Suddenly my life is like a river
Taking me places I don’t want to go
But like all good men who swim too well
It takes all that I have just to cry for help
Then that voice in my head
Tells me no
San Myshuno Liam's place of work
Rubbing his face between both hands as if the gesture could wipe away the stress of his big workload and complex cases, Liam looked up and glanced out the window of his corner office window at the San Myshuno skyline, before his eyes rested on an envelope on his desk. He sighed deeply, remembering his shock when he opened it to produce a wedding announcement of his old boss Mr. Bagley to Lana Douglas, Liam’s former colleague and former secret office affair. He remembered all the good times they had together, her beautiful body – imagining her and the crusty old Bagley as a married couple made Liam cringe. What a waste. Shudder.
Lana was stunning, brilliant and determined, a lawyer in her own right now, and it seemed quite obvious why she would have married an old man like Bagley, unattractive, unlikable, borderline rude most of the time, and certainly not someone who would sweep such a beautiful young woman off her feet, his selling points most likely had been his considerable wealth and an established law firm with a big clientele. Liam didn’t read Lana as a golddigger per se, but knew she was every bit as invested in advancing her career as Liam was, so maybe Bagley had made her a lucrative offer she couldn’t refuse. Right into his thoughts his cell phone rang, the caller ID made him laugh briefly as he answered.
“Thinking of the devil …” he said as he hit ‘answer’.
“Devil? Me? How charming. Did you get my letter?” she laughed at his apparent tease.
“I did, just today, trying to decide whether to extend congratulations or condolences. Guess I’ll be going wedding gift shopping after work. Thinking of a blindfold and valium for you and a walker with a flame pattern for the groom.”
“Funny Liam, but save your money, if you want to give me something, I’d prefer it to be some of your precious time. Wanna have lunch with me?”
“Sure, why not? When?”
“Are you free today?”
“You don’t waste any time, huh, Mrs. Bagley. Man, that will take me some time to get used to and get out without throwing up in my mouth.”
“It’s Mrs. Douglas-Bagley anyway, I just couldn’t go Bagley all the way. And being married to him is definitely something that takes getting used to. How about noon at our old restaurant, the one we used to meet at?”
“I’ll be there.” Liam felt awkward being reminded of a time before Vivien, a time of him and Lana as secret lovers. All that seemed a lifetime ago, even though it hadn’t been all that long, just over a year.
San Myshuno Dockside Dining Restaurant
Seeing her in person some hours later evoked conflicting feelings, awkward but also nice at the same time. Back when they parted ways as lovers it had been amicable and drama-free, remaining friends, yet, somehow they hadn’t had any contact since Liam had left Bagley’s law firm for his current job almost a year ago now.
“You look amazing, Lana.” Liam said honestly after a brief, friendly hug and a quick peck on the cheek.
“Thanks. You sound surprised.” she smiled.
“I didn’t mean to. Just being a gentleman.”
“Well, you look great too, Liam, as always. This is me being honest as well. How is Vivien? Any wedding plans or baby news yet?”
“Oh no, not us. We’re both nowhere ready for that step, nor in any sort of rush. Perfectly happy living together, we spend all the time together we can, whenever she isn’t traveling or I am at work. We just got back from Del Sol Valley to see her family and enjoy the luxury a bit. But we’re happy at the penthouse and with our routines, there isn’t room for a baby in our lives.”
Lana gave Liam a strange look, before they went inside, got seated and ordered, made pleasant banter through the meal, it was during the after dinner coffee when Lana said something that nearly made Liam choke on his last sip.
