«Mark, don’t you ruin this, God damn it. Make sure you push the Appstore stocks and focus your game on the Apple-Startup. No references on the Brandon scheme, or any other funds at all.» He grins his face in mockery as he covers the speaker for a couple of seconds. «I’m telling you this guy is all about smartphone shit. Just get him through the app and the general idea and wait for the cash to start flashing in. Plain and simple.”
That’s Brian. My husband. He has the big mirrored sunglasses on, as he smugly talks over the phone with a grin that would make even the most self-complacent person blush. Dressed in his full white suit, and the red polo shirt, he has the casual, expediently rich style of the lucky few that managed to get their hands on a good bunch from quite early on.
«Mark, you little piece of shit! Just do as I tell you and stop asking questions. Focus on the shitty Appstore. Do you hear me?»
His sleazy style makes me want to puke. Sometimes I wonder how I ended up marrying him. Right now we are in an old yellow taxi cab, the kind that looks more like a large paper box than an actual car, and we are heading down our exclusive hotel in one of the most snobbish, pretentious beaches someone could fathom. Filthy rich upstarts, posing their golden Rolexes at the pool, as they try to blend in with their classy champagne.
«Now you listen here. You have one beautiful, sleek little opportunity, my friend. You have that little one rare chance that only occurs once every million years…you wouldn’t want to be that guy that ruined it all now, would you?»
He gestures dominantly with his hand as he speaks with his fluffy belly bouncing around his raised up polo shirt.
«You either sell him the stuff or you are fucking out pal! Got it? You close it or you’re fired!»
He dials down the phone as he nodes his head in denial.
«Can you believe this guy?» he utters in the air with his usual unjustified confidence.
«Ohh darling you have so many things in your head.» I respond with a calming voice. «You shouldn’t let these things get under your skin.» I smile as I throw the sunglasses on my face. This is gonna be a long trip…
We reach the Hotel after half an hour of driving on the deserted road. The place consists of a series of little white houses, set up one after the other in between pools and grass gardens. The perfect place to rest after being clogged down the whole day and the sun is shaping one of the hottest days you have encountered in your life. Alas, the moment we get out of the taxi there is a little surprise waiting for us right up front.
«Nick! Mary!» yells Brian as he encounters the coworker with his wife that have arranged their holidays in the same place. I exasperate a big breath but hide it under a big joyful smile.
«Mary, darling» I shout as I run to greet her with kisses and hugs. After a quick boring catch up, we gather the suitcases and get upright inside. I can already tell their energy is overwhelming…
Nick and Mary. If I knew they would have been here I would have protested harder against the trip. Probably the reason Brian hid it from me in the first place. Nick is the mid-thirties aspired financial advisor, that is extremely ambitious but lacks the talent to be a threat to anybody. Mary, the traditional girly, dream and roses, pushover that would rather fall under the truck than speak up to her man. She trips and jogs to cover his demands while he enjoys his prince lifestyle. Sometimes I wonder if she slipped over the middle ages and got in this timezone by pure accident.
«Dear, I haven’t seen you for so long that its gonna take hours to catch up.» she says to me as she touches my shoulder. «Guess who’s moving into a new two store apartment with its own grand yard and pool?» she asks as she tingles her fingers in excitement while glancing upwards.
«Ohh I can’t believe you!» I reply resembling her excitement. «That is so nice!»
«I know» she replies. «New apartment, new dress, and a new..» she touches her belly with her hand «..member coming up in approximately 8 months from now.»
«Ohh you are not…Mary, I’m so happy for you» I say as I hug her.
«But please don’t say anything yet, we still try to keep it a secret with Nick».
«Of course» I respond condescendingly. And for the next few hours I sit in silence as I listen to her various plans she has for the foreseeable future. If I didn’t know how real life works I would assume her life might be a fairy tale.
A bit later on, Brian and Nick appear out of nowhere and find us in the balcony as we sit casually with our feet on top of the boards. Judging from the loose attitude and unbuttoned shirts, they have been into it for a while already.
«Ladiees..» says Brian «I see you are having a good time over here»
«We are doing our best» I reply smiling.
«Cool! I hope you wouldn’t mind us if Nick and I go for a drink, would you?» he says with a mix of casualness and guilt. «We should be back before you know it.»
