When his parents came to congratulate his acceptance to Stanford, Christopher told them about his real dreams. They kicked him out quickly, forcing the young man to make a choice about his future. He met his father again years later, but the tables had turned.
Christopher’s mother, Mrs. Davis, couldn’t help herself when many college acceptance letters arrived for her son. She grabbed the most important one, Stanford, ripping it savagely open. When she read “Congratulations,” she began jumping and screaming for her husband, Mr. Davis.
He came running to the living room, and his wife’s enthusiasm could only mean one thing. They both ran together up the stairs and burst into Christopher’s room. The young high school senior had been reading some papers on his bed but flinched when his parents came screaming.
They weren’t the most affectionate or emotional people, so their delight surprised him. “You got in! You got into Stanford!” his mother exclaimed, jumping up and down, which was unusual because she hated exercise, sweating, and anything that could mess up her appearance.
His stoic father was beaming brightly as she unexpectedly grabbed his son in a bear hug, forcing him up from his bed. “My boy! A Stanford man! I’m so proud of you!”
“Wait, guys,” Christopher tried to interject, but they weren’t listening.
“Let’s call Grandma and Grandpa! They’ll be so excited! Oh! Let’s plan a party! Invite all your friends, Chris!” Mrs. Davis added in delight before hugging him too.
“Stop!” he snapped.
“What? Don’t you want a party? We have to host one, son,” Mr. Davis shook his head. “Honey, call Mrs. Pattinson. She’ll help you organize things.”
“NO!” Christopher screamed, pulling away and staring at his parents angrily.
“Christopher, don’t yell like that. We’re just happy,” Mrs. Davis said, frowning.
“I’M NOT GOING TO STANFORD!” he continued, his nostrils flaring and tongue wetting his lips.
“What?” Mr. Davis said quietly, putting his hands on his hips.
“Son, I know there are other college options. But Stanford is our family legacy. All the men have gone there. You have to go,” Mr. Davis stated, his tone reasonable.
“There are other acceptance letters downstairs. How about we look at all of them?” Mrs. Davis tried to calm the situation.
Christopher had, in fact, gotten into other schools, including Dartmouth and Georgetown. He would do well in any of those schools and could inherit the family business, a conglomerate for sporting goods.
“Stop! Stop acting like I’m not here! God! Don’t make plans for me! I don’t want to go to ANY of those schools,” Christopher finally revealed a truth that had haunted him for many years. He had tried to express things to his mother, but she ignored him.
“Chris,” his mother warned.
“No, Mom! I tried to tell you, but you shut me down,” Christopher continued, reaching for the papers on his bed. “This is where I’m going. I got an internship for fashion in New York.”
Mr. Davis’s face drained of blood, and he started coughing out of the blue. “Chris!” Mrs. Davis scolded while patting her husband’s back.
“Fashion? ARE YOU INSANE?” his father shouted when he recovered, getting closer to tower over his son. He couldn’t because Christopher was taller, but the older man had always been intimidating.
“If you two had listened to anything I’ve been saying for my entire life, you would’ve known that my dream is to be a designer!” Christopher explained heartily. “You sell clothes, Dad. You should understand!”
“NO!” his father pulled back, shaking his head and finger. “No, I own the business. I don’t make the clothes, or worse, design them. The business side of any industry is the only one that matters.”
Christopher was angry at his father’s words but didn’t want to escalate the situation. “Some of the biggest designers in the world have become very rich, successful men.”
“I don’t care. It won’t be you!” Mr. Davis poked Christopher’s chest, but the 17-year-old pushed it away.
“I’m doing it. Once I graduate high school, I’m off to New York with Johnny,” Christopher shrugged.
Mr. Davis looked at his son while his breathing regulated, then shook his head. “You gotta go,” the older man said from his son’s bedroom doorway. “I will not spend another penny so you can waste your life. You’re worthless to me.”
Christopher felt those words as knives in his chest, but Mr. Davis walked away.
“Mom, it’s my dream,” Christopher said, his voice breaking. He expected his father to react strongly, but his mother should understand.
“Our dream for you was Stanford,” she continued.
“Exactly. It’s your dream. I have to follow mine,” Chris lowered his voice and grabbed his mother’s hand. “Please understand, Mom. I need you to help me convince Dad.”
“No, I agree with him,” she took her hand back. “You’re breaking our hearts. So, you should get out of our house.”
Mrs. Davis sprinted out of his room. He heard her cries in his parents’ bedroom, but he couldn’t dwell on it. He packed some bags, called his friend, Johnny, and left.
Several months later…
After leaving his father’s house, Johnny’s parents took him in, and when they graduated high school, they left for New York. Johnny was going to NYU while working at his uncle’s brokerage company.
Chris received a small stipend on his internship but worked nights at a 24-hour market to pay the rest of his bills. He hadn’t talked or heard from his parents since the day he left. They didn’t even come to his high school graduation. It was hurtful but not surprising.
Things had been tough since then. He didn’t realize how much he depended on his father’s money. Discussing and pursuing dreams was so easy when you didn’t have to worry about finances. New York showed him a reality he hadn’t imagined before.
He was working hard, but an unexpected conundrum got in his way. There was a final project for his internship, a chance to show a small line to big design houses. They would offer him a job and pay for fashion school if Christopher impressed them. It was the chance of a lifetime in this business.
But he couldn’t make a great collection without some funds. Fabrics and other materials were so expensive. He couldn’t afford his vision. So, against his better judgment, Christopher picked up his cell phone and called his father.
“Why are you calling?” the man asked as soon as he answered. There was no “Hello, how are you, son?”
“Hey, Dad,” Christopher said timidly.
