November 13, 2014

Elizabeth's Story

by Jessica Knoll

I couldn't stand another second in my apartment. I called downstairs to the front desk and asked the doorman to pull my BMW around.

"Where are we going?" Campbell wanted to know.

"If you really knew me, you wouldn't have to ask that question," I slammed the phone into the receiver and started collecting my things, anything to busy myself, to not have to look him in the eye. I was being a curt bitch again, but it was only because I was embarrassed. Embarrassed that my father had skewered me in front of Campbell, and humiliated that I had let it get to me, that I had actually cried in front of him. To be clear—I don't really care that he saw me cry, only that he saw what made me cry. Because it meant that clearly I put some stock in my father's insults—that I was a waste of money, a waste of space, really. It should be my brother who got to live. My biggest fear in life is that I'll lose my looks, and suddenly, everyone will realize how little I really have going for myself.

A part of me wanted to call up a car for Campbell, pay for it to take him all the way back to Geneva. But then I remembered the brief moment when I wasn't worried about how pathetic I must have looked to him, when I was just hurt, and tired of the abuse, and he held my head up right with his own two hands, shushing me, and decided against it.

Outside, Robbie, one of the doormen who is nice enough but who I always catch leering at me when he thinks I'm not looking, was holding open the door to my car. "Need a break already, Miss Elizabeth?"

He took my bags out of my hands and tossed them in the trunk, sneaking a glance at my ass as he did. I watched Campbell notice. He made a face, like it bothered him, and it felt like those few times I'd taken ecstasy in high school. The exact moment the chemicals activated, the endorphins ballooning through me, a surge that made me want to give every last person in my life the benefit of the doubt. Even my father.

"They're especially terrible this year," I told Robbie.

"Want me to call ahead and reserve your room?"

I had already climbed in the car, but I stuck my head out of the door and gave him a sickeningly sweet smile. "Would you, babe?"

"Reserve what room?" Campbell asked, climbing in next to me and buckling his seat belt.

"The Premiere Liberty View Suite—with a harbor view—at the Ritz in Battery Park is my home away from home." I turned on the car. "Alllll the way on the other end of the island, so I don't have to worry about bumping into any member of my esteemed lineage, who I don't think have ever ventured beneath 60th street. My mother won't even shop at Saks because, according to her, it's too far downtown."

"Where is Saks?" Campbell wanted to know.

I snorted. "49th and 5th."

Campbell raised his eyebrows, like he got it.

We drove south on the West Side Highway in silence. Every now and then, I'd glance over at Campbell to see his eyes, wide and bright, taking in his surroundings. That feeling of awe he must have been experiencing, inexplicably, I had it too, even though I'd come this way so many times before. It was the idea of what it must be like to see all of this with fresh eyes—the Hudson sparkling between Manhattan and New Jersey, the Twin Towers, still standing robust and impossibly invincible in the nearing distance. Everyone I'd ever known was so jaded, so unimpressed. It was nice to be with someone who wasn't too cool to care.

"I think when we get to the hotel, we should drop off our stuff and go out," I said. "There's this club—The Limelight. They shut it down last year because some freak murdered his drug dealer there." I turned to Campbell and raised my eye brows, mischievously. "He dismembered him. At least I wasn't sick enough to do that. Anyway, I heard they reopened this month."

"You're the prettiest sicko I ever did meet," Campbell said, not lightly, and I worked hard to hide how how much that pleased me. "But honestly, I'm starving. You couldn't have waited to piss your dad off until after we'd eaten?"

I shrugged. "We'll order room service."

"No," Campbell said, a little forcefully. "I'm in New York. You know what I want?"

We were nearing the exit for the Brooklyn Bridge, and I swerved right to take it. "Oh baby," I said, and I realized just how good a mood I was in with Campbell by my side, because I never, ever say cheesy shit like that. "I know what you want."

- -

"Holy shit," Campbell said, his mouth full of hot cheese and marinara sauce. Or, as they call it at the pizza institution that is Grimaldi's, gravy.

I licked gravy off my thumb. "I know."

We had a large, regular pizza in front of us, no toppings. "You don't need them here," I'd assured Campbell when we sat down. Thayer and I used to come here all the time, though normally, when we did, we'd sneak a flask of whiskey or vodka and wash down bites of pizza with sips of booze. The only refreshment I had in front of me at the moment was a ginger ale. It made me realize just how much I normally have to drink to feel comfortable around Campbell. More times than not, he watches me with this unnerving, cold stare, and I can handle that. It's when he breaks, when his brow relaxes and his eyes have that whole tortured soul thing going on, that I get all squirmy and uncomfortable. It's so much easier when he's just a dick, and I'm just a bitch.

"Your parents are a piece of work," Campbell said, sort of off-handedly.

I ripped apart my crust. "Tell me something I don't know."

"I don't think they liked me very much," he added.

I shook my head. "It wasn't that. It's that they were suspicious of you."

