Author’s note: - This is intended as another possible backdrop to the Voyage odyssey.
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
“Charles Philip Morton! Are you defying me again, boy?”
A tall young man in navy blues stood at attention in front of a large, leather topped desk behind which sat an angry, business suited man. He was staring at the blond officer with steely-blue eyes that fumed annoyance. Even so, his countenance showed a remarkable resemblance to the object of his displeasure. His older, sturdier build was well disguised by the superior cut of the cloth that formed his jacket but both men shared the same blond hair, blue eyes and set to their jaw.
“Well, young man, do I get an explanation for this latest wilful aberration?”
“You have it already, sir. I resigned my commission last month and entered the reserves to take up a position as an officer at the Nelson Institute, and nothing you say will make me change my mind!” The account was formally offered but with a certain amount of gritty resolve.
Andrew Morton jerked upright out of his chair and stared at his son. He was – had been- inordinately proud of his son’s career. As a young lieutenant commander, Chip had earned his rank through hard work and diligence. As a father he recognised and admired the achievements that were his son’s alone but now the boy was about to throw it all away on a crazy impulse! He couldn’t understand what possessed any son of his to do something so absurd! Hadn’t he used all his contacts to exert gentle influence these past few months to make sure this particular young officer had been transferred from that menial posting on a minor submarine to a far more important position in Washington, thus moving his career forward, making sure that he was at the very seat of power! Didn’t Chip understand what he was throwing away?
Andrew paced as he sought hard to control his anger. Chip could be incredibly stubborn and he didn’t want to rile the boy into doing something they’d both regret!
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, sit down, you’re not at a court martial!” Morton senior grumbled.
Chip Morton hesitated momentarily then relaxed a little. He turned and lowered himself reluctantly into a nearby chair. He was uncomfortable in his father’s presence; it had been so for as long as he could remember. Being the youngest of three children and the only son, his father had dismissed his two sisters to their mother’s care and concentrated his efforts on making Chip over into his own image! Andrew Morton was not an intentionally cruel man but neither did he abide opposition to his plans. He had pushed and constantly demanded high standards throughout the young boy’s life, leaving little time for father and son to develop a close affinity.
Chip looked at his father. Andrew Charles Morton, industrialist, self - made millionaire, generous benefactor and all around nice guy! That was the image he worked hard to cultivate among his friends and associates- and in fairness he was all of those things with everyone else – everyone except his son and heir! Between them there had always seemed to be constant conflict.
In twenty-six years, Chip had defied his father successfully only once. He had wanted a naval career and his father had vehemently opposed it! Andrew Morton had decided that Chip would succeed him as President of Morton Industries Incorporated when the time came and nothing could be allowed to deflect that. In the meantime there would be a university of his choosing, a useful degree in business economics and managerial training conducted by himself. At first he had dismissed Chip’s ambitions as boyish daydreams and had done everything he could to make his son yield to his will, but Chip had set his jaw and resisted. The more Andrew pushed and manipulated, the more the young man fought against him. They were at an impasse until Chip enlisted an ally that Andrew found hard to refuse – he enlisted his mother.
Constance Mayfield-Morton was, by first impression, an ill match for the bold, brash businessman that was her husband. Coming from an old Boston family she had known luxury and gentility all her life. A beautiful, intelligent young woman and much-admired socialite she had been very popular amongst her contemporaries. Then one Thanksgiving Day over forty years ago she had met a younger Andrew Charles Morton at a party and while she had been attracted to his blond good looks and devilish charm he had not immediately swept her off her feet. However, Andrew Morton had been instantly smitten and set about wooing her with passionate determination.
With relentless dedication he pursued her and gradually won her heart. Constance fell in love slowly but completely with Andrew as he bestowed his deep adoration on her and it still burned for them both after all these years.
A slim and attractive woman even in her later years, Chip was in no doubt that his father still loved his mother devotedly. Constance Morton had always supported and respected her husband in all things, never seeking to overtly contradict him, but when she felt strongly about something she would stand her ground and gently point out any errors she perceived in her husband’s actions.
It had been just so when Chip had told her of his intentions to apply to Annapolis. She had listened to him carefully, seen his determination and known it was not a passing fancy. From that moment she set about fighting in his corner until eventually she had persuaded her strong-willed husband that Chip was indeed his son and just as independent as he had ever been! She pointed out that Andrew would not be able to force him against his will and that, if he continued to try, he risked losing his only male offspring completely. Slowly she made Andrew see what was plain to others, Chip was his own man and had set his mind on a different course and nothing his father did would dissuade him. Constance had mellowed Andrew’s anger to mere disgruntlement as Chip had set out for Annapolis.
