Gloria smiled at her son. He had only started the company a year ago and she hoped it wouldn’t be much longer before they put out a game that interested her. He did seem to enjoy his work though. His pleasant mood made her decide that it was a good time to bring up the subject she wanted to discuss. “I talked to Elaine Johnson this week.”
Luke nodded. “Did you see the thing in the paper yesterday about the new bank branch right down the street from you?”
Gloria closed her eyes for a moment. “I did. But I was going to tell you what Elaine Johnson told me.”
“It’s fine.” Luke’s mom waved off his apology. “She and I talked for quite a while actually, and during the course of it, I found out about a girl who might be good for you.”
“Really?” Luke’s voice was flat and his eyes didn’t leave his plate.
Gloria pressed on anyway. “I guess she works at a nursing home or something. She goes to our church and it sounds as though she inherited a decent amount of money from an aunt last year.”
“I see.” Luke stuffed the rest of his sandwich into his mouth to avoid saying anything else right away. His mom was always warning him that women might pretend to like him for his money. He thought her fears were ridiculously unfounded. He had been on three dates since college and none had led to second dates. There were times when he almost wished someone would pretend to like him. It would not be for the millions of dollars at his disposal if no woman would stick around long enough to find out about it.
“So what do you think?” Gloria prompted her son.
“What do I think of this girl I know nothing about?”
“You know that at least with her you wouldn’t have to worry about… She wouldn’t be in need of…”
“Mom, you know as well as I do that people who have money can still want more. Besides, it’s not as though I go around advertising our wealth. I hope to have a reasonable opinion of a girl’s character before I say something.”
“You don’t have to advertise things when you insist on living in that itty bitty town. You don’t think everyone in Hartford started talking about you like some sort of Mr. Bingley the same day you bought the house?”
Luke tipped his head to the side. “Is that a Jane Austen reference?”
“My point is that you can’t hide it and that it doesn’t matter anyway because when I talked to Elaine I arranged for her to introduce me to Rebecca so that I could introduce her to you.”
“Rebecca, huh?” It was obvious that this introduction would make his mom happy and Luke didn’t see the harm in playing along. She wasn’t asking anything as bad as a blind date. He could say hello to a young woman at church. This Rebecca would lose interest as soon as he said something ridiculous anyway.
“Yes, Rebecca Hilson. I hear she’s very pretty.” Gloria Foster nodded as though this was a good thing. Luke wasn’t too concerned with her appearance, but the name meant something to him.
“I think that’s what Zander called the haunted house.”
“He called it what?” Gloria asked. She had gotten the acceptance she wanted and could switch gears.
“Zander is the kid who mows my lawn.”
“He was telling me about a house in town that everyone says is haunted. I think he called it the old Hilson house.”
“Could be a relative. It’s something you can ask her about if you end up taking her to dinner.”
“If, Mom,” Luke said. “Just as long as you focus on the if in that sentence.” He stood to take his plate to the sink and asked, “Do you have anything else planned for today?”
“I was hoping you could help me move the dressers in the White and Wildflower rooms.”
Luke was glad his mom was behind him with her own plate because she couldn’t see the involuntary eye roll. He had no idea why she was never satisfied with the furniture arrangement in the house. He tried to make his voice teasing as he said, “I meant do you have any place you need to be, not do you have any chores for me to do.”
Gloria shrugged. “I’ve just… I’ve been looking at those rooms this week and I think it was a mistake to change the dressers.”
Luke turned to her and gave an exaggerated bow. “Your wish is my command.”
She knew he was only kidding, but Gloria still sort of wished he wouldn’t make it sound as though she was always ordering him around. They went upstairs together as soon as lunch was cleared away. The first room they came to was the one Gloria had named the Wildflower Room.
A wooden sign hung on the door from a gold-colored chain. Gloria had painted the name and the flowers around it before Luke was born. It had been his bedroom his entire childhood. Sometime during middle school, he had begun to beg his mother to rename the room or at least refrain from calling it the Wildflower Room when any of his friends were around.
She forgot this bargain once when he was fourteen. Luke had been sitting at their kitchen table helping two boys with geometry homework. His mom put a neatly folded sweatshirt next to the textbooks and told him to take it up to his Wildflower bedroom as soon as they were done.
The other boys shrugged it off as one of those embarrassing things moms say. Luke went upstairs later that night with a permanent marker. He turned all five of the bedroom signs around and relabeled them. He began by writing Luke’s Room on the back of the Wildflower sign. The White Room became the Black Room, the Wish Room became the You Wish Room and the Willow Room became the Big Ugly Tree Room. On the room where his parents slept, he wrote Witch’s Castle.
Luke’s father had been furious and doled out a lengthy grounding. He made his son paint over the words on all the signs, starting with the Winter Room, and hang them properly when they were dry. Two days later, however, Luke came home from school to find that his mom had neatly stenciled over his paint job on one of the rooms. No one ever said anything about the change, but the words Luke’s Room had remained facing out until he left for college.
He entered the room now knowing those words were still on the back of the flowery sign. He pulled the drawers out of the dresser to make it easier to move while his mom told him some of the things she had done during the week. He moved the dresser while explaining a few things he was doing at work. Gloria was attending a charity dinner the following night and she talked about that while he pulled the drawers out of the other dresser. They reminisced about Luke’s father while he moved that second dresser and for a while afterward.
When Luke decided he needed to leave because he had a few chores to do at his own house, Gloria asked if she would see him at church in the morning.
“Mom,” he said, “I’m always at church. Why don’t you ask me what you really want to ask?”
“Fine. Will you try to duck out before I have a chance to introduce you to the young woman I mentioned earlier?”
Luke sighed even though he just asked her to say that. “I promise to be polite. But you should not expect anything to come of it.”
“You never know,” Gloria said as she opened the door for him. Then she frowned at her driveway. “Is there any sort of clause that says you can return that truck in a certain amount of time? Maybe when someone else is working?”
“I don’t want to return the truck, Mom. I told you I like it.” He waved as he pulled the keys out of his pocket.
Gloria closed the door and watched through the window as he drove off. People had been taking advantage of Luke Foster most of his life and it drove his mother nuts. She spent his early school days replenishing supplies that classmates borrowed and never returned. Later he became known as the kid who could be counted on to help with homework. She didn’t see nearly enough of him during high school because he was always giving someone a ride somewhere. And in college, she had to pay off his first girlfriend, a conniving young woman who had intended to marry Luke simply to gain access to his bank account.
Gloria really hoped Rebecca turned out to be the sort of person who would appreciate her boy and not the kind to try to sell him a truck he didn’t want.
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