I’m getting married.
It’s a disaster.
“You’re crazy,” Freddy says as she hands me another drink. “Will is adorable. He’s got a cool job. He cooks. He’s super sweet.”
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“He’s everything I’m not,” I say. “He cancels out all my flaws.”
“Ha ha!” Freddy says. “Nope.”
We’re at a club downtown. It’s dark, hot, crowded and insanely loud. Nicole is playing with her phone at the other end of the table. The rest of the girls are dancing by the DJ booth.
“You’re a pig in a poke!” Freddy shouts over the music. “You look good on the outside, but buy you and bring you home?” She tosses back her drink. “Forget it.”
I sigh. “I’m not even sure how things got to this point.”
“Is that right?” She jabs at me with one of her pointy purple nails. “Did he trick you into saying yes? Did he distract you with, like,” she waves her hands in my face, “whoo! whoo! pretty lights? Then shove the ring on your finger?”
“It was very romantic!” I protest. “The moonlight, the museum!”
She nods thoughtfully. “When Patrick proposed, he hid the ring in the mouth of his bearskin rug.”
“The one in the foyer?”
“The one in the media room.”
“Why have I not heard this story before?”
“He made me crawl around on the ground, searching for it,” she adds. “Stark naked.”
I miss Patrick.
“Also handcuffed,” she says. “Which, you know. Helped.”
I’m about to follow up on this little tidbit when someone sits down next to me. He’s cute. I smile at him. He smiles back.
“I can kill people with my mind,” I tell him.
He laughs and says, “Can I buy you a drink?”
He’s British. I fall deeply in love.
I reach up and touch his curly hair. Soon we’re kissing. He tastes like smoke and bourbon. I could kiss him all night, but Freddy pulls me onto the dance floor. We weave and twist and shimmy. We twirl and bob. We spin each other around.
“Did you bring las drogas?” I shout.
She looks surprised. “I thought we were cutting back.”
“Winifred! Tonight of all nights?”
She grabs her purse from our table and leads me to the bathroom. When we get back, the cute British guy is gone. Nicole is still texting. Leta and Chelsea and Joy are bouncing up and down in their seats like maniacs, shrieking along with the music, their drinks flying everywhere.
I love this. I am so happy right now. I want to have a bachelorette party every week.
“Let’s make prank calls!” I say.
“Let’s go to a strip club!” Freddy says.
“Yes!” we all yell, except for Nicole, who is still goddamned texting.
My phone pings. It’s a message from Philip.
—Wilder. I need you to come in right away.
I stand up, a little wobbly. “Kiss Mommy good–bye, girls!”
“Now?” Freddy cries in disbelief. “They can’t do this!”
I pat her on the shoulder. “I’ll be right back.”
Ha ha! Nope.
The office is a madhouse. Paralegals racing through the halls with stacks of binders and file folders, night secretaries printing and photocopying like the fate of the world hangs in the balance. I’ve never shown up to work in this condition before, so everything is strange and new and a little hilarious. I start to laugh, which gets me some dark looks. Then I hit an unexpected pocket of turbulence in the hallway. Oh no—I’m going down! Fortunately, a wall saves me. You know what? Thank God for walls. Whoever put them in this hallway had a lot of foresight. Whoever invented them was a freaking—
I slip inside a bathroom and splash water on my face. That’s better.
I head for my office. The light is on in Lyle’s room, so I stop by. There he is, surrounded by piles of paper and greasy take–out containers, banging away at his laptop, looking all sweaty, pale and infarcted. Lyle and I work on the same litigation team, for the same partner. I’m in my second year at the firm, he’s in his fifth. You could say we’re friendly rivals. Kindred spirits. Just super, super close.
“Go fuck yourself,” he says.
I drop into a chair. “What’s up, Mighty Mouse?”
He sighs heavily. “How many times have I asked you not to call me that?”
“Eleven. What’s going on around here? It’s after midnight.”
“The plaintiffs in the Lucas case filed a motion for a preliminary injunction.” He’s still typing furiously. “We have forty–eight hours to respond. Can you help?”
I flick at a piece of sparkly club confetti stuck to my dress. “Afraid not.”
Lyle reads through what he’s typed, hits return, hits it harder, shouts “Fuck God!” at the screen, hits return really hard, exhales, cracks his neck and turns to me. “She. Cannot. Help.” He’s doing his annoying third–person zombie monotone thing. “Why. Is she. Here?”
Pesky confetti—I flick at it again. “Because Philip. Texted. Her.”