“There is a reason other than catching up with an old friend and treating myself to some eye-candy that I asked you here, Liam. As you can imagine, my wedding to Bagley wasn’t out of love and affection. He approached me with a proposal right after I passed the bar exam – which he basically paid for all along as part of my salary at the firm as you know. You know he has no family, neither do I, so he offered me a sort of contract, if I agreed to marry him, I will one day inherit all of his money and the law firm, but only if I can provide him with a viable heir within the first two years of our marriage. Otherwise all I did was marry an old man, who seems to be shooting blanks, if you ask me, even though he is too stubborn and proud to get tested. I did get tested and know I am fertile. Yet, so far every attempt to get me pregnant has failed. It’s bordering pure frustration already.”
“Oh god, please spare me, I really don’t need those images in my head. So, other than torture me with that, what do you need me for? You and he already know that such a contract is straddling morality and legality.” Liam said, frowning.
“To be frank, I would like your help with fulfilling the terms. I am more than certain that you are as fertile as I am, plus the whole act with you would be infinitely more pleasant than with Bagley and his flabby old body.” Lana’s beautiful face changed into a grimace briefly as she shuddered. Initially Liam considered it to be a joke, but knew her better than that. She was dead-serious.
“What the fuck?! Are you serious?! Do I look like a sperm fountain to you, ripe for the picking?! Did you forget that I am engaged to Vivien?! No way. Absolutely not!” Liam nearly fell off his chair.
“Liam, please don’t overreact and – please – do not just dismiss it right away. No, of course I did not forget about you and Vivien, and I didn’t ask you to be my personal sex slave. Look at it more as a sort of friend lending another friend a helping hand – as an exception. Only you and I would ever know about this, for my own sake alone I could never tell the truth anyway. I know it’s a weird thing to ask, but think about it. Liam, I know you. I know you do want children, you over-explaining earlier tells me Vivien does not want kids, landing you at a very uncomfortable impasse. So, if you were to help me out, you could also keep your amazing genepool going without any muss, fuss and obligations and without having to part ways with Vivien. If at some point down the line you feel like you missed out in the reproduction game, I would let you be part of the child’s life, if you wanted to be, of course unofficially. No strings. A win-win for both of us.”
“Lana, I don’t even know where to start here, so let me at least say that you know as well as I do that something like that would definitely not be legal – or moral! I could never do this to Viv! What the hell, girl?! Since when are you a gold-digger? This is very much unlike you. I know you are a go-getter, but not like this.”
“I am no gold-digger, Liam, definitely not. I have access to Bagley’s bank accounts, yet, have to spend a single dime on myself that I didn’t before. The money isn’t what made me agree to this, what did was that I was offered an incredible chance to one day have my own law firm, already established, which I know you will understand, since that is your dream too and we both know how hard that is to build from scratch. Bagley waved a big, juicy steak in front of a hungry dog with that offer, and this dog here bit. I tried to have a child with him, but he can’t even perform without the little blue pill, he has a weak heart, so sleeping with him is not fun by any stretch, especially not if it is always in vain. So here I am asking you to help, if I may be so blunt, you used to not hate the things we did in the bedroom. Why not relive it once, or twice, by generously donating your part to help me fulfill the contractual obligations? Helping out an old friend, if you want to look at it that way.”
“Lana, have you lost your mind?! What you are asking is a bit more than helping out a friend. For one, because I am engaged to Vivien, whom I love and I am not going to cheat on her, not for any reason, and most certainly not to make a baby! And I don’t know for sure if she wants a kid or not, it just never came up yet. Secondly, you are a married woman and my ex. I have been accused of a lot of bad choices in my life, but sex with the ex was and will never be added to that list. Thirdly, I was raised in a manner that family means something, so I am not going to wildly shoot my genes around unprotected, at the chance to have a mini-me running around somewhere, not even to help out a friend. Lana, really, I’d do a lot for you, still, and I cannot believe I have to actually say this out loud, but I just can’t be part of this.” Liam felt weird hearing his own words out aloud, it sounded so surreal.
