I glanced down at the Rolex watch my granddad had given me when I had finished my MBA a few years earlier. It’s not one of the crazy expensive ones. Of course, I’d had to google the price after he gave it to me. At the time, it was worth around ten grand—so, nothing to sneeze at, but still on the lower end of the Rolex scale. I’ve thought about upgrading it a couple of times but can’t bring myself to do it. Sure, I can afford a more expensive one. Between my day job working on Wall Street and my trust fund, I can afford almost anything I want.
I guess I should say my ‘former’ job on Wall Street, since that’s what I was celebrating—my getting fired. I wasn’t fired for cause or anything. My firm had scrolled back its trading arm in the US to focus on overseas markets. Thankfully, Granddad had taught me to squirrel away money. I’d been taking my skills on the trading room floor of the Stock Exchange and turning them into my private nest egg. There was something satisfying about having an account with seven figures that hadn’t been given to me by my family. At least the firm had waited until the Tuesday after Memorial Day to fire my ass. So, there I was on June first, drunk out of my mind.
I stared down at my empty glass, which was supposed to be filled with two shots of Belvedere Single Estate Lake Bartężek Vodka. I was about to raise my hand and order another one when I caught sight of my watch. I hadn’t realized it was this late already.
“Dudes, it’s ten-thirty,” I said, looking at my two drinking companions.
On my left was my best friend in the universe, Grayson Jackson. Grayson and I had met when we were attending The Quad Preparatory School in Manhattan. And with a seventy-five-thousand-dollar-a-year price tag, The Quad opened the doors to go anywhere we wanted. We’d both ended up at Harvard, for the fun of it. After making it through our undergraduate years barely sober, I’d gone off to their MBA program, and Grayson had gone to law school. Now we were both single, hot, wealthy guys in their late twenties getting everything we ever wanted out of life. We’d lived by the ‘work hard, play harder’ motto our entire adult lives.
On my right was Avery Addington, my sort of on-again, off-again lover or fuck buddy. He’s a couple of years younger than me. I had met him on a dating app and figured it would be a onetime hookup, but he’d ended up sticking around. I called him my ‘on-again, off-again boyfriend’ because I didn’t know what the hell we are. Hell, I didn’t know if we even were at that point. We weren’t exclusive, that much I knew. God, the idea of being in a long-term relationship gave me heart palpitations—and not the good kind. I liked my freedom. I enjoyed doing what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. If I found a hot guy at a bar and I wanted to fuck him senseless in the back room, then I took him into the back room, bent him over and showed him the best time of his life. And while I’m an admitted slut, I was on PREP and played safely…most of the time. And despite my use of protection, I got regular checkups to make sure I hadn’t contracted anything. Shit happens.
“It’s already ten-thirty?” Avery slurred. “How long have we been drinking?”
I found myself with my mouth open, on the verge of responding, but I honestly did not know what time we’d gotten there. I tilted my head to the side and glanced at Grayson, because I knew he’d know.
Grayson rolled his eyes. “You texted me about four, and I got here about five-thirty. You said you’d just gotten here, which I figured meant you had at least thirty minutes on me already. Based on this, you’ve been here drinking for six hours,” he said with the emotion of a forensic accountant. Oh, I should have mentioned that Grayson had also gotten a master’s in accounting after law school from NYU. He worked for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in accounting crimes—or something like that. Honestly, when he talked about numbers, I daydreamed. I enjoyed making money and could tell you all about bulls and bears, but when it came to the day-to-day math part, I tuned out. I liked the game of making money, the strategy of making money—hence, why I have an accountant who handled my books.
“I don’t feel drunk,” I heard myself say right before I started touching my forehead. “But I can’t feel my forehead.”
“Okay,” Grayson grumbled. “I hate to be the adult in the room, but I have work in the morning, so I’ve gotta get out of here. Can you two make it home?”
“Your place or mine?” I asked Avery.
“Yours. It’s closer.”
“We can call my car service.” No worries.
Grayson shook his head and grabbed my phone off the table. “What are you doing?” I asked.
“I’m calling your car service.”
“But we’re not ready to leave yet,” Avery whined.
“Yeah, I think you two are.”
“But, Dad,” I complained.
“I’ve gotta go,” Grayson said flatly. “And I’m not leaving you two to your own devices. To keep my conscience clean, I’m putting you in a car and sending you on your way. What you do after that is up to you.”
I thought about objecting, but I knew Grayson was right. I’d had my pity party and would have to get up and join the world of the unemployed the next morning. Thankfully, between my granddad’s and my contacts, I was sure I wouldn’t be unemployed for too long. Honestly, I didn’t understand why some people stay unemployed. It’s like, why don’t they use their personal and family networks to get a new job? It’s not like it’s that difficult.
Grayson got up and put his suit coat back on.
“How can you wear a suit in this heat?” I questioned.
“Don’t you wear a suit to the office?” Grayson asked.
“Oh yeah,” I said, as I tried to stand and realized my eyes were going in and out of focus. Grayson reached out and steadied me until I got my feet firmly planted below me. “Whoa, maybe I’ve had too much to drink.”
“You think?” Grayson asked.
Once I was fully standing and the lightheadedness had passed, I helped Avery to his feet and the three of us exited the bar and grill after paying our tabs. I didn’t know how much this evening was going to cost me. I’d handed over my American Express Black Card and given my signature. I’d worry about the expense later.
Thankfully, my car service arrived right as Grayson’s Uber did. I shuffled into the car, sliding over so Avery could get in. Once Avery closed the door, the driver took off. I put my arm around Avery and rested my head on his shoulder. I felt his arm sneak around and pat the side of my head as he leaned down and planted a kiss on the top of my head.