Eight years later Chip had achieved much and his father had conveniently forgotten his early opposition. He had taken pride in his son but became disappointed at what he perceived as the slow progress of his advancement and surreptitiously used whatever influence he could to promote his son’s best interests.
Andrew Morton took a seat opposite his son and leaned forward earnestly. “Chip, please think about what you are doing. How can you throw away a promising career after only a few short years to take up a position with a crackpot outfit when you have everything you ever wanted within your grasp?”
Chip rose angrily to move away from his source of irritation. He balled his hands together in an effort to stay calm as he gazed down and his father. “Admiral Nelson is no crackpot! He’s a well-respected scientist and visionary. Seaview will prove that to the Navy and scientific community alike!”
“The Nelson Institute isn’t part of any established scientific community, Chip! No one takes him seriously. He’s a retired admiral with money to burn and a ridiculous daydream! Hell, he’ll probably never get this project submarine of his in the water and if he does manage to build the thing it’ll take him years! You can’t seriously want to give up your career, your ambitions, throw away all you’ve worked so hard to get, for one man’s – stupid folly!” Andrew Morton came to stand beside his son and continued persuasively. “Don’t you want to be an admiral yourself one day? Go back to the regular Navy and I can practically guarantee you’ll never regret it….”
Chip moved away again. “The same way you guaranteed my posting to Washington? The same way you always get what you want?” He turned eyes that glittered with rage towards the other man. “Did you really think I wouldn’t discover why I was suddenly yanked off my boat and ordered to take up a senior post on Admiral Stanton’s staff?” Instantly there was a momentary flicker of guilt on the older face before he looked away and paced across the room to look out of his office window at the manicured lawns of his estate.
“I only wanted to help. Your friend Crane has made commander already! I’m sure he didn’t manage that languishing on some submarine doing routine mapping surveys! I want you to be someone men look up to with respect and you need rank and power for that!” He turned and matched his son’s anger. “I can help you get it! I know the people that matter!”
Chip shook his head with frustration as Andrew continued.
“If you’ll just come to your senses about the Navy, you can come and work for me in the company! Learn from me and when I retire it’s all yours – it’s what I’ve always planned for all these years! Is it so wrong for a father to help his son be the best?”
“It is when that son is quite capable of doing it for himself and doesn’t want to be used as a tool to further his father’s ambitions!”
“Why you ungrateful--.” the insult was never finished as the door opened and Constance Morton entered. Both men were stunned into appreciative silence by her appearance. Dressed in a pale mauve, off the shoulder, floor length gown, stylishly coiffured hair and wearing discreetly expensive jewellery, she looked eye-catchingly beautiful and much younger than her 60 years.
“Do you know that your conversation can be heard all over the house?” She asked calmly.
Instantly Andrew Morton came to his wife’s side and gently guided her to a seat. “I’m sorry my dear, we were discussing a matter of--.”
“We all know what you were discussing, Andrew.” She smiled softly as she looked up at her attentive husband and then to her son. The two men she loved most dearly in her life seemed destined to be protagonists in a battle of wills that neither could truly win.
Constance knew that Andrew’s driving force over Chip was not meant to be brutal. It came from a mixture of male pride and overwhelming desire to have his son replace him at the head of his company one day! It was his single obsession in life! If he could have his one and only son live his life in the way Andrew dictated then Andrew Morton’s achievements would live on.
He saw Chip as his genetic legacy to the future and that meant to Andrew they must naturally have the same objectives unfortunately it had not occurred to him that his son’s dreams and aspirations would be in conflict with his own!
She understood better than anyone why Andrew needed to prevail in this battle of wills but also knew that Chip would never yield to her husband’s wishes.
“I suggest that we postpone this conversation till after the party. People will start arriving soon and I don’t think there’s time for you to discuss this now.” She smiled serenely as she stood. “Andrew, you need to change and Chip your sisters are waiting to see you.” Constance linked her arms through the arms of both men and led them forward. Chip was grateful for her timely intervention but knew this was not a subject his father would let drop easily.