“Liam, just go home and sleep on it. If you think about it calmly and soberly, you may see it’s no different than donating sperm in college for extra cash or having had a drunk one-night-stand after a party night. Who knows how many kids are out there, born from drunk passion, where the father doesn’t even know about them, yet, who are perfectly happy and healthy. Neither one of us is getting younger, today we are in our mid-twenties, but as life goes, we are busy, we blink and suddenly are in a retirement home. It’s a sad thing to wake up with regrets when you are old, it may not happen, and you may regret a lost chance to at least have immortalized yourself with me, even if only unofficially.”
“Lana, seriously, no. I do not need to sleep on it for this to be a firm no. If and when I ever have a child, it will have my last name. If you need help financially, need advice, need a shoulder to cry on or need someone to help you move or take you to or from the airport and such typical things friends do for each other, I am your man, call me, night or day. But I am not gonna be your convenient sperm donor to trick the old Bagley into signing over his precious law firm to you after he croaks. That’s just wrong on all levels and I cannot even believe we are having a conversation about that.”
“What if I sweeten the deal by making you an equal partner in his firm after he kicked the bucket, which judging by the state of his health and all the meds he needs on a daily basis won’t be too far down the line? We both know owning your own firm was always your dream, this way we would both benefit, we already know we are a great team. And to be even more inappropriately honest, least you could rest assured that if we were to create a child, it would be a love child at least on my side.”
“Lana, why are you doing this now? For over a year I heard nothing from you, not a peep and now you are talking about a love child? Again, I am engaged to Vivien, remember? I can be accused of a lot of unflattering shit, but if I propose to a girl, I mean it. Which should go without saying that it means I don’t go fathering kids with other girls, not even to help them out. Seriously Lana.”
“Well, maybe you moved on, Liam, but I haven’t. To you what we had may have just been something casual to pass the time until you could catch Vivien, but to me it wasn’t. My feelings for you were much stronger than some fling, even though I knew you were into Vivien, but maybe my romantic idealist side hoped if you realized what was already in front of you, you would quit chasing her, and love me back, but you didn’t. When you broke up with me, what was I supposed to do? Beg you to stay with me, sobbing and with snot running down my face? That really would not be like me at all. I let you go to find your own happiness, but that didn’t change a thing about how I feel about you.”
“Lana, come on now. It has always been a fling, for both of us, I am not buying your sudden confessions of true love, retroactively. Even if what you are saying were true, how come you never even mentioned love to me then. All we did was have fun, in and outside the bedroom, and always in secret. That does not bear the signature of a relationship in the making. That was an affair, no matter how you turn it now. We both wanted and needed it to be that way then, it’s what we wanted and agreed on.”
“You are free to believe whatever you want, but that doesn’t change the truth, my truth, and that truth is what I told you. It started out as something casual, fun, we both like sex, we are good together, but it went much deeper for me before I realized it. I treasure you, Liam, as a colleague, a friend, and a man. I knew all along that you wanted Vivien, even though, honestly it’s beyond me how your relationship is supposed to work out long term, and to be even more brutally frank, I am surprised that it has lasted this long. If you ask me, you two look like a dream couple, but that’s all you have going for you. Your background, your dreams and your visions of your future and hers just do not line up by miles. Example: I remember you telling me stories about camping and hiking with your family, how much you always loved that. How many times have you been camping or hiking since you got with Vivien? Can you even seriously imagine her hiking through the woods? Does she even own any shoes that are not designer heels? Mark my words, Liam, I am telling you this as a friend. Go home to Vivien and start looking at what you two have a bit more objectively, take off the rose colored glasses, maybe imagine you being married to each other and think about how that would look for you as an individual and as a couple and see if it’s something you could be truly happy with. Then you will see what I am saying.”
“Okay then, thank you for the unsolicited in-depth relationship analysis, Lana and for your misplaced concern. As much as I would love to continue sitting here to enjoy you taking a big, fat shit on my personal affairs, but alas, I have to get back to work now since unlike you love expert I didn’t think to marry my boss for extra job security. It was good to see you again, I wish you all the happiness with your marriage to the mummy and with your dubious choices, I truly hope it all works out for you, but count me and my little swimmers out. And just for the record, you are wrong about Vivien and me. We are happy, we made it work until now, and we will make it work in future. Where there is a will, there is always a way.”
