I turned to him and pointed at my leg, which was doing an excellent impression of an Egyptian mummy. “You’ve seen the bandages, right?”
“Well, yeah but —”
“And heard the screaming as my shoulder was popped back into place?” I asked.
“Okay, but still, for every door—”
“There is a window?” I asked.
“Curious metaphor, considering you just suspected me of attempting suicide.”
I sunk into my leather desk chair, turning so I could face my accuser. Couldn’t have him thinking he was in a position of power. Particularly considering how every fight he ever started turned out. If it wasn’t for Aden, Cooper would have likely been beaten to death years ago.
The manager sighed and rubbed his head. “What happened anyway?”
“Besides the stairs incident?” I asked.
His concern didn’t surprise me, Cooper was a good friend. His question did, however, bring to light all the trouble I was going through. My shoulders, which I had kept straight all morning, dropped as reality seeped in.
“I’m losing my apartment and my best friend.”
Coop jumped up. “Oh no, what happened to Lucky?” He asked, referring to the most special thing in my life, Lucky Duck, my dog. People might laugh, but that pup had gotten me out of a bad place.
“Nothing yet. But the overlords at my apartment complex decided to change on a dime to a no pet policy so Lucky and I have two months to find somewhere else to live because there is no way in hell I am giving him up now. Even though finding a place in my price range near the office and away from the strip that allowed pets in the first place was challenging.”
It wasn’t that Sure Thing Graphics didn’t pay well. As the premier advertising agency to the Las Vegas Casinos, our firm was pulling in plenty of money. My coworkers were sitting pretty with condos or houses of their own. I was compensated significantly for my work and valued, but my past had left me a lot of debts. The local rehab took more than half my paycheck to pay for my numerous check-ins. Gambling addiction was hard to fight, and the things I turned to keep my mind off the tables had been devils of their own.
“You could get a roommate, split the cost on a pet-friendly place,” Coop suggested, sitting back down on the desk.
“A good idea, generally. The only problem is I can’t really live with someone. It has more to do with me than anyone else.”
His eyebrows went up, and he laughed. “You could take a lover, someone with the right kind of place. Real estate and sex sounds like a good deal to me.”
“I-I don’t know.”
“Still keeping up with the monastic existence.”
I wasn’t sure how to answer that. I wasn’t exactly living in cloisters and was around lots of attractive women, but I was also annoyingly celibate. So, I suppose the description fit.
I sunk lower into my chair. “Yeah, pretty much.”
“How long has it been now?” Cooper asked. At this point, I knew he was picking on me.
“Too long,” I said, waving him out of my office and not wanting to overthink about it.
I was interested in sex, but I never seemed to find the right woman. No one was special enough. That was another thing that stayed with me from my past. When you meet your true love early and lose her, it makes the rest of your life kind of suck.
“I’ll figure something out before I start working,” I told Cooper.
Famous last words.
I really had meant to give it a good think before getting to work, but my first client came in too soon. Followed by the third and the fourth. All of them were somewhat thrown off by my battered appearance. I really didn’t feel like getting into it, so I just made something up. Each fictional scenario was more inventive than the last, each one leaving the listener with the impression that I was a big, goddamn hero — as opposed to a klutz. Let’s just say, I had a way with words.
I had fully intended to give the problem a good, hard think over lunch, but the sandwich Camilla brought me was so astoundingly good it was difficult to focus on much else. Which was a mercy in a strange sort of way because after lunch, the evil thoughts came.
As soon as I had time to think, I thought about her, Lila Dell, the absolute love of my life and the woman I was going to marry back when I was in any fit state to be thinking about such things. Before the badness. And the separation and the loneliness.
We were supposed to be living together in the penthouse suite at the Crown Jewel Casino. My dad owned the place along with a few others, and we could have had it for free. We could have been happy there. Then I had to go and fuck it all up with my gambling addiction, with my drinking, with myself. It is hard for things to turn out well when you’re born to lose. Something I’d wish I’d know before I’d played my first game of blackjack.