Of course she might have known she would one day end up taking him to the mental institution. “Driving men crazy” seemed to be her ultimate calling in life–which would also explain why she could never seem to find herself a steady job, or any job for that matter. She was too busy seeming to make men insane. That’s the conclusion she had arrived at as she pulled Shepherd’s red convertible up to the Cedars-Sinai valet parking area. Well, the car was technically hers, as it had been something she had asked for. But Shepherd had kept the title in his name. It just made it easier for him to pay for everything at the outset, though he promised he would transfer it to her soon. Everything with Shepherd was always “soon.” But Emilia wanted everything now. Including an escape from this relationship that was suddenly making her feel like Nurse Ratched as opposed to just some sexy cosplay nurse.
When they first met, Shepherd had spun a good yarn about being a big shot producer, a heavyweight among the “indie” movie industry. At first, his claims seemed to check out to Emilia, who relished being taken to lavish dinners and showered with expensive gifts. Shepherd even seemed to have a dream house in the Hollywood Hills. The kind that Emilia had only fantasized about when growing up on the outskirts of L.A., in drab Gardena. Meeting Shepherd had felt like a welcome change from her last obsessive boyfriend, Michael, whom she eventually had to file a restraining order against when he wouldn’t acknowledge that she had dumped him. Had very clearly spoken the words to him, in addition to telling him, “You do absolutely nothing for me.” She knew it might have been on the harsh side, but she needed to do everything in her power to make him understand that things between them had reached an impasse. At the outset of that relationship, beginning when she was twenty, Michael had told her he was set to inherit a number of casinos from his grandfather, about to kick the bucket any day.
Emilia liked the idea of being a moll to someone who owned casinos. That is, if she absolutely had to remain trapped on the fringe of L.A. County. What’s more, she had no intention of going to college. Saw it as the closest thing to legal robbery in the United States. Instead she, like the cliche she could be, took to the pole to make money. Which was where she encountered Michael. Looking back on that moment, she should have seen it wasn’t the best environment to pick up a boyfriend. And it wasn’t as though many men in the joint hadn’t tried before, but none had ever come across as being so “flash” as Michael. Nor did they tip even half as well. So naturally she took him up on his offer to go on a little drive down “the coast.” A.k.a. to Huntington Beach. Impressed with his silver Aston Martin (which she made no mental note to wonder about how he might afford such a vehicle), she let herself get taken down the rabbit hole of being wooed. Yet thinking about Michael now, she couldn’t really remember any defining personality traits about him (other than his criminal aura), or anything they might have had in common. She supposed it was the same way with Edgar before him, and Dylan before Edgar, and Jake before Dylan.
Edgar was a Briton through and through, who Emilia had encountered in London while on a trip with, incidentally, Dylan. Dylan, then twenty-six and a beneficiary of a major tech boom, had wanted to do something momentous for Emilia’s eighteenth birthday. So he decided they would celebrate in style on an island in Greece, stopping over in London for a few days beforehand. They stayed at The Savoy. It was Dylan’s mistake to let her go out on her own the afternoon they arrived, wanting to stay in the room for a nap so he would be fresh for the evening. He didn’t have the same reserves of youthful energy as Emilia, she supposed. But the second they arrived, she had felt invigorated. Not just by the accents, but the thrill of being somewhere so unlike the only dull setting she had ever really known. She took to the streets immediately, emptying a bit of Dylan’s pocket for some pounds (and his credit card “just in case”) beforehand. She popped into a hair salon somewhere along the way, where they transformed her long brunette hair into a shoulder-length platinum blonde coif. Emerging from the place as a new person, Emilia was hooked again on the high of money. How it could accommodate any and every whim, give one a distracting boost whenever it was necessary.
She felt like she was floating on a cloud through the streets as she eventually found herself across the river at Shakespeare’s Globe. And while Emilia wasn’t exactly an erudite person, she could still appreciate the significance of this building, in front of which a number of street performers had set up shop in the hope of securing a few alms here and there from passersby. Emilia arbitrarily went up to one of them and dropped a two-pound coin in his guitar case. He was playing The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which was rather an impressive choice for a mere “troubadour” act.
