Ilana Harding burst into my office and my life one sunny afternoon. She swept in amid a flurry of designer labels—Ferragamo shoes, Prada bag, Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses—and arranged herself in the visitor’s chair in front of my desk. She was tall and slim with a bust proportioned to her figure. Her blonde hair brightened her brown eyes and delicate features. She was a knockout, and all of it natural.
Out of the Prada bag poured voluminous quantities of paper. First came a file folder strapped together with tape and a pile of receipts curling under a rubber band. Binder clips strained to contain stacks relating to numerous houses, a half-dozen bank accounts, and a variety of investments. Every new delivery that hit my blotter blew the scent of high-end perfume toward me. It was intoxicating, sweet yet spicy with a hint of earthy vetiver.
Then she began to speak. Her soft, delicate voice was almost too quiet to hear over the office noises that trickled in through the door she’d left open. I had to lean toward her and really concentrate on every word. Even then I caught only half of what she said. I carefully watched her mouth shape each sound. Her lips were mesmerizing. Even though I was looking straight at them, I hadn’t realized they’d stopped moving until she touched my hand.
“Are you all right?”
Standing in the driveway looking on as the garage, fence, house, and car were damaged almost beyond repair; I began to feel that somehow I would be blamed, AGAIN. Slowly I made my way to the front of the house where our Mother had just noticed Kenny standing next to the car. She stopped squeezing the steering wheel, relief flitting briefly across her face, only to be replaced immediately by an expression that did not bode well for me. As I approached, she pushed the button, lowering the power window, her eyes searing right through me. She uttered just three words chosen with icy precision, and meant every one: “Run … Just … RUN!”
I had never seen that look on my Mother’s face before. She was smiling, and looked almost happy. But it was a strange smile that made her looks more constipated than happy. Her lips were quivering as if she would burst into tears at any moment. So I ran. She told me to run, and I obeyed. I ran all the way down the street and kept running until I was three blocks away.