Taylor Bennett was sitting on the bench in the Quad when Jamie Grant came up and sat down beside her. She didn’t need to look to see that it was him; she just knew. He had a way about him that she loved and recognized that she didn’t have with others, years of friendship.
“Well, are you going to tell me what you’ve decided or are you going to make me stew some more? You know that I’ll keep asking you, daily if need be.” Jamie had asked her this same question three times over the past four days. She knew she couldn’t put it off any longer.
“I’m never having sex with you,” she told him as she leaned forward to pick up her backpack. Everything she had with the exception of clothes was in this thing.
“God, no!” Glancing at him sharply, she thought she could and should be offended, but she knew what he meant.
They had met six years ago at a frat party. Taylor had been there with another girl and they were being harassed by one of the oversized frat boys. When Jamie had come to her rescue, she ended up needing to save his butt from being beaten to a pulp. After the party, she had taken him to his house to clean up his bloody nose and they had started to make out. After the second kiss, both decided it was just too creepy and had become friends instead. Besides, he had the most charming smile.
“It’s only temporary. I have to get back on my feet. I can’t depend on you to save me all the time. Deal?” She wanted to cry, but that would solve nothing.
“Yeah. On your feet then I kick your butt out. Deal. And the dinner thing this weekend, you’ll still be my date? I’ll still pay for half the dress, even though I don’t mind paying for the whole thing.” She had hoped he would forget that as part of the bargain, but nodded at him.
“Yeah, I’ll go. But we had a deal. Half and not a cent more. If I didn’t need the money, I’d say I’d do it, but...”
“Yeah, your boss sucks and you work for a cheap son-of-a-bitch. I’ll see you at the house later.”
He kissed her quickly and took off running across the Quad to his office. Taylor picked up her purse and slung her pack over her shoulder and went to the office just off Broad, the crappy office she worked in. Tears pulled at her eyes, but she refused to let them fall.
Two weeks ago, she had a crappy apartment that she shared with two other girls. Her name had been on the lease the first year and then the landlord had never said anything about a renewal so the girls continued to live there. Taylor paid her rent to him directly every month and paid her portion of the bills—cable/Internet and the water bill. She never ate there so didn’t contribute to the food, preferring to put her water in her room and drink it warm.
Then one afternoon, she came home from work and Mr. Sharp met her at the door. She smiled at him and he grimaced back. He handed her the mail and asked her to come into his office.
“I’m evicting the three of you the day after tomorrow. I’m sorry, Taylor, but I can’t keep hoping they’ll pay their rent. They’re nearly six months behind and the electric company called today and told me that it’s not been paid either.”
“Six months! How...I mean, they said everything was fine. I asked and asked.” Cherry’s parents were supposed to pay the rent while she was in school, Debra had a job as a bartender, and she took care of her third. Six months meant that they owed three thousand in rent—back rent, Taylor corrected.
“I can pay it. It’ll wipe me out, but I’ll pay it.” It wouldn’t only wipe her out, but it would take her food money too. But she needed a place to live.
“I’m sorry, honey. I knew that you’d say that and I can’t let you do that. They’ll never pay you back and they will only do it again if they know that you’ll bail them out. The reason I’m telling you now is so that you can get your things out now. When the police come, they will lock everything up until I get my money from those two. You aren’t named so you won’t have to pay. I have my sons here and they’ll help you carry your things out tonight. In two days, the cops are going to put a lock on the door and then sell off their stuff to try and get my money.”
She left him after making arrangements to have Peter and Daniel Sharp come up after the girls left for the night and went to her apartment to start packing up. Two hours later, Taylor had put all her belongings in one large trash bag and was sitting on the bed when the Sharps knocked.
Her clothes were all she really had and not a lot of those. Her computer was the only thing of real value that she had and she took it with her everywhere. In a fit of what she could only think of as pure stupidity, she called her best friend and sobbed the entire thing to him. He came to get her at the Scarlet and Gray, a bar on campus, and took her home with him. After a night of ice cream, pizza, and too much beer, he had asked her to move in with him. She refused and had been living in her car until five days ago.
It was raining harder than she had ever seen it since moving to Ohio. The lightning was streaking across the sky like someone had pissed off an electrician and he was waving a live wire over her car. But it was the man that broke her window to get to her that terrified her more. He had pulled her out of the car window through all the broken glass by her hair and tried to rape her. Had the campus police not come by when they did, she was sure he also meant to kill her. As it was, she had twelve stitches in her arm and a bruised face. Jamie had had a fit when he saw her when he had picked her up at the hospital and took her home with him. Again. She had been there since.
Taylor sat at her little desk that morning and set up her things to work. The stupid owners wouldn’t replace her computer when the one they provided her broke three months ago, so she had been using hers since. She hated her job with a passion, but needed the income more than she needed to quit. Especially now that she had to save her money to get another place of her own.
She was an accountant/secretary/receptionist/idiot—high on the idiot part for—Freedom Fighters. The law firm she worked for was an ambulance chasing sort. The pay was crappy, there were no benefits, and she didn’t trust that each week her check
wouldn’t bounce. It had five times now in the five years she had worked for them and she had gotten into the habit of cashing it now before depositing the money into her account. Jason Freedom, one of the two Freedoms she worked for, got pissy with her every week when he realized what she was doing. She just continued doing it. She couldn’t afford another seven hundred dollars in bounced check fees again.
She had already decided not to have roommates this time. She thought it might be nice to have her own place with her own things surrounding her. But then snorted to herself and thought what things did she think she was going to put around? Her hairbrush or maybe the collection of under things she secretly bought.
And that was another thing. If she didn’t spend eighty-five dollars on a bra and panty set, she might be able to afford her own place sooner. But when she shifted in her hard seat and felt the decadent silk rub against her body, she thought it was well worth the wait.