As Emilia turned away from the man she would come to know as Edgar, the music stopped. She didn’t think enough of it to turn around until he called out, “Hey Marilyn Monroe! Can I buy you a drink?” Normally, she wouldn’t give such an overt peasant the time of day, but who else was she going to spend her hours with while Dylan was asleep? So it was that she ended up at the Founders Arms with him, drinking the afternoon away. As it turned out, he told her, he only played music like this as a means to while away the tick of the clock. He was a man of leisure, he informed her, adding more bluntly, “I’m a rich bastard of a Tory.” She might have guessed this from the fact that he was playing poor with a Fender Stratocaster. And, to further prove his affluence, he called a car for them to sloppily fall into so that he might show her the Knightsbridge abode he had settled into after his parents moved to the Dorset coast, leaving the residence in his care.
The stately Victorian home was impressive indeed. So much so that it inspired her to fuck Edgar’s brains out in every room of the house. Needless to say, that took them all the way to the evening, at which time she realized Dylan might be getting worried about her, as they had dinner plans. But oh how she wanted to stay with Edgar instead. Dylan suddenly felt like glossless California trash, whereas Edgar seemed like royalty. Her prince finally come to rescue her from being subjected to any other unworthy suitors. She couldn’t face telling this very plain fact to Dylan’s face, so instead she finally responded to one of his million text messages (not to mention missed calls and voicemails) with, “I’m no longer interested in this vacation with you. Please forget you ever knew me.”
The missive wasn’t unlike the one she’d been forced to give Jake as well, back when she was just a freshman in high school. He was her married next door neighbor, and the truth was, all she wanted from him was a little bit of sexual practice for things she hadn’t found boys her own age to be suitable for. Jake was a willing vessel, yet somehow assumed that her affections for him were as genuine as the ones he felt for Emilia. He would often sneak home in the afternoons from work, when his wife was still working her shift as a resident doctor. It was also at this time that Emilia’s own father was at the office (while her mother had already long ago abandoned them when she was just three).
So it was that Jake would hop over the fence while she was sunning herself on a chaise lounge, crawling on all fours to reach her until finally getting close enough to pull down her bikini and eat her out. Ah, how simple those carefree summer days were. Before Jake proved himself to be the precedent setter for all the crazy (more to the point, all the crazy men) in her life, ending up institutionalized after the only way for her to get him off her back when she was done with him was to accuse him of rape. And in her head she could hear the echo of Edgar tauntingly tell her at the Founders Arms, “Like attracts like.” As though to insinuate that she wouldn’t be gravitationally pulling this lot toward her if she wasn’t a bit cuckoo herself. Or at least more tolerant of the cuckoo than your average.
Things in London grew boring, and she realized she actually did miss California, deciding it was time to try her hand at Los Angeles once and for all instead of going back to dreary Gardena. She up and left with some of Edgar’s cash (he would’ve wanted it that way, she knew). After her blip with Michael, she started booking small modeling and commercial gigs within months of finding her own apartment in L.A. Edgar (as well as Michael) tried to reach her a number of times over the next couple of months before his communication faded away entirely. Although she didn’t want to think it, she had a feeling he might have killed himself.
It was after leaving a casting office one day that she ran into Shepherd as she walked to her car, only later learning that he had a tendency to troll the parking lots of casting directors for the very singular purpose of meeting women. It was just one of many lies Shepherd told about himself to get into Emilia’s good graces–all lies that would be uncovered that day at Cedars-Sinai when his mother, Virginia, showed up, bedecked in Cartier and Chanel, flouncing through the psych ward as though her appearance in it was the most natural thing in the world. She took one look at Emilia and rolled her eyes, as though already knowing exactly who she was. Perhaps Shepherd had spoken of her before.
Virginia took matters into her hands from the second she arrived, brushing Emilia off with a dismissive hand wave and the instruction, “You can go now, I’ll take it from here.” Truth be told, Emilia was happy to oblige the request, accepting it as a sanction to extricate herself from the relationship entirely… and take the car with her in doing so.
It seemed every man she fell for was a con. And usually one still dependent upon his parents’ wealth. Emilia didn’t believe life could possibly get any stranger until the valet who pulled up in her red convertible turned out to be Edgar.
“Get in,” he demanded. She hesitated for a moment but then thought better of it. She would have to go with Edgar for now until she found another masculine bank account from which to draw, suddenly coming to terms with the fact that her monetary succubus stylings were what drove all these men off the deep end. Yet it was her that kept them continually returning from it to repeat the cycle anew (she supposed she had Jake to thank for all that early sexual experimentation). It was then, in the passenger seat of Shepherd’s car with Edgar driving, that she briefly pondered if an actual job might be less work than dealing with the psychosis of the males she beguiled.