Destiny Ever-changing
Author: Tasha Ivey

Chapter 0
Prologue: Laura - It's So Over

Laura:

 

I don’t know what I was thinking. How could I have possibly thought this would end well? After six dreadful months of living in Baltimore, I’ve finally had enough. Enough of this city. Enough of this apartment. And more than anything . . . enough of Alex Walker.

Alex is one of the most sought-after attorneys in Baltimore, specializing in high profile divorces. He is absolutely brutal in the courtroom and has never lost a case; but, most importantly, Alex is an expert manipulator, in and out of the courtroom. He knows what he wants, and no one can stop him from getting it. He has far-reaching power, immense wealth, notoriety, and, for a short while, he had me. 

We were introduced by my best friend, Fawn, at one of those drunken soirées that her company was known for masterminding—I was her "plus one." As soon as we met, I became incredibly enamored with his overpowering magnetism and the way he seemed to command a room when he walked into it. He wasn’t too hard to look at either, if you like that tall, handsome, tanned, and statuesque sort of thing.

But, needless to say, visions of that night don’t dance merrily in my head. The old saying about hindsight couldn’t be more true.

 

“Alex! You made it!” Fawn called across the room, her flittering fingers outstretched over her head in a playful wave. “Let me introduce you to someone.”

She’s doing it again, I thought. Forever her charity case, I can’t ever seem to go out without her setting me up with some random guy.

I grabbed her arm and spun her around to face me as Alex ordered his drink. “Don’t tell me you’re setting me up again, Fawn! You promised you wouldn’t do this again after ‘The Mason Incident,’ remember?”

“Now, Laura, why would you think that?” she inquired with a conniving wink. “Besides, this one is nothing like Mason. Did you look at him? He’s successful, charming, and . . . so gorgeous!”

“He is pretty yummy, I have to admit,” I said, absentmindedly twirling a strand of hair between my fingers, not knowing he had sauntered up behind me.

Alex snickered. “Who’s yummy?”

Great, he heard me. “Umm . . . I 

“Alex!” Fawn interrupted as she elbowed me, forcing the breath that I had been inhaling to escape in an abrupt wheeze.  “You absolutely must meet my dear friend, Laura Carey.”

His eyes traveled up and down my body. “It’s very nice to meet you, Laura. I’ve heard so much about you, and I can sincerely say that Fawn has hardly done you justice.”

“Well, then, you're at an unfair advantage,” I said, trying hard to come up with a blithe response.  “She has never mentioned you, but it‘s nice meeting you, too, nevertheless.”

Fawn’s mouth curled up into a sly grin. “Oh, he’s just an old friend from my college days.”

Seriously?” I retorted. “Fawn, you just graduated two years ago!”

“Well, it feels like an eternity,” she said, playfully smacking my arm and knowing that I had caught on to another one of her schemes.  

Meanwhile, Alex just coolly smiled at me with an almost devious look in his eyes. The look on his face suddenly reminded me of the cunning wolf on those old cartoonsalways trying to lure the sheep into one of his traps. Unfortunately, it was working. 

Ba-a-a-a, I thought, trying not to laugh aloud.

Of course, as I had suspected, our meeting was completely premeditated. Fawn had already told him all about me. She always had this habit of setting me up with her “old friends” when I came up to Baltimore to visit her, which was fairly often. As my life-long best friend, I suppose she thought that her job was to manage my romantic life. Or lack thereof.

She and I grew up together in a practically non-existent town in Alabama; however, she went away to an Ivy League college, got an MBA, and landed a magnificent job with an advertising agency in Baltimore. I, on the other hand, never wanted to leave. I was truly content in that small town, and I cherished being close to my family. Honestly, I couldn't imagine being anywhere else.

Fawn deemed it necessary to get me out of there as often as she could talk me into it. She just couldn’t comprehend why in the world I would want to be there instead of a big city. She and I spoke on the phone every couple of days, and she would tell me about the thrilling life she led and all of the marvelous parties she attended.

