I grin, immediately recognizing my little sister’s voice. I glance up as she races down the stairs and into my waiting hug. “Hey, Little T. How you been?”
She laughs at the ridiculous nickname and squeezes me tight before stepping back. “It’s so good to see you! Is it true, what Erik said? Are you back to stay?”
“It’s true,” I confirm. “At least for now. I have some business to take care of.” I’ve been out of the country, mostly traveling, for almost six years. It’s weird being back – like I have one foot in two different worlds. I’m not sure where I’ll end up settling but I think this is where I need to be to get my idea off the ground and make it a reality. Even if it means swallowing my pride and asking my father for help. Which is why I’m here.
“Yay! I’m so excited.” My sister’s enthusiasm helps calm my nerves about being home. I’m not sure I’ll get the same welcome from the rest of the family. I’ll soak it up while I can.
“Where is everybody?” I ask, stashing my backpack in the entry closet. Yes, my backpack. I literally came right from the airport. Luckily I had an overnight layover in Miami so I was able to shower at the hotel before my flight this morning. I would have felt at a distinct disadvantage talking to my father with nearly thirty hours of travel grime and rumpled clothes.
“Dad’s in his office.” I roll my eyes at this pronouncement. What’s new? “Mom and Ethan and Riley are out back with the event planner getting everything ready. Ilyssa should be down any minute. And Erik is picking a friend up so won’t be here until the barbecue starts. Is that enough of an update or would you like me to report in on the cousins as well?”
I grab her in a mock head lock and ruffle her hair. “That’s enough T.”
She laughs and struggles out of my hold. She’ll never really know how much her easy acceptance is making this so much less painful and awkward for me.
“I just wasn’t expecting it to be so quiet in here.”
“It won’t be in two hours when the festivities begin. You remember how crazy packed and fun these things are. I can’t believe it the Fourth already!”
It’s an annual tradition in the Abbott’s to hold a massive family BBQ/picnic/hootenanny over the Fourth of July. The longer my father has been in public office the larger the guest list has gotten. We still hold the barbecue in the back yard of our Chicago home, but now with the help of a professional party planner and catering staff. It’s no longer just my mom and aunt bringing side dishes while my dad and his brother grill. But tomorrow all my siblings and cousins will head to Michigan and my uncles lake house for a long weekend of just family.
And I guess, this year, I’ll be going too.
“When do you start work?” I ask.
My not-so-little-anymore sister has just finished a graduate program at the University of Chicago. She’s had plans to take over the family company for as long as I can remember. The very life I ran like hell from.
“Uncle Eddie thought I deserved a summer off.” Our uncle runs the family company but as it was started by my grandfather, we’ve all reaped the benefits. Teagan has spent every summer and school break working in various departments and roles, wanting to know as much as possible about the ‘family business’. Unlike me, the lazy oldest son who left to backpack for a summer sabbatical and never came back.
I tried. I went to the office every day. I wore the right suits and shook the right hands and stared at the briefs and spreadsheets and finance reports.
And I fucking hated it. I bailed the summer before my 30th birthday. It was just supposed to be eight weeks. Take some time to travel and chill out before getting back to business. But other than some sporadic holiday visits I haven’t been back since.
Unaware of my thoughts Teagan continues her explanation. “So I’ll start after our Labor Day picnic.”
Another Abbott tradition. Teagan and my brothers have never seemed to be bothered by the money we were born in to. Bothered probably isn’t the right word. I liked the money fine but it never felt like the suits I wore fit quite right. I was always a bit more restless. I wanted something of my own. Something my family didn’t touch. To prove I could make a life, design it the way I wanted, not what has been handed to me. Even if it looked a lot different from the one that my family built.
I cringe inwardly. So much for that. Here I am, years later, hoping to benefit from everything they’ve built.
But this is bigger than me. And I’m not going to let my pride stop me from making this a reality as soon as possible. I’ll take all the help I can get.
Even if it is coming from my dad.
Curious about Zane’s father? Meet Senator Theodore Abbott aka Uncle Theo here.