The Ivy Chroniclesby Karen Quinn
When turbocharged Park Avenue mom Ivy Ames finds that she's been downsized from her platinum-card corporate job and her marriage, she swiftly realizes that she's going to need a whole new way to support herself and her two private-school daughters. So she dreams up a new business-helping upscale New Yorkers get their little darlings into the most exclusive… See more details below
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When turbocharged Park Avenue mom Ivy Ames finds that she's been downsized from her platinum-card corporate job and her marriage, she swiftly realizes that she's going to need a whole new way to support herself and her two private-school daughters. So she dreams up a new business-helping upscale New Yorkers get their little darlings into the most exclusive kindergartens in the city. What begins as one woman's bid to earn a living becomes an everywoman's tale of midlife reinvention and unexpected romance, set in a looking-glass world where even tots have résumés.
'If you think you may be a neurotic parent, read this and feel sane.'
•Allison Pearson, author of I Don't Know How She Does It
'Entertaining . . . Picks up where The Nanny Diaries left off.'
•The New York Post
'[A] ferociously funny tale.'
'Tales of Manhattan's elite trying to get their tots into private schools is sure to make you smirk condescendingly . . . The Ivy Chronicles delivers.'
'The brilliant, witty, and ultimately soulful heroine is a perfect tour guide who will leave you laughing up your latté.'
•Jill Kargman, author of The Right Address and Wolves in Chic Clothing
'With humor and heart, Karen Quinn brilliantly skewers the insanely competitive world of wealth we love to hate. Readers will cheer for Ivy!'
•Leslie Schnur, author of The Dog Walker
- Viking Adult
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- 6.25(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.10(d)
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1. The Girl from Park Avenue
Konrad insisted that everyone be at his desk by 7:45 a.m. No exceptions. It would be sexist, he said, to cut the mothers on the team any slack. Easy for him to say. He had a stay-at-home wife and two full-time nannies to handle his family's morning drill. You know, we each have one. In my case—walk the dog, dress the kids, make breakfast, rinse the dishes, supervise brushing, flossing, and bed-making, look for lost homework, load up backpacks, while at the same time getting myself out of bed, showered, dressed, made up, and out the door.
The race continues on the street: grab a cab, drop Sir Elton at doggie day care, and deliver the girls to their overpriced early-bird program. If I've gotten this far by seven, I'll have just enough time to sprint to the subway at 86th and Lex and shoot down to Fulton Street. Finally, jump off the train, drop a dollar into the please feed me i'm hungry lady's cup, zip into the building, dash toward my elevator bank after a quick stop at Starbucks for coffee light, two Sweet'n Lows, and a bagel to go, and declare victory if my butt hits the chair and the clock hasn't struck 7:45.
Technically, my unemployed husband could have handled the morning routine. What I mean is, it would have been physically possible for him to manage it if he didn't insist on sleeping until 9:00. Yeah, I know. I should have been tougher. But trust me, it was easier to handle it myself than fight the battle. Cad had been unemployed for eight months. A derivatives trader at Bear Stearns, he was fired after betting wrong on Russian government debt. Still he persisted in living like nothing had changed. He would have hired someone for the a.m. job, but given our financial state and the fact that neither of us spends enough time with the girls, I couldn't agree. Plus, let's face it, what man takes charge of the morning marathon? Yes, of course, there are exceptions, perhaps in a parallel universe, but not in my world.
On this particular day, I just wanted to snuggle back into my warm Duxiana bed with its heavenly feather duster and yummy down quilt, the bedding I'd acquired at ABC Carpet and Home for the price of a small car. Mmmm, that would feel delicious. Already I'd completed the usual routine while also swinging by Duane Reade for the glitter hairspray Skyler and Kate wanted for Chanukah. It was 7:47 when I arrived at the twenty-first-floor offices of Myoki Bank, where I was a vice president of some stature. It felt like I'd already put in a day.
