The Billionaire Brothers

By: Victoria Villeneuve

Racing Heart


“Erica?!”

Through the bathroom door, and the noise of the shower, Megan’s housemate was somehow able to hear the plaintive yell. “They’re on the coffee table!” she called back.

It was a morning routine established almost as soon as the two twenty-something nurses had moved in together: Megan Peterson lost her keys, and Erica Newbold knew where they were. “Thanks! See you tonight!”

Running late, hair still damp, Megan stuffed textbooks into her bag and danced down the wooden stairs of the town house which she shared with Erica, and the two Croatian dentists on the first floor. The car started after its usual whining, and Megan got her day started with coffee which tasted of plastic, but was packed with enough caffeine to awaken even a sleep-deprived trainee nurse.

“Let’s go, Boston, I’m a little late here,” she said, urging the traffic forward. Megan had been developing a theory about Boston’s drivers, whose reputation for rudeness she had found very well deserved; the road layout, not to mention the haphazard, nonsensical traffic lights, generated an irritation which created torrents of abusive behavior. It wasn’t that Bostonians were assholes; their roads just sucked.

But growing up here had inoculated Megan against the Boston-accented tirades and ceaseless, impatient honking. She navigated through the busy morning traffic, passing through a couple of neighborhoods before grinding to a halt in a sequence of red lights seemingly designed to slow everyone’s morning commute. Like everyone around her, Megan checked her phone. A recent innovation was the daily list of ‘things to do’, now as indispensible to Megan as her morning coffee. It brought planning to a life so hectic she scarcely believed she was able to live it.

. Meet w/Prof. Hunter, 11.30. Piano, Andrea, 3.45. Call Mom. Groceries

Greg Hunter wouldn’t take more than twenty minutes, she thought. This afternoon’s lesson would mean picking up Andrea from her school; she could grab groceries on the way. Strategizing like this, Erica had taught her, gave the day structure and ensured against those embarrassing phone calls of the, ‘Hey, didn’t we say 11.30?’ variety.

Megan battled Boston’s traffic all the way to the University of Massachusetts and steered her cantankerous Fiesta into the lot. Finding a parking place was an art form long since perfected – Megan had completed her undergraduate nursing degree at U-Mass – and within moments she was dashing to the classroom, dregs of her coffee quickly drained and cellphone carefully silenced, lest she receive another lecture from Prof. Mills on the importance of ‘focus and maturity’.

Pharmacology was a mix of lecture time, group problem-solving and practical experience, and today’s class included a little of each. In the break after the first hour, with her classmates making a bee-line for the coffee machines, Megan filed out, rubbing tired eyes, and joined the line alongside her equally sleepy friend, Della.

“You remember that comic,” Della asked, tying back her long, black hair, “the one where the kid in the classroom raises his hand and says, ‘May I be excused please, sir? My brain is full’?” Megan nodded with an understanding smile. “That’s me, right now. I don’t think there’s a cubic millimeter of brain space left.”

Della had joined U-Mass as part of an exchange program to train Egyptian nurses, and was finding life in the States enjoyable, if occasionally very challenging. “Relax,” Megan advised her. “The more we use this stuff, the more we’ll get the hang of it.” She meant it, but felt the same grinding, constant overload as her classmates. There was never enough time to absorb the sheer quantity of information, and these important, background classes were only part of their training. As Master’s degree students, they spent hundreds of hours on the wards, dealing with anything and everything. No two shifts were alike, which suited Megan just fine, but the work was exhausting.

“Well, I can think of plenty of things I’d rather do tonight than bone up on anti-coagulants.”

Megan handed Della a cup of coffee from the machine; it was barely drinkable, but the caffeine infusion was priceless. “I hear you.”

Della grinned knowingly. “What about a date with that gorgeous friend of yours?”

Eyes rolling, Megan stood, hands on hips. “We’ve been friends for twenty years, Della. I’m friends with his daughter, too, for heaven’s sake. Do you really think I want to screw that up just for a...”

“Much-needed releasing of tensions?”

