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My father Ricky Andrews was a wealthy, sex mad, playboy — a lying Don Juan who had it all.

Randy Ricky was ridiculously rich thanks to a huge family inheritance from his Australian parents. Handsome too, the man was gregarious, smooth, and knew how and when to lay on his easy charm.

Ricky dumped my mother when I was only two. And I haven’t seen him since.

As I grew up, I read about my father in the newspapers and magazines, and I heard stories that he enjoyed his reputation as a collector of stunning women. Ricky had broad tastes — he was a leg man, a boobs man, and a devotee of the perfect ass. A fancier of blondes — honey, platinum, or peroxide — when he wasn’t chasing after brunettes and every shade of redhead.

The odd thing is that Ricky was also in favour of matrimony. He married six of his beautiful girlfriends and, babe by babe, created our family tree. But really it is more a family thicket — a hedgerow of trophy wives, children, and grudges, spread round the planet. His marriages bred a known tally of ten children. All this spreading of the Ricky seed means I have nine half-brothers and half-sisters

I’d met none of them because nobody ever tried to pull Ricky’s daughters, sons, and resentments together. That is until Alexis my newest distant stepmother. Alexis, an almost comically beautiful blonde, looked like she’d been custom crafted (along with Bentleys, Lear jets, and Cuban cigars), for the most discerning sugar daddy. And she turned out to be one determined woman.

Alexis’s place in the family thicket is wife number six. She is a young-looking 23, as fresh faced as a teenager, which would be the reason for Ricky’s attraction. Alexis played a cock-teasing schoolgirl in a popular Australian television soap called Heartache High, but she decided to abandon that occupation after Ricky proposed — there was too much shopping to do.

Five months after Ricky married Alexis (it was a ceremony in Bali, covered exclusively by Hello magazine), he crashed his Ferrari into a milk tanker, ten minutes from his Sydney mansion. Ricky went to his maker minutes after a baby faced ambulanceman humiliatingly identified him via his Senior’s discount card.

I was in two minds about going to the funeral, which was 1200 miles away. My late mother Jillian, like me, a New Zealander, wouldn’t utter Ricky’s name, and couldn’t have been dragged across the ocean to his final rites.

While I had no personal memory of him, Ricky had intervened in my life just once, and that moment made me feel I owed him. During my early twenties I was a professional golfer, on the margins, and broke. I came second in an Asian tournament which, out of nowhere, qualified me to play three tournaments on the rich American PGA golf tour. It was a huge opportunity, but I couldn’t afford to get there. My problem was mentioned in a newspaper article and out of nowhere, a $20,000 cheque appeared — from Ricky to me, James Andrews.

So, I got to the U.S. and played the PGA Tour with its name sponsors and big prizemoney, for four good years. I won twice but blew my chance of real glory when I took the final round lead in a US Open until (God, I hate to admit this Tin Cup moment) I choked on the last three holes. Soon after, I was injured in a car wreck that killed a buddy who was driving. I spent a year on crutches and although I’m in good shape now, the golf career was finished.

I decided that paying final respects to my biological father might help put him behind me. It was a three-hour flight, and I arrived just in time for the ceremony. Ricky was a “somebody,” so about two hundred Aussies crammed into the short service held at an inner suburb crematorium. While the furnace workers swept up after “Chapel Three, Two PM,” and potted Ricky’s ashes in a tidy urn, the mourners drove back to the Four Seasons where Alexis, the very young widow, had hired a function room for the post funeral pleasantries. Here, Ricky was sent off with style and suitable expense. Looking across the harbour to Sydney’s Opera House, the gathering nibbled elaborate canopies, and drank flutes of epically pricey Dom Perignon, which was Ricky’s favourite leg-opener.

Alexis could afford all this. She had been widowed while still the incumbent bride, so the prenup that Ricky used to control the cost of his divorces didn’t apply to her. More than a little stunned, she inherited $60 million.

People were used to the television Alexis, dressed in a ludicrously short tartan schoolgirl skirt, and bobby socks. Now, wearing haut couture black, with stylish gloves and a hat carrying a wisp of veil, she stood at the door uncertainly, receiving guests she clearly didn’t know. My turn came, and I looked at a blonde who was even more beautiful than her girlishly pretty TV publicity pictures. Alexis looked back, seeming a little puzzled, and put out her hand to be shaken. As she did, the woman next in line reached past me, pulled her into a synthetic hug, and began an “Oh you poor little darling, I’m so sorry,” routine.

