Read I Take You Online

Authors: Eliza Kennedy

I Take You (6 page)

“Just keep it simple, okay?” Lyle says. “You need to prepare Hoffman to deal with aggressive questioning by skilled opposing counsel. You
need to teach him how to listen and how to answer without actually saying a damn thing. He needs to sound calm, friendly and credible. After you do all that, you need to help him explain those e-mails. Maybe they were a joke. Maybe he was hacked. Maybe he accidentally took his wife’s Xanax instead of his Lipitor and spent the day writing schizo e-mails to the entire office. Whatever. He needs a coherent story that establishes why the e-mails aren’t relevant to the lawsuit. Philip will take care of the rest at the deposition itself.”

“Gotcha,” I say.

“Good. Don’t fuck this up.” Then a click, and he’s gone.

5

I walk back inside
the room and flop onto the bed. I’m drifting off when my phone pings with a text.

—here thirsty come now

I find Freddy and Nicole sipping frothy drinks by the pool. Freddy is wearing a yellow muumuu and cat’s-eye sunglasses, her shiny black hair in a knot at the top of her head. Nicole is slouched across from her, texting, of course.

“Bridesmaidens!” I cry. “How was the drive?”

“Heaven!” Freddy gushes. “Ninety miles of shell shops and tacky souvenir stands. We stopped at an amazing state park for a swim.”

“I got stung by a jellyfish,” Nicole mutters.

“Poor Nickie!” I rub her arm sympathetically, but she barely looks up from her phone.

“We had conch fritters for lunch,” Freddy says. “Delicioso!”

“A little less grease would have been nice,” Nicole remarks.

“This hotel is fantastic!” Freddy adds. “We’re right down the hall from you.”

“You guys are sharing a room?”

“Why not?” Nicole replies. “This wedding is costing a fortune. And it’s not like I’m going to meet anyone here.”

She gazes gloomily at the happy people splashing in the pool. Freddy catches my eye and mimes hanging herself, then shooting herself, then stabbing herself in the face.

Nicole finishes her drink and hauls herself upright. “Early flights kill me. I’m going to take a nap.”

We watch her shuffle into the hotel. “Was she like that the whole way down?”

“She was worse,” Freddy replies.

“Sorry.”

“It was okay. I spent most of the drive planning a nice little murdersuicide scenario for us.”

The bartender arrives. “Another pink squirrel?” he asks Freddy. She nods.

I smile up at him. “Make it two, Lloyd.” We watch him walk away. “After a lot of thought, I decided to bust through a guardrail and drive off a bridge,” Freddy says. “It was going to be like
Thelma and Louise
, except less about female empowerment and more about Thelma just wanting Louise to shut the fuck up.”

“What stopped you?”

“Your wedding dress. It was in the trunk of the car.”

I pat her hand fondly. “The sacrifices you make.”

She shrugs. “We’re driving back together. I figure I have another shot.”

Our pink squirrels arrive. We clink glasses. We drink.

“Hey!” She kicks me under the table. “You bailed on us last night.”

“Sorry. Work was …” I shake my head. “Crazy.”

“Was your boss there?”

“No,” I say quickly. “Definitely not.”

She scrutinizes me over the rim of her glass. “Is that right.”

Time to change the subject. “Get this!” I tell her. “I’m not even on vacation yet. I have to prep a witness.”

“You have to what a what?”

“It’s for my big environmental case, the one about the oil spill in the Gulf a few years ago? There’s this accountant who’s going to be deposed, and—”

Freddy holds up a hand. “Stop. I just died of boredom. Also, why are you pretending to be outraged? You love this. You’re totally delighted.”

I sip my drink. “I like my job. That’s a crime now?”

“It should be.” She gestures for another round. “You know who gets to love their jobs? Scotch tasters. Zookeepers. Elvis impersonators. Lawyers? It’s not natural. There’s something wrong with you.”

“Probably.” I check my phone. Nothing from Will. I text him:

—where u

He writes back:

—Javier just arrived. We’ll be there soon.

—hurryup!!

—I will.

I toss my phone back in my bag. “Freddy?”

“Yes love?”

“Do you ever think Will seems a little too good to be true?”

She sets her drink on the table. “Nope.”

“He’s so perfect, he’s so wonderful, he’s so this and that and the other thing.” I tilt my head back to catch the final pink dregs at the bottom of my glass. “He can’t be all that.”

