Pretend Daddy(8)

By: Amy Brent

His words tugged at my heartstrings, and though I knew I should keep quiet and just listen, my curiosity got the best of me. “Why were they disappointing?”

“Because they proved that he never really knew me,” he deadpanned, demonstrating that by some miracle he was a lot less drunk than I initially thought. “The only thing I’ve ever wanted was to be him—the powerful CEO of the company I helped to build—but instead of giving me that, he slapped me with a marriage clause.”

My brows pulled together in confusion. “A what?”

“A marriage clause,” he repeated. “Apparently, being married to my work wasn’t good enough for him, and so, he wrote a will stating that I can only receive his shares in the company and assume my rightful place there after I’m married.”

“Wow,” I said, not really knowing what else to say.

Chuckling, Mr. Walker nodded and agreed, “Yeah, wow. Unbelievable, right?”

I looked at him—really seeing him for the first time—and tried to put myself in his father’s shoes. Despite his powerful appearance, there was a loneliness in his eyes that was confirmed by the fact that he was on a plane, alone, on the day he buried his father. As a mother, I had to admit that the thought of leaving your child alone and lonely in the word has a very bitter taste.

“Not really,” I said before measuring my words. His face hardened, but since I had already put my foot in my mouth, I had no other option than to explain myself. “I’m the mother of a twenty-two-year-old who is in a committed relationship with becoming a doctor, and I worry that if I die tomorrow, she’ll be left alone and with no one to care for her. So, I understand your father. If I knew that there was a sure way to assure that wouldn’t happen with Jessica, I promise you I would take it.”

He was silent for a few moments as he pondered my words. Then, he asked, “But do you think it’s fair for him to meddle like that? To force me to have a relationship when I clearly don’t want one.”

“No, it’s not fair, but most dying wishes aren’t. My mother, for example, asked me to bake a pie for my cheating father with her ashes mixed in.”

Mr. Walker blinked a few times at me before bursting into a fit of laughter. Once his outburst subsided, he asked, “Did you do it?”

“Of course, not,” I assured with a shake of my head. “She’s in her urn right at the center of my mantel. I loved my mother too much to let her turn into shit, especially my bastard of father’s shit. What I did instead, was tell him that she had confessed to me, on her deathbed, that I might not be his daughter. It was BS, but the look on his face was the revenge we both needed and a much better sight than a mouthful of ash.”

He raised his brows at me and gave me a smirk that was almost admiring. “And you don’t feel like you cheated by not honoring her request?”

I shook my head. “Not at all. What she asked for was revenge, not the actual pie, and though I didn’t follow it to the letter, I still honored her wish. Maybe it was the same for your dad. Maybe he knew that you couldn’t just pull a wife out of your hat, but he still wanted you to open yourself to the possibility of having a family. What you have to figure out is how to give him what he wanted while still remaining true to yourself.”

After a few more seconds of silence, he surprised me with a smile and a question. “Are you happy as a flight attendant . . .” he trailed off as he read my name off my employee card, and finished, “Pam?”

I raised a brow and nodded, “As a matter of fact, I am. Pays like shit, but it’s fun.”

“Too bad,” he said with a click of his tongue. “If you were unhappy I would invite you to come work as my advisor. You seem like a brilliant woman.”

Despite myself, I blushed at his comment but before I could reply, there was a ding, and a light came up a few rows down. I looked at it and sighed.

“Well, thank you for the offer and the compliment, Mr. Walker, but I’m afraid that’s all the insight and advice I have. Now, if you’ll excuse me, duty calls.”

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