He tossed his share of the cost on the table in cash and left with long strides.
San Myshuno Senator Suites Apartments - Liam's Penthouse
Later that night, after dinner together while curled up on the couch together, Liam’s rollercoaster of the mind boiled over.
“Viv, do you want children with me?” he suddenly asked, completely out of context for Vivien.
“What? Where is that coming from now?” she asked, taken aback.
“Just so. So do you or don’t you?”
“I don’t know. Definitely not now, you know I am THIS close to releasing a new album, you know a world tour with my dad is being planned as we speak, meaning I will only be home on and off for over a year. There is no way I could deal with a pregnancy. How did you go from everyone on TV running from giant murder snakes to babies?”
“My question was if you do WANT children with me not about timing. I didn’t ask you to make a baby with me right this second.”
“My answer will have to be that I do not know, Liam. I can lie to you and tell you how cute my little sister is and my niece Leeora, but so far, I am more than happy to dump them on their parents when they quit being cute and start getting fussy. I don’t think you or I are in a place of our lives where we would be ready to deal with a baby full time and I don’t know if that will change in a year or two, and to be really honest with you, maybe it will never change for me. I think I may be a good aunt, but I cannot see myself as a mother. Does that answer your question then?”
“It does, but I have to admit, I am shocked. Unlike you, I am pretty sure that I DO want at least one child at some point, I would also prefer not to be too old a parent, meaning, since we are already in our mid-twenties now, I would want the family planning to happen within the next few years. I guess I thought we were on the same page there.”
“Well, then you were wrong. I do not want a kid, not now and I would give it at best a 50:50 change for later down the line. Truth be told, I actually had thoughts about getting my tubes tied. Think about it, Liam. Twins run in your family on your dad’s side, who’s to say we wouldn’t end up with multiples. How is THAT supposed to work? One would be a stretch, more would be impossible with our careers. I can see myself standing in a studio with a baby on my hip, having to retake each recording a million times. And honestly, my grandmother Maeve only had one kid, my dad, because the pregnancy did such a number on her figure, which as a female performing artist is catastrophic. There is NO WAY I want to read even more mean shit about me, or having to make the gossip reels because I had a kid and my ass got fat and cellulite riddled beyond repair, making me look like a joke bouncing around on stage in my tiny outfits! Oh, HELL NO!”
“Are you serious right now, Viv?! Are you honestly sitting there telling me that you do not want a child with me because you are afraid to ruin your figure? Are you fucking kidding me right now, Viv!?! Super-models have babies and still work again afterwards! What kinda dumb-ass excuse is that now?! Sounds to me like you are just fishing for shit to throw at me to shut this down. What is REALLY behind this?! With as big a family as you have, I thought you liked kids! Never crossed my mind you could be such an egoistic bitch!”
“Excuse me?! I am an egoistic bitch now? As if YOU would risk the body you are so proud of to pop out a bunch of kids, Liam. Or as if YOU would put your precious career on hold to raise the fruit of your loins instead. Ha! That would not even make the radar, but you expect it of me? Not in a million years!”
“My career is different than yours. You can record music anywhere, anytime, and you do not HAVE to tour, you can do occasional performances, like your father did and does. Your career is a lot more customizable than mine. I can maybe swing working from home every now and then, but not as much as you could. And if we are being honest here, you do not even need to work, you are wealthy already. I am not, I have to work so I can take care of us, and maybe even one day realize my dream of owning my own firm. Those don’t grow on trees, it’s expensive and hard work to build up from scratch without it failing in the first year.”