That was the motivation for that particular trip. The company she worked for was having a big bash to celebrate landing an important client, so she called and practically begged me to attend the event with her—also promising an exciting weekend of marathon shopping, sinfully delicious food, and, of course, a gracious hostess. I reluctantly agreed. I realized then why she is in the advertising business; the girl could sell anything.

Alex flashed a charming smile. “So, Laura, how about a dance? I can tell you a little about myself, so we‘ll be even.”

“Sure,” I agreed hypnotically. There was just something about that sparkling, perfectly white smile that could make me absentmindedly agree to anything he said.

I remember walking onto the dance floor while the band was playing a soft, spellbinding Jazz number, and I was nervous about getting close to him. But he took my hand and pulled me close, his warm hand pressed into the small of my back as if we had been lovers for years, and he told me a few details about himself. Somehow, he made me feel at ease, and I was rapidly becoming entranced in everything about him: his chiseled features, his flawless smile, perfectly placed blond hair, deep ocean-blue eyes, and the way he moved with such ease and poise.

Then, I noticed that all of the other women in the room were captivated with him, as well. And, of that, he was well aware. He would casually glance in the direction of one of his “groupies,” flash that charismatic smile, and wink at them.

I should have known then; I should have seen it coming.

The relationship started out fairly well. We immediately hit it off at the party, and within a few days he calledand every day thereafter. After just two weeks, he made a surprise visit to Alabama, but I could tell he was not at all impressed with my backwoods hometown.

From that point on, he had me fly up to see him on weekends, and we grew closer and closer. After just three months of seeing each other, he asked me to move in with him in Baltimore. After a lot of thought­­­and staring into those convincing eyes of his—I agreed. I knew I didn’t love him, but I did know that I liked the idea of loving him. I assumed love would soon follow.  ­

Wrong.

The first three months or so were interesting. He and I had very different tastes in home décor, music, clothing, food . . . well, everything. Alex wanted nothing but the best, and money was no object. I, on the other hand, tend to be more frugal, which would cause arguments.

To make up for our disagreements, he regularly bought extravagant gifts and elaborate floral arrangements for me, which is enough to make most women swoon. He just said I was still trying to live a small town life, and I needed to grow accustomed to the finer things. I tried to go along with it, thinking that he was probably right. Although, I often wondered what he was doing with me, since he had such exquisite tastes. 

Ah, but therein lies the problem. I soon found out that one of his exquisite tastes was named Jessica. He immediately proclaimed that she had an infatuation with him, and that she was spreading all sorts of untruths about the two of them. Stupidly, I believed him. 

Until last night, that is.

Alex and I had plans to have a quiet, romantic dinner at home and spend some time together. He had been working so much lately that I had hardly seen him over the last few weeks. I had everything planned: I was going to make his favorite rosemary chicken, we would watch a movie that I rented, and I even had something special to wear to bed that night. I was getting the chicken out of the fridge to prepare when my cell phone rang.

“I’m going to be working really late tonight, so don’t worry about making dinner. Actually, it will probably be well after midnight before I make it home, so I guess we’ll need to postpone all of our plans for the night.” Alex blurted out impatiently before I could even choke out my greeting.

“Alex, you told me this morning that you would definitely be home early tonight,” I whined. “I haven’t really seen you in weeks!”

“I know what I said! You know how busy I am right now, and I don’t have time for the guilt trip right now either. Listen, I’ll call you later.”

He hung up the phone before I could say anything else. I stomped back into the kitchen and threw the chicken back into the fridge, slamming the door with such force that it flew back open, and my ceramic magnets went flying and broke into pieces as they hit the floor.

I, then, directed my anger toward the oven. When I went to turn it off, I unintentionally twisted the knob so hard that it popped off into my hand, and I threw it across the kitchen, where it bounced off the recently painted wall and landed among the broken magnets in a bizarre Picasso-like mosaic. I paced around the kitchen trying to calm down, stopping occasionally to pound my fist on the cold marble countertop and rant furiously.

