"Forget your contract. You're fired. I'm firing you for cause. You have betrayed me - and him, in my opinion."
Trans. Plant. Heart.
Chapter 6 (conclusion)
Copyright© 2013 plaintivesigh
All Rights Reserved.
Gail Murphree, Grant’s sister, had decided to pay him a visit. She didn’t visit too often; after all, she had her husband Grayson and her kids to take care of. They lived in a 5 bedroom, 6-bath mini-castle in the posh part of Phoenix. She did keep an eye on Grant’s condition by calling Jeannette, his hospice nurse. Upon hearing how debilitated he’d become – enough to hire a live in aide – she’d driven up to check on him, and make sure he wasn’t doing anything foolish, like donating the estate to some charity or similar thing. After all, it was partly her inheritance, too.
“Grant. Grant, Grant, Grant.” Gail shook her head as she took his hand and found a telltale trace of polish on one nail. “No wonder Vanessa wanted to divorce you. Have you been doing this all your adult life under our noses? I thought exposing you to Mom and Dad almost thirty years ago would have made you swear off this queer habit for good.”
Aubrey’s memory kicked in then. His sister – the one who had outed him publicly! Well, in front of his parents and the junior league president. Oh God. I was thinking this was his ex-wife. In fact, maybe his ex visiting would be less traumatic than this witch.
Grant’s sibling continued. “Please, brother … please don’t do things like this. If you keep it up, somehow it will become public knowledge – and will defile the Brisbane name that our parents worked so hard to establish. Don’t dishonor their memory.”
Jace was watching his boss for any hint, any signal, that would allow him to remove this woman. Just a nod of the head, or even a sign of distress. But Grant just lay there with his sad face looking off to the side, as if he was trying to tune out of this harsh moment.
Gail turned to the aide and the bodyguard. “And you two-! You are complicit in this shameful behavior! Jace, I know you had to be aware of this. And you-”
She looked at Aubrey with eyes that at first just showed anger, but then morphed into realization and shock also. “You’re a man, aren’t you? Oh, my God. The aide is a transvestite! Or transsexual, or whatever you’re calling yourself. I can tell by your big ugly shoulders, your hideous jaw. You’re the cause of this, I’ll wager! How did you find out about my brother, you freakish excuse for protoplasm?”
With that comment, three sets of eyes came alive.
Aubrey’s eyes were filled with anger and verging tears. She wanted to rip into this woman, but held back because of her relation to Grant.
Grant’s eyes, hazy and dull just a second ago, now flashed with fire and ire. He looked at Jace and gave a nod as he clenched his teeth.
Jace’s eyes now narrowed with the focus and intensity of a pit bull finally set free from its leash. He grabbed Gail’s upper arm with gentleness, then gave it a moderate squeeze to let her know he meant business. His velvet servant’s voice had an undercurrent of steel to it.
“You’re leaving the room, Miss Gail.”
“You can’t ask me to leave my br-“
“I’m not asking. I’m telling. So, madam, will you be walking out the door, or should I carry you there?”
Gail was inwardly furious at being told to leave – by a servant! Yet her common sense knew not to mess with an angry man-mountain. She walked in a huff, stamping down her high heels as she headed to the bedroom door. She heard Jace shut it firmly and lock it behind her the split-second she exited. She stopped, turned, and yelled at the door. “I am not leaving this house until I get to talk more with Grant!”
Jace and Aubrey ran to gasping, sweating lawyer.
“Boss, you okay? Breathing? Angina?”
Jace saw him nod, and got the nitroglycerine and morphine out. Approaching his employer’s mouth, he popped the first in (a pill), then dropped the second in (a liquid) with an eye dropper.
Aubrey had her lips to Grant’s ear, and gently stroked his chest with her hand. “It’s okay, Grant,” she breathed. “She can’t hurt me. Don’t be upset about it, please. Just calm yourself. I’ve heard tons worse. Think happy thoughts.” She then hummed the tune to the second movement of Beethoven’s ‘Pathetique’ sonata.
Grant, breathing heavy still, somehow mustered up the energy to turn his head to the side and brush his lips against Aubrey’s. “I’m happy … anytime you’re … by my side … my love.”
