My mouth fell open. “You are an unbelievable asshole.”
He took another sip of wine. “People keep saying that. I’m inclined to believe it.”
I looked up at him, my cheeks already burning from humiliation. “You don’t need a … um … an assistant or anything, do you?”
“Me? Fuck no. I already have four. Oh. You mean … hire you?”
My eyes fell to the floor. “Only if you need one. I don’t want charity.”
“Because we’re friends, and I want to continue to be friends.”
“You just told me to kill myself.”
He pointed at me. “That’s why.”
I frowned. “What are you talking about now?”
“You didn’t even put up a fight. I said ‘no,’ and you folded. I don’t want a pussy working for me. I was raised with more nannies than I have assistants. One to wipe my ass, one to wash my hands, one to feed me, one to play with me during the day, and one to wake up with me at night. There were more. I don’t remember their names. But my favorite? Beatrice. She was meaner than a cat with a firecracker in its ass, and I loved it. No one else talked to me like that. I need people who aren’t afraid to tell me the truth. You can, but you can’t, and we remain friends.”
I sighed, and then nodded, already bored with his speech. He did love to hear himself talk.
Sterling tossed the paper at me, leaned across the table, and turned to the classifieds. There were already red circles in the Help Wanted section.
“Mail sorter,” I said, reading his suggestions. “McDonald’s.” I looked up at him. He held up his hands. “Bank teller. I’m broke, and you think it’s a good idea that a pot head without money for pot works at a bank?”
He shrugged, standing up and heading for the bar. “I’m trying. You need a drink.”
“Desk clerk for a hotel. Nights. Checking guests in and out, light cleaning, and putting out continental breakfast.” I looked up at Sterling. “They pay people fifteen dollars an hour to do this?”
“It’s a tourist town. They can’t get people to work for minimum wage even at minimum wage jobs. The cost of living is too high.”
“An assistant at the local magazine.” He chuckled. “The MountainEar,” he said in a mocking tone. “Guess who owns it?”
“Nope, this is one your father doesn’t own. It’s the new endeavor of J.W. Chadwick, the owner of Turk’s. He’s not going to hire you. There’s also a server position at the resort, but you’d be dealing with dicks like us all day.”
I covered my face, letting the paper fall to the table. “This is what I get for majoring in something I knew wasn’t going to come with the expectation of a job. They’ve fucked me. My parents have fucked me.”
“You’ve fucked yourself. Don’t act like you didn’t know what you were doing.”
I pulled a wadded one hundred dollar bill from my pocket and tossed it on the table. “This is all I have left.”
“No, they left me nothing. Fin left me eight hundred forty dollars. I drank it all.”
“You’re not just a lush; you’re an irresponsible lush. You deserve this.”
Sterling winked. “Nah. You love me. I can tell you the ugly truth, and we still remain friends. That’s why I love you.” He put a tall glass of gin in front of me. “Drink up. We’ve got a long day ahead of us.”
He held up a small white pill, and then placed it on the table, pushing it toward me. “We’re not applying for jobs today. Today, we’re saying goodbye to Ellison Edson the rich bitch, and hello to Ellie the blue-collar worker.”
He popped his own pill, washing it down with wine. I looked down at the table, turning the chalky white oval with my fingers. He was right. I wasn’t going to find a job today.
I threw the pill to the back of my throat, not caring what it was, just hoping it would take effect quickly. I gulped the gin until my throat burned, and then looked at Sterling, wiping my mouth. “This is going to get ugly.”
“It always does with us,” he said, taking another drink.
I woke up on the floor, naked and barely covered with a tablecloth. Sterling was my pillow, his bare thigh against my cheek. I sat up, wiping my mouth, tasting salt and gagging.
“Oh my God,” I whispered, looking at his naked body sprawled on the floor.
He didn’t look like Sterling, with the clean-shaven jaw I was used to. His face had begun to darken with whiskers, and his typically slicked coif had pulled free from the gel meant to keep each strand in place. He was no different from anyone else I’d left in my path, messy and ruined, but the sight of him was the physical manifestation of rock bottom—the man my sister loved lying naked on the floor, a mixture of our sweat still glistening on his skin.
Bile rose in my throat, and nausea overwhelmed me. I hadn’t thrown up after a day of drinking since junior high. The feeling caught me off guard.
I crawled on the floor to reach my clothes, pulling each piece of fabric to my chest. I breathed out a quiet cry and felt tears burn my eyes. Finley.
She would never forgive me—she’d never forgive us. I tried to remember what had happened. The sun was already behind the mountaintops, the sky getting darker by the second. Sterling and I had been fucking for hours, but I didn’t remember any of it.
Groggy and humiliated, I collected my clothes, pulling on my bra, shirt, damp panties—more nausea—and then my pants, feeling the coldness of the cotton against my skin. I gagged again, and then ran down the hall to the bathroom. My stomach heaved, and mostly wine and liquor splattered against the door. I pressed my lips together and let my cheeks bulge out, holding in the rest just long enough to lift the lid on the toilet. What seemed like gallons of alcohol burned my nose and throat as it came up and gushed into the toilet. The toilet water sprayed my face, and I closed my eyes, sobbing.
Once it was over, I stood up, washed my hands and face, rinsed my mouth, and tried to rinse mystery chunks from my hair. I looked in the mirror. The girl looking back was unrecognizable. She was gaunt, with dark circles under her bloodshot eyes. She was a junkie. Finley was right. Living this way was going to kill me.
I padded down the hall, picking up the wadded cash and my snow boots on the way.
Sterling stirred, and I rushed to the door, hopping on one foot to pull on one boot, and then the other.
He covered his face and turned his back to me. “Fuck. Fuck! No, no, no … we couldn’t have. We didn’t. Tell me we didn’t.”
“We didn’t. Nothing happened. Because if it did, Fin will never speak to either of us again,” I said, closing the door behind me.
The alarm bleated next to my ear, and I reached up, slapping at it until it turned off. The morning sun was pouring through the open blinds—I’d left them that way on purpose to force me out of bed. My interview with The MountainEar was in ninety minutes. Unfortunately, J.W. Chadwick owned the very bar I’d been kicked out of more than once, making my interview a littler trickier.