by Jessica Knoll
Campbell and I snuck through the sliding patio door to my hotel room. I didn't want to risk running into Bart, my lawyer, in the lobby.
It occurred to me that this had been the same door Campbell had used when my father came to my hotel room, right after I found out about the little deal they'd arranged. A shiny new job in Chicago to stay away from me. That was over three years ago now. Three years ago I'd followed his path the second I could, called his name into the cold night air like a timid Marlon Brando, and turned to find that he had traced 'Will always' into the foggy glass. Will always love you, he had meant. I'd rubbed it off with my fist. I thought I could never forgive him, but this man had the power to incinerate my steely bitchiness to ash. All he had to say was jump, and I'd jump. Or in this case, take off your clothes, and I'd take off my clothes.
My thong was still looped around my ankles when he bent me over the bed. I tried to kick it off but my feet tangled, and in a moment, I heard a loud rip and then my legs were free of the silky restraint. Campbell had torn my underwear off. It had been Kiki de Montparnasse, pure white, with little girl ruffles. The innocent details in hysterical contrast to my slutty past. Constance, my father's girlfriend, had bought me a whole bridal lingerie ensemble as an engagement gift. I was meant to save it for my wedding night.
"Those cost a hundred dollars," I said over my shoulder.
Campbell flipped me over onto my back, and his rhythm became tortuously slow. "You wore your honeymoon lingerie to fuck me," he said, thumbing a piece of hair off my face. Then, he laughed, lowly. A sort of laugh-groan. "You're so fucked up," he said, kissing my neck, and goosebumps prickled up where his lips had been. There wasn't a single part of me that didn't feel tight and hot, desperate for release, but terrified of it too. Because that signaled an end that I wasn't ready for. "God, I've missed you." Campbell kissed my lips. "You're so fucked up," he moaned, and I did too.
Afterward, we lay in bed, smoking a sloppily rolled joint that had been stuffed into the pocket of Campbell's pants, which lay in a crumpled heap on the floor. "Where did you get this?" I asked in that pinched way one does when trying to trap smoke in your lungs.
"One of my buddies still on the force," he said. "Still up to their old tricks."
"Well, whoever he confiscated this from is shit at rolling a joint," I said, releasing a long, single line of smoke.
Campbell snatched it out of my hand and the tip ignited as he took a pull. "Beggars shouldn't be choosers," he said.
I watched his perfect pale chest sink as he exhaled. "What does that mean?"
"There's a new police chief. Apparently he's not so good at sticking his head in the sand." Campbell arched an eyebrow at me. "He's cracking down on all illicit activity within the force."
I mock-gasped. "How will your buddies ever afford the mortgage on their McMansions without their side hustle?"
Campbell went to pass the joint to me but when I reached for it, he yanked it out of my grasp, teasingly. One side of his mouth inched up when I crossed my arms over my chest and rolled my eyes.
"I guess they'll have to cover up a rich girl's crime," he said, smiling wider now, "and then make her fall in love with them. Cash in that way."
I pinched my lips together, trying not to smile too. "I think it's the other way around," I said. "The rich girl makes the dirty cop fall in love with her."
"But they don't live happily ever after," Campbell said, and we both stopped smiling and stared straight ahead, depressed.
We passed the joint back and forth a few more times, and a hazy sort of optimism settled over me. "Well, why can't we?" I asked, finally.
"Why can't we what?"
"Do it. Be together."
"I'm serious!" I said. "You don't work for my dad anymore. What's he going to do? Fire you?"
"Your dad has deep pockets and a lot of connections," Campbell said. "He could get me fired."
"And...so?" I asked. "I have full access to my trust now that I'm twenty-five. I could have it all transferred to an off shore account my father can't ever touch. It's more than enough money for neither of us to never have to work again and to live a grossly overprivileged life."
Campbell wet his index finger and thumb with his tongue, then squeezed the tip of the roach, distinguishing the remaining embers with a hiss.