Jace’s eyebrows reared back like two bucking broncos. “Anything happen in here I should know about?” he mumbled.
Grant was finally breathing easier, but the emotion and the activity of the evening had exhausted him. Now he was sleeping with the oxygen still turned on to the max of 6, and Aubrey and Jace stepped out of his room to let him snooze.
They walked down the hall and the stairs together, silently. “I think we’re out of range from the bedroom now. Let’s talk,” Jace said in his calm voice.
It suddenly turned raging. “Aubrey! What the hell? I thought you told me you weren’t going to take advantage of him! And now he says that you two love each other?
“I – I didn’t plan it. It just happened,” said the aide.
“I’d like to believe that, I really would. But it’s just too convenient. You’re here for two weeks, and suddenly you’re not just his personal care aide, you’re his lover. Those nights I allowed you in to read to him – what was really going on? You know physical activity and emotions make his heart more strained!”
“I know, I know. I never should have allowed it to get this far. But it only happened tonight.”
“What happened? Did you use one of your old hooker tricks? Did you take him with your hand, or did he come in your mouth?”
“Jace! No! It never went more than a kiss, and just tonight!” Aubrey was tearing up. “I’d never do anything that would hurt him,” then remembering how exhausted Grant looked after the kiss, “I – I mean, not on purpose …”
Jace’s face was a snarl. “Did you get him to give you money? Or put you in his will?”
“No, Jace. I know that would break my contract.”
“Forget your contract. You’re fired. I’m firing you for cause. You have betrayed me – and him, in my opinion. I’ll call an emergency service to get me an aide for tomorrow, and call one of the other applicants for the future – as much future as he has left, that is.
“I want you packed and out of here by 12 noon tomorrow. Since it’s almost midnight tonight, I’ll allow you to sleep in your room, provided you stay there. Don’t come anywhere near Mr. Brisbane’s room, or I’ll call the cops. You’ll need them, to protect you from me.”
“J – Jace,” Aubrey sobbed, “I deserve to be fired. I’ll not work a day more. But please let me still visit him. Please, Jace. Please.”
The big man turned around. For the first time Aubrey could remember, he actually had tears in his eyes. “You come near him again,” he said through gritted teeth, “and I’ll break your neck.”
He walked away, as Aubrey collapsed on the floor in a heap.
Aubrey sobbed uncontrollably. She felt emotionally like she was falling into a bottomless pit. Her pain encompassed her whole existence, and nothing could break through – except, a faint clapping noise.
A slow clap, and it grew louder, but not faster. Then a voice spoke with the clapping.
“Bravo, bravo,” Gail sneered with dripping sarcasm. “An Oscar worthy performance. Where did you learn your method acting? Julliard? Carnegie Mellon? Sunset Boulevard?”
Aubrey tried to look for a spark, adrenaline to fight her with. She could find none. She slowly picked herself up, still dripping pain and despair from her face. Turning to Gail, she at last replied with a hoarse wisp of a voice. “Not acting. You don’t know the situation.”
“Oh, I know this situation inside and out,” Gail spat. “When you’re well off, everybody wants a piece of you. Everyone has an angle, and all they want is the green. Almost everyone Grant meets wants him for his influence or his money. Even Vanessa, that vain bitch he was married to – she loved the prestige more than anything. She was a fool to leave him; if she’d stayed, she’d be rich beyond her wildest dreams when he died. But she wanted sex, so she left – thank heaven for that.
“You are obviously a little – punk? Slut? Hell, what are you? – who somehow found out about my brother’s old ‘compulsion’ and schemed your way in here to take full advantage of it. Lunk-head Jace finally saw through it, no doubt due to my intervention. God, people are vultures – trying to take advantage of his giving spirit right up to the last breath!”
The newly fired girl aide was too defeated to raise her gaze from the floor. “I care for him. But Jace is right … I screwed up. And now I’m paying the price. All I ask of you is, don’t let him be alone. He gets so … so lonely, especially at night. And please don’t yell at him, or make fun of him. I haven’t seen you once in the last 2 weeks, and he looks like he’s got days left, if that.”
“I’m not the best sister. Screw that – I’ve been a lousy sister. But I’m not going to let parasites attach themselves to him at his weakest. You’d better go now, and get packing.”
