Adam has chosen to stand by the front doors in the lobby.
I’m further into the lobby of ZaZa Towers: the building that houses Marc’s penthouse. And so here I stand in ZaZa, with its glass and chrome and granite and windows and sweeping views of L.A. and okay, we get it! This place is expensive. Yes, Marc and I have been living separately for three months; me in our townhome with our daughter, him in his penthouse with our daughter. We split her, fair and square, right down the middle.
Okay, my ass is in trouble. I lost my cellphone earlier tonight. And then, someone snatched it up, right after I beat Marc's butt for screwing Karla Watts. No good deed goes unpunished. This phone thief has accessed my emails and has just circulated one of them online, tonight. Right during my interview with DJ Diaz. Apparently, the phone thief sent this email to some hood gossip bloggers. These bloggers have circulated this email to their fans. These fans have shared, reposted, and retweeted this email to their friends. The shit has gone viral. Adam's been getting calls from DJs and the elite set of gossip bloggers all over L.A. And I can't google my name, check the internet incessantly, and become filled with anxiety and depression correctly, because I don't have a fucking phone to enable me! Furthermore, where the hell is the guy who's supposed to be at the front desk! I look outside and see the valet guys, running back and forth from cars, sweaty, pretending to be busy. Oh, give me a break.
“Oh! Didn’t hear you come in!” I hear a voice say. Within seconds a skinny, bow-tie wearing guy comes out of a back office, twinkling his fingers at me, in a hello.
“Hi,” I say to Twinkles, who’s obviously gay, not that it matters. Everyone’s equal in my eyes. I mean that. It’s just that this guy’s name tag says his name is Coco and I seriously doubt that. Not that I have an issue with people being who they want to be but, at the very least, I expect someone with a legitimate name to work at the front desk of ZaZa Towers. After all, Coco is here to protect Marc. He's the gatekeeper for crazies like me. At the very least he could've chosen a unisex name like Hunter or perhaps a female name that says ‘If you come in here, starting shit, I'm gonna fuck you up,' like Barbara.
“Good evening, Miss,” Coco says.
“Hi; I'm here to see Marc Isles, and I have a visitor.” I point to Adam who is lurking by the front doors, waiting for Marc to come down and throw him out on his ass. Adam and Marc can't stomach each, over a years' old family riff. “I'm not sure if Marc has a visitors list.”
“Well, let’s see. Can I have your name please?” Coco begins typing on his computer’s keyboard.
I didn't even give Marc a heads up that I was coming. But chances are since he's theoretically single, he could be with…
Nope. I’m not letting my mind go there.
Did I ever think that I’d have to get permission to see Marc? No. I can honestly say that thought never crossed my mind, the day we were cutting into our wedding cake.
I wouldn't call my wedding day the happiest day of my life; I would call it an enormous relief in my life. I have been infatuated and in love and strung out over Marc Isles since the day I met him in college. And, the day of my wedding, I was finally getting the only guy that I have ever—in my entire life—wanted, dreamed of, fantasized about, and cried over. He was the bad boy who wasn't bad. The hood guy who wasn't hood. He had a complexity to him, and I felt special because I knew how complicated he was, though the other girls didn't. I guess I was wrong. Karla knows how complex he is. She has to know how complex the man she’s sleeping with is. For another woman to know something about Marc that only I’m supposed to know almost dumps me into a deep grave of depression.
Somebody else got my guy.
I watch Coco. He looks puzzled.
“Rachel?” He says, tilting his head to the side and looking at his computer screen in confusion, in that way only gay men can do.
“That’s me,” I try to sound light-hearted to get on Coco’s good side.
“Yeah, you don't have to check in. You only check in if you're a visitor, but if you own a condo, you can just go right upstairs.” Own a condo? I don't own Marc's condo. I wasn't even with him when I kicked him out of our townhome, and he had to buy this.
“Hmm,” I say, returning Coco’s confused face to him. “I didn’t realize I was an owner.”
“Well, that's what it says right here.” Coco turns his computer screen around to me. There, on the screen, are three names: Owners: Marc and Rachel Isles. Beneficiary and Resident: Jane Isles. Marc put me on the deed to the place? Even though we're non-divorced? “Have you lost your key or something?” Coco turns the screen back around.
