Under Her(3)By: Samantha Towle
“Wilder.” My mom smiles warmly. “How are you doing?”
“I’m good. What can I do for you this morning?” I ask as I walk the distance over to my desk.
A brief silence hangs in the air. That silence makes my gut tighten.
Then, my dad says, “We need to have a chat.”
“Okay.” I lower my ass into my chair.
They turn in their seats to face me. I don’t like what I see on their faces—unease.
I take a drink of my coffee, needing the burn to steady me, before lowering it to the desk. “What’s up?” I ask, forcing my voice to remain steady.
“Well…” My dad clears his throat.
“We have news,” Mom imparts, a fake cheeriness to her voice.
They’re not retiring. They’ve changed their minds.
And me wanting them to retire does not make me a bad son or selfish. My parents have worked hard their whole lives, building this business up and making it into what it is today. But they’re in their late sixties, and I want them to take it easy and enjoy their golden years.
“Good or bad news?” My eyes flicker between the pair of them, trying to catch anything in their expressions, but they’re giving away nothing.
“Good news.” Mom beams a smile. “Isn’t it, Frank?” She nudges my dad in the side with her elbow.
He grunts a sound that she gives a disapproving look to. And that sound does nothing to appease the sick feeling I have right now.
“Now, honey, even though this is good news, I have a feeling you might not think so off the bat, but I just want you to have an open mind and listen to what we have to say.”
“Okay…” I’m so not okay.
“Well, there’s no other way to say this than to just say it, so…we’ve hired another CEO to come work here with you and help you run the company.”
“I’m sorry, what?” I’m pretty sure I’m having a stroke. I rub a hand over my frozen face and then stare over at my mom. “You’re gonna have to say that again because, for a second there…I thought you said that you’d hired another…CEO.”
“I did. And we have.”
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
I stare at my mom’s steady face. My eyes move to my dad’s face. His expression is blank, giving me nothing.
“Is this a joke?”
“No,” my mother says softly. It’s the voice she used when I was younger and I was upset, and she was trying to soothe me.
The pacifying voice.
I used to love that voice. Now, I officially hate it.
“Why the fuck did you do that?”
“Language, Wilder,” my mom chastises.
Like now is the time to quibble over my use of the English language.
My wide eyes go to my dad. “Am I not getting the job?”
I see a flash of dismay in his eyes. “Of course you are,” my dad says, his tone resolute. “The job is yours, Wild. Without a doubt. Your mom just thought—”
“We both think”—my mom flashes a stern look at my dad—“that you could do with the support that having a co-CEO would offer. It’s a lot of work, running a business of this size.”
“I know. And I’m fully equipped and ready to do so. That’s what you’ve been training me to do for the past seven years. Jesus, I’ve been working toward this ever since I started coming in with you both when I was a kid. I know this business inside and out! No one knows the lingerie business better than I do.” I’m getting louder and louder, but I can’t help it.
A co-CEO. A motherfucking co-CEO!
“Wilder, we know how experienced and knowledgeable you are. It’s not about that. Your dad and I have successfully run this company together. Lots of companies nowadays have co-CEOs. There are a lot of benefits in having a partner to run the company with.”
I want to have an actual honest-to-God tantrum. Throw my toys out of my crib. Yell at them that they’re wrong. That I could run this company with one arm tied behind my back while blindfolded. I want to pull the how-could-you-do-this-to-your-own-kid card. It might work on my dad, but I know it wouldn’t work on my mom. She’s a tough cookie. My throwing a hissy fit would only reinforce to them that they made the right decision to hire this new person to come and work here with me.
No, what I have to do is be mature about this.
Tell them that I’m dismayed that they did this. Not pissed. Dismayed. Especially because they went about it all covertly and behind my back.
But I’ll make sure to work with this new co-fucking-CEO asshole and be nice as pie.
And, in reality, I’ll be looking for a way to get rid of this job-stealing asshole while proving that I’m more than capable of running the company alone. My company.
I take a calming deep breath and place my hands, palms down, on my desk. “Well, I can’t say that I’m happy about this turn of events because I’m not. But it’s your company, and you’re free to do as you please with it. Yes, I’m your son—your only child—and heir. But you raised me right, and I’ll go along with whatever you think is best for the company.” Okay, so I’m laying it on a little thick, but a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, and guilt is the only card I have to play here.