“Quick roll in the hay,” Megan corrected. She shook an admonishing finger at her Egyptian colleague. “You met him once, and you thought he was great. And you’re right.”

“So, why not take things further? You both need it. And, well, he’s not just a pretty face.” Della had a habit of bringing this up, much to Megan’s irritation; she seemed determined to see the two of them together, despite Megan’s protestations. So did every other friend Megan had, really.

“He’s brilliant,” Megan agreed.

“And rich,” Della added.

“Never really cared about that.”

Della laughed so hard she nearly spilled her coffee. “Oh really, Nurse Peterson? The man is the emperor of high technology, with a mansion on every continent, and you’ve never cared about it? You forget that these,” she said, tugging at her earlobes, “may look like ears, but they’re actually very finely tuned bullshit detectors.”

She shrugged. “I know, I know, Nurse Samaha.” She elbowed Della, risking a spilled coffee. “Whatever. He’s barely on the market anyway, as you well know.”

Della thought for a second. “Hasn’t it been...” She looked to Megan for a number. “Two years? More?”

The loss of Tom’s wife Mary had been the lowest point of his life, and certainly one of Megan’s. “Nearly three,” Megan said quietly, not without sadness. “He’ll decide when he’s ready. And whoever it will be,” she said, more brightly, “it won’t be me, OK?”

The two returned to the lab and got down to their work. Megan managed to plod through the experiments without disaster, but found herself oddly distracted, wishing once again that Della would leave well enough alone. She’s just trying to help you to be happy, the Voice of Reason maintained. Besides, how many months has it been since...

Packing her battered, brown book bag, she realized with a distinct shudder that it had been a year and a week since she’d shared a bed with anyone other than the faithful Mario. And he was a giant, stuffed panda. Holy crap. Maybe Della’s right. A red-hot fling might be just what I need.

Glancing around at her classmates as the professor shooed them out of the lab, she was downhearted to note that there really wasn’t a single eligible guy in their group. “Della?” she asked, taking her friend’s arm. “Is it just me, or are we surrounded by a depressing mix... The unattainable, and the simply unattractive?”

Della sighed, descending the stairs with leaden feet and a tired posture. “All the more reason to let Tom... or someone else, I don’t really mind... jump you this weekend. God knows I need it, too.”

“Maybe we should go clubbing on Saturday, pick up a couple of hotties?” The two laughed their way to the cafeteria for yet more urgently needed, and probably terrible, coffee. She could joke about it, but Megan found herself feeling, yet again, that need... the very same need she’d been feeling for a year and a week.

***

Boston’s glacial afternoon traffic conspired to suck just as badly as the morning commute, but at least Megan had her lesson with Andrea to look forward to. Texting whenever the gridlock stopped completely while growling at the sluggish traffic, Megan confirmed she was on her way and tried to move quickly without getting honked at. It seemed that half the soccer moms in Boston had congregated on the slender stretch of real estate outside Patrick Gavin Middle School, and despite everyone trying to collect their kids as quickly as they could bundle them into the car, it took long, frustrating minutes to reach the pick-up zone. Megan’s bright reward was a grinning Andrea who flung open the door and jumped into the backseat as though finally allowed onto a bouncy castle.

“Hey Megan!” she trilled. “Guess what I did today?” Andrea buckled herself up and pulled her curly red hair back into its usual ponytail.

Megan loved this refrain and played along, as ever. “Hey, Andrea! Hmmm... Let me think.” The Fiesta found a gap and was propelled headlong into it. “Did you meet a wizard who turned homework into cupcakes?”

“No...” the girl answered, her tone rising to encourage another guess.

“Let’s see... Did you find a potion which turns bullies into the nicest people in the world?”

“No, not today...” she said, welcoming another try.

Megan wracked her brains. “Did you see a flying, purple elephant trailing a banner which said, ‘Andrea is Awesome’?”

“Yes!” she cried. “But it was yellow.”

“Yellow, you say? Well, did this flying, yellow elephant help you practice the piano?” There was silence from the back seat. “Hello?” Nothing. “Earth to Andrea, come in, please?”

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