The Knowing Ch. 07bypigalle©
A/N Thank you for being patient with me... sometimes I don't think this story is the best choice for literotica, but thanks for reading it anyways.
In Jaan's wildest dreams he had never once imagined it would end the way it did, but now he sat staring out the window in his spartan kitchen wondering how he had managed to fuck it up so badly. It always ended with one answer.
Ten months ago (had it really been that long?), he sat across from Marlena in her lawyer's paneled office and signed away. He wanted her to be happy- she certainly wasn't getting that with him.
He stared at her. Her flaxen hair was cut short, close to her face, her bold hazel eyes stared off into the distance. Not at him but beyond him- truly beyond him, she wasn't interested in anything that he had to say anymore.
"So, we had to bring you all back here to update the terms of the separation." Marlena's lawyer was slick, one of those young up and coming, top of the law firm types who was gunning for partnership. He wore Ralph Lauren Black Label suits, crisp white shirts with spread lapel collars, and sleek leather monk shoes with solid yet subtle brass buckles.
This was the type of guy Marlena should be with.
"Divorce," Marlena corrected him and shifted in her seat. Her usually tan skin was darker, her dark eyelashes framing those eyes that Jaan couldn't look away from. Maybe she had taken a vacation? Damn, she really was beautiful, the slenderness of her wrists, her long elegant hands and perfectly buffed fingernails. She had on a beautiful white dress and sky blue cardigan that belied the 35-degree weather outside. Her entire appearance screamed cleansed. She was getting rid of him.
Marlena's lawyer gave her a glance and a small smile, "That's right the terms of the divorce. Jaan, am I to understand that two weeks ago you sold your stake at the magazine, Echo Point?"
That's right. He was bought out. He had owned 75% of it. And now he owned 0% of it but was suddenly $30 million dollars richer. He had no idea that the magazine was even worth that much. When he had asked for a buyout he was shocked, flabbergasted really, to find out that they would be buying him out for $30 million dollars. He had called Marlena immediately. They needed to renegotiate.
"Yes," Jaan nodded his head at the lawyer and tried to catch Marlena's eyes.
"And was Marlena with you the entire time you worked at this magazine."
"Yes." Well most of it- Jaan had worked there for 15 years, 10 of them he had been with Marlena, 8 of which, they had been married.
"So it seems obvious to us that of this money, she is entitled to half."
"Yes." Jaan wasn't going to fight. He didn't even bring a lawyer. He was more than ready to give Marlena half of the money. 30 million? Jaan had no idea what to do with that kind of money. If she wanted half she could take it. After all she had put up with him for years while he dicked around at that place, coming home late, going to parties, hanging out with B to D list art celebrities. She had married him, stayed with him, loved him, and had always remained vaguely aware, that his heart, his mind, stayed somewhere else.
Marlena looked at him, "Are you serious?"
Jaan smiled at her, he wanted things to be good, "I called you didn't I?"
She shook her head, "You can't just give me 15 million dollars Jaan!" she yelled.
Jaan laughed, "Why not? I want you to have it. This is what we came here for right? To renegotiate? Well that's what I negotiate. You take the $15 million or you get nothing."
Marlena shrunk back away from the table, "Don't be stupid Jaan."
"Only if you don't." he smiled at her.
She looked at him, straight on now, her eyes wide with shock. What exactly was he playing at? Marlena still hadn't figured Jaan out. What exactly was it that he wanted from her? Now, just as at the beginning of their relationship, Jaan was as vague as ever. He called her on the phone to tell her he sold Echo Point, what was she supposed to take from that?
"That's it, I sold Echo Point." He said to her.
"Ok..." Marlena had picked up her phone warily when she saw his name flash up on the screen. She was sitting in their home, the one they had moved into after the engagement. The large, spacious, 3 bedroom in a crown heights, a brownstone, that she had begged Jaan to move to, far away from his shitty LES loft which she hated. It was a four-floor walk-up, drafty beyond all imagination, that stayed below freezing most of the winter and was a humid hot mess during the summer.
They were in the middle of divorce proceedings, they had already been separated for nearly 8 weeks, this after what seemed like 4 years of an endless downward spiral from a marriage that had been barely good for 4 years. So now, after 8 years of marriage, they were getting a divorce.
