"Nathaniel Banker wants to talk to you," my father said, coming in with a Dr. Pepper.
"I don't want to talk to him," I said into my pillow. "My life is over, Dad."
"It's just a rumor," he reasoned. "I've been getting a lot of phone calls and they all are saying they don't believe a word of it." He paused. "Why didn't you tell me you were dating Brandon?"
"You hate him," I mumbled. "I didn't want to upset you."
He sighed and put a hand on my back. "Sweetheart, I want you to be happy, even if it means being with Brandon. Well, not so much anymore," he added. "I wish you had said something. Did he break up with you because of the news?"
"No. I broke up with him." I sniffled. "He-He was cheating on me." I sat up on my bed and pulled my knees to my chest. My father was staring at me. "He said he wanted to marry me so... so I would lend him money for our wedding. Polly offered me money to go to the dinner with Nathaniel. The only thing Brandon hadn't gotten was the right." I hid my face. "He's been planning a wedding, all right. Just not for me."
"Oh, sweetheart," my dad said and pulled me into a hug. "I'm so sorry."
We didn't hear from Nathaniel for several days. We were still all over the news, though. Previous girls he had dated and cheated with were now coming forward with their stories. Brandon came on once but my dad tracked him down and punched him. Unfortunately, someone caught it on camera and it was now part of the weird love triangle we had going on.
I tried going down to the ranch to help my father but, after he attacked Brandon, people were swarming there and hitting me with questions. Now I mostly stayed at home, hating Polly and Nathaniel.
My dad was teaching lessons when the doorbell rang. I was eating ice cream in my pajamas and watching some old Western movie my dad loved. I sighed, figuring it was the media, and brought my ice cream with me. When I opened the door, though, I saw it wasn't the media.
It was Nathaniel. And he looked like shit.
He hadn't shaved in several days and his hair was messy. He had dark circles under his eyes and his face no longer held that annoying bravado it once did.
We stared at each other for a while and I moved only to eat a spoonful of ice cream.
"Guess our lives have both been trashed, huh?" he said finally.
"Thanks for the reminder," I snapped. "What do you want?"
"Your help," he sighed.
"And why should I help you?"
"Because we can fix this," he said. "Can I please come in?"
"Whatever," I mumbled and stepped to the side.
He went into my dining room and sat at the dining table.
"Make yourself at home," I grumbled.
"I have a plan but it'll take a while," he sighed.
"And what do you get out of it?" I snapped.
"My life back," he snapped back. "My parents cut me off. I've been living in a damn run down hotel."
I dropped my spoon. "They're not even letting you live in your house?"
"No," he spat, glaring at the table. "They bought the house for me. I need to find a job or the hotel is going to kick me out."
"So you've come to me to help you find a job?" I asked, eating more ice cream.
"And a place to stay," he murmured. "I know I'm the last person you want to see right now but-"
"What about Polly?"
"She's still living with my parents," He scoffed. "Even though it was her idea, they're still blaming me."
"I'm tired of being used, Banker," I said. "I'm not going to let you use me anymore. Just go and talk to my dad or something."
"You're not being fair," my father said, coming in through the back door and wiping the sweat off his face.
"I don't have to be," I retorted as he sat down across from Nathaniel. "I'm done. I just want to live the rest of my stupid life eating stupid ice cream and watching stupid movies."
My father rolled his eyes. "Look, at least you didn't get kicked out of your house," he said and I sighed, looking over at Nathaniel. His eyes were focused on his hands. "He called me yesterday and I think we should help him."
"He's ruined my life!" I yelled, slamming the ice cream down and the spoon clattered on the table.
"You didn't have to go to the dinner!" Nathaniel yelled back. "You just wanted your damn money!"
"Don't you dare go there!" I snapped. "I thought I needed that money!"
"You should pick your boyfriends better!"
"You're such a hypocrite!" I pointed at the TV. "I've lost count of how many girls have come on there!"
"That's out of line!"
"No it's not! That's the reason you're in this mess, damn it! It's the reason we're both in this mess!"
"Stop," my father said calmly and we both glared at him. "He's going to work for me and stay in the house, Willow."
I crossed my arms. "If you've already made up you mind, then why have him come over?"
"I was hoping you two could at least be civil to one another after all that's happened."
"Never," we said in unison and glared at each other.
"It's not my fault your boyfriend cheated on you!" he snapped.
"It's not my fault your sister bribes women to be with you!"
"You're right. Maybe she should bribe men to date you."
"Stop it both for you!" my father snapped finally and I shut my mouth. "Look, I know this is frustrating. I know you both wish you could just make this go away. You can't, though. You can only move forward. Put your differences behind and help each other. It's an opportunity for you two to learn something valuable from this."
Nathaniel jumped to his feet, pointing at me.
"I was the elite! The best of the best! Now I'm being forced to grovel at this woman's feet because I'm about to be homeless! How the hell am I going to put that behind me!? What could I possibly learn from this!?"
My father stared at him. "Humility, Mr. Banker." He turned to me. "And you need to learn that lies and bribes only hurt."
I crossed my arms. "Fine. I don't know what you expect me to do, though. I can't even go down to the damn ranch without being mobbed."
"You'll be doing work up here in the house," he said simply and Nathaniel smirked at me.
"You're going to be a maid."
"Shut up you bum," I hissed and he opened his mouth angrily.
"Your room is up the stairs across from Willow's," my father interrupted, standing up. "You can borrow some of my old clothes until you've earned enough money to buy your own. Is there more of that ice cream, Willow? It's rather hot out there."