«I thought we were going to take it easy tonight,» Mary responds. «Nick you are already tired from the trip, are you sure you don’t want to just take a rest there honey?» she asks grinning her face.
«Ohh it’s only gonna be one drink. It shouldn’t take long anyway» he responds as Mary and I glance at each other.
«Ok I guess it’s alright if it is just one..» she says dismissively as the guys get their way and leave.
«Men will always be men…» she says to me exasperatingly. «You can do whatever you want but you can never tie them down for good. They all have it in them» she says poignantly.
«Well I don’t know about that» I respond playfully. «women would act the same given the chance and circumstances.»
«Ohh we are not the same my dear. We would never cheat on our husband unless it was for a good reason..» she nods tensely. «You know what I mean.. Men will do it just to prove something to their ego every now and then and it wouldn’t mean anything at all.»
I think about finding a gun and shotting myself at the head but instead, I tight-lip myself and smile like a robot doll.
«No matter how many perfumes I catch on Nick’s shirts, he always comes back. And that’s what matters..» she says full of love and understanding while glancing over the night sky. But all I can think about is how I can fasten up the time to the point that this trip is over…
The next day begins and it’s full of a beautiful sun tingling over our heads as I and Mary are lying down in the sunbeds. We spend the whole morning around the pool, mixing light conversation with magazine reading and the occasional dive into the waters. All with the perfect dose of leisure and lack of thought.
«Wouldn’t it be nice to stay here for the whole year long?» she asks me as she casually salves some sunscreen over her legs. And I would have absolutely no objection to that assuming someone could assure the removal of all the people from it first.
Later on, we walk right back into our rooms where we find Brian and Nick discussing some business plans. Normally that would be the point that I would be alerted of their behavior but knowing my husband and how his greedy attitude works I neglect any extra thought to the matter.
«You guys are still here?» Mary asks. «I thought you were about to come and join us over the pool.»
The guys glance at each other but delay any direct response to her comment. Mary turns around to me looking for some sort of explanation but I casually shrug at her with open palms.
«Hey look,» says Brian. «tonight we expect a couple of friends to come over. So I and Nick were thinking we should organize something nice over here for them like you know…have a dinner all together and stuff… What do you guys think?»
«We are having some friends over? Really? Are you telling me you are about to do business even in your holidays?» Mary riots holding her two hands aggressively around her waste.
«Hey, nothing too serious here, I promise. They are just friends that happened to be in the same place with us and we plan to have some good time. That’s all.» Brian responds before Nick gets the chance to react. «We’ll have some nice food over here, drink our beautiful champagne and we all go our separate ways from then on. End of story.»
Brian had his usual smirk smile on his face but Mary still seemed quite pissed off.
«Nick you promised me it wouldn’t have any business meetings this time..» she uttered as she thrusted her hand over her thigh but Nick remained unresponsive as he glanced over at Brian.
«Girls I promise you this is gonna be fun. Nothing to worry about here» said Brian putting on the warmest possible voice.
«It was supposed to be about us this time. I guess some things never change..» she said angrily as she turned around and moved into the kitchen, on which I followed along trying to calm her down.
And it would be a lie to say that I couldn’t relate to her frustration. These kinds of meetings include innocent people, trying to get something back by betting on the fake promises our husbands are selling to them. What happens most of the time? They bite on it like fish on the hook. Maybe it is their side earnings or their life savings or the little budget for their children’s college. They would all vanish before their own eyes under some earth-shattering explanation or strange occurrence within a few months. It’s amazing what some fancy words and a nice dinner can get you. And the problem is that she knows about it. And I know about it. But we both do nothing but merely buzzing over their ears in the hopes of stopping. A quite overambitious thought…
For the next few hours, I try to calm her down by downplaying the whole incident with my usual card.
«We are gonna be in this together. We can let it slide as we hustle on it and wait for the following day to come by..». All in the hopes that she may forget for a moment the neglect she feels deep down in her heart…
It takes only a bottle of wine and a bunch of tissues for her to cry herself out and fall asleep. The perfect opportunity for me to slip out and have a relaxing moment by myself at long last. She still wears her clothes as she starts drooling over the bed. I close the windows, readjust her head on the pillow, and set out of the door like a little cat. And the moment I step out of the room it feels as if my heart is a bit lighter.