Aubrey looked up. “Promise me you won’t leave him alone to die in the dark.”
“I don’t have to promise YOU anyth-”
“I’m not leaving ‘till you promise me,” Aubrey trembled with new tears rolling down her chin. “I don’t care if Jace breaks my neck.”
Gail looked at this broken thing in front of her with suspicion, and a little confusion. Could he/she have really developed true feelings for her brother?
“I won’t leave him. Yes, I’ll promise. But you will leave at or before noon, just like Jace said.”
Aubrey nodded her head and walked off to her room, her arms wrapped around her weeping head.
Gail knocked on Grant’s bedroom door.
The knob turned, and a big curly head popped out. “Oh, it’s you,” Jace said, sighing.
“I come in peace, big fellow. And I sincerely apologize for my part in making the situation so stressful earlier. No matter what was and wasn’t right to say, I shouldn’t have done it in front of my brother. Is he feeling better?”
Jace looked at her with red, sad eyes. “No. He’s worse.”
Aubrey took stock of her life as she packed what she could fit on her moped.
Fired, from my first job, within 2 weeks of starting. For crossing professional lines and falling in love with the patient. No matter how good my school evaluations were, that’s a fatal blow to my career as an aide.
Now I’m homeless, and have very little saved up with just 13 days of work. Wasn’t I just in this position on Valentine’s Day? No – I still had that stinking room at Fish’s. And I was able at least to TALK to Grant that night in the Venetian – now I can’t. That means I’ve officially dropped to the lowest point I’ve ever been in my life. And no access to Fish’s pistol to take the easy way out. Maybe I can just swerve in front of an oncoming semi truck on the highway – that should do it.
But before that, I have one phone call to make.
A redheaded nurse who looked a little like a refugee from Woodstock grunted to reach her cell phone. Of course, someone would call just when she’s cutting strips of tape for a dressing change on Mr. Syed.
“Hello, Jeannette, Desert Hospice. How can I – Aubrey! Sorry, I didn’t look at caller ID – kinda got my hands full. What’s up, sweet one?”
Her face fell. “WHAT? Why? How – okay, okay, I won’t push you to tell me.” My God, she sounds devastated!
“He was looking that bad when you left? Okay, soon as I’m done here, I’ll be right over to check him.
“Of course, honey. I will give you a call when it happens. Look … I don’t know what went on down there, but I’m so sorry it ended like this for you. I’m going to get this done quick and get to the estate. Yes, I love you too. Goodbye.”
She ended the call. Whatever happened, darn it? For once, Jeannette felt like breaking her rule and cursing in frustration and sorrow. No. Not going to compromise my integrity. Only in true emergencies, as a last resort, will I swear.
She looked up at the clock. One minute after noon. She could be there in – Darn it! I forgot, I'm at Syed's ranch, 45 miles east of town - it'll be 35 - 45 minutes to drive to the estate. I'd better call them.
Jace hung up the phone. “That was the hospice nurse. She’s on her way, but may not be here for 45 minutes. That’s okay – I’ve got the nitro and the morphine.” He was standing by Grant’s bed along with Gail. “Look!” said Gail in horror, “his eyes!”
Grant’s pupils had rolled back under his eyelids, which were fluttering. His whole body got limp – then jerked mightily.
“Ooooohhh dear heaven,” Grant, suddenly conscious again, moaned. “That was a bad one.”
“What just happened?” fretted Gail.
Jace shook his head. “His heart has stopped 4 times in the last hour; each time, the defib-whatever shocks him to get it started again. Jeannette told us that at the very end, the shocks would start to get almost constant; when that happens, we’re to consider that big deactivator – the ‘O’ looking thing – and, if we decide to, put it on his chest so he can die out of pain.”
Gail took Jace to the side and whispered, “Has that horrid aide tried to call you?”
“No. And if she knows what’s good for her, she’ll not call.”
“Shouldn’t you ‘block’ her number, just in case?”
“My phone’s over by you on the bedside table. Be my guest.”
Gail picked Jace’s phone up. It was a model she hadn’t seen. Now how do I block a number … oh, forget it. I’m pushing the “off” switch. That will do the trick. The nurse is already on her way, anyway, so I don’t know who else we’d need a call from. Gail turned Jace’s phone off, and hers too, for good measure. Then to make triple sure they wouldn’t be disturbed at this sensitive time, she discreetly unplugged the bedside phone from it’s cord.