Andrew Morton glowered at his son but bowed to his wife’s wishes. “You’re quite right my dear, we have the whole weekend to discuss business matters.” He smiled lovingly at the woman on his arm. “May I say that you look at your most beautiful tonight? I shall be the envy of every man who sees you this evening.” He leant forward and bestowed a lingering kiss to her forehead.
Constance looked up at him and her eyes passed a message of adoration to him. “Thank you Drew, you always know how to flatter me. Now go, you need to hurry.”
“Just as you wish my dear.” He laughed and sped away up the curved staircase anxious not to disappoint the woman he loved.
Constance Morton glanced up at her silent son. His expression was hard to interpret but she watched him beam a loving smile as he became aware of her attention. “Dad’s right Mom, you look like a young bride!”
She giggled softly and squeezed his arm as she steered him gently towards the terrace. “You Morton men have always had more than your fair share of charm.”
“We don’t need it when looking at you. Every word we say is the truth. You don’t look like a woman that should be celebrating 40 years of marriage!”
Constance nodded her gratitude and then became more serious. “Let’s sit down a moment Chip.” She indicated the padded swing as she went forward and sat.
“But the party…”
“There’s time, any early guests will be greeted by Lisa and Roxy.” She patted the cushion beside her, “Please, I want to talk to you a moment.”
“Mom…” Chip hesitated as he saw the determination in her glance. He knew that look. Knew that she was not about to be dissuaded and that he had no choice but to comply. Sighing gently, he sat beside her.
“Chip, about this decision of yours…”
“Mom, I know you want to help but this really is between Dad and I.” Chip interrupted uncomfortably.
“And as your mother I’m not allowed an opinion?” She asked scornfully.
Chip was instantly embarrassed. “Yes. Yes, of course, but I think it only fair to tell you that I won’t change my mind. Nothing anyone can say will make me do that.”
His tone had changed and became almost belligerent. Constance smiled in the half-light as she remembered that tone. Oh yes, there was never anyone that could put quite so much enmity into a quiet statement of fact as her son. He rarely raised his voice, never showed his family outright rage but had a thousand tones of censure that left no doubt as to his internalised anger! She almost pitied the men who served under him. Chip might be an excellent example of Officer and Gentleman but he could also have a fierce attitude towards those who fell short of his expectations!
“Did I say that was my intention?” She held up her hand, as he would have said more.
“I just want to be certain that you have made your choice for the right reasons.” She gathered her son’s strong hand in hers and looked directly at him. “Chip, is this what you really want? You’re not leaving the Navy and going to Santa Barbara just to spite your father’s wishes are you?” she asked him earnestly.
Chip recognised the worry in his mother’s countenance and felt sorry that she was suffering over him again. He knew that she worried much more over him than his sisters.
Lisa, five years his senior had settled down very early to married life with a merchant banker and produced two delightful grandchildren for his mother to dote over. She was a contented mother and blissfully happy with her husband, Joel.
Roxanne, the eldest of the brood, insisted on being known as Roxy and was, as yet, unmarried but never short of a suitably handsome escort. Her interests lay in the world of commerce and she was a very shrewd and successful businesswoman in her own right.
“Mom, you know I have never done anything I wasn’t sure of. I’ve thought everything over very carefully and I know this is the right thing to do. I can’t believe how lucky I am to be given this chance. Do you know how many men would give their right arm to be in my position?” Chip was quite animated as he explained his good fortune. “I couldn’t believe it when Admiral Nelson himself asked me to join him! He’d remembered me from Annapolis and kept an eye on my career. He sought me out when he’d heard I was in Washington! Told me I was just the sort of officer his boat needed. He told me his plans and asked if I wanted to join him.” Chip was silent a moment as he remembered his own and Admiral Nelson’s surprise when he answered in an instant affirmative. No, he didn’t need time to think it over and Yes, he knew what it could mean for his career.
“Maybe a part of me saw it as an escape from interference in my career but I also know it’s completely right for me. As soon as I saw the plans I wanted to be part of this project! I joined the Navy to make a difference, Mom, to be part of something that helps to keep the world safe from whatever dangers threaten the people I love and being a Washington desk jockey is not going to make happy me, no matter how much it might advance my career! I admire Admiral Nelson’s objectives for his Institute and his revolutionary submarine design is exciting, it will prove all his critics wrong when he succeeds-- and we will succeed!” Chip’s determination was clear as he said quietly, “I know I can make a difference there and I want to be part of it!”
