My procedure is scheduled for the afternoon on Saturday and the funeral is in the morning, so I can do both. It’s just going to be, you know, a busy day. But obviously I can’t leave Luke hanging with this funeral, and I’m afraid if I don’t go through with the procedure right away, I’ll chicken out. Or worse, I’ll break down and tell Luke.
The death of Thomas Thayer is apparently big news, which I realize after I actually see it on the local news. It’s big news at work too. Everyone is debating whether or not it’s a good thing that the elder Thayer died. It’s generally thought that it’s a bad thing, not out of any respect for the old man’s life, but just because Luke is known for being a thousand times worse than his father. It seems like more and more, I hear the word “monster” used to describe him.
I wonder what Luke will be like as a CEO now that his father is dead. It’s very obvious that everything he did was simply an attempt to impress his father, despite the fact that nothing really worked. Maybe he’ll be a kinder boss now.
Thomas Thayer’s funeral is a huge event. It’s held at a large funeral home out in Weston, and the room is packed with family members, friends, colleagues, and some people who I suspect are reporters. It’s an open casket, but I have zero desire to see Mr. Thayer’s dead body, so I steer clear of that. I see Luke in the front, talking to some important-looking people, looking incredibly handsome in a black suit.
I push my way through the crowd to get to him. At first I’m worried I’m going to have to wait in line to talk to him, but then he sees me, excuses himself from the crowd, and wheels over to me.
“Ellie,” he says. “Thanks for coming.”
“Of course,” I say. “How are you doing? Are you okay?”
He nods. “Yeah, I am. Much better, actually. Look, um, there’s something I really need to talk to you about…”
“Oh?” I ask. Could he know about the pregnancy? He has a lot of connections so it does seem possible he could have somehow discovered it…
“It’s really important,” he says. “Can you meet me after the service?”
“What is it about?”
“You’ll see,” he says, and he sounds so mysterious that it’s almost like he’s the one who’s going to tell me that he’s pregnant.
A crowd of people is waiting patiently to talk to Luke, so I wander away to find myself a seat. I reach into my purse and pull out a package of soda crackers. Maybe it’s psychological or something, but lately, I haven’t been able to get through the morning without eating something. I used to be the kind of person who never ate breakfast, but lately I feel queasy if I go till lunchtime without food. I guess breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.
Just as I’m settling into my seat, I hear a voice above my head saying, “Ellie.” I look up and it’s Sophie Thayer, Luke’s mother.
“Oh, hi,” I say awkwardly. It’s a little weird talking to the mother of the guy you recently broke up with.
Sophie slides into the seat next to mine. Even though her eyes are red-rimmed and puffy, she still looks very beautiful. She looks more beautiful at her age (50? 55? I can’t tell) than I look at 32 or ever have or ever will. God, no wonder Luke is so hot.
“I just wanted to tell you,” she says, “Luke misses you tremendously.”
“Oh,” I murmur.
“He called me the night you broke up,” she says. “I’ve never heard him so upset in his entire life, even when he was first injured. He’s dated a lot of women in the past, but nobody I’ve ever heard him talk this way about. He loves you so much, Ellie.”
I look down at my crackers, unsure what to say.
“I know you’ve heard what people say about him,” she goes on. “But I can tell you, I know Luke better than anyone else in the world and he is a good person. He did some things he regretted in order to impress his father, but deep down, I promise you, he’s a sweet boy. He always was.”
I nod. I’m beginning to realize that this might be the truth, but I’m not sure it matters.
Sophie looks down at the crackers in my hand. “Soda crackers,” she notes. “I haven’t had those since I was pregnant with Luke.”
I stare at her in alarm, but she doesn’t say anything else. But she also doesn’t move. I would have assumed she’d want to sit up from with her close family members, but it seems like she wants to just stay next to me.
The service starts with a lengthy eulogy of Thomas Thayer. The clergyman catalogues Mr. Thayer’s life, talks about how he built up Thayer Industries, the charity work he did, and of course, his love for his wife and only son Luke.
