Degradation

By: Stylo Fantome

~Seven Years Ago~


She had come over to their apartment just to drop off some boxes of stuff for her sister, Eloise - Ellie. Tatum had just turned eighteen and was moving to her own apartment in downtown Boston. She had been in a dorm room for her first semester at Harvard, but her parents didn't “approve” of her roommate, so her father had rented an apartment off campus for her. When Tate's father said jump, all she was ever allowed to say was “how high?”, so, she was moving.

Her sister Ellie was four years older, and they had never gotten along very well. About two years ago, Ellie had started dating Jameson Kane – Kane, as just about everyone called him. The relationship was strange to Tate; Ellie and Jameson seemed more like acquaintances than people who slept with each other, but who was she to judge? She didn't even really like her own boyfriend.

Tate didn't really know what to make of Jameson. He was so good looking, it was probably illegal. She worried if she looked at him too long, she'd go blind. He was also very smart – he had graduated early from Yale with an MBA, and was taking some time off to work on, and review, his job prospects. He came from old money, his father was some sort of big wig on Wall Street, and the talk was that Jameson would follow in his footsteps.

In the two years he had been dating her sister, Jameson hadn't seemed to take much notice of Tate. He ignored her, treated her with indifference. When he had to deal with her, it was almost like an after thought, like he had forgotten that she existed. He was tall, and handsome, and experienced, and smart. Tate was a brainy, naive, clueless girl, fresh out of high school, no real experience with the world or worldly people. He intimidated her.

It felt weird, showing up at Ellie's apartment without her being there. Jameson had let Tate in, and then pretty much ignored her. Such a gentleman. Tate had to haul several heavy boxes from the parking lot to the building, and then down a long hall to their apartment, all by herself. When she got to the last box, she dropped it by their bed, huffing and puffing.

“Did you want me to help?” Jameson asked, appearing in the doorway. Tate whirled around, startled.

“No, that was the last box,” she replied, straightening out her cardigan. He always made her feel nervous. His eyes wandered over her face.

“You look really red. Want something to drink?” he asked. She felt herself turn even redder than she apparently already was; she was never prepared for his blunt manners.

“If you have any tea, that would be great,” she replied, and then followed him to the kitchen. She thought he was going to pour it for her, but he just gestured to the fridge.

“I don't know what Ellie has in there, lots of health food shit. Dig around,” he offered. She made a face at his back.

“Water is fine,” she told him, and then just filled a glass from the tap.

“So. New apartment, all alone in a big city. You ready?” he asked. She nodded and turned to face him. His piercing blue eyes were wandering over her face and she resisted the urge to wipe at her skin. Was she dribbling water down her chin?

“As I'll ever be, I guess. I'm pretty self-reliant, so I think I'm ready,” she replied, taking delicate sips of her water. He chuckled.

“C'mon, you look like you're dying. Let's sit down, you can chug it,” he told her, leading her to a table. He even shocked her by pulling out a chair for her.

“Thanks,” Tate said, before following his instructions and downing the water in a few gulps. Without asking, he pulled the glass from her hands and refilled it before sitting down across from her.

“Don't you have like a boyfriend, or something? Is he in Boston?” Jameson asked, sliding her glass back across the table. She shook her head.

“No, Drew stayed in state,” she replied.

“You guys have been going out for a while – how is it, being in a long distance relationship?” Jameson asked. She was surprised at the question. Jameson never cared about anything she did.

“We've been together three years, but I don't know how long it's gonna last. He didn't want me to go to Harvard, wanted me to just follow him to Penn State. We argued about it a lot. He wants to try to work it out, but I think it's just time to get over it. Move on. We're in college now, I don't have time for that kind of crap,” she let it all spill out. Jameson raised an eyebrow.

“Wow, very mature approach. How old are you again?” he asked. Tate rolled her eyes.

“You've known me for two years, Jameson, and you can't even remember my age?” she responded with a question. He shrugged.

“I don't think I even know Ellie's age. How old?” he pressed.

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