Chapter 9. The News Travels

veronica.jpgPhoto by Heather D'Augustine

Rosalyn had been trying to reach her son--she'd texted once and called three or maybe four times, on the off-chance he'd turned his phone on, finally. The night before, he had written her quite a long email--it was almost a letter--and, holy shit had that contained some news. It seemed he had cashed out all of the money he'd won in settlement after his motorcycle accident and gone and bought property with his new girlfriend (well, not that new, it had been eighteen months or so, but it's not like they were engaged, as far as Rosalyn knew).

The money had been in a fund that was doing quite well. And now this Ayla, who was almost five years older than Caleb, seemed to have talked him into putting every penny of it into her get-rich scheme--or was it a make-a-name-for-herself scheme?--regardless, it was a scheme, and she ought to have left him out of it. Rosalyn hoped that lady knew what she was doing, because one thing was for certain: Her son did not.

Rosalyn had met Ayla twice. Once when they came to DC to visit. The other time was Marla's, his sister's, wedding in the Catskills. Extremely pretty, this Ayla was; however, he was not Caleb's usual type. He liked them wispy and wholesome, which had pleased Rosalyn, though she had to admit she'd found his previous girlfriends lacking in ambition--one long-termer had been a dancer. Another wanted to make a career as a painter and did close-captioning in some kind of assembly line. They'd been part of his extended social circles, and though the painter, Ellie, had had an aggressive streak, Rosalyn had liked her a great deal, or so she realized now. The dancer had tried too hard to please--and she was bit of a scenester. But she'd been polished and peaceful, and Rosalyn sometimes enjoyed her company.

But Ayla. Apparently, Caleb had picked Ayla up on the street. And, yes, she was not like the others. She was a revved up little engine, narcissistic, and brutal. Extremely pretty, yes, but in such constant motion you'd never know it. Her skin glowed, her eyes were bright - people who didn't know her turned to look when she walked past. But she would never be beautiful. Too much nervous energy. Always wiggling, jumping up, leaning too close. Too, too, too. From what Rosalyn could piece together, Ayla had been too impatient to go to school for an architecture degree. She had to start building, so she did it. And who knew if what she told you about the garage door she invented were true, or the dog houses or whatever they were. Finally, it dawned on her how much energy it was taking to get things done without a certificate. Then she'd run out to get her degree. And now, just two or three years out of grad school, she was fancying herself a builder. With Caleb's money.

Rosalyn talked to both Caleb's sisters that morning, forwarding them the email Caleb had sent--read this!, she wrote in the subject line--as they spoke. They had both said she should leave it alone. It was his money after all. Though Danielle shared her mother's feelings of suspicion about Ayla; Danielle had been the first to come out and say she didn't like her. Meanwhile, Effie, unjudgmental to a fault, seemed to like her brother's latest girlfriend. And she was the more emphatic about "letting him live his life."

And she was right. Rosalyn sat back down at her desk. Her daughter was right. Her son was grown, and it was up to him to handle his money. There was only so much Rosalyn could do. He'd been an adult for almost fourteen years now, almost as long as he'd been a child. It was hard to get used to. She sat for a moment, tried some of her ashtanga, taking breaths, positive visualization - but of what? She and Caleb laughing together when he was ten, releasing butterflies he'd grown from caterpillars.

Mind cleared (or not) she opened her laptop and started checking fares to California. When the machine made her wait, the little wheel graphic twirling on screen, she pulled open her purse, got out a credit card and tapped it against the desk. American Airlines had just dumped Orbitz--that was a surprise!--and she wondered whether that would affect fares. She stopped herself from texting him again.

He'd written that they paid for the parcels with a cashier's check. That sounded final. But, of course, final is just a word. And, in this case, she decided, it had no context, no footing. It was a withering thing, a dying seed that would soon blow off and become part of the landscape as dust. So much for final.

Read all of Veronica Street, a novel of Los Angeles serialized weekly at LA Observed.

More by Jenny Burman:
Previous blog post: Surf's up. Sort of
Next blog post: Clippers rally @ Staples Center
Recently on Native Intelligence
New at LA Observed

LA Observed on Twitter