How to Marry a Billionaire
book one of the
operation billionaire trilogy
This is the start of my happy ending, but I'm oblivious. I'm just seeing the sad, sad, sad ending I'm drowning in. I figure I'm screwed, but not in a good way. I have no idea that a month from now I'll have it all. But now, well, now I can't stop crying.
"You have snot on your cheek."
I have snot on my cheek.
"There. Right there."
The stranger at my door is being kind. Not only do I have snot there, but I have it there, there, and there. How could I not? There's not enough Kleenex in the world to wipe up my... My sadness, desperation, panic, regret, hurt, rip out my heart, stomp on my joy, eat three pounds of M&Ms deep, deep depression.
I grab a handful of the hem of my GAP blue T-shirt with sardine stains on the front after a particularly bad evening and wipe my cheek.
"Better?" I ask.
He arches an eyebrow, c***s his head to the side, and shrugs. "I don't want to throw up any longer."
That's better than nothing. At least I don't make a man want to vomit. Tears sting my eyes and roll down my almost clean cheeks. I'm never going to attract a man again. I had a man-the perfect man-but now he's gone, and I'm left with stained, clearance item clothing, over-active tear ducts, and boogers on my face.
"Beatrice Hammersmith?" the man at the door asks me.
"Yes," I sob. I'm Beatrice Hammersmith, but I wanted to be Beatrice Kennedy, the last name of the perfect man who left me. And before that I wanted to be Beatrice Nicholson. And before that, Beatrice Johnson. And before that, five more before thats. All wonderful, beautiful men who left me and left me with nothing.
"Here you go," he says, handing me a manila envelope. He's a courier, and he's tall and wearing a ski hat, even though it's July, and we're having a heatwave here in Los Angeles.
I shake my head and slip my hands behind my back, refusing to take the envelope. "What's that?"
He waves it under my chin. "Take it. Take it."
"No. No. No."
He rolls his eyes at me, even though he's the one dressed for snow in the middle of the valley in ninety-degree weather. "When it's over, it's over," he says, wisely, like he's Yoda and I've failed Jedi school.
I know it's over. It's really over. The perfect man sent me the "I never loved you" text while I was at work and when I got home, my Pottery Barn-decorated home had turned into an empty two-bedroom apartment. Completely empty. He took the furniture, the area rugs, and the dishes. Even the lightbulbs were gone.
But I keep looking out the window and listening at the door, waiting for his perfect self to come back to me, to bring back my bread maker and loveseat and to tell me that it was all a mistake, that he really does love me. That I'm the only one for him. But he hasn't come back. Instead, there's the stranger at the door with the envelope.
"But..." I say.
"Over," he repeats and tucks the envelope under my shirt. He waves goodbye and skips down the hall and out of my life.
Just like every person I meet with a p***s.
I rip open the envelope. Order to evacuate. There's a lot of fine print, but the bold is pretty clear. I have a week to get the hell out of my love nest. Like the pathetic dumped woman I am, I scan the envelope for personal notes from him, an "I miss you" card or an "I really do love you" Post-It note. Something. Anything. A tiny sign that I'm love-worthy.
I tear apart the envelope, searching the corners, but there's nothing except for the scent of rejection and downtown law office.
Because he's a lawyer. A perfect lawyer.
Missed it by that much.
My phone rings, and I jump for it. "Ms. Hammersmith?" a man asks. He informs me about my maxed-out credit cards. A little voice in my head chastises me for letting my perfect boyfriend borrow my three Visas.
"Nobody loves me," I tell the debt collector.
"So, can you send a payment today?"
I hang up the phone and toss it on the floor next to the order to evacuate. I grab my purse and evacuate my apartment.
A week early with nowhere to go and snot on my face.
"What are you doing?" my mother asks.
"I'm having a nervous breakdown. It's very time-consuming. Leave me alone."
"No, I mean, what are you doing right this second?"
I may be sitting on my cold kitchen tile, eating Cheez-Its off of the floor, but I won't admit it. "I'm cleaning," I say.