“Actually, yes, I have.” I smile at Coco. It's the kind of smile that a stalker gives when someone has shown them more accessible ways to hunt their prey.
Good job, Coco.
Coco returns my smile and puts a finger up telling me to hold on. He brings out a key from one of his top draws and then leans over to unlock another draw. Out comes a sleek, black, plastic band that almost looks like a thin Apple watch. Coco hands it to me.
“It's your key. Your husband created it for your front door, and the mail guy delivered it yesterday. So, don't worry about using your other key. Just wave this bracelet in front of the keypad on the elevator, and the elevator will give you a lift home.” I look at the band and turn it around in my hand.
“This is different. You guys asked Marc to create this?”
“We did. Our residents are loving it.” Hmm. Another source of income for Marc. I'll have to remember this at Marc's funeral as I'm taking his girlfriend to court for his belongings. But what Coco and the rest of the staff at ZaZa don't know is that this bracelet does more than unlock doors. I've been with Marc long enough to know his ways. I've been with him long enough to know how his brain works. An average person would see this wristband and think it's convenient, better than searching for a key. Some will like this bracelet because it's stylish. But I know Marc. I'm confident that as soon as I unlock the door with this band, Marc will get a notification that I have used my band to enter. I'm also sure that this band has a GPS installed in it and Marc will be able to track me wherever I go.
Yes, I know you, Marc.
I give Coco a smile, wave Adam along, and head to the glass elevator doors. Before I can press a button, the door opens for me instantly. Umm… okay. Adam and I walk on, turn around and—
“Wave the key in front of the keypad to your right!” Coco yells out. I do so.
Did you get the notification, Marc?
“Nice,” Adam whispers in annoyance. Any accomplishment that Marc has personally offends Adam in the most violent ways.
The doors quickly slide close, and within a millisecond I'm being whisked upward, as if through a wind tunnel.
“DJ Diaz is letting you off the hook, for now,” Adam says to me. “So, we have to come up with a statement about that email and that exposé, and we have to give it to him first. He holds a lot of power in this town. He wants the exclusive, but he's courteous enough to give us time to create our lie.”
“Yes, I know, Adam.”
“Good.” I am so stressed out. The release of my book can’t be overshadowed by Marc and my non-divorce. Sure, it can add to my book sales. But it can't be what I'm known for. If I'm only known as the woman who beat her cheating husband's ass outside of his mother's house on a Friday, then I'm no better than a Real Housewife of the Hood. (Which by the way should be a show. I mean, who the hell wouldn't watch Hood Housewives?) Anyway, I'm no housewife. I'm a former teacher and professional writer, thank you very much. Marc will not ruin this for me.
Within mere moments, I've seemed to make it up thirty stories to the penthouse level. The elevator door eases open. And now Adam and I are looking into a living room. Sleek. Techie. Grey. Black. Boring. Where the hell is the pop of color! Where is the décor! Where is Coco when you need him? We step off the elevator. A glass wall that holds a fireplace separates the living room from the kitchen. There's a fire streaming inside, illuminating the place. I wonder if the fire is real or if it's a remarkable simulation of the real thing. Like Marc and my marriage, the son-of-a-bitch.
“I’ll stay right here,” Adam says, pointing to the elevator. He looks around like we just got stuck in a project elevator before landing in a crack house. But that’s Adam. He wants no part of anything that has to do with Marc.
In all fairness, you can't blame Adam. Adam's father is Gus Lock, the head dope man from the eighties. He's the guy from whom Marc's brother Trev stole the dope crown. That dope war was years ago and has now been infused with dozens of exaggerated, fabricated, and bogus tales like all good urban legends are. The war is over, but the memory lives on, and the era is now considered the glory days of Elysian Fields, filled with money, drugs, sex, loud music, and, of course, killing. The Isles family and Lock family are still distant with each other, though the beef has been long dead. Adam isn't fond of Marc and Marc isn't fond of Adam. Adam, or as people in the hood call him: Silver Spooner.
