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Marcus says goodbye to his old life.
Thursday, 7:28 pm

I looked around my tiny apartment and suddenly found it very hard to swallow. I hadn’t spent a lot of time in this place since I’d signed the paperwork at YPV and bought Marduke, but despite that, it felt like I was severing the last remaining tie to my life before I found out about my grandfather. While I hadn’t been capable of buying a G6, I wasn’t broke either, and I was relatively happy. Things were better now, but immensely complicated.

“Is that everything?”

A couple of movers had accompanied me to pick up the remainder of my possessions after the bulk of stuff had been moved and had just finished loading the boxes in the truck. All two boxes. I felt it was unnecessary to waste their time, but Erin had assured me that at the rate I was paying them, they were happy to do it, and my time was too valuable to transport boxes from one house to another.

I reached out with my foot and slid the toe of my shoe into the mangled remains of the old couch the intruder had slit open like a hunter gutting a fresh kill. It had been where Helen and I fucked for the first time. Good times.

My phone buzzed in my hand, pulling me out of my journey down memory lane, and I glanced at it - Jessica again. I hit the reject call button and turned to the movers. “Yeah. I think that’s everything.”

The mover nodded. “Alright. We’ll go ahead and take it to the apartment.” He offered his hand and I shook it. “Thanks for your business.” I’m sure he was thankful… I’d paid them four times their day rate to move a few rooms' worth of belongings. He and his helper headed for the door, and I followed them into the hall to watch them leave. As they reached the stairwell, two people rounded the corner and headed my way - Jim and Phoebe Lucas.

Jim stood at an imposing six feet and four inches high, with blond hair, blue eyes, and a slightly weathered face that only seemed to make the man more handsome instead of detracting from his looks. He wore jeans, a flannel shirt, and his signature trucker hat. Phoebe looked lovely in jeans, a white button-down shirt, and a light navy jacket. Half her dark copper hair had been pulled back and kept in place with a silver clip to keep it out of her face. As they approached I got a small, tight-lipped smile from her. Jim, however, decided to have a conversation.

“You moving out?” he asked pausing at his door across the hall.

“Yep,” I said, “the place is pretty trashed, so I can’t exactly live here anymore.”

“Bet you can’t,” Jim said, and I noticed his words were a little slurred. “‘Specially now that you have all that money.”

Phoebe winced at her husband’s rude tone. She tugged on his arm and said, “Come on, honey. I’m sure Marcus is busy.”

Jim shrugged her off. “How much did you get? The news said you were a billionaire now.”

“I guess that’s about right,” I replied. I glanced at Phoebe and she gave me an apologetic look.

“Fuck. It’s the most useless ones who have all the luck,” Jim huffed.

“Jim!” Phoebe exclaimed.

I was a little surprised at Jim’s frankness. It’d always been Jim’s posture and tone that had given me the impression he didn’t approve of me, but he’d never said anything outright hostile. In fact, I’d be surprised if Jim said more than fifty words to me the entire time we lived across from one another.

My phone buzzed in my hand again and I looked at it. It was a notification that Jessica had left me a voicemail, which I knew it would be worth listening to because it was something she detested doing. Curious, I looked back at Jim, no longer interested in talking to him. “I don’t know what to tell you, Jim. Sorry I got lucky.”

I put the phone to my ear and started playing the voicemail. Jim glared at me with drunken, cloudy eyes for a moment longer, then turned to the door and tried to open it. When he failed to open the locked door, he turned to his wife, “Damn, woman! You couldn’t open the door while I was talking?” Keys in hand, Phoebe lifted them to the door while starting to say something, but Jim snatched them out of her hand and fumbled with the lock. “I always have to do everything.” It took him twice as long to unlock the door as it would have taken his sober wife, but the son of a bitch finally managed it. Phoebe threw an apologetic look over her shoulder before they disappeared through the door.

I turned from the doorway and paced the room as the voicemail played. “Hey, Marcus. It’s Jess. Listen, I know you don’t have any reason to talk to me. You’re probably still mad, and I understand. I just… I miss you and I wanted to hear your voice. I’m sorry things ended the way they did. I… can you please just… can you just call me back? I miss you.”