My mother taps the heel of her glittery blue house slipper. She's a big believer in couch potato fashion... Housecoats, slippers, the occasional head of curlers. She's always on top of her housewife couture. Mom has been living with me ever since the evil monster, lowlife, sadistic jerk from h-e-double-toothpicks left me and our four kids. That was a month ago, and I've only seen my mother dressed in actual outside dress clothes three times since then.
"You're eating cookies from off the floor," she accuses.
"They're not cookies. They're a wholesome cheesy cracker."
"Wholesome" is a stretch, but I don't drink or take drugs. So, this is it. I refuse to be criticized for eating Cheez-Its or Ho-Ho's or Nutella sandwiches. I deserve it. A woman's got to cope, right? Some meditate; I carbo load.
My mother picks up my two-year old son Ronnie, who has been eating Cheez-Its off the floor with me. Oh yeah, did I mention that?
"I'm worried about you," Mom says.
"The baby knocked the box off the counter. I didn't pour them on the floor for him to eat," I explain. I mean, I do have my limits.
"You have a beautiful body. You can get another husband," she says, but she's distracted when the theme music to Judge Judy comes on the television in the other room, which is this room, too...It's a kitchen, dining room, living room combo.
"I have stretch marks. There's a map of Los Angeles on my belly."
Besides, I don't dare go near another man. I have super, bionic, Olympic-miracle ovaries, and I get pregnant if a man even sneezes near me. My last two children were conceived while I was on the pill and the monster was wearing double condoms.
I have alien Thor-like ovaries.
Superman, Batman ovaries.
I carry pregnancy tests in my purse, and I throw a party when I get my period...which is not often.
"I don't need a husband," I say with all the dignity I can muster sitting on my knees on the floor with cracker crumbs in my bra. "I'm going to make it on my own."
But she's gone, walking like The Walking Dead toward live flesh, but in her case, it's a loud woman in a black robe on TV that's got her attention. I watch her put the baby on the floor -carpeted this time-and give him a toy fire truck to play with and then she plops down on the couch and turns up the television to blaring levels. I'm not a fan of the show, but I figure my mom relates to Judge Judy's robe.
With baby Ronnie occupied, I drag myself up and shuffle my bare feet to the kids' bedroom to check on them. Children one and two-Mick and Keith--are playing with Legos, and number four Bianca is asleep in her crib.
It's like a disruption in the space-time continuum. A disturbance in the Force. Normally, it's never peaceful in the two-bedroom apartment I share with my mother and four children under five years old. The quiet is so odd that I almost check them for fevers, but I decide to accept this moment of quiet and serenity and leave well enough alone. Besides, the doorbell rings, and I answer it.
I'm surprised to see the private investigator, who I hired to find the monster. He's old and short with garlic breath and no neck. He's not exactly Magnum PI, but he was cheaper than everyone else. I guess good looks cost extra. Typical. But I'm filled with a rush of hope. He hands me an envelope and eyes my orange-stained cleavage.
"Is this his address?" I ask, holding up the envelope. The PI's been looking for the monster for two weeks. My ex-husband left without a trace, and I'm living off of my mother's disability check and selling all of my belongings, including my shoes, one by one, in order to pay for baby formula and Cheez-Its. I won't ask for government assistance until I'm sure that I can't get the monster to give me support.
So, I'm down to two-hundred and fifty dollars and a pair of Uggs.
"No, that's your bill. Mr. Skeazo disappeared without a trace. I thought I tracked him down in Nevada, but he's on the run. He's smoke. He's a ghost. He's never coming back."
I don't want him to come back. I want him to pay child support. Four kids worth of child support. Enough child support so that I can wear shoes and pay the electric bill. Maybe I could get my car back, too.
"You're not giving up, are you?" My voice comes out an octave higher than normal. I'm panicking, and it's constricting my airwaves. My blood pressure must be through the roof.
"I feel sort of guilty about taking any more of your money," he says, eyeing my cleavage, again. "This is a dud case. Just give up. He's not worth it."
He is worth it. He's worth child support. I can't find a job that will pay enough for childcare. I'm in a Catch-22 situation. Can't afford to work; can't afford not to work.
