Chapter 1: Part 1


Wednesday, May 20th

“Alistair Davis Jameson Jr. You are not wasting your summer in some clothing store. Don’t be absurd!” My mother exclaimed as she tossed the job application on the counter. She turned toward my father, who was perched on a stool behind the kitchen island. Placing a perfectly manicured hand on her hip, she continued yapping. “Al, you need to support me and talk some sense into your son. He needs to get this ridiculous notion out of his head.”

I sighed as I stared at the application lying on the counter. Hmm. Looks like I need to develop another viable front for my weed business. I brushed that thought aside. “I don’t see how that’s absurd or ridiculous, mother. School is out for the summer, therefore ending my tutoring business. I think I deserve a relaxing summer. You want me to work during the summer as some intern in some company—”

“Yes, and I—”

“Wait, let me finish my point, mom. It’s a little late to apply for an internship. I’m pretty sure working in the mall is a legitimate way to spend my time and save toward my future,” I concluded.

My mother held up her hand. “AJ, you need to work somewhere that will benefit your career plans. How is working at some store in the mall going to help you? Unless, of course, you’re planning on opening a business like that after college.” She raised an eyebrow and smoothed the nonexistent wrinkles from her tailored red blazer. “I strongly suggest you reconsider your decision, or else there will be consequences.”

“Such as?”

“Such as me repossessing your car, for starters. A car of that caliber is intended for people who are going places in life, not for those working minimum-wage jobs.”

I paused before reaching into the fridge and grabbing the orange juice. The black custom-designed Mercedes Benz E550 Coupe with the red interior was an early graduation present from my mother. I helped to customize it. My baby was a thing of beauty. Forget saving money to expand my growing business. Perhaps I should use the cash to buy my baby from my mom. Easy, AJ. That would surely arouse suspicion. Dr. Alice would wonder how you got the money—and cash to boot. I focused on the present conversation. “Who said I don’t want to open a clothing store chain in the future? It’s good to start at the bottom and learn all the ins and outs, right?” I answered as I placed the juice on the counter.

Exasperated, my mother threw her hands in the air. “AJ, your rationale is nonsensical. Al, you need to talk some sense into your son.” I looked at my father, who appeared mired in his own private version of hell. His bloodshot eyes were saddled in deep bags and focused on something in the distance. Dark stubble masked the lower half of his face. Coffee-colored stains dotted his white undershirt. Essentially, he looked like shit.

My father cleared his throat. “Son, maybe you should consider an internship with some of my old business associates. I could make some calls to see if anyone can bring you on board this late in the game.”

Yeah. That wasn’t happening as long as I had my business to run. I quickly thought of a reason to shoot down that idea. “But I thought you said everyone backed away from you after the Owen Chandler thing.” I peeked at my father as I poured juice in an insulated cup. He didn’t respond, staring down at the countertop.

“For heaven’s sake! That was over a year ago! Surely, your father’s reputation as some sort of real-estate pariah has dissipated,” my mother shrilled. “He wasn’t even at fault!”

“Tell that to the small media caravan outside the gate.” My father mumbled as he looked at my mother. My mother gave him a curious expression. My father sighed. “The security guard from the front entrance called earlier. He wanted to warn us about the press.”

My mother nodded in understanding, then checked her watch before returning her attention to me. “AJ, you should eat something. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” She slid a plate across the counter in my direction; it was a delicious breakfast of cold toast covered in peanut butter next to browning apple slices. I frowned at the plate. Why she still felt the need to make a half-assed breakfast for me at my age was beyond my comprehension. She grabbed her attaché case before heading toward the garage door.

She paused at the door before abruptly spinning around. Her perfectly cut salt and pepper bob swayed with the movement of her head. “As you know, Sage is flying in tonight from Georgetown, and I’m hosting a dinner for your accomplishments—the both of you. I also have a surprise for your father. Be home at six sharp,” she said as she steeled her gaze at me.

“Yeah, six tonight. I didn’t forget,” I said.

“Jesus, Alice! Why can’t you just let me be?” my father spat. “The last thing I need is a fucking surprise!”

I smirked. Amen to that, dad. She won’t let me be either.

“Because Alistair, I’m not going to let you wallow in your depression. It’s unhealthy and you need to get back to work.” She placed her hand on the doorknob. “Speaking of which, I am a working woman with many clients to see.” She cut a glance toward my father. “I should get going. Toodles!” She closed the door behind her. Along with being a renowned psychiatrist, my mother was also a connoisseur of archaic slang.

“Yes, we know you’re a working woman dear,” my father said through gritted teeth as we heard the garage door lift.

I leaned over the counter and faced my father. “You know, she can really be an insufferable, pretentious bitch. I wish we could expose her as the fraud she really is to her clients,” I said. “Furthermore, how the fuck are you two still married?”

“While I agree with your sentiment, you shouldn’t call your mother a bitch.” He then facetiously added, “Haven’t you heard of that old adage ‘do it for the children’?” I rolled my eyes as I shoved the toast and apples in front of my dad.

“Yeah, well, if the shoe fits… and neither of us are technically children anymore. If I were you, I’d cut my losses and bail. You seem like you have enough headaches as is.” I gathered my juice and uniform blazer as I headed toward the garage. Before leaving, I turned back and asked, “Are you sure you’re ok, dad? You look kind of shitty.”

He glanced up from the crappy breakfast and gave me a hint of a smile. “I’m fine, son. Try to have a good day for the both of us.”

I nodded. “Yeah.” I closed the door behind me and pressed the garage door button. As I watched it lift, my phone vibrated in my pocket. I fished it out and saw “Ethan Lee” on the caller ID. Not now, Ethan. I hit the Ignore button and sighed. I needed my mother off my back while expanding my business. I had to create a satisfactory façade, and fast.

<- Prologue                                     Chapter 1: Part 2 ->

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