Famous Last Words

Hey Josie!

Heard it’s freezing in New York right now…I ate lunch outside today. What I’m trying to say is that New York is the worst and LA wins ALL THE COASTAL WARS. 

This is the most insensitive transition in the history of mankind, but one of Doug’s clients received some bad news this morning. Health-related. She’s had to clear her filming schedule because of it, but I heard her make a crack to Doug that now she finally has a reason and the time to write her memoir. I think she would seriously document this. She’s Ron Burgundy levels of big deal. Can’t go into details over email so call me when you get a chance.

xx
Gretchen

I’d befriended Gretchen on my trip to LA. She was Simon’s assistant, and when I was introduced to her I complimented her on her adorable cobalt blue booties. It had been the right thing to say, because she immediately invited me to lunch with some of the other assistants. Frank had plans of his own, and gave me his blessing. “You need to make an assistant network,” he said. “You won’t believe the valuable information you can attain from those relationships. Assistants are more in the know than the CEO.”

Here was proof of that. I read Gretchen’s email coming out of the subway and called her the second I had service. By the time I got into the office, I was dying to tell Frank what I’d just learned. Ignoring his dumb rule about not disturbing him until at least 10AM, I barged into his office.

“I’m sorry but this is”— I stopped mid-sentence. Frank wasn’t alone. His son, Nick, was with him.

“Come right in,” Frank sighed.

“Sorry,” I mumbled. “I’ll come back.”

“You’re fine,” Nick said. “I was just leaving.” He smiled at me. “It’s Josie, right?”

“Yes, it’s Josie,” Frank said, “my assistant who apparently can’t tell time.”

“Christ, Dad,” Nick said, “ease up.” Frank looked chastened, which I’d never seen before and enjoyed immensely.

“It’s actually good you’re here,” Frank said, recovering quickly with a smile. It was literally the fourth time I’d seen him smile. His son knew what strings to pull, apparently. “I was hoping you could help connect Nick with some of the editorial assistants, or any other friends you have in media or film here. My son,” he looked at Nick over the bridge of his nose, playfully disapproving, “is trying to decide if he should move back here after he graduates and I want him to make all the connections he can while I’ve got him.”

“I thought you said you couldn’t wait to get back to the East Coast,” I said to Nick.

“Well,” Nick shrugged, “it’s more like I can’t wait to leave the West Coast. It’s not for me. But I’m torn between here and Paris.”

“Paris?”

“It’s where my Dad lives,” Nick said.

For a moment, I was confused—his Dad was right here in front of me, giving me the stink eye. Then I realized—he meant his other Dad, Frank’s ex-partner. I glanced at Frank quickly. He looked stricken at the mere mention of Paris.

“Well, no problem,” I said. “It’s humpday.” I swear if Frank was wearing pearls he would have been clutching them. “We usually go out for drinks to celebrate the halfway point. Give me your number and I’ll text you the details when I have them.”

After Nick left, Frank said to me, “I will literally do anything to keep him in New York.”

I didn’t know what to say. Frank and I have never really discussed our personal lives, and the desperation in his voice was shocking to me. Frank seemed to regret showing that card, because he switched gears, asking me why I’d “barged” into his office in the first place. We were back to business.

I told him about Gretchen’s email. “You’re never going to guess who the actress is,” I said.

Frank exhaled loudly and his nostrils flared like an angry bull. Why did I think Frank would appreciate even a modicum of suspense?

“It’s Jennifer X,” I said, quickly, and Frank’s expression turned on a dime. “She’s going to be fine. But she has a battle in front of her and apparently her Mom went through the same thing. But she’s estranged from her Mom since she first made it big—so she had to find her in order to get this genetic testing. Her idea for the memoir is to kind of weave in her upbringing with Mom—which is very dramatic—and how this disease is what ultimately brought them back together.”

Frank looked as excited as a kid on Christmas morning. He cleared his throat and said, “I’ll call Simon in a bit to discuss it.”

I nodded and turned to go. “And Josie?” Frank called when I reached the door. “Nice find.”

“Thank you.” I walked back to my desk with a smile on my face.

I put together an email with some of the Literatti assistants, and cc’d Ashley, Nina, and Richard. Richard had finally gotten a job, doing online advertising, but he was working on a start up sports website with a few friends and had even managed to wrangle up some investors. It would be good for Nick to meet him, and also nice to see him since it had been a while.