"Please," I moan, but he shakes my hand and says goodbye.
I'm so screwed.
I watch the back of the private detective as he walks away, and all hell breaks loose. My four children start crying at the same time. There's all kinds of hungry, dirty, and tired going on, and for the first time since I became a mother, I can't hack it.
Maybe it's the five years of sleep deprivation. Maybe it's the overriding sense of doom. Maybe it's the knowledge that I can't find a job where I can take four children to work with me. Whatever it is, I give up. I can't take it. I can't change another diaper. I can't read "Goodnight Moon" one more time. I have to get some air.
I need a break.
"Can you watch the kids for a little while?" I ask my mother and leave the apartment without waiting for her answer.
I riffle through my Birkin bag for a bottle of Xanax. "I know you're in here, you little bastard," I say out loud in the office bathroom. I've already checked under the stalls to make sure that I'm alone because there's no way that anybody's going to see this junior executive, who wants to be a senior executive, freak out.
And by freak out, I mean, take a sledgehammer to the walls, scream "go to hell" at every member of the board, throw the Xerox machines out the window to crash down the twenty flights to the ground below, and pee into the punchbowl, which is on the conference room table to celebrate Howard Ward's promotion.
Howard son-of-a-bitch, stole-my-promotion, insipid, vapid, kiss-ass, Ward.
I toss my cosmetic bag, wallet, and a bottle of TUMS out of my purse and into the sink, as I try to find the Xanax. "Don't freak out, Rosalind," I tell myself in the mirror. I still look like a good corporate soldier...put together, clothes pressed, and eyeliner in place, but there's a touch of crazy rage oozing out of my eyes, and it's just a matter of minutes before I blow.
Don't blow. Don't blow, I urge myself. Daisy Ford in marketing blew three months ago, and we never heard from her again. I heard rumors that she was sent to corporate Siberia...Detroit.
I can't go to Detroit. I don't like the cold, and I'm determined to get to the top of this company. At least, I need to get above where I am now.
Where I'm stuck, now, I mean.
Stuck and pounding at the glass ceiling, but the damned thing won't break.
I take a deep breath and search my bag again. It's got to be in there because I put it in my purse when I had to go home for Christmas. Home equals Xanax...always. And today work equals Xanax...so that I don't stab someone with the knife we use to cut birthday cakes. And promotion cakes.
Howard son-of-a-bitch Ward's promotion cake.
"Eureka!" I shout, as I finally pull out the bottle of Xanax. I hug it to my chest, already feeling the placebo calming effects.
I shake it gently, and it sounds like it's almost empty. But it can't be. It was full just a couple of weeks ago. Opening it, I'm stunned to see that I'm down to two measly pills. Just how many did I pop at Christmas?
But I look on the bright side: there's two pills, and two will just have to do. I empty the sink and put my stuff back in my purse. I turn on the tap, thrilled that in just a few minutes I'll be able to cope through the miracles of modern medicine.
Oh, chemicals, how I love you!
I open the child safety bottle top, getting calmer by the second. I pour the two pills out, but I overshoot my hand, and I watch with incredulous horror as the two little white pills drop into the stream of running water and with a whoosh! go down the drain.
"No, no, no," I moan and go after the pills, scooping out water and dipping my fingers into the drain.
Of course, I don't retrieve them. My calm and non-crazy is on its way to the Pacific Ocean, leaving me with all kinds of crazy.
In a crazed fury, I slap at the water, spraying it all over the bathroom, including the Birkin Bag that cost more than my first car.
My brain has made the jump from educated, intelligent, sophisticated thirty-five-year-old woman to Frances, post-lobotomy. Carrie Fisher after Star Wars. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, but wayyy over. I've escaped from my straitjacket. Quick, someone get some mattresses and cover the walls.
I'm going to freak out. I'm going to blow.
I'm probably drooling, but I'm not sure because I've splashed the whole front of me, and I look like I took a dip in the employee pool with my clothes on.
The door opens-of course-and Dana White, the boss's executive assistant walks in. She's the gatekeeper to the billionaire owner of California Equity, the company I've been working at since I graduated college fourteen years ago.
