“What’s it going to be? Are you in or out?” Ashley asks.
It seems like an easy question—one I’d hoped to hear when I agreed to come to their hotel room—but in the past fifteen minutes my already unfortunate day got worse.
New York can be a lonely place, but when two security guards show up at your desk to escort you from the building, it becomes even more isolating. The reason: Poor company performance. The reality: I was unemployed.
With no one to go home to, I indulged in dinner at Balthazar. I should’ve been eating out of a vending machine, but I was in denial. Without a reservation, the only table available was a small two-top by the window in the bar area.
“Do you mind if I ask what you’re drinking?” the woman next to me asked with a notable southern drawl.
“Mojito. Rum, mint, lime, and sugar. Would you like to try one?” I motioned for the server to bring two more.
With a matching accent the other girl at her table said, “Dana, you never told me how cordial everyone is in New York.”
“Ashley, sweetheart, that’s why we have to get you out of Dallas more often.”
The server returned with the cocktails.
“What shall we drr—fuck!” Reaching for my glass, I knocked over my water, spilling it between our tables.
Ashley pulled her legs back. “Not my new shoes.”
“This is exactly the kind of day I’m having,” I said. “Fortunately, it’s only water.”
“But these are Manolo Blahniks, and I haven’t treated them yet.”
“Calm down, Ash. You should never wear something you can’t afford to damage.”
I reached down and cupped Ashley’s right foot. “They are beautiful shoes—capped leather toe, olive suede sides and back, tied at the ankle, and a three-and-a-half-inch heel. From Cinderella to Dorothy, shoes are a woman’s source of power.”
“A man that appreciates footwear other than boots? Ashley, we may have found one worth keeping.”
Four hours and three bars later, I was beginning to believe that both might keep me—at least for one night. Even though they were sisters, both women had been equally flirtatious throughout the night, which paralyzed me because I was afraid to show interest in either direction for fear of discouraging the other.
Dana said, “How about one more drink here? First, I must excuse myself to the ladies’ room. Ashley, honey, do you want to go?”
“No, I’m okay. I’ll keep Ben company.”
“Suit yourself. Be back in a few.”
I turned to Ashley. “Another Red Bull and vod—“
Her lips slammed against my mouth.
I pulled back. “What about Dana?”
“It’s not her choice. It’s yours. Which one do you want?”
“I know that I don’t want to cause any problems.”
“This isn’t the first time we’ve been attracted to the same guy. Sometimes men go for Dana and sometimes me. Do you want younger or older?”
Dana returned. “Who’s going to the bar?”
“We want to go back to our room,” Ashley said, rubbing my leg under the table.
“You little tramp,” Dana said. “You’ve been waiting all night for a chance to get him alone.”
I said, “Let’s not ruin the evening. You two are the only bright spot in my miserable day.”
“Of course not,” Dana said. “You do have a decision to make, though. There’s two beds, but you can only be in one.”
Right or left. That’s what my evening came down to. Other than the age, the two women were so similar in the light; the only difference would be whether I was in the bed on the right or the left.
Once in the room, I learned choosing Ashley meant I would be on the left. I counted shopping bags while I lay in bed waiting for the girls to finish in the restroom. Which store hadn’t they been to? I saw Gucci, Versace, Prada, Ferragamo, Louis Vuitton, Moschino, DKNY.
Ashley exited, followed by Dana, both obviously wearing newly purchased sleepwear.
Dana said, “I hope you don’t mind the TV on. I don’t care what you do, but I don’t want to hear it.”
Initially even though I was with Ashley, I couldn’t stop thinking about Dana. Was she watching? Should I have chosen her? But once Ashley pulled me on top of her, my thoughts focused entirely on her. That is, until I felt another hand on my shoulder.
Ashley asked, “What’s wrong?”
Dana’s nails passed down my back. “I’m sorry, Ash. I thought I could allow this.”
I lay still, staring at Ashley, who looked equally confused. Dana pressed her nails deeper into my back as she reversed direction, stopping at my hairline.
I looked up at her—a hair dryer brandished in her right hand. “What the—”
Thud! Dana bashed me in the head. Thud! A second time.
Dazed, I rolled off Ashley. But as I tried to sit up, Dana wrapped the cord around my neck.
“You crazy bitch,” Ashley said. “We can’t do this again.”
I clawed at the tightly drawn cord.
Ashley grabbed Dana by the wrists. “I didn’t go through everything with Dad to ruin it now.”
The two sisters struggled and fell onto the other bed.
Air rushed into my lungs. I ripped the cord from around my neck and scrambled on the floor in search of my clothes.
My pants were on the floor underneath the comforter; my shirt, who cares? First my left leg then my right as I hopped frantically toward the door.
Ashley crawled across the bed toward me. “Wait, don’t go. Let us explain.”
Dana said, “We’ll make it worth your while.”
I unchained the door. “You fucking tried to kill me.”
“Just don’t go,” Dana said. “What’ll it take to forget this?”
I should’ve run but there was nothing to run to. I said, “How about the truth?”
Ashley said, “Tell him, Mom. If he goes to the police, we’re screwed.”
“Mom? You two are nuts.” I unlocked the door.
Dana said, “Wait. Fifty thousand dollars. We’ll give you fifty thousand. You lost your job, right?”
I turned toward them. “I’m listening.”
Dana said, “Okay, we haven’t been completely honest with you. We’re really not sisters, and we’re not celebrating Ashley’s graduation. She’s my daughter, and her father, my husband, recently passed away.”
“Why should I believe you?”
Ashley picked up my shirt from the chair and brought it to me. “Why lie at this point?”
“To save your ass. Tell me what he died from.”
Ashley sat on the bed and buried her face in her hands. “Jealousy, cancer, what does it matter? We loved him—probably too much.”
Dana said, “He was dying. We just speeded up the process.”
Ashley sat back down on the bed. “Without him and without each other, we’d be completely alone.”
“So you killed him?”
“To save our relationship,” Dana said. Her emotionless tone made me question whether she was capable of any relationship.
And that’s what brought me to this point, to this decision. But this time I don’t have to choose between them. I accept both or neither.
Ashley repeats her question. “Are you in or out?”
I sit down on the bed across from Ashley with my back to the door. “You’ll give me fifty thousand dollars to keep my mouth shut?”
Dana says, “It’ll have to be in installments; otherwise, someone might get suspicious.”
“What’s my guarantee you’ll pay me?”
Dana says, “If we don’t, you can turn us in. How do we know you won’t keep asking for more?”
“You don’t, but what choice do you have? You’re still way ahead in the deal. Besides, I don’t even know if anyone would believe me.”
Ashley walks toward the restroom. “This trip just got real expensive. I need a Valium.”
Dana extends her hand. “So, it’s settled? Fifty thousand in five installments?”
I grasp her hand, but as I attempt to let go, she squeezes tighter and grabs my other hand with her left. I turn to Ashley for an explanation, but one of the Manolo Blahniks clutched tightly in her raised hand drives toward my skull.
“We worked too hard for that money to just give it away.”