It is natural for man to indulge in the illusions of hope.
We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts…
For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth, to know the worst, and to provide for it.
Jamie’s morning had started out rough, with his head throbbing and him instantly nauseated as soon as he lifted his head off the pillows. Despite the pain and dizziness he jumped up and made it to the bathroom just in time to empty his stomach contents into the toilet bowl.
Last night had been lonely again, all his friends were busy with their own lives, there still was no special someone for Jamie, so as many times before he had spent it with his new buddies Johnnie Walker, Jack Daniels and Jose Cuervo.
Not a great mix, as he would attest.
The way things had ended with Maddie had left a mark, then issues just piled onto that. Pressure and stress at work, attending a bunch of weddings, every single one of his friends was married now, hearing pregnancy news from people at work and even among a few of his friends, while he felt left behind eating everyone else’s dust without the first clue of what he was doing wrong.
Maddie had called him a few times, obviously trying to be friends again, Jamie had deflected each time, but once in a state of inebriation he had let his guard down and invited her over, mostly to try and seduce her one more time hoping it would make her change her mind, dump the new guy and choose him instead, but when she arrived with a baby bump his mood was instantly gone and he sobered up quickly. It had not helped his current state of unacknowledged depression. She was definitely and irrevocably out of his grasp for good now.
Not long after that sobering experience his grandparents died, only weeks apart from each other.
It devastated Jamie.
He had moved out of the Beach House years ago, but still visited his childhood home a lot. Now with his grandparents gone, something was missing, it just wasn’t the same ‘time capsule’ it used to be, that safe haven where time seemed to have stood still, where the world was still okay, where he could go when things got too overwhelming for him, and while there for a little while everything seemed to be back to how things used to be, carefree, happy and everything just made sense.
Then came the next surprise in form of a simple, handwritten invitation to his little sister Caitlin’s wedding, seemingly out of the blue. Last he had been told was that they had wanted to wait, save up money, now suddenly there was a date, only two weeks out. He and his sister were close, so he called her right away, laughing she had assured him she was not pregnant, she and Olli had come to the conclusion they’d rather spend every dime they could save on home improvements rather than a big wedding, so Caitlin didn’t see a point in waiting any longer to become Mrs. Hargove. ‘When you know, you know. So why wait?’ she had told him smiling.
It was a small wedding, in their own backyard with home-cooked meals served, not the big princess-like event she had always dreamed of, but despite of that, Caitlin was beaming and Oliver looked so happy. Jamie had offered to help them pay for her original dream wedding, since he knew that remodeling their home had drained her and Oliver’s financial reserves, but she told him that all she wanted was to be Olli’s wife, everything else just didn’t matter to her.
The way she had said it, the expression in her eyes, made Jamie realize even more that the excitement the liberties of bachelorhood had to offer had already run its course with him.
He wanted a girl to marry, to wake up next to every morning, to come home to at night, whose eyes would glaze over at the mere thought of being his wife like his little sister’s did when she talked about Oliver. Someone who would give up their dreams without ever looking back once just to be his.
As happy as he was for Cait, all her big day did was remind him how empty his own life was.
So he tried to date again.
He tried apps and got one dud after the next. So he switched to picking up girls at clubs and bars, but all he learned was that good girls don’t shop for potential husbands at bars and clubs, only girls with an agenda or those looking for an adventure. Most of the time, once they heard he was an attorney, they assumed he was wealthy, which he was not. He was still paying off student loans and living in his small apartment saving up for a bigger place. Other girls were looking for a baby daddy, some just out for a good time. Some even admitted they were in relationships and just wanted an adventure on the side.
The sum of all those fails was him ending up with a bunch of one night stands, lots of regrets, frustration and self-hatred, which he often drowned in alcohol. A vicious cycle.
Nicky had come over a few times, sometimes they ended up in bed together, but it never seemed enough for her to even consider leaving that hunky boyfriend. Jamie tried to win her heart, make her want to be with him instead. She told him straight out that she would never date her boss outright, part of the excitement of being with him was the fact that they were doing something ‘forbidden’ and that she loved her boyfriend Dane, just really enjoyed the way Jamie made her feel, his touch, his voice. But in her book, Jamie just wasn’t the kind of man you could see a real future with, not ‘grounded’ enough, not ‘mature’ enough and all too often too impulsive and clueless.
That review resounded in Jamie’s head for days burning badly.
After that let-down Jamie gave up trying.
Another heartbreak, back to back to the one inflicted upon him by Maddie. He had really started to like Nicky, no, more than that, he had fallen for her and would have married her in a heartbeat. Instead, things got weird between them as neighbors and co-workers, even though he tried to hide it he resented her for those words, and eventually working together became unbearable and dysfunctional, so Nicky found a new job elsewhere.
Now all he had left was work. There was plenty of it, the latest case his boss had bestowed upon him was a real doozy. It was a complicated situation, and the opposing counsel did not seem willing to budge one iota, let alone settle. Taking it to court could tie it up for years and end badly for his client.
Most of the litigation attorneys knew each other or at least had heard of one another, some were legendary, you just knew what you’d get and how to prepare to possibly land a win. Neither Jamie nor any of his colleagues had ever heard of that Chris Armstrong who was the lead of the opposing counsel.
On the day of the meeting, which took place at the other guy’s office, Jamie showed up right on time, was placed into an empty office and just left to wait for nearly half an hour. Each passing minute upset him more.
Who did they think they were?! This was very disrespectful.
In the middle of him looking at their bookshelf, the door opened and an assistant entered, politely she smiled, then spoke.
“Sorry about the wait. Can I offer you anything to drink? Coffee, tea, water, soda?”