Adam was raised in Santa Barbara, away from the hood, per Gus' orders. Adam was the son of a kingpin, raised in million-dollar, beachfront homes. This little penthouse that he's walked into means nothing to him. But I was raised on a country club in a nice, polite home, not in a skyrise, city-view bachelor pad. I'm intrigued. I slowly walk over to the glass fireplace. I grow warm as I get closer. It's real.
I look through the glass wall, into the kitchen, and see the L.A. night surrounding me. I’m not looking at a skyline; I’m right in the thick of the skyline. Marc's penthouse is in between buildings that make up the skyline. People, in other skyrises, are looking at him; Marc Isles. Can Karla appreciate a place like this? She grew up next door to Marc, in a tiny house, on a small plot of land, and hosted weekly barbecues on her parents' front lawn. She's my age, no kids, and is a secretary for a local councilman. She still lives on Marc's street, in a house, she shares with her husband, who is currently serving two years for drug possession. What does she think when she takes the elevator to this suite and enters? Does she think that Marc's her savior? That he's the guy, she should've ended up with? That her husband going to prison and me leaving Marc was fate? She and Marc are meant to be together? And, thinking of Karla, I wonder what Marc's bedroom looks like.
I look around and notice, to my right, there’s a door open. An office. Marc’s computer stations crowd his work desk, but not in a cluttered way. In a chaotic way of importance, like the desk of Beethoven, as he wrote his symphonies. Like the house, Marc’s office is sleek, grey, black, techie. I notice a closed door next to it. Curiosity grabs me. I turn and walk towards the door, with Adam looking around the house as if cobwebs are hanging from the ceiling. The heels of my Jimmy Choo boots click on the wood floor. I stand before the door, put my hand on the handle, and twist it. A small nudge eases the door open. Another office. And it's… well, this office is almost a replica of my office in San Francisco, where Marc and I once lived, just three months ago. There's a black chaise with brassy-golden buttons, a glass desk, a gigantic Apple monitor and two pieces of artwork from my office in San Francisco: a black and white shot of a young Elizabeth Taylor and a black and white shot of a young Billie Holiday. Glamour and gritty.
But wait, when I left San Francisco and moved to L.A., I had the locks to the condo in San Fran changed, purely to inconvenience Marc. He had them changed again, just to gather the items that I left behind? The things that he knows I love. I look around the office. Marc comes home every night and walks past this office. He thinks of me every night. Why did he make me an office? I ease the door of my office close. Destination: Marc's bedroom.
I turn and make my way across the floor, my heels still clicking. I notice an open door on the other side of the living room. I head to that one first.
I wonder if Marc still cooks his famous chili? Every Christmas, when I taught and had a two-week school break, Marc, Janie, and I would pack up and head to Aspen with my family. My parents, my extended family, close family friends like Vivian’s parents; we make the trip from San Francisco to Aspen to enjoy the snow, the holiday spirit, and Marc’s chili. We love his chili because he replaces the beans with chopped steak and veal. God, that chili is so good, especial when you pair it with a freshly made, warm loaf of garlic bread. It's the last day of November and the holiday season is in full swing. Surely Marc has made his famous chili. But there isn't a hint of spice in the air. Not even the smell of toast or coffee.
Does he still drink Trader Joe’s coffee in the morning?
Does Karla not like chili?
I slow down as I approach the open door. Slowly, I stop in front of it and look inside. Marc’s bedroom. Light grey. Hotel quality neat. There’s a tall, grey, suede headboard with brassy bolts along the edges. There are floor to ceiling windows, free of curtains, showcasing another side of L.A.’s night. I look around, not a thing out of place. He must have a housekeeper. I grew up with Florentine coming to my parents’ home every Friday morning to clean it. Marc has likely upgraded to a daily cleanse. I really do hate him.
And then I hear the sound of a wind tunnel.
The elevator is making its way up. Just as I thought. My wristband notified Marc of my arrival. I turn in expectation. I see Adam roll his eyes. I walk further into the living room and wait for the doors to open. And, without disappointing me, they open, revealing a button-down Marc, decked in a tailored coat. His hands in his pockets, his lawyer by his side.
“Oh Sean,” I tell Marc’s lawyer and Vivian’s husband. “Don’t you dare. I knew you when…”