Sebastian decided to follow Anna to the party instead of catching a ride with her as she had suggested. While he was definitely interested in her, he also wanted an exit strategy in case things didn’t go well. After all, her father, who also happened to be one of his bosses at the company where he was interning, was going to be there along with several of his business associates.
As he pulled up to the house where the party was going to be, Sebastian was in awe. He had never seen a house like this. Then he corrected himself. This wasn’t a house. This was an estate. This was the type of home that probably had a name, like Monticello or Mar-a-Lago. He knew that the host of the party was supposed to be a successful Vice President at Sandcorp, but this place seemed to be more suitable for the owner or CEO.
After passing through security and handing his keys to the valet, he met up with Anna at the front entrance.
“Nice place, huh?”, Anna asked with a smirk.
“I’ve seen nicer”, replied Sebastian. “Of course those places were in movies and royalty lived there. I thought you said this guy was a Vice President at Sandcorp? They must pay him very well over there.”
“I’m sure they do. My dad says that he’s been with them from their inception, and that their founder and CEO doesn’t make a move without consulting Mr. Ellison first. I’ll introduce you to him. He is a very interesting man.”
For the first time, Sebastian was feeling nervous. When she first asked him to join her for the barbecue, all he could think about was impressing her. Now that he was here and seeing the Bentley’s and Rolls Royce’s lined up outside, he couldn’t help but feel a little intimidated.
But he was also excited about the opportunity to meet some of these people. He would be finishing his masters soon and would be looking for a full time position somewhere. If Anna’s father was asking about him and he had access to people like James Ellison, then he could make some meaningful connections tonight.
Or, he could make a total ass out of himself. As this thought went through his mind, he forced himself to relax and wiped the sweat from his hands. He followed Anna through the foyer and the living room, until they made it outside to the backyard where the festivities were taking place.
There was a band on stage that sounded to Sebastian like a pretty good cover band of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Then as they walked closer to the stage, he realized with astonishment that it really was Tom Petty. Oh yeah, this Ellison guy has some serious clout, he thought to himself.
When a waiter came by and took their drink order, Sebastian just asked for a bottle of water. He saw other people drinking wine, beer and cocktails, but he was determined to keep sharp tonight. The last thing he wanted to do would be to have one too many drinks and embarrass himself in front of anyone important. Anna ordered a glass of wine for herself and scanned the crowd for her father. He saw her at the same time and waved them over to join him.
“Anna, sweetheart, glad you decided to come tonight”, Glenn Cooper said as he hugged his daughter. “And this must be Mr. Cosgrove. Glad you made it tonight too, son.”
Sebastian shook hands with Anna’s father along with the other two men standing with him. Anna obviously already knew the other two men, who hugged her and asked how she was doing in school.
“Please, Mr. Cooper, call me Sebastian. Thank you for inviting me tonight. This place is amazing. You’ll have to thank Mr. Ellison for me too.”
“Well you can thank him yourself. I know he wants to meet you too. Besides, it was James that asked me to invite you in the first place.”
Sebastian couldn’t believe it. The man who owned this palace asked for him personally to come tonight? That didn’t make sense. Anna did say that the partners where he was interning all gave glowing reviews of him, but this was surprising. As he was trying to process all of this, Mr. Cooper added, “Well speak of the devil, here he comes.”
Sebastian turned to see a man who appeared to be in his late fifties approaching. At first he tried to see if maybe he would recognize him, but he knew he had never met him before.
James Ellison didn’t look at all like Sebastian was expecting. By the looks of this place, he was expecting some stiff, aristocratic, blue blood type. But the man that approached the group of people was anything but that. He was warm and engaging and as he was greeting the other people in the group, Sebastian liked him immediately.
“Glenn, I take it this young man is Sebastian Cosgrove?”, James inquired.
“Yes, sir. And you remember Anna don’t you?”
“Of course, I do. Anna, remember, just say the word and you’ve got a spot at Sandcorp waiting on you. I might be retiring at the end of the year, but I still have a little pull over there.”
