Rent A HusbandBy: Sally Mason
“What about our properties?”
“Gone. A house of cards.”
“The art collections?”
“Seized. Under lock and key.”
“So no more trust fund?”
“You’re saying that I’ll have to work?”
“Yes, my boy. I’m sorry.”
“What will you do?”
His father, suddenly an old man, shrugged.
“I don’t know.”
Forrest stood. “We’ll stay in touch.”
Forrest shook his father’s clammy hand and walked out into a very different world.
The next day his father took his boat out onto the Sound and never returned.
His body washed up on a Martha’s Vineyard beach a few days later, causing an awful fuss at a society wedding.
Accidental death was the coroner’s verdict, but Forrest had no doubt that his father had polished off a few bottles of Bollinger and hopped into the cold Atlantic, unequipped and unwilling to live in poverty.
Forrest, though he was alive, fared little better.
He found that his lack of funds caused doors to slam in his face.
His calls went unreturned.
Men he’d thought were friends ignored him in clubs and watering holes.
So Forrest traveled west, to Los Angeles, with the half-baked notion of trading on his patrician looks in the movie business.
There was some initial interest due to the cachet his name carried, and he landed himself an agent.
A part in an independent movie came his way, playing himself, really.
But he found that once the camera rolled being himself wasn’t at all easy.
His usually flippant delivery became leaden and—most embarrassingly—he froze, was literally incapable of remembering a single line of the script, take after mortifying take.
So his career was stillborn.
He got a couple of photographic shoots—no lines to forget—posing on the decks of yachts with pretty girls, or stepping out of luxury cars in tuxedos, but somehow the camera just did not love him, as his agent told him when he snipped all ties.
So Forrest Forbes started to gamble.
He’d always been a dabbler—it was in his blood—but now he played with desperation.
Desperation and very little skill.
He lost badly.
Lost so badly that he ended up having the pâté kicked out of him in that downtown alley.
And now he is on a train rattling north toward one of those horrible coastal feeder-towns, all new money and Spanish kitsch, he is sure.
He sighs and polishes off his drink as his stop is called.
When Forrest steps out onto the platform he sees Eric Royce waiting for him, waving a languid hand.
“How are you, darling?” Eric asks.
“It was fine.”
They walk, Eric eyeing him.
“Why are you limping?”
“A jujutsu accident.”
They arrive at a brand new Jaguar saloon.
“Your chariot, sir,” Eric says.
“Where does this come from?”
“A prop, darling. A rental. To fit with your image of the wealthy young scion.”
Eric holds out the keys. “You can drive, I presume?”
“I chased Michael Schumacher around Nürburgring when I was seventeen.”
“Well, I hope he let you catch him.”
Forrest dumps his things in the trunk and Eric directs him out of the train station that is—as he suspected—disguised as a hacienda.
“How can you live up here, Eric?” he asks as they drive down the depressing little main drag.
“It’s quiet and it’s pretty.”
“It’s a backwater.”
“I think you know all about LA and its temptations. Life up here is a simpler proposition. I can get my work done.”
“Not at all.” Eric turns to look at Forrest. “Now, I need to warn you that Darcy Pringle is a little nervous.”
Forrest bursts out laughing. “That’s her name? Darcy Pringle?”
“God, Eric, Jane Austen meets potato chips! I can only imagine what she looks like.”
“Darcy is my very best friend and she’s a beautiful and charming woman.”
“Stop the car.”
“Stop the car!”
Suddenly Eric isn’t camp anymore and when he grips Forrest’s forearm it hurts.
As Forrest pulls over to the curb Eric reaches up and clicks on the dome light.
“Listen you two-bit little bastard,” the voice is pure Bronx. “You’re a nothing. A nobody. You’re here on my dime. You’ll cut the smarmy attitude and do what you’re being paid to do: you’ll be charming and gallant and make my friend look and feel good. Do you understand?”
“And if you put one toe out of line I will personally beat the living crap out of you.”
“I know jujitsu.”
“You don’t know a damned thing,” Eric says, jabbing his fingers under Forrest’s ribs, right where he was kicked.
Forrest clicks the car into gear and he drives, wondering why, oh why, life keeps humiliating him this way.