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Hayes ch 2

I drive to the gym after work, stifling my irritation as I walk in. I tend to get treated like a conquering hero in places like this—you get papped with a few young actresses and suddenly you’re celebrated for all the wrong things. 

Or perhaps they’re the right ones. I want to make sure no female expects anything of me, and my reputation nearly guarantees they will not. 

“How’s the new hire?” asks Ben, friend and occasional attorney.

Ah, yes, the bartender. I still don’t understand what Jonathan was thinking, hiring her after he told me to stay away. He claims he “forgot”. 

“Let’s just say it’s going to be a very long six weeks,” I reply, scrubbing a hand over my face, hoping he’ll let the topic go. Because Ben can sense a lie of omission before you even realize you’ve told one, and it’s possible I’m leaving a lot out.

What would have happened if Jonathan hadn’t texted after I walked into the bar last winter? If I hadn’t noticed the fragile thing resting just behind her eyes, and known deep in my gut that I was wrong for her?


I’ll never know. But my curiosity about her has been like an itch sitting just under the surface of my skin ever since, and now it’s worse than ever, a sharp edge I need to dull as soon as possible. I have a feeling it will take more than a hard workout to get it out of my system, just like it did last night. 

“So what’s the deal?” asks Ben, stacking weight on the bar. “Is she incompetent?”

“Probably. And she has a smart little mouth, which is never a desirable quality in an assistant.” 

Ben sets his weights down. “Fire her,” he says. “I can look over the contract, but it shouldn’t be an issue. Personal assistants are a dime a dozen.” 

He’s absolutely right. There’s no reason to torture myself until Jonathan gets back. Except there’s a part of me—a terrible, self-destructive part—that doesn’t want to send her away just yet. That wants to see what might unfold, wants to understand what Jonathan means by all this. 

I think of her this afternoon—all luminous skin and lush lips, clasping her hands in front of her, saying I disposed of her, just like you asked. If she’s already messing with me on her second day of work, God knows I’ll be entertained, if nothing else. 

“She’s...amusing,” I tell him, with a calculated shrug. “I think I’ll see how it goes.”

He looks at me for a long second and then he grins. “You like her, don’t you?”

Yes. “No.” 

I’m the last thing she needs, yet every bone in my body wants to pursue her. 

So I’ll just keep making myself so repugnant she’d never say yes. 


It’s the downside to any profession: once you are trained to look for a problem, you can’t stop spotting it. Writers are irked by the misuse of words. Speech therapists are triggered by tiny lisps no one else even notices. 

And plastic surgeons? They hate unsubtle surgery. 

The woman across from me is beautiful, but she is ninety percent manmade and it shows. She has breasts too big and bulbous for her frame, the same nose Richard Peters gives every single patient. 

I close my eyes and picture Tali. Her face, for me, is pure fucking relief—lovely and absolutely untouched. I find myself wondering how to replicate it, except what makes it so appealing, so refreshing, is that it can’t be made again.  

There are times when I wonder what might have happened, had I met her first, before what Ella did made me this way. Except the problem, according to Ella, is that I was flawed from the start: the only person you’re capable of loving enough is yourself, she said. And I wanted to argue—years later, I still want to argue—but I only seem to find more proof she was right.

Nicole, my date, is still talking about some property she’s selling in Hollywood Hills, though it’s more about her than the house—her Bottega-Veneta handbag snagged on a bush outside, she was in five-inch Louboutins and this house had so many stairs. 

It’s par for the course. I see women who don’t expect anything from me, and that’s mostly women who want to talk about Louboutins and Bottega-Veneta handbags, who want to namedrop every single person in Hollywood they’ve even had passing contact with, the same way they’ll drop my name later on. It is, I hope, an even exchange. I just don’t know why, tonight, I am thinking about how bored I am, analyzing it. 

I’m not drinking enough, clearly. 

I catch the waitress’s eye and lift my glass. I’m already on my fourth scotch, which means it’s going to be one of those nights—something will be broken and clothes will line my floor and the new bloody assistant will undoubtedly have an acerbic comment about all of it. Honestly, for as much as I’m paying her, you’d think she’d manage to keep her opinions to herself, though some small part of me likes that she doesn’t.

And here I am, thinking about her again.

The goal tonight, just like last night, is to try to get her out of my system. And if I can do it in a way that reminds her what a louse I am, all the better. 

“You seem tired,” Nicole says. “I know how to liven you up.”

She shows me a picture of her friend Nina, and I feel that small charge at the base of my spine. The same one I’d get as a first year when my history teacher would lean over and expose her cleavage to the entire class. Sex and the prospect of it is a delicious anesthetic, making you forget every worry, every other line of thought. 

In no time at all, Nina arrives, and she and Nicole begin talking about some invitation-only club off the strip. I’m tempted to text Tali and ask her to get us an invite. It would be abominably rude of me, texting this late, and yet I sort of relish her irritation. Just thinking of it gives me a bit of that same charge I got from Nina’s photo. 

Except I don’t want to go to the club. I just want to annoy my assistant.

Me: Tired of Macallan. You’re a bartender. What’s the most irritating drink we can order?

Tali: It’s called The Hayes. At least that’s what irritates me personally. 

Me: Always so sharp-tongued.

Tali: Yes. Like a snake. And you’re Satan, so it’s perfect for you.

Me: Your tongue is perfect for me? Say more.

Nicole and Nina seem to realize they’ve lost me. They begin talking about the many times they’ve hooked up with each other, and a third friend they can invite. Which is when I realize I’ve got two beautiful women with me, and I’m sitting here flirting with my very off-limits assistant. 

And it’s possible she was flirting back. 

We are going down a very bad path, and it’s imperative I remind her exactly what I am—a dead end, capable only of the sickeningly shallow. How inconvenient, I think, looking at Nicole and Nina, that I no longer have the stomach for it. 

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