Grafting – Part 1
“Grafting: Uniting two plants so they grow as one. Most often used to join phylloxera-resistant rootstock with vitis vinifera buds that will bear fruit.”
Colin hadn’t been to bed last night. If he did sleep, it wasn’t usually in his own bedroom. His $4,000 dollar mattress was for keeping up appearances that he slept there regularly. He had planned on using it for once. His only major commitment that day was a dinner meeting with his CEO Ryan. Ryan was only five years older than Colin, not even fifty. Colin had aged well. His fair hair was still thick, and he worked out every other day. But Ryan was almost bald and had an impressive collection of wrinkles around his eyes. However, Ryan’s suit collection was impeccable and the man did his job well. Colin might have owned the company, but Ryan made sure that the company succeeded.
When the car dropped him off at the downtown restaurant Ryan had picked, Colin told his driver to stay close. He would make sure that he wouldn’t stay longer than two hours. The meeting could have taken place at the office. But Ryan knew that Colin didn’t like to make public appearances. This was how he forced Colin out.
“I’m hiring you a ghostwriter.” Was the first thing Ryan said after Colin sat down and ordered himself a bourbon.
“I don’t remember wanting to write a book,” Colin said.
“You want to write a book, Colin.”
Colin took a moment to sip his drink and marinate on the idea. The only reason Ryan would do this was because of Amanda.
“Is this about my mother?” Colin looked Ryan in the eyes.
“Yes,” said Ryan. “If you want to generate more interest in your brand, you have to generate interest in yourself. Nobody knows you. They only know your mother. Your mother and her wine label.”
Colin sighed and took another drink. The wine label he was trying to preserve “A.V.” had been re-branded after the death of Amanda Nearly. Her full name used to be on the bottle, along with her picture. It was shortened to A.V. or Amanda Vineyards, and her image removed. She killed herself when Colin was 12 years old, leaving everything to her son.
“The wine sells itself,” Colin said. “I don’t want to dig up memories that I don’t have.”
“And you don’t have to,” Ryan responded. “You just have to prove that you’re a well adjusted 40-year old man, who is proud of the company he inherited.”
“And a book will do that?”
“The right book will,” Ryan said.
“Great.” Colin didn’t hide his sarcasm.
The salad course arrived; Colin distracted himself by chopping up his Ceasar. He pretended each piece of lettuce was Ryan’s head. Ryan spewed off the dates of future meetings with various clients, most of them not involving Colin. The only time Colin interacted with anyone outside of Ryan’s network, was when he entertained guests at the vineyard. He talked about the vineyard’s history, glazing over the death of his mother. He chatted about the weather while pouring a late harvest Vidal Blanc. Then he sent them off to talk with the winemaker. At the end of the tour, he would reappear. They would then have a cheese plate and more bottles of wine. It was an easy life, and busy enough. But it didn’t seem book-worthy.
Ryan spoke less once his 10 oz fillet appeared. Colin enjoyed the silence but knew that the pleasure was fleeting. There would always be more business discussions. Colin speared a piece of roasted portobello and waited.
“The ghostwriter is coming to the office at 9 tomorrow,” Ryan reminded him. “Don’t be late.”
“Is it necessary that I meet them?” asked Colin.
“What did you expect? The book is about you.”
“Are you sure it can’t be an internet blurb?”
“9 AM. Give it a chance. I don’t ask much of you,” Ryan said.
“Anything that has to do with Amanda is too much,” Colin snapped.
“It will not be about your mother, Colin. I told you.”
“Don’t make promises you can’t keep Ryan.”
After what seemed like three hours, it was over. Colin called his driver back around and directed him to the Nearly Estate. He wanted to go back to his private address, but the estate was closer to the office. He was more annoyed at the fact that he would have to drag himself to the office rather than enjoy breakfast. There would be no time for poached eggs and smoked salmon; only black coffee. He had work to do preparing what in the hell he was going to say to this writer.
He stayed up all night. He sifted over memories that had long since been buried. All the time wondering how in-depth a book this ghostwriter had in mind. The media had done its job when it came to Amanda Nearly.
A young Hollywood ingenue, Amanda rose to fame and married quickly. She also divorced her director husband quickly. She started a vineyard as something new to do, a sort of fresh start. Colin wasn’t even living with her when she killed herself. But now and then some documentary about stars who died too young would pop up. He would agree to a quick interview that took hours to film but equaled 2 minutes of screen time. That was fine with Colin. He gave the same speech about her every time, and no one pressed him for details. Amanda hid nothing.
Morning came, and Colin went back to his room to change out of last night’s clothes. When he got to the office, Colin asked the assistant to bring him the largest cup of coffee she could find. He went to his desk to wait for the ghostwriter. It didn’t take long because she was ten minutes early.
The door opened, and his assistant stood holding Colin’s coffee. Behind her was a woman of average height and jet-black hair. Her hair wasn’t messy, but it wasn’t in the fussy style he was used to seeing so many of his female clients wear. She let the assistant hand Colin his drink and then extended her hand.
“Mr. Nearly, it’s nice to meet you.”
Colin set his coffee down and shook her hand.
“My name is Mandy Pierce, and I will be working with you on your book.”
“Ms. Pierce, I’m going to be honest. This isn’t something I’m looking forward to,” Colin said.
“Ryan told me as much. And it’s understandable, considering your history with keeping to the shadows.”
“That’s one way to put it.”
“But I will tell you that what I write is under your control. You can work with Ryan and draw up a contract that suits us both,” she said.
“I don’t want to focus on my mother,” Colin stated firmly.
“Good. Because I would rather focus on your life.” She paused and pushed a stray hair behind her ear. “Are you comfortable mentioning that you’re gay?”