The Pool Boy (A Romance Novella)

By: Penny Wylder


We made a bargain. Well, I say we made it, but it was basically my father dictating the terms. He said he’d give me till the end of the summer—the actual calendar day at the end of the summer—to find a job on my own, doing whatever I wanted. If it didn’t happen, he’d draft me into service at his company. I think the phrase he used was, ‘you’ll come work for me,’ but being drafted is probably more accurate.

Now, I’ve got only one week left until the deadline, and then I get swept against my will into the high-end world of luxury real estate. That is nowhere near where I want to be. I’m grateful for the money that I’ve grown up with, but I have no interest in building a millionaire’s fourth home. I’ve been given a lot, and I would much rather try to pass what I can on to people that need it instead of serving the people who can afford more than enough.

“Thank goodness for that,” my father says, opening the fridge and grabbing a bottle of his favorite green tea to go with him. “I’d much rather have you learning the ropes with me. I didn’t build an empire just to leave it to no one.”

I sigh pointedly. “Dad, your empire is very impressive,” I say dutifully, “but building the fourth house of some pop star is the furthest thing from what I want.”

“Vera, you’re twenty-two,” he says, his face darkening. “You don’t know what you want. And since you don’t have a job or a house or money of your own, I would think you’d be grateful that I paid for the entirety of your education and that I’m willing to give you a place at the company. Not all fathers would be willing to do that.”

I glance over at my mother, and she nods encouragingly. I know she agrees with him, but she doesn’t want to pile any more stress onto me. I appreciate that at least, but the anger boiling up inside is too much not to let out. “You did pay for everything, and I’m very grateful for that. I’m thankful that you have allowed me to be debt free. But up till now you also let me choose. So why does everything I’ve worked for go out the window just three months after graduation?”

He doesn’t even bat an eye at my words. Nothing ever riles my father, which infuriates me even more. “Because I know this world better than you. You had your fun, and it’s good to have dreams. The things you talk about are very noble, Vera. But people don’t hire untested architects who only want to make houses for people who can’t pay. Maybe sometime down the road when you’ve got some experience in the real world you can try to change it. But right now, you’re going to work for me.”

My eyes prick with angry tears. If he was just going to stop me from going after my dreams, why did he let me follow them this far? “I still have a week,” I say.

“A week or a month, the end result is the same.” He picks up his briefcase and kisses my mother lightly before leaving. The kitchen is filled with an awkward silence now.

I pour what’s left of my milk down the drain and put the cookies back in their cubby. My mother clears her throat, but I ignore her. She’s just going to defend him.

She clears her throat again.

“Yes?”

She takes a small sip of her water. “He just wants what’s best for you.”

“Really?” I laugh, but it gets cut off by the lump in my throat. “If he wants what’s best for me, then why hasn’t he bothered to consider what I think is best?”

“Because you’re young,” she says, “and—”

“Mom,” I interrupt, “I’m young, but I’m not stupid. It’s really time you and Dad stopped treating me otherwise. I’ll be in the garden.”

I throw myself out the back door and onto the patio before she can say anything else to stop me, hating myself for acting childish but unable to take the higher road. I want to do something meaningful with my career, with my life, but most of the time it feels like I’m the only person who believes I’m capable. And what drives me craziest of all is my fear that maybe they’re right.





2





Vera





I feel like a cloud of bad energy follows as I head toward the garden to try and get some zen. I try to fight the anger building in my chest, but it’s hard. How can my father, a self-made man himself, be so brazenly against me striking out on my own? He has all the power right now, too, since I’ve been miserably unsuccessful at finding a job so far. That thought sends another pang through my chest, and more than a little panic.

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