Her voice sounded slightly rough like she had been crying, but despite my stomach twisting in knots after hearing her voice for the first time since I’d left her, I felt a little smile play across my lips. My post-breakup sorrow had been short-lived thanks to what happened after Jess and I parted ways, but it had been intense, and hearing that she missed me had given me a feeling of vindication. Still… while listening to the recording, a small part of me felt nostalgic for the familiar. She had been a part of my life for a long time, and despite all the amazing things that had occurred in the last week or so, hearing her voice had felt nice. It was like spending the day at a theme park, and then returning home that evening to curl up on a comfy couch. I stared at the phone for a full minute as I contemplated calling her back.

“Sorry about that,” Phoebe said from behind me. I whirled to see the housewife standing just inside my doorway. She’d removed the navy jacket and held a garbage bag in one hand which she set down beside the door. “He drank a bit too much tonight.”

I glanced past her but didn’t see Jim.

“He’s on the couch. Probably asleep by now,” Phoebe said, anticipating my question. “He didn’t want me to come back out, but I told him I needed to clean up a bit and take out the trash before anything happened.” I assumed she meant drunken, sloppy sex with her rude husband.

“It’s not a problem.” I gave her a reassuring smile and asked, “You okay?”

Phoebe nodded. “Yeah. I just hate it when he gets like this.”

Remembering what I saw on her wrist the last time I saw her, I wanted to argue that he always seemed ‘like this’. Instead, I kept my mouth shut. It was obvious that Phoebe was uncomfortable with the situation, and I didn’t want to make her feel worse. “Seriously. It’s fine. We all get drunk. What about Nate?”

“Staying with my mom. Jim took tomorrow off so we could have an extended weekend. Saturday is our anniversary.”

“Oh! Um… congrats,” I said.

She gave me another tight-lipped smile and took a few more steps in the room, walking past me as she took in the chaos that was my apartment. The police had finished their investigation, but I didn’t want to hire someone to clean it up until I’d had the chance to remove all the stuff I wanted to keep. Everything left behind would be trashed.

“Thanks,” she said in a quiet voice. With every passing moment, she seemed to get more and more upset. “So, you’re leaving?”

“I am,” I said. “I bought an apartment.”

She finally turned away from the mess and looked back up at me; I could see the unshed tears in her eyes. “That’s good.”

“Hey, you okay?”

Phoebe suddenly dashed forward the half a dozen feet between us and threw her arms around my chest, hugging me tight as she buried her face in my chest and openly sobbed into my shirt. I hesitated, unsure of how best to help my soon-to-be former neighbor, and then I wrapped my arms around her in a loose hug. As I squeezed her arms reassuringly, her grip on me tightened, and her shoulders shook as she wept. Unsure of what to say, I simply rubbed her back as we stood in the middle of my wrecked apartment.

Nearly five minutes must have passed in silence save the sound of Phoebe’s muffled weeping. Eventually, she lifted her head off my chest and sniffled. She slowly opened her eyes and kept them fixed on the large, damp spot she’d made on my shirt and said, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to do that.” She hiccuped once, and then deigned to look up at me. Her brown eyes flickered back and forth between mine and she pursed her lips between her teeth till they disappeared completely, another sign that she was upset.

“It’s okay,” I said and reached up to wipe away a few fresh tears already slipping down her blotchy cheeks. I brushed them away with my thumb and was suddenly very aware that I was holding a beautiful woman in my arms. Her face was dangerously close to mine as we stared at each other. Her eyes were liquid brown pools filled with sorrow, gratitude, and… something else I couldn’t quite identify. It would be all to easy to-

She stood up on her toes and pressed her lips to mine. It wasn’t a volcanic kiss threatening to burn my face off like Erin’s, or dripping with seduction and lust like Helen’s. It was a simple, sweet, closed-lip kiss that lasted all of maybe five seconds before she slowly pulled free. All those feelings I’d seen swimming around in Phoebe’s eyes were replaced with one - horror.

