New Thing, 2
Gelasio hired the kind of lawyer that someone who could buy the Rockefeller Center would hire, and then hired one of his partners to deal with me. I know how bad an idea this is—in my Vampire Virago series, Aldetruda is hired by the pissed-off wife of the virago’s vavasour to find out how much her also-soon-to-be-ex husband is planning to take her for by trying to make her use one of the other lawyers in his firm. A lot. But fangs are so persuasive. I specialised in cliffhanger endings. After I finished Flowerhair four I’d probably have to rescue Aldetruda.
But I didn’t have anything to steal. Probably the only thing I owned that was worth actual money was my signed copy of THE LORD OF THE RINGS. I didn’t really think Gelasio would try to get it off me. If he wanted a signed LOTR, he could buy one. He could buy sixty.
Gelasio was moving to California. The girlfriend was from California. There are really great mainframes and motherboards out there. I guess. I didn’t want to know what had happened between that conference where they’d met and now. It didn’t seem to me that Gelasio had been away on business any more than usual—what? The last six months? A year? Had the girlfriend rented the flat on the sixth floor whose owner had decided to be a monk in Tibet but wanted to keep his options open? Don’t think about it. I wasn’t going to think about it. It was fine with me that there was going to be a continent between them and me though.
I was a New Yorker born and bred—but the last time I’d had to live on what I earned I’d been twenty-three. You put up with stuff when you’re twenty-three that didn’t look so tolerable at forty. One room. Cockroaches. And after almost eighteen years in a nine-room Manhattan penthouse with a roof garden and both a housekeeper and a gardener who came in two days a week. . . .
Gelasio and the girlfriend had already left for California: San Diego. Maybe he had fallen for her because she was from San Diego. Gelasio had a thing for bougainvillea. We grew it here because Gelasio paid the gardener a lot of money. (Gelasio was from the Midwest. I don’t think you can keep bougainvillea alive in the Midwest even if you pay your gardener a lot of money.) Gelasio had said I could stay in the penthouse till the final hand-over to the new owner—which gave me about ten days, as I wandered through the empty rooms, trying to develop some kind of clue about what I was going to do with the rest of my life or at least the next few weeks. I had half a dozen local friends trying to convince me to stay with them till I figured this out. My editor had given me an extension on Flowerhair. My old boss at Whizzbangpow Books had offered me free lance work editing. I liked being all cool and rational about someone else’s book: I was better at the cool and rational when it was someone else’s book. But this meant I didn’t have to stop eating immediately. And I didn’t have much appetite. I wasn’t even in love with Gelasio any more, but I was used to him. And I was really used to his life style.
My young lawyer had offered (hopefully) to go after Gelasio’s senior partner for a better settlement. He thought he could get one. Remind me never to get involved with a lawyer. I said no. He argued with me for a while but eventually he gave up.
I was living in my office, sleeping on the sofa, computering sitting cross-legged on the floor, occasionally venturing into the naked kitchen to boil water in a pan for tea. I had two tea mugs. Luxury. I had a map of the world on my computer screen. I had a fresh cup of tea on the floor next to it. I sipped at it. Deciding to lift a cup of tea and drink out of it seemed like a big decision. I was going to leave New York City. That was as far as I could get.
You can’t stick a pin in a computer screen.
I hadn’t thrown out my old paper atlas. Hey, I’m forty (nearly), I get nostalgia sometimes. I pulled it out of its box and let it fall open. East coast. Okay. I didn’t really want to get into visas and work permits, so let’s stay in the country, and Gelasio and girlfriend were on the other side of it, so let’s stay on this side. I didn’t have a straight pin but I bent a safety pin so it would stay open. My hand was trembling a little. I closed my eyes. I let the pin fall. . . .
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