Wake-Up Call

by Sam Romano

He had just fallen asleep when the buzzer rang. It had been a long day in court and an even longer evening preparing all of the briefs he had to complete before Monday morning, and all he really wanted to do was sleep for a few hours before heading back to work. He ignored the loud, annoying bzzzzzzz on the intercom, hoping that whoever it was would realize they were ringing the wrong apartment. Fuck off, buddy...he thought to himself as he rolled to his other side, burying his head under his pillow. Soon enough, it rang again, even longer this time. Steve grumpily got out of bed, ready to rip whomever it was ringing the buzzer a new asshole.

"Who the fuck is this? This better not be a joke," Steve sleepily growled.

"Hi...uh, Steve, hi, it's Alex. Can you let me up?"

Startled into sudden alertness at the sound of Alex's voice on the intercom, he knew something was very, very wrong.

"Alex, what the hell are you doing here? It's the middle of the night! Is Gerry with you? What the fuck time is it???"

"It's about 3:15. No, Gerry isn't with me. I need to talk to you about something."

Steve's heart was racing. Why wasn't Gerry with her? Not knowing what else she could want or what else to say, Steve glibly asked, "You lookin' to score?" He knew her response would be harsh.

"NO!!!" she cried. "What in our history together would ever lead you to believe that? Look, we just...we just really need to talk about something. Just let me up."

He was worried now. Something bad had happened. He knew Alex hated him. She would never willingly visit him in the middle of the night, particularly when his wife, her best friend, Kelly, wasn't around. And she certainly wouldn't be here when she could be with her beloved Gerry. "Why are you here, Alex? You don't pay me social visits when Kelly's not around."

"Do you, do you know where your wife is?"

He was puzzled by the half-sarcastic tone of Alex's voice. Kelly was visiting her family in the godforsaken bayou. "Huh? Yeah, she's in a swamp visiting her parents..."

"No. Do you know where your wife is?" Alex repeated, this time a little more urgently.

He half knew what was coming when he asked, "She's not in a swamp with her parents?"

"No, she's fucking my fiancé in New York."

A long moment of silence passed. He felt as though his head would explode. Had he heard her right? Had it finally come to this? His mind raced with a strange mix of excitement and bewilderment as he buzzed Alex up. He quickly opened the door and walked down the long hall to the elevator. When the doors opened, Alex was leaning against the back wall, luggage in hand, eyes tightly closed, looking like a battered, stray puppy. Steve could tell she had been crying, and it made him want to scoop her up in a big hug and tell her everything would be okay. Instead, he did what he always did in her presence: Piss her off.

"Big Al?" Steve said as he stepped inside the elevators to grab her small suitcase.

Her eyes shot open; her head jerked to attention. A certain look of fury passed over her tired face. "Fuck you, Steve," was all she said as she brushed past him, leaving him to pick up her bags. He smiled to himself. He knew she detested that moniker. But Steve lived for her short, curt "fuck you"s. In his mind, it was her secret way of saying "I love you." Not to mention, it was all Alex would generally say to him whenever they were out with their mutual friends.

Steve stood in the doorway of the elevator staring at Alex's ass as she made her way down the corridor to his apartment. She certainly wasn't the prettiest girl he'd ever met. That title was left to his wife, Kelly, alone. Though Alex was attractive, she really had to work at it. Whereas Kelly had a natural and effortless physical beauty, Alex had to slave in the gym to keep herself even mildly thin. She had to live at her dermatologist's office to keep away the pesky acne that plagued her. She had to consult with a stylist to pick out clothes that were perfect for her body type and spend a small fortune getting her hair to lay just right. All of that came naturally to Kelly.

Still, unlike Kelly, Alex possessed a quiet intelligence that touched him from the instant he met her. She could hold her own in any conversation, a quality Steve instantly loved. She was well read and knowledgeable about music, art, and literature. She kept up with current events and followed politics religiously. Though quiet almost to a fault, Alex had a sharp, sarcastic wit that perfectly complimented his own. Before he knew it, Steve was in love, and not with his wife.

Though not terribly bright, Kelly did, however, possess a different kind of power. She wasn't very educated or learned, but she knew how to play people. She could read someone in an instant, knowing just what to say and do to make them feel completely at ease. She probed them with questions, learning all she could about their lives and interests, and, most importantly, their weaknesses. Upon sensing a weak spot, she maneuvered and adjusted her approach ever so slightly so that if the need ever arose, she could pounce with a full arsenal of dirt at her ready.

And this was particularly true of the menfolk. A Southern belle to the core, Kelly used her natural beauty and people skills as a weapon, first enticing, then enthralling, and finally ensnaring any man she wanted. Unfortunately for Steve, at one point she wanted him or at least what he could offer her.