"Elizabeth," Campbell sighed, like I was a child who just didn't understand. "Think about what you're saying. Think about what you'd have to do. All the people you'd hurt. Your friends. Your dad and your mom. This would kill her." He climbed out of bed, suddenly, and started to get dressed. "Peter," he said, pointedly, and we both glanced at the floor, ashamed of ourselves for a moment.
I watched Campbell zipper up his jeans. With each article of clothing he picked up off the floor, his departure growing ever closer, my heart chilled deeper in my chest. He was the only person I felt warm around. He was the only person who could thaw the cold, hard meanness. I knew doing this would ostracize me from my friends, that this very well could kill my mother, but keeping up this appearance of the happy almost-housewife to a man I didn't really love was killing me. I suddenly ached for my brother. He would have loved me, supported me, no matter what I did.
I climbed to my knees on the bed, the sheet falling off my body. Campbell took a deep, labored breath as he stared at me, naked. I put my hand on his chest, stopping him from fastening another button on his shirt. "I don't care," I said, firmly, holding eye contact, letting him know I was gravely serious. Because I was.
"You say that now," Campbell started, but I cut him off by tugging on the lapels on his shirt, bringing him closer to me.
"I will do anything," I said my lips inches from his, "to anyone. To be with you."
Then we were kissing, Campbell climbing over me, shedding the clothes he'd just put back on. He was mine. Finally mine.
Campbell snuck out at dawn. We had to be at court at 9am. We'd be cordial and cool to each other, we'd decided. No need to declare our undying love until we were back in New York. I needed Peter to hear it from me first. Then I'd move on to the difficult task of telling my father, and finally, my mother.
I had never been so fucking happy to go to court. I could have been going to jail for all I cared. As long as Campbell was there with me, nothing else mattered. I hadn't felt this alive, this humming with excitement, since before my brother died, ten years ago. I was long overdue.
I showered and dressed, singing a Britney Spears song—yes, me! Singing a Britney Spears song—while I blow dried my hair. I was still humming it under my breath when I met Bart in the lobby.
"Ready?" he asked.
"Ready," I said, with a big smile.
"Elizabeth," Bart said, looking at me suspiciously, "you're beaming."
I beamed brighter. "I know."
Court was a cinch. "Yes, I recognize the two defendants." "Can you identify them for the court?" I pointed. "Gregory Walden and Patrick Denson." Ugh, remember Pat Denson? The guy Biz had been obsessed with in college? I always knew he was a big fat waste of space. "No, I never saw an exchange of money for drugs." "No, I didn't recognize the person they met that evening in the parking lot of the Quik Stop."
Campbell's was much of the same, only from the other side of the coin. "Yes, I recognize the defendants." "Yes, they were the ones my partner and I witnessed toss a medium sized package out of their car window when we tried to pull them over for speeding." "No, we were never able to locate it in the woods." "No, I can't say for sure if it contained drugs." (That last question was from the defense during cross-examination).
Piece of cake.
When court was adjourned for the day, I filed out into the hallway, Bart by my side. I could see Campbell, a few heads in front of me. He was so tall I could never lose him in a crowd. He turned, and, noticing Bart was checking his watch, gave me a small smile.
Before I could smile back, he turned his head. Two officers stood in front of him, presumably old friends of his. Or maybe they weren't, because I heard Campbell's voice, heated and angry, "Are you fucking kidding me?"
Then he was facing me again. Only this time he wasn't smiling. Because he was being cuffed from behind, and it sounded like he was being read his Miranda rights.
"Campbell!" I shouted, and I tried to get to him, but a small crowd had formed, everyone curious to see what was going on, why a witness was now being arrested. I was throwing elbows and pushing Bart off me, but I couldn't get to him. I shouted his name, with some real Marlon Brando gusto this time, and Campbell looked over his shoulder at me before he was led around the corner and through a pair of double doors marked 'Private Personnel Only.' He was still looking at me when the doors swung shut, the expression on his face reminiscent of what I'd seen the other night—pure, raw terror. I'd attributed it to him not trusting the reason we'd been summoned back to Geneva, but I thought he was just being paranoid. I'd soon find out exactly why he had been right to question everything.