As you know, well some of you, I’ve reached the deep end of the pool with my rewriting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rewritten certain parts of it. Way too many and while I wasn’t going to release any of it until it was ready to be published in a physical form or as an e-book, I felt the need to post something about it. I’m not just spinning my wheels over here. This is only the first chapter, and I won’t be releasing anymore until I’m done with the whole thing. Consider this a crumb for you to swallow. You might even spit it out before digesting. I can’t tell you much I want to be done with this rewrite, but I’m not willing to sacrifice it for relative speed. Try not to focus on the lack of indentation and use of spacing. I’m more interested in your comments and suggestions about its structure, wording, and pacing. If you find something really off, tell me. If you find something you really like, tell me. If you absolutely hate it, tell me that too, but it’s not going to stop me from finishing it. When I am done with it, I have two people already lined up to critique the hell out of it. Then after I read their suggestions and make the necessary changes, I’m going to probably send it on its way to be read by someone professionally. I pray the next story I write doesn’t take as long because I have five more after that I want and need to write. On that note, happy reading.
A Beverly Hills neighborhood lined with expensive cars belonged to guests attending the Baxter Christmas party. For generations, the couple had lived in this upper-class neighborhood of Los Angeles. Every year Adelina invited those most worthy to their elegantly decorated house she shared with her husband, William.
This annual party list was finalized months in advance. Anyone who dominated the neighborhood gossip longer than a few months was barred from the party any given year, and if you happened to surpass the six-month mark, you might never set foot inside their house again. There were a few invitations for people whether they behaved themselves or not. One of them was her husband’s best friend, Laurence.
William and Laurence, known among the neighborhood as Bill and Tony, were friends since grade school. Tony was the fourth male born with the family name of Laurence Anthony Hayward Lang.
Tony sat in his black Cadillac the past three years, never committing until the last possible moment. Driving away had gotten easier with each passing year, but as his car roared to life and maneuvered out of the spot, he noticed someone across the street.
It was Adelina. Her yellow gown swished back and forth as her pace quickened. He put his car in park, left the engine running, and rolled down the window.
“Everyone’s waiting inside for you,” she snapped.
“I doubt that.”
“Don’t sass me.”
“I’m not, just telling the truth.”
“Apology not accepted.”
“I bet there’s only two people who want to see me after you, Bill and Monica.”
“Oh my, God. Her name’s Madeline.”
“I got the M part right, at least.”
Adelina offered him one of the champagne glasses, releasing it before he had a good grasp. It almost spilled onto his lap. “And don’t you dare bring Eliza up either.”
“What kind of champagne is this?”
“You darn well know.”
She opened his car door.
“Can I at least park my car?”
“If you had stayed put, you’d already be parked.”
Adelina tapped her shoe as he reversed his car back into the spot. She messed with his tie and jacket lapels as he got out. “Being handsome gets you only so far. A woman wants a man with a good disposition, which you have been lacking.”
“I wasn’t aware I had such a serious problem.”
“All I’m asking is for you to be a gentleman tonight.”
“I’ll be as gentlemanly as the situation permits.”
She grabbed his hand, dragging him across the street.
“You better not let me down.”
“I won’t promise that.”
She squeezed his arm. “Your life depends on it.” His shirt did not provide any protection from her nail either.
Never letting go of his hand, she led him into the house, weaving through the crowd into the drawing-room. It was obvious the single party goers swaying to Frank Sinatra were interested in him. As they made their way further inside, he had forgotten Madeline’s identifiers, but was not about to fuel the flames by asking Adelina.
When she left him for a group of friends, he scanned the room for Bill. They spotted each other at the same time.
“Thought you’d never show up.”
“Against my better judgment.”
The combination of Bill’s liquor and cigarette breath found its way into Tony’s nostrils.
“Can you point me in the direction of Madeline?”
“The lady that looks like a million dollars.”
“That doesn’t help.”
He scanned the room and noticed a woman in a black
velvet dress with a slit that showed just the right amount of leg. Her stilettos made her tall frame even taller. She had to be about five feet, eight inches. Her light brown hair cascaded around her neck and shoulders.