To further keep the room calm and sedate, she pulled all the curtains together and turned off the lights save for two small table lamps.
Aubrey had put six miles between her and the estate when her phone rang. She looked at the display. It was from Jeannette. She pulled over, but didn’t answer the call. She knew the only reason for it.
“Oh God. He’s gone. No. NOOOooooo…” she wailed long and loud. Her shoulders shook in big heaving jerks as sorrow became her.
Passing motorists wondered what kind of distress or bad trip the girl on the scooter was having, but then drove on. Nobody cared. Not anymore; the one man who had cared for her above all others was dead. And she felt like this would be a perfect time for her to die, too. She raised her head to look across to the other side of the highway. There – a fast moving cement truck about a half-mile away. Perfect.
Her phone buzzed again, this time with a reveille horn blast. That meant a text. Aubrey glanced halfheartedly at the display.
Yes, the display said “from: Jeannette.” Then below, it read:
WHERE IS EVERYBODY???? CALLME NOW NOW
Aubrey’s brain woke up, just a little. Jeannette never curses – unless …
She punched the Call Back button.
Grant had just had another shock; that made six today.
“Goodness, I loathe these … I want to put that deactivator on, but I’m going to wait for Aubrey to get back and hold my hand … where is she?”
“She left. She’s not coming back. But we’ll never leave you, Grant,” Gail said.
Jace frowned at her. “Boss, the truth is, I had to fire her. She broke the rules; she was unprofessional. I couldn’t trust her anymore. I’m sorry.”
“She … she’s never coming back?” Grant was crying. “No. Nooo.”
Jace couldn’t watch his boss cry. This was the most horrible time he’d ever experienced. He loped into the master bath, sat down on the toilet, and bawled.
Gail was crying, holding on to her brother’s hand.
“Please … put the deactivator on me. I have nothing left to live for,” Grant cried.
She reached for the big blue plastic-covered magnet. “This? Wh-what will it do?”
“Put it right here.” Grant’s weak hand reached up and tapped the lump where his pacemaker / defibrillator was.
She placed the magnet over the lump. “What happens now?”
“Now,” Grant said with hollow eyes, “the next time my heart stops, no shock will be there to bring me back.”
The stoplight turned green, finally, for east-west traffic to flow across Callaway Boulevard. As the idling cars started to breach the gap, a little moped zipped late through the intersection going north, running the red light. “Crap!” said a bearded man in his jeep, hitting his brakes to keep from flattening the two-wheeler. “Stupid girl! Where ‘r the cops when ya need ‘em?”
Aubrey was taking risks in traffic she’d never ever taken before. She didn’t care. She had a life-or-death mission; if she slowed at all from full throttle, she knew she’d fail. And if she failed, she’d rather be dead anyway.
She turned down the driveway to the estate, finally. The six mile backtrack had been covered in record time, but it felt to her like it was taking a year. She “floored it” in a beeline for the front door. Thirty feet away, she dismounted while still in motion, slowing enough only to make sure she wouldn’t fall as she hit the ground running.
The scooter veered off and smashed into the side fountain as the young girl flew up the steps, desperately praying that Jace had not changed the code on the entry keypad by the doorway.
Jace had composed himself a little and walked up to his boss lying in bed. He immediately noticed the deactivator lying on the heaving chest.
“He told me to put it on,” Gail said through sniffs. “The next time his heart stops, that will be it.”
At that moment, Grant’s eyes rolled back in his head, and his shoulders went limp.
“Boss,” Jace choked.
Suddenly sunlight flooded the room as both double doors to the bedroom flew open. Aubrey exploded through, and ran towards the bed.
Jace stepped forward to stop her, but was squinting due the brightness coming in. She made a rush straight towards him; he went to grab her, but she suddenly made a head first dive-and-slide through his wide stance legs. Jumping to her feet before he could turn around, she found herself right at Grant’s bedside. Seeing the deactivator, she grabbed it and flung it quickly to the opposite side of the room; it hit the floor on its side and continued to roll to some unseen destination inside the master bath.