I pass along the long narrow corridors with the red carpets, ignore the couple of indoor bars that resemble more of a bad-lit storage room than a summer outlet, and head towards the little patio area on the other side of the hotel. The perfect place to have a drink on my own without any random encounters with the guys.
I walk along the washed-out, white tiles that are embedded into the grass like stone teeth in a glorious mouth. Along the area, you may find random pairs picnicking down in the grass as they caress each other skins. Or the random topless woman lying head down on the deck beds, treasuring over some darker ambiance. The sun is perpendicularly on top of our head, radiating tensely its hot arrows. I on the other hand, with my wide grey hat and the big dark sunglasses, march upon the pathway, with the beautiful unfamiliarity these places offer.
I reach upon the bar and order some fresh juice as I scroll casually through messages and social media. There is an endless flow of things that happen in real life but this place seems to have cut down the real-time continuum into a separate branch that has no relation or effect to the real one. I casually decide to skim through some news when I hear a deep heavy voice coming from my side shaking me up.
«I hope you could excuse me Mrs, but if my memory serves me well you are Mrs. Emily Davis? The one that has the Sunday column in times magazine?»
«That is correct..» I say as I am caught completely off guard. «That is me» I nod my head while trying to not sound too surprised.
«Well, then may I say that you have in front of you one of the biggest fans you could encounter out there? There shouldn’t be a week past that I haven’t read your column…»
He is in his mid-40s with gentle, kind manners and a strong steady expression. He introduces himself as James and somehow the conversation keeps flowing for the next 10 minutes. He is charming and elegant and his humor comes as a welcomed long lost friendly break in my doorway.
«So are you gonna be staying here for long? Maybe we get the chance to meet again.»
«Still have a couple of days here..» I say casually
«Well anyway, If I don’t happen to see you here is my card, in case you want to keep in touch.»
He says as I nod kindly. I check the time and I see that I have been standing here for quite some time already so I gather up my stuff in a hurry and head back to the room. Hopefully, my absence hasn’t been noticed by the rest.
As I slide by the door I hear the guy conversing over their business stuff. Brian has taken a paper over a big board drawing lines and taking notes, which means that they are deep down their little analysis for the evening meetup. I straighten up my torso, clear out my clothes and with flashy confidence, I walk along hoping they will not notice me as I get passed them to the bedroom.
«Emily!» shouts Brian as he interrupts his previous flow. «Where have you been? Our friends are gonna be here in about an hour or so..»
«I know.,» I say pretentiously while cursing on the inside for having being caught. «I just had to take this phone call,» I claim casually.
«OK just make sure you re not late over there. We expect room service to bring the food any minute now.»
I exhale a big OK as I dismiss them to go and find Mary inside. I give her a nudge to wake her up and we make the necessary preparations for the meal. That includes a series of draining activities the likes of cleaning up, dressing and arranging everything for the visitors. Having the experience of other ‘dinners’ like this one, I can only prepare so much for the boredom that is about to unfold. Every step of the process is particularly designed to make the ‘subjects’ feel comfortable enough to make investments. Economic subjects, news, events, or government measures, all picked up and arranged in such a way to prey on innocent victims. It’s like watching a mental crime take place right in front of your eyes.
Time passes and the doorbell buzzes like a myriad little flies that ask permission to flood into the room. Brian and Nick open up as they greet each other with shouts and manly jokes while I and Mary wait in the main area. I stand with a mild smile in my face waiting but my expression changes abruptly to sheer terror as I see the two visitors coming into the room. One of them is an unknown tall guy with a macho and robust physic and the other is..James. The guy I just met a few hours ago…
«Adrian and James. Let me just introduce you to two of the most wonderful women you will get the chance to meet. Mary and Emily. My wife.» says Brian pointing over to us as my blood vanishes completely out of my face. The two guys extend their hands to greet us to which we compy kindly but somehow we both keep our little meeting unacknowledged and play along as if we meet for the first time.
«Nice to meet you too» I respond trying to keep the appropriate amount of eye contact with James. We are led down to the main area where the table is arranged and waiting for our meal. We sit down and continue our chit chat as normal. But it’s as if we are both into the same secret without stating it explicitly. And somehow the night finds its rhythm and we carry on along with it without being awkward.
