Unbound: The Pentagon Group, Book 2, page 6
“Good. You should be making more money. It’s time for you to expect more for your life.”
We arrived in front of my door. I said ‘goodbye’ to the students. Carson pulled me to give me a kiss on my forehead. It felt so brotherly, just like Tommy used to do after my performances.
Before I opened the front entrance, I opened my mailbox. I assumed most of it would be junk mail because I’d retrieved the week day’s mail yesterday, but missed Saturday’s delivery. The only piece of mail was a very heavy bonded envelope. In the return address section was the seal and address of the firm whom represented Ben in the divorce. All I needed was to have a problem with Ben. I’ve moved on from him and I’d done nothing to bring any legal actions against me. I waited to read it upstairs, preventing a nervous breakdown in the middle of the street in Charlestown. I climbed up the steps slowly, delaying the inevitable bad news.
I opened my door and entered the room. I laid the letter on the café table and put my things away. I sat down before opening up the letter. I braced myself for something negative. I inhaled and opened the letter. I read through the entire letter in disbelief of what I read. I did a second reading to confirm.
The letter was from Ben’s attorney and trustee of the monies I agreed to repay. Money I’d never taken or owed, but agreed to pay when evidence was manipulated to portray me as an embezzler of my ex-husband’s construction company. The letter informed me of payment in the amount of $97,473.82, bringing my debt to a zero balance. Additionally, the attorney sent a copy of the order they filed with the court showing I’d paid off the money stipulated in the divorce. My fast beating heart confirmed my greatest wish and my greatest fear; I was free from Ben, but I was tied to Matt. The realization I was free from Ben was short lived because the reality was I was beholden to another man who betrayed me. Matt had to have paid off the balance after I told him the truth about my debt. Either he paid it to relieve himself of the guilt or he thought this would be a way to win me back. There was only one way to find out.
I took the tablet and sat on my bed. I took many deep breaths trying to decide which method of communication would be better: video chat or sending a message. I decided to video chat, and pressed the button to call him. Within a couple of rings, Matt picked up the phone. My heart skipped a beat when I saw his gorgeous face. He looked withered, tired, sad and hopeful as we looked at each other for a moment. I took a deep breath and proceeded with expressing my issues.
“I received a letter today from Ben’s attorney who holds the escrow for the debt I agreed to pay. I was informed the entire balance was paid off. I know I didn’t make a payoff payment of over ninety-seven thousand dollars. Other than the five Pentagon billionaires who know of my debts, there’s no one else who could pay the ridiculous sum in one fell swoop. Can you tell me the truth for once? Did you pay off my debt?” I asked with a tone of exasperation.
He nodded, “I did. I didn’t want you to be stuck with paying money you didn’t owe. You’ve been working yourself to exhaustion for it. And if Pentagon had anything to do with it, as you suggested, I had no choice but to pay it.” He revealed.
I rubbed my eyes in frustration and took deep breaths. I was physically exhausted from the day, and now I was emotionally spent having to deal with Matt’s cavalier attitude and ability to spend an obscene amount of money. “Matt, I agreed to pay it. It’s my responsibility. You had no right to get involved and pay it off. I’m not going to go back with you just because you paid it. You can’t buy my love and affection. This wasn’t your concern.” My voice quivered with emotion.
“I’m not trying to buy your love. I already have it. You didn’t turn it off in the span of three days. You may be trying to exorcise yourself of it, but you won’t because we’re meant to be together. You’re mine. I love you and I will make this up to you. This is just one of many ways.” He said, with frustration.
“Okay, so as your next grand gesture, are you going to return the Inn to me and Ross per Alice’s wishes?” He rolled his eyes and looked down. “Perla, the Inn is owned by PGC and is being transferred to Pentagon this week. Everything is in motion to start the demolition of that sector next week and construction will start mid-summer. It’s out of my hands.”
“Well, then we have nothing to discuss nor is there a relationship to be had. You have Pentagon, maybe you can find a way to fuck it much like you did me.” Filled with anger, I hung up. He attempted to call me back on the tablet several times while I went to the bathroom and brushed my teeth to get ready for bed.
I turned off the tablet. I reread the letter, cursing his name for paying off the debt. I filed the letter in my fire proof, file lockbox. Despite dancing all day with the troop, the letter wound me up. I found a padded mailing envelope large enough to slip the tablet inside. I placed the envelope in my handbag, ready for me to drop off at his medical office in the morning before I went into work at Duration. I decided to turn in early and read a book until I fell asleep.
On Monday morning, I made my way to Matt’s medical office before heading off to work. When I opened the doors to the waiting room, I looked inside the glass enclosed reception area to see if I saw Matt. After I confirmed he wasn’t there, I approached the receptionist and smiled as I pulled out the envelope.
“Can I help you?” She asked as she slid open the glass window.
“Yes. I just need to drop this off to Dr. Keene, please.”
“Are these medical records?” She took the envelope.
“No. I’m just returning his property. Thank you.”
Before I turned to leave, she asked, “Is there a message I should attach to this?”
“No. He’ll know who it’s from once he opens the package.” I smiled and turned away.
