He never said sorry: an exposé into the Pardini DUI crash
Opinion: Pardini family cover-up shows youth that drinking and driving is ok
Is the law lenient on the rich?
None of them seemed to care that William wasn’t in the driver’s seat. All that mattered was that he was rich. Ben mentioned the deadly crash during one of his interviews and the media ran with it, igniting a firestorm of vitriol and public outcry against the Pardini family.
When I called him, his voice was quieter. It was as if they were slowly draining him of life. He was spiraling.
“When can I see you?”
Silence crackled on the other end of the line. Ten—fifteen seconds.
“Will, are you still there?” A bit of anger crept into my voice, but I stamped it down.
“I said, when can I see you again?"
“I don’t know,” he said blandly. “I have to go now.”
I bit my lip hard so that he couldn’t hear the tears in my voice. “Okay. Bye.”
Without so much as a farewell, William hung up and I stared at my empty phone as if it could tell me what was wrong with him.
I couldn’t even think about how depressing my life had become. I still had no job, my parents would not stop calling, and it looked like I was going to lose Will. Every time he looked at me, he would be reminded about how my ex got him into this mess. It wasn’t my fault, but he would still resent me for it.
I crumpled up the piece of paper I’d been using to sketch a design and hurled it across my too small bedroom. The final designs I had yet to finish glared at me through the computer screen.
A soft knock at my door interrupted my thoughts.
A sliver of Jessica’s slight figure appeared in the crack of the door. She gave me a wry smile. “Come here. Luke has something for you.”
My eyes narrowed. “What are you talking about?”
“Just come,” she said innocently.
Whatever it was, Jessica looked like she was barely containing her excitement. I followed her into the kitchen where Luke stood, still dressed in his work clothes. He held a folder in his hands and was beaming at me.
What could he possibly have for me? “What’s up?”
“Natalie, everyone really loved the approach you took for the campaign.” Grinning ear to ear, he walked closer. “The creative director leading the bed and breakfast campaign wants to hire you as a full-time employee. Here’s the offer she wants to give you.”
Stunned, I took the folder he handed me. Jessica let out a joyous shriek and tackled me.
“You did it! You’re going to be working for Pardini Worldwide!”
Luke chuckled. “Well, if she wants to.”
I opened the folder and thumbed through the HR welcome packet, still not quite believing it. A surge of energy burst into my veins, followed by a sickening thought. “Did Will do this?”
He raised his eyebrows. “Ah, no. Like I said, our creative director emailed Will and said she wanted you. You’re supposed to get an email, but I thought I’d come in person. Will was supposed to, but he hasn’t been at work lately.”
All the joy I felt at being offered a position at such a great company evaporated into thin air. Luke’s eyes hardened at the mention of his cousin.
“He’s in a really bad way, Natalie. I think all of this negative press is bringing back a lot of memories from the accident.”
My hand fell to my mouth as I realized the pain he must be going through alone. I pulled my phone out of my back pocket and checked it for messages. Nothing.
“Why hasn’t he called me?”
His eyes wrinkled as he gave me a helpless shrug. “I don’t know.”
He needs me. I dashed around the apartment, grabbing my keys, purse, and phone. Maybe he was too stubborn to ask for help. I glanced sadly at the packet Luke gave me.
“Thanks a lot, Luke. I wish I didn’t have to leave but I think Will needs me—I’m really excited to start working for Pardini Worldwide.”
He nodded seriously. “I’ll tell them. Carrie will contact you with the details.”
* * *
A group of paparazzi clustered around Will’s apartment, surrounding the stairs that led to his building.
They whirled around to snap photos of me as I walked up the steps. Recognizing me, they screamed my name and the strangeness of having people I’d never met know my name distracted me for a moment. I stopped in front of the door and hesitated. I wanted to see him—I always wanted to see him—but would he want to see me? Would he send me back home immediately?
Knocking on the door, I flinched as if I expected him to be standing right behind it. Several long seconds passed. The back of my neck burned as the vultures continued to click away. I knocked again.
Groaning, I sent him a quick text: It’s me.
At last, I heard the sounds of someone moving in his apartment. The door cracked open and an angry, dark eye glowered at me.
“You’re not supposed to be here.”
I was hurt by the gruff tone of his voice. “I know. Luke said you weren’t doing well, and you haven’t been responding to my calls.”
“MR. PARDINI! Do you have a statement?”
He shuddered slightly at the sound of their voices. “Get in quickly.” He let the door open and squinted from the sunlight. I gasped as I took in his haphazard appearance. His face was pale and gaunt; he looked like he’d stayed up several days, but his eyes were listless. Dark.
The door closed behind me, shutting out the noise of the crazed mob.
“Heard about the job. Congrats,” he said with his back to me.
“Thanks,” I said in a small voice, feeling a bit wounded at the indifference in his voice.
Without so much as a friendly greeting, Will walked into the living room and sat down on the couch, where he watched the giant plasma television screen. A CNN host argued with a psychologist about whether rehabilitation worked for DUI drivers while a marquee near the bottom mentioned that Pardini stock had fallen several points. He pulled a laptop over his knees and his sunken eyes darted across the screen as he read an email.
“Is this what you’ve been doing this whole time?” I asked, horrified.
He shrugged slightly, looking defeated in his battered t-shirt and sweatpants. “What else is there to do? I can’t leave and it’s all I’ve been able to think about for days. I’m going to hold a press conference tomorrow.”