Dana White hates me.
Dana White has blocked me at every step as I've tried to advance. Even though I work seventy-hour work weeks--even through mono and an appendicitis without ever going on vacation--she has prevented me, as I've tried every which way to get the boss's attention, to get the appreciation I deserve.
And the promotion.
But I didn't get the attention, and I didn't get the promotion. The promotion went to Howard Ward, the weasel, fink thief jerk who stole my ideas and went to the top. My top.
The top that was supposed to be mine.
But I don't have a top, now. I'm topless. I've only got bottom and plenty of it.
I'm topless with a big bottom.
"What on earth is going on in here?" Dana demands.
I quickly turn off the faucet. "The plumbing all went to hell," I lie. I take a handful of paper towels and dab at my blouse.
"Another stupid chocolate cake with poisonous frosting," Dana complains, checking herself out in the mirror before walking into a stall.
It's the most that Dana has deigned to say to me in months. The gatekeeper of the corner office, the bodyguard of the helipad, has conveniently ignored me, more or less for over a decade.
I want to complain to her, to tell her that I deserve the stupid chocolate cake with poisonous frosting, not Howard Ward. I want to give her a color-coded, bullet point list on a PowerPoint of all the wonderful things I've done for the company. I want to get in her face, wag my finger under her nose, and read her the riot act, demanding that I'm promoted to senior vice president in charge of promotion and marketing immediately.
Come on, Rosalind, I tell myself, grow a pair.
But I don't grow anything. I let Dana pee in peace and quiet, and I walk out of the bathroom. Tranquilizer-less, I cannot celebrate the promotion that I should have gotten. I can't face my colleagues in a non-altered state. Not without melting down.
Before I blow, I blow out of the office, walking toward the elevator as the sounds of "He's a Jolly Good Fellow" filter out of the conference room.
I walk in a fog of rejection. I'm not aware of my surroundings, just that I need to get away from the apartment that's not mine anymore, away from the hurt of being thrown away.
I put one foot in front of the other, a notch above zombie speed. With each step, I hear the little high school counselor in my head say, "You're alone. You're a failure. Nobody loves you." I hate the little high school counselor in my head. Why is she in my head?
Now I'm worried about my head.
Not knowing how far I've gone or how I've gotten here, my tired feet wake me out of my haze just long enough to realize that I'm in a small park in the middle of three office buildings.
I've graduated from sad to sad and lost. All I see are glass buildings, concrete, and a patch of nondescript, pathetic green. I could be anywhere, which is as good as anywhere, so I sit on a park bench and take a load off.
"May I sit here?" a young woman in yoga pants and a man's golf shirt asks me. I nod, and she sits next to me, grabbing one of her bare feet. "Next time I run away, I have to remember to wear shoes," she says, dusting off the dirt from her foot.
Running away must be on the menu today. Two women running away from life at the same time...what are the odds?
"I'm running away, too," I say.
"Olivia," she says, offering me her foot hand. I shake it and dust my hand off on my pants.
I introduce myself. "My boyfriend left me and took my Keurig with him."
She nods, as if she wishes she had a nickel for every time she's heard that story. "My husband got me pregnant four times and disappeared. I heard a rumor that he went off with a teenager named Tiffany. She's a cheerleader. Rex always liked pom-poms."
"You win," I say. I can't compete with four babies and a pom-pom-bearing Tiffany. Neither can Olivia. She looks like she got run over by a Mac truck.
Wow, marriage is rough.
Olivia and I lock eyes, and there's a current of understanding between us. I know where she's coming from, and there's no doubt in my mind that she knows where I've been. We have a cosmic connection. We've found each other in the middle of nowhere. "I don't know where I'm going," I admit.
"I have to get home in two hours, or my mother will either call social services or lock my kids in the closet while she watches Entertainment Tonight."
My eyes well up, thinking that I have nowhere to go and nobody loves me. And I want to want to watch TV, too. "I'm an E! Television fan, I have to say."
