Megan Millikan stole through the noisy Southampton club. A demure ensemble of legs, heels and painted nails, she was a lithe cougar on the prowl for someone specific. She had no doubt she would find in this place the person that others perceived her as, a knowledge that challenged who she thought she was and one that fought with the truth of who she longed to be. Yet she searched for a man who had shaken the foundations of all three.
Half tanked on vodka and cranberry, her cherry walnut eyes glided from side to side with quiet stealth between heavily smoked lids. The up and coming beachfront club was crowded for a Thursday night, teaming with an unusual mix of yuppies, their aspiring twenty-something counterparts, and everything in between. Women in bright summer colors as flashy as their smiles crowded together in little groups. Overconfident youths gushed at the prospects of mixing with the affluent as they rubbed shoulders with clean cut men of high caliber while dropping names like ticker tape. Megan hesitated as she scanned the crowd before deciding to move deeper into Conformist City USA. She had paid her cover and would not get that twenty two dollars back any time soon.
It must be nice to be like everyone else, Megan thought with a swelling of bitter resentment. Salon bronzed women with meticulously pruned figures made ripe from augmentation clustered together, chatting incessantly. The tittering gossip was always the same, who had tried the latest chemical peel or what absurd fashion failures they had seen worn at the country club’s parlor today.
A butterfly tattoo pushed up against Megan as a sweet smelling candidate for Trophy Wife Number Two backed waywardly into her. Megan maneuvered her drink with irritation to avoid spilling it down the woman’s back, but instantly wished she had doused that four hundred dollar piece of dress when the woman turned to sneer. Megan noticed that the disdainful glance came delayed as it always did after these Hamptonites got a good once over on her.
The men were all in the back. They liked to talk of golf and politics and corporate trends while the women gossiped in their little tribal gatherings where empty flattery was flung as fast as the flitting of manicured hands. She would find the one she sought back here, and hopefully his piece of fluff with him. Megan had been stalking for this opportunity for so long, so dreadfully long. If her revenge got any colder, it would deep freeze the sultry summer air.
The back terrace was a multi-leveled wooden haven situated between a conglomerated tiki bar and elaborate beer tent housing several exotic taps. Contemporary top forty dance tunes could still be heard as Megan overlooked the bay, though the continual thump-thumping of the interior sub woofers had lost most of their rib shaking force out here. The rhythms clanked instead through cheap speakers mounted on poles from which a web of overhead deck lights hung. Rolling her eyes at such a typical choice of tunes, Megan pushed her way through cologne doused suits and unyielding scented shoulders. Sipping her drink, she watched docked boats bobbing on gentle waves.
A slight breeze came in off the bay, scenting the cigarette infused air of the terrace with salt water and fish. Megan fumbled within her plain black clutch purse for her own pack and with a wave of frustrated disappointment realized that she had not restocked. Two cigarettes would not get her through the night, especially in this place. So far she had not met one friendly face that would think to offer her a smoke, and bitterly cursing the world for having marked her as different, she angrily lit her first one up.
That initial inhalation was glorious as the tobacco crackled in the flame beyond the reach of her crimson fingertips. The smoke sailed out into the night, a silver cloud illuminated by the overhead spotlights meant for the adjacent marina. Ah, thought Megan, if she had tobacco she could survive another long night of hunting so long as she did not go hungry this time.
The breeze toyed with Megan’s thick ponytail extension, tossing the black synthetic hair about her pale shoulders. She was so close now, so certain that Eduardo was in this place somewhere. He had come in the main door with his Chiquita bimbo chattering perpetually on his sweat sculpted arm. Megan waited patiently for the valet to whisk away her rented car, watching them from a distance so as not to be seen. Once Eduardo and Petite Latina were inside, Megan could escape any recognition with little effort until the moment to strike was at hand.
Tonight Eduardo would finally pay; Megan would make certain of it. He would pay for the heart wrenching rejection she had suffered and the poverty she now endured as the icy shrapnel of her shattered dreams cut him to the bone. Yes, thought Megan, Eduardo would pay dearly, and his Chiquita too. The scent of revenge was bleeding so sweetly in the air that she could almost taste it.
A yacht skirted into Megan’s vision, too close for comfort as it docked only several feet from where she stood. It was teaming with more yuppies, all laughing and boozing and exchanging selective flattery. Interrupted by their carousing, Megan turned away from the rail to lean her back against it when she spotted that infamous silky blue-black hair.