After I sent the email, Kate swung by my desk. “Was that guy who was in here earlier Frank’s son?”

I nodded.

“No way Frank’s swimmers are responsible for that,” Kate said.

“Yeah,” I said. “I get the feeling he’s either adopted, or he’s the biological child of his other Dad—who apparently lives in Paris?”

“Um, yeah he lives in Paris,” Kate said. “You don’t know the story?”

I shook my head.

“Josie, it was like a huge news story. On the cover of The Post like ten times over six months.”

“I read the Times.” I stuck my nose up in the air.

“You read Dlisted,” Kate said.

“Just get back to the story,” I said.

“It was one of the first major custody battles over the child of a gay couple in New York state. Frank’s ex is some Parisian socialite. They wanted a kid, and they asked their, like, Mexican actress friend to carry the child. When they split up, they both claimed they were the father. I don’t know if they ever did a DNA test, but it got so ugly the Mom ended up taking him back to Mexico with her.”

I collected my jaw off the floor. “For how long?”

“I think until he was eighteen. Then I guess he decided to come back here to go to school.”

So I had detected a slight accent. I’d just been off about where it came from. No wonder Frank was desperate for Nick to stay in New York. He’d missed his kid’s entire childhood. The realization warmed me to Frank a little more—no wonder he was such a curmudgeon.

“Well, even more of a reason for us to show him a good time tonight,” I said. “Imagine him coming home and being like, ‘Dad, Josie is the best and I’m moving to New York!’ Do you think I’d get promoted?”

“I don’t think anyone here is getting promoted anytime soon,” Kate said. “But if you want to stack the cards in your favor, I’d suggest not taking Nick to Flannerty’s.” That was the bar I’d told everyone to meet at—it’s a faux Irish pub in Midtown, around the corner from the office. It’s totally generic and lame but goddammit sometimes I just want to go to a place where people don’t judge my hideous commuting shoes.

I sent out a revised email and told everyone to meet us at Houston Hall, this newish beer garden in the West Village which, while not the most authentically New York, was that perfect balance of scene-y and laidback.

Houston Hall kind of looks like the Hogwarts cafeteria. It’s dark and cavernous with ceilings as high as the Christmas tree in Rockefeller center. Long wooden tables crowd the interior, black Chanel bags lining their benches. “Um, this seat’s taken,” some chick in a Barbour coat will say if you try to move her stupid overpriced purse to sit down. It can be very intimidating! But I walked in that evening determined not to take any shit. I put on my fiercest resting bitchy face and secured a good chunk of a table in a prime spot.

“I didn’t know places this big existed in New York,” Nick said, looking up at the ceiling in awe. Nick had met me and Kate at the office, and the three of us had cabbed it down together while our other co-workers took the subway. When we arrived, I refused to let Nick pay for the cab even though he offered and even though he can definitely afford it. Normally I would not take a cab from Midtown to the West Village during rush hour because the fare makes the big vein in my forehead want to pop, but I wanted to show Nick how charming New York could be and that morning on the Subway the guy across from me had been clipping his yellow toenails and nibbling on them like they were Cheez-Its, so….

“Yup,” I said. “You’d be surprised how much space you can get here.”

“How big is your apartment?” Nick asked.

“500 square feet,” I mumbled into my Pale Ale. Even that was a lie. Technically my apartment is 450 square feet and in case you were wondering, yes I cry every time I pay my rent check.

“Hello!” I looked up. It was Nina and Ashley. Nina was wearing a sheer sweater and no bra. I know this because at the height I was on the bench, I was staring directly into her nipples. I noticed Nick noticing them too. They were hypnotizing.

As I was introducing Nina and Ashley to Nick, my co-workers strolled in, Richard right behind them.

“Who did you have to blow to get us this table?” Richard asked as he gave me a hug.

“Always classy, Richard.”

“You missed me,” he said.

“Where’s the Gee Eff?” I asked as we sat down across from each other. Richard had a little scrub on his face, like he’d been too busy to shower or shave this morning. He looked good.

“Out with some of her friends. She might stop by.”

“Still in love?” I teased.

“Still trying to pretend like you don’t feel empty inside?” Richard shot back.

“Burn.”

“Seriously, Josie,” Richard said. “I know. I’m the last person to take advice from on this. But I’ve got a few years on you so I feel like I can say it. I wasted my twenties dicking around, avoiding commitment. I thought it made me happy, but it didn’t.”