Aubrey looked at Grant, limp and lifeless. “Come on – reactivate. REACTIVATE! SHOCK HIM!”
A familiar big hand grabbed her shoulder; she wrapped her arms around the bedpost, never taking her eyes off of her love. “SHOCK HIM, DAMMIT!”
Grant’s shoulders jerked slightly, but he gave no response. Then another shoulder jerk, this time with his head jerking too. His eyes opened slightly, with a moan – “Ohhh God.”
Jace pried Aubrey’s arms off of the bedpost, with Gail gone to look for the deactivator. The big bodyguard flopped the young aide over his shoulder and walked briskly towards the door.
“Jace – his heart –” Aubrey yelled.
“His heart was finally at rest, until you showed up,” said the giant man as he prepared to throw her out.
But she clung tightly to his neck now, resisting his efforts to eject her.
In almost any other circumstance, Jace would have been deaf to the cries of an opponent. But something inside him now told him to hesitate. “Five seconds. Go.”
“Jace! Jeannette’s been trying to call you! They found a match! They found his heart!”
Four people sat in the surgery waiting room at the Mayo Clinic Transplant Center in Phoenix. Grant had been given a Lifestar helicopter ride directly from his estate – they landed in the huge back lawn – to here. The donor heart was from Tucson, so it was virtually there by the time Grant got prepped for surgery. Now the long wait for some kind of news was afoot.
They weren’t given a good prognosis. Grant’s condition was extremely poor, and the surgeons would have liked to have time to stabilize him, but upon hearing how often the shocks were coming, they felt they had little choice but immediate surgery. It would be hours before they would know if they were successful – unless he died quickly on the table.
Jace looked around. Gail was quiet, finally. Despite her objections, there was no way he was going to ask Aubrey to leave the waiting room. Not after she had possibly saved Mr. Brisbane’s life. Jeannette had arranged for another nurse to cover her patients, and had taken off in her car to cover the 150 miles from Flagstaff to Phoenix as quick as possible.
He got up from his chair and went to sit by Aubrey. She looked up.
“What’s going on, Big J? Have you heard anything?”
“Nope. I know as much as you. Uh … you called me what?”
“Come on. Now that you no longer employ me, I can call you an affectionate nickname, right?”
“Okay. Just don’t shorten it to BJ.”
“My old name was Bambi Johnson, remember? I know what BJ means, unfortunately.”
“Yeah. I forgot that. I remember Bambi, now. I thought she was another cheap floozy out to scam my boss. It appears that I’m not the best judge of character.” Jace frowned. “Aubrey … I’m so sorry. Sorry about the firing, about the threat to physically hurt you, about-”
“Jace – you were right to fire me. I crossed a professional line; I got romantically involved with a patient. It was unethical behavior – I learned that the first week of classes. I’m sorry I betrayed your trust in me. I really don’t deserve to ever work there again.” Aubrey scanned the room, and focused on Gail. “How’s Grant’s sister doing?”
“A mix of emotions. Happy that they found a heart. Not happy that her bone-headed move of turning off all the phones almost killed her brother. She really doesn’t know what to think about you; she appreciates what you did, saving his life, but she still sees you-”
“As a perverted freak; yeah, I get that from her face when she looks at me.” Aubrey laughed lightly. I've already cried a lifetime over how people treat me. Laughing about it is all that's left to do.
Jace put his hand on her shoulder. “Aub, I need to tell you-”
He stopped talking, and stood up. The transplant surgeon, Dr. Hinkle, had just walked into the room. The four gathered around him like steel filings to a magnet.
“Well, he made it through the operation. He’s still critically ill; the next 48 hours are going to be ‘touch and go’. There’s about a one in three chance that he’ll make it, to eventually leave the hospital – in my opinion. So don’t stop praying. The great news is that the donor heart is working fantastically – pumping like a little locomotive. He was just so ill by the time he got here – I’m worried his kidneys or his liver or brain might sustain some damage.”
“Oh God, no,” gasped Aubrey as she closed her eyes. Jeannette put her arm around her.
“I said I’m worried about it happening, not that it has happened. We won’t really know until he fully recovers – if he does, that is. I give you my word; we’ll do everything we can to give him the best chance of making it.
