Disclaimer: Persuasion and all of it's characters and story lines belong to the lovely Ms. Jane Austen.
A/N: Hello again, I've finally finished off this chapter (obviously) for anyone who maybe have been waiting. It's not my favourite, in fact I find it rather boring but it does give a lot of back story, or something, I guess.
Once again, I apologise if there are any mistakes cos I still haven't found a beta. I'm too chicken to actually show this to anyone for fear they'll tear it apart. I know, I know, I need to suck it up.
It took me all of two hours to miss my cramped little flat. That's got to be some kind of record, but I think that with a family like mine no one could blame me. In most normal families the returning child would be greeted with warm hellos and hugs, not for me though. My homecoming consisted of me knocking on the front door for what felt like forever before my sister finally opened it with a snide "Oh, it's you. About time you showed up." I followed her through to lounge room, stupidly expecting some sign that Elizabeth was glad to see me. What happened instead was her flopping onto the modern leather couch, picking up some trashy tabloid magazine and losing herself in the world of love and heartbreak of the celebrities. Nice to see you too, Liz.
Figuring that was all I was going to get out of Elizabeth for now, I went to go put my things away in my old room, only to find someone was already settled in it – Elizabeth's latest BFF, Penelope "Oh please, just call me Penny!" Clay. It turns out I had been relegated to the pull out in the study instead. Awesome. To top it all off, Dad wasn't even there to welcome me back; apparently having lunch with friends he sees every week was more important than being there to welcome his daughter home. A daughter, might I add, that he hadn't seen in almost a year. So yeah, I wasn't exactly feeling the love.
Seeing as it had been a while since I was last home, I wondered around the spacious penthouse apartment, curious to see what changes had been made in the last couple of years. We first moved here twelve years ago, not long after Mum died. Our house there was full of too many painful memories for everyone and Dad believed that a change of scenery would help cheer us all up and keep our minds off the past. Well that was one of his reasons but I think the social attractions had a lot of influence on where we moved too. After all, you were more likely to rub elbows with the 'right' people in Manhattan than you were in Boston. The apartment had never felt like home to me and Dad and Elizabeth's constant renovations didn't help. Every few years they'd make changes to the apartment and it's decor to make sure they were up to date with all the latest trends. Whoever they had hired for the last one should never be allowed to work in the industry again – the house looked like a technicolour nightmare full of uncomfortable and expensive contemporary furniture. How much money had they wasted on this? Shaking my head, I realise it's no surprise the family money had dried up.
Later that evening Dad finally decided to make an appearance. Before sitting in the arm chair across from the lounge I'm reading on, he surprises me by kissing me on the cheek (very unusual for him) and pronouncing "Ah Anne, there you are! We're so glad to have you back home."
I highly doubt that, Elizabeth still hadn't deemed me worthy of her attention other than to throw a "Going out. Laters." over her shoulder as she and Penny walked out the front door. Despite that, I give Dad a smile and tell him that it's nice to be back. I'm lying, of course, but it's the expected response and I've always hated to disappoint people.
We make some awkward small talk for a few minutes and I take the opportunity to scrutinise Dad's appearance. He's thankfully given up on dying his hair (it looked ridiculous on a man his age) and I notice that the grey suits him – it makes him look more distinguished. Dad was quite a looker when he was younger, but in his desperate bid to stop the aging process he appears to have lost the ability to move his facial muscles, which seems to take away some of his charm. God, I think to myself, no wonder the doctors stopped the Botox.
"Oh Anne," he sighs "how on earth are we going to survive?" Over-exaggerate much? It seems like I get my dramatic flair from my father. No surprise there really.
Rolling my eyes I say "Dad, this is hardly the end of the world. There are plenty of people out there who get by without piles of cash."
He looks horrified, as if being compared to everyone is some great slight against him. "But they're all so ordinary! They don't have a reputation like ours to uphold."
"Reputation shmeputation. Who cares what a bunch of boring, empty-headed socialites think?" That was probably the wrong thing to say.
The look of horror is replaced by one of indignation."Me, Anne! I care!" Yep, definitely the wrong thing to say. "Reputation is everything and now it appears as though it's the only thing I've got left." Dad looks forlornly at his shoes, as if thinking about everything he's lost.
I can't help but bitterly correct him. "Besides family, you mean." Seriously, is money all this man cares about?
He nods distractedly "Oh yes, yes, besides family of course. And now you're here to help us out. You'll need to meet up with Sheppard sometime soon to sort out what needs to be done to get us out of this mess."
"Haven't you already talked to him about all this?" For God's sake, I think, please don't tell me he's done nothing about this.
Dad gets up and drifts over to the bookcase, as if he suddenly finds the titles of the books fascinating. "Well yes, we did discuss the situation in some form I believe, but I was so distraught at hearing the news and the man is so studiously boring that I found my attention wandering. No, you're much better suited at dealing with all this than I am." He turns around and looks at me expectantly, as if he assumes I'll immediately comply. Once upon a time I would have, but now I've grown a backbone. A little... kind of. In any case, I'm going to make sure I'm not the only one left to clean up this mess.
"What about Liz? She's the eldest, shouldn't she have to take on some of the responsibility too? It's not fair that I have to be the one to deal with it all."
Looking like he's disappointed in me, Dad shakes his head. "Really Anne, your sister's very busy. She has so many social engagements she needs to attend, not to mention her modelling career is really starting to take off." Ah yes, Elizabeth's questionable modelling career. She certainly has the look for it; she's a tall, leggy blonde (bottled, naturally) who looks like she's never had a 'fat day' in her life. I've seen her photos though and that duck face she pulls is not attractive.
