This is an early part of what I hope will be my first published novel (no title yet). The story is centered around a man named Michael Slade, who is in his mid-’20s. He is set in New York City and is a budding star in the new-millennial journalism scene. The story is truly about a thought and idea that is present within everyone. Slade is intelligent and thoughtful, but unfortunately is also very unsure of himself. This issue often clouds his ability to see the intricacies of relationships transpiring around him. This chapter is told from the third person vantage point of his multimillionaire heiress girlfriend, Roxanne Swithers. Roxanne comes from a rather troubled family, not fiscally but instead humanely. She finds solace in her boyfriend’s inability to understand her family’s dynamics and he simultaneously grapples with not feeling good enough for her monetary background.
Roxanne could remember clear as day the look on Mike’s face, on their second date, when she accidentally pulled her black card out of her clutch. He tried to mask it quickly but she knew better, and she didn’t enjoy throwing that element into the mix. Roxanne still cared deeply for her family, but the schisms she saw between her parents and all the problems stemming from their wealth gave her cause to sometimes curse her trust fund. She knew it sounded absurd, she went to college knowing she would never be in debt, knowing she could f— it all up and it wouldn’t make a difference to anyone. Her parents wouldn’t have even cared. It also didn’t help, in regard to Mike’s self-image that his older brother Dane, now is in his mid thirties, had done incredibly well for himself on the Chicago Stock Exchange after graduating from the MBA program at Yale.
God, that last Christmas dinner was awkward. Dane just wouldn’t shut up about his capitalization on the tech boom and Mike couldn’t stop staring at his soup. I wish we’d just gone to Malibu by ourselves.
Mike’s parents were retired. His father Ralph had been partnered at a New York City hedge fund before losing his fortune during the back end of the dot com boom. He eventually settled for some undisclosed amount and he hadn’t worked since. Roxanne wasn’t sure about the particulars but she was entirely sure that they were doing just fine, probably much better than most. His mother Rose was a doll, a retired philosophy teacher who taught yoga on the weekends, a truly free spirit who served as Mike’s major familial support mechanism. Rox couldn’t bring herself to enjoy Mike’s family as a whole unit, they chillingly reminded her of her own.
She made her best attempts to accept and enjoy Dane but she hated the side he brought out in Mike. That Christmas dinner had been awful, Roxanne was barely eating and her right knee was nearly driving up through the cedar-wood table like an anxious rocket holstered to its launch pad. Those had been tough months, right after the divorce. Mike hadn’t spoken for some time as Dane droned on and on about the intricacies of his superior trading methods and his upcoming book deal.
“I’ll be coming out with a book soon, as well.”
Mike cheerily quipped to no response. His grandmother Suzie was seated to his left and after hearing his words asked if he was still writing for the school paper. No one else had seemed to pay any mind. This, Roxanne had realized, was a recurring norm at the Slade family dinners. Granny mumbled, grandpa slept and all the eyes were transfixed on Dane. His long blonde hair grazed the tops of his corduroy shoulders as the candlelight showed off the stubble decorating his defined, mountainous jaw line.
“What do I have to do?”
Mike screeched while sending several appetizer plates flying upward and a large bowl of soup cascading down onto the hardwood floor. Ralph lazily glanced up as Dane stopped talking. Their obese cat Lance was greedily lapping up the broccoli soup that now occupied the floor space between the grandfather clock and the entrance to the kitchen. Thick silence had quickly draped the small but delicately dressed dining room. He had a slight smirk on his lips and waited for another few moments before addressing his younger son.
“What’s that, now?”
“I think you all heard me”
“I’m very proud of you for writing the book, son. We all are, and you know that. But you also know that these conversations aren’t welcome at our dinner table when the men are speaking. Your mothers the philosopher, and you know as well as I do as well as she does that those conversations aren’t allowed to carry on. If you want to talk about your fantasy tales save it for tea time after the dishes have been done. You know the rules in my house.”
Mike said nothing and drunkenly stormed out of the room. Ralph swiveled his head to meet Roxanne’s worried gaze and sardonically tilted his head toward her shrinking figure.
“Don’t worry sweet pea, not the first, won’t be the last. I’m sure it’s nothing you haven’t seen in your time.”
I didn’t know what to say. They were just staring at me like I was some kind of spectacle. No one moved or talked, it was casual. I could tell his mother was upset, she loved Mike best, but she could never stand up to that monster of a man. I felt like I was a crash landed alien watching my ship burn in a distant cornfield, miles from civilization, only to turn and see wide eyed farmers staring at me with pitchforks and rifles in hand, bemused by the entire thing, like they’d been expecting this to happen all along. I left too.
“Rox, Rox, you fall asleep?”
“What’s that, love? Sorry…drifted off for a second.”
Roxanne shivered and threw a blanket over her shoulders and she stood to meet Mike at the table while cursing herself for having such thoughts on a beautiful day. She could see the pain in Mike’s face when he was on the phone with Dane, talking about his new this and new that and new other thing. Mike was doing well, he really was, and Roxanne worried that he was having trouble respecting the differences in life journeys that the two were experiencing. It was really a shame that his family, on the whole, thought so little of his accomplishments. He was truly talented and it worried her that he was so insecure about his wealth and status. She found it especially disconcerting when considering the fact that he was becoming a well-respected voice in the media capital of the world while simultaneously dating one of the wealthier twenty somethings in New York City. It made very little sense and all the while she loved him so.