Justin Miramont thought his friend, Anthony Tanaka, was a fortunate man. Not for the reason that earlier in the evening he lost nearly two-thousand dollars to him in poker, but for the sake that very little seemed to make him unhappy. Justin had left in an ill-humor with Anthony complaining that it was no fun beating someone who looked defeated already but he had ignored him and left to drive around from bar to bar until finally he gave up to further marinate himself at home.

The television droned on unwatched as the dark-haired man closed his eyes wearily and reached for his drink again – his fifth drink that evening. They did little good to numb the frustration he was feeling. The phone rang and he winced at the shrill tone and trained his bloodshot green eyes on the offending receiver.

"Go away…" he muttered darkly.

The phone continued to wring and he cursed viciously at it. He knew who it was, and he didn't want to hear his friend's perpetually cheerful voice just then. However, Anthony would simply ring all night, so it was no use. When Anthony was on a mission of mercy, there was little else that could be done but to give in to the onslaught.

Justin ripped the receiver off its hook and slurred, "What?!"

"Heeeeeey! BUUUUUDDDY!" Anthony crowed into his ear.

"Don't you get a hint after the eighty-fifth ring that I'm ignoring you?" Justin fumed.

"Awww, what's eating you? Oh I get it, Jasmine and you had a fight again huh? After I left you, yesterday, at her house? HA! Yeah, my beautiful cousin can pretty much piss off a saint. What, did some guy come on to her while you were right there?"

"Two. James and Antoine, and she didn't exactly refuse the attention. What was worse, your aunt showed up – the evil queen of the universe." Justin yanked at his already disheveled tie and loosened the knot.

"Ah, right, Auntie. Yes, you're not her favorite person, but you know you only have yourself to blame on that. So, was my wife there too?"

"The whole bridge team was there. They all stared me down icily and whispered cattily to each other."

"Ha! They all wanted to see you outta there. Poor buddy."

"I am not amused that you're so amused by this."

"Ha! Sorry. Well, what did you do?"

"I didn't budge. So, the old bat started to loudly complain against long visits. I was pretending to ignore her, but Jasmine joined in with her. So, what could I do? I got up, gave Jasmine my most polite smile, and told her I got the hint. She turned bright red, but I left without hearing what she would say." Justin pulled his long hair out of its ponytail and raked his hand through it. He lay his head down on the black, leather cushion of his couch and stretched out his tall, thin frame.

"You really shouldn't be so mad about how she is with her mother. She has her reasons, you know."

"She should be independent."

"You know my aunt is filthy rich. Do you think Jasmine should risk losing her fortune? And what's all this hypocrisy anyway? If I remember, you were itching to get hold of some of that fortune yourself."

"You're being so supportive, Anthony."

"I try my best!" he chuckled.

"I wouldn't have minded it so much if Jasmine hadn't been flirting with James and Antoine. Idiots. By then, I was in such a mood it was better that I left anyway. I was just spoiling for an argument," he pinched the bridge of his nose in irritation.

"You should have known that her mother was going to come home. That's her bridge night. You shouldn't have come to the house. Not after what you did. You lead Minerva on. You made her think that you were interested in her. Hell, she supported your art. She financed your first showing, and helped to make you the success you are. And then she learns you were using her to get close to her daughter? If you had more sense you wouldn't be in this mess."

"Ah, your love and support increase ever more, my dear friend. I never told Minerva that I loved her. I never touched that woman. Sure, I flattered her. I spent time with her. But I never once kissed her. She's fifty-five years old. She knew my longing for a family. She couldn't have given that to me, being so long past menopause – "

"Damn, Justin! There is adoption you know – and you act like Minerva is some ancient crone! She still gets asked to model. I can't believe you're so shallow."

"Don't get me wrong, Minerva is still a beautiful woman, but for God's sake, she's twenty-five years older than I! I think you're being a bit too judgmental of me. I do have a right to want a child fathered from my own body, don't I? And for the revealing of my feelings for Jasmine, I have your wife to thank," he ended with that accusation.

Anthony cleared his throat. "Huh, I wonder how she found out about that."

"Hmm, I have my suspicions, but I will leave them as that."

"Anyway, Justin," Anthony continued, "I really can't understand how you can be so indifferent in this matter. Sure, this has drawn a wedge between you and Jasmine, but really, it's your cruelty in crushing Minerva's feelings that brought you to this. You should just deal with it and move on, man."

"You're going to beat this to death, aren't you, Anthony? So what then? Are you afraid your aunt might disown you if you take my side? You seem to be pretty set on only seeing her side in this. Whose friend are you anyway?"

"Tsk, well if you're going to start attacking me when I'm only trying to get you to see reason then I guess I'll hang up. Besides, I need to get up early, I have a squash game at 6:00 AM."

"Squash! With who?"

"James and Antoine. They're right nice fellows. I'm hungry. Think I'll go out for a hamburger at Denny's. You want me to swing by and pick you up?"

Justin slammed down the phone with a half-laugh and pulled the cord from the wall. The alcohol was beginning to cause a throb in his temples. It was time to go to bed. He laughed at the image of Anthony, fat as he was, trying to keep up with the boy-toys in a squash match.

Liar.

Justin fell, still clothed, onto the bed and stared sleeplessly at the ceiling. Anthony was right of course. He was a shallow ass. He had used Minerva for her money and for her proximity to Jasmine.

Jasmine. Beautiful, exotic Jasmine. Her flashing, dark eyes were forever burned into his memory. He reached out his hand, grasping, trying to capture the figmented strands of jet within his fingers as her specter rose before him. Beautiful, serious Jasmine – forever bound to Mommy.

Just then, his cell-phone rang. He glanced over it and cursed. He'd forgotten to turn it off. Fumbling for it, he violently pressed on the call button and hollered, "Anthony! Go away!"

"Mr. Miramont?" a voice asked timidly.

"Ah, Mary, I'm sorry." Justin rubbed at his eyes and sat up in his bed.

"Is everything alright sir?"

"Yes, yes, I do apologize. So, do you have news for me then?" He leaned forward in anticipation.

"Yes, sir. It's all done."

"Excellent! They're all married then? It took you awhile to get back to me." Justin glanced blearily at the clock. Four A.M.

"I'm sorry. They went around clubbing until nearly three in the morning. It took me awhile to drop them off at the hotel and then get back home to call you."

"Do you have the marriage certificate?"

"Yes, I'll drop it off to you at the studio tomorrow."

"Did the tailor drop off Mark's new clothes at his house?"

"Yes. You have excellent taste I might add."

"Thank you, dear. Well, get some rest, and tomorrow morning make sure to call Mark and Janice in the morning with the following instructions. I want to meet them at the Rosalie Park Bridge at one o'clock before she returns to work tomorrow. And, Mary, I don't think I need to remind you that this all must remain a secret."

"You can count on me, sir."

"With what I'm paying you, darling, I expect to." Justin chuckled.

Mary said her goodbyes and left Justin with a smile on his face. He switched off the light again and descended finally into his previously elusive sleep.