Once my temper tantrum subsided, I just felt sorry for myself, and I decided that I had to get out of the apartment. I rarely left without him since he insisted that I not work, and I didn‘t know many people. Fawn had been so busy with work the last several weeks, that we barely even had time to talk on the phone, much less go out. As a result, I was more than ready to get out and socialize with someone other than his five-thousand dollar tropical fish named Armeus, who had, unfortunately, become my only company lately.

Finally, I decided to go out and see a movie that I had been dying to see; he had been working too much lately to take me to see it. The theater was merely five blocks from our apartment, so walking would be somewhat effortless. I never walked anywhere alone, but I hated driving in the city, and I never could get comfortable with a total stranger driving me around in a cab.

Since the sky was clear, the warm, spring evening was ideal for a walk. I leisurely strolled along, doing a little window shopping since I had plenty of time to spare before the movie began, and I eventually came to the quaint Italian restaurant that Alex and I frequented, thinking that I would stop by later and grab some pasta to take home. I would be eating alone again, and there was no sense in cooking just for myself.

Bernard, our favorite waiter, noticed me walking by, waved awkwardly, and quickly darted back toward the kitchen. Confused, I turned toward him, smiled, and returned the gesture, which he seemed in too much of a hurry to notice.

And just as the cliché gods would have it, as I turned to resume my walk, something oddly familiar caught my eye, and I stopped. I walked closer to the window and looked toward the back of the restaurant where I saw Alex—and Jessica, who, I later found out, lived in the apartment right above the restaurant. No wonder Alex went there so much. They were looking pretty cozy as they cuddled at the back table, drinking wine, and whispering into each other’s ears.  Then, I saw him lean toward her, put his hand on her blushed cheek, and kiss her deeply.

She’s the infatuated one, huh? I thought as I stood there with my mouth gaping. 

Just as I finally began to walk away, Alex saw me. We looked at each other for what felt like an eternity, and I suddenly felt claustrophobic, a whirlpool of panic and pain sucking me in deeper and deeper. Everything started spinning, and I couldn’t catch my breath. Just as tears started stinging my eyes, I fled the scene of the crime, and, of course, he followed me.

The entire way home, he attempted to explain himself in a way that made his infidelity sound like no big deal—and he failed. I didn’t say a single word; I just concentrated on each feeble step I took, willing myself to think of anything other than the monogamously-challenged tool behind me. When we reached our apartment, I walked straight into the bedroom and sat at the foot of the bed, trying to regain my composure, where he joined me in silence.

“I’m moving back home tomorrow,” I said indifferently after several minutes.

“I thought you might. I’m sorry for everything, baby, but I just

“Just nothing!” I interrupted, jumping up off the bed and pacing the floor as a sudden surge of adrenaline and fury took over my body, recoiling from his failed, pathetic apology. “There’s absolutely nothing you can say to justify what you did, and I refuse to sit here and listen to your lies and excuses again! You are a self-centered, pompous jerk, and I‘m finished trying to convince myself otherwise!”

“Come on, honey. Are you sure that’s how you feel?” He walked up behind me and started caressing my shoulder.

Without saying a word, I spun around, slapped his hand off me, and glared at him. 

And that was it. He grabbed some clothes and said he would go to a hotel for the nightHotel a la Jessica, I’m sure. Then, he walked out without saying another word. I thought for a minute that I would really lose it, but no tears ever came. What came was relief, oddly enough. 

Now, after looking back on last night’s drama, I can’t wait to get out of here. I take one last look around at this elaborate apartment. The sun is coming up now, and it's casting a warm orange glow throughout the room, but no amount of sun in this place can make it feel warm. It is so full of material things, but so devoid of life or emotion.

This has been my home for a short six months, and I couldn’t be happier to leave it, as it has never felt like a home. With everything packed into my car, I look over my shoulder, say goodbye to Armeus, and walk out of that apartment for the last time.

 

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