Ellie Jenson and Luke Thayer didn't exactly get along when they were at school together. Unlike Luke, Ellie didn't come from money and being at Harvard made her feel looked down on.
But she makes it through and builds a great career. Fifteen years later Luke shows back up in her life in the most unexpected way possible: He's the new boss.
Not only that, but Luke has changed since their Harvard days. He was paralyzed in an accident some time ago and it seems to have made him a bit more sympathetic.
Could Luke and Ellie be friends now that they've both grown up? Or maybe even more than friends, if Luke gets his way.
When I first met Luke Thayer, I hated him.
If this were a movie, that would have meant I was destined to fall desperately in love with him. That's how it always goes in the movies: first comes hate, then comes a bunch of misunderstandings, then we'd fall hopelessly in love, get married, and have lots of babies. In real life, it doesn't happen that way.
Luke and I met during my first semester as an undergraduate at Harvard University. Yes, the Harvard University. It's a real school and people really do get educated there, other than future presidents. You should know that there are two kinds of people who go to Harvard:
1) Smart and poor
2) Rich and dumb
I fell squarely in the first category. I'll be blunt: I was the biggest nerd in my high school. My many achievements included being valedictorian, captain of the math team, captain of the chess team, and captain of the debate team. In my valedictorian speech, I talked about how we were "the leaders of tomorrow." You can imagine that I was super-popular with the opposite sex when I was in high school. (Not really. I never had a date in the whole four years.)
When I got to college, I quickly declared my major: computer science. It seemed really practical, and also turned out to be a great way to avoid the rich/dumb kids. The rich/dumb kids were mostly business or government majors. I had no idea what kind of major "government" was, but apparently it was wicked easy. If you wanted to spend your nights partying and picking up chicks yet still end up with a 3.7 GPA, then government was the major for you.
So really, the poor/smart kids and the rich/dumb kids at Harvard never even had to interact at all. With one exception:
Expository Writing (a.k.a. "expos") was a required freshman class for every single student at Harvard. We were forced into tiny groups of 10-12 students, in order to discuss and write essays about gothic fiction or 18th-century poetry. It was torture, it was a rite of passage, and it was also how I first met Luke.
My expos class was titled "The Interpretation of Short Stories." I was lucky in that my roommate, Delia Mendez, was in the class with me. I liked Delia, and she was hopelessly poor just like me, so we agreed to share the considerable cost of the course reading material. Everyone else in the class was unfamiliar to me, the usual mix of slightly awkward post-adolescents. But I couldn't help but notice the boy sitting across from me. I would have had to be blind not to.
This guy was possibly the best-looking guy I had ever seen in real life. He had it all: the perfectly chiseled features, the straw-colored hair streaked with sun, the muscles barely concealed by his expensive-looking sweater. He even had a freaking chin cleft! Even though I hated myself for it, it was very hard not to stare. Let me tell you, they didn't make 'em like that at my public high school in Jersey.
We went around the room and had to introduce ourselves, and give three facts about ourselves, two of which were true and the one of which was false. Then everyone had to guess which was which.
"My name is Ellie Jenson," I said, when it was my turn. I offered my three "facts": "I was born with six fingers on each hand and had the extra two removed when I was a baby. I have never read any of the works of William Shakespeare. And I've never left the United States."
I could see everyone in the class looking at me, from my frizzy hair to my hopelessly unfashionable T-shirt and shapeless jeans, trying to work it out. One kid piped up, "Does that even include Shakespeare's sonnets?"
"Yes," I said, because that was one of the true ones. In a true testament to the public schools of New Jersey, I somehow made it through fifteen years of schooling without once being forced to read anything in Old English. I wondered if I'd be as lucky at Harvard. I doubted it.
"It must be the extra-finger thing," another kid said, craning his neck to get a better look at my hands.
I glanced up at the extremely good-looking boy, who was silently studying me. Finally, he smiled smugly. "I bet she's been out of the country at some point. Everyone's at least been to Canada."
And that was the first time I hated Luke Thayer. Because he was absolutely right. I'd been out of the country just once and it was during a drive to Canada. I didn't even need a passport.
