Yesterday, my father asked me to come for a meeting with him in his study at our family’s mansion where I grew up. It must be serious for him to ask me there. The only time he allowed me in his study was when specifically called in, usually for a lecture or to discipline me for typical teenage shenanigans… or as typical as a billionaire teen in a private school with other wealthy kids can get. Needless to say, I haven’t been in some years since entering adulthood.
I walk into the drab office. It’s huge, with dark wood floor to ceiling bookcases on three of the four walls. They’re all filled with first additions that probably cost a small fortune by themselves. I mean, this place has freaking ladders to get to the top. How uppity it must seem, but to me it’s normal.
“Sit down, son,” my father says, barely looking up from the papers he has in front of him.
I sit in the black leather chair straight across from him. It’s large, and I used to feel so small sitting in them, which I’m sure was on purpose. Now I’m a grown man big enough to fill out the chair.
“What’s up, Dad?” I ask, making myself comfortable despite not knowing what the hell I’m here for. Never show weakness. That’s what dad always said.
“I wanted to speak to you about the future of my company.”
I sit up straighter. This is an unusual meeting. I’ve wanted to take over my family’s company since I was old enough to understand what it meant. I thought it was always assumed I’d take over one day. My father never specifically said, but he’s big on keeping things in the family. He also never objected to me working in his various companies. Surely, he knew why I did.
“As you know, our family owns several businesses as well as being silent partners in dozens of others. The Van Holsten Conglomerate is vast and profitable, so I need to start thinking about a successor for myself when it’s time for me to step down. I need to be able to train them to keep this company up to my impeccable standards,” Dad explains.
This is it, this is the moment I’ve been waiting for. Dad is officially going to recognize me as his successor for the company, and all my hard work will have paid off. I’m pretty much sitting on the edge of my seat. Then his next words hit me like a ton of bricks.
“Now, Tyler Dean has been working with me for quite some time and I think he would be a fine choice to take over for me. You’ve known him most of your life so I wanted to get your opinion of him, his character, that sort of thing.”
Are you fucking kidding me? He wants Tyler to be his successor? The guy’s like two years older than me. What would make him a better person to take over the company than me?
Anger is thrumming through my veins the more I think about my father’s words. Why am I always so invisible to him? I’ve always been interested in the company and his work and here he is, passing me over just like he always does.
“You’re kidding, right?” I ask, my anger having nowhere to go but out. I’m surprised I keep a level of professionalism to my tone because all I want to do is scream at him.
“Not at all. I know you knew Tyler in school and I need to know if he’s the kind of person I can have taking over,” Dad replies oblivious, or so it seems. My dad is a cunning businessman. Perhaps he knows exactly what he’s doing and what my reaction would be.
“Tyler would be an okay choice. Sure, he’s worked for the company and he knows the ins and outs, but is he really going to care about it beyond how much money it makes him?” I start. Dad is silent, waiting for me to go on.
“See, I’ve been dreaming about taking over your company for as long as I can remember. I’ve worked at every level, at every little business. I’ve gotten to know the employees and the board. No one will care more about the well-being of this company as much as I do. It’s been my entire life, and every action I’ve taken has been with the intention that I would one day take it over. This company has been in our family for generations, and you’ve grown it bigger than ever. I deserve to have my chance to do the same. Why give it to someone else when you’ve got a perfectly willing and capable son to succeed you?” I finish my speech, waiting for a reaction.
Dad is staring at me hard with his hands steepled in front of him as if he’s thinking. It’s silent for a long time, or it feels like it, as I wait for my father to pretty much decide my future. If I can’t do this, I don’t know what I’ll do. Everything I’ve ever done has led me right to this moment.
“The problem, Evan, is you’re young and you don’t seem stable, at least to the people who matter. You have no family beyond your mother and me, which is what this company was founded on, and it’s a deep ideal we hold fast to. There’s no one in your life to share this with and to help you. All you’ve got is a series of women that don’t last longer than a few weeks, and none of them from the right family or background to help you run this conglomerate. Having someone by your side the way I have your mother is a big reason I’ve been so successful. Tyler is married with a little one on the way. There’s no one even on your radar for you to marry, and certainly not someone appropriate. This is why I didn’t think of you first,” Dad explains and, really?
I don’t have a series of women. At least not the way he’s thinking. They’re just dates that never go anywhere because they aren’t who I want them to be. He wants me to be married in order to take over the company? Fine. The first place my mind goes to is that it shouldn’t be hard to find a wife. I’m pretty well known and I’m good looking, but my dad said she needs to be from the right family. I know plenty of people who come from the right background. Allie Stinfield comes to my mind, or Kristie Cleaston. They live in L.A. now, but no. Kristie and me didn’t work as anything more than friends in high school, so it wouldn’t work now. Allie… she’s only ever been one of my best friends. She’d probably do it if I asked, but I wouldn’t do that to her. She deserves to find her happily ever after.
Another pops into my mind. The person I really want. She’s someone I went to high school with, someone from the right background, but I haven’t seen her since we graduated high school and besides, she dislikes me…. a lot. I know why and it’s my biggest regret because I was head over heels for her since junior high. She’s the one that got away and the one I’ll love her my whole life.
I let the thought exit my mind as fast as it entered because having her marry me at all, especially like this, would be nothing short of a fantasy. Like all fantasies, this one won’t come true.
“I have someone in mind for you to marry if you’re serious about taking over the company. You’ll need to marry before your twenty-fifth birthday or I’m picking Tyler,” my dad says breaking me out of my thoughts. I stare at him. He’s really going there. My twenty-fifth birthday is only a few months from now.
“Who is it?” I ask, cautiously.
“The daughter of a business associate of mine. He needs my help to bail out his businesses, and his oldest is about your age. I’ll make her marrying you a condition for my help, then you’ll have an appropriate wife by your side and I’ll have a successor.”ing here…