Back in my hotel suite, I let the pulsating stream of hot water in the shower pound my aching muscles. Taking two weeks off from training might as well have been a year for all the screaming my muscles are doing as I finally get my ass back to a gym. Although my body may be pissed at me for more than just taking a few weeks off.
The last couple of months I’ve abused it. Trying to avoid the circus that my family’s life became over the last six months, I’ve spent half my recent days ducking from reporters and the other half drinking myself into oblivion. It was the reporters that finally got to me. The ass**les are relentless, pretending to be joggers while I ran my usual path around Arlington Cemetery, only to jump in front of me and snap pictures. The more pissed off they made me, the more money they’d likely get for their shots.
I’ve switched hotels twice in the last two weeks, yet the reporters always find me within a day. I’m the cheese to these damn rats and they seem to sniff out where I am before I can even unpack. People in D.C. know who I am, know who my father is. All it takes is a hundred dollar tip to the bellman and the rats are at the door of my suite pretending to be housekeeping. If I can get to the airport without being followed tomorrow, I might finally get some peace in New York. Nobody will care who I am there. The news moves faster, the pictures from the latest story that ran in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal two weeks ago are hopefully long forgotten.
Drying off after my shower, I make the mistake of turning on the flat screen in my bathroom suite, hoping to catch the day’s market report. I wipe the steam from the foggy mirror and, just as it clears, a picture of dear ole Dad reflects back from the TV behind me. Unable to stand the sight of his groveling, pathetic face anymore, I flip it off quickly, saving myself the pain of hearing some speech a twenty–two-year-old Harvard grad likely prepared. A speech prepared using results from a poll on what could be done to save his ailing career, I’m sure.
Turns out my father, a once upstanding pillar of the community, public servant extraordinaire, Senator Preston Knight, is the opposite of everything he preaches. The man that I grew up admiring, looking up to for his honesty and hard work, is a complete fraud. A fake. A liar. The opposite of everything he supposedly stood for.
Too in awe of the persona that was my father to see things right in front of my eyes, I justified everything I’d seen over the last decade – him not coming home, interns a little too friendly, even the smell of perfume on his suit as he’d quietly slip in through the back door in the morning, still wearing last night’s clothes. I told myself everyone wanted a piece of him, to bask in his light, be near the righteous churchgoing Senator. In reality, it was him that wanted a piece of everyone. Every woman, that is.
Christian values my ass. Six months ago I found out I had a brother. One that is only a matter of weeks younger than me. The love child of a rising Senator and a drug addict stripper. And the best part? My half-brother, the other spawn of Satan himself, is a fighter that just took the middleweight championship. Something I dreamed about when I was a kid, only to be told repeatedly it wasn’t a respectable career by my father. Irony’s a bitch sometimes.
I only wish that’s where the story ended. It seems that once the news of my father’s infidelity broke, there was an endless stream of women who couldn’t wait to share their story. Torrid stories of them and my father. The sick shit he was into, things a kid should never know about their parent, regardless of their age. And the adultery wasn’t even the worst part. Once he was done with the affairs, he discarded the jaded women like trash, yielding his power and clout to threaten them into submission. A liar, cheat, and an abuser.
Lucky me. I look just like him.
Wrapping a towel around my waist, I walk to my ringing cell and answer it, even though I’d rather not.
“Mother,” I answer sternly.
“Jackson, where are you?” She’s done nothing wrong, yet I can’t help but feel resentment toward her. Why is she still standing by his side?
“I’m leaving town for a while. I’m fine.” Intentionally, I fail to mention exactly where I’m going. Who knows if she’d tell him, even if I told her not to.
“Your father and I have been worried sick about you.” Whatever tension the heated shower helped to uncoil quickly ravels its way back through my muscles at the mere mention of Daddy Dearest.
“Maybe he should have thought about us before he decided to screw half the women from D.C. to California.”
“That’s not fair, Jackson.” Really? I thought I was being nicer than even he deserves. I toned down my true feelings out of respect for her.
“I need to go.”
“When are you coming back?”
“I don’t know.”
Mom’s quiet for a minute. For a split second I wonder if, maybe, she finally realizes it’s not just all about Dad. It’s about us, too. The woman has spent her whole life worrying about his career. His reputation. His success. Sometimes I think she’s lost who she is.
“Your father needs us, Jackson. He needs our support now more than ever,” she pauses before going in for the kill. “And the media needs to see us forgive him, if he has any chance of the world forgiving him, too.”
“Goodbye, Mother.” I don’t give her a chance to say anything else before I press end, tossing the phone back on the nightstand.
Feeling more pity than anger after hanging up, I pack my suitcases and don’t bother putting clothes on, or pulling the covers back, before crashing on the big soft bed. Tomorrow I move forward. On my terms. With my own plans. No looking back at the life I once thought I wanted. Because I never really wanted it, he just talked me into believing I did. And you know what? Fuck him.
After the best night’s sleep I’ve had in weeks and a flight that actually lands early, I’m eager to get to the new gym. On the way, I make a few calls, checking in with my CFO and assistant. Lucky for me, I have Brady Carlson. He’s not just my CFO, he’s also my oldest friend. The last few weeks he’s been juggling more than just my once thriving investment firm. Reporters stake out our building, nervous clients call hourly needing reassurance that my family’s bad publicity won’t affect them. It seems my father’s stink has made its way into my business to stay for good. I can hear the stress in his voice. He probably hasn’t slept in a week. I’m definitely going to owe him a six-figure bonus again this year.