"I don't know, I'm just- I don't know who else to tell."
"What about your mom?"
"I'll call her later"
"So... How much did you sell it for? Do you think I need to call my lawyer?" The divorce proceedings had been ok so far. Jaan willingly gave up the brownstone in crown heights, along with their car, everything in their shared account, and more than half of what he had in his personal bank account from working at the magazine. There had been no argument whatsoever, which, Marlena hated to admit, made her even angrier about the entire divorce. She was hoping there would be something, some way to get a rise out of him, but so far he had been happy to give her half, (or everything in some cases) of whatever they had shared. That enigmatic, inscrutable gaze of his, the way she was never quite sure with him had always excited her. She never knew what he would say next, or exactly what he was thinking. She spent years with Jaan just trying to figure him out. In the end it was this very inscrutableness, the mystery that made her resent him, it had her hating him to his core.
"I guess." Jaan was quiet for a moment, "I guess, yea, yea you should call him."
"Ok so, I mean, we're not supposed to have contact like this so- I'll just call my lawyer and he can set something up, so we can meet next week and talk about it?"
"Ok, Ok that sounds good."
"Ok, Bye Jaan." Marlena whispered
Now, Marlena continued to stare at him from across the table.
"Take the money Marlena, it's yours." Jaan felt final with his decision. He had had the money for 3 weeks and he was already tired of it.
"So... we're agreed then?" The lawyer said. Jaan looked at him and nodded taking his eyes away from Marlena for a moment and then turning them back to her. She was speechless.
"So $15 million?" Marlena whispered
Jaan smiled slowly, "$15 million"
Now, he sat in his kitchen, a millionaire for the past 10 months, with barely a dime spent, no job, no need for a job, no wife, and no idea what to do with himself. The money lately had seemed more of a burden than a blessing, the dark ennui of his divorce hanging cloudily over his head. The divorce itself well... he felt noncommittal about that. Most of all he just wished he hadn't put Marlena through so much hell. Through years of it really, whether she was aware of it or not. He had loved her. He had been consumed in her as much as he could. He had made his attempts- no he dove into his attempts, living them all as best as he could, until he couldn't do it anymore.
Coffee, he needed coffee.
Getting up off of the barstool in his near freezing kitchen Jaan pulled on his ratty shoes and socks, his giant green parka, headed down the four flights of steps, unlocked his bike and picked it up on his way out of the building.
He rode his bike everywhere now. Even in the dead of February he found himself taking his bike out on long rides around his neighborhood, riding across the bridge and getting lost. He spent even less money on transportation now. Really, he spent almost no money at all, his biggest expense being food (and he ate- at most- once a day). Now that he had it, it seemed it was all he could think about. It was the opposite of what he had assumed would happen after becoming a millionaire.
His first thought when hearing the amount of money he had sold his stake for (a stake which was left for him in an odd twist of events by one of the co-founders, someone he had met only a handful of times, when he died of a drug overdose) was, 'Well, I'll never have to think about this again.' But the reality so far- had been the exact opposite. He was pained daily with the fact that he spent little to no money, but had millions sitting in his bank account.
The first thing he did with his money was pay off any debt he had, which wasn't much. Then he paid off his mother's debt. After that he set up a retirement account for her for 1.5 million dollars and deposited another million into her bank account. Two days later she called him up in a frenzy.
"Jaan!" She yelled at him. His mother had two tones on the phone, really loud or really soft, it seemed she still hadn't figured out cell phones, nor did she care to.
"Jaan there is 1 million dollars in my bank account!" her voice faded away from the phone. Jaan could tell she was driving and he was on speakerphone.
"I know mom."
"I know you know! The bank told me you put it there."
"Mama I told you that I sold my part of Echo Point, I told you what I sold it for and how much I gave to Marlena and what I had left."
Jaan's mother blew out a long breath, "Yes, but what does that have to do with me?"
