Just fucking wait.
Calendar Girl (August): Chapter 4
Maxwell takes Mia to the headquarters of his company, Cunningham Oil & Gas. There’s a weird moment where Maxwell “admonishes” Mia for letting herself out of his car because “a gentleman opens the door for a lady”, which Mia jokingly brushes aside by telling him that she’s his sister. It’s a nice, light, effective moment showing the dynamic these two incredibly boring stock characters have with each other. Turns out the Southern guy is stereotypically Southern? Tarnation.
“We try our best to be environmentally friendly, but there’s always the activists that want to protect the Earth. I get it, but that doesn’t change our need for natural resources.” His tone was soft, not at all damning, simply matter of fact.
“I guess I understand why people are worried about the planet dying, but on the other hand I don’t like thinking about it. Tarnation.”
Maxwell tells Mia a bit more about his family history, expressing confusion over why his father would keep his sister’s existence a secret from him his entire life (fair enough) and explaining that his mother never married his father despite his wishes.
“Dad said he asked her many times over the years they were together. Even downright demanded it when they had me. Instead, she just up and disappeared.”
Yeah, I can kinda see how that went from point A to point B, there, once you take normal commitment issues and adjust for the borderline sociopathic behavior everyone in Calendar Girl kinda sorta has.
Maxwell explains how big the company is for a little bit, explaining that even though it’s a global company there’s still “a Cunningham in top tier management” in every branch.
“In Dad’s will, he left forty-nine percent of the company to my sister.”
“The one you haven’t met yet.”
He looked away and responded. “Er, yeah, you could say that.”
This is so suspicious that I’m pretty sure this is the chapter where we go from this story being “what a crazy coincidence you have so much in common with this missing person’s identity!”-level crazy to “ok, this is actually Mia’s long-lost brother”-level crazy. I’m like 80% sure that’s gonna be how this book ends now.
“Basically, he left this woman close to half of the company and has given me a year to find her. I’ve been looking for months.” He laughed. “This is going to sound so ridiculous, and you’re probably not going to believe it”
No worries, I’m so here for this.
“I heard your name in the entertainment news my wife watches.”
That’s the unbelievable part of this book about a man looking for a secret sister named in his father’s will and apparently finding a woman who happens to have the same name and birthday as her and has spent the last few months hanging out with public figures? The unbelievable part is that he knows someone who watches tv?
Anyway, would you be surprised to learn that the wealthy international oil company heir who needed to clarify that it’s his wife who watches celebrity news, definitely not him, is gonna be kind of a dick about Mia’s line of work?
“I uh, had you investigated. […] Imagine my surprise when I found out you were an escort. I will say that shocked me a bit.” The words came out grumbled, almost angry, not at all matching the man.
Do they really not match the man?
Maxwell asks her why she’s an escort. Mia first wants to know what he all knows about her from the investigation. Maxwell knows about her last few months of work, that her dad is in the hospital, but that’s about it. Mia insists they cut to the chase and he explain what he needs from her. For some reason this wasn’t clarified before he put the money down to hire Mia and her company was cool with that, because I guess that’s just how loosey-goosey business is in Calendar Girl.
“I need you to be my sister so that the investors don’t get to take a stake in the company.”
“But how would that work? Eventually they’re going to figure it out.”
“No, I don’t think they will. It’s too close.”
So, uh, Mia is contractually obligated to commit identity fraud, except all parties involved signed the contract first before clarifying what the terms were. That’s what this conversation is actually about. Seriously, how is it not? Maxwell just pretty explicitly explained that his plan is to have an international oil company profit off of falsifying an identity.
“By the time we need to get into birth records and DNA testing for the courts, I’ll uh, hopefully have found the real Mia Saunders.”
…or not? I guess? Wait, so I’m pretty sure Mia’s going to turn out to be his real long-lost sister, but we can’t ignore that at this point in time, his plan is commit identity fraud to block other people from making money and then at a later point go “just kidding!” I’m not a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure that’s not a great defense.
But it’s totally ok because Maxwell just wants a family, y’all.
“I’ve wanted nothing more my whole life than to be part of a huge family. […] That’s why I married Cyndi young, and we set about having a baby. I want a brood of children running my father’s company one day.” […]
A real family environment was something I also craved. That deep blood connection with people, what Maddy and I had, meant everything to me.
“I’ll do whatever you need. Just let me know.”
For those of you keeping score at home, Mia just agreed to do a job she already contractually agreed to do, except the contract didn’t specify this for some reason, and also it’s illegal, and also she’s okay with it because she’s convinced Maxwell has a heart of gold as evidenced by his desire to safeguard his net worth with a “brood of children”.
“You don’t want more money? Blackmail me? You know you could. For a lot.” […]
I shook my head. “A good deed is done because it should be”
To be totally, 100% clear, the “good deed” is committing identify fraud so an international oil company’s owners can profit more. That is a good deed in the buckwild hypercapitalist hellscape of Calendar Girl.
Speaking of capitalism (sorry, this erotic novella series is just really weird???), Maxwell is surprised to learn that sometimes people suffer under capitalism.
“You’ve already paid the fee to get me here. I’ve sent that to my debt collector.” […]
“Debt collector? That money I sent went to a debt? My investigator showed no debt under your name. […] That money was supposed to go to you!” His tone bordered on vehement
Notice how Maxwell gets angry every time Mia does capitalism wrong? That’s our good guy. We’re supposed to root for him and hope his identity fraud goes ok so he can
make money have a family.
To her credit, Mia insists throughout the rest of the chapter that her debt is absolutely none of Maxwell’s business. He repeatedly tries to insist it is. Mia does throw him a bone and explain that some of the money is going to pay her sister’s college tuition, which she’s surprised the investigator didn’t turn up. Maxwell gets even weirder.
“Another sister,” he whispered. “Madison.” He said her name as if it were a prayer […] “Two sisters. All I’ve ever wanted. I’ll be damned.” He shook his head, closed his eyes, and a tear slipped down his cheek.
What. The. Hell. Just Happened.
Yeah, now I’m 95% certain Mia’s his real sister. That or this is going to lead to some rather troubling group sex. Probably the first thing, though.
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