From the train platform, I scanned the parking lot for Richard's car. He was driving a silver Infiniti SUV, his mom's friend's son's car, some kid who was abroad for his junior year in college. Yes, I'm twenty-six and now calling college students kids—get off my lawn.
I spotted Richard's car and made my way over to him. The driver side door opened as I approached, and Richard met me at my door. "Welcome to Lawng Island," he said, and gave me a kiss.
"Don't they stone Jersey girls here or something?" Richard slapped my ass as I climbed into the car and I yelped.
On the way over to Richard's dad's house, Richard briefed me on his dad's side of the family. "My stepmom, Diane, is like every stereotype about Long Island rolled into one."
"She takes steroids and wears thick gold chains around her neck?"
Richard slid his eyes sideways at me. "This is Oyster Bay. We don't allow that kind here."
I raised my eyebrows. "Oh."
"She's moneyed, she's superficial, and she will ask you where you went to high school and if it's a public school she will write you off immediately."
"So what you're saying is she's going to write me off."
Richard looked at me again. "You could have gone to Exeter and she would write you off. You're twenty-six years old and beautiful and you have a cool job in New York, she's going to despise you." He held up one finger. "My stepbrothers, on the other hand, will want jackhammer your brains out. I would advise you not to accept any drinks they give you."
My stomach twisted into an even tighter knot. "Great. Okay. And what are their names?"
"Miles and Booth. But only Booth will be there. Miles lives in London."
I snorted. "Miles and Booth?"
Richard flicked his turn signal and we waited for an opening in traffic before he made a left onto a road marked 'private.' "I haven't even gotten to the best character of the bunch."
"My father," Richard corrected, "Dad is too generous a word for him. Do not speak to him unless spoken to, and I apologize in advance for all of the wildly racist, elitist bullshit that will most definitely come out of his mouth the more loaded he gets. It's nauseating to listen to, but it's preferable to being told what a dumb piece of shit I am, so I've stopped standing up for common human decency."
"Jesus, Richard," I breathed.
Richard didn't say anything, just clenched his jaw tighter. I reached across the center consult and gave his knee a squeeze. He released a hand from the wheel and wove his fingers through mine as a pair of wrought iron gates parted in front of us.
The house was a white shuttered monster, an entire wing covered in ivy and vines. We parked the car and walked around back, the expansive yard containing a tennis court, a pool, a pool house, and a guest cottage. There are plenty of impressive homes where I'm from in Summit, but there was something about this place that felt ominous, menacing. It made the property seem even bigger than it was.
Richard knocked on the glass door, connected to the kitchen, and a man in slim, expensive looking jeans and a pastel button down opened the door. "Richard!" he said, and clapped his hand on Richard's back.
"Josie," Richard said, "this is Allen."
I gave him my hand, confused. "Hi, Allen."
"Nice to meet you," he said, shaking my hand vigorously.
Richard and I stepped into the kitchen and Allen asked us what we wanted to drink. "Just a club soda for now," Richard said, then dipped low to say in my ear, "I forgot to tell you about Allen. He's my father's personal assistant. And he's the only non-asshole in this house."
"For you?" Allen called from the bar area.
I called back, "Red wine, please."
I heard loud footsteps on the stairwell, and then a floppy haired collegiate type in Nantucket Red khakis strode into the kitchen. "Richard!" he cried, in a mocking, shrill pitch. It took me a second to realize he was doing an impersonation of Chris Farley speaking to David Spade in Tommy Boy.
Richard sighed and held out his hand. "Hi, Booth."
Booth slapped Richard's hand away and wrestled him into an aggressive embrace. "Brothers gotta hug!" he whined in that same ugly voice. Booth suddenly took notice of me and released Richard.
"Whoa," he said, raking his fingers through his shaggy hair with one hand and holding out his other, "How much did the human stain have to pay you to pose as his date?"
I locked eyes with Richard as I took his hand. "Richard, you're right, he is a little simple looking." Then I squeezed his fingers hard.