Eduardo had it ponytailed tonight when she knew he loved to wear it down, probably the work of the hot Latina minx wrapped in fine designer couture by his side. Bile rose in Megan’s middle at the sight of the diplomat’s daughter though she simultaneously knew that this could not have been more perfectly set up. Eduardo in cologne drenched silk and black leather with his bombshell clinging so near; all Megan had to do now was light the fuse.
She had her ammunition ready. It had been stockpiled for so long now, tweaked with the passage of three long years. Megan fingered where she kept it stashed away in the hidden confines of her clutch, feeling the smooth, hard surface beneath her touch. She caressed it once, twice, three times to make sure. Waiting for the perfect opportunity to present itself, Megan inwardly thanked modern technology for having opened up such a new world of weaponry to her. She had done her research and was certain that the first shot she fired would kill.
Megan moved away from the rail as the inebriated yuppies began to clamber up the pier toward the club. Just as she got up enough guts to make her way toward Eduardo and his political trophy, she was halted by a group of glossy haired floozies gathering in her path. They were loud and drunk, all glittering shoulders dripping with the dainty gold chains of common suitors. Jersey girls perhaps, or dolled up Long Island gold diggers playing the roles of wanna-be Hamptonites. They chirped and tweeted furiously, juggling martinis in one hand and smartphones in the other, texting and gossiping and oblivious to Megan as she shoved through them. Her bare arms butted against rayon wrapped torsos and spandex clad bosoms, the scent of girlie shampoo doused with wistful body fragrances filling her nose.
Eduardo’s back was to her now as she skillfully wove through the bodies toward him. She let her eyes drop to the sexy curve of his leather wrapped butt which was half concealed under the Thai silk tail of his club shirt. Cursing the arousal that threatened to erupt within her, she stopped to take a deep breath. Chiquita didn’t seem to mind Eduardo’s leather amidst the sea of Dockers and Khakis; in fact her right hand seemed to find it rather worth touching. Biting her lip, Megan paused long enough to let hurt and longing lance through her soul. She knew that this was not going to be easy but she had no idea it would be quite this hard.
Megan’s adrenaline spiked when glossy black Latina eyes flashed her way. It was the first time Megan had ever seen the woman that had replaced her up so close. Only a few feet from her target, Megan checked her jealousy when she laid eyes on sultry smooth Hispanic skin. Eduardo’s new woman could not have been more than five foot two and though petite as ever, her arms were sinewy and strong. Three years playing tennis at the country club will do that to you, thought Megan as she choked back bitter rage. Chiquita’s figure was perfect voluptuousness, supple curves sculpted by Eduardo’s live-in chefs only to be trimmed down later by high-end surgeons. Megan could have looked like that once--before this other woman swept in and took it all away. Not having been kept in Eduardo’s circle long enough to reap such rewards of the rich, Megan had spent enough time there to know that their shiny reputations faired poorly when pummeled with scandalous shrapnel.
Suddenly the storm of her own emotions paralyzed Megan. The scent of Eduardo’s signature cologne was provoking memories of better, happier times. With an ache in her heart, she realized that she really did miss their long conversations while walking in the cool of a Hampton’s summer eve. They had been an unlikely pair, the wealthy son of a Cerro de Las Rosas millionaire with a purebred suavity to match his elite education and a struggling cornfed farmer’s daughter transplanted to the Long Island suburbs. They went together like coffee and cream, complimenting each other like sugar and spice. He was going to show her the world and she was going to show him how to appreciate it.
Shrill laughter pierced through Megan’s thoughts. Disgust sickened her as Chiquita threw her head back, shaking loose gel crimped curls that fell like rivers over her bronzed shoulders. Megan wished she could see Eduardo’s face, if only for some sliver of hope that his keeping such frivolous company had left him truly wanting. Such wishful thinking would destroy her chance at revenge, however, about as much as the painful words Eduardo uttered next reinforced it.
“That’s my baby doll.”
Revulsion coursed through Megan. That had been his pet name for her! Without thinking, without even realizing she was moving, she saw her hand before her, a surreal image of her own pale fingers tipped with Eduardo’s favorite 1989 Porsche India red. She felt his strong shoulder beneath the feather light touch of her hand.
