Eli pulled into the drive of the large, Victorian style house and turned off the ignition. He sat with his head against the steering wheel and tried to compose himself. He knew he had to go inside, but more than anything else, he really wished he could just turn the car back on and drive away without having to step foot inside. Still, it had been ages since he had last been home. What kind of a son would he be if he didn’t at least let his mother see his face?
With a sigh of resignation, Eli got out of the car and stepped up to the front door and knocked. Coming home hadn’t been his idea. He had been summoned. Apparently his father had finally seen Parker’s negative reviews of Eli and his business. He wanted to talk. Russ had been right—they couldn’t keep their father from noticing forever.
The front door opened. “Hello Gladys,” Eli said to the old woman who stepped aside to let him enter. Gladys had been working for Eli’s family since he was a child. She had always been a part of the family.
“Your father is in his office,” Gladys informed him as she shut the door behind him. “Your mother is in her room.”
“I’ll see my father first, I think,” Eli said. “Better go ahead and get this over with. I can get myself there. Thanks, Gladys.”
Eli left the house maid behind and headed down the hall. His father’s office was on the first floor of the house, near the back. The window in the office looked over the grounds in the back. It was a spectacular view, but one that Eli had never had the pleasure to enjoy. When he got called to his father’s office, there usually wasn’t much of a chance for admiring the view.
Eli reached his father’s office and knocked before opening the door and letting himself inside. His father was sitting behind a large mahogany desk, his glasses resting halfway down his nose as he looked over the report in front of him. He glanced up over the rims of his glasses to watch Eli enter.
Russell Walker gestured at a chair on the opposite side of the desk from where he sat. “Have a seat,” he said.
As Eli sat down, he tried to remember if he had ever entered his father’s office without feeling like an employee who was coming in to be fired. He couldn’t recall a time.
“I have seen some interesting reports in the news recently,” Russell Walker said. He handed a file to his son. Just as Eli expected, when he opened the folder Gracie Parker’s articles stared back at him.
“It’s just one reporter,” Eli said. As soon as the words hit the air, though, he knew his father would hear them as an excuse. He was right.
“When you came to me asking for start up money, you informed me that you were going to create a business that no one would ever be able to find something negative to talk about. What happened?”
Eli knew he was going to have to choose his words wisely. “I am working on it,” he said. “You know very well that businesses like that aren’t built overnight. Miss Parker is a tough person to sway, but she’s coming around. Just like I promised, Walk on Design is a business that no one will be able to find something bad to say about. But building that kind of reputation takes time. And if you are successful, which I have been, there will always be those who will look for something negative to say.”
“Then it is your responsibility to make sure they don’t find it,” his father informed him. “This woman says you are cocky and ungrateful. These are not qualities I want associated with my name or my money.”
Eli realized his hand was clenched in a fist at his side. He made a conscious effort to release some of the tension in his body that had built while he was listening to his father speak. “Yes, sir. I understand,” he said through clenched teeth. “I promise I will get it done. Is there anything else?”
“Just know, if you don’t get your act together, I will intervene in that mess of a business you’ve created under my name.”
“Noted,” Eli said. He stood and walked out of the office without even uttering a good-bye. He and his father had grown past such pleasantries long ago.
Once outside the office, Eli took a couple of deep breaths to calm his nerves. He had to go see his mother next, and he didn’t want her to see him all worked up. It would only make her worry. Once he felt calmed, he made his way up the stairs to his mother’s room. He knocked softly before entering.
Inside, his mother was sitting in the window seat in her room reading a book. She looked up and smiled at him as he walked in. “Eli,” she said. “It has been such a long time since you have come by.”
“I know, mother,” he said. “I apologize for that.”
His mother stood up and hugged him. “Everything has been going well, I hope? I hear things have been going well with your company if nothing else.”
At least she seemed proud of what he had been able to accomplish over the last year. Why couldn’t his father ever see any of the good he had done? Apparently his mother could see the disappointment on Eli’s face.
“Don’t take your father’s words too seriously,” she told him. “You know how he gets when it comes to business. He just wants to see you boys succeed.”
“He just wants to make sure his name and money succeed,” Eli corrected her. He didn’t mean to sound cynical, but it was difficult to cover up his emotions at the moment.
His mother smiled at him. “Your father just doesn’t know how to express himself sometimes. What comes out as concern for his name is really a concern for you boys.”
Eli wasn’t sure he believed her, but he wasn’t going to argue it any further.
“Have you seen your brother recently?” his mother asked. “You know I worry about him being in the city by himself. How is he doing?”
“Russ seems to be doing just fine,” he assured her. “He came by my office last week. I think college is suiting him well.”
His mother seemed satisfied by his response.
Eli looked down at his watch. There was still so much that he needed to get done today. Especially after talking to his father, he knew there was work to be done.
His mother saw him checking the time. “You have to leave already?” she asked.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “But I promise to come visit again soon. And don’t worry, I’ll do my best to keep Russ out of trouble.”