Ignoring my scoff of disbelief, Dad continues. "Besides, you're not dealing with it all by yourself. Dee has very kindly offered us her assistance, she's sorting everything out down at the Boston end."
"The Boston end?" I didn't like the sound of that.
"Yes, she's advised that it might be best to move back to Boston while we're going through this crisis. She's quite right, the embarrassment of it being known that we're financially unstable would be too much to bear. Once things have sorted themselves out we can come back to New York."
As much as I hated the idea and wanted to argue it, I couldn't. Boston was a safer place to live because there wasn't as much for Dad and Elizabeth to blow the remaining money on. Also, Dad didn't need to try so hard with the high and mightys there and Aunt Dee would be able to help keep a close eye on their spending habits.
Begrudgingly I say, "Well that does make sense I suppose."
"Good, I'm glad you can see reason. Dee's already found a four bedroom home for us. Not quite as large or nice as I would have hoped, but I suppose it's adequate enough and will do for now."
"Four bedrooms? Dad, we really only need three."
"Don't be silly dear, we need a room for Penny as well."
Penny? What the fuck? Why the hell is she moving with us? Why is she even living here in the first place?
Before I could voice my questions, Dad had already moved on and was speaking again. "Tomorrow you can meet up with Sheppard and go over all the details of what needs to be done. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get ready for dinner with a certain hotel tycoon and his wife."
Leaving me in utter confusion, he walks out of the room with his usual style and grace. Penelope – sorry, Penny – Clay is the daughter of Mr. Sheppard, the family lawyer, and is in the middle of divorcing her husband who, from what I heard, had run off with a Hooters waitress. She makes a perfect friend for Elizabeth; she's a vain airhead who's only aspiration in life is to be a trophy wife for some millionaire (any one will do).
The next morning I interrupt Elizabeth's make-up routine to pull her aside and ask about her friend's current living situation. Elizabeth gives me one of her famous 'what do you think' looks but it misses its mark a little – the half finished eyebrows make it hard to take her seriously.
"Honestly Anne, why do you think she's here? Ever since you left, I've been pretty lonely. You have no idea. Anyway, I realised that Penny seemed kind of bummed at having to live at home since that bastard left her, and seeing as it was only me and Daddy at home, I thought she could stay with us. She's been a God-send, ever since we found out the horrible news about our money, she's done nothing but try to cheer us up."
I have to say, her answer surprised me. I didn't realise that my absence would affect Elizabeth or that she was capable of doing something nice for someone without expecting something in return, so I let her know. "Wow Liz, that was really nice of you."
Pulling a face at her nickname she ruins the moment by saying, "Yeah well, as it turns out it she's way more fun to hang out with than you ever were anyway." And with that lovely little barb she flounces off to finish getting ready for whatever it is that she does all day.
Mid afternoon I meet up with Mr. Sheppard to discuss the situation our family was now in, what the extent of it was and how on earth we'd be able to try and fix it. He was a smart, straightforward man so I knew that whatever advice he gave me would be worth taking on board. I was also able to get to the bottom of how all that money had disappeared.
"It's quite simple. The majority of the fortune has been lost due a number of factors. The first one being that your father and sister have been relying on the family money instead of gaining paid employment and considering the lifestyle they lead, this has been quite a drain on the family accounts. Other factors include the recession that's hit the economy which has been exacerbated by some, frankly, ridiculous investments made by Mr. Elliot."
None of this was exactly surprising news to me, I just had no idea how out of control Elizabeth and Dad's spending habits were. Now I had to figure out where we go from here. As Mr. Sheppard was the expert, I asked him. "Ok... so what does this mean for us? Are we totally bankrupt?"
Adjusting the glasses on his nose he thinks through his answer. "The family's accounts are greatly depleted, however I do not believe it is necessary to declare bankruptcy. What I would suggest, however, is that you sell off all unnecessary belongings, such as cars, furniture, artwork and so forth and rent out the properties you own to collect some kind of income. It would also be helpful for the members of your family to find employment or I'm afraid what little money is left will run out within a few years and you will have to declare yourselves bankrupt."
For the next hour we come up with an action plan that will reduce our cost of living and bring some money into the accounts. The list of things to do before the big move is intimidating to say the least – meeting with the real estate and potential tenets, deciding which belongings to sell, which staff to let go and the biggest task of all; convincing Dad and Liz that it's all necessary and that there is no way around it. Lord give me strength. The fact that Aunt Dee has decided to take it upon herself to 'give her assistance' is only going the whole situation a bigger pain in the ass than it already is. Seriously, the thought of having to listen to her sanctimonious advice makes me want to just drown out the sound of her voice with loud death metal music. Huh, looks like my resentment towards her hasn't worn off. At least she's in Boston, so I won't have to deal with her here.
I don't even know why I'm pissed off with her really. After all, I was the one who made the decision to end things with Rick. Ok yes, she did guide me in that direction but everything she said made sense and did have some truth behind it. When Rick proposed we were both so young and we had no way to support ourselves. Everything would have fallen apart. I did the right thing in saying no, for both of us.
So while Dee is only partially to blame for the implosion of my life, the thought of having to move back near her sets me on edge. Living in Boston is going to be hell, I just know it.
A/N: So there you have it. The story's moving a little slower than I'd like, but hopefully it'll pick up in the next chapter And no, I don't have any control over it cos my brain won't let me *sigh*.
Please leave any reviews you may have, constructive feedback can only help me improve!
Until next time, AE.