Chiquita’s black eyes rolled over Megan, gleaming beneath shimmering lids lined with alluring war paint, her maraschino lips lifting with a condescending snarl. Megan knew that it was do or die now, speak or forever hold your peace, kill or be killed.
Eduardo turned. Handsome obsidian eyes graced with gentle aging regarded her blankly.
Noting Chiquita’s malicious glare in her peripheral vision and forcing down the boiling rage of jealousy, Megan spoke, her voice laced with peregrine charms learned from the very man she came to hurt. “Don’t you know me?”
Eduardo smiled, his face a languid expression of amusement masking bewilderment. With a fleeting glance at his steaming Chiquita, he chucked a simple denial.
“Well, I have not forgotten you. It appears that the beautiful Chiquita here has all but erased your memories.”
“Ernestina. My name is Ernestina, not Chiquita.” Wow, thought Megan, she even sported a genuine Hispanic lilt. How fitting! “And what would your name be? Morticia?”
Laughter peeled through the air obnoxiously. Apparently Eduardo seemed to think the jape was funny right along with his esteemed though grossly immature lady. He whined down to a simpering smile as Megan silently fumed.
“You may have heard of me, Ernestina, as I am sure my name has come up from time to time in your chats. I’m Megan, Eduardo’s former girlfriend.”
Recognition instantly lit up Eduardo’s charming masculine eyes like a beacon cutting through a heavy Southampton mist. The corner of his thin lips curled up ever so slightly, lips that Megan used to love and caress with her own. Those same lips had promised her devotion for life yet now they belonged to someone new.
Megan fed on Eduardo’s astonishment, taking advantage of his stunned silence and turning her gaze upon the luscious Ernestina. “Has he promised you the world as well, the way he likes to do? Well, the truth is that you are not the first to hear such lofty words, what makes you so sure that you will be the last?”
When shrill laughter ripped through the air again it was Megan’s turn to be rendered into confusion. Where was the jealous fury, the infamous territorial temper so characteristic of a diva threatened to be robbed of her leading role? Were not all women the same beneath the guise of status and the color of race? Should Ernestina not be rushing to the defense of the valuable catch she could possibly lose? Yet the little woman’s laughter rang on with an uncanny confidence.
“Megan.” Eduardo’s hand was on her upper arm. Its warmth coupled with the silky cadence of his voice threatened to crumble any defense she had left in her. “Megan, what are you doing here?”
“What am I doing here?” Megan’s voice jumped an octave up. How could he be so insensitive! Did he think she would just sink back into the mundane existence she endured before she met him without at least a fair fight? “If you thought I would just go away, especially after what we had, then you are wrong. If you wanted to avoid the chance of ever seeing me again, why not stick to your quaint inner circle and ‘fiestas privadas’? I have every right to be here, this is a public nightclub and I have paid my cover.”
His nervous laughter indicated that Megan’s candid assault was breaking his calm resolve. What he said afterward immediately shattered such a notion. For the first time in three years he looked at her squarely. His eyes were just as chilly as they had been that fateful night he dropped the breakup bomb upon her and shattered everything. “What we had, Megan, is over. Move on, as I have.”
Ernestina purred as she began to finger her long, luscious tresses. Though Megan wanted to pull them all out one by one, she knew she had to be brave and remain unshaken. Her hand still butted up against her weapon, she squeezed it into a fist within the cramped confines her clutch. Ernestina’s eyes floated over its faux silk meticulously. She scoffed at the stains on its weathered sheen, muttering an unintelligible insult in liquid Spanish as she raised her left hand higher to play with her hair. Megan looked back at the Latina Lady. The dazzling brilliance of a thirty carat diamond nearly felled her with an ethereal punch to the stomach.
Eduardo had really moved on, so it was sourly true. Plan B would have to be initiated without seeking the surrender that plan A could have gleaned had it not been for that cursed diamond. Light headed with stomach roiling, Megan began to sweat as she fought to regain her dignity as well as her poise. She would not let them see her pain; she would not let them see her fall.
It was really over.