The lights turned on automatically when I walked into the office. Hanging my coat on the hook inside the door, I recalled the sacrifices I'd made to earn the privilege of a door instead of a mere cubicle. For the past six months, I'd been assigned a critical project, code name “Bull Chip”—which had me working until 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. through the week and several hours a day on weekends. I skipped my six-year-old's birthday party to supervise systems testing. I spent half my vacation solving Bull Chip problems that no one else could handle. I missed my fifteen-year business-school reunion because two team members quit suddenly and Konrad insisted I stay in town to hire replacements. But this project would turbocharge my career and land me the promotion I deserved, so it would all be worth it.
As I took the buttered bagel out of its brown paper bag, a flash of white and pale yellow centered squarely on my chair caught my eye. It was a memo with a Post-it attached, placed where it was sure to get my attention: see me asap—konrad.
Konrad was my profoundly ambitious, chemically depressed boss. One of those golden corporate boys with a professionally choreographed smile, a speaking coach, a driver, and an assistant for his assistant's assistant—all paid for by the company because Konrad's time was so valuable. Unlike his peers, who were merely soap-opera-star handsome, Konrad was so stunning he took your breath away. Just imagine the best features of Brad Pitt, Pierce Brosnan, and Robert Redford combined into one perfect package, punctuated with a trademark Brioni bow tie. That was Konrad, the blond-haired, blue-eyed Adonis who had graced the covers of Myoki's annual report for the last seven years. Behind his back, his direct reports called him the Face. We were sure he had “posed” his way to the top.
The note was giving me the willies. This was irregular. When Konrad wanted me, his songwriter-secretary just called with a summons. “Ivy, Konrad wants to see you right away. Can you drop eeevvverything and fly up to sixty?”
“Has he taken his meds?” I would ask. None of his direct reports dared to face him until he'd had his daily Wellbutrin. It paid to know what you were up against.
“I'm not sure, but Ed left in tears.”
Hearing this, I would postpone. Today, however, there was merely the note, attached to a memo from whom? My eye scanned the heading:
memo to: Konrad Kavaler fr: Drayton Bird re: Reengineering recommendation
Konrad, it occurs to me that with the $5MM we've each been charged with saving, we could help each other by cutting Ivy Ames's department and merging it into mine, creating a “Center of Marketing Excellence.” My team is handling the same function as hers, but on an international basis, so they are up to speed. You could eliminate her position plus two direct reports, saving $700M in salary, benefits, T&E, real estate, etc. We could replace her Iowa call center with telemarketers in India, saving another $2.5MM. We've dissolved my acquisition group, so I'm down 26 heads and $7MM in expenses. I've got the talent to manage the combined function and the budget capacity to absorb the cost. It would be a win-win for both of us.
Let me know your thoughts.
Oh, shit, I thought.
I sat, swiveled around, and took in the spectacular view of New York Harbor that I hadn't noticed in months. My face burned and my heart beat so hard it hurt. Nonchalantly, I placed the brown paper bag on my face and hyperventilated, hoping no one saw. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. I chanted silently, trying not to cough as I inhaled the airborne Sweet'n Low particles floating in the sack.
The phone rang. My stomach lurched, settling somewhere between the upper chest and throat. I turned to answer, noting on caller ID that it was songwriter-secretary. “Konrad wants to see you now,” he emoted. “He says you should bring the memo.”
“I'll be there. Has he taken his pills?”
“I dispensed them myself. He's very upbeat today.” He pronounced “very” so it sounded like “varrry.”
Five minutes and two elevator banks later, I was in Konrad's office. He ushered me over to the living-room area and gestured to the artificially weathered brown leather chair reserved for visitors. Damn. If I'd known I was going to see Konrad, I would have dressed better. Juxtaposed against his pinstriped Hugo Boss suit and red bow tie, the Persian rugs and the original Chagall, I was hopelessly outmatched.
“Look,” he said, wasting no time on small talk, “I got that note from Drayton this morning and I want your input before I action it. What are your thoughts?”