Jaan's mother was a worker. His whole life she worked. First as a nurse, then as a travelling nurse practitioner, which had her out of the house a lot when he was in high school. Jaan's father had died before he was even born. Suicide, something his mother still wasn't able to look him in the face and talk about, even though she kept a framed picture of him in the house in her bedroom. A picture Jaan looked exactly like. Tall, dark, thick, wavy hair, slightly tan skin, dark circles under his eyes, and one green, one brown eye each so dark they looked nearly black. He was gray now too, at 37, the same age his father had been when he died, a large section of his dark hair had turned salt and pepper gray. He had dyed it for a while, at Marlena's suggestion. It did make him look older, but now that he was at the edge of total disregard for taking care of himself it was completely gray again, and a bit longer than it had been in years. His father had been Cuban, he was pretty sure. His mother never said much about him. He was vaguely aware that the older he got the more his mother had distanced herself from him, completely freaked out by their similarities. Apparently it wasn't just his face, but Jaan had inherited his mannerisms as well. Leaving his mother at a total loss as to what to do with a man who looked like the man she had planned to spend the rest of her life with, but apparently didn't want to spend his life with her.
"Mama, I just wanted to make sure you were ok. I wanted to set you up is all."
"Jaan, I'm already set up!" His mother was 72. She still worked, albeit not as much as she used to, but she was still incredibly active.
"Yes, but I want you to have it."
"I'm not going to stop working."
"I don't want you to."
"I'm just going to die and then you're going to get it all back."
Jaan laughed, his mother had always had an awfully morbid sense of humor, "Well, when that happens, that happens."
"You paid for the house too didn't you?"
He had. It wasn't much, but he had paid the remaining mortgage on the townhouse he grew up in. "Yea, Yea I did. I set you up with a retirement account too, since we're doing confessions."
"Jaan!" his mother shrieked, but she was laughing slightly, "How much?"
"Jaan! I am never going to spend this money! 2.5 million dollars? What am I supposed to do with all that money!"
Jaan laughed at her. He could hear her fiddling around in her car. The ambient noise of the car made her seem so far away. He missed her. Or he missed being young enough to have the excuse to be home, to be in her space, to be around her even if she wasn't there. It seemed the divorce had made him nostalgic.
"I dunno mom, spend it? Give it away? It's up to you really."
Give it away. Jaan had given 6 million dollars away. He gave to charities and scholarship funds, causes he had supported quietly in the city, hundreds and thousands of dollars to refugee crises around the world and natural disaster funds. It seemed he couldn't stop giving. Now 5 million dollars sat locked away in various accounts for his retirement and investment and 1.25 million sat in his bank account almost totally untouched. He could buy property or travel, but he wasn't doing any of it.
In the 10 months since his divorce he had spent his time, sitting in his kitchen and staring out the window, on his bike, sitting in the park, and sometimes hanging out with friends. Besides for the month he spent with his mother, where he slept in his childhood bedroom and relived memories so painful and so beautiful he didn't know whether he wanted to stay longer or leave, he hadn't left the city at all. He had gone to a few parties with friends, maybe more than a few. Old friends from the magazine, who were still living that hard fast life they had enjoyed in their twenties (and Jaan had begun revisiting mid way through his marriage).
He had indeed had sex in those 10 months, with a cast of beautiful 20-something girls, and 30-something divorcee's, who offered every portion of their body to him, always with a lackluster but resilient hope in the back of their eyes. He had sex with Marlena too. That was usually the best, but it confused her. Every time he went over to the brownstone to pick up that one last item he left there, and then ended up in bed with her he knew he was breaking part of her resolve. As much as he liked sleeping with his ex-wife as much as he still loved her and would always love her, he couldn't sleep with her anymore. Not if he really wanted her to be happy like he kept telling himself over and over again. So it was back to the 20 and 30-somethings.
Jaan remembered with a vague disquiet a blowjob he had gotten from a woman last week in a stairwell at his friend's house party, as he pushed his bike toward midtown. The road was filled with the shitty gray snow slush that parked itself in every corner of the city during winter, he thought about the woman's gray eyes and the way she had reached out to him and pulled him into the hallway of the apartment building.
Jaan was used to going out and putting on face since his divorce. The thing was, though Jaan was lonely, he found forcing human interaction so tiring that he only could only go to parties once or twice a month. He couldn't bare hanging out with friends one on one because he didn't want to talk about his divorce, or worse the weird melancholic phase he seemed to be in. Instead he went to parties, laughed and joked with friends, sometimes hooked up, and then went back to his cold apartment to be alone and sit in his mood.