She ataşehir escort bayan was a “look at me” mourner. I took a glass from a waiter and searched the room for a friendly face. I knew nobody, but I saw a couple who looked vaguely familiar standing near the waiters’ station.

“Hello – I’m one of Ricky’s sons – James Andrews,” I said, introducing myself.

They looked at me, sizing me up. “Yes, I can see the connection,” the man announced. “And I suppose it’s odd we’ve never met. We’re Ricky children too. The first born. It’s Roger and Phoebe — Marion, our mother, is his first wife.”

Roger, who I saw looked a little like myself, weighed his words. “I don’t know about you, but we’re here because of duty. We’re Sydney locals, but there was no way mother would come, particularly after finding he’d left us nothing in his will. Absolutely zip, and it’s us who are his original family. It’s an insult.

“And look at her. Bimbo child bride, hardly arrived on the scene, and she walks off with almost everything,” he complained. “Which Ricky wife did you say is your mother?”

“Jillian – a country girl from New Zealand. She served her time as wife number two, but she managed to re-marry. And happily, too.”

They looked at me, startled. “Jillian,” spat Phoebe. “Jillian, the beauty queen.” (It was true my mother had won a small-town charity beauty quest and wound up a Miss Universe finalist. She might even have won but forgot to say her dream was World Peace)

“That tart stole Ricky from my mother. The bitch broke mom’s heart,” snapped Phoebe, and turned on her heel.

“Don’t worry, Jillian’s heart got broken too. I think that’s how it worked with Ricky,” I said to their backs, as they stalked away. It hadn’t crossed my own mind that Ricky might remember his forgotten children in his will. Besides, he’d have had trouble dictating our names.

An elegantly suited man with a distinguished mane of grey hair, rang his glass, picked up a microphone at the front of the room, and called for silence. “My name is Ken Corbyn and I want to pay tribute to our friend Ricky Andrews,” he announced. I recognized Ken Corbyn from media pictures as one of Ricky’s sidekicks – another ageing playboy who’d inherited wealth. The pair were sometimes named together in accounts of Ricky’s mistakes.

“Ricky was a remarkable man who came from a remarkable family,” The second part of Corbyn’s statement was true, as was the first — if you’re into sarcasm. Ricky’s grandfather William Andrews established a chain of service stations and mini markets spread across Australia. His only son Michael expanded Andrews Petroleum into refining and put the family into the country’s Top 50 Rich List. I keep forgetting these founding geniuses are also my own grandparents.

The folk lore on wealth is that the first two generations build it, and the third witlessly blows it. Ricky Andrews made a textbook job of delivering on that tradition. Unlike his father and grandfather, Ricky wasn’t overly smart. However, he was supremely confident of his abilities, and rapidly progressed the family business backwards. My father started life as one of the Super Rich and finished it merely extremely wealthy.

Corbyn spoke for five minutes about his talented friend, who, at only 67, had been cruelly taken from a world he still had much to offer. He made no mention of Ricky’s embarrassing extended family, and he pointedly ignored his young widow, who stood pale-faced, not ten feet from Corbyn.

“So here’s to our friend Ricky,” he pronounced, raising his glass.

“To Ricky,” the group echoed, and downed the vintage champagne.

It was clearly Alexis’s turn to speak about her late husband — if her emotions were up to it. She took a hesitating step towards the microphone and put her hand out for it. But Corbyn turned his back deliberately, switched the microphone off, and handed it to a waiter. The gathering looked elsewhere awkwardly and then, siding with the insult, began to chatter. Pink with embarrassment Alexis stood alone and ignored. I stayed ten more minutes and decided that I could stomach no more of Ricky’s crowd. As I edged towards the door, I felt a tap on my shoulder.

“You’re James, aren’t you? Ricky’s second son?” a small voice asked. Ricky’s young wife was struggling with her emotions, and her voice trembled.

“Yes, I’m James,” I said. “Sorry, I should have come over and said ‘hello.’ This must have been a big shock for you – how are you managing?”

“It’s bewildering, but I’m getting there, “she said. “I’m sorry I didn’t know who you were when you arrived. The penny was just dropping — you’ve got some of Ricky’s looks — then we got interrupted,” said Alexis.

“No need to apologise. The only apologies due are the ones this lot owe for snubbing you,” I said, gesturing at the gathering. “I didn’t think they could fit so many jerks in the same room.”

“I wasn’t sure there was anyone who cared,” she said, relieved. “Do me a favour? escort kadıöy Would you mind staying a few minutes because I’m stuck by myself. My parents tried to get here — they live in London – but couldn’t. Ricky’s friends were never my friends, and I could do with someone beside me.”

