A Taste of Peace - J. J. Sorel



My cell phone pinged with a message to call Britney Gane. She’d interviewed me for a job as an administrative assistant and was the CFO to Peace Holdings, a property development firm, run by billionaire Lachlan Peace.

The position seemed straight-forward enough. I just had to do what she told me. Those hadn’t been her exact words, but she seemed pretty bossy. As Harriet, my sister, put it, we don’t go to work to have fun. I didn’t expect that. But a little cordiality wouldn’t have hurt, I thought, recalling Britney’s cold, brusque manner.

My five-year-old niece, Ava, tapped me on the arm and then performed a heart-melting dance. I smiled. She always brightened my day, and was one of the nicer aspects to sharing a confined apartment with my messy sister.

I called Britney Gane, and her “Yes” shot into my ear like a missile.

My shoulders tensed. “Um … this is Miranda Flowers calling. I…”

“Good,” she interjected. “Can you start Monday?”

“Oh… of course.”

“I’ll see you on Monday at eight a.m. sharp. I’ll email your contract. If you have any questions, call.”

“Okay. Yes. That sounds really good. Thank you.”

“Monday, then.”

“Yes, I’ll be there bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,” I said as amiably as possible.

The phone went dead. Gritting my teeth, I told myself to suck it up. Sensitivity and poverty were about as compatible as a bickering couple going through a bitter divorce.

Picking at my chipped nails, I reflected on my new job situated at Lachlan Peace’s sprawling estate in Malibu. I imagined strolling through the lush grounds and drooling over fine art. My spirits lifted. I also looked forward to not being on my feet for eight hours straight and coming home exhausted after every shift. I couldn’t wait to leave that waitressing job.

Harriet burst through the door, hugging a bag of groceries. “Sorry I’m late.”

“It’s all good. I didn’t need to be anywhere,” I said, watching her open the fridge. She removed the orange juice and drank it straight from the carton, one of my sister’s bad habits, which also included smoking, drinking too much, and swearing like someone in need of anger management.

“I got the job,” I said, propping myself up on a stool at the island of our skinny kitchen.

“Mommy.” Ava ran to Harriet, who picked her up and hugged her.

“Watch this!” my niece yelled, leaping and landing in the splits.

“That’s lovely, sweetheart.” Harriet turned to me. “Oh, I suppose that’s good news.”

“You suppose?” I frowned. “It’s not just good news. It’s great. I can get on with my plan now.”

“Remind me what that is?” she asked.

“To get enough cash to set up my own art dealership.”

“Who’s going to look after Ava?”

“What about Mom and Dad? They won’t mind.”

“Mom’s got that part-time teaching job. And she’s going to fill Ava’s head with all that shit about how we should only speak proper English.”

“Some free education, you mean?” I rolled my eyes. “You have no other choice.”

“I guess.” She headed to the living room, then fell onto the couch and kicked off her shoes. Harriet was only three years older than me, but we were so different, even physically. Although we looked similar if I removed my glasses, Harriet wore contacts and made the most of her assets, preferring to wear tight clothes whenever possible.

As an unabashed chocoholic, not to mention all the emotional eating I’d leaned on during the stress of grad school, I’d ballooned two sizes larger than Harriet. Hiding in baggy clothes, I’d made myself invisible to the opposite sex. Which was fine. A boyfriend wasn’t on my to-do list. My career needed to come first.

Instead of partying every night like most people my age, I’d focused on excelling at school, resulting in an art history degree hanging proudly on my wall.

Harriet couldn’t believe I was still a virgin, saying things like, “So when are you going to fuck, sis?”

“When I find the right guy,” I’d reply.

In truth, I’d been insanely busy juggling my master’s in art history, waitressing, and babysitting for my sister, making me too exhausted to even think of the opposite sex.

“What a cliché,” she’d scoff. “You’re living in la-la land, Andie. The right man could take a lifetime to find. Life’s short, and sexual needs are long.”

“I think the saying is: life is short, and art is long. Goethe.”

“Stop being a bore.”

Whenever I got too serious or intellectual, she’d poke her tongue at me and make me laugh.

In any case, I wasn’t desperate to hook up with just anyone simply to satisfy a sexual urge, even