“Yes he can,” she says. New drinks arrive.

“You marry him, then.”

“He’s not my type. And anyway, he wants
you.
He’s crazy about
you.
You walk into a room and his eyeballs fall out of their sockets and start rolling around on the floor like spastic little puppies.”

“He met the moms at lunch.”

“How did that go?”

“Amazingly well. I was sure he was going to get all nervous and dork out, but he was super charming.”

“Will isn’t that dorky, you know.”

“Sure he is.” I smile. “That’s why I love him.”

“A minute ago he was too good to be true,” she says. “Now you love him?”

“God, Freddy, I don’t know! Can’t I not know? Who among us can say, with absolute certainty, that they love,
truly
love, the person they think they love?”

“Most people,” Freddy says promptly. “No, wait. The vast majority of people. No, wait. Everybody.”

I poke my straw around inside my glass. “They ambushed me afterwards. They think I should call off the wedding.”

“Let me guess,” she says. “That only made you more determined to do it.”

I don’t answer. She hails a waiter and asks for another round. Somewhere close by, a creature starts shrieking in agony. I look up to see a father hauling a flailing toddler out of the pool. “Cute,” I say.

Freddy looks appalled. “The child?”

“Jesus, no! The dad.”

“You scared me for a minute.” She watches him, head tilted appraisingly. “Nah. Too skinny.”

“They all talked as if it’s
so
easy. Just,” I snap my fingers, “stop the wedding.”

“It is easy,” Freddy tells me. “I’ve done it three times.”

“Twice,” I correct her. “Norman dumped
you
, if I recall.”

“Only because he caught me with Zoe,” she reminds me. “That makes it a tie.”

“Why do you keep getting engaged to men? You can marry whoever you want now.”

“Doctor Boog thinks I’m still seeking my parents’ approval,” Freddy explains.

“Interesting. Doesn’t he know your parents are dead?”

“That doesn’t matter, apparently. I have a general idea of what they’d like. He also says my efforts are doomed because I’m unrealistically optimistic about my capacity for change.”

“He sounds fun.”

A breeze rustles the palms above our heads. A waiter arrives with more pink squirrels. He sets them down. We watch him walk away. We clink glasses.

“So what are you going to do?” Freddy asks.

“About Will?”

“No,” she says. “About the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

I sip my new drink. “I’m going to see how things play out. I think it’s going to be fine.”

She yawns and stretches her arms over her head. “Well, you’ve got plenty of time to think it over.”

“Do I?”

“No, idiot. You have six days.”

“But they’re the six days before my wedding,” I say. “That makes them super long. Like dog years.”

Freddy nods. Then she stops nodding. “You mean the opposite.”

“What?”

“Dog years are short,” she says. “Like, there are nine dog years in a human year. A dog that’s seven is really ninety-six.”

I think about that. “Nine times seven is eighty-one. Not ninety-six.”

“You know what I mean.”

We sit and watch the last of the sunbathers pack up their things in the dying light. A young couple strolls past us, hand in hand. A steel drum band starts playing at the bar. More drinks arrive. I smile at the new waiter. He smiles back. I watch him walk away.

“Now that guy,” I begin.

“Is gay,” Freddy finishes.

I sip my drink. “Maybe Will is marrying me for my money.”

“The Wilder millions?” Freddy removes her sunglasses and polishes them with a napkin. “I thought your share was all tied up in trusts.”

“That’s the genius of his plan. He marries me now, waits until I’m fifty and come into my inheritance, and then—
bam
!—feeds me to the fishes.”

“Twenty-three years is a hell of a long time to put up with you,” she observes.

“He’s patient. Patient and devious.”

“I’m not buying it. Where is the lucky fella, anyway?”

“Picking up Javier at the airport.”

“Javier,” Freddy sighs. “At last we meet.”

Freddy has spun an enormous fantasy around Will’s best friend, based entirely on his name. “You are going to be so disappointed,” I tell her.

She gives me a pitying look. “Jealous much?”

“He’s whiter than I am!”

“Please,” she scoffs. “You need to face the fact that my dusky Latin lover and I are going to make beautiful, pan-ethnic love all week, while you’re stuck with the boring white dude. Again.”

“I’m not only into white guys!”

“Racist!” she sings. “Honky lovah!”

“What about that Indian guy? The graduate student.”

“Stalkers don’t count,” she replies.

“My point, Winifred, is that I thought he was cute.”