Constance was mildly surprised but instantly reassured by the intenseness of Chip’s statement.
He continued reluctantly, “I admit that when I first found out that my new posting in Washington was thanks to my father’s meddling again, I wanted to resign my commission there and then! I was ready to walk away from everything!” Chip got up and paced to the veranda rail and leaned onto it as he looked out into the gathering gloom. “I had hoped he’d given up trying to manipulate my life! Why can’t he accept that I don’t want or need his help?” He turned and crossed his arms across his chest as he rested his gaze on his mother. “All these years he’s interfered and tried to control me to suit his plans. I never wanted it then and I want it even less now! He has to understand that I will never do as he wants - it’s his business, his achievement and not at all what I want for my life! Let him give it to someone else! Why burden me with his ambitions to have an heir that satisfies him?” Chip was breathing heavily and looked down to the weathered boards as he fought to control his ever-present aggravation with his manipulative father.
Constance came to him and took hold of his crossed arms. “Chip. Your father has only ever wanted the best for you, for all of us. He drove you to succeed because he came from nothing and it was his desires for his family to have a better life than he had that’s driven him all these years. I’m not saying he’s never made mistakes or perhaps expected the wrong things of you but it was never done with deliberate malice! He just hoped what every man hopes for, that you, as his son, would want what he had to give you, his life’s work!” When she saw Chip flush with embarrassment and shame in equal measure she relented a little.
“I know it’s not what you want and deep down so does your father, but try to understand that it’s been a dream for him since the day you were born and all his efforts have been channelled towards that goal. With your sisters he can be doting father and grandfather but you have always been his purpose in life. He just assumed that you would feel as he does because you are his son. He couldn’t understand that you might have your own ambitions and reject his gift.” She sighed softly, “The problem is of course you are too much alike.”
When Chip straightened up suddenly ready to dispute this statement of fact, Constance held up a hand to silence him. “You can deny it all you like but I’m an independent outsider in this clash of wills between you and I can see the stubborn…”
“Independent?” came the faint reproof.
“Yes, independent!” I love you both with all my heart and it hurts me deeply to see you fight each other for superiority!”
There was a strained silence between them until, “I know Mom,” Chip said gently as he gathered her to him in a loving embrace, “That’s why I’ve always tried to keep you out of our battles as much as possible. I tried to shield you from how I was feeling and deal with it myself rather than let you get hurt.” He held her away and smiled, “I guess you could see my frustrations no matter how hard I tried to hide them, huh?”
Constance Morton smiled up at her strong-minded son, “Chip Morton, you may be able to fool all the others around you, but not your mother! I have always been able to read your emotions even when you thought you had perfected that, officer glare of yours! ” She laughed softly and moved to link her arm in his again as they moved inside.
“So what do I do, Mom? About Dad I mean. I don’t want to hurt you with this but I can’t do what he wants either. I won’t…”
His mother squeezed his arm sympathetically. “I know, Chip, I know. Just leave it with me and try to enjoy your leave. Roxy and I have a plan.”
”Roxy? What does she have to do with this?”
“My dear boy, your sister has decided that now is the time for her to establish herself as your father’s successor in the company! And I have decided that it is time for Drew to go into semi-retirement so that he and I can spend more time together travelling before we get too old! So between us we shall help your father see reason prevail and we will all get what we want.”
“Well, he maybe a little resistant at first and it will be hard for him to let go of his hopes but I’m sure we can persuade him to see the definite benefits in time!”
Chip stopped and looked down at his mother with great respect. He knew it wouldn’t be easy but was in no doubt that she would eventually arrange things to suit her plans. His mother and sister had proved more than once that they possessed more than their own share of Morton stubbornness when it mattered. Part of him felt just the smallest pang of pity for the man whose resistance was about to be conquered by two formidable women!
“Jessica! That’s not fair, you cheated!”
“I did not!”
“You did too! You pushed me over.”
“I can’t help it if you have two left feet!”
The heated disagreement was in danger of escalating to physical violence if the stance of 7 year old Bobby was anything to go by thought the onlooker— time to intervene.
“Hey, you two play nice!”
“But Uncle Chip she cheated!”
“I did not, I just used my feminine wiles” stated his nine year old sister with defiant certainty.
Chip choked back a laugh and struggled to keep his face straight.
