This story is by Ava Mauriello and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“You know I love you right?” a gorgeous woman whispered into Jack’s ear.
He didn’t know if she loved him or if his monumental wealth intoxicated her into believing that she loved him. He wasn’t sure if anyone really cared about him.
“I know you do. That’s why I got you all of this,” he pointed outwards where land met see at the horizon. The island was small but quite long. “Do you like it?” Jack enquired.
Jack Purdue hasn’t had to worry about money since his invention of teleportation travel. He was a computer nerd who chanced upon the mathematical equation leading to lightspeed motion allowing for a teleportation travel enterprise to develop.
“You know me so well my darling,” Abby responded while stretching her plump, freshly injected lips into a wide grin exposing her perfectly straight pearly white teeth.
Jack couldn’t help but wonder if Abby would have loved him if she had met him before he was wealthy. A little over a decade ago Jack was just your average Joe. He resided in a bachelor pad with three other guys, surviving on ramen, grilled cheese and donuts. Not only did he lack nutrition, but he could barely afford rent.
His life changed overnight. Suddenly, women showed more interest in him, large purchases became insignificant, and doors seemed to open all around him.
However, these days life lacked a luster that in the past was amplified by the difficulty in attaining resources. That feeling of achievement, nothing felt excitingly out of reach anymore. There was nothing more to solve. Jack had already cracked the code for cash. In this moment, he sat with his freshly primped Miss America wife, Abby. She looked like the ideal example of the human female. If aliens came to the planet and we had to impress them by demonstrating the perfect specimen of DNA deserving to create more super beautiful humans than this woman would be the best candidate.
Jack didn’t love her though. He thought he did at first, but it was becoming clear it was merely lust that evoked him. Not much could create such a response in Jack’s idle yet boundless existence, but her physical perfection seemed like spotting a unicorn amongst donkeys.
Jack had experienced almost everything that the world has to offer. He’s traveled across the globe, owned several mansions, yachts, even islands. There was an aching in his heart like something was missing, the thing that launched him into this singularity to begin with, his passion.
It was gone and this goddess of perfect female form was just a mirage. There was no substance to hold them together. The only time he felt a true connection was with his college girlfriend, Jeannie. She was practically a tomboy, but frugal and resourceful.
He remembered their first adventures before Jack knew anything, when he was blundering about, forced to absorb practical life lessons. They backpacked across Europe together. Jeannie fermented her own wine that they took on their adventures. She carried her collection of coupon books in her backpack, she made her own candles that would be the background to soft lighting, cheese and wine. She could talk to anyone and build a relationship almost immediately. The amount of respect he felt for her couldn’t be quantified by money or any concrete form. She was ethereal in his mind. She was the reason he believed he could accomplish anything.
It was all just a faded memory now. Jack regretted that he left Jeannie for an ambitious travel agent, turned real estate icon. He mistook her ambition for wisdom and one evening Jack caught her in bed with his gym rat roommate. She moved out shortly after. Somehow, Jack convinced himself that he could do better than Jeannie. And has been looking ever since.
“I’m sorry baby, I need to step out for a phone call. Order us a couple of drinks, would ya?” Jack erratically blurted out to Abby, not waiting for her reply.
Jack decided he was going to call Jeannie. A little while ago, she reached out to him, congratulating him on his first trillion. She left him her number if he wanted to “catch up” ever. She was very humble and made sure to highlight the fact that he might be too busy. She wouldn’t take it personally if he decided not to reach out.
At the time he couldn’t handle the reminder of his old life. The life he worked furiously to leave behind. The life that never satisfied him. Plagued by anxiety and depression he threw himself into work. Now he felt differently, he wanted to feel the interconnectedness he had only ever felt with her.
He dialed her number. Nothing. It went to voicemail. He felt foolish for fantasizing such an elaborate deception. He didn’t even know her anymore. Maybe she was offended that he hadn’t reached out to her sooner.
Before heading back to Abby, Jack decided to fetch himself some wine from the wine cellar containing tens of millions of dollars of wine that he’s collected, but has never tasted. After more than ten years of collecting wine, he’s never even been in the cellar. He hadn’t done anything for himself in quite a while. The smell of wine felt nostalgic and comforting. At least the memory would never fade.
And just like that the phone rang, and sure enough it was Jeannie. Her voice sounded chipper and light.
“Hi Jack, wow, it’s been so long,” Jeannie’s voice beamed with sincerity.
“So long… I’m surprised you called,” Jack said.
“I know. I feel kind of silly… Um. I’m sorry to bother you. I know at times I wasn’t as supportive about your vision with tech and I have never forgiven myself for that.”
“Don’t apologize. We were immature. The past is behind us. Come visit me, we can finally catch up. I can pick you up from wherever you are.”
“Oh Jack, I appreciate you thinking about me, but I am participating in a cross-country camping trip. In the end we will build facilities for homeless people. The extravagant lifestyle would probably be wasted on me, plus, I’m sure you have too many other people to indulge.”
Jack couldn’t believe she rejected him. He stopped and took a breath. Was she happier than him? He shuddered.
“I don’t understand. I have built an empire and accrued more wealth than anyone ever. Not good enough for you? This is why it would never have worked out between us, you’re too stubborn,” Jack burst out.
“Forget it Jack. I just wanted to tell you I was proud of you.”
Jack felt a moment of desperation overtake him.
“Wait, Jeannie, don’t go. I’m sorry. That came across harsher than I intended it to. I didn’t mean that. Really. I’ve just been stressed recently. Let me start over. How are you? I have missed our adventures together. I think so highly of you. I respect you more than I’ve ever respected anyone. I mean it. I regret that I haven’t told you this until now. I know that sounds crazy, but you are amazing in a very unique way. You seem to know how to do everything, and anything you don’t know how to do, somehow, you discover a solution. If you don’t want to come visit me, maybe I can come visit you wherever you are.”
“No, you really don’t need to feel pressured to put yourself out –”
“No, really Jeanie, it’s not putting me out. This is what I need right now more than you know. Nothing is difficult to me anymore, nothing feels unattainable, but somehow the time in my life when I felt competitive and hungry was when I was with you. You bring out something innovative and authentic in me. That’s something I need to get back in touch with. Something I need to explore. You would actually be doing me the favor.”
Jeannie went silent. The pause in conversation felt excruciating to Jack. He hadn’t asked anyone for anything in a long time. He took another breath and managed to pour himself that glass of wine. He sipped it slowly, while he waited.
“Honestly, it would be an honor to have you. I’m sure there’s a lot that the team could learn from you. I almost feel embarrassed asking them if you could join us.”
Jack wanted to leap into the air with joy. This experience would be challenging, educational, charitable, and maybe even romantic. What a thrill. His heart beat quickened. He felt like a hunter back in the forest contending with the unknown.
“By the way Jeannie, there’s one more thing I wanted to ask you. Do you still make your own wine?”
She laughed. Jack smiled.
All he knew was that he was looking forward to embracing her once again.