“My point, Lillian, is that was only because he was a stalker.”

“The black guy, then,” I say. “The pickle maker. Lived in Brooklyn? He had an amazing—”

“Here’s Will!” Freddy says brightly.

“Baby!” I leap up and kiss him. “And here’s Javier! Javier, meet my best friend, Freddy. You’ll be walking down the aisle together.”

“Pleased to meet you,” says blond, blue-eyed Javier Collins of Schaumburg, Illinois.

Freddy stares at him, speechless.

“Who’s hungry?” Will asks.

Freddy takes my arm as we leave the bar.

“His mom’s from Barcelona,” I whisper. “One of those fair, northern Spaniards.”

“I’ll get you for this,” she hisses.

“Don’t be racist,” I warn her. “Don’t be a honky hater.”

She pinches me. “I call this some bullshit false advertising.”

I put my arm around her. “Whatever you say, Korean woman named Freddy. Whatever you say.”

We drag Nicole out of bed and have dinner at an old-school Cuban restaurant on Catherine Street. At a bar down the block, a waitress tells us about a new place on William. We have a few drinks there, until Freddy decides she needs to go where Ernest Hemingway drank. We wander down Duval, the trashy neon heart of the island. Even on a Sunday night, the sidewalks are packed with herds of young people staggering around all drunk and shouty, drag queens, drugged-out hippies and ordinary people gazing openmouthed at the show. We pass strip clubs, Irish pubs, the occasional hookah lounge. Dive shops, hat shops, shops selling kitschy gifts made out of coconuts and palmetto leaves and conch shells, raunchy t-shirts, tacky lingerie, shot glasses, key chains.

And chicken art. So much chicken art.

We pass a juggler, a mime. Someone dressed as Darth Vader, playing a banjo. The restaurants are wide open to the warm, humid night. Live
music pours out of some of the bars and clubs. Barely dressed women beckon from others. Cars race up and down the street, thumping with bass.

We drink at Sloppy Joe’s for a while. A biker there tells us that if we really want to see where Papa drank, we should go to a place on Eaton Street. By midnight, we’re at our fourth “Hemingway bar.” Will goes to the bathroom. Javier and Freddy are talking with a couple of German tourists at the next table. Nicole is … I look around. I don’t know where Nicole is.

I feel so relaxed and happy. It’s great to be home.

Will comes back and sits down. He runs his hands through his hair, making it stick up in funny ways. But then, it usually sticks up in funny ways. Still, he seems nervous. I put a hand over his. “Are you okay, honey?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Your parents arrive tomorrow, right? Are you worried?”

I haven’t met my future in-laws. I was supposed to go to Chicago for Christmas, but an emergency in one of my cases intervened. Will gets a little tense whenever he talks about them—I think there must be some drama there.

“Worried? Not at all.” He squeezes my hand.

“It’s going to be great,” I assure him. “Parents love me.”

He smiles and kisses the side of my head.

I watch a rowdy bachelor party barge through the door. I go up to get another drink.

The in-laws, arriving tomorrow.

The wedding, six days away.

I look around. This place is boring. I leave.

I find myself in the restaurant next door. There’s a super-cute guy sitting at the bar. He’s got dark hair and a few days’ worth of stubble. I sit down next to him. I smile at him. He smiles back.

“Okay okay okay.” I hold up my hands in surrender. “You can buy me a drink.”

He laughs sheepishly. “I’d love to. But … I’m married, just so you know.”

“I’m engaged,” I say. “Officially, that’s a tie.”

He looks puzzled. “Don’t overthink it,” I advise him. “Overthinking is overrated.”

We start talking. His name is Tim.

“So Tim,” I say.

“Tom,” he says.

Maybe it’s Tom.

“This marriage thing,” I say. “How’s it working out for you?”

He shrugs. “You know. It is what it is.”

Quite the conversationalist. But with those eyes, who cares? We have another drink. I put my hand over his on the bar. He doesn’t pull away. I turn his hand over. I stroke his palm lightly with my fingers. I brush my fingers across his wrist, feeling his pulse. I look up at him. “Where is this alleged wife of yours?”

He shifts in his seat. “She flies down in a few days. A friend of mine is getting married.”

I smile at him. “What a coincidence. I’m here for a wedding too.”

We’re facing each other on our stools. I catch one of his knees between mine and hold it. I lean toward him. “Hey, Tom. Do you want to know a secret?”

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