7:22 a.m. Friday, October 9
Damon dreaded Sam knocking on his door every morning. It was such a passive way to get his attention. Why he couldn’t just open the door and tell Damon to hurry downstairs for breakfast baffled him. It seemed so simple.
Damon asked his parents if Sam could bring up his meals, but they didn’t allow it. They wanted the whole family to sit around a table just to say they ate together, forgoing sincerity.
“Damon, sir,” Sam said after his first two knocks didn’t result in a response.
“What?” Damon replied.
“Sir, breakfast is almost ready. Your father, mother, and sister are already downstairs. Mr. Maker got in from Dublin last night and is dying to see you.”
Damon thought he had been in New York but didn’t care enough to clear up his confusion.
“I’ll be down there when I’m down there,” Damon said.
“Yes, sir. I’ll let Mr. Maker know you’re coming soon.”
That was Sam’s way of telling Damon to hurry the hell up before his father became more irritable, a frequent mood for him. Sam could have just told Damon to get his ass moving. Damon would have respected the bluntness, but Sam just wasn’t that kind of person.
He shouldn’t have been so bothered by it, but Damon hated how nonconfrontational Sam was. If he could stick up for himself a little bit, maybe he’d have moved on from working for the Maker family a long time ago.
Sam had been the Maker’s live-in butler for twenty-five years, almost as long as Damon had been alive. He was nearing seventy and didn’t seem to be leaving anytime soon. He lived in a twenty thousand square-foot mansion on a twenty-eight acre lot in Los Angeles, a city where multi-million dollar listings didn’t have an acre. Any other job Sam was qualified for wouldn’t provide him with a living arrangement of this caliber.
Even though the butler frustrated him, Damon liked Sam enough to do his best at not getting the butler into hot water with Mr. and Mrs. Maker. Reluctantly, Damon readied himself for the day as fast as he could for feeling unenthusiastic about what the morning had in store. Unlike the rest of his family, Damon had never been a morning person. This made being on time to breakfast at half past seven an uphill battle. Luckily, it was casual Friday so getting dressed wouldn't be a chore. He put on a pair of navy blue Lululemon pants, a white Brunello Cucinelli button down, black Louboutin’s, and Tag Heuer watch. He kept his hair buzzed so he didn’t have to deal with it in the mornings.
Finally presentable, Damon headed to the kitchen for another miserable meal with his family. His bedroom was the most isolated out of the thirteen in the Maker’s mansion. He purposely sought out the seclusion because he knew his parents didn’t care enough to walk all that way to bug him.
Forgetting to spray cologne on, he made sure to stop by a bathroom on his way down to spray a Jo Malone unisex fragrance on his neck and wrists; luckily for him they were in every bathroom for decor purposes. The last thing he wanted to hear was his mother telling him how lower class he smelled.
The aroma of the Maker’s kitchen was mouth-watering. The coffee’s scent made the morning more bearable. Marsha, the Maker’s personal chef, was flipping pancakes and omelettes while a team of maids Damon had never seen before cleaned up after her. His mother didn’t want a mess in her kitchen her husband paid people to cook in. Her lack of pride disgusted Damon.
“Jerry, come on. We just sealed it. We aren’t going back and renegotiating with these guys, dammit! They can blow me for all I care. The deal’s done,” Mr. Maker said.
Mr. Maker, more commonly known as Harrison, was on the phone while Sam, who Harrison paid no mind to, cleaned up Damon’s father’s unfinished breakfast. Sam flashed Damon a little smile, his way of thanking him for joining the family for some early morning turmoil.
Melissa Maker, Sam’s mother, admired herself in a mirror her personal assistant Courtney was holding. She wasn’t applying any makeup. She was just turning her head from side to side. Playing with her hair. Staring into her own eyes.
“That’s definitely it, Melissa,” Courtney said.
“Right, I think so, too,” Melissa agreed.
Damon didn’t know what she had to get ready for. All Melissa did was drink red wine with her friends at nice restaurants, one of the country clubs the Makers belonged to, or at home if none of the other options appeased her. These dinners consisted of five-star meals made by Marsha or her favorite Michelin restaurant in Beverly Hills. She was a mere twenty-five years older than Damon, and had never been very motherly. It never interested her. Keeping up with herself was too consuming.
Damon adored Brooklyn, his kid sister. She was in fifth grade and more interesting than most adults. She verbalized her desire to start an artificial intelligence company when she graduated college. Damon wasn’t sure she knew what that meant, but he knew his little sister would accomplish anything she wanted. Harrison yearned to homeschool Brooklyn because he believed her quality of education would be better than what she was receiving from the private school she attended. It cost Harrison seventy-five thousand dollars a year; ten thousand less than the private tutor he wanted to hire. As usual, Brooklyn got her way after issuing a compelling argument that she’d miss out on interacting with people on a daily basis. She argued developing those social skills would be something that could separate her from the pack and push her to succeed. Damon remembered witnessing that conversation unravel, marveling at Brooklyn’s advanced way of thinking, and her convincing delivery. He imagined he’d work for her one day. Hell, he wanted to work for her one day. It would be more pleasant than the Maker he currently slaved away for day in and day out.
