An excerpt from my novel, Among the Ruins (& Billionaires) forthcoming from Deus Ex Machina Press, which will be available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and assorted other booksellers.
I remembered that I hadn’t checked my smart phone all weekend, so I walked to the kitchen to grab it off the counter. It was there, as I had left if on Friday, plugged into its charger. I activated the screen which showed six missed phone calls. I wasn’t expecting that. Four of them were from a high school girlfriend (Millie Hildebrand) with whom I hadn’t spoken since my junior year at Cal. The other two were from my mom.
Millie was an operator, quite a shrewd girl, even though she was a couple years younger than me. She was always up to something and none of it was very good for anyone except Millie. When I left Ohio for California more than five years ago, I had breathed a sigh of relief knowing that I was getting out of her tangled web.
It was difficult to pin down the exact nature of Millie’s shiftiness but nonetheless I’ll try to lay it out. Millie was deceptive about absolutely everything, big or small. She was skilled in the feminine art of trickery; when she opened her mouth, out came three parts truth, two parts bullshit and one part lies — that mix, and make no mistake hers was an expert blend, made her stories extremely hard to debunk, at least in real time. When she was pinned down on a lie or pressed on some bullshit she deftly re-directed to one of the nuggets of truth contained in the whole. Arguing with her felt like dry sand running through fingers. During one stretch of our relationship, for example, Millie Hildebrand would only talk to me on the phone when she was driving in her car, and would only agree to hang out at my parents’ house (never at hers). I found out a year or so later I was getting juggled with another guy. At the same time, she was running a semi-anonymous slut subscription account on social media and selling the content for a subscription fee. To make a long story short, she crafted a Belle Delphine vibe… she made herself look as young and innocent as possible in her free photos but getting, well, very explicit behind her paywall. I don’t know how much of her content sold, but I do know she didn’t have a ‘regular job.’ When I was still at Cal, I remember hearing about a controversy involving Belle Delphine that came about after she posted a kidnapping-bondage-rape porn movie for her subscribers; I thought of Millie when I heard about that one, and that says it all. Everything about Millie and the frantic, uncertain pace of our relationship — the constant bombshells — came back to me when I saw the digital pile of missed calls. Rather than engage further with those thoughts I forced my recollection of Millie Hildebrand out of my head. We hadn’t broken up on the worst of terms, but there was simply no way I would call her back.
I wanted to take a shower and get organized for the work week. But the four prior calls didn’t drain Millie’s battery, and I hadn’t yet moved from the kitchen counter when my phone rang again. Against my better judgment, I gave in to her stubborn persistence and answered the phone.
“Hey Millie,” I said after taking a long breath.