Tony asked without looking at Bill, “woman with the hour-glass figure in the black dress?”
“That’s the one.”
“Do you know anything about her?”
“Not much besides the obvious.”
“Why does Adelina do this?” Tony turned back. “She knows I don’t care for these kinds of things.”
“There’s worse things than her.”
“If you say so.”
“The friend I had in high school knew how to have a good time.”
“That friend hadn’t grown up yet.”
“Now we have all the benefits of being older and wiser,” he turned Tony’s body around, so he had no choice but to look in Madeline’s direction, “and besides, you’re single now.”
She made eye contact with them. Tony half smiled.
“Times have changed.”
“Not tonight,” said Bill. “See, even Gloria came to say hello like in the old days.”
They watched a woman in her fifties with sturdy legs approach. “Nice to see you again, Mr. Lang.”
“Looking good as always.”
“You’re too kind.” She held out a tray of champagne.
“I’ve already had one, but thanks.”
“Nonsense,” said William. “He’ll take one anyway.” He grabbed a glass and placed it in Tony’s hand.
“Filling more glasses,” said Gloria.
“Tell her to sneak some vodka into one, and bring it out to me pronto.”
They watched Gloria disappear into the crowd.
“Adelina thinks she’s on her last mile. You should see her replacement. I wasn’t too happy about it at first.”
“You’re getting rid of her?”
“No, not if I can help it, but Adelina wants someone trained when she does leave. If she hurries up, you’ll get a chance to see her yourself. Her name’s Yila.”
“What a weird name.”
“I’d like to stay, but the sooner I introduce myself to Madeline, the sooner I can leave.”
“You can spare a few more minutes.” He spotted Yila approaching. “She’s here, anyway.”
Tony watched a woman in her mid to late twenties approach. Her uniform hung loose on her body. Her hair was in a tight bun. Her slender fingers matched her petite frame. She could not have been more than five feet, five inches tall.
“Meet the best man in my wedding.” She nodded to Tony, and gave Bill his vodka.
“Is there anything else I can get you?”
“Not now, but don’t you think this man needs a little excitement in his life?”
“I’m not the best person to answer that.”
“Of course, you are.”
“She doesn’t know anything about me,” said Tony.
“You’re right.” Bill shooed Yila away.
When she was out of hearing range, Bill said, “she’s easy on the eyes.”
“If I wasn’t married, I’d for sure—”
“But you are.”
“Looking doesn’t hurt anyone.”
“That leads to dangerous territory.”
“I can always count on you to kill the mood.”
“Don’t invite me to your parties.”
“Trust me, if I had it my way, we’d both be sitting in a bar right now.”
“Wish me luck.”
The closer Tony got to Madeline, he more wanted to ditch her. She stuck her arm out, making a pronounced arch at the wrist. He took it, giving it a quick kiss.
“Nice to finally meet you.”
“Apologies for my lateness.”
“I’ve heard good things about you.”
“I hope you like to dance.”
“At the right time.”
She dragged him into a small group of dancers, wrapping her arms around his waist. “Some men find me intimidating. You’re not one of them, are you?”
“I don’t think so.”
She caressed the back of his head before running her fingers through his hair. “I almost gave up on you, but then I saw you with William.”
“And you knew it was me.”
“It was the way you looked at me.”
“Like you were trying to get away from him, but wanted to be polite.”
“Maybe some fresh air might be good.”
“You read my mind.”
Tony escorted her into the backyard where she wasted no time. When she unbuttoned his first shirt button, he backed up, laughing nervously.
“I’m not looking for anything serious.”
“We should take our time.”
“Don’t you find me attractive?”
Tony removed her hand from his shirt and put more distance between them. “I’m flattered by all this, but we barely know each other.”
“All the more reason to be doing this, don’t you think?”
“I think our definitions of getting to know each other aren’t matching up.”