Think quickly. Think quickly. Say something smart.
“It's a ridiculous idea,” I started.
Too defensive. Re-laaaax.
“The international practices are completely different from the domestic ones. Just because we both run ‘marketing' functions doesn't mean we ‘market' the same way.” I made quotation marks in the air with my fingers each time I said “market.” What a nimrod.
“Plus,” I continued, “he hires trainees who don't know their ass from their elbow. My staff are experienced professionals. If anything, we should merge his department into mine, let me run the show, and we'd save just as much for Myoki.”
“I'm not sure what the answer is,” Konrad said, “but he has the beginning of a good idea. Cascade your objections to Drayton and see what the pushback is. Recommend who should run the show and how we can downsize. I have to save five million and you could be a hero by serving up some heads.”
Just what I've always wanted to be, I thought miserably. An unemployed hero. Drayton's landgrab threatened my very existence at Myoki, but I had to pretend to cooperate. That's the first rule of survival in a big corporation: Always act like you support your enemy's proposals, while behind his back do everything you can to kill his plans and, if possible, him. “That sounds great, Konrad. I'll call Drayton right away,” I said in a faux-enthusiastic voice.
By the time I got back to 21, my heart was beating normally again. I was thinking about the fourteen months of severance I'd get if they fired me. I could take time off, lose twenty pounds, learn to program TiVo, maybe take some classes at the Kabbala Center. I dialed Drayton's extension and he picked up, always a surprise with caller ID. “Drayton,” I asked, “how's Bea?” Bea was his seven-year-old daughter, who played regularly with my Skyler. They both attended Balmoral, the holy grail of girl's schools in Manhattan. I would never have taken Drayton for such a slippery fish. Just last spring, Cadmon and I had attended the birthday party he threw for his high-maintenance wife, Sassy, at the Palace Hotel. He'd arranged for the grand ballroom to be transformed into Times Square on New Year's Eve. There were neon signs, subway turnstiles, caricature artists, actors playing homeless people. Sassy dropped the ball at midnight. Michael Crawford performed Broadway hits. Instead of forty candles, Drayton commissioned forty birthday cakes baked by Manhattan's most celebrated pastry chefs. Cad and I had reciprocated a few weeks ago by taking Drayton and Sassy to dinner at Le Bernardin. At the time, I thought the four of us had really clicked.
“Oh, Bea's brilliant. Thank you for asking,” Drayton said. He was English. “She's looking forward to her birthday party next month. Will Skyler come?”
“Of course,” I answered. “Sassy said you're having a dance party, right? It sounds fun.”
“It will be,” Drayton said. “We just booked Clay Aiken.”
“Clay Aiken does birthday parties for eight-year-olds?”
“Normally not. But Beatrice's godfather is the president of his record label, so he arranged it. Nothing's too good for our little angels, now is it?”
“No, no, nothing's too good . . . hey, I uh saw the memo you wrote Konrad. I like your idea. But I think there may be ways to consolidate without eliminating any senior positions. Anyway, Konrad suggested we get together and game-plan a merger of our departments.”
“Ab-so-LUTE-ly,” Drayton said in that annoying insincere way English people speak. “I want to sort this out straightaway. The problem is, I'm lit-rally walking out the door for a three-day off-site. Then on Thuuursday, I'm off to London for the weekend to visit my father. He was just diagnosed with heart disease.”
“Oh, my God! That's awful,” I said, pretending to care. “My mother had heart disease, too. She died last year.”
“Yes, well, thank you,” Drayton said. “I'll be back in a week. Let's tackle the issue at 1:00 on the fourteenth and we'll winkle out a solution that aligns both our visions.”
“Right,” I said. Whatever that means. “But do me a favor and don't work on it till we get together. This should come from both of us.”
“Ab-so-LUTE-ly,” Drayton promised. “Next week then. Cheerio.” Cheerio my ass. Drayton hadn't lived in England for the last twenty years. We say “goodbye” in America, Drayton, in case you hadn't noticed.