“Where did you hear that phrase, Jess?” he asked with interest.
“Mommy says it to Daddy all the time when she wins a fight, just before she kisses him!” she said confidently.
Both children wandered over to where Chip was sitting under a large canopy on the poolside and gazed at him.
“What does it mean, Uncle Chip?” Bobby frowned
Chip looked at the two curious faces and hesitated. Jessica had inherited her mother’s radiant beauty and would grow up to be a heart stopper! Not for the first time was he was glad he to be only her uncle and not her father; he didn’t envy Joel the job of keeping a legion of boyfriend’s at bay. “It means, Bobby, that we men are often defeated by love and beauty!”
Both children looked totally confused. “Huh?”
“Don’t worry about it till you’re older. Jess I don’t think your Mom meant what you think she meant, or for you to hear those things, and certainly not to use any of them till you understand what they really mean! Pushing your younger brother isn’t fair and you know it. So go back and let him have the point and play fair, okay?”
Jessica looked cross and about to dispute the ruling but when she saw the implacable raised eyebrow of her uncle, she knew further protest was useless. She smiled sweetly and nodded, “’Kay, Uncle Chip,” and leant forward to kiss his cheek before she ran off dragging a happy Bobby beside her.
Chip gazed after them and smiled ruefully. Oh, yeah, Joel was in for a very hard time!
“Is our niece beguiling the male population again? You men are so easily manipulated by a pretty face,” chuckled a soft voice as Roxy joined him at the table in the shade.
Chip watched as his oldest sister poured a cool drink of iced tea and sipped at it. She was not an obvious beauty but had natural poise and elegance that counted for much more. He knew she was exceptionally smart as well, definitely not a woman to be underestimated.
“Actually, I was just explaining a fact of life to Bobby.” Chip laughed and told his sister of the argument.
“She’s a minx, I’m so glad I’m not her parent!” Roxy declared.
Chip narrowed his eyes and watched the faint stain that flushed her cheeks. “Are you sure?”
Roxanne Morton flicked a startled gaze at him. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Chip noted the way she feigned casualness but turned the glass tensely in her hands and waited for his reply.
“Nothing. Just that I hear you’re an adoring aunt whose is happy to have the kids stay with you as often as your schedule allows.”
“Yes, well that’s easy - I can always send them back when they get too much trouble.” Roxy said grinning.
“Which they never are and you never do. Have you never considered a husband and hearth with kids and a dog, Roxy?” Chip asked as his sister fidgeted into a more comfortable position.
“Me? You got to be kidding. I love my work too much. It’s exciting and fulfils every part of my life!”
When she saw his speculative gaze, Roxy felt compelled to persist. “It does! Do you know how much time and energy it takes to build a business, keep it running and manage every daily crisis? A lot, I can tell you, and I love the challenges it brings! Besides, I could never be happy with just one man – I like variety.”
“Is that right? So how come you brought Nick to the party Friday night? I thought you and he were old news.”
Roxy gazed around the grounds and tried to look indifferent under the all too close scrutiny of Chip’s perceptive blue-eyed gaze.
“Nick and I understand each other. We both have our ambitions and neither of us wants to compromise, so we’re comfortable with our arrangement and keep things strictly casual.”
Chip didn’t say anything so Roxy looked back at his shrewd intenseness and inwardly squirmed. “Will you stop that?”
“What?” he asked innocently.
“Trying to make me wriggle like a fish on some hook! You always used that look when we were kids and you caught me necking in the orchard! It’s positively unnerving and extremely impolite as we’re all grown up now! Besides you’re my little brother and I don’t have to justify myself to you!” Roxy declared coolly.
Chip started to smile then laughed. “Oh, Roxy, you’re still just as easy to rile as you ever were. How do you ever manage to fool your staff into believing you’re the cool, calculating, unflappable Lady boss?”
Roxy struggled to retain her anger as she saw his merriment take away the frown he’d carried most of the weekend. This Chip Morton was the younger brother from her youth and it was good to see him relax after watching his exhausting efforts at avoiding more confrontations with their father the last two days. Chip was adept at being occupied without causing obvious offence to his family and spending time with Nick, Joel or his nephew and niece had been his defence against his father’s continued attempts to badger him. Finally he was letting go even if it was at her expense.
