A Contest of Wills: Chapter 3

It was a clear day in Manhattan, and Kyle was actually enjoying the view of Central Park from his living room window. It was rare that he took a moment to just look out and actually see what was there, instead of being distracted by problems at work. He began to wonder if he really needed to go into the office today when he heard the phone ring behind him. He ignored it, and felt a slight stab of irritation when he heard Cassandra pick it up. He really needed to find a graceful way to get back his key; her proprietary attitude toward his apartment, his belongings, and in fact he himself, was beginning to grate on him. He listened to her smooth, polished voice as she spoke to the caller.

“Hello? Yes, he’s here, may I ask who’s calling and what this is in regard to?” Kyle turned to look at her and she held out the phone to him.

“It’s a woman,” she said coldly, “she says her name is Tiffany and you know who she is.” She didn’t try to hide the displeasure in her voice, nor did she cover the receiver, ensuring the caller would hear her ugly remarks and hard tone. Kyle frowned slightly and took the phone.

“That was rude,” he said, not bothering to cover the phone himself. Cassandra pulled herself up to her full height and just glared at him. He turned his back on her and spoke into the phone.

“Yes?” He listened a moment, the frown fading from his face, leaving him expressionless. “Yes, o.k. I’ll leave this afternoon after I make a few calls. I should be there late tonight. I’ll see you then.” He paused for a moment, and his face softened just slightly. “I know, me too. But it’ll be fine. We’ll figure it out when I get there.” He hung up the phone and stood staring down at it. He turned and looked into the obviously displeased face of his girlfriend.

To say Cassandra Sanchez was beautiful would be an understatement. Kyle remembered the first time he asked the model out; he couldn’t believe she’d said yes. Now he only wondered why, after a first date where she’d done little more than talk about herself, he’d kept asking. She was beautiful, yes, but she was also ambitious, spoiled and selfish, and more often than not Kyle simply found her irritating. He wasn’t sure how it had happened, but he could no longer see the beautiful face that so many people coveted on the cover of magazines; over time she had become more and more unattractive in his eyes.

Cassandra was practically spitting as she spoke. “What do you mean you’ll be there tonight? Would you like to explain that one to me? We’ve got that gallery opening and I can’t possible go alone.” Kyle just stared at her, expressionless. Inexplicably, the thought that popped into his head was to ask for his key, so she could no longer let herself into the apartment. But the timing was wrong, and Kyle prided himself on having an uncanny knack for timing. He would have to wait for his key.

“There’s been an accident,” he said, “in Virginia.”

“So? Who was that and why is she calling you?”

He sighed. “Bill and Kate Szczenpanski,” he said, pronouncing the name slowly, “Tiffany’s parents, were in a car accident and they,” he paused for a moment, then shook his head, “they’re dead. I have to go to Virginia,” he paused again and looked around the room, running his hand along the back of his head, “to take care of some legal matters. Their assets were quite valuable.”

Cassandra relaxed her pose for a moment and said, “Well, I’m sorry to hear her parents have died, but what does that have to do with you?”

Kyle shook his head, starting to get impatient. “Apparently she doesn’t have anyone else to call, and I’m familiar with the family and the estate, o.k.? Look, I’ve got to go, her parents have died; can’t you accept that and feel bad for her? Think about someone else?”

Cassandra’s eyes narrowed. “Give me a break Kyle. What, did you have a thing with her or something? How long have you known her?”

Kyle felt something break in his chest. “It’s none of your business,” he snapped. Cassandra’s eyebrows shot up, and she crossed her arms across her chest. He sighed, closing his eyes. In his line of work, emotional outbursts were something he simply could not afford, and he prided himself on staying in control. He needed to calm down before he lost his temper.

“Fine,” she said, dropping on the couch, her legs resting over the arm. She grabbed the remote and turned on the TV. Kyle took a deep breath and then spoke.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “I’ve known her a long time, o.k.? There’s never been anything between us, it’s just that she has no one else to turn to and she needs help sorting through the estate. I shouldn’t be gone long, but I might have to make a few trips back and forth.”

“Whatever.”

Kyle knew that she wasn’t going to let him off the hook, but he didn’t care. He had more important things to worry about, and he needed to get ready to leave. He walked toward the bedroom and called back over his shoulder, “Just go the gallery opening with someone else. I’m sure there’s a dozen people that would love to go with you.”

On the couch, Cassandra rolled her eyes and muttered, “There’s a million men that would give their right arm to spend five minutes with me.”

Kyle walked back out, pulling off his tie. “Cassandra, I don’t know what you want from me. I’ve got to go.”

She turned her head to look at him and gave him a one shoulder shrug. “So go.” They stared at each other for a moment, and then Kyle returned to his bedroom and Cassandra snapped off the TV and stood. She grabbed her purse and called out, “I’m leaving.” She waited, but when there was no response from the bedroom she walked out, slamming the front door as she went.

In the bedroom Kyle sat on the edge of his bed. His empty suitcase sat open next to him, but he wasn’t packing. He sat on the edge of the bed for long time, then sniffed and wiped his eyes. He got up and began looking through his closet, trying to decide what he would need for the trip.

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