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“I don’t.”

“Then stop picking up the phone.”

“Stop calling me five times in a row.”

She laughed again, and then continued talking as if she hadn’t heard me say that we’d been on the phone for over an hour. For the tenth night in a row she’d decided that “no late phone calls” meant call me anyway, and as much as I wanted to hang up and tell her that I didn’t want to hear about her life outside of the bedroom, I couldn’t do it. For one, the sound of her light and sultry voice—even though she rambled and asked one too many questions, was somewhat calming for my fraying nerves. For two, she was the only woman who could intrigue and enrage me all at once—the only woman who could literally piss me off one second and have me laughing at her the next.

“And that was it,” she said, finally done talking. “Thank you for listening to me again.”

“I didn’t have much of a choice.”

“You could make things even with me, if it makes you feel better.”

“Make things even? How so?”

“Well, I’ve bombarded you with my family drama for the past few days—”

“Past ten days.” I corrected her.

“Okay, okay.” Her laughter came again. “Past ten days. You could tell me something about your family.”

“I don’t have a family.”

“Everyone has a family, Jake. But you know, I bet I could fill in some of the blanks of yours myself, actually.”

I rolled my eyes, but instead of ending this call like I should’ve, I let my intrigue get the best of me. “Try me.”

“Well, you said you were from Missouri on the first night we met and unfortunately back in New York so...I’m willing to bet the ‘unfortunate’ part means either: A) Your family also lives in New York. B) You left your family in Missouri and New York is the only place they won’t come bother you, or C) You’re attempting to repair an estranged relationship with your New York family but it’s harder than what you expected. Which one is it?”

“D. None of the above.”

“Well, it was worth a try.” There was a smile in her voice. “Can I guess again?”

“You can do whatever you like. I’m about to hang up.”

“Wait,” she said. “I only have one more question.”

“Somehow I doubt that...”

“Are you going to the airline’s gala tonight? Since my flight was cancelled, I’m considering going with my roommate.”

“Gillian...” I sighed. “Is this the last late night phone call we’re going to have? It really needs to be.”

“Yes.” She sounded somewhat offended. “I won’t call you again after tonight unless it’s about sex.”

“Thank you very much.”

“You could at least answer my question before you go, though...”

“I’m not sure if I’m going to the gala,” I said finally. “I’m leaning towards no, though.”

“Well, if you don’t go, would you like me to tell you all about it?”

“That’s another question. See you in Atlanta Monday.” I ended the call and leaned back—half annoyed, half aroused. I wasn’t sure if I actually liked her incessant rule breaking or not.

Not wanting to think about it for any longer, I looked outside my rearview mirror. Contrary to what I’d told Gillian, I was already at the gala, watching attendees guard their designer clothes against the light rain.

I considered driving away and acting like this event wasn’t really happening, because I could do without seeing the promised commemoration of Flight 1872 or witnessing the unveiling of a new plane, but I couldn’t get my key to turn in the ignition.

For another hour, I watched more attendees slip inside, watched the rain fall harder against my windows, and as a round of thunder roared in the distance, I stepped out of my car. I walked to the front of the line, and handing my ticket to the security guard, not even attempting to give an apology.

Inside the hangar, grand and glimmering chandeliers hung from the ceiling’s exposed pipes—drenching the room in a blinding white. Ivory clothed tables surrounded the massive stage at the center of the room, and miniature ice sculptures in the shape of aircrafts lined the back wall.

Throughout the room, massive black and white photos played on hanging screens. The pictures all featured various moments from the CEO’s past: He was standing in front of a small white glider at twenty-one years old, tinkering with plane engines and putting together model airplanes with his only son in his thirties, and sitting in a boardroom while starting his own airline at age fifty.

To add to the nostalgic effect, the screens also featured some of Elite’s best headlines, and my blood boiled as if I was reading them all for the first time. I could still vividly remember exactly where I was when each of the stories first appeared in the papers. It was how I kept up with my fucked up family throughout the years, letting the black ink of the press leave bread crumbs the entire way.

As the the final headline and the words, “Nathaniel C. Pearson, CEO of Elite Airways, Credits ‘Family Values’ for the Airline’s Stunning Success,” I felt the same way I did when I was only seventeen years old. When I finally realized that the beloved leader of this airline, my father, was a fucking fraud.

The crowd stood to its feet and applauded loudly—some clinked their cutlery against champagne glasses. As the applause reached deafening levels, my father stepped onto the stage, smiling at his flock of sheep.