What she didn’t articulate well was how she felt like their mother didn’t appreciate her. Then again, Damon didn’t think a fifth grader should be capable of articulating that disturbing thought well, or having the thought at all. Her older brother was the only person she revealed this to. Damon would hang out in her room a few nights a week to check in and remind her he loved her. He wanted her to know he would always be there for her. She regularly walked him through her thoughts. At just ten years-old, his older sister passed away. Naturally, this hit him hard and motivated him to be there for Brooklyn as much as he could. She consistently assured him he was a great big brother. They told each other everything, and committed themselves to being a team, working towards staying sane with the burdens of their dysfunctional parents and privileged lives.
“Hi Brook,” Damon said, kissing the top of her head before sitting next to her.
She looked up from her tablet and smiled at him. She was watching their father’s news network.
“Morning Damon,” Melissa said, not looking away from the mirror. “You don’t look too grungy for a casual Friday. You even remembered to spray some cologne.”
“Good morning. Thank you, Sam.”
Sam put his bacon omelette, pancake, and black coffee in front of Damon as he sat down.
“Ah, good morning Damon. How are you today?” Harrison said.
“Good. How was the trip?”
“Oh, incredibly productive. We closed the deal and solidified another billion dollars over the first two quarters of next year.”
“Awesome,” Damon shrugged.
Harrison ran Maker Co., a corporation with several companies in news and entertainment. His baby was LTN, a news network that did around fifteen billion in revenue annually. Now, apparently around seventeen billion. Its influence was vast on various platforms. Advertising deals became more and more lucrative as time went on. Harrison and his executives attributed to them being cognizant of where users consume their information, hence the presence on multiple platforms. Their priviness to this information made the Makers one of the wealthiest families in the United States.
“Maybe now we can knock down the Hampton house and build a new one. Ugh, it’s just so outdated,” Melissa said with an annoying amount of emphasis on ‘so’.
Damon rolled his eyes.
Their house in the Hamptons was a ninety million dollar project that started in 2010 and finished a little over two years later.
“I’ll build you a new house if you promise to go there,” Harrison said.
In the eight years the house had been livable Melissa had been four times, Damon and Brooklyn twice, and Harrison once stopped by for a night on his way to Europe for a conference.
Damon worked as a top financial analyst at LTN. Nepotism earned him the job, and his expertise quickly contributed to the company’s profitability. His ability to interpret the company’s numbers and communicate his findings to his father and other executives proved to be invaluable. He knew which technologies were worth investing in. He identified whose salaries they could reduce so theirs could increase. He could confidently predict which ad deals were in their best interest based on the growth of the companies, and he analyzed how their financials stack up against the competition. His forecasts were close to perfect.
Damon’s propensity for finding the most lucrative solutions went a long way. The corporation’s brass valued him. Harrison always planned for him to run Maker Co., and Damon proving he was capable of growing LTN made Harrison’s predetermined decision more valid. Not only was it good for Maker Co., but also for Harrison’s public image. Damon’s social skills were lacking, but pairing him up with a corporate puppet would fix that. Damon knew the numbers better than anyone and could make the corporation more money than his father ever could, something Harrison knew, but didn’t outwardly admit.
Harrison dismissed Melissa, “So Damon, if you could have a look at where this will put our projections for next year that’d be awesome. Kendyl will giv-”
“Can we discuss this at the office?” Damon interrupted.
Damon hated his father’s assistant. He’d been having an affair with Kendyl for as long as Damon had been at LTN, at least, but that wasn’t why he hated her. He hated her because she was dumb, gullible, and useless.
Melissa knew about the affair but didn’t care. As long as she kept getting what she wanted, she’d let Harrison do whatever he pleased. This sickened Damon.
Harrison threw his son a bothered look. No one else was bold enough to interject before he finished his thoughts.
“Well, can’t we talk about it now?” Harrison asked. He was doing his best to suppress his anger.
“We have the ability to, yes, but I’d like to talk about it at the office because right now I’m enjoying a family meal,” Damon said, shrugging at Harrison.
Damon always being so literal pissed Harrison off. He began to tolerate it recently because Damon actually showed some value at LTN. He proved to his father the strings he pulled to get him in Columbia were paying off.
“Fine. At the office,” Harrison compromised.
Damon quickly glanced at Brooklyn and observed she was doing her best to mask her smile, one on the verge of erupting to a hysterical laugh. Her eyes were fixated on the tablet, but her attention was on her father and brother.
“Harrison, I’m seeing the Barkens tonight. I’d like to go to Nobu for dinner. I’ll have her call to rent out our room,” Melissa said.
She used pronouns when referring to Courtney.
Matt and Caroline Barken’s marriage was the most famous celebrity alliance in the world. Both under thirty-five, Matt had multiple Oscars and Caroline was the most listened to country singer in the world, according to Spotify. According to Harrison, they were the world’s most annoying couple in the world and lacked substance.
“Ok. Maybe you just go. I’ll take Damon and Brooklyn out to dinner tonight. I have a lot to do at the office. Sam, call the car. Damon, come up when you get there,” Harrison said.
His father always had to say come up rather than come to my office. Harrison kissed Brooklyn on the top of her head, blew Melissa a kiss and nodded at Damon before leaving.
“Brooklyn, do you want to go?” Damon asked when his father was out of earshot.
“No. I’m not going to. Sydney is having a big sleepover tonight, and I want to go there.”
“Mom, you want to have dinner with dad and me?” Damon asked, already knowing what the answer would be.
“Did you listen to anything I said? I have plans,” she snapped.
At least he could say he tried.