I swear I saw a look in Booth's eyes like he wanted to clock me, but before anyone could say anything, we heard a woman's voice, calling for us to join her in the next room.
"I can't wait for my mother to meet you," Booth sneered at me.
Richard grabbed my hand and led me through the informal dining area, and into a large, all-white sitting room. Perched on one end of a regal looking couch was a woman with ice blonde hair and gumball sized diamonds in her ears. "Richard, sweetie," she said, and held out her arms.
Richard stooped over her and gave her a hug. "Hi, Diane."
"And who is this?" Diane flicked her eyes over me, lazily. I noticed the empty martini glass on the table next to her and wondered what number she was on.
"This is my girlfriend, Josie," Richard said, and I couldn't help but swell up a little inside. I liked being his girlfriend.
"Nice to meet you Mrs."—
"Please," she snapped, "Diane."
"Diane," I finished.
"What an adorable purse," she said, nodding to my most prized possession hooked over my wrist—the Alexander Wang bag I got on super duper sale from The Outnet. This was a woman who knew her Saks Fifth Avenue like the back of her hand, and adorable was a very choice word. She may as well have said nice last-season bag, you sad little poor.
I gave her a thin smile. "Thank you."
From yet another room, deeper inside the house, we heard an angry call. "Am I eating alone?" There was no one else it could be but Richard's father.
Diane uncrossed her legs and heaved herself off the couch. "Oh, goody. It's dinnertime."
Richard's father looked nothing like I had pictured him—which had been short, fat, and bald, face the color of a heart attack. There was something distinguished and Harrison Ford handsome about him—which I guess means Richard will age well. It was really the only positive I could find about meeting this man.
Richard introduced his father to me as Robert. Robert was already cutting into his steak, and he barely looked as me as he grumbled, "Nice to meet you, Jessie."
"Josie," Richard corrected, and Robert just grunted.
The first few minutes of dinner were eerily silent. Once Robert had put a decent sized dent in his meal, he called for Allen. "Bring me the Herald from earlier this week!"
A few seconds later, Allen scurried into the room, a limp newspaper in his hand. He placed it on the table in front of Robert and Robert smacked his hand against the front page. The headline read: Drunk Long Island Mother Causes Near-Fatal Car Wreck.
"Do you see this?" Robert roared. "What a fucking disgrace."
"Really," Diane agreed, flicking her hair off her shoulder haughtily.
Richard put his steak knife down. "Is this why I'm here? So you can tell me how badly mom screwed up again?" He took a sip of his wine. "Jesus, I know."
Robert picked up the paper, the corners shaking with rage. "You're here because I want to know how the fuck your mother can afford to drive a BMW when she's slinging burgers for pennies."
I glanced at Richard, his face was white. "How should I know?" he muttered.
"You bought it for her, didn't you?"
Richard didn't say anything, and Robert demanded, louder this time, "Didn't you?"
"What the fuck is it to you?" Richard said, and Diane gasped theatrically. She was loving this.
Robert slammed the paper down on the table. "That's it. You're cut off. Effective immediately."
Richard responded with a wry little laugh. He tossed his napkin on the table and stood up. "You've just taken away the only reason I bother to speak to you two times a year. I should thank you, Dad." Richard pulled my chair away from the table and grabbed my hand. "Sorry," he said, "we can't stay for dessert."
And then Richard was pulling me through the house, back out the way we came. We were both breathing hard, throbbing with adrenaline, by the time we climbed into the car. "Holy shit," I said, half-laughing, half-gasping. "Your father is terrifying."
"Well, you never have to deal with him again," Richard said, looking over his shoulder as he backed the car out of the turnaround at the front of the house.
"Are you going to be okay?" I asked. "I mean, financially."
"This is the kick in the ass I need," Richard said, "and it means I never have to speak to him again. I'd say it's a win-win."
I jumped, startled, as we collided into one of the cars in the driveway. I arched in my seat to see that the trunk of our car had left a dent in the antique Jag behind us. "Oh my God."
Richard gave me a wicked smile. "Whoops," he said, and peeled out of the driveway.