The last thing I want right now is a moment alone with my father. I don’t want to hear his explanation for why -- or how on earth -- he was able to keep a relationship with Ella Sterling completely under wraps from everyone, including his own daughter, for the past who-knows-how long. I definitely don’t want a reminder about the significance of his upcoming Senatorial re-election campaign. Or about the importance of decorum and public perception.
Oh my God, public perception. If anyone finds out what happened with Caulter… Before this announcement of my father's, it was just an ill-advised one night stand. A temporary lapse in judgment. My complete loss of sanity. Now, it’s suddenly….incestuous.
My chest feels tight, and I’m having trouble breathing. “I need a minute,” I say as I start to walk away, my body moving of its own accord. “Please.”
I don’t hear what they’re saying. I walk straight out of the room, past the tasteful colonial style furniture placed for show, not use, that matches the decor of the rest of this perfectly polished house. This is not the place where I grew up, the farmhouse in New Hampshire where I spent my childhood. This is the house where my father moved permanently after my mother died, the DC residence; I was shipped off to Brighton, an inconvenience that simply needed reassigned.
I open the first door I come to at the end of the hallway. It's my father's office, not the bathroom like I'm expecting, but I realize I can't remember where the bathroom is on the first floor. How stupid to not be able to remember where the bathroom is in your own house, I think. But, then, this isn't really my house.
I close the door behind me, sinking against it and shutting out the world, allowing the comfort of the silence to envelop me. The walls are lined with photo after photo of my father with politicians and important people, smiling for the camera and glad-handing, making deals and promises. And on the side of his L-shaped desk, prominently displayed like some kind of trophy, is a silver-framed photo of them. My father and Ella Sterling, their cheeks pressed together like two teenagers, grinning stupidly for the camera they're holding out in front of their faces.
I have the impulse to go over to the desk, to pick up the picture and smash it, to throw it to the ground and watch the glass shatter into a million pieces. But I don't. Katherine Harrison would never do something like that.
Of course, Katherine Harrison wouldn't have slept with someone like Caulter Sterling, either, with his tattoos and piercings and I don't give a fuck attitude. He blew into Brighton Academy like a damned tornado. His reputation preceded him, but Caulter was a force all on his own. Like some kind of unnatural phenomenon.
I was predisposed to hate him, but even if I hadn't known anything about him, I'd have despised him on sight, with his meticulously torn jeans and t-shirt with the design faded into oblivion in spots, smudged so it appeared vintage but was really some piece of designer schlock paid for by his mother who made all the money in the world. He reeked of angst and disdain for authority, and immediately offered my best friend Sara a private tour of his new dorm room. She declined and he'd laughed, then winked and made sure to extend the offer to me. If I could have rolled my eyes any harder, I would have sprained them.
Over the next two years, Caulter pretty much proved every prior tabloid article written about him right, racking up infraction after infraction at school -- underage smoking, drinking, drugs, girls in his room -- all of which were summarily swept under the rug, of course. Donations were made. It helped that Caulter’s insolence was intermittent; he was one of those guys who could charm the pants off anyone he wanted. Obviously, I mean that literally. Caulter made it through most of the females in the senior class -- not Sara, but I'm pretty sure if she weren't utterly devoted to her boyfriend, she would have jumped at the opportunity. The thing is, even when he showed up two years ago, Caulter had more of a reputation in the bedroom than he had outside of it. What he does with his tongue is the stuff of legend. The thought of him between my legs makes me flush.
The door moves behind me, jolting me out of my thoughts, which is a good thing because I don't need to be thinking about what happened between me and Caulter Sterling. The mere fact that I’ve lost my virginity to him is humiliating enough without even considering the current level of ridiculousness and drama that’s been added to it. Anyway, it's old news. Ancient history. So what if it was only ten days ago? It was one of those things that never should have happened in the first place.
I move away from the door, and it pushes open immediately. I brace myself for the inevitable imminent conversation with my father.