With their “finest place to work” initiatives, diversity councils, on-site gyms, and touted (but rarely used) sabbatical programs, large corporations might give one the impression that they're bastions of fairness and compassion. They're not. Asking an employee to come up with a reorganization plan that includes his own demise happens every day. Once you become a vice president in a big company, they expect you to be a grown-up. I hate that.
“Bonnie,” I said to my assistant as I put my coat on, “I've got a meeting with the agency uptown. I'll see you this afternoon, or maybe tomorrow, depending on how long this takes.”
I went to Barneys.
The next morning, I felt strangely calm about my predicament. Cadmon, a former master politician in the corporate arena, convinced me that I could turn this thing around. I came up with an ingenious scheme to do an end run around Drayton. While he was in London caring for his sick father, I would jockey for control of his department. Everyone knew Drayton was a lightweight, while I was the acknowledged powerhouse. This was just the turn of events I needed to get a bigger department than ever, a raise, an office on 60. I was optimistic, almost giddy with the thought.
Walking to my desk, I noticed, once again, white paper with a yellow sticky on my chair. see me asap—konrad.
The attachment appeared to be some sort of report. Damn.
I sat at my desk and began to read:
memo to: Konrad Kavaler fr: Drayton Bird re: Reengineering Recommendation
Glad to hear you support my recommendation regarding merging your marketing function into mine. Spoke with Ivy Ames yesterday and she thinks it's a brilliant idea. I took the liberty of developing a roll-out plan—outlined below. Also attached are proposed new org charts as well as P&Ls showing the savings to be derived from the merger. Finally, I met with HR, and severance packages for Ivy and her direct reports will be forwarded to you by 10:00 a.m.
If you're in agreement, let me know. I'd suggest we announce ASAP so we can hit the ground running after the new year, but of course, it's your call.
2. Once Upon a Pink Slip
I leafed through Drayton's report and its attachments, which had been prepared with such excruciating detail that I knew my fate was sealed. I understood now that this was a setup. I'd been badly outmaneuvered. How could I not have seen it coming? Konrad only wanted my input so that when he let me go, I couldn't say I wasn't involved in the decision.
I hated my job; that was true. I'd been bored with the assignment from the beginning and going through the motions for years. But that didn't mean I wanted to leave.
Quick, quick, think. How could I save my job? I looked around for my tattered copy of The Art of War. There had to be a strategy to cover this. Maybe I could make a last stand. Like Custer. Shit, it was too late. I knew it. I'd witnessed this scenario often enough to understand that my career at Myoki was over. I'd caused it to happen to my own rivals plenty of times. Once Human Resources prints the severance package with your name on it, there's no turning back.
Could this really be happening? Just last year, Cadmon and I made almost two million dollars between us. We had a magnificent apartment on Park Avenue, nannies seven days a week, a rental in the estate section of Southampton. Then, in March, Cadmon was fired. I became the breadwinner. We were so addicted to the good life that we hadn't lowered our standards, certain that Cadmon's new job would materialize any day. It hadn't.
I went to the computer and pulled up our budget spreadsheet, looking for places to save. Let's see . . . mortgage ($120,000), two tuitions ($50,000), charitable donations ($25,000), tutors ($15,000), birthday parties ($22,000), summer camp ($14,000), private lessons ($20,000), Hamptons rental ($60,000), ski vacation ($15,000), cars and garage ($35,000), clothes, dry cleaning, tailoring ($50,000), personal trainers, yoga, nutritionist ($28,000), entertainment, flowers and catering ($60,000), doggie day care, massage therapy, grooming and poochie sushi for Sir Elton ($24,000), my hair ($12,000), my nails ($5,200), my analyst ($24,000), my life-energy coach ($18,000), car service ($4,000), nannies and maid ($74,000), Botox, collagen, and laser resurfacing ($18,000), tips and staff gifts ($4,000), and a slew of other expenses like food, insurance, electricity, telephone, cable, doctor bills—all the boring but necessary stuff that adds up to a big number. Stricken with an overwhelming sense of loss, I knew we could no longer afford our life. Making it worse, Cad and I had always failed miserably at sacrifice. I couldn't imagine what to cut from our budget.