She laughed as well. “I’ll have you know my staff adore me! I wager that’s more than can be said for your sailors! I bet you terrify the poor things with that fearsome glare and inflexible attitude of yours. I know I wouldn’t want to serve under you, you must be a positive slave driver!”
“Terrify the poor things? Roxy they’re highly trained professionals not kindergarten kids!! Chip protested lightly. “They are expected to do their duty and if they should forget it’s my job to remind them!”
“And I can just imagine how you do that!” She grinned.
Chip smiled self-effacingly and then laughed with his sister until they sat in companionable silence.
“Mom told me of your plans.”
Roxy grinned, “I know. Do you mind?”
“Mind? Course I don’t mind, I just don’t see the old man letting go anytime soon.”
“If it’s explained to him properly and handled right, in a few month’s he might even believe the idea was all his.”
“Do you really want the company that much? I mean you have your own, what’s going to happen to that?”
“I shall incorporate it and run both. I have excellent staff and a commercial advertising agency will be an asset to the components of Morton Industries. We can keep all our publicity campaigns in house.” She paused to sip her tea, “Yes, I do want the company, very much.” Roxy smiled and went on thoughtfully, “Do you remember when Dad used to take me to the office and show me how it all worked? I used to sit in his chair and listen in at meetings and learn about what it took to be successful in the business world. It wasn’t just the financial dealings but the people, the development, and the excitement of seeing a plan come together – it still gives me a buzz that makes me happy!
“Then Dad got that notion into his head that only sons can aspire to follow in their father’s footsteps and set about grooming you to take over.” As she saw Chip about to protest she forestalled him. “I know it wasn’t what you wanted but Dad just couldn’t see past the male dynasty thing. He wanted a son to succeed him and you were it-- only you weren’t and that hit him so hard he stopped looking at anyone else!”
For the first time Chip felt like he was seeing the real Roxy. Her hurt was obvious and he burned in anger against his father’s negligence. “Roxy, I’m sorry – I never realised, at least – I never thought it meant that much to you, after all you’ve been so successful in your own right!”
“I am indeed and a lot of that is down to Dad in a strange way. I wanted to show him I could do it just as well as any man and worked all the harder for that.” She leaned forward and encompassed his hand in hers. “Don’t be sorry, Chip. It isn’t your fault but for that spur to my determination I might well have failed. It was excellent training and I enjoyed every minute of it. I wouldn’t change a thing and I have nothing to prove to anyone anymore. Heck, I’m probably better qualified now than I ever was before and as we all believe Morton Industries is a family business, I shall make my bid for CEO and have what I always wanted!”
Chip looked at his sister with deep admiration. She was certainly a lady with style and grit. She deserved to have fulfilment of her dreams but something else gnawed at him, “You’ll make a great CEO but just promise one thing – don’t let it dominate your whole life! Get a great team around you and delegate a little, huh? You have to have something more than work to go home to! Nick’s a great guy, I’d like to see him around more often.”
Roxy blushed and floundered a little, “Oh, listen to who’s talking about work dominating their lives – I don’t see a Mrs Chip Morton on the horizon anywhere!”
Chip was spared answering by the sound of another familiar voice. “Jess, Bobby come on in now it’s time for lunch. Go get washed up right away.”
With twin affirmations both children ran towards the house and Lisa wandered over to her siblings.
“Same goes for you two. Mom is wanting a family lunch before we all head out this afternoon.” She studied the dual looks of concentration on her siblings and asked curiously, “What were you two in deep discussion over? I’ve been watching you from the house, looked like something serious was being thrashed out.”
Chip was first to recover as he stood up and turned towards his family home. He knew now he’d made the right decisions and was comforted by the fact that his family business would remain intact despite his dereliction of duty, for that’s how deeply it affected his thoughts in the depths of a sleepless night. Andrew Morton would have his wish for family fidelity, his sister would have her dream and he would be free to follow his own course.
He turned to a quizzical Lisa and answered contentedly, “Nothing at all. We were just talking about family ambitions and the pursuit of happiness. Which leads me to seriously question the rather dubious lessons you are imparting to my impressionable niece!”
“What on earth are you talking about?” Lisa laughed as both girls linked their arms in his and walked together across the lawn to the house.
Chip threw his leather holdall in the trunk of his car and turned to say his farewells.
Andrew Morton was waiting alone on the top rise of three steps, his hands buried deep in his trouser pockets, and Chip could see the tension etched into the frown on his forehead. “You’re mother will be here in a moment, she’s just taking a phone call from one of her charities.” He paused and looked uncomfortable. “Have you got everything?”
