"Perhaps I have not really a good temper at all, but if you have everything you want and everyone is kind to you, how can you help but be good-tempered? Perhaps I'm a HIDEOUS child, and no one will ever know, just because I never have any trials." - A Little Princess
I stood outside, seeing but not quite believing. This was my new home. You'd never think of it to look at me or my humble abode, but I was born to have it all. Born to a family of affluence, my fate was decided long before I even took my first steps. Forget the proverbial silver spoon. Astors did things platinum.
My new digs were very humble indeed. It's hard to imagine that once upon a time, I had closets larger than this shack. In fact, my closets cost more than this entire house. It wasn't too long ago and yet it seems like an eternity. I was a different person then. People always say that trials make you a better person but then again, they're probably the same people who say beauty is only skin deep. Ridiculous adages that are meant to comfort you should probably be left unsaid. Because my imbecile of a father died leaving me penniless and hearing, "he's in a better place" didn't make me feel better at all.
It's easy to be nice when you've been spoiled. And you find out how virtuous you truly are when bad things happen. Will I be able to to take care of myself and become a better person because I know what hardship is? Or will it only make me a hard person because I have never endured any tribulations?
My name is Marilyn Astor. I've practically been an orphan all my life. My mother died when I was a baby and my father left me to spend my childhood with fat, coddling nannies, boarding schools and summer camps. Gregory (I never referred to him as my father - to name him as such would be to acknowledge that he was a parent, and I'm pretty sure being a parent involves much more than just writing a check) was a self-made man. He had married my mother, Georgina Hearst, who already came from money and used her trust fund to start.
Gregory capitalized on the booming economy by investing in large businesses. Then when the recession hit, he got even richer by picking apart the small businesses and selling the pieces off one by one. She was frail even back then and he was foolish. When her health was declining, he waited on her hand and foot while his associates handled our finances and my nannies took care of my newborn self. The associates sold everything and bet the farm by making one very large investment. Luckily my mother passed away before she could see the destruction that was to follow. Gregory declared bankruptcy (back then, you were able to) and I grew up very comfortably indeed, completely ignorant that MY trust fund was supporting us.
When he died, he left me with some pretty astronomical bills and debt. I found out when we were going through the will, that he had never gotten on his feet, never worked or tried to make his fortune back. He didn't compromise his extravagant lifestyle and I was left holding the bag. I sold the mansion and used it to pay off the debt but what was left over was only enough to purchase the servant's quarters across the street from our estate. Dear old dad must have loved two things in life: his money and Georgina, because clearly, he never gave a fig about me.
I'm sorry if I sound bitter. I know I should feel lucky to have a roof over my head. And at least I was able to salvage my books.
But still, it's hard to see the future when you have a plank for a bed...
a refrigerator you have to kick shut...
and the douche who bought your family home happens to be your ex.
"What are you doing here, Tad?" When Gregory had died, all of our friends had turned their backs on me. Except for the lawyers. They stuck around long enough to get their pay for preparing the will and then they too bolted.
"I've come to check up on you, darling." Tad smiled, revealing two rows of perfect, toothpaste commercial teeth.
"And does your lovely wife know where you are?" I asked. Babe Irvine had been my very best friend. And the day my entire world was turned upside down, she showed just how sorry she was by screwing Tad. She was worth $200 million. Her father had been smart to invest in hedge funds.
"Mar, I miss you. You can't imagine what it's like living with Babe!"
I interrupted with an unladylike snort. "Oh trust me. I'm living in this hellhole, aren't I? I'm pretty sure anything is possible these days."
"Marilyn," Tad's beautiful lips curled into a frown. "I'm worried about you."
"Like when you dumped me for my best friend? And bought the house I grew up in? Classy, Tad."
"I was helping you! To say the real estate market is unstable is an understatement and it's shaky at best. If I hadn't bought it, you would have had nothing but low-ball offers. You got the price you were asking for and now, we're neighbors and I can make sure you're taken care of."
I glared at him with all the ferocity I could muster.
Tad gave me a long steady look. "I still love you Marilyn. And I want to be with you."
"You're married, Tad. It's late, you have a wife that you need to get home to and I have to find a job in the morning."
He bit his lip. "You know, a lot of marriages in our world are of convenience. My father wanted me to marry Babe because it would unite our families and secure our future generations. But he had a mistress. So did your father and most of our friend's fathers. It's not uncommon. We can still be together and I can ensure your well-being."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. "That would make me a prostitute?" I asked incredulously.
"No!" Tad denied vehemently. "Do you know what a geisha is?"
"Yes, we watched that one movie in History class."
"Well, the geishas had dannas. They paid for their expenses and loved the geishas very much. It was even socially accepted."
"In the 600's in Japan!" I shouted at him. "Look, this idiocy might work for Babe or any of the other tramps you associate with, but do not insult ME. I will live at the fire station before I ask for anything. Screw you and your archaic beliefs on gender roles!"
He left then, with his tail between his legs and not two minutes later, who was to walk in but Carter Pomeroy, another guy who we had grown up with.
"Mr. Pomeroy." As much as I had adored Carter growing up, my mind was still reeling from Tad's proposition. I wanted to climb onto the concrete slab that was my bed and pass out. What a day.
"I told Tad it was a bad idea but he insisted," Carter chuckled with the laughter of a boy who had never experienced a hardship in his life and the reckless abandon of a man whose future children probably would never have to as well. "I came to witness the carnage."
I couldn't help myself. I giggled. "You devil, you."
"Mar, you alright?", he asked me, putting a hand on my arm.
"What do you think?" I said softly.
"Look, I know we all bailed on you. But we, I mean, I...I didn't know what to say."
"So, starting tonight, I'd like to be your friend again. And I insist on taking you out for drinks tomorrow after your job interview."
I hesitated for a moment, my conversation with Tad flashing in my mind.
"Just as friends?" I asked.
"You bet." And as he pulled me into a hug, I felt like I had gotten my old friend back. I was going to get a job in the morning, I wasn't going to starve and things were going to be okay. It was the first time since Gregory had died that life didn't seem quite so hopeless.