“It’s no one’s fault but your own, Teddy,” Lucille gently chastised. “You should have better executives on your staff so you would feel more comfortable about assigning responsibilities. You’re no different from a president and his cabinet.”
“Take note, Ethan,” Daddy said. “A good woman sees where her man needs to be strengthened and subtly, perhaps not so subtly sometimes, makes sure that’s what happens.”
“Maybe that’s because we take criticism best from those we love and those who love us,” Ethan said, focusing on me when he said it.
“Well said,” Daddy replied.
Soon after, Lucille suggested that Ethan and I go for a walk.
“After all, Teddy,” she told Daddy, “they don’t need to spend all their time with us. I’m sure they have lots of catching up to do.”
“Oh, sure, sure. Go on. Show him the pool,” Daddy suggested. “All the ground lights are on. Enjoy.”
“Thank you, sir,” Ethan said, and then looked to me. I rose and led him out.
“My soon-to-be stepmother has a way of taking over everything,” I muttered. “Even our agenda.”
“Actually, I’m glad she made the suggestion,” Ethan whispered. He laughed and hurried us out of the house. “But don’t misunderstand me. Your father’s a terrific guy. He made me feel comfortable from the moment I met him.”
“I’m glad, Ethan.”
“I can see why he’s so successful. And your future stepmother’s quite a nice surprise, too.” When I didn’t comment, he added, “Don’t you like her?”
“What is it they say? The jury’s still out.”
He laughed and then grew serious, his eyes narrowing and focusing on mine. “No one can replace your mother, I’m sure. That’s what your father’s going through. It’s not easy to marry someone who was happily married but who lost his or her spouse.”
“Let’s not talk about it right now,” I said, maybe too sharply.
He stopped talking, and we just walked until we came to the pool. As Daddy had said, everything was lit up. The water glistened.
“This is beautiful,” Ethan said. “This looks like an Olympic-size pool.”
“I was on the swimming team in high school, you know.”
“No, you didn’t mention it, just like you didn’t mention your college award.”
“Yeah, well, I kind of got caught up in my ambitions and chose not to join any teams at college. I didn’t want to take away from my work. I was determined to graduate with honors. How about we take a swim tomorrow before breakfast with your father and future stepmother?”
I laughed at his enthusiasm. “Okay,” I said, “but Daddy gets up early.”
“Often just as early.”
“So, if we miss them, we miss them. We’ll see them when we go to Lexington,” he said. “I didn’t come here to spend time with them, anyway.”
I was glad to hear that. For a few moments, I thought he was more intrigued with my father and Lucille and the Heaven-stone business than with me.
He flopped onto a chaise and patted the space beside him for me to join him.
“I could sleep out here under the stars tonight if you were with me,” he said. “Hey, that way, when we wake up, we could just undress and jump in the pool.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“I can dream, can’t I?”