At some point, the conversation turns over to economics and I know they are about to run their little play. Witnessing this I get the feeling that James should not be part of this and I should find a way to forwarn him. But for the time being, I keep my mouth shut and allow the events to unfold on their own.
«Gentlemen, I think you are in such a lucky position that you should be very very thankful of yourselves,» said Brian pompously. «You have the chance that happens only once in a million. You are in a position that very few people could claim to be, to know about the winning horse before the race starts.»
All eyes had turned over to Brian as he was making the much-awaited point.
«Imagine that you have a good view of what is going on in the market. Imagine that you had all the inside info that you needed to make the right decisions. What business are doing, what are their plans, and how likely it is for them to succeed. All analyzed and examined from the right people in the right positions contributing their bits. That is what we offer. The gift of information».
Complete silence in the room and I swear that if I didn’t know any better I would probably buy what he was selling myself!
«Right now there is a battle going on gentleman. Businesses are fighting each other with nails and bites for who is to come up on top. They are trying to get a better grasp of new technologies and emulate their products in the new age. But one company exceeds all the rest in this race and is gonna become the number one technology company that everybody speaks of within a few months. Our horse is having a steady upwards course so far and all the great investors have just started turning their eyes to them little by little. Sooner or later their progress is not gonna be a secret and then…» he grinned as he looked each one on the table separately. «..then I’m afraid it’s gonna be too late.»
James and the tall guy glanced at each other as they turned back to Brian again.
«So what do you say we move inside and discuss things a bit more thoroughly. I would bet you have lots of questions on this.»
«Sure..» responded James kindly as they raised from the table and followed along to the office.
And my heart started pounding like crazy for not being able to do anything other than watch this unravel before my very own eyes. Being a witness of a crime that should never be allowed. There is something on James that is screaming to me I should do something. Maybe run and grab him by the arm and forwarn him for what is about to happen to him. Maybe pass him a little note to make him realize…But no, instead I let it pass as I know the time is not right. I greet them as they pass along with a little smile, as I turn to Mary and chit chat for the rest of the night.
The next day comes and I find Mary standing alone in the kitchen with her big sunglasses on as she is having her coffee.
«Good morn…honey are you alright?» I ask.
«Sure I am. Just my eyes got a bit swollen from my summer allergies. You know how these things work..» she chuckles hoping her lie is gonna pass by my face like that.
«Sure…I know..» I say condescendingly. «But look if you want to talk about anything…anything at all..I’m here for you. You won’t by yourself, be sure of that..» I say with a rasping voice as I pray to God that she grabs the hand I extend over to her.
«Ohh..it’s not needed..as I said..it is just allergies. It’s gonna pass within a few days.» She says refusing my attempts once more. I can already detect that he is not willing to accept any of it. As most domestic violence victims she prefers to push it under the bed hoping that at some point it will pass on its own.
The next few days pass along as normal during our time in the hotel. It’s a series of leisure activities that manage to numb my senses enough till this whole endeavor is over. A few days passes after our return back and I find myself on the phone speaking with James. I tell him all about the scum and all about the little situation he happened to find himself in. He is shocked but shows understanding and a controlled response that I find remarkable. At the same time, I have already moved all of my stuff out of the house staying with my little sister who seems strangely happy to accommodate me to her house. All while divorce papers are making their way to Brian, I call the national service giving them a tip for a known domestic abuse incident that takes place and I happen to know. It surely shouldn’t take long for them to find the bruises and marks on her skin hiding under her glasses and put the pieces of the puzzle together. When the time comes I will be there to for her on anything she needs.
A couple of weeks pass and I hear my phone ringing. As I pick it up I’m surprised to see that it’s from James.
«Hey, is everything alright? I hope nothing bad happened..» I say to him fearing the worst.
«No no, it’s all fine. Nothing to worry about on this.» he says in a calming voice. «Actually I didn’t call you about that at all. I just..hmm..I was just wondering if you would be interesting to have a coffee sometime maybe. I’m not sure if you have any free time or..»
«Sure I am..» I interrupt him. «I would love to..»
I raise up and open the windows revealing a beautiful sun. And it’s the first time that the day seems just a little bit..brighter…0