“He’ll be in ‘reverse isolation’ in the surgical ICU. Only one or two of you will be allowed in at one time, and you’ll have to wear masks and gloves; he’s on anti-rejection drugs now, and they suppress the immune system, so it’s critical that he avoids an infection. We’ll let you know as soon as we have him in the room.” The doctor stayed to answer questions; then having done so, walked back into the surgery area.
Aubrey turned to Jace. “When they allow him visitors, can I see him?”
Gail whipped her head around. “You’re not family.”
Jace’s voice boomed with authority. “I’m making her an honorary family member. I’m his medical power of attorney. In this situation, that puts me in charge. The matter is now closed.”
Three days later, Aubrey stood at Grant’s bedside, in full isolation gear. She grasped his hand with her gloved hand. All Grant could see above her mask was her eyes. Even with just that view of her, he had the biggest smile on his face she had ever seen. The sedatives had finally been weaned down; this was the first day he had his full mental faculties available.
Her trembling voice spoke. “Hello, stranger. Long time no see.”
“Too long, my dear. Last I remember, I was told I’d never see you again.”
“Tough luck. We bad pennies keep on rolling back.”
“Jace has informed me of all the goings-on the day I almost died. You at one time called me your ‘savior’, and said that you could never pay me back. How the tables have turned; you truly saved my life, in the most literal sense. So, you have paid me back … almost. There are still a few things I would ask of you, if I may.”
Aubrey’s eyebrows knitted together in mild confusion. “Mr. Brisbane … I can’t go back to work for you. Even if you forgave my lapse in professionalism, I’m still …” she choked for a minute, “… I’m still in love. With you. I can’t put those feelings back in the box. And that means I can’t objectively be your aide.”
“Oh no, my dear. I quite agree. I will not employ you again. I am generous to my employees, and in return I require the highest standards of ethics. No, that is not what I will require of you.”
Aubrey cocked her head. “Then, what …?”
“Two things. Firstly, I want you to do what Jace tells you to do when you end this visit. I’ve talked to him. He will explain in detail.
“Secondly. I require your solemn promise – promise me – that you will never, ever leave me again. I never want to experience the emptiness of soul I had when I thought you were gone forever. Legal papers ensuring your promise are being drawn up as we speak. Do not refuse me, dear. I’m a cutthroat lawyer, after all – I can make your life very uncomfortable if you do.” Grant said the last part with a wink towards her, ensuring that he meant no true malevolence.
She was still in a fog. “You want me to sign a legal contract?”
“Forgive my obtuseness. Aubrey – I’m asking you to marry me, please.”
The question hit her like a wrecking ball. She felt as if she was going to pass out, and her heart was beating faster than it had when she walked through the lobby at the Venetian months ago. Shaking tremendously, unable to speak, she nodded her head vigorously and squeezed his hand tight.
“Thank you, my dear,” Grant said with his face still enveloped in that big smile. “Do that, and your debt to me will be considered paid in full.”
“Where are we going, Jace? What’s this big thing you’re supposed to tell me about?” Aubrey sat in the front seat of the limo the bodyguard/chauffeur was driving.
“Well, Aub, it’s this. You have spoken to the Boss and others about how disappointed you are in your looks. Seeing as you are so beautiful on the inside, it’s a shame you aren’t more happy with your outside. So, we’re going to go and see if something can be done about that.”
“I already consulted with a surgeon in Vegas, Jace. There wasn’t much he could offer me.”
“Aub, plastic surgeons are like steakhouses. There are lousy ones, and great ones. I checked into this “Dr. Wells” guy through my contacts.”
Wells. The one who did my lousy breast job, and gave me that disappointing opinion of facial feminization, she thought.
Jace continued. “There’s a reason Fish uses that guy. He’s cheap. And he’s cheap because he’s lousy. At least in online patient reviews. And we know some other plastic surgeons; they don’t hold him in high opinion.”
Aubrey was in thought. “How do you know any plastic surgeons?”
“Docs amaze me. They are so brilliant when it comes to medicine, yet many don’t know beans about money,” Jace laughed. “At least not when they first get out of training. So a lot of ‘em get in debt, and a few get in trouble with the IRS. Then they come to Boss, pleading for help. That’s what happened to Doc Kriker.”
