A Breathless Place will be out next week, on 24 September 2020.
Here’s a preview. Enjoy!
A Breathless Place
© Harper Bliss
I’ll be dead in six months. In 183 days to be exact. I can’t wait. But for now, the prospect alone brings me adequate comfort.
I stare at my computer screen. The cursor blinks mockingly on the white background of the Word document. It’s supposed to be the first of many. If this is the speed I’m going to be working at, I might have to add a few days to my very last calendar. I don’t want to do that. I’ve chosen the date carefully—as carefully as these things can be chosen.
One day after my sixtieth birthday, I will say my final goodbye. It turns out, if you want to die, there’s a lot you need to take care of. And I want every last thing to be taken care of. My perfectionist streak will continue until my very last breath. The only problem is I’m not used to sorting out every little thing myself. I have people for that. My personal assistant Daisy handles all my administration. My chef Rian cooks most of my meals. Harry takes care of my home here in New York. My manager Ira has made sure every single one of my needs has been met for the past thirty-five years. But I haven’t told him my greatest need yet.
How do you tell someone something like that? If there is an acceptable way, I haven’t found it yet. And I’ve had years to think this through. It’s been nearly a decade since the thought first crossed my mind. Furtively at first, as though it was afraid to become a full-grown idea, the inkling of such a possibility would creep up on me in unguarded moments. It took months before it dared to linger for more than a fleeting second. Before I dared to grasp it and examine it further. It took years until I became certain it was what I wanted. But my own certainty is just that. My own. It’s not something I can easily inflict upon others. That’s what I’m trying to explain in this letter—the first of many.
Dearest Ira, I type. Before I continue this letter, I need to decide whether I will tell him beforehand or not. It will determine what I write. I’ve been going back and forth on this. If I tell him ahead of the time, I don’t need to write him a letter. But he will try to talk me out of it. Oh, how he will try. Ira might know me best of all, but he will still try, with all his might, with all the power he has over me, to change my mind. That’s not a conversation I want to have. So I need to write this letter. But I guess I don’t need to write it today. Although that’s what I told myself yesterday as well. And the day before. I can’t keep on postponing it.
I click out of the Word document and check the list I made of people who need to receive a letter on March 19, 2021. With the life I have lived, I figured there would be more, but there are only a few names on my list.
Maybe I should start by writing one joint letter to all of them. I can add personal touches later on, once I’ve gotten down the gist of what I want to say.
My phone rings. It’s my private number. The one only a handful people have—the number Daisy doesn’t screen for me. Speak of the devil. It’s Ira.
“Izzy.” He sounds out of breath. “I just got word Bruce fell off his horse.”
“What?” Bruce is the biographer I’ve been working with for the past two years on my final project—although, of course, Bruce doesn’t know it is my very last professional endeavor.
“It’s bad. He’s in a coma.”
“Oh no.” On a really bad day, I would have considered Bruce a lucky son of a bitch. “Is he going to be all right?”
“I don’t know. It’s too soon to tell. But…” I know Ira. The cogs in his brain are ever-turning. Business always comes first. That’s why I pay him his fifteen percent. “I spoke to the publisher. They have a replacement in mind already.”
“Are you kidding me?”
“The book was as good as done, Izzy. All the source material is there.”
I huff out some air, making sure Ira hears my exasperated sigh on his end of the line. “Who are they suggesting?”
“Leila Zadeh.” He sounds as though that name should impress me.
I rack my brain. I’ve heard the name before, but that’s the only bell it rings.
“She writes a lot for The Metropolitan,” Ira says.
“Bruce really can’t be replaced. Not this late in the day.”
“I know. You’re right.” The last one is Ira’s favorite sentence. “But just meet with her. See how you get along. No pressure.”
No pressure? Yeah right. “I don’t know, Ira.” I was never totally on board with the whole biography thing, anyway. To have someone delve deep into my life like that. I only went along with it because of my own secret plan. Because by the time my biography is released into the world, I will be long gone. Ira sold me on the idea of leaving a different kind of legacy.
But Bruce was such a likable man. Easy to talk to. Unassuming. Never pushy, although his hands-off approach seemed to work in the end. Poor Bruce. “Which hospital is Bruce in? Is he getting the best care possible?”
“Of course.” Ira’s voice is calm. “We can go see him as soon as it’s allowed.”
“Send me a dossier on this…. What’s her name again? Then I’ll decide.”
“Coming your way right now.” A silence falls. “Are you okay, Izzy?” Ira asks after a while.
“All the time I spent with Bruce and I never knew he rode horses.”
“Hm.” I can hear Ira swallow. “It was his job to find out everything about you. Not the other way around.”
A minute after we’ve rung off, I get a reminder on my cell phone for my workout. It’s hot instructor time in my virtual gym. Ramona’s the only reason I still show up every day. Ramona and the addictive blend of endorphins and arousal she elicits from me.
After the news about Bruce, I need the distraction. On my computer screen, I get a notice I’ve received a new email. It’s from Ira and the subject reads Leila Zadeh.
That will have to wait until after Ramona has made me sweat and forget.
<<End of preview>>
A Breathless Place will be available on Thursday 24 September 2020 from all retailers.