She took my arm firmly and clung to it. “Sure, not a problem,” I allowed, and led her towards a corner of the room. People stole glances at Alexis — nobody can genuinely ignore in-your-face beauty. But they were contemptuous of her young widowhood. Nobody was prepared to consider she might be genuinely troubled.

“There’s a lot for you to come to grips with. Have you got anyone here to help you?” I asked.

“There’s just Ricky’s house staff, and they treat me like I’m an imposter. Before Ricky I’d been Melbourne based — but that’s in another State. Still, I’ve got a couple of friends arriving tomorrow. They can stay a fortnight. And when my Dad phoned, he said they’d be over from England quickly — but meanwhile to stay put and not rush any important decisions.”

“Sounds good advice. I’m glad you’ll have friends here soon.”

The conversation paused. Ricky was the only connection we had and that was a precarious one. Technically Alexis was my stepmother, but she was fifteen years younger than me, and we came from very different worlds.

“Did you know your father talked about you?” she asked. For a moment, her sapphire blue eyes lit up. “Ricky was proud of you. He said you’d done clever things with your family farm over in New Zealand. It’s on the coast, so you took some beachfront space and put your golf savings towards a small hotel. He heard from a friend that your place is gorgeous.”

“Really? He knew all that. I’m astonished he noticed!” I blurted.

“I understand why you’d think that. Ricky wasn’t interested is his kids. But he had two exceptions. With him being such a sports fan, he followed your career, and Ursula’s too.”

“Ursula?” I asked, trying to place her. “I don’t know much about her. Isn’t she the daughter of the Danish wife?”

“Yes, Ingrid Weisz, Ricky’s fourth. Ursula took back her mother’s name. She’s a top rider – she competes in big-time dressage events, and Ricky always kept tabs on her career. She’s just been picked in Denmark’s team for next year’s Tokyo Olympics. Ricky was so pleased he got out his cheque book. Turns out she’ll be in Sydney, and Ricky thought of meeting her.”

“Dressage? Riders put on top hats, and make the horse do fancy steps round the ring? Sit up stiff like toffs,” I asked.

Alexis laughed. “A bit like the crowd here,” she observed. “These people are obsessed with wealth, and they think I’m a gold-digger who married Ricky for his money. It’s a hard one, because I worry now there may be some grain of truth. I had real feelings for Ricky. He was an attractive man. But when life with him became difficult – and it did – you start wondering what his actual appeal had been.

“There’s all sorts of things, of course. Ricky was good looking in a distinguished way. And a charmer. But he made life hard.” She paused. “Jeez, why am I telling you all this? It sounds like I’m trying to justify myself.”

“It sounds more like you’re grieving, and a bit confused,” I replied. “Don’t beat yourself up about it. Ricky was always in charge of his choices. It’s Ricky that chose you. It was Ricky that chose my own mother. And it was Ricky driving the Ferrari.”

Alexis nodded, but I don’t think she was either convinced or consoled. People were leaving, and she decided she could release me. “Thanks for staying back. I think the time’s come I can decently depart. Could you get me past Ricky’s crowd? There’s a driver waiting.”

I walked her to the limo where a chauffeur opened the door. Before she got in she offered her cheek for me to kiss. “It would be nice to find a way to stay in touch. You’ve got a business card?” A gust of breeze fluffed up her mourning dress, exposing her shapely legs. I tried not to stare as obviously as the bug-eyed driver. He closed the door, and she left — a small blonde figure swamped in a receding Bentley.

Alexis, the so-called bimbo, struck a chord in my memory. My mom died of breast cancer three years ago, and in her last days she wanted to talk away past ghosts. Jillian confided the same self-questioning thoughts that Alexis had raised. Why had she fallen for an asshole like Ricky? She thought she’d loved him – but was his money an unconscious part of the attraction? The question ate at my mom too.

Our motives confuse us. We don’t — or sometimes doggedly won’t – recognize all of the desires that drive our actions. But Alexis was more than the vacuous blonde in the television soap. She knew enough to doubt herself. She was a babe, but as babes go, Alexis seemed a straight shooter.

xxxx

I flew home the next day to Aroha Nui Lodge, where the tourist season had just begun. Aroha Nui is small, and sits alone on a sparkling, white sand bay, protected by maltepe escort towering headlands at each end. It is thirty minutes from the nearest township and while the helipad is busy, we’re not really on the superrich circuit. Still, visiting yachts and cruisers tie up to the long jetty which was once the farm’s link to the world outside.