“Dr. Allen Kriker? Jeannette told me about him. She said he did a good nose job on her. Her nose is really pretty.”
“Yeah. She’s just pretty all over,” Jace sighed.
Ooh! Is that infatuation I pick up in his voice? Sounds like a job for Aubrey Johnson, matchmaker extraordinaire, she silently tittered.
“Anyway, Aub, this guy is a supposed miracle worker with a scalpel. Just four years out of training, and already a world-class rep. But last year the feds were ready to take him to jail, his taxes were so screwed up. We got them to back off, and he ended up paying a fraction of what they were coming after him for.”
“I’ll bet they keep him under their thumb from now on,” she said.
“You better believe it. He still hasn’t paid his bill with us, and it’s a big one. He’s barely gotten through paying off the IRS, and he still has most of his student loans to deal with. He offered to do Mr. Brisbane some free surgery, but the Boss needed a heart, not a facelift. But, if he can help you like what you see in the mirror more, then he can pay his debt off that way.”
“Jace,” Aubrey whispered, “I can’t take advantage of Grant like that!”
“Ahem,” he replied, “I do believe you entered into a verbal contract with Mr. Brisbane to do what I tell you in this matter. At least the initial consultation. It’s part of the repayment of the debt you owe him, I understand.”
“O – Okay,” she said with a spinning head.
Aubrey went through surgery while Grant was doing inpatient cardiac rehabilitation. They Skyped together for the week that she couldn’t get out of bed to go to him. She had a lot of pain recovering from the huge all-in-one operation; FFS, with breast implant revision, shaving of her Adam’s apple, rhinoplasty and some liposuction for body sculpting. But within three months, she looked like a new person.
Still big shoulders, large hands, and a big head, she thought as she looked in the mirror, but my face looks so much better. The shape and size of the breasts actually draw attention away from my big chest. And now that I’m down to my goal weight, the curves I got with lipo are even more accentuated. I’m still no Naomi Campbell, but I’m NOT Al Franken in drag. I think I’m actually prettier than Ricki Lake! I’m sure I’ll still get ‘read’, but for the most part, I’m so much more confident in my femininity. Just one more surgery to get, she said as she patted her groin.
It was Valentine’s day of the next year. Aubrey was now fully female, both legally and gynecologically, save for uterus and ovaries. Grant had strengthened to where he could walk and be active; he likely would never be an extreme hiker or skier, but could do many things a normal adult could do. Including sexual relations, as long as he used Viagra and had Aubrey on top doing most of the work. She had insisted on living in her old aide’s quarters rather than moving in to Grant’s bedroom – at least until September, when Sharon gave her the go-ahead to start having sex.
Aubrey now stood at the wedding altar alongside Grant, making it official. Sharon, Jeannette and even Carlotta Brando, Aubrey’s old mentor, were part of the procession. Jace was there, but doing his official bodyguard duties, standing to the side watching over the crowd for any suspicious characters or goof-offs.
Gail was present; ever since Grant had officially sold off half of the family’s assets and deeded them to her, she had become much easier to live with. “Money issues tend to cause strife even in close familes; so I’m going to settle it with her now” Grant had said.
Even Aubrey’s parents were here. Although they were still coming to terms with her gender, both were glad that she had decided to renew relations with them. The PI they had hired was able to trace their son to Las Vegas, but then the trail had gone cold. Aubrey had not yet told them about the two years of prostitution. At least they were accepting of her and Grant. She wondered how much him being rich eased that process.
As they pledged their love that day, both recited their custom made vow simultaneously. They faced each other, both holding Aubrey’s bonsai tree between them. “I vow to cherish you and care for you as I would this tree,” they said, “for you are indeed as beautiful, unique, precious and tender to me, as this tree is to all who see it.”
The reception was customized to their story. The ice sculpture of a bonsai was amazing, although it melted a little too quickly in the central heating. A huge heart shaped cake was nothing you’d see on Cake Wars, but it represented their story.