This particular party had been one of his former colleague's named Singh and his wife Ama, it was one of those city couples parties that had enough singles and enough drugs there to still be fun, plus give the aging group the sense that they were still young. Jaan liked Singh, and his wife Ama who reminded him a bit of Santiago, shrilly dedicated to knowledge and unabashedly weird. Singh had been one of the few people from the magazine who had reached out to him about the divorce in a way that didn't make him feel pitied or like a bastard. They lived in Williamsburg, in a cute apartment with their two kids who were spending the night with friends.
Jaan got there late, he rode his bike over, stupidly, in the snow. He expected no one to be at the party, but found that the place was packed, winter coats stacked all over the place, the apartment unbearably hot. Jaan came in and immediately unzipped his parka throwing it onto a pile and pocketing his bike key. He realized absently that he had forgotten his phone at home and felt naked for a minute. He was without distraction. He spotted a few guys from the magazine he knew in a corner of the apartment and walked over to them. They were talking about bringing their toddlers out to parties with them. Jaan tuned them out. He didn't have any kids, he probably wouldn't ever have children, and he suddenly felt sad. Not because he didn't have children but because he hadn't given Marlena a child, and he knew deep down that she wanted one, even though she acquiesced to his desires to be a cool, childless, couple.
"I heard that you sold Echo Point," He turned around. Standing behind him was a woman, tall, pale, with long straight dirty brown hair and dark dark gray eyes. Did he know her?
"Uhh, yea. I did, about 10 months ago."
"$30 million dollars, right?"
Jaan took a step back from her and crossed his arms over his chest, "Yea, $30 million."
"Kind of overvalued don't you think?"
Jaan laughed and nodded at her, "Definitely overvalued."
Jaan knew this game very well. For some reason, woman loved to goad him into conversation. Picking fights with him, usually something having to do with the magazine. Insulting his gray hair, his clothing, the dark rings around his eyes, or the fact that some found him too good looking to run a magazine. This was definitely a game he knew well.
"How much would you have paid for it?" he asked
"I wouldn't have even paid 10 bucks."
Jaan laughed leaning into her space a little bit, "10 bucks? That's how much the thing costs off the stands."
"What the fuck are you selling in there? $10 off the stands?"
"Nothing you don't already know."
Her name was AJ, Jaan couldn't remember what it stood for. She worked for a fashion PR firm, which meant that she was probably already familiar with Echo Point though she kept pretending she had no idea what the magazine was about. She was also divorced, with a 3 year old son who was sleeping back at her apartment with a sitter in Long Island City. She was 30, and beautiful, in that way that Jaan found all women beautiful, She was easy to look at. They talked, and talked for what seemed like hours, with AJ getting closer and closer to Jaan as she continued to rib him, and the magazine, and then his divorce, and then his looks (even as Jaan was falling apart he had become handsomer in his distress), and then herself.
"What is a guy like you doing running magazine?" she said. They had stepped out on the balcony for a smoke, Jaan smoked a cigarette lazily, a habit he had gotten back into recently.
He exhaled and ran a hand through his hair, "I don't run a magazine anymore."
She laughed, "You know what I mean."
"What should I be doing then?"
"I don't know, something where everyone can see your face?"
He laughed and inhaled a bit of the cigarette, he exhaled it into her face as he answered her, "How cliché, is that what people like me should do? We don't have a thought in our head, just faces." He laughed again.
"Ok that sounded bad," she laughed too, pulling on her cigarette.
"It's just genetics, it's like saying someone is smart. I didn't do anything for this."
She nodded her head, "Says the incredibly good looking man."
"I didn't." He looked at her. He stared at her really, he was trying to unnerve her, which would work eventually.
"Do you feel lost too?" she asked him quietly, in almost a whisper
"It's like I don't even know who I am anymore. We were only married for 4 years and I can't remember who I was before him."
Jaan did not have this problem. His problem was that he knew exactly who he was before Marlena. The biggest problem being, he wanted to be with who he was with 20 years ago.