“Oh fuck!” she exclaimed and backed away.


She cut me off, “I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to do that!”

“No,” I said, “It’s okay. It was an accident. I shouldn’t have-”

“You didn’t do anything wrong,” she said, cutting me off again. “I…” She bit her lip and looked around the room. “Oh god…”

“You don’t have to say anything,” I said.

“You’ve just always been so nice to me,” she replied. “Jim is all I’ve ever had, and he’s…”

“I get it,” I said when she didn’t complete her sentence. Jim drank a lot, and I’d always suspected that he was low-key misogynistic and disrespectful. If they were starting an anniversary weekend like this, he was probably worse than I’d originally imagined.

“Look,” I said. “You and me… we’re fine.”

She stared at me and crossed her arms over her chest, rubbing them as if she were cold. She appeared to calm down enough to keep her tears in check. “Good. Thank you.”

“Are you okay? I mean, really okay?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said after a moment. “The last couple of years have just been hard. Since Nate, I don’t…” She looked down at the floor. “I don’t think Jim realized what fatherhood was going to be. I don’t think he likes it very much. I don’t think he likes us very much.”

I had no freaking idea of what to do for this woman. I was about to walk out of this building for the last time, and she was starting to give me the impression that I was the closest thing she had to a friend. “Do you need a place to stay?”

Phoebe shook her head. “No. I’m not in any real danger. I just… I just wanted to apologize for Jim’s behavior and say thank you.” She tittered and swiped at her cheek as another wayward tear fell. “I guess I just got a little carried away.”

“No. That’s okay,” I said. “Look, if you say you’re fine, then I believe you, but if you need anything at all, please give me a call. You’re losing me as a neighbor… not as a friend.”

A single sob burst from her and she contained the rest as her face contorted in another fit of crying. I stepped toward her and hugged her close again, stroking her red-brown hair as she pressed her face into my chest once more. “I mean it. If you need anything at all, I’m just a phone call away.”

Phoebe nodded into my chest and we stayed like that for another minute before she pulled away. She looked up at me again with those big, liquid eyes, and I thought she might try to kiss me again. Eventually, she did lift herself on her toes, but this time it was to plant a kiss on my cheek; her lips lingered there for several long moments before she lowered herself again.

“Thank you,” she said, her voice quiet. She stepped back and looked at the garbage. “I’ve been gone too long. I need to get this downstairs. She swiped at her runny nose with the back of a hand and gave me an apologetic look. “He’s probably asleep, but I don’t want to take the chance. If he suspected I came over here…”

“Leave it,” I said. “The cleaners will take it tomorrow.” It was the least I could do.

She gave me a watery smile.

“Seriously though. If you’re in trouble or if you think you’re in danger from him. Please call me. You have a place to go if you need it.”

She nodded and said, “It won’t come to that, but thank you. I will.”


Heading back to her apartment, Phoebe paused at the doorway and rested her head on the frame, giving me one more look. There was a lot of that unreadable emotion in her face as we locked gazes for a prolonged moment. “Thank you,” she finally said. Then she disappeared.

I listened in silence as she murmured a greeting to someone in the hallway I couldn’t see, opened the door, and then shut it. A moment later, a dark brown head of hair peeked around the doorway. It was Emily, my sister.

“Hey M,” she said, giving me our customary greeting.

“Hey Em,” I said, staring as I reflexively returned my part of the greeting we’d used most of our lives.

I was surprised to see her appearance just as I was about to leave my apartment for the last time, but not as much as she was to see the state of my apartment. She walked the rest of the way into the room, her eyes growing wide as she looked around at the mess. It was clear to any casual passer-by that this wasn’t simply the mess of someone moving. “What the…? Marcus? What happened? Oh my god, are you okay?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I’m fine. Someone broke into my house two days ago. I wasn’t here when it happened.”

“Oh my god,” Emily repeated and ran over to me, throwing her arms around my neck in a hug. I returned it, wrapping my arms tight around my older sister’s waist. “Did they take anything?” She pulled away. “What about your cat?”