Four of the twelve staff were newcomers, so I was busy with training. They included an expensive Swiss chef, who split his time between the European and Southern seasons. Francis was a pain in the ass — a meticulous troublemaker – but his food made him worth it.

The farm was Jillian’s father’s, and it wound up with me when she died. Barny, the farm manager, has the dairy and crops property humming most of the time, but he’s a reformed drunk who clings to the wagon eleven months a year. Fortunately, Barney loses his rag during the hotel’s mid-winter shut down, when I’m only just good enough to cover for him. During the lodge’s busy summer season Barney goes cold turkey and runs the place like it’s his own.

Alexis called when I’d been back a month. I’d made a point of watching some re-runs of her show, but still the phone voice surprised me with its silky sexuality. She said her dad had arrived from the UK and was making short work of getting Ricky’s estate sorted because he was a lawyer. She spent time asking after my life more intimately that I expected – and then got to her point.

“You Ricky kids — you’re half siblings. That makes you much closer than any stepsister or cousin. Yet you brothers and sisters don’t know each other which is sad. Does it ever bother you?” she asked.

“Not often,” I replied, then hesitated. “But you can’t help being curious. The reasons we never got together would be simple. Mothers wanting nothing more to do with Ricky, and families scattered round the world. Ricky wasn’t interested in us, so nothing happened. But all that’s history.”

“But does it have to be just history? How many rooms have you got in this smart little hotel Ricky was so impressed by?” she asked.

“Just eight — it’s a mix of suites and bungalows,” I replied, puzzled. “There’s usually about sixteen sitting down for meals.”

“Sounds ideal,” said Alexis. “I want a place that size where I could bring all you half-brothers and sisters together. What do you think?”

“But we live in different countries,” I protested. “Besides there’ll be some not interested and others who can’t afford it. Ricky didn’t leave his families well set up.”

“Well it’s Ricky paying for it now — it’s Rickey’s money can begin fixing the mess he left behind. What if I give them all business class tickets to get to New Zealand? If I did that, are there any reasons your hotel couldn’t handle it?”

“Yes, plenty” I said unhelpfully. “Aroha Nui is booked out months ahead, and besides it’s pretty pricey,”

“How much is pricey?”

“Two grand a night, meals included. That’s per person.”

“For God’s sake James,” Alexis said tetchily. “I saw Ricky tip a waitress two grand because he liked her tits. What if we tried for dates six months out — for a week in March 2020?” The reservations system was open beside the phone, so grudgingly I clicked into March. It hadn’t filled up totally, but seven days was out of the question. Too many bookings overlapped.

“Sorry, a week doesn’t work,” I told her.

“Damn,” she said, crestfallen. “Is there nothing you can do to help me?”

The damsel in distress. I found myself starting to be on her side. I changed the bookings search down to five days, then four, and saw a possibility. “There are four clear days from March 17. And besides four beats the crap out of seven. Put any family together a week and they’ll tear each other’s throats out. Plus, we’d do a discount on a block booking.”

“Screw discounts,” she said. “It’s Ricky’s paying — and at two grand he’d worry you don’t change your sheets. So, can you and I get together and do this?”

I paused.

“C’mon, a favour for your poor old Stepmom?” She giggled at her remark — and of course, she brought me on board with her joke.

“Okay Stepmom, we’re on. I should always do as Mommy says.”

“Hey, be careful what you promise!”

“Well who are you going to be? Mom or Lexi?’

“It depends how you behave yourself.” Her tone seemed flirty. “But don’t ever shorten Alexis to Lexi. The magazines call me ‘Sexy Lexi’ and I hate it.” We chatted for a few more friendly minutes and made arrangements to follow through. “That’s it then,” I said. “We’ll keep in touch.”

“Okay young man, we’ll see you in March,” she said. I could hear her laughter as she hung up. But I worried for Alexis. I thought her grand reunion project was a nice idea, but the logistics were impossible. And her failure would be made more humiliating, because it seemed she’d decided this scattered brood was ‘family.’

xxxx

I give credit to Alexis for her powers of persuasion, and her blunt use of the money she could suddenly lavish. By January 2020 she had eight of we ten half siblings aboard for her family experiment. The two who snottily declined were Roger and Phoebe from Sydney. They’d tried to claim a large chunk of Ricky’s estate — and been sharply rebuffed via the expertise of Alexis’ dad.

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