Sophie, sitting next to me, is crying quietly, dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief. I’ve never even owned a handkerchief… I usually go for the Kleenex. I can only see the side of Luke’s face, but he seems much more stoic than the other night. He’s not crying. He’s just sitting there, staring straight ahead.
After the eulogy, it is Luke’s turn to speak. He wheels to the front of the room, but of course, he can’t go behind the podium since it’s too high. They’re fumbling behind the podium for a minute and I hear one woman near me say, “Poor boy. What’s he going to do without his father to take care of him?” If only she knew.
They finally manage to detach the microphone and Luke takes it in his hand to address the large room. “Hello,” he says. “My name is Lucas Thayer and Thomas Thayer was my father.”
I look at Sophie and for the first time, a smile touches her lips. I’ve noticed she practically glows whenever Luke is around. Whatever Luke’s father thought of him, it’s obvious his mother thinks the world of him, wheelchair or not.
Luke clears his throat. “As some of you know, my father and I weren’t on the best terms. However, after his heart attack, I took over as CEO of Thayer Industries and the company has grown considerably in the last few years. Although I’ve enjoyed running the company under my father’s guidance, now that he’s passed, I’ve made an arrangement as of yesterday for the sale of Thayer Industries.”
A collective gasp rises up from the audience. Sophie obviously has no idea about any of this and her face goes white as a sheet. She’s not glowing anymore. She’s just shaking her head in disbelief, looking really upset.
Luke waits for a second for the buzz of the crowd to settle down, then says, “That’s all. Thanks.”
You can tell that the “mourners” can’t wait to surround Luke and he’s effectively ruined his father’s funeral. I can’t help but wonder if that was purposeful or if he simply didn’t care. It’s obvious that Luke’s sale of the family company is a bit of a “fuck you” to his father, who probably deserved it. After all, what kind of man refuses to forgive his only son for being disabled?
“How could he do this?” Sophie hisses, looking at me. I shrug helplessly. “Tom wouldn’t have wanted this. Why would he DO this?”
I don’t know what to say. I suspect this is a matter to be discussed between mother and son.
“I know he hated running the company,” Sophie says. “But he was so good at it…”
When it’s Sophie’s turn to speak, she stumbles on her way to the podium. Although she looks beautiful, she is visibly shaken. She pulls a crumpled piece of paper from her pocket. “Thomas Thayer was the love of my life,” she starts out. “He was the sort of man who… who….” She looks up from the paper. “Luke, my god, how could you sell the company?”
The funeral winds down rather quickly after that. Luke is surrounded by people with questions, including his own mother. I find myself glancing down at my watch then eying the door. I know I said I’d wait for him and I’m as curious as anyone, but my appointment is scheduled for 2PM. I’ve got some time, but not much. I can’t sit around indefinitely.
Just as I’m about to make a break for it, Luke’s eyes catch mine across the crowd and he pushes his way through, something that’s not that easy in his wheelchair. He wheels over to me and gives me a sober look. “Can I talk to you, Ellie? Privately?”
I nod and follow him out of the room. Luke’s apparently planned ahead, because he quickly leads me to a small room in the back and shuts the door behind us. It looks like an empty office. I settle gingerly into an unfinished wooden chair.
“So?” he says.
“So,” I say.
He sighs. “Ellie, I did it for you.”
“For… for me?”
“Well, not entirely,” he amends. “But… I hated myself while I was running that company, and I know you hated me. I wanted to start over and I knew I couldn’t do that while I was CEO of Thayer Industries.”
“Oh,” I say. I feel a twinge in my stomach. I know that couldn’t be the baby moving. It’s way too early.
“I want to try to be a better person,” he says. “I want to start a new company, something small. Actually, I was hoping you might want to be a part of it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you are the second smartest person I know,” he says with a crooked grin. “I could use someone like you as my Vice President.”
“What about my current job?”
Luke lowers his eyes. “Ellie, I told you the situation with your company. It’s not economically feasible. I believe that the plans are to shut it down.”
I can tell he isn’t lying. I’m going to be laid off, through no fault of my own. This job opportunity might be the best one I’ll get in the area. And I know that under Luke’s guidance, the company will be successful.