Tony scanned for any possible diversion when he noticed someone in the kitchen. He did not want to be around anyone, but anyone was better than Madeline, even if it was only for a few minutes.
“Where are you going?”
“Getting us some drinks.
“Fine, but don’t be too long.”
He gave a weak smile and left.
Yila was arranging glasses on a tray when he entered. She came out from behind the island and peered through the window. “I didn’t realize anyone was outside. I’ll turn on the light for your wife.”
“Leave it off.”
“Are you sure?”
She went back behind the island and poured champagne into the glasses. She tried her best not to be affected by his presence, but it bothered her he would not leave. After all the glasses were full, she asked him a question.
“Is everything alright, sir?”
“As well as can be,” Tony said, looking out the window.
“Because I need to get back.”
“Of course, don’t let me stop you from what you need to do. I’m just passing time. Actually, can I take two of those glasses?”
She grabbed two glasses and headed for the door.
“You don’t need to come outside.”
“This is what I get paid for.”
Tony held the door open as Yila left and made her way to the table Madeline was sitting.
“What’s she doing here?” Madeline asked, tapping her nails on the table top.
When Yila looked at Bill, Madeline snapped. “Don’t look at him for help.”
Laurence took one of the glasses from Yila and offered it to Madeline. She set it on the table and directed her anger at Yila again. “Is there a reason you’re still standing here?”
“Sorry, I’ll give you your privacy.”
“Something you should’ve done without me telling you, and the next time you get the urge to intrude into a private conversation, don’t!”
“I didn’t mean to offend you, ma’am.”
“You did, and I suggest you make future arrangements because you won’t have this job after I talk to Adelina.”
Tony grabbed Madeline’s hand, putting a safe distance between them and Yila. “She came out here at my request so if you want to blame anyone, blame me.”
“It doesn’t dismiss what she did.”
“She didn’t mean anything by it.”
“That’s not saying much. Look at her walking away like nothing happened.”
He glanced at Yila. “Why don’t we go back inside and get a bite to eat?”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Then, watch me eat.”
“She’s completely ruined this moment.”
Madeline kept her conversations civil until she spotted Yila across the room. She unleashed her fury of how she would make her homeless and jobless by the end of the night. He could no longer keep silent.
“Did Adelina ever mention I was married before?”
“She was her sister.”
“This doesn’t make me feel any closer to you.”
“I knew it would take a while after Eliza died to feel comfortable enough to share myself with someone. After meeting you, I realized I’m not ready.”
“And, you’re looking for me to forgive you?”
“Then what’s the purpose of this conversation?”
“Because never did I think I’d meet someone to rival Eliza when she was at her worst. She said some hurtful things, but never did she go out of her way to be as cruel as you were tonight.”
Madeline leapt from the couch. “I can’t believe you’re defending her. She deserved everything I said and more. You wait until Adelina hears about this. I can’t believe she thought we’d be a good match.”
Madeline stormed off, leaving Tony alone. He wanted to say goodbye, but Adelina and Bill were off mingling elsewhere. He also wanted to talk to Yila, but she was nowhere in sight either.
He barreled up the stairs until he stood at the top.
He sought refuge in the spare bathroom, and as he used the toilet as a chair, Eliza entered his mind.
He had trouble lifting her out of the bathtub, almost falling himself into the crimson water the night he found her. The weight of her body seemed double, and she rejected every attempt when he tried to breathe life into her. He had sleepless night after sleepless night after she was buried. He passed the time staring at her wedding dress in the closet. The white flowers she had placed in her hair laid on his bed stand. The bouquet even found its way back to him. He had wanted to feel his old self again, but nothing replaced the loneliness he felt.
Madeline embellished the story as she played to Adelina’s emotions. She had wanted him to apologize, but Adelina’s assurance she would speak to him about his indifference was the next acceptable solution.
While Adelina was furious at Tony, she knew pressuring him to apologize was the surest way to cutting off all future visits from him for a long time. She also blamed Madeline for their lack of chemistry, but never vocalized it. Regarding Yila’s future employment, she would make her decision after speaking to Tony.
