Bastian:A Secret Baby RomanceBy: Lauren Landish
I don't have too many memories of my father — he died when I was only three years old. My mother, Amanda, didn't fall apart like a lot of the other wives I've heard of, whose husbands suddenly left their lives. Mom was actually really smart, with a Master's degree in Finance that allowed her to get back into the workplace. She found a job with a major healthcare provider and made pretty good money.
Her weakness was her love of the finer things in life, however. Growing up, I took it for granted that beds came with Egyptian cotton sheets, your lunchbox should contain organically raised free-range pheasant, and that going to a private school was just what was needed. While the other kids in my neighborhood wore stuff from Wal-Mart, my jeans and t-shirts came from Nordstrom. When I went through my hip-hop phase, Mom made sure that I was wearing real Timberlands and Sean John, not the knockoffs other kids got down at the Saturday flea market. You get the picture.
What I didn't know was how quickly she was burning through the money behind our back. Dad had been relatively well-off, and his tragic death after being struck by a drunk driver gave us a windfall of over five million dollars, four to Mom, one for me to hold in trust until I turned twenty-five. You'd think that four million dollars, even after taxes, would be more than enough with Mom's work to fund our lifestyle, but you don't know my Mother.
The changes were subtle at first. The Mercedes went from the SL class to the E class, and we kept it three years instead of just one. Our vacations moved closer and closer to home. When I was five, we took a week in Europe. By the time I was ten, we were doing three days at Disneyland. I honestly didn't notice too much, as I found Disneyland more fun than Europe anyway.
I think the first time it really hit me how much money she was blowing through happened when I was thirteen. It was my last year of junior high school, and Mom moved me from Freeport Academy, where I had been going since kindergarten, to Wildwood Junior High, a public school near our house. Suddenly, I was surrounded by a lot of kids that got free lunch. Nothing wrong with that, but it was something I wasn’t accustomed to.
On the positive side, my new school was much livelier than Freeport, which had been embarrassingly white one-percent. I mean, I was the outsider, with my Dad's half Greek, half Latin blood giving me curly dark hair and a dark tan in summer. At Wildwood, I found myself surrounded by classmates from the entire spread of the racial makeup of my town. It was the first time I’d actually had a conversation with someone who was Asian besides being at a Chinese restaurant. Luckily, most of the kids were willing to let a few social blunders pass, and I made friends all right.
The move, however, shook Mom. I didn't know it at the time — she never talked about Grandma and Grandpa, and they died before I was born. But growing up, she was poor. I mean, sugar sandwich and Salvation Army clothes poor. Seeing me at Wildwood really rocked her, and she decided to go man-hunting. I didn't say anything. I mean, she's my Mom, but Mom suddenly started working out a bit more, getting herself back into the knockout shape she’d been in some of the old family photos I saw in the albums. She also started dressing sexier, showing a bit more cleavage, making her skirts a bit tighter. When the cute waiter at the steakhouse remarked that it was nice for sisters to spend so much time together, I almost crawled under the table in embarrassment. I mean, I was a teenager for God sakes! Of course, he was probably just looking for a nice tip, but still.
After about six months of this, fortune literally dropped into her lap. As part of her work, she was responsible for hosting the events for new donors to the hospital chain, and when Donald Witherspoon came around, it was like the stars aligned. Donald was older than Mom, maybe in his mid-fifties by then, and his name was everywhere in the papers. His wife — a former Playboy model — had left him for a newer, younger guy, some country music star or such. But before doing so, she'd also taken Donald to the cleaners, to the tune of over a hundred million dollars in the final divorce settlement.
Not that it mattered to Donald Witherspoon much. He was old money, and I mean Rothschild old. On the surface, he was into oil, owning a lot of the oil resources in both the Gulf and Alaska, but in reality, he had corporate interests in just about everything, including healthcare. When the muckrakers started turning their attention from his now ex-wife to him, Donald figured it was time to whip up some positive press. Donating a children's ICU wing to a city hospital was just what the PR rep ordered. As luck would have it, Mom was the one tasked with the job of setting up the hospital's end of things.
It only took one meeting for Mom to set her mind on Donald Witherspoon. She even took the time to actually learn how to ski, of all things, because Donald was famous for being a ski buff. Laying the charm on as thick as she could, she went after him. Much to my surprise, it worked, and within a year, about two months after I turned fifteen, Donald popped the question. A week before my sweet sixteen party, which Donald totally paid for, Mom officially became Amanda Witherspoon and our family had done pretty well since.