I sat at my desk and stared, numb. Tears welled in my eyes and began sploshing down my face while a golf-ball-sized lump filled my throat. Stop crying. Stop crying. Be a grown-up.
The phone rang, breaking the spell. I took a deep breath and answered.
It was songwriter-secretary. “Konrad wants to see you. Can you be here in five?”
“Sure,” I answered. “Meds?”
“Two hours ago,” he said.
I stopped in the restroom on my way upstairs. Gaaah. Tammy Faye Bakker Messner under-eyes. Can't let anyone see me like this. Breathing deeply and splashing water on my face, I did what I could to pull myself together.
On 60, Konrad kept me waiting for half an hour. I pretended to be fascinated by an article on comparative interest rates in Municipal Bond News. Another EVP stuck his head in the door and Konrad waved him in. Forty-five minutes later, Konrad buzzed for me. I almost expected songwriter-secretary to chant “Dead man walking” as I did the slow march to his office.
“So, I see you're supporting the merger of your department with Drayton's,” Konrad began. “My compliments to you for stepping up to the plate, being a team player, making the sacrifice.” Baseball references were common among Myoki executives.
“Well, not exactly, Konrad. Drayton asked me to wait a week to work on the proposal and I . . .”
“Are you saying you didn't tell Drayton you thought it was a good idea?” Konrad asked.
“No, I said I liked the idea, but I wanted to sit down and discuss it with him, only he couldn't because he was going to an off-site . . .”
“What are you talking about? I met with him last night. Get your facts straight, Ames. Anyway, the point is, I need to get some heads off my books to get to the five-million- dollar save and this is a smart way to do it, don't you agree?”
“Well, of course, it's smart for you to cut somewhere, but my staff are heavy hitters. Drayton wants to draft rookies who barely speak English,” I said, using analogies I thought might sway him.
“Ivy, we're lowering quality all over the bank to save money. None of us is indispensable. Times are tough. We need to invent new paradigms, smash old boundaries, think outside the box, pick low-hanging fruit, make elegant decisions, walk the talk, fall on our swords, and so on and so forth.”
“Right,” I mumbled. I'd forgotten what a deep thinker Konrad could be.
“If you need a reference,” Konrad continued, “call me. And you know what I'd say? I'd say you were a winner. Not many employees would put the interests of the bank, the bank we all love, above their own. You're a rare bird, Ivy Ames.”
“Well, gee, thank you, Konrad.” I hesitated, then said what was on my mind. What could he do, fire me? “Can I ask you something?”
“Of course,” he said, making his concerned-boss face.
“My guess is you've been planning to lay me off for some time,” I ventured. His silence confirmed my suspicions.
“If that was the case, how could you let me work day and night on Bull Chip knowing you were gonna ax me before Christmas?” I asked. “Now I won't get a bonus. Two-thirds of my compensation is bonus. My family depends on that money.”
“Ivy, Ivy, Ivy,” he said, “if I'd told you six months ago I was thinking about laying you off, you never would have worked so hard on Bull Chip, now would you have?” The “duh-uh” at the end of the sentence was implied.
“And your conscience didn't bother you, doing that to me?” I asked.
“Conscience?” For a moment, Konrad seemed confused. “Ivy, this is business. Besides, you may have done the heavy lifting on the project, but it was my vision that conceived the idea. That was the real accomplishment. That's what should and will be rewarded. And while you won't be getting a bonus for your efforts, if anyone calls for a recommendation, I'll tell them what a fine job you did. Your work saved the bank at least a hundred million dollars. You should put that on your résumé,” he suggested helpfully. Hot tears began spilling down my cheeks again. I couldn't stop them. Rejection has always made me sad, not angry.