Steve had had his share of girlfriends. All were bright and successful, much like himself. But he always felt he was missing out. Most girls he had been with were homely or uptight. What he longed for was a real beauty: a girl who could make other men stop and stare with envy. Even if it was only a brief fling, he wanted a trophy.

Therefore, it wasn't surprising that when they met, Steve and Kelly immediately hooked up. They met at LSU some five years before. She was a freshman, a party girl about one "F" away from flunking out. He was a straight-laced law student at the top of his class in his final year of law school.

Standing with some buddies at a frat party, Steve immediately spotted Kelly and watched as she made the rounds with all of the eligible (and sometimes not-so-eligible) coeds. First, he admired her from afar as she charmed the pants off of every horny frat boy in the room. She was absolutely stunning: perfect blonde hair, perfect skin, perfect body, big and beautiful blue eyes. Kelly was completely and totally disarming. She knew just when to giggle and just when to give a long, smoldering stare. She tossed her hair and batted her eyes and licked her lips ever so slightly. It was enough to give every boy within 10 feet of her a boner.

Steve quickly made a beeline for her when he saw the large number of horny potential suitors crowding around her. Though he certainly did not think himself the best-looking of the bunch, he always had the gift of gab and began chatting with her about this one's hair or that one's crazy mismatched outfit. While cordial, she seemed less than interested, especially when the LSU football team arrived. He had to think quickly to keep her attention and began bragging about how he was going to work for one of the top law firms in Chicago next year upon his graduation. Suddenly, Kelly only had eyes for him, much to the dismay of the multitude of horny frat boys waiting in the wings. She oozed sweet, unsophisticated charm, and Steve ate every last minute of it up. "Well, aren't you just the funniest man in the room!" she'd giggle as she softly touched his arm. He had finally found his trophy.

Their romance was a whirlwind. He lusted. She teased. He found himself getting more and more obsessed with her, wanting to spend every free moment with no one but Kelly. He was so enthralled with her tight ass, perky tits, and perfectly flat stomach that he overlooked her general lack of wit and intelligence and their inability to talk about anything of substance. What she lacked in brains, she certainly made up for in the sack. And for that brief moment in time, that was enough for Steve. His dick was happy, so life was good.

Soon enough, he found himself hitched, marrying Kelly within two short months of meeting her. Her family was pleased as punch that she finally landed a soon-to-be-hot-shot lawyer. His family, as usual, was absent.

Their wedded bliss, however, didn't last as long as their fast and furious courtship. Within a week of their marriage, a little voice started telling him he'd made a huge mistake. Kelly quit school upon their return from their modest weekend honeymoon, exclaiming to an exasperated Steve, "Who needs a boring old education when I've got tits like these?!" And then she promptly buried his face in said tits, softly cooing, "I know you'll take good care of me." He quickly forgot why he was bewildered.

Within a month of their wedding, the bills started arriving. He always knew Kelly liked to shop. He just never knew how much. His small little apartment was quickly overflowing with Prada shoes and Gucci handbags. His K-Mart blue-light-special clothes, which were all that he could afford as a struggling law student with a part-time job waiting tables and a multitude of student loans, were pushed out by the fabulously sophisticated Versace and Armani. And all three of his credit cards were maxed out in two months flat.

Before they were married, Steve had a hard enough time making ends meet. He struggled through college at the University of Chicago, which carried a very hefty price tag, on small scholarships, large student loans, and part-time jobs. Things were not much different when he entered law school, only now he had even less time to devote to part-time work. He picked up work waiting tables, but that was more for spending money than anything else.

Now he had two people to shelter, feed, and clothe on a meager $550 a month. But that certainly didn't stop Kelly from shopping to her heart's content. His modest wife from the bayou seemed to have very expensive tastes, something that would have given him pause had he known that before their nuptials. He scanned each bill:

Chase Mastercard Visa Platinum American Express
Banana Republic $700 Louis Vouitton $8,600 Bvlgari $12,000
Bloomingdale's $2,300 Gap Online $400 Jimmy Choo $900
Versace Boutique $5,325 Pottery Barn $6,200 MAC Cosmetics $350
Fontina Day Spa $1,600 Emporio Armani $1,800 La Perla $650

In just two short months, he had more than $40,000 in credit-card debts alone. That was in addition to his student loans both for college and law school, which were already well over $100,000 and growing.

He confronted her about her spending, not-so-gently reminding her that though in a few months he could command a six-figure salary, he certainly was not at that point yet. Steve demanded she return everything she'd bought. She pouted, jutting out her plump bottom lip just like his two-year-old niece. "But honeeeey..." she whined, "I just want to look beautiful for you."

Reminding her that she would look beautiful wearing a garbage bag and generally unmoved by her pouting, Steve firmly demanded that if she wasn't going to school, she had to find a job. She pouted some more. "But Steeeevie, I'll only have to quit in a couple months when we move to Chicago..." Still unmoved, Steve barked, "Get a job or go back home to daddy," and quickly left the room to study in his "office," which was otherwise known as their bedroom.

