and I don’t give a shit if he or JJ ever get over it. They’re going to destroy her.”
“And you care about that?” he asked, only he was actually curious, not being a dick.
“Look at what Wade went through to get his grandmother back, to help her get out of that home,” I said. “If I was in there, in a place like that, I’d want someone to fight for me. I’d want someone to worry about me, and not just listen to a doctor and nod like a dumb ass. Wouldn’t you want that?”
“I would,” he agreed. “So it seems that you do care about her.”
“It seems that I do,” I conceded.
“You cleaned out your room,” he said.
“I’m not coming back there,” I told him.
“I’m not coming back there. Robbie and JJ have made it totally unpleasant and it no longer feels like my home. I don’t have to put up with their shit, and I’m not going to. I’m done.”
He didn’t say anything for a bit, but I could almost feel him blustering on the other end, wanting to tell me that I couldn’t do that, that I had to stay there, and wanting to bend me to his will. “You still have school. Where are you going to stay?”
“At a hotel,” I said. “I’ll be there until school is out, then I’m moving up here.”
“I see,” he finally said. “When do you get back to LA?”
“On Sunday,” I said. “Probably late afternoon.”
“I’ll keep Sunday evening open, and I’ll stop by and see you,” he said. “If it’s early enough, we can do dinner.”
I had to give him credit. This had to be hard on him, to have me break away and do something he really didn’t want me to do. Instead of yelling and demanding, he was going with the flow, and letting me control my own life. He was doing just what he was supposed to do. “What time do you want to have dinner?”
“Seven,” he said.
“Alright. Dinner at seven. I’ll make sure that I’m home by then.”
“Where should I meet you?” he asked.
“The Hotel Bel Air. That’s where I’m staying,” I said, revealing that tidbit of info.
“Nice hotel,” he mused.
“And close to school. No traffic to worry about,” I agreed. “We’re getting ready to land.”
“Fine. I’ll see you on Sunday night.” I hung up the phone, feeling strangely good about things. Even if my relationship with Robbie and JJ sucked, I was doing pretty good with my dad. That was way more important to me anyway.
The plane landed and taxied up to the FBO. I stepped down the stairs and was pretty surprised to find Darius there waiting for me. We’d hung out last weekend, and it had been good. I felt like we’d reconnected, to the point where we were cool with each other. It was hard to tell with Darius where you stood with him, though, so I hadn’t really put too much emphasis on it other than to decide we were OK. But here he was, picking me up, and while that didn’t sound like a big deal, for Darius to take the time to schlep to the airport and get me, well, that was him making a pretty big statement. I went up and gave him a big hug, which he returned. “It’s great to see you!” I said enthusiastically.
“Good to see you too,” he said, in his cool way. “I was headed up to Escorial and heard you were flying in, so I figured I’d give you a lift.” It wasn’t directly on his way, so that was bullshit, but I went with it.
“Awesome! So how was your week?”
“OK,” he said. “El got back and has been wanting to talk to me all week.”
“Did you talk to her?” I asked. “I mean, shouldn’t you at least give her a chance?”
He gave me a dirty look. “You telling me how to handle women?”
“Nope. Sorry,” I said with a grin. He smiled back.
“I’ll talk to her tonight. If I gave in that easy, the first time she called me, she wouldn’t get it. Now she will.”
“Yeah, but what if she stops calling you in the meantime?”
“They never do,” he said, being so cocky it cracked me up. “Seriously, if she stopped, then it wouldn’t have worked out anyway.”
“I don’t get it,” I said, confused.
“She has to get what she did that pissed me off, and she has to decide that I’m important enough to fucking call me all week and beg over it. If I wasn’t important enough, then it wouldn’t have worked out. If she didn’t get it, it wouldn’t have worked out.”
“Oh,” I said, stunned by how effectively he looked at things.
“How was your week?”
“Shitty. Robbie and JJ gave me the silent treatment all week until I asked about Mom, then they just accused me of fucking her up.”
“Mom?” he asked. That’s the first time I’d called her that since Norway.
“Whatever,” I said dismissively, to let him know I didn’t want to dive deep into those feelings. “So you and I were banned from talking to her doctor. Only Pop, JJ, and Dad were on the list.”
“No shit,” he groused.
“Yeah, so I got pissed off and hired a lawyer to make sure we could get info on her, and have some input in how she’s being cared for.”
“You dragged me into this? You put my name on the lawsuit?” he asked, and seemed pretty upset about it.
“Not exactly. I mean, I filed as the plaintiff, but I put your name in as someone who should have access to information. Don’t be a pussy. Pop knows it’s me. He won’t blame you.”
“I figured you’d talk to me about it first,” he said.
“Dude, I’m sorry. I should have. It happened pretty fast, and I had a lot to do this week. I’m going to stay at the Hotel Bel Air until I move up here so I don’t have to put up with Robbie and JJ. I had to pack up my stuff and make reservations, plus talk to a lawyer.”
“It’s alright,” he relented. “Pop’s gonna be pissed off.”
“So what’s more important?” I asked Darius. “Not pissing off Pop or helping Mom get better?”
He nodded. “He’ll get over it.”
“I tried to talk to her doctor. Guy sounds like an idiot.”
“I tried to talk to him too,” Darius said. “Shut me down. Wouldn’t tell me shit.”
“So now you know why I got pissed off.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t sue anyone,” he said.
“I’ll bet he talks to us now,” I joked. He laughed with me.
“You going to the game tonight?” he asked.
“That was my plan. Why?”
“I’m thinking I may go talk to El, but I didn’t want you to think I was blowing you off.”
“Dude, that’s fine. You came to pick me up; we got a chance to talk. Maybe we’ll party later.”
We pulled up to the garage and one of the guys there offered to take my stuff to my room, which was pretty nice of him. Darius and I walked into the house and ran into Stef and Grand almost immediately.
“Welcome!” Stef said, and gave us both nice hugs. Grand did as well, even though his hugs were a little more awkward.
“I have to go shopping this weekend, and I may want to bring a friend with us,” I said.
“A friend?” he asked.
“Yeah. I ruined some kid’s shirt, and I need to buy him a new one. I thought maybe we could see if he wanted to go with us.”
“And what does this friend look like?” Stef asked.
“He’s hot,” I said, winking at him.
“Your father called and briefed me on your latest lawsuit,” Stef said.
“Then you know all about it,” I said, as if we didn’t need to talk about it.
“It’s not just Will that’s involved in this,” Darius told Stef. “It concerns both of us.”
They looked at us, and each other, somewhat confused. “It is nice to approach this as a team,” Grand said cautiously.
“I agree,” I said, and put my arm around Darius shoulder.
“I have to run, but we’ll get together later,” he said, and went back out to drive down to see Ella. I wondered how that would turn out. They’d either get back together, or break up. I wondered which of those choices would be better for Darius.