Campbell took a sip of his Diet Coke. I found it hysterical he had ordered a Diet Coke. "Let me give you a little tip," I said. "You want to blend in with the old money folk? You need to take those Prada loafers or whatever the hell they are and kick them around in the dirt a little. Even better, stick them in your closet and don't pull them out for a few years, so they look sort of outdated and well worn by the time you do wear them. And you need to unbutton your shirt one more notch, and roll up the sleeves a little. But keep your shirt tucked in and add a belt. But it better not match your shoes."

Campbell had slipped back into that cold stare. "And what makes you think I want to blend in with the old money folk?"

I leaned back in my chair and folded my arms across my chest. "Come on, it's obvious. You've done a pretty good job of appropriating them, I'll give you that. I'm just trying to add the finishing touches. I mean, what was all that talk about going to business school for the connections? That's a real thing that people say. You wouldn't know that if it wasn't something you were seriously considering."

Campbell continued to eat. "Do you have a question?"

"Are you really only twenty-four?"

Campbell paused, mid-chew. "I'm twenty-seven."

"Why did you lie?"

"Because then your father would have asked what I'd been doing for the last few years since I graduated college, and I didn't feel like answering that."

"Because you don't want to say you're a cop?"

"I'm a detective, Elizabeth. And yeah, is it so wrong I don't want to say that? Is it so wrong that I have other aspirations for myself?"

"So do it," I said. "Enroll in business school, if that's what you want. Money isn't a problem, obviously, not with your little drug business on the side."

Now Campbell looked really mean. He stared at me, icily, for a few moments before dropping what was left of his crust on his plate and reaching into his back pocket for his wallet. He dropped two twenties on the table and stood, pulling on his jacket.

"Where are you going?" I demanded.

"Back to Geneva," he said, "it was a mistake coming here."

I watched Campbell make his way out of the restaurant. Several girls turned to check him out when he passed them, and I realized, suddenly, I must have been making the same face Campbell had made when he noticed Robbie leering at my ass. It bothered me.

I got up and ran after him. I do not, repeat, do not run after guys.

On the street, I couldn't locate him right away, and for a moment, I panicked, thinking I'd already lost him. "Campbell!" I shrieked, cringing at how desperate I sounded.

A figure at the other end of the block paused, and I squinted, my eyes adjusting to the dark, realizing it was him. I ran toward him, like some goddamn little plucky heroine in a romantic comedy, and flung my arms around his neck. "I'm sorry," I whispered against his lips, and then, thank God, he was kissing me back.

Campbell had his hands around my face, and he pulled me back, held me still and shook me, a little. "Don't mock me, Elizabeth," he warned. His tone was forceful, but his eyes had softened again, and I could see just how much it bothered him, his station in life, especially in comparison to mine. I grabbed his hand and kissed it, knowing I must have looked just as pathetically desperate as he did. This was love, right? Someone finally seeing all your weaknesses, all your vulnerabilities, and wanting to fuck you anyway?

Campbell watched me kiss his hand, like I was begging for forgiveness, and he groaned and pushed me up against the brick wall of an abandoned building. "You can be so sweet," he said. He kissed my neck, nipped my ear. "I wish you could always be this sweet," he said, kissing me everywhere but my mouth, and I almost started crying again, because someone had finally seen the good in me.



24 comments:

  1. This keeps getting better and better.

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  2. Jessica's got us rooting for the same person she had us all hating. It shows real depth in her writing. Love it.

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  3. THIS WAS AN AMAZING POST!

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  4. Wow love Elizabeth's story, hate that it's only one a week ��

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  5. WOW... SO FREAKING GOOD

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  6. I loved seeing a vulnerable side to Elizabeth in this post!

    http://jocelynseverydayjourneys.blogspot.com

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  7. Amazing, amazing post

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  8. I LOVE THURSDAYS! never want the post to end thou :(

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  9. can we change 2pm to 12pm? would love a lunch break read :)

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  10. Ok I'm actually going to cry!

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  11. SOOOOOO GOOOOODD!!!!

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  12. I loooooove this relationship but I try not to get so attached because I already know something doesn't work out between Liz and Campbell from reading Joise's story :(

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    Replies
    1. Or they have secret flings and meet ups throughout all her other relationships and end up happily ever after together. That's what I'm hoping for.

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  13. Love this story!!!! Ugh can't wait til next week! Love Campbell

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  14. I think this is the most honest and vulnerable writing I have read from any author. The way you capture their romance is so distinct and realistic, in how apart they are so imperfect, but together they help each other to become better. I really love this blog and please keep up the great writing.

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  15. I really hope the Twin Towers reference doesn't end up alluding to something involving Campbell since he's a cop/detective /:

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  16. but together they help each other to become better. I really love this blog and please keep up the great writing.

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  17. This post was SO sweet, reading about each of their walls coming down. I came back to read it a second time! I agree with the other comments that they seem to make each other better, they're both going through torturous insight. It's nice to see that Elizabeth has the capacity to be a much better person and begin to build some value in herself. EXCELLENT detailed writing, especially the end scene. I could see the whole thing playing out and I've never even been to NY. Can this be a movie when it's done? This needs to be a move when it's done...not that I EVER want it to end! I'miss a loyal reader yet never usually leave a comment, but I guess Elizabeth isn't the only one trying new things ;). I had to give Kudos for this post!

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