Of course he couldn't concentrate. This was, after all, their first big fight. There was no way they could make those payments, especially on his current pittance of a salary alone. And even when he was a full-fledged lawyer with a big, fat salary, he still doubted they could afford her extravagant shopping sprees with all of his current debt in student loans.

He was staring blankly at his textbook when the door opened, and he heard Kelly slink into the bedroom. Refusing to divert his gaze, he continued staring at his book, pretending to be studious. He smelled her sweet perfume as she began rubbing his shoulders and gently stroking his hair. Trying his hardest to ignore her, she said softly, "Steeevie, I have a surprise for you. Turn around..." He continued looking at the book but felt his will begin to give way to his willy. He cleared his throat, shifted his weight, and continued staring at the book. "I bought something special just for you," she cooed. Hugging him from behind, she ever so slightly grazed the boys when she gently spun his chair around.

And there she was, standing in an itty-bitty piece of lingerie that just barely covered all the important spots. He felt his anger and desperation quickly give way to his horniness, and upon seeing her, he lusted after her as he never had before. They then had the most mind-blowing tryst Steve had ever experienced. Ever.

When they were done, Steve had completely forgotten about the enormous credit card bills, the mounting student loans, her refusal to get a job, and his ever-looming bar exam. He just felt calm and peaceful, as if he didn't have a care in the world. Laying her head on his shoulder, she looked up at him with her beautiful blue eyes, and said, "Stevie, did you really mean it about returning everything? I just wanted to look good for all your big-wig lawyer friends when we move to Chicago. But if you want, I'll take it all back. And I'll start looking for a job tomorrow..."

Delirious with satisfaction and half asleep, Steve drowsily replied, "Don't worry about it, baby. I'll figure something out."

Little did he know that this exchange would play itself out again and again and again. She'd spend money they didn't have; he'd get angry; she'd pout; they'd fight; they'd fuck; then he'd forgive her until the cycle started up again and again and again, each time pushing him further and further into debt.

A month before their big move to Chicago, Steve was studying in the law library with a couple of his buddies, lamenting the sad state of his finances. Steve sighed, "I just...I just dunno what to do...I owe my ass to these credit cards, and they just keep piling up and piling up. Some of them are already going to collections. And when one gets maxed out, she just opens another. I've told her a gazillion times over to cool it, but she always manages to get her way one way or another. I'd sell my soul just to pay these damn things off. I need money, like yesterday..."

Chris, one of his study partners, eyed him carefully. "You mean that?" Chris asked.

"Wha?" Steve replied.

"You mean you'd do anything? Cuz you know, I could hook you up with some quick cash, but it's not exactly legal." Chris explained.

"Short of fucking another man, I'll do anything," Steve said desperately.

Chris scribbled a name and address down in his notebook, telling Steve, "Go talk to this guy, Caesar. He helped me out when I was flat-on-my-ass broke. He's always looking for more people. I'll give him a call and vouch for you."

"More people to do what???"

"Just go talk to him. Make sure to tell him I sent you," Chris chirped as he gathered his books and left the table.

Not quite knowing what to make of it, Steve let the piece of paper float around his folder for a few days. Whatever cash this Caesar offered, he knew there'd be major strings attached.

He returned home from class one night feeling completely exhausted and overwhelmed. His grades had begun to slip as he had to forgo studying to pick up more shifts at the diner. He had hardly slept at all the last month, and dark, puffy circles now regularly rimmed his hazel eyes. Kelly was happily modeling her newest Dolce & Gabbana dress while he glared at the pile of unopened credit-card bills. "I need to go out for a while," he said as he brushed past her.

"Hurry home, darlin'. I've got a surprise for you!!!" she said as he rushed out the door to meet Caesar.

He returned home a few hours later to find her lounging alluringly on the sofa in a new nightie. His pants pockets felt heavy. Deep inside, several small bags of white powder, only a few grams at most, weighed him down like a ton of bricks. He knew he could not turn back now. He needed to get rid of those bags. No, he needed to sell them. And quickly too.

Steve struggled to smile at Kelly. At that moment, all he really wanted to do was run far, far away from her, from school, from everything...

Sensing his discomfort, Kelly quickly led him to the bedroom and made him forget all about everything, even the bags of powder lodged in his pockets. When they were finished, she again laid her head on his shoulder and looked up at him with her beautiful blue eyes, "Baby, you okay?"

"Yeah...everything's fine. Everything's just fine..." he repeated again and again as he drifted off into an uneasy sleep.

* * *

"Uhh...hullo...would you stop staring at my ass already, you fucking perv?"

"Huh? Oh yeah, sorry, I just...sorry..." Steve stammered. He dragged Alex's luggage down the corridor to his apartment, finally feeling a sense of relief that he had not felt in five long years.