Konrad offered me the monogrammed handkerchief from his jacket pocket. I blew my nose, making a loud honking sound. I continued to blow and wipe, giving his linen hankie a thorough soaking. “Thanks,” I said, putting it back in his hand. It grossed him out, but he kept his face straight, not daring to reveal any sign of weakness.
Konrad handed me a schedule for the rest of the day.
10:00 a.m.—meet with Sharon and Young Mi and announce they've been downsized. Send them to Human Resources.
11:00 a.m.—meet with Human Resources to go over your package.
1:00 p.m.—meet with remainder of your team, Drayton,
Konrad, to announce transition.
2:00 p.m.—car will take you home. Your things will be shipped tomorrow.
I looked up at Konrad, who avoided my eyes.
“This isn't personal, you know,” Konrad said. “When you play ball in the majors, you have to make tough calls. Put yourself in my place, Ivy. Think how hard this has been for me. And look, I'm keeping it together.” Konrad leaned forward and lowered his voice. “Frankly, I don't think it's professional of you to cry. Men hate that, you know. Now me, I can handle tears. I'm evolved. But if you're ever in this position again, try to avoid the waterworks.”
I glared at him. It took every ounce of willpower I possessed not to say what I was thinking at that moment.
“Hey, it'll probably happen to me soon, too,” he joked in a clumsy attempt toward camaraderie.
I hope so, I thought but didn't say.
“Well, I'll see you at one o' clock.” Konrad pulled at his collar like Rodney Dangerfield. It was the first time I'd seen the guy sweat.
The next few hours were a blur. As their boss, I was expected to fire my two directors, Sharon and Young Mi. I was white. Sharon was African American. Young Mi was Chinese American. If you ignored the fact that we were all girls, this had been an equal- opportunity firing. Making me sack them was cruel and unusual punishment. I wept. They cried. We hugged.
Human Resources was equally delightful. My payout would only be fourteen weeks— “New rules,” the drone explained. “We reengineered the severance policy. You have to be a senior vice president to get a month for every year. You're only entitled to a week for each twelve months served. Didn't you get the memo? Also, you need to sign this agreement not to sue us for wrongful termination before you can receive your lump-sum settlement.”
For about five seconds I contemplated suing them. Surely they'd pay more than fourteen weeks' salary just to make me go away. But litigation drags on forever. And lawyers cost a fortune. Shit. I had so many bills to pay. I signed the damn thing and pocketed the check.
Smarmy Drayton was at the one o'clock hand-over meeting. To suppress my tears, I concentrated on counting his oily pores from across the table. His lips kept curling into a smirk that he'd attempt to hide with his hand and a cough.
Konrad told my people that there would be a reorganization and they would report to Drayton now. He explained his vision for my department, providing them with more direction than he'd given me for the last four years. Drayton nodded knowingly as Konrad spoke, as though he were listening to the Dalai Lama or Tony Robbins.
Drayton thanked Konrad in his kiss-ass way, stopping just short of giving him a blowjob for his courage to make the hard decision to let me go. Then, he welcomed my people to his team and yammered on and on about what good personal friends we were, how I was the consummate professional for whom he had the utmost respect, and what a loss my leaving would be for the company, blah, blah, blah. He led the group in a polite round of applause honoring my contribution to the bank. Finally, he mentioned what great things I'd told him about each of them and how he looked forward to working with such talented players. The guy could not have unloaded more crap if he'd taken a dump in the middle of the conference-room table.
When Konrad asked if I wanted to say anything to my team, I could only eke out a few words, “I've enjoyed working with you.” At that point, the swelling in my throat made talking impossible, so I smiled like I thought the restructuring was just a super idea. Konrad remembered that he'd forgotten to confiscate my office key, security badge, BlackBerry, and corporate Visa card. He asked for them. With my former direct reports on hand to witness the final humiliation, I handed each item over. This was beginning to feel more and more like a court-martial.