“What do you want?” his father insisted unfeelingly. “Are you finally ready to admit that rejecting Stanford and moving away was a mistake?”
Christopher sighed audibly. “No, Dad.”
“So, why are you wasting my time?”
“Dad, please. Listen to me,” he started and braced himself. “I do need some help. You see, there’s this big opportunity coming up for me.”
“On what? How to choose between different pinks?” his father said sarcastically. Christopher could almost hear his father rolling his eyes, and the instinct to quip back was intense. But he had to hold back. He needed a favor, so he couldn’t insult his father.
“No, it’s not that. I have to make a small fashion collection. It’s for my final project at the internship,” he explained. “It’ll be seen by major design houses here. It’s a huge opportunity. If they like it, I’ll get a job instantly, and they’ll pay for the rest of my studies.”
“In fashion,” Mr. Davis scoffed. “So, why are you telling me this?”
“Dad,” Christopher felt like the words would rip off his chest, but he had to get them out. “I need some money.”
“The fabrics that I want for my collection are costly. I can’t afford them right now,” he continued. “It wouldn’t be a handout. I will pay you back. I swear. I just need this. I can’t miss this chance. It might set me up for life or catapult my career. Please.”
“So, you need money.”
“Yes, sir,” Christopher cleared his throat and waited.
“Well, you’re an adult now. You make your own choices, and you’ll have to deal with this alone,” Mr. Davis replied after a few moments of silence.
“Dad, please,” he murmured, starting to beg.
“You made this choice, Christopher. You decided to waste the good life your mother, and I built for you and go for fashion. Well, you got what you wanted. You’re in fashion, and now, you get to experience the life of a starving artist,” the old man continued, his voice calm, but Christopher could hear the disdain and anger in it.
“Please,” Christopher pleaded one last time.
“You should’ve gone to Stanford,” Mr. Davis said, ending the call.
Christopher hadn’t cried months ago when his parents turned away. He didn’t shed a tear when they weren’t at his high school graduation. He remained calm on his flight from California to New York, even though they didn’t bid him farewell.
But now, Christopher let go. He placed his arms on his desk, leaned his head, and sobbed heavily. His cries were so loud that Johnny came in.
“Hey. It’s ok,” Johnny said soothingly and grabbed a chair. He started rubbing Christopher’s back and just sat there in support.
When his tears eased, Christopher told Johnny what had just happened.
“What am I going to do?” he asked, defeated.
“Well, how about you borrow some money from me?” Johnny offered, but Christopher shook his head immediately.
“I already owe you the deposit for this place,” he lamented. “I can’t owe you more money, Johnny.”
Johnny sighed and sniffed. “Is there any chance you can take a break from the internship? Like when you defer a class?”
“In the middle of the internship?”
“I don’t know. You can ask,” Johnny suggested and shrugged. “There’s a spot at my uncle’s firm. You could get that job, save enough money to make your collection, and finish the internship.”
Christopher put his head in his hands again. “I… I don’t know. I mean, I didn’t want to work in an office… I want an artist,” he mumbled.
“I know, man. But you need money. You’ve always been good with money. I think you will do well as a broker for the firm. You’ll have to pay your dues, but if you do well, the company has financial aid for more school,” Johnny stated. “You could do both. You can earn enough and be a designer and a fashion house owner. Someday.”
Christopher didn’t know if that path would suit him, but he didn’t have a lot of options. Money was too tight. He was barely scraping by, and he couldn’t afford the fabrics he wanted in time for the deadline. “I’ll ask about deferring. Thank you, Johnny,” he nodded, his bottom lip trembling.
“Hey, dude. It’s just for a while. You’ll be back in fashion in no time. This will be the jump start you need,” Johnny encouraged, squeezing his friend’s shoulder.
“Yeah. I’ll be back in fashion,” Christopher finally smiled, hopeful. He didn’t need his father’s money. He was going to make it on his own.
Ten years later…
Richard wiped the sweat from his forehead and upper lips, sighing for the millionth time as he stared at the papers on his desk. None of the information in those documents was reassuring in any way, but he had to make a decision. The other executives had advised him, and his lawyers had their own opinions. But ultimately, he would have to make a choice.
His company was on the verge of bankruptcy, and he could file for Chapter 13 or sell. There were upsides and downsides to each of those options. If he filed for bankruptcy, he would lose his reputation in the business community and the world of sports goods.
He could pay off what he needed, make some changes, and try to start over. But the idea of being linked to any kind of failure was not appealing. Over ten years ago, Richard failed miserably when his son went into fashion instead of following the preset plan for Stanford. He didn’t want another defeat at his hands.
On the other hand, he could sell. The company would no longer be his, but he would retain his status in the community. But as he stared at the papers of possible options, he had no idea who would be interested in buying it or how he would negotiate with them. Richard would basically have to beg, which made his upper lip curl in disgust.
He threw the documents on his desk and swiveled his chair to look at the wide, floor-to-ceilings of his office. “I should toss a coin. Let destiny pick,” Richard said, closing his eyes. But his office door opened, and his secretary of many years, Mrs. Pattinson, came rushing in.
“Mr. Davis! I found something!” she said, smiling.
“What it is, Mrs. Pattinson?” he asked, swiveling his chair back into position.
“Look!” she placed another document on his desk, but her finger pointed to a name.
Richard’s eyes widened, but he leaned forward in shock. “Is this? But that’s impossible,” he muttered, reading more.
“No, sir. It’s him. I made some calls. I confirmed it,” Mrs. Pattinson continued, nodding in excitement.
The older man couldn’t believe it. He had tasked several employees to make profiles on possible buyers for the business, and they were pretty detailed. Therefore, he was looking them over with the help of his secretary. However, he never imagined his son’s name would be on those files.