I shook my head and said, “Jack’s fine, and they didn’t take anything. I think they were looking for something specific.”

Emily’s brow furrowed, “What do you think it was?”

“I don’t know. Probably something to do with the money,” I said. We pulled apart from our hug. She gazed at me, concern etched across her face.

At 5’9”, Emily stood a handful of inches shorter than me. She had clear, fair skin, a beautiful Greek nose, plush lips, and startling pale grey eyes. According to dad, she inherited her father’s Northern European looks while getting her dark hair, temperament, and sharp wit from her mother.

First, I need to give you a little backstory about Emily. When she turned eighteen, she attended NYU to study theater and became a moderately successful actor. She starred regularly in commercials, did some modeling for cosmetics, and scored several roles in off-broadway productions. She had even made the final cut on Broadway but hadn’t been chosen for a part. Several people told her she would do well in California, and she considered it, but then Daniel happened.

Emily met Daniel not long after turning twenty-four. He was a relatively successful broker on Wall Street in his mid-thirties who just so happened to be attending one of her performances when they first met. It was love at first sight, and they were inseparable for the next two years, getting engaged near the end of their relationship. Unfortunately, he made one bad investment and lost everything. Emily was the one who came home to find the mess he’d left in the bathroom after eating a bullet.

It took six months for Emily to recover, then she decided she needed a change of pace. She moved to California to try a life out there, and the next two years passed with barely a word from her. Then one day she showed up at my apartment door looking thin, soaking wet, and desperate for a place to stay. She had fifty dollars in her pocket, the clothes on her back, and a broken spirit. Emily and I had always been close, so I took her in without hesitation and let her live with me in Brooklyn for the next four months.

She filled me in a little about her time in LA, but never the whole story. I learned she never found her big break in acting like she wanted and had fallen on desperate times while in Los Angeles. Desperate times called for desperate measures, and that led Emily to addiction among other things that I only suspected. My sister came back to me with a whole host of serious issues.

Neither of us could afford the rehab, but Emily was insistent that our parents not find out about her problems, so I managed to convince my mom and dad to give me a loan to buy into a start-up. I used the money to put my sister through rehab. Ashamed that I was taking such a hit for her, Emily promised she would take it seriously, and as far as I knew, she hadn’t touched alcohol or stimulants since they released her. When she finally reunited with our parents, Emily was completely clean, and I came to be known as someone with a shitty business sense. I paid back the money I’d borrowed, but unfortunately, the reputation was there to stay.

“Do Mom and Dad know about this?” Emily asked.

“Nope,” I said, “and I don’t want them to either. They would just freak out and try to do something.”

“Maybe they can do something,” she pushed back.

“Em, I have an army of lawyers. My assistant hired a private investigator to look into it, and the cops are doing everything they can. I think I have it covered. Please don’t say anything to them.”

“Of course,” Emily said. “If that’s what you really want.”


She let me go and started to do a circuit around the apartment. Her fingers traced the drywall as she said, “I’m gonna miss this place.”

“Really? That’s surprising.”


“Because you barely come here anymore.”

“I know,” Emily replied, and I detected a faint note of shame in her voice.

“I didn’t mean it as an accusation. I know you’re busy.”

Trying to build back up what she’d left behind in New York wasn’t an easy process, and nearly two years later, she was still struggling to get back what she left behind. She was working hard, and I was proud of her even though I did miss having her around. We had always been close, and when she returned, we fell back into our friendship as if two years hadn’t just passed us by.

“Thanks, Marcus. It’s been a lot.” She turned and leaned against the wall. “Anyway, part of me didn’t want to come back because I didn’t want to chance running into the Lucases.”

“What? Why?”

“Jim always made me feel weird,” she said, “and I seemed like Phoebe was always judging me. It felt weird between us in the hallway just now.”

“Ah. That wasn’t you. It was because of me. Jim was pretty rude to me on the way in,” I said, deciding not to share the part of the story where Phoebe had kissed me.

“Want me to kill him?” Emily asked, throwing a mock glare toward the doorway.