Nothing stood in Megan’s way now. No hope of righting past wrongs, no changing of hearts. Eduardo looked at the dejected Megan with the kind of pathetic sympathy a victor harbors over a beaten friend turned foe. Ernestina fingered her glossy lips with fingernails long as talons, a gesture designed with the intent to taunt. Ample breasts thrust up to meet devilishly dipped chin, she gloated at Megan from beneath metallic couture lids. Hateful laughter poured out from those glinting black eyes. If Chiquita insisted on so freely providing the spark, Megan would hesitate no longer in starting the fire.
“I hope you like children, Ernestina.”
“Children? What about them?” Ernestina’s voice sweltered with a sultry Spanish accent though her disdainful sneer betrayed her caustic hatred of the little people.
“Don’t worry.” Megan uttered an empty chuckle. “There is really only one child that need trouble you.”
Eduardo, suddenly showing concern for the first time since Megan had approached the couple, thwarted the rising tumult his bristling fiancé was about to unleash with a wave of his hand.
Megan drew her weapon from her clutch. The terrace lights glinted off of its smooth black surface as she turned the sleek smartphone over in her hand. Eduardo had given it to her on their second date. “To catch you up with the times,” he had chuckled when she protested, “and such good times are these.”
Renegade tears blurred her vision. Megan fumbled with the screen as the tin can deck speakers blared a bad romance through the chaos of the chattering crowd. Everyone everywhere was happy, either laughing in preselected groups or entangled in the prestige of one another’s arms. No one seemed to notice the solemn exchange taking place on the back terrace of Southampton’s hottest nightclub.
Megan handed Eduardo the smartphone, now fully loaded with an image of a smiling little boy. He glanced down at it, first nonchalantly, then more intently. Megan’s voice was softer, sweeter. “He has your eyes, don’t you think?” The boy grinned back up at Eduardo, a perfectly normal two year old frozen in time.
Ernestina snatched the device away with her jabbing fingers, took one look and huffed. Curiosity overwhelmed her however and she scanned the image more closely. The first inkling of pain formed in her features but was quickly replaced by an unfathomable rage.
The fire had caught.
Eduardo’s face had gone slack as the blood drained from it. The skin over his aristocratic features was wan, his cheeks a grisly yellow gray.
“You lied to me and you misled my family!” The inferno of Ernestina’s tempestuous fury lashed. “So you’ve been gold digging on the political mountain after all. Go home, Eduardo. Usted es un hombre arruinado!”
“Baby Doll, I didn’t know!” Eduardo put his hands up to surrender. Ernestina, the woman who had stolen Megan’s life, dreams, and one chance at happiness, began to leak angry tears. Now it was Megan’s time to purr.
“You didn’t know?” Ernestina’s shrieking caught the attention of some nearby club goers. “You told me that this Megan had been a mistake. You said you never even bedded such baseborn trash! Hija de puta! There is no room in my distinguida familia for you!”
The thirty carat diamond was off her slender brown finger in two seconds. Hands trembling with angst, the Latina princess morphed into a pouting rage as she thrust the diamond into Eduardo’s hand along with the smartphone. A tirade of insults so colorful followed that everyone within earshot had to stop to listen though not all who heard understood her Spanish. Then Ernestina was gone with a flurry of crimson and tangerine ruffles, leaving in her wake the lingering scent of Clive Christian No. 1.
Megan, too adamant now to melt at the sight of Eduardo’s helpless expression, scoffed at him. “What happened to you?” Her own voice shook as she bit back the tears. “Eduardo, what have you become?”
“Everything I was meant to be, everything you could never provide.” His voice was acrimonious, his eyes bleeding acid. Megan flinched. “Ernestina is the daughter of the Spanish ambassador to my country. Marrying her would have secured my political aspirations. What’s more, it would have paved the way to smooth the diplomatic unrest that has been so prevalent between our countries lately.”
“You always did want to make your father proud.”
“You never supported my family’s dream. You always told me just to be me. Ernestina told me to be everything I was meant to be. Megan,” he handed her back the smartphone, “I cannot change the world while living in the sticks married to a farmer’s whelp. I needed her more than I needed you. I thought I loved you, but I knew I loved my dreams more.”
The words stung. Megan swallowed hard.
“Meg, Ernestina will never come back to me with such a threat of scandal hanging over my head. This should have been kept a secret between us. I’d have given you anything you wanted. Money, a home, a nanny to help raise our son. I’d have given you it all.”