A woman’s voice called out to me. “Perla, wait.” I turned around and saw Annie, Matt’s nurse. I stopped and waited for her to approach me. “Hi, Perla.” She said with a sigh, which alerted me to her knowledge of our break up. “How are you?”
“Hi, Annie. I’m fine.” She looked into my eyes and nodded.
“Did you want to see Matt?” She asked tentatively.
“No. I just came by to drop something off, and I’ll be on my way.” I stepped to turn, but was stopped when she spoke.
“I was really sad to hear you two have hit a rough patch.” Her statement was the understatement of the year, but I didn’t want to quibble with her. I smiled.
“Thank you, Annie. Take care of him for me.” I touched her shoulder, and she pulled me in for a hug.
“You two will be fine. You can get through this. The kind of love you two have will overcome any problems and join together to fix this.” She pulled away and started gesturing for emphasis, “I don’t understand. Just a couple of weeks ago he was talking about proposing, and then Friday he shows up to work looking a wreck and says he caused you two to break up. He didn’t cheat did he? Because he planned to take you up to Maine and propose on your birthday after you meet his parents.” Her revelation sent my mind reeling. I felt nauseas and dizzy, and I needed fresh air.
“Annie, I have to go to work. I dropped off something for Matt. Please make sure he gets it. Thank you.” I gave her another hug and pulled away, running out of the office to the elevators. Annie couldn’t have possibly heard him right. Why would he take the ruse so far as to tell his staff he was going to propose? She was so specific about time and place she couldn’t have been mistaken.
As I walked toward Duration, my anxiety lessened with the physical activity. The walk gave me time to think about all of this. Everyone told me Matt may have had ulterior motives for starting a relationship with me, but he’d fallen in love with me. ‘Was it enough to change my opinion of him?’ He had every opportunity within the acquisition of Liberty Inn to break up with me, but he didn’t. He didn’t know Pentagon’s acquisition of Parisi was the impetus for my divorce. He was surprised when I revealed my ex-husband demanded I agree to pay back over one hundred thous
I stopped before I entered Duration’s building, which I had been avoiding for days. I feared I couldn’t keep my emotions together and be the professional woman I worked so hard to be. I sat down on the granite planter bench to take a deep breath while admiring the beautiful flowers and leafy plants bursting with color.
My phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number and took a chance in answering.
“Hello.” I answered with apprehension.
“Hello. Is this Perla Mercurio?” The male caller asked.
“Who’s calling?” I asked gruffly.
“This is Kevin Zipperer.” Matt’s best friend identified himself. I took a deep breath.
“Attorney Zipperer, what can I do for you?” I asked firmly.
“Perla, Call me Kevin or Zipper. I’m sorry about your recent discovery, and worse, how it’s impacted your relationship with Matt. He really does love you and . . .”
“Attorney Zipperer, not even an attorney would be able to convince me to give Matt another chance. You’re wasting your time. Good . . .”
“Wait. Perla, don’t hang up. Please.” He pleaded. “I’d like to meet with you. There are some things I’d like to discuss about what happened and hope you can come to my office at noon.” I smirked and huffed loudly.
“Attorney Zipperer, I have absolutely zero business with you or anyone from Pentagon. Please do not call my number. As an attorney, you understand the term ‘harassment’, right?” Without giving him an opportunity to answer, I continued.
“There’s nothing to discuss. I’m done with all of you at Pentagon. If you think I’ll sue or bring the authorities into this matter, you can be assured I have no interest in spending another second of my life on this issue. If I were you, I’d advise Matt to leave me alone, or I will be forced to report everything to the media about how a prominent doctor seduced an innocent, hardworking woman to obtain information to purchase property for the new Pentagon project. I just want to be left the hell alone and I never want to set eyes or ears on any of you people ever again.” I hung up the phone and proceeded to block his number, cursing the day I ever heard of the Pentagon group.
I felt searing pain in my chest. I didn’t want to be nasty. I never liked that side of myself. It took me years to curb my hellcat personality. When I cooled off, I walked into work to start my day.
I went through the morning half of my shift like an automaton. I hated being at Duration Fitness. I was sad, angry, and bored. I had a bunch of pent up energy, which needed to be expended. I decided it was time to get back into consistent exercise. There was no way I would allow myself to gain the weight I’d lost by sitting still, thinking about my woes, and eating my frustration away.
When I had enough of sitting behind the desk, twiddling my thumbs, I got up to go to the locker room to change. I was going to do a thirty minute workout. The fitness area was quiet on a mid-Monday morning. I felt like a teen sneaking out of the house without permission. I closed the door, which locked itself behind me. After taking a few steps away from the office, I heard my name called by a woman. I knew it wasn’t Chelsea or any of my colleagues. Before turning, I put my ‘customer service’ face on, and saw Stella Keene Fanning, Matt’s younger sister walking toward me. She smiled warmly at me when our eyes met.
“Hi, Perla.” She said with a sigh and a sad tone of sympathy in her voice.
“Stella. What a surprise.” I responded. ‘I can’t believe he fucking sent his baby sister to plead his case.’ I thought.