“Nah,” I said. “I have an assassin on retainer now. He’s scheduled to take care of him on Sunday. What are you doing here anyway?”

“I just wanted to check on you,” Emily said. “You sounded like you could use a friend when we talked the other day. Mom is still a little hurt that she had to find out about the whole money thing on the news.”

“I hope she knows how it feels.” I retorted. “I got the whole story from my lawyer.”


“No. Don’t worry about it. We hashed that out on the phone already. She’ll be fine.”

Emily nodded and fell silent as she stared at me, and I simply looked back. Before it got too awkward, I decided to move things along, “How’s dad handling it all?”

“Well. He says he trusts you know what you’re doing, but that if you need to talk, you know how to find him. He also said ‘Tag. You’re it.’”

“Yeah. We keep missing each other. I should probably talk to him, seeing as this is all because of who my biological father is.”

“I don’t think that’s bothering him too much,” Emily said. “He knows who your actual dad is.” She pressed on. “He told me Richie is excited, and he won’t shut up about expecting something amazing for Christmas this year.”

That scanned. Richie was our precocious, seventeen-year-old brother and had the most potential among the kids. He was smart, charismatic, and athletic. He played baseball and basketball for his high school and was on track to get into Rhode Island on an athletic scholarship, where he planned to study biochemistry. With a little over a decade between us, we didn’t have as strong a relationship as Emily and I shared, but he was a good kid, and I was proud of him.

I laughed and said, “I’ll make sure it happens.”

“In that case, I expect it too,” Emily needled, but then quickly changed the subject. She already felt indebted to me, and it was always a sensitive subject for her. “Jacob however…”

Ah, Jacob… the black sheep of the family. The guy who had a bus-load of ambition, but almost none of the drive to make it happen. The guy who made me look like I had the business acumen of a Rockefeller. He was already married and had a kid, but couldn’t seem to hold a job for more than six months.

“What about Jacob?”

“I haven’t talked to him, but Hillary says she’s worried about him. She suspects he’s not going to work anymore and says he’s been more moody than usual… especially after he found out about your new situation.”

“Fuck… really? I thought he liked that job,” I said.

“He did for about a month, but that’s the way it goes with him.”

“He’s called me a couple of times, but I haven’t bothered calling him back. I know he’s just going to ask me for money. I’ve been called, texted, and emailed by most of the family, and that’s what most of them have at least hinted at.”

She immediately held up her hands. “Hey. That’s not me. Prospects are improving. I have an audition tomorrow.”

“Em, that’s amazing! What role?”


“Damn! A shot at one of your favorites!”

The corners of her mouth crept up into a pleased smile and she held up crossed fingers.

“Good luck!”

“Thanks,” she said and looked around the dump she briefly called home. “I’m lucky I caught you before you left. Where are you living now?”

A thought hit me. If there was anyone in my family I wanted to show my house to first, it was Emily. “You want to come with me and check it out? I bought it today.”

Emily shrugged and feigned mild disinterest. “I mean, maybe. Is it impressive?”

“It has a garden on the roof,” I said.

The mock indifference dropped as her eyes widened, “Oh shit! I’m in!

“Cool. Let’s go.” The pair of us exited the apartment where we’d both lived for part of our lives, and I shut the door behind us, not bothering to lock it. I gave the wood panel one final look and felt a small twisting in my stomach at the thought that this would be the last time I left this place. I’d done a lot of growing here, and there was something a little painful about leaving this part of my past permanently behind.

Emily started down the hall, her steps quiet, but I hesitated and stared at Phoebe’s door. I gave a silent prayer to whoever was out there that Jim would show her a good time on their anniversary weekend, and that he would turn around and be the husband Phoebe and Nate wanted and needed.

I had my doubts.

“Happy Anniversary, Phoebe,” I whispered and followed Emily down the hall.


Thanks again for reading another installment of the story. If you have any feedback, please feel free to email me. Or if you’re interested in reading any further installments, check out my Patreon at Chapters 15a, 16a, 17, 18, 19, 19a, 19b, and 20 are posted there already. Thanks for your time and cheers!
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