"I like Game of Thrones, but I can't afford HBO, and I fall asleep at seven every night," she says and bursts into tears. I pat her back and hand her a Kleenex that I find in my purse.
While we're blowing our noses and dabbing our eyes, a woman in an expensive suit and shoes stomps toward us, kicking up dust. One hand is clutching onto a Birkin bag, and the other is swinging like she's marching in a Soviet parade in Red Square.
"They can take their cake and shove it," she yells.
My ears perk up. I would kill for cake, especially one with chocolate frosting.
"Can I sit here?" she asks and sits down next to Olivia before we have a chance to respond. She glances at Olivia's bare feet and at my stained t-shirt. "They're going to have to beg on their hands and knees for me to come back," the businesswoman announces.
"Is that a Birkin bag?" Olivia asks her, perking up. "I've only seen one on s*x and the City."
"Dress for success, they say. Ha! I'm all kinds of dressed for success, but where has it gotten me?"
"You're on a park bench with two women who're running away," I tell her. "Well, sort of. Olivia has to be back in a couple hours or her kids will get locked in a closet, and I have to get to work in the morning, but I've nowhere to sleep."
"I've got all kinds of places to sleep. If I slept for the rest of my life, nobody would care." She's fuming. Her face is red, and her lipstick has escaped her lips in an angry line. She's scary, but stinks of desperation just like me and Olivia, and I feel an instant kinship to her, even though her shoes cost more than a month of my salary. The three of us are like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
We fit together.
"I'm Beatrice, by the way. My boyfriend dumped me, stole all of my belongings, and threw me out of my apartment," I explain.
"Bummer," she says. "I'm Rosalind. I'd give you a Xanax, but I'm out."
I can't express how disappointed I am that she's out of Xanax.
"My husband ran off and left me with four kids under five and not a penny to my name," Olivia says, introducing herself.
"Rough," Rosalind says. "I've worked fourteen years making a billionaire richer without any recognition. I've got tire tracks on my back because I've been run over so many times. I may seem like I'm Hillary Clinton in a nicer suit, but I'm really a big, fat wimp. I'm tired of waiting for a man to make my life better."
She doesn't seem like a wimp, and there isn't an ounce of fat anywhere on her. But I believe her anger and desperation. Somebody has blocked her from her passion, and she's stuck in frustration, with an eye on the prize but paralyzed to claim it. It sounds so familiar.
"In my experience, you'll be waiting a long time for a man to make your life better," Olivia says.
I nod. "My last man maxed out three of my credit cards. And broke my heart."
"Men suck balls," Rosalind announces.
"And they get you pregnant. A lot," Olivia adds.
Rosalind gasps. "Bite your tongue."
"I love love, but love keeps biting me in the butt," I say, and a tear pops out of my eye and rolls down my cheek.
We sit in silence for a moment, and I think about love and men sucking balls. It's probably the lowest point in my life, where I have nothing and no one, and love seems like a fairy tale that only comes true for princesses who can sing. I thought puberty was bad, but being twenty-eight years old blows chunks. Despite being stuck in this deep trough of helplessness quicksand, however, I'm warmed by the two helpless women who share the park bench with me.
We're Gloria Steinem's worst nightmare, but we want to be the Three Musketeers of female empowerment. I'm sure of it. It's like a bolt of lightning has hit me and told me so.
Or I have a hunger headache. I haven't eaten all day, and I could really go for a sandwich. Or a lasagna with ice cream and Cheetos for dessert.
A seagull lands on the patch of green in front of us and eyes us, like he's judging us or we've stolen his bench. It's a sign for us to move on.
Rosalind is probably thinking the same thing because she asks, "You want to get drunk?"
The hopeful part of my brain kicks into gear, and I drool, slightly. Yes, I want to get drunk. I want to get drunker than drunk. I want to get Charlie Sheen winning kind of drunk. "I want a w***e Margarita," I say.
"Tequila without the margarita mix. I can get behind that," Rosalind says.
"I want to get drunk, but I don't even have shoes," Olivia says.
"It's on me," Rosalind says. "And I have an extra pair of shoes in my car. Come on. Let's get blotto like the good Lord intended."