As Adelina comforted Madeline, it took Bill a few moments to realize who was staring at him in the doorway. She must have barged in, he thought, and wondered how long she had been there.
With wavy red hair and a large bosom, Misty rushed over to him. He blocked her punch, but missed grabbing her wrist.
“This is invitation only.”
“I’m not leaving.”
“The hell you aren’t.”
“You better not.”
He lunged at her, clamping down hard on her wrist. He yanked her toward him, leading her away.
“You’re hurting me.”
“I don’t care.”
“I want to talk.”
“What do you think we’re doing?”
Once inside his study, he flung her toward his desk and closed the door most of the way.
“I thought we had a good thing going here.”
“You promised me you’d leave her by now.”
“It’s the holidays, and besides when I said that I had a few drinks in me.”
“You don’t love her like you do me. She’s the source of all your problems, Billy.”
“Don’t you think I know that.”
“Then why haven’t you divorced her?”
“It takes time.”
“You keep saying this. I’m not sure I can listen to you complain about her anymore. Adelina did this. Adelina did that. Boo hoo, my life is so terrible. I can’t stand my wife. I swear I’d be better off dead.”
“Remember our agreement.”
“I should say the same to you.”
“We’ll talk about this later.”
“No, I want to talk about it now.”
William lunged at Misty, but she was able to get away, putting his desk between them.
“Don’t test me.”
“You know what? Maybe, I will stop by later. I’m sure your wife will enjoy hearing from me.”
“You have one second to get the hell out of here.”
“I wish I never met you.”
Misty was almost at the door when he picked her up and pinned her against his desk.
“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll never show your face to me again.”
“I hate you.”
“You come here again, I’ll silence you.”
When she spat his face, he wrapped his hand around her throat and squeezed. She tried to pry his hand off, but this further angered him. He squeezed even tighter.
“I’ve killed someone I cared a lot about, a helluva lot more than I ever could for you. Remember this before you threaten someone again. Nod if you understand what I just said.”
When she did not comply, he squeezed a little more. She reluctantly gave a tiny nod, to which he released his grip, but kept his hand on her neck until he was satisfied she had taken his message seriously.
She shoved his hand away and scrambled to the door. This was when he saw Yila. He crossed the room and leaned in the doorway.
“Just when you think you have it figured out,” he said.
“I better see if the guests need anything,” Yila said, not making eye contact with him.
“If you happen to see Bill, send him my way.”
“Yes sir, I will.”
She left, unnerved at what she had witnessed.
With the sting of Madeline and the memory of Eliza fading in his memory, Tony was ready to say his quick goodbyes when he heard footsteps.
He stood up, hiding behind the half partition when light filtered into the room. He peered around the corner.
Yila came toward him. He wondered if he could quietly hop into the shower, but who was he kidding. The noise from the curtain would give him away. There was no other way than to present himself, and hope she would not be alarmed. He never got the chance because she noticed him and pulled her hand away from the toilet paper dispenser.
“We meet again,” Tony said.
“That looks like a deep cut.”
He offered her a handful of toilet paper. She grabbed it, dabbing at the blood.
Should you be squeezing it that much?” he asked.
“It stops the bleeding.”
“It might be better to let nature take its course. If you tell me where the band aids are, I can help you.”
She removed a few band aids from under the sink. “It’s quicker if I do it.” He watched her peel the casing off and cover half of the cut.
“I’m Laurence, by the way.”
“Yes, the married friend.”
The second band-aid twisted on itself. She tried to pull it apart, but only made it worse. She grabbed another one.
“That’s part of the reason why I’m still here. I wanted to tell you not to be afraid of what was said earlier. Madeline’s bark is worse than her bite. I’m going talk to Adelina about it. See that you won’t get into trouble,” he said.
“That’s kind, but I can protect myself against your wife.”
“She’s not my wife. I just met her tonight.”
“How did you cut yourself?”
“Not paying attention.”
“I’ve done that before.”
“I must be getting back, but have a good night, sir.”
She turned off the light, leaving Tony alone.