The class voted and mostly thought that I had been born with ten fingers. When I held up my hands to show off my tiny scars, Delia cried out, "Ew!"
Luke's turn came soon after mine. "My name is Lucas Thayer the third but everyone calls me Luke," he said. I had never met someone with a roman numeral before and I couldn't help but feel intimidated. "I have spent every summer in Greece since I was an infant. I have seven brothers and sisters. And I speak four languages fluently."
The Greece thing was surely true, as evidenced by his glowing tan and the natural-looking blond streaks in his hair. I found it very hard to believe that Luke could speak any languages other than English fluently, and I even had my doubts about English. Then again, something about Luke screamed out "only child." But maybe in the huge mansion that was surely his home, seven siblings wouldn't be that noticeable.
We voted and it turned out that Luke was, in fact, fluent in Greek, French, and German aside from English. His parents, while Anglo, loved Greece and had a summer home out there. (Actually, he called it "a villa." Arrogant jerk.) He was an only child.
On the way back to our dorm, Delia lectured me on how I needed to never tell anyone about my little twelve-fingered secret because it was "gross" and I'd never get a date. I acted like I didn't care, but the truth was, I was a little worried. I was 18, after all. I didn't want to go through all of college without a boyfriend.
"By the way," Delia said, "you know we have a small celebrity in our class, don't you?"
"Really?" I asked eagerly. "Who?"
"Lucas Thayer the third," she said in the falsely haughty voice that such a name demanded. She giggled. "You know Thayer House?"
Delia raised her eyebrows.
"Oh no," I groaned. "We have Thayer House in our expos class. Fantastic."
"I know," Delia said. "He does seem like an arrogant prick, doesn't he?" She paused thoughtfully. "But you have to admit, he's awfully cute."
"Ugh," I said, despite secretly thinking the same thing myself.
The story was Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man Is Hard to Find." Somehow, I always thought that story was about finding a husband. Apparently, it's not. It's about a family that has an unfortunate run-in with a bandit named The Misfit. I don't want to give away the ending in case you haven't read it, but just so you know, the bandit was neither a good man nor hard to find.
Except Luke Thayer seemed to think The Misfit was in the right. He would not let this go.
"The Misfit has a consistent moral code," Luke kept insisting. "He may be violent, but his moral code never wavers. The grandmother, on the hand... she's completely superficial! She only cares about appearances and what people think of her."
"So being superficial is worse than being a murderer?" I challenged him. "Maybe the grandmother is misguided, but at least she lives her life under the confines of the law."
Luke got this glint in his eyes and I knew exactly what he was about to say. "See," he began. "If you had read Hamlet, you'd know that--"
I had made a massive mistake when I admitted to the class on the first day that I'd never read Shakespeare. From that day forth, any time Luke was struggling in an argument with me, he'd bring up some play from Shakespeare. It was incredibly irritating.
"Oh, please!" I interrupted him. "There are no similarities between this story and Hamlet!"
"Actually," our professor, Dr. Cole, said. "There are some similarities between Hamlet and this story. Luke, would you like to elaborate?"
Have I mentioned that the professor always took Luke's side?
Luke then launched into a spontaneous speech that I was certain he knew was pure bullshit about how O'Connor's story mirrored Hamlet. It was a little bit amazing how he managed to come up with all that on the spot, considering I was 99 percent sure there were no actual similarities between the two stories. But of course, I couldn't say for sure, considering I never read Hamlet and everyone in the class knew it. Anyway, he sure managed to shut me up.
When we got out of class that day, I was absolutely fuming. My hands were balled up into fists and I was grinding my teeth. I couldn't wait to start ranting about Luke to Delia.
"My God," Delia said, shaking her head at me. "Why don't you and Luke just skip the foreplay and have sex already?"
"What?!" Did she really think that there was even a hint of sexual tension between me and that self-involved prick?
"It's so obvious you two like each other," Delia said.
"I do not like Luke!" I shuddered. "He's horrible... he's so self-entitled... and arrogant... and... and..."
No. Not really sexy. Not at all.
And even if I did think so, there was no way in hell he was thinking the same thing about me.