“No thanks, just would you let someone know that I don’t have all day? Been sitting here collecting dust for thirty minutes now! I do have things to do, and am about to walk out!”
“Let someone know?” she echoed.
“Your boss. Mr. Armstrong.” Jamie explained annoyed.
“I am Chris Armstrong! Christina Armstrong, to be exact.”
“Oh crap … I thought you’d be a dude. Apologies, I mean … I assumed Chris was a man.”
“And I assumed Jamie would be a woman. Guess it’s true what they say about assuming things. Shall we start then, since your time is evidently so very valuable, Mr. Cameron?”
“Yeah, sure. Let’s get started, Miss .. or is it Mrs. Armstrong?” Jamie was somewhere between upset and embarrassed.
“You may call me Chris. Let’s get started, shall we?” she said sharply.
She turned out to be a tough negotiator, and basically Jamie left the way he had arrived no step closer to swinging her firm to more agreeable terms.
The next day, after a long day of work, which became even longer when his boss called Jamie into his office right as he was about to go home to lay into him for the lack of progress with Chris Armstrong, Jamie was still fuming while riding the elevator up to his apartment floor. As he stepped off, he noticed one of his neighbors’ door was ajar. An oversight? A break in? This wasn’t exactly luxury housing and people usually double locked, not left doors open.
Debating whether to stick to his own problems or say something, Jamie decided to do what’s right, he walked over and knocked, gently at first, then harder, while calling for them. He didn’t know most of his neighbors, basically just Nicky, her boyfriend and the annoying guy from across the hall. He didn’t know who lived here, but by the decor was decidedly feminine.
“Hello!?” he called out.
“Excuse me?!” a young woman in just a towel appeared, staring at him.
“Oh man …. I am so sorry, I hope I didn’t scare you, I live down the hall, just got off the elevator and saw your door was open. Not really safe.”
“Yeah, I know, my roommate forgot her key and called me from the parking garage right before I was gonna take a bath. So, who are you exactly?!”
“Oh, I am in apartment 9B at the end of the hall … my name is …”
“Jamie Cameron.” came a voice from behind him. A familiar one.
“YOU!?” Jamie turned and found Chris Armstrong.
“Likewise. So you live in this building? How delightful – NOT!”
“Back at ya. Does everyone in the legal field live in his dump now?”
“I can’t answer that, but for me it’s only temporary. I just moved to the city and am renting a room here until I find my own place. Now that I see who my roommate’s neighbor is, finding a permanent place moved to the top of my list.”
“Yeah, I hope you find something REALLY soon.”
“I bet you do. You know, Jamie, with a decent haircut, you could really almost pass as a man.”
“Ah yeah? Well, with a better tuck job, you could almost pass as a woman, Chris.”
“Jealous that my balls are bigger than yours, Jamie?”
Jamie turned and left, fuming. What a *****!
The next day she showed up at his door.
“What now?!” he growled.
“Just thought I’d give you my revised draft and demands ahead of schedule, so you have all night to prepare. You’ll need it.”
“Perfect, thanks, I was out of toilet paper.” Jamie grabbed the stack of paper and dumped them carelessly onto his kitchen counter, she followed him inside without being invited, looking around his apartment.
“Just like the uncivilized ape I thought you were.” the tone of her voice had changed to seductive and made the insult sound like a sexy invitation. Their eyes locked, she wet her lips, slowly and deliberately leaned against him, while running her fingers down his front. Neither of them spoke.
The next things happened without Jamie really registering it, he just followed the flow and she did nothing to stop him.
He remembered having her pinned against the wall, they were making out hard, one thing gave way to the next, suddenly he had her lifted up, she wrapped her legs around him and without either of them bothering with removing any more clothing than absolutely necessary things progressed fast.
When the separated again, she straightening out her clothing while he zipped up his pants, dazed and confused.
“Just so we are clear, this never happened.” Chris said and left.
But it had happened, it would not remain the only nor the last time.
This was the exact opposite of what he wanted. He wanted a steady girlfriend, not a secret love affair with the worst person on earth to have an affair with.
But it was … addictive. Before he knew it, it consumed his every thought, making it hard to focus. She was a force to be reckoned with, as an attorney, which instantly gave them something in common, as a lover she was a force of nature, you never knew what you’d get or when and where she would show up and just take what she wanted. This may not have started like a fairy-tale, but it could turn into one of those funny ‘how we met’ stories. Jamie was definitely intrigued.
And then it stopped, suddenly, without warning. Jamie waited several nights, and when she hadn’t shown after nearly a week he went over to her apartment.
“What do you want?” her voice was annoyed and rude.
“You haven’t been over in a while.”
“Why would I be? I won the case last week. No more need to distract you now.”
“Wait …. WHAT?! Are you trying to say you used me – just to win your case?” he repeated, trying to catch the joke. Only, he had a feeling this wasn’t one, but the cold, hard truth.
“Worked, didn’t it? Doesn’t your boss tell you ‘whatever it takes?’. Mine does, all the time, and this is what it took.” Chris confirmed.
“You played me … ” Jamie was too hurt to even get angry.
“Sure did. Bye now!” she pointed at the door, but Jamie was as in a daze.
“None of this was real. It meant nothing at all …” he mumbled, the pain of the realization clear and present in his words.
“Now you’re getting it. Welcome to the big leagues, Jamie. You want to play with the big guys, you are gonna have to play with fire – and learn to either burn the others or get singed yourself. Let this be a free lesson for you. Now please be a good little boy, take your toys and run home to pout. I have things to do.”
She pushed him out the door and nearly shut it into his backside.
Jamie felt humiliated, hurt and as if someone punched him in the groin. This stung. Badly.
Something had to give, something had to change.