“Oh yeah, let’s throw my celebrity parents at me again, why dontcha! For the record, I do not have any money, my parents do and I am no freeloader. I have to work for what I have, just like you! You do not need your own firm. You already are working almost 24/7 it seems, if you own your own firm I will never see you again! You don’t need your own firm, I don’t own my own stadium to perform at, or my own record label. I am working for the man too, in a way. So why can’t you?”
“Because that is not what I want! I have always said that ultimately I want to be my own boss.”
“Well, kids are not what I want! I am not a breeding mare for you, Liam, to check off some old-fashioned list. College, check. Rank up in your career, check. Get engaged, check. Get married, knock up wifey once a year every year and have her stay home to raise the kids and keep house – no thanks! If that’s what you want, you have the wrong girl!”
“That is not what I want, but if you think I do, I am thinking you may be right, if after all this time you still don’t know me, I may have the wrong girl!”
It all ended in a screaming match, a full fledged fight, doors were slammed shut, Liam was locked out of their bedroom and spent the rest of the night drowning his anger in alcohol, then slept on the couch.
The next day was still tense, both went about their day but didn’t speak and avoided each other, and even the day after Vivien was far from ready to make up. When Liam tried to force her to talk to him, they ended up fighting yet again, until she ran up the stairs, only to reappear a while later with packed bags.
“Vivien, do NOT do THIS shit again! We went over that last time, you cannot run away every time we have a fight!” Liam warned, very upset and serious.
“I am definitely not gonna sit here so you can try to force me into a way of life I do not want! Like a dog with a bone, you are just not letting go!”
“Because we still have not properly talked about it. So far you have told me what you want and don’t want and expect me to just silently swallow it. There has not been any kind of proper dialog!”
“What dialog do you need here? I do not want kids, I always thought we were on the same page there, but suddenly you woke up and seemed to have changed your mind, meaning YOU are the one with the problem, but yet, you keep trying to blame me and make me feel bad about it. I won’t let you. The answer is no. I am not in a place in my career to have the capacity for kids and judging by your long work hours, the business dinners and weekend work, neither are you!”
“Many people shuffle their lives around for a child, Viv. It’s doable. Both our parents managed.”
“Oh, nice! So now suddenly you would be willing to shuffle your schedule around for a baby, but not to spend more time with me. Got it! Very nice! Tells me right where I rank with you. On that note – bye!”
“Vivien, quit turning the words around in my mouth and put down that fucking bag! If you walk out that door with that goddamn bag again, I am done trying with this shit! I am so sick and tired of always running after you whenever you cannot handle an argument like a grown adult in a relationship should. Maybe that is what celebrities do, but real people don’t!”
“FUCK YOU, Liam! FUCK YOU!” Vivien was fuming as she opened the door, hurried through with her bags.
“I’d love to fuck you, but my tool isn’t long enough to reach you half the time since you can’t stop running away as soon as things do not go your way!” Liam yelled after her before kicking the door shut.
She unlocked it again, to yell at him
“If you were home from work more, your tool wouldn’t need to reach so far! And if you wouldn’t always fucking just dig and dig to find shit to piss me off with, I wouldn’t have to leave until you finally come to your senses again! This is a YOU-problem, Liam. YOU caused this! And I am done dealing with it! I have a long tour to prepare and cannot be distracted by sudden weird early onset pre-midlife-crisis moments by you! We are in our twenties, Liam! Get a grip!” she slammed the door shut after herself and pushed the elevator button.
As she was about to enter the elevator the penthouse door opened again, she thought Liam was coming after her, but he only opened the door, glared at her, then growled
“You do not get to slam the fucking door in my face in my own fucking home!” with that he slammed the door shut hard, opened it again, and slammed it again, then it remained shut.
Fuming, Liam went to punch, then kick every single one of the new decorative pillows off his couch which Vivien had recently bought, before he went to pour himself a drink. Then another. And another.
No matter what they agreed on, it seemed that every few months they would end up in this very same spot again, with her running away in the middle of an argument while both of them acted more childish and petty than the average toddler.