Konrad dismissed the group and called Drayton in for a private chat. I hugged each person tightly. Saying goodbye to Bonnie, my faithful assistant, was particularly wrenching. She'd made sure the office ran smoothly when my mother was dying last year. Because of her, I was at Mom's side for her last days. I wasn't surprised that the company held on to Bonnie. Loyal assistants working at Myoki were as common as Paris Hilton shopping at Fashion Barn, and management knew it. I hugged her and we promised to stay in touch. The security guard, who was waiting to escort me out, kept looking at his watch.
Walking to the elevator, I ran into Drayton.
“No hard feelings, I hope,” he said with an exaggeratedly sympathetic smile, extending his hand. “Sassy and I so enjoyed our evening out with you, and we want to do it again.” Oh, yes, Drayton, I'll be calling you for a dinner date real soon.
“Hey, not at all,” I said, smiling, shaking his moist but well-manicured hand. Eeeuw! He was wearing clear nail polish. “I'm looking forward to some time at home with my kids. You did me a favor, Drayton.” I pressed the elevator button.
“Ah yes . . . splendid . . . splendid. I must say, Ivy, well done. I raaather admire the way you've handled this. But do call me if you need anything, anything at all,” he said with fake concern.
What I ached to do at that moment was hurt the man. Knee him in the balls. Punch him in the face. Stick my le grand de Montblanc fountain pen up his nose, piercing his brainstem, rendering him paralyzed, condemning him to life as a vegetable. But the security guard was watching, and resorting to violence would defy the cardinal rule of getting fired—don't burn your bridges. So I didn't.
A black Lincoln Town Car that smelled of stale cigarettes and sweat was waiting downstairs. Regrettably, it was the last time Myoki would send me home in classic Manhattan midlevel executive style. We drove up Church and cut over to Greene in SoHo. The streets were filled with chunky-haired people dressed in black who obviously spent their workdays outside the corporate world. What do they do to support themselves? I wondered. The last fourteen years of my life had been spent in the hermetically sealed offices of Myoki Bank. For the first time, it dawned on me that there was this whole other world where people could be outside at 2:00 p.m. on a weekday. Maybe I could become one of these people, I thought. They seem so free.
“Near corner or far,” the driver asked when we approached my building. “Near,” I replied. He asked for my voucher. I wrote in a $500 tip and told him to have a nice day. Walking through my lobby, I felt the nervous stares of the doorman and concierge. It must be written all over my face that I was fired.
Stepping into the elevator was a relief. Then, remembering that doormen were watching through hidden cameras, I held my head high. I longed for the sympathetic hug I knew Cadmon would offer when I told him the news.
“Cadmon,” I called as I walked in. “Cad . . .? ” I looked around but couldn't find him. He wasn't at his computer. Must be at the gym. Sir Elton, our pug, came running to greet me. He chased his tail enthusiastically when he saw me. I walked right past him. From the kitchen, I could hear Rosie, our nanny, and Elva, our maid, jabbering away to each other in Spanish. I couldn't face them. What would they think? Me, home in the middle of the day. Fired. By tomorrow, every maid and nanny on Park Avenue would know. The next day, their bosses would hear. Ugh, the shame!
Stripping off my jacket, I suddenly felt exhausted. Should I crawl into bed or work out? Bed. Definitely bed. Too bad it hadn't been made yet. Pee. I needed to pee. Then sleeping or crying, whichever came first.
The bathroom smelled like orange blossoms when I walked in. Like a delicious bubble bath was already drawn and waiting for me. Then I noticed Cadmon in his robe sitting on the toilet rubbing soap on a naked woman in my bathtub. The naked woman was Sassy, Drayton's wife. Sweet mother of God, those tits!
I hated her. Incredibly, my first thought was, how does she do it—plastic surgery or workouts? My second thought was to pummel that perfect face with a can of deodorant. Like deer caught in the headlights, Sassy and Cadmon looked at me.