Lyle frowns. “He’s here?”
“Apparently, Wee One.”
“Philip doesn’t know how to text.”
I shrug. “Maybe his secretary taught him.”
“Betty’s ninety. Why did he text you?”
“Lyle is. Troubled. Lyle wonders why the partner. Did not text. Him. Lyle fears. He is out. Of the loop.”
He picks up a pen and grips it tightly.
“There is so much love in your eyes right now, Lyle.” I hold a hand to my heart. “I can hardly stand it.”
For a second I think he’s going to lunge across the desk and stab me in the eye, but he manages to rein it in. “Out,” he says, pointing at the door with the pen. “Now.”
I walk up two flights to the forty–fifth floor, where the partners have their offices. The lighting is dim and expensive, the carpeting plush. Even the air smells better up here—crisp and fresh, like it was just imported from the Alps, which, who knows? I stroll the hallway, admiring the expensive art and framed artifacts from the firm’s glorious past. Sepia–tinted photographs of the founding partners. Thank–you notes from robber barons and titans of industry. A letter from Theodore Roosevelt bitching about his bill.
Philip is reading a brief, feet up on his desk. I pause in the doorway. I oh–so–casually lean against the door frame. I kind of miss. So I knock and say, “Yeth, Mathter?”
He glances at me over his reading glasses. “Wilder. Come in.”
He’s wearing a tuxedo. “I just came from a charity function,” he explains.
“Whoa.” I hold up my hands. “Hey. A charity function. Let’s not get so specific, okay?”
He regards me silently for a moment, then returns to his reading. I perch on the edge of one of his wing chairs and wait.
It’s a nice tuxedo.
I shift my attention to his desk. It is massive, baroque, intimidating. I get completely lost in its swirls and whorls and ornate floral motifs. I wonder who carved them. Orphans, probably. Eighteenth–century French orphans. I picture them toiling away at the workhouse, their tiny, chapped hands trembling in the cold wind sweeping across the plains of . . . wherever. Someplace French. Fumbling for their woodworking tools, dropping them, lopping off a finger here, a toe there. Tearing strips of lace off their smocks to make chic little tourniquets, then getting back down to business.
I start to ask Philip about them. I think better of it.
I fold my hands in my lap. My dress is riding up. Way up. Red zone! I tug at the hem. Something rips.
Philip tosses the brief on his desk. “So,” he says. “You’re getting -married.”
“Yeppers!” I give him two dorky thumbs‑up. Why? And why am I here? I really shouldn’t be. “We’re flying down to Key West tomorrow.”
He smiles. “Congratulations.”
“We need you to cancel it.”
“Postpone it, rather.” He lifts his feet off the desk and sits up. “Just for a few months.”
I’m outraged. They can’t do this! I want to get married! Will and I are soul mates!
“No way,” I say. “Je refuse.”
Philip is sifting through a pile of papers, searching for something. He stops and looks up. “This is your first marriage?”
“I remember my first.” He goes a little misty. “It’s true what they say. The first marriage really is the best.”
“Good to know, but—”
“The next deposition in the EnerGreen litigation is scheduled for Friday.” He’s consulting a sheet of paper plucked from the disarray. “The witness is an accountant. Peter Hoffman.”
“Hoffman?” I say. “The guy with the e‑mails?”
“According to Lyle, Mr. Hoffman is not ready to be deposed. We need someone to prep him.” He glances at me, eyebrows raised.
Oh. Philip’s just confused. “That’s the fraud part of the case,” I remind him. “I work on the environmental claims.” I cross my legs and smile at him. Problem solved.
But he frowns and shakes his head. “Lyle says that you know the documents. You know the record. It has to be you.”
I should have known who was behind this. “Lyle is lyling—I mean, he’s lying, Philip! He’s trying to ruin my wedding. He—”
Philip looks at me over his reading glasses. He’s all stern school-master to my unruly little student. I’m totally digging it. I lift my chin and stare back at him defiantly. I try propping my elbow on the arm of the chair, but it’s really slippery, which is weird for brocade. I fold my arms instead. “You’re going to have to find somebody else.”
Philip launches into this big speech about how EnerGreen is the firm’s most important client . . . this is a historic case . . . billions of dollars at stake . . . furious government agencies breathing down our necks . . . so much public scrutiny since the oil spill . . . the true test of a lawyer’s commitment is her willingness to make sacrifices for the good of the client . . .