The bouquet toss and garter throw seemed rigged. At least the bouquet; when Aubrey threw it backwards, she did so with a mighty heave so that it flew over the heads of the crowd of women reaching for it. It landed towards the back wall, into the hands of a bridesmaid standing all alone – Jeannette. “Well, lookee here,” she beamed. By contrast, when Grant flung the garter back, the crowd of men parted like the Red Sea to make room for a snarling Goliath – Jace – who stomped forward and plucked it out of the air. He held it over his head like he’d caught the last out of the World Series, turning and smiling at Jeannette, who was laughing and waving back.
As the festivities continued, Aubrey was sitting – finally – watching Grant dance with his sister. She was so happy with the sight that she didn’t notice the sexy woman in a revealing dress come and sit down by her.
“Hey there, Bambs.”
Aubrey turned, and her eyes immediately narrowed. “Sherryl Phlost. ‘Cherry Pop’. What the hell are you doing here? And my name is not, and never will be again, ‘Bambs’ or ‘Bambi’. How did you crash my wedding?”
“Wasn’t easy, with King Kong over there scanning everybody,” Sherryl pointed to Jace.
“If you came for money, forget it. Tell me why I shouldn’t throw you out right now.”
“Peace, baby, time out,” the glam she-male said with her hands up, palms bent back in a show of submission. “You don’t owe me nothin’, except maybe a kick in the nuts for being blind to what Fish was doin’ to you. Come to find out, he employs all of us, but there’s always one escort that he’ll keep under his control, and that’s who he puts in that upstairs bedroom. Since you left, he’s found another pigeon to cage up there; he’s takin’ her money, and her cherry. That’s what he was doin’ to you, wasn’t it?”
Aubrey nodded, her eyes wet with the horrible memory.
“I’m so sorry, Ba- uh, Aubrey. He was killin’ you slowly, and I was a putz for not seeing it. I just thought you were an escort who couldn’t make the grade. Please, you gotta forgive me,” Sherryl said. Aubrey was surprised; she’d never seen her cry before. But her interest now was in Fish’s new captive.
“Tell me who he’s got in that room now.”
“THAT’S why I’m here. I wanna take that scumball down, and save Trixie at the same time. But I can’t do it alone. I’m gonna need help. The cops look at me and just think I’m a lousy hooker who wants to screw her pimp.”
Trixie Dicksy – god, how she hated that name Fish had given her – was nervous. She’d never had an assignment at Caesar’s Palace before – she was used to being sent to the local Econo-Lodge. And this john had requested her specifically. Something’s up. On our menu, I’m the burnt toast, not the Eggs Hollandaise. Maybe this guy wants something kinky, like animalism. I should no-show. Except then I’d be out on the street, and I’d survive maybe thirty minutes.
She knocked on the suite door. A huge truck of a man opened the door. After he wanded her to make sure she had no weapons, she walked in to see a genteel man in a classy suit, and a woman dressed smartly in a red dress.
“Oh, God. I – I’m not very experienced at three-ways,” Trixie stammered.
“We’re not interested in sex, or in using you in any way,” the woman in red replied. “My name is Aubrey – but it used to be Bambi. I was the girl who lived the nightmare you’re living. Fish abused me the way he’s abusing you. We’re here to help.”
“The famous Bambi? Who actually got rescued like Julia Roberts in ‘Pretty Woman’? God, yes. My life is a nightmare. I’ve been real close to ending it. Fish has a gun-”
“In his drawer,” said the man-truck. “Yeah, we know.”
“My dear,” said the man in the suit, “how desperate is your desire to escape? Enough to work harder than you ever have before? Enough to give up prostitution and porn?”
Trixie’s heart pounded like a triphammer. It was illogical, unbelievable, but she was apparently being offered a way out. She had to chance it. “Yes. Please help me. I need a new start. I’ll work as hard as I can, or die trying.”
“Will you help us help the police in catching Fish? It will require you wearing a wire, and going back to that stinky room. But the law will be right outside in a van.”
“And I’ll be right inside, down the hall. Cherry Pop’s gonna smuggle me in when Fish is on the phone,” man-truck said. “Me and my trusty .44 have won a stare-down with him before.”
Trixie’s eyes lit up. A chance to put her abuser behind bars. With the ones who had thwarted him before. “Let’s do it,” she smiled.
Aubrey came and put her arm around Trixie, patting her on the shoulder. “Louie,” she said in a low voice.
“Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to an actual situation or person is purely coincidental
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