“Can we speak privately?” She asked. I was not in the mood to speak to anyone associated with Matt, but I wasn’t going to be rude to her. Stella was kind to me when I attended a special dinner she cooked for me and Matt. Her family was gracious and loving. Matt’s niece, Leona, was the most beautiful little girl I’d ever seen. I could be a royal bitch, but I wasn’t going to bring out my claws with her.
“Yes.” I returned to the sales office and unlocked the door. Stella followed me in. I offered her a seat and sat in my chair. “I take it you’re not here for a membership, so I’ll save my spiel.” I gave her a soft smile and asked, “What can I do for you?”
“First, let me say how sorry I am about your break up.” She leaned in and spoke in a gentle tone.
“Did Matt tell you the entire story?” I interrupted, needing to know how much she knew.
“Yes. I made him tell me everything. At least, I think he told me everything; from Parisi to Liberty Inn.” I nodded. Her lips pursed grimly.
“Then you must understand I can’t continue to be in a relationship with someone who was involved in a scheme set to destroy my life.” I said evenly. I didn’t want to argue with her. She made an effort to personally reach out to me.
“I hope you can try.” Her smile was warm and her eyes bright. I admired her dedication and support for her brother. However, I also wondered what kind of woman would ask another woman to reward a man’s betrayal.
“I’m too angry to try, Stella. I’m hurt and humiliated. To put it in perspective, despite being accused by my husband of many years of embezzling from the family business, throwing me out of my home with only my clothes, and leaving me with a massive amount of debt, I wasn’t as hurt, humiliated or angry with him as I am with Matt.” I answered coldly. Stella leaned back and looked down at her hands, obviously disappointed in my response.
“He does love you, you know. When he visited me, before traveling to Spain, he told me about you. I could tell by his smile, the sound of his voice, and how he spoke about you, you’re special. He didn’t have to use the actual ‘L’ word for us to know you are the one.” She said.
“Does he know you’re here?” I asked, wondering if he sent her.
“No.” She replied emphatically. “Matt has never included the family in his romantic life. This is all new to us. He’s only brought two women home.” She revealed.
“From early on, my parents could tell Matt was different than other boys. He was super smart and slightly socially awkward. He’d sit back and watch the world go by, observing things and people. He’s still quiet, but when he’s comfortable with a person, he’s so engaging and funny. Girls flocked to him since he was a boy. He’d always been handsome, tall and strong. I remember all my friends in middle school had a massive crush on him, but he was never interested. He’d completely ignore every girl who showed even a hint of interest, and forget about the girls who were aggressive. He didn’t talk about having a crush on a girl or having a girlfriend while in school. I actually thought he was gay. He had so many guy friends and they were all hot and smart. In boarding school he was inseparable from his guy friends, whom you’ve met.” She disclosed. I became uncomfortable at the mere mention of the Pentagon men. I could testify Matt was definitely not gay.
“Our parents resigned themselves to the fact that Matt was just hyper focused. He excelled at school. When it was time to go to prep school at fifteen, he tested high in his placements. He’d always said he was working to be a doctor. He was a genius with numbers. He could calculate equations in his head, solved logical problems within seconds, and science was a hobby. Matt came in handy when he and the boys created Pentagon, which we didn’t learn about until they were in college. Matt was the numbers guy. He made investment decisions based on stock trends and company histories he'd memorized. Matt later told me it was ‘fun’ to figure out how stocks worked. But it wasn’t just for fun, because he immersed himself in the business of trading. At sixteen, he could out trade the most seasoned broker. For brokers, it’s a lifetime commitment. To him, it was like working the Sunday crossword puzzle.” She recounted.
“To our parents, he was no different than a gambler going to the casino daily. The way I see it now, he was trying to keep his friends, buying their friendship with this high stakes endeavor. They became like a ‘white collar’ gang of sorts. They were rich boys making money for sport, but were essentially gambling
“Our parents figured he would be interested in dating while in school. I heard stories of girlfriends while at boarding school. A couple of years later, when I enrolled at the school before his last year, I learned it was more like crushes following him, and he took advantage of girls throwing themselves at him. I was grossed out to think he was having sex with all these girls, so I never allowed myself to know more than I’d already learned. But I never met a girlfriend. When he was in college he brought home one girl. I can’t even tell you her name. She was nice and sweet, and clearly in love with him. But he wasn’t as into her as the situation called for. She followed after him like a kitten while he hung out with his buddies and their girlfriends.” She reminisced. I let her divulge more details about Matt's past, which I wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to learn.
“About five years ago, he brought home the second woman ever to meet our family; Sonia. He never spoke of her. When we met her, we were surprised he was even seriously dating someone. We didn’t know what to think of her. It wasn’t like we knew what his type was, but we knew she couldn’t be it. The next time we saw them, probably a few months later, she had a really large diamond on her finger. He hadn’t even told us he was going to marry her. My parents and I thought he was rushing into marriage, which was our fault. We’d pressured him. All of us would tell him an established doctor needed to start thinking about settling down and having children. Because of the pressure, Matt believed it was the right thing to do for a thirty-year old doctor. I’d gotten married when I graduated college. Our parents have been married thirty-six years. Why not him? Why not then?” She clapped her hands in resignation.