“And you wouldn’t give it to me now?” Her eyes looked through him. The hush that had come over the crowd began to liven up again as the other party goers returned to juicy stories of the latest Hampton gossip or the hottest deals sealed in Manhattan.
“Do I have a choice?”
Megan laughed. It was not the innocent giggling he remembered her for, but instead a staccato chirping. “So, she won’t take you back, huh?”
“No. There are too many like me and not enough like her. She did not need me, but I needed her.”
“You live in the dark ages.” Megan took the hem of his sleeve between her fingers, her mocking gesture mimicking a caring Manhattan socialite. “Painting pretty colors on marriages forged in hell. And for what? A little bit of money? A political hold in the world? But what of us little people? What becomes of us as we live way down here in your great shadows, forgotten and alone? Would you have saved the world by marrying Ernestina?”
“Megan, you know I can’t save the world.”
“Then I guess I cannot save your engagement.” The smartphone was flat in her hand now as she tapped the screen, causing the photo beneath its elusive display to come to life. The little toddler beamed back at them both, Eduardo’s black eyes creasing in the way of his forefathers above Megan’s button nose and dimpled cheeks.
“Will you let me see him?”
“Can you stop me? Or would you throw away the relationship with your own son the way you did with me in order to preserve your high aspirations?”
“I don’t want you, Megan.” The words lanced through her heart like white fire, searing away any compassion she had left in her. “I may have lost Ernestina, but I won’t go back to you.”
Megan shivered despite the sticky summer air. Lightning flickered in the distance somewhere over the mainland behind the terrace roof. No one else seemed to notice it and if they did, they were too intoxicated to care.
“Its ok, Eduardo. We never have to see one another again. I’ll be leaving this place soon enough.” When he took in a breath sharply and raised his chin to speak, she waved him silent. “There is no boy, no son of ours. A digital boy is all he is, conceived by the pain you caused me, born out of modern technology. You know the app--the one that puts the likes of forensic artists out of work?”
“My father’s company first patented it.”
Megan walked around him, her nails grazing down his bare arm as she snorted sarcastically. “And once upon a time you said you wanted to save the world.”
The Argentinean mega millionaire wanted at that moment to choke the life out of her. Resisting the urge to bask in the light of the flames she had made of his dreams, Megan turned and left that nightclub for the last time.
Driving west on the Long Island Expressway, Megan had a perfect view of the crescent moon. It hung with tumescent light in the rich black sky where it met the glittering horizon. Stars sparkled overhead as lightning flickered to the north. The weather forecast chattering through the speaker on her driver’s side dash noted significant thunderstorm activity over Bridgeport, but she was not going that way so she could not find it in herself to care. Victory had finally come to her somewhere in the blur after happy hour. She had destroyed Eduardo’s hopes the way he had destroyed hers, yet cold emptiness remained where the peace of closure should have reigned in her heart.
The traffic slowed as Megan approached the City. It was always hotter in the Big Apple she thought as she paid the toll at the end of the Throg’s Neck Bridge. The projects of the south Bronx soon rose up, cutting square holes into the flickering night sky. She could be a ghetto whore if she wanted to be. Megan laughed an empty utterance as she flicked the station on the radio to something matching the upbeat of the urban night. She could be a sulking goth, an eclectic artist or even an office drone. It did not matter as long as she dressed the part and acted accordingly. New York City was notorious for labeling the contemporary façade. She could be anything, yet she had become the bitter outcast, not because she had tried but because she never belonged.
The sight of New York City beckoned to her soul like it always did, its lights gleaming through the haze like the beautiful voice of a mythical siren. She looked upon the glamorous lie for the last time as she crossed the span of the George Washington Bridge. It had fooled her once, that glittering city, offering promises of adventure, whispering fairy tales of finding oneself among the streets where no one knew your name. Battered against treacherous shores after having answered that siren’s song, Megan fought against the current to find her way back to who she truly was. She lay panting on the rocks, bleeding and broken. Scheming vengeance, once so sweet on her tongue, now turned direfully sour in her belly.
Megan fished the smartphone out of her clutch. The picture of the digital boy was still in there somewhere, suspended between images of shattered expectations and grievous disappointments. She would keep it to remind her of everything his silicon existence had proven her not to be on her quest to find the person she really was.
Megan Millikan was heading home.
© 2013 Christy Boston