I stopped in my tracks, stunned.
“You're fucking Sassy?” I asked Cad quietly, already knowing the answer.
“Let me explain,” Cadmon said, resorting to the reasonable tone he used when he felt he needed to quote-unquote handle me. “Nothing happened. I know this looks bad, but . . .”
“Stop,” I blurted. “You can't possibly think I'm that stupid. Out. I want you both out of here.” By then, Sassy was hugging herself to cover her nakedness and trying to disappear beneath the bubbles.
Instead of tears, I was angry. That felt right. The two lying shits deserved my rage. I looked at Sassy. “Out,” I demanded, pointing toward the door. “Get out now.”
“Okay, could you hand me the towel . . . please,” came her mortified reply.
“Oh, you want to dry off? You want to dry off?” I grabbed the blow-dryer that we always left plugged in by the sink, turned it on high, and screamed, “If you don't get your tight little ass out of my house this instant, you can dry off with this.” I held it over the water. “One . . . two . . .” Sassy bounded out of the tub and sprinted through the apartment like Jackie Joyner-Kersey, hurdling furniture and racing out the door tracking bubbles and water in her wake. Rosie and Elva must have been spying. I distinctly heard gasps and the words “Ay, chihuahua!” followed by urgent Spanish whispering outside the bedroom door.
What was I thinking? The cheating scumbags weren't worth going to jail for. Is adultery a defense for manslaughter anymore? I wondered. Nah, not in New York. Maybe in Arkansas.
At least the doormen would get a thrill as Sassy rode downstairs. There's one security tape that wouldn't get erased.
For the first time in my life, I had an out-of-body experience. Floating to the ceiling, I surveyed the scene below. This cannot be happening. I've been fired. My husband is screwing another woman—the wife of the asshole responsible for getting me canned, no less. My entire life is falling apart on the same day. What are the odds? What do I do? Do I let Cadmon explain and forgive him? Do I kick him out? If I kick him out, I won't have a husband. I'll be an unemployed single mother, and that would suck. I've gotten fat. How can I date anyone looking like this? Dammit, I'll have to start grooming my crotch again. Why didn't I get a tummy tuck when we could afford it? Why? Why? How'll Sassy get home naked? Would a cabdriver pick up a nude woman? Probably. But how would she pay the fare? All these thoughts flashed through my mind in one second, the way people's lives do when they're about to die.
I came back to earth. “Cad, I'm going to pick up the kids. Pack some things and leave. I don't want you here when I get back.”
He looked pitiful standing by the toilet in his Ritz Carlton terrycloth robe with the torn pocket. There would be no hug to comfort me for getting fired tonight. I turned and left, hiding the tears that were streaming down my face. Cadmon had ripped my heart out, but I'd sooner dance the samba bare-ass naked down Madison Avenue than let him know it.
What People are saying about this
(Bonnie Marston, author of Sleeping with Schubert)
—Allison Pearson, author of I Don’t Know How She Does It
“Entertaining . . . Picks up where The Nanny Diaries left off.”
—The New York Post
“[A] ferociously funny tale.”
“Tales of Manhattan’s elite trying to get their tots into private schools is sure to make you smirk condescendingly . . . The Ivy Chronicles delivers.”
“The brilliant, witty, and ultimately soulful heroine is a perfect tour guide who will leave you laughing up your latté.”
—Jill Kargman, author of The Right Address and Wolves in Chic Clothing
“With humor and heart, Karen Quinn brilliantly skewers the insanely competitive world of wealth we love to hate. Readers will cheer for Ivy!”
—Leslie Schnur, author of The Dog Walker
Meet the Author
Karen Quinn, after losing her own high-powered corporate job, helped found Smart City Kids, a New York City-based agency that helps families survive the application process to the area's most competitive public and private schools. Now a full-time writer, she lives in New York City.
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