“I don’t know…”
“It’s okay,” he says. “I didn’t expect a decision now. To be honest, I was going to take some time off, maybe do some traveling. Maybe go back to Greece for a while. Try to forget this whole mess. And hopefully, give people time to forget me.”
I see the pain on his face and despite my resolution to be strong, I feel my heart go out to him. “Luke,” I say. “Look, you’re not a bad guy. You’re really not. I don’t claim to know what’s it’s like to run a huge corporation. It seems like… you did what you had to do.” I reach out and take his hand and give him a squeeze. “You’re a much better person than your father.”
He frowns. “You really think so?”
“Definitely,” I say, “and I know you’ll be a better father than he was.”
Why oh why did I say that? It’s playing with fire. And as soon as I say the words, I see Luke’s face darken. “I doubt that,” he says.
He snorts. “Well, for starters, I can’t have children.” He glances up at me. “Sorry, I probably should have told you. I would have… if we ever got to the point where we were considering… you know, commitment.”
I stare at Luke. It’s obvious he believes what he’s saying. He really thinks he’s sterile. “Um, are you sure you can’t have kids?”
“Yeah, pretty sure,” he says. He sighs sadly. “You know I can’t ejaculate. I went to a doctor once to see if they could stimulate some sperm production but nothing worked. They said maybe they could try surgery or something, but… I don’t know. I’m not optimistic.” He sighs again. “It sucks because… I really wanted to have kids. It’s something I had looked forward to my whole life, believe it or not.”
Oh god. This is horrible. I can’t let him think he’s sterile when he’s obviously not. I have to tell him about this pregnancy. It’s the right thing to do. But if I tell him, it will change everything.
“Luke,” I say carefully. “Um, there’s something I should tell you.”
He studies my face. “You’re seeing someone else,” he says knowingly.
“No, Luke, I…” I take a deep breath. “I’m pregnant.”
He gets this hurt look on his face. “With who?”
“With you, you idiot!”
“No,” he says, looking very perplexed. “I just told you, I can’t…”
“Obviously, you can,” I say. “There hasn’t been anyone else, believe me.”
Luke gets this shell shocked look on his face. But he doesn’t look unhappy. “Are you serious about this?”
“It’s not really a funny joke, is it?”
He lifts his eyes and asks timidly, “So, um, what are your plans?”
I glance down at my watch. I’ve still got an hour. “Actually, this afternoon, I was going to have a… a…”
Luke stares at me, alarmed. “Ellie, you can’t!”
I frown. “I think that it’s my decision…”
“Ellie, listen to me.” He reaches out to take my hand and I can see he’s shaking. “I didn’t want to pressure you. I wanted to prove myself to you, that I’m a good guy, but there’s obviously no time for that. Ellie, I love you. I adore you. You’re the most wonderful woman I’ve ever met. I want to spend my life with you. And… I really want this baby. I want to have a baby with you.”
I look into his eyes. There’s something very earnest there. For the first time since I’ve known him, I am 100% sure that Luke Thayer isn’t lying to me. He loves me and he’s trying very hard to change. Actually, I’m sort of impressed. After all, how many men out there would sell a multi-million dollar company just for me?
“Just give me another chance, Ellie,” he says. “Please. I’ll make you so happy. You and the baby. You will never regret this decision. I swear to it.”
The crazy thing is, I’m sort of starting to believe him.
“If I agree to this,” I say thoughtfully, “it doesn’t mean I’m going to marry you.” At least, not now.
“We’ll take things really slow,” he promises. “We’ll go out on a date, to a nice restaurant. I’ll bring you back home before 10PM. I won’t even try to kiss you.”
“Well,” I say. “I don’t want to be too strict.”
Luke smiles slowly. “Maybe one kiss then?”
I look down at my watch. It’s a quarter to two. I’ll never make my appointment. “Maybe one kiss,” I agree.
“Two?” he asks hopefully.
“Don’t push your luck, buster,” I say, but I’m smiling too.
My hand is still in his and I feel him give me a very weak squeeze. He’s looking into my eyes and I can see how much he loves me. For the first time since I walked out on him, I can see myself spending the rest of my life with this man. And the thought of it makes my smile grow wider.
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