Blitzed by the BillionaireBy: Alice Ward
Uncle Walt was only twenty-four when he became my parent. I imagine most single men would immediately start looking for a wife after being thrust into instant, unexpected fatherhood. But not Uncle Walt. He was an incurable bachelor who, in his words, “loved women too much to settle for just one.” To his credit, I didn’t realize what a player he was when I was a child. I just thought he worked a lot. When I finally put two and two together, I kept my revelation to myself. I was old enough to realize he’d gone to great lengths to keep his private life out of our house and I had no desire to call him out on it.
Uncle Walt had been completely unprepared to raise a child, but he figured things out the best he could along the way. In so many ways, he succeeded. Although my legal father, he never referred to himself as my dad. Instead, he filled our apartments with pictures of my parents and told me every story he remembered about them. When I went to him for advice, he’d tell me not just his opinion, but what he thought they would say as well. Because of him, I knew them despite the fact that I didn’t have a single memory of their faces.
My uncle loved me and I have no doubt that he always had my best interests in mind. But my childhood wasn’t what anyone would call stable. Uncle Walt was a pilot and we moved a lot as he was promoted up the ranks at Universal Air. He doted on me when he was home, but I spent a lot of time with nannies during the school year and at camps during the summer. Uncle Walt was very careful about who stayed with me and unlike most of the other pilots’ kids I knew, I never resented him for leaving. There had always been an unspoken understanding between us. Neither of us had the lives we were ‘supposed’ to, but it was okay because we were in it together.
There were benefits to my uncle’s job. He got three weeks of paid vacation every year and we never had to pay for flights. That meant three weeks of exploring a new and exciting country every summer. But the vacation memories provided little comfort when arriving to yet another new school as the new girl, year after year. It wasn’t until I started college that I developed real, lasting friendships.
After a lifetime of never knowing when Uncle Walt would announce that we were moving again, a rooted man like Ben was exactly what I needed. He’d grown up in Portland behind an honest-to-God white picket fence. His father, Carl, managed a branch of Pacific Bank and his mother, Lois, ran the local soup kitchen. Ben was the middle child, sandwiched between his sisters, Holly and Shannon.
The entire family still met for Sunday morning service at United Methodist, followed by brunch at the nearby IHOP. The Garrison family welcomed me with open arms and I settled in just as eagerly. I longed to become an official member of a ‘regular’ family. And I had a hunch that my wait was almost over.
A knock on the door snapped my attention back to the present.
“Come in,” I called out, glancing at the clock on my wall. Mr. and Mrs. Hollis were due in fifteen minutes.
The door swung open and Linda, the other kindergarten teacher, stepped into the room. She left the door cracked and squeezed behind the nearest desk with an exhausted sigh.
“I can’t believe the kids show up tomorrow. You were right, I should have skipped the trip to Atlanta last week and gotten started on putting my room together. I’m going to be here half the night.” She twisted a crimson red curl between her fingers and stretched her long legs across the aisle.
“It’s not every day that your high school sweetheart shows up out of nowhere and sweeps you off your feet again. How is Henry, by the way?” I asked with a grin.
Linda blushed and a broad smile spread across her face. “He’s fantastic. We’ve been on the phone almost nonstop since I flew home. He’s packing his things in a U-Haul as we speak. He should be here by the end of the week.”
“I can’t wait to meet him,” I replied, my grin growing wider.
A year ago, that would have been a polite lie. When I first arrived at The Day School, I’d been put off by Linda’s aggressively bubbly personality. She was the type of person who’d never met a stranger and I’d found her instant openness and constant chatter incredibly overwhelming. But she’d grown on me over the year, and I was genuinely happy to see her so love struck.
“I can’t wait to introduce you,” she gushed. “This all still feels like some sort of dream. It’s all so exciting… Henry’s so exciting. He took me to look at rings while I was in Atlanta. And he’s already talking about me quitting my job so I can travel with him.”
“That’s great,” I told her, my enthusiasm forced this time. She saw right through it and raised an eyebrow.