Anna kissed James’ cheek and replied, “I know, I know. Thank you again Mr. Ellison. I’m still trying to decide if I want to go to grad school, but I will definitely keep that in mind after I graduate.”
The host then turned his attention to Sebastian. “Mr. Cosgrove, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you. I hear good things about you all the time from our friends over at Win-Tech.”
Sebastian couldn’t believe that anyone at Win-Tech gave an intern like himself a second thought, let alone mention him to one of their clients. But he wasn’t about to bring that up to James Ellison.
“The pleasure is mine, sir. Thanks again for inviting me tonight. This place is incredible.”
“Hard to believe this used to be a cow pasture right?”, James asked. “My wife and I spent years designing this place. We had no intention of it ever being this huge, but over time, as we made more and more friends in the area, our parties became bigger and bigger. So through the years we’ve added on to the house and built this entertainment area. We eventually even had to buy the surrounding land so as not to annoy the neighbors. But we wouldn’t have it any other way. We’ve made some wonderful memories at this place.”
Sebastian listened intently to James describe his home. He couldn’t help but notice the love that he had for his home, his wife and just life in general. James Ellison had a reputation as a brilliant businessman, but after meeting him, he found himself admiring James Ellison the man as well. As he was listening to James talk, Sebastian didn’t notice that Anna and her father had struck up a conversation with two people that he didn’t recognize, leaving he and Mr. Ellison alone. Before he had time to get nervous about being alone with one of the most brilliant men in the world, James started walking towards the house, motioning for Sebastian to follow him.
“Walk with me for a second, Sebastian. It’s not often I get to chat with young people such as yourself. I spend most of my days talking business with men and women twice your age or older.”
Sebastian wasn’t quite sure what to say to that, but as he looked back for Anna, he saw that she seemed to be enjoying herself without him, so he didn’t think she would mind if he left her alone for a while. Surely she would understand that he couldn’t pass up a private conversation with James Ellison.
“Of course, Mr. Ellison”, Sebastian replied.
“Please, call me James. I get enough butt kissing at the office. So tell me, what are your plans after college? Glenn tells me you’re finishing your masters this semester.”
“I have a few interviews scheduled in the next month or so. My bosses at Win-Tech have assured me of a position there if I choose. I guess I’ll have to make a decision sooner or later. Right now, I’m just focusing on finishing school.”
“I hope you’re managing to squeeze in a little fun now and then. Hard work is important, but you’ll burn yourself out if you don’t find time for yourself occasionally.”
As Sebastian looked around at the estate he could tell that this was the place that James came to get away from the hectic lifestyle that came with helping run an international technology company. In a way he envied him more for his life away from work than his success in business.
“I try to have fun sometimes. My friends all give me a hard time for being so serious about school and my future, but I know that I if I want to be successful, it will all be worth it someday. I wasn’t really poor growing up, but I watched my mom and dad struggle to make ends meet. They both went to college and had decent jobs, but I wanted more than that. I want to make a difference in the world.”
Sebastian looked back at James and saw that he was shaking his head and smiling.
“You sound just like me, kid. I grew up in a middle class family, never poor, but far from rich. I wanted more. My friends didn’t understand what drove me to work as hard as I did either. And, like you, I wanted to make a difference in the world. Friends are important, but the wrong kind of friends will lead you into trouble.”
Sebastian could sense a change in James’ demeanor, like he was the one that was nervous now.
“My friends aren’t exactly ambitious, but they aren’t troublemakers either. We go out to bars and every now and then, but it’s harmless fun.” Sebastian was aware that he was sounding defensive of his friends.
“Sebastian, you misunderstood me. I’m not talking about your college drinking buddies. I’m sure they’re good people. I mean your other friends. Maybe some friends you’ve made just recently.”
As Sebastian was trying to comprehend what James was talking about, it finally started to make sense. That’s when he turned to see James staring right at him with a deadly serious expression on his face. “I’m talking about Alex Jamison and Stephen Philips.”