“Richard, you’re twenty-nine years old and this is your first girlfriend. Ever. You can’t seriously be pulling this smug couple shit on me right now.”

“I just…I can recognize bravado when I see it.”

“Well then you need to get your batteries checked because there’s no bravado here. I’m happy.”

Richard was about to say something else but Ashley plopped down next to me. “Um, are you seeing what I’m seeing?” She nodded to the end of the table. Nina and her nipples were in Nick’s lap. Granted, we were short a few seats, but standing was an option. Some of my other seat-less co-workers were up and milling around.

“What the hell is she doing?” I hissed. “Please tell me she and Brad broke up at least.”

Ashley shook her head. “They’re not broken up.”

“Can you ask her to go to the bathroom with you and I’ll meet you in there? I don’t want Nick to think I’m like, cockblocking him or something.”

I waited for a few minutes until I got up and made my way to the bathroom. Nina was washing her hands in the sink when I walked in. “What are you doing?” I asked.

Nina shook the water off her hands and leaned forward, examining herself in the mirror. “I’m not doing anything.” She smoothed a flyaway in her hair. “Frank’s son is a smokeshow. I’m not allowed to flirt with him?”

“Please don’t do anything with him, Nina,” I said. “You have a boyfriend.” Nina opened her mouth to say something but I cut her off. “A boyfriend who is kind of being douche, yes. But this is Frank’s son. Don’t toy around with him.”

“I’m just flirting, my God,” Nina said. “I thought you wanted to show him a good time. I’m showing him a good time.”

“Can that good time not be in your pants?” I pleaded, and Nina gave me award-winning side eye in the mirror.

On my way back to the table, my phone rang in my back pocket. I pulled it out—I couldn’t believe it, Ian was calling me.

“I’ll meet you guys back at the table,” I said to Ashley and Nina.

I hurried over to the entrance, where it was quiet.

“Hi,”  I said.

“I know you’re still annoyed with me. But how could you not respond to that text?”

“What text?”

“The one I sent you. With the picture of us.”

“I didn’t get a”—my phone vibrated against my ear. “Hold on. I think this is it.” I pulled my phone away and opened the text from Ian. I suppose it’s not a huge surprise that Hogwarts would have terrible reception.

‘Packing and came across this. A few hours shy of #TBT but too good not to send.’ Attached was a picture of the two of us at a swim meet, rocking our green and white Speedos. We both desperately needed a tan and not that you could tell from the picture, but I desperately needed to do something about the woogie bush I was sporting underneath my suit.

I brought the phone back to my ear. “I can see why you held on to that. We’re just so…attractive.”

Ian laughed. Neither of us said anything for a moment.

“So I get in on Saturday,” Ian said.

“Uh-huh.”

“Oh, don’t torture me.”

“I have to work Monday and Tuesday,” I said. “I’m coming out on Tuesday after work.”

“Need someone to pick you up at the train station?”

I smiled. “Yeah, I do.”

I was still smiling as I made my way back to the table. It disappeared when I took inventory of the group.

I grabbed Kate’s arm. “Where are Nick and Nina?”

“Ow!” Kate said, and I let go. She looked around the room. “I don’t know. I saw them a second ago.”

I approached Ashley. “Please tell me Nick and Nina didn’t leave.”

“Okay,” Ashley said, “Nick and Nina didn’t exit out the South entrance.”

I couldn’t believe Nina would do this to me. I know she’s going through something with Brad, but she also knows how desperate I am to get in good with Frank. Yeah, he’s happy with me at the moment, but with Frank I get the feeling that you’re only as good as your last home run. My best friend using his son to make herself feel better about the rough patch she’d hit with her boyfriend wasn’t going to do me any favors.

I was afraid to text Nina what I really wanted to text her (‘You and your nipples need to get back here IMMEDIATELY’). God forbid Nick saw. To his knowledge, Nina wasn’t involved with anyone, and I wanted to keep it that way. I took a deep breath to calm my crazy ass down and typed out, ‘Hey! Where did you guys go?’

‘Nick was hungry. Just grabbing a bite to eat.’

‘Are you guys coming back?’

Nina started to write something and stopped. She started and stopped again. Finally, she said, ‘Probably not.’ Before I could fire off another text, she wrote, ‘Stop worrying it will be fine’.

I exhaled irritably. Those were some famous last fucking words if I’d ever heard them.

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