Honestly? I can’t focus. His voice is so smooth and measured. Almost hypnotic. And I’m distracted by how the light from the desk lamp makes his silver hair gleam. Philip has good hair. Great hair. But then, he’s a good–looking man. He—
“—because this witness’s documents are rife with potential pitfalls, he must be well prepared for his deposition, and you, Wilder, must be the one to prepare him. I have some information that you should find welcome, however. By a happy coincidence, Mr. Hoffman is vacationing in the Florida Keys this week. He wishes to be deposed there, and the plaintiffs have consented.” Philip smiles at me.
The tuxedo, plus the reading glasses, plus the smile?
He’s killing me right now.
“This, then, is our plan,” he continues. “You will meet with Mr. Hoffman on Tuesday at his resort, a place called,” he glances down at the sheet, “Tranquility Bay. Doesn’t that sound charming. I will fly down Thursday evening. On Friday, I will defend the deposition,” he glances up, “with your assistance, of course. By Friday evening you will be free to enjoy your well–deserved time off.”
I think this through. “So I don’t have to postpone the wedding.”
“Then why did you say—”
“Because I love how outrage focuses your attention.” He smiles again.
I close my eyes. “Send someone else,” I say faintly.
“Very well, I will,” Philip says. “On one condition.”
I open my eyes. We gaze at each other in silence.
I stand up and shut the door. “Dress on or off?”
He comes around from behind his desk. “What a question.”
I reach back for the zipper. “I want you to spank me again.”
“You enjoyed that?” He stretches out on the long leather sofa. I climb on top of him.
“No,” I say, my mouth close to his ear. “I hated it.”
Afterward, I lie beside him and rest my head on his chest. That was exactly what I needed. And exactly why I left my party. Maybe that was obvious. It wasn’t obvious to me. Not right away.
I feel his hand on my head, his fingers combing through my tangled hair. Philip has a lot of stamina for an old guy. I think about old guys. They’re all right. They’re all so very, very—
I love calling him “sir.” It’s making me excited all over again.
“Something is troubling me,” Philip says.
“I’m sorry to hear that, sir.”
I feel him separate one curl from the rest, twirling it around his finger, tugging it gently. “The fact is, I may have misled you just now.”
“In what way?”
“You still have to prep Hoffman.”
I sigh contentedly and pat his chest. “I know.”
He raises his head to peer at me. “You do?”
I sit up and stretch. I start gathering my clothes. “Of course. And I don’t mind.” I look down at him. “Although it was wrong of you to try to coerce me.”
“I know.” He smiles. “Wasn’t it wonderful?”
It really was. So I let him coerce me again. Then I coerce him for a while. Then I get dressed and get a cab and go home.
Will and I live in a loft on North Moore Street. Before he moved in five months ago, the place was spare and chilly and barren—much like my soul, as Freddy likes to say. Now it’s cozy and inviting, full of Will’s old furniture and art and the beautiful things he picks up on his travels.
He must have heard me stumble out of the elevator, because he’s waiting at the door. In a t‑shirt and pajama pants, his hair all tousled from the shower. Freddy’s right—he’s so cute.
He yawns and smiles at me. “Hi, Lily.”
“Baby! You waited up.”
Logs are crackling in the fireplace. Soft music is playing. I collapse in his arms. He searches my face with loving eyes. “Do you need the bucket?” he asks tenderly.
“Not yet,” I whisper.
He helps me to the sofa and hands me a glass of fizzy water. Aspirin. A mug of tea. He had it all waiting for me.
I stretch out and rest my head in his lap. He covers me with a blanket. “Did you have a good time tonight?” he asks.
I don’t deserve him. I know this.
“It was okay.”
He brushes a few strands of hair from my forehead. “You look beautiful.”
The fact that I acknowledge that I’m a terrible person doesn’t make me any less terrible. I know this, too.
I gaze up at him hopelessly. “I’m a pig in a poke, Will!”
“I love you just the way you are,” he says.
“Oh, ha,” I say weakly. “Ha ha.”
I’ll be better. I will!
I’ll find a way to be worthy of him.
“We have an early flight,” he says. “Let’s get you to bed.”
“I love you, Will!” I cry. “I love you so, so much.”
And at this moment, I do. I really do!
He grins at me. “Then I have a great idea.”
“Let’s get married!”
I close my eyes. “Okay!”
What am I doing? What have I done?
Stop. Just . . . calm down.
It’s going to be fine. Totally fine!
How? Not sure. Really not sure about that. But it is. I know it is.
Everything’s going to be fine.