Both men were silent, searching for words that would not come easily.
“I suppose it’s pointless of me to ask if you’ve given anymore thought to our discussion. So adeptly have you been avoiding me all weekend!” Andrew Morton asked brusquely.
“I’ve thought about it, sir,” came the soft reply .
Chip drew a deep steadying breath. “I’m sorry, Dad, but I’m still going to Santa Barbara to join Admiral Nelson.”
“Admiral Nelson!” Andrew spat out derisively. “Harriman Nelson is doomed to failure with this idiocy and he’ll bring you down with him! Do you think that’s what I want for my son?” He came down the steps and stopped a pace away.
“I know I’ve made some mistakes over the years and while I might regret some of them I need to make you see the mistake you’re making! I want my son to inherit more from me than the bundle of debts my father left me! I want your life to be easier than mine ever was! I had thought you might be proud of all I’d done – hoped it would be something you wanted to be part of.”
Chip stood silently knowing his father would have his say and not wanting to inflame him even more.
“Now, I went along with all that Navy nonsense to please your Mother. You proved that you could do well at it and I respect that – if you’d stayed where you were and made your way up through the ranks I could have been proud of your successes but this latest foolhardiness is more than I’ll stand for! As my son you owe me the same respect you have for any Admiral and it’s about time you showed some loyalty to this family!”
“Aren’t I part of this family?”
Andrew was thrown by the calm enquiry. “Of course you are! That’s what this is all about.”
“No, sir, this is about what you want and what you expect. It always has been. You talk of respect but you have none for me. You want me to step into your shoes but did you step into your father’s?”
“My father was a waster always chasing dreams and achieving nothing! He left nothing important for others to remember … ”
“He left you. He may not have been rich or successful but that isn’t everything, Dad, sometimes being proud of the people around you and what you do personally means more!” Chip paused as he saw his father’s narrowing gaze.
“And you’re proud of throwing your life away on another man’s whim?”
“I don’t believe I’m throwing anything away. But if that’s how it turns out it has to be my choice and I should have the same loyalty to find out that you expect from me!”
Andrew Morton stood silently appraising his son. Part of him grudgingly admired the strength of character in the boy he had sired but another part, the inflexible father, was determined to win this battle of wills.
“Very well, let’s make a bargain here and now.” He said confidently as he moved casually away and stood looking out over the cared for gardens.
Chip was instantly suspicious. His father’s bargains were often heavily loaded against his son. “What sort of bargain?”
“If this new career of yours is the success you think it will be I will give up my own ambitions for you and say no more, but if it falls through, for whatever reason, you come back home and do your duty by the company and take over as President elect!”
“What if you find there’s someone else who’s better placed than I am to be your successor in the meantime?”
“I won’t!” Andrew looked over his shoulder at his son, “I know all about Roxanne’s ambitions but I’m not prepared to give up on your compliance quite yet.” He smiled at Chip’s momentary surprise. “Do you think I don’t know what’s happening in my own home?” Andrew laughed and looked away again. “Oh yes, I know what plans your mother and sister have. I haven’t been successful in my business dealings all these years without knowing when there was some plotting going on!
“While I’m not averse to her having a responsible position in the company, it’s a son’s duty to take his father’s place! I’ll refuse to confirm her as my successor until I’m convinced you’re lost to me!” He turned and moved to stand in front of Chip. “Well, what do you say, boy? Are you still sure this move of yours is the right one?”
Anger rose in Chip like a tide! His father’s obsession to win out over him meant he’d use even his sister’s happiness against him.
“I can’t make a deal like that when I know Roxy wants your damn company more that I ever will!”
Andrew saw the uncharacteristic show of emotion from his son and hesitated a moment. Was he perhaps going too far? No, he told himself, this was for Chip’s own good. He couldn’t be allowed to make a mockery of both their lives.
“Then all bets are off and things stay exactly as they are!”
Roxy and his mother came down the steps from the house arm in arm, laughing at something and during the embraces and warm farewells, Chip watched his father closely. He showed genuine loving emotions for the two women but Chip knew that he was also capable of breaking both their hearts to get his own way.
As he got in the car and turned on the engine he looked at his father.
“Okay, I agree!” and drove away without a backward glance at his satisfied parent!