At five-thirty, she gathered up her things, shut down her computer, and left the office. She had seen neither lawyer today, which suited her just fine, and headed to her new home. Jamie wouldn’t be in for another hour, so she decided to fix dinner for them. Trying to decide which pizza place to order from, her only ability in the cooking department, she was startled when the phone rang as she reached for it.
“Hello, Grant residence.” She didn’t say Grant/Bennett residence; she was only there temporarily. Besides, she hadn’t discussed that part of the arrangement with Jamie yet.
“I need to talk to Jamie; put him on the phone.” The voice barked at her. She looked at the caller ID and realized it was one of his brothers—Byron, the artist.
She had never met the Grants, any of them. In the years she had known Jamie, it had never come up. They were not dating, and they had no other ties other than being friends, so as far as she knew, they had no idea she even existed. She knew who they were because Jamie talked about them all the time, but that was it.
“Sorry, he’s not home from work yet. Can I take a message? I’ll make sure he gets it as soon as he gets in.” Taylor picked up a pen and was ready. He didn’t say anything for several seconds and she looked to see if he had hung up. Nope, still there.
“If Jamie isn’t home, then what, pray tell, are you doing there? Robbing the place? I’ll have you know that one of his brothers is a lawyer and he’ll sue your ass for everything you have if you even try that trick.” She knew that she had a temper. She had learned to control it, but it had been a really shitty day—no, week—and she snapped.
“Yes, I’m robbing the place, asshole. It’s a new thing in would-be robbers; we answer the phone of our victims and offer to take messages before we ransack the house for valuables. It’s a new service we offer and since I have you on the phone, maybe you can give me your opinion of how you think we might improve our service. We are always looking for pricks such as yourself to give us feedback.” She took a deep breath before she continued. “Jamie isn’t here. You want to talk to him, then fucking call back.” The phone slamming into the receiver made her feel somewhat better, especially since
she could hear him talking as she had done it. Leaving Jamie a note, she put her coat on and went out into the evening cold.
It was snowing again, she realized with a start. Ohio had the stupidest weather. One day it could be fifty degrees, and the next one, five below. The ground wasn’t all that cold yet, but she was sure it would be for this weekend and snow would be perfect for the charity ball she had agreed to go to with Jamie on Friday.
Realizing she still needed a dress, she headed for the second hand shop on campus. He had told her it was very fancy so she had some idea what she needed, but didn’t have a great deal to spend. Jamie had offered to pay half for her dress, and if it came to that, she would take him up on the offer.
She found two that she really liked and tried on the first one. After that, there was no reason to try on the other. It fit perfectly and it was in her price range. She stood before the three sided mirror and looked at her reflection.
The dress was a dark blue sheath that hugged her slim body tightly until it reached her knees, then flared out to twice the width. The top, or what there was of it, started at the top of her breasts and molded against her. The built in bustier, which lifted her breasts, held the dress up firmly and showed off her ample cleavage very nicely. Turning slightly, she noticed that the back dipped dangerously low and showed the dimples of her ass when she moved. Frowning, she wondered if someone as tall as Jamie could see down the dress and get a view of her rump. Still trying to get a good look, the owner of the little shop came up to stand behind her.
“The dress was made for you, honey. Damn, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone fill it out quite the way you have.”
“Yeah, I have big boobs. Do you think my date will be able to get a nice peak of my ass crack when we dance? I mean, it looks really pretty and all, but I’m not into this guy that way and I’d just as soon keep my more prominent parts to myself.”
The proprietor, Alice, threw back her head and laughed. Then she walked up to stand in front of Taylor, stood up on her tippy toe, and bent slightly to look. Catching Taylor’s gaze in the mirror, she winked.
“First of all, nope, no butt crack. Secondly, no one is going to notice your butt when they have a much nicer view from your front. Any man that dances with you is going to be hard pressed, if he isn’t already pressed hard, to see anything but the way the dress matches your eyes perfectly. Or that the light bouncing off your hair arches like dark moon beams. You look very beautiful, my dear. Where are you going, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“The annual charity thing his mother puts on at the Polaris Center. I guess it’s really fun. Have you ever been there?” When she didn’t answer, Taylor turned to look at her.
“You know the Grants? No, I’ve never...you came to my shop to get a dress for the biggest event of the season? I’m so...wow! No, I’ve never had that sort of money to go. I heard it’s like a thousand bucks a plate to go and the auction generates nearly a million dollars for whatever charity the mistress deems worthy. I think its child abuse again this year. Last year they raised nearly seven hundred fifty thousand to build a home for children to be safe. And you’re going. You’re very lucky.”
Taylor didn’t think she was. So she just smiled at the woman and went to the changing room to take the dress off.
In the few years she had been friends with Jamie, she had managed to avoid his family completely. She knew all about them. Jamie was very close to them and he talked about them all the time. And he had on more than one occasion invited her to their outings and just for dinner, but she had never gone. And now, she thought, I’m trapped. Without a place to live and not a lot of money, she had agreed to go because he had asked her to after he had generously offered her a place to stay. Hanging up the dress, she stepped into the shop again.
“I’ll take it. And do you have a wrap that will go with it? It’s getting cold and I don’t think my coat will look very good with this.”
Even with the purchase of the dress and wrap and then a bus ride to the mall for shoes, she was still under budget. Smiling and pretty proud of herself, Taylor decided to stop by the new club in the area that she had heard of.
Taylor opened the door to Jamie’s house several hours later than she had wanted. She knew that she would never go back to that club. She hurt everywhere. Without stopping to look around, she went to her bedroom to take a much needed bath before bed.