Why aren’t we dating? I thought to myself, as I was almost on the verge of falling asleep.
“We’re here,” the driver said.
“Thanks. That was fast,” I muttered as I untangled myself from Avery, who had fallen asleep.
“What?” Avery said as I jostled him awake.
“We’re at my place.”
“I must have fallen asleep.”
“Well, duh,” I said, reaching over him to open the door.
I nudged him out of the car and followed before gently closing the door. I stared up at my apartment building, noticing all the lights in the windows were turned on.
I walked into Twenty Exchange, where I have a two-bedroom apartment. For its location and proximity to Wall Street, Twenty Exchange is an ideal apartment complex for the up-and-coming business type in Manhattan. Not only is it in the heart of Wall Street, but it also caters to an exclusive tenant list. When I decided I wanted to live there, I had my granddad pull a few strings to get me to the top of the list for a new two-bedroom apartment when one opened up, which wasn’t often. But here I was, four years later and I’m still living here, paying my four-thousand-dollar-a-month rent. Maybe one day I’ll break down and buy a condo in the city. But for the time being, I’m okay with renting. I’ve always liked the idea that I could choose to move at the end of my lease if I wanted to.
The doorman opened the door for us with a polite bow of his head. “Good evening, Mr. Devereaux.”
“Good evening, Jack,” I responded. “How are the kids?”
“They enter the first grade this year,” the uniformed man responded. He had the look that all proud fathers get when they realize their kids are growing up much faster than expected.
“Wow! Already… I can’t believe it,” I said with a smile. “Well, good night.”
“You, too, Mr. Deveraux."
Granddad had taught me early in life to always respect those people in service positions. He was a whiz at remembering names, birthdates, anniversaries and all kinds of other facts. Me? I was happy I could remember someone’s first name and maybe one or two details about their lives, but I tried.
Avery and I made our way to the elevator banks. I pushed the button, then leaned against the wall to make the marble around me stop spinning. I haven’t been this wasted since my first year in college.
I heard the ding of the door and sort of spun myself into the elevator then hit the button for the fifty-fifth floor. Avery was leaning against me by this point as the elevator doors slid shut.
The ride up was smooth and uneventful. When the elevator opened onto my floor, Avery and I stumbled out and made it the few feet to my door. I whipped out my key card and let myself into the apartment.
“I’m going to get a bottle of water.” I asked Avery, “You want one?”
“Yeah, we should definitely hydrate after all this alcohol. I’m going to take a leak first.”
I didn’t watch him make his way to the bathroom, but I heard him as he bumped into one wall and tried to apologize to it.
I made my way into the kitchen, opened the fridge door and pulled out a bottle of Glacial Flow, a bottled water company that harvested water from fifteen-thousand-year-old glaciers. Each twenty-four-ounce bottle cost something like sixteen dollars, but I liked it and loved the conversation starter it provided me when I was drinking one at work. I could always talk about saving the planet and our melting icecaps while I was drinking one. Trust me, the irony wasn’t lost on me.
I twisted off the top and took a swig, savoring the crisp taste before swallowing. I leaned against the fridge, took a second sip and noticed that my answering machine light was blinking. Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Who has an answering machine in the twenty-first century? Well, I do. And it’s connected to my home line. I know, who has one of those in this century?
I’d broken down and gotten myself a home line and answering machine when I had to work from home for six months during the pandemic. I could have done everything through my cell phone, but I figured having an actual phone with a headset attached was going to make my life easier while I stared at the four-monitor terminal I’d set up in the spare bedroom. I lived in the one bedroom, and the second one had become my home office. I figured the only people who ever stayed over with me slept in my bed, so I didn’t need a spare room. Besides, a spare room seemed like an utter waste of space. Who needs to have a bedroom that is only used when they have company over? I don’t get that. If someone is coming for a visit, I’ll put them up in a luxurious hotel, not my apartment. Again, I liked my space.
I walked over to the flashing red light, put both water bottles on the island separating the kitchen from the dining area and pushed the button.
“Dale, it’s your granddad. I heard through the grapevine that you were let go from your firm today. I’m sorry to hear that, but I think it’s the perfect opportunity to talk to you about the family business. Why don’t you show up at my office tomorrow morning at seven a.m. for breakfast?”
“How the hell does he already know?”
“Who knows what?” Avery asked, coming into the kitchen. I picked up one of the bottles of water and offered it to him. I turned around, leaned my hip against the island, unscrewed the cap on my bottle again and took another swig.
“My granddad. He already knows about my being let go today. I swear he has spies that watch my every move.”
“You don’t think he’d actually do that, do you?” Avery questioned, scrunching up his face in an expression I couldn’t read.
“No. It’s a figure of speech…or maybe hyperbole. In reality, Granddad knows too many people in this town. I can’t say that I’m too surprised, though, but I wish I’d been the one to tell him. You know?”
I glanced over at the clock on the microwave, and it read eleven-twenty p.m. “Dear God, I have to be up in five hours.”
“If I’m going to get to his office by seven a.m., I’m going to have to get up at four-thirty to hit the gym.”
“Why not skip tomorrow?”
“Because you don’t look this amazing by skipping the gym,” I said. I attempted to wink at Avery, but I’m sure my wink probably appeared more like some kind of facial spasm. “Let’s just crash.”
I grabbed Avery’s hand and led him down the hall to my bedroom. I wished I could text my granddad and say I wouldn’t be able to see him in the morning, but I knew that when you’re summoned by my granddad, you show up—whether you like it or not.