We drove home in silence. All of us were moved by Ethan's story. The first thing Evelyn did when we got home was call Larry. He answered quickly.
"Is something wrong?" he asked.
"You are a wonderful man," my mom breathed as Evelyn put the phone on the table.
"Thanks but what prompted that?"
"We just got back from visiting Ethan Monos," I said quietly.
Larry didn't talk for a long time. I heard him sniffle and I closed my eyes, crying quietly. Artemis wrapped his arms around me and I cried into his chest. I felt a few tears land on my head.
"He's a wonderful little boy," he said finally. "I was at the children's ward visiting my nephew when I heard a little boy say something about the Kilgores. This was shortly after you sent out the invitations to have some people design them to be created, Evelyn. I poked my head in and he had a wonderful design. I offered to make it for him. Which one did you choose?"
"They chose his," my mom answered when neither Artemis or I could talk through our tears.
"Please tell me it wasn't out of pity," Larry said immediately.
"No," Artemis said in a thick voice. "We chose it then looked him up."
"Larry, I need you to start putting together a fundraiser," Evelyn said in a business tone voice. "We're going to pay for Ethan's procedure."
"Evelyn, it's $60,000."
"I'm aware," Evelyn said coldly. "Cancer took my husband. It's not taking a ten year old boy! I've already spoken with the doctor. He'll be having the procedure a few days after the wedding. He's going to be the ring bearer at the wedding, as well."
"This is a great thing you guys are doing," he said.
"I'm not hungry anymore," I muttered.
"Neither am I," Artemis whispered. "Let's go to bed."
He took my hand and we went upstairs. That night we slept in my bed. I cried into his chest more. My heart was breaking. Judging by the way his body was shaking, I wasn't the only one. I'm sure that seeing that little boy in the hospital bed had reminded him of his father.
Before we had left, Artemis did one more thing for the boy. He had given him his coat. Ethan looked like the President had given him the key to the White house.
"You okay, sweetheart?" I whispered. I felt him shake his head. "Is there anything I can do?"
"Just stay here," he said and began to sob audibly.
I moved as close to him as I could.
I couldn't focus on work the next day. Deidre was working at the coffee shop so I didn't have her to help me. I sat in the office, trying to read the reports my mom had put me in charge of. She was at the computer, also completely silent. She sat as if she was typing but she wasn't moving. I glanced up to see her face glistening with tears.
"Mom," I whispered, standing up and opening my arms.
"Artemis," she sobbed and I hugged her. "I'm sorry I spent all that money but I couldn't-"
"Hey, it's your money, Ma," I said. "Even if it was mine, I would have done the same thing. He's-He's too young."
The phone rang and my mother sighed heavily. She cleared her throat.
"Kilgore Productions this is Evelyn speaking, how can I help you?" She sat down and pulled her notebook to her. She shook her head. "Mr. Hemp, I have been more than patient with you. Please stop calling me or I will refuse any future business with you."
She hung up and shook her head. After that, things seemed to return to normal. A few more calls came in from clients apologizing again. I didn't realize how many we had until we were getting all these apologies. After lunch, the caterer called.
"Hold on," my mom said and passed me the phone.
"Artemis Kilgore," I said.
"Hi, Artemis. My name is Lauren Gaye. I'm your caterer. How are you?"
"Just fine, Miss Gaye. How are you?"
"Call me Lauren. I'm doing well, thank you for asking. I'm calling to set up the time and place to go over the menu for your wedding."
"Right," I said and thought. "How about at my place of residence at 8 tonight? Is that doable?"
"Of course, Mr. Kilgore."
"That was the caterer," I told my mom, passing the phone back to her. "They're coming tonight."
"It's the 20th," I pointed out. "We need to get on the ball. When is Deidre getting her dress?"
"We have an appointment scheduled on Monday," she answered. "Which reminds me, you'll be running thins then," she added casually.
I dropped the report in my hand and hurried to pick it up.
"What?" I asked.
"I want to be there," she shrugged. "And it's a perfect chance for you to get a feel for the company."
I nodded. "Yeah. A feel for the company. Right."
I picked Deidre up at 7 and told her about the caterer.
"I doubt they cook as well as you do," she said, "but I'm always up for free food."
I kissed her a cheek when we got to a stop light.
"You're a sweetheart." I cleared my throat. "So my mom said you're getting your dress on Monday."
She beamed. "I can't wait, Artemis," she breathed. I didn't answer, not wanting to ruin that smile on her face. I should have known she would've picked up on it, though, when she said, "What's the matter?"
"I'll be running the company while you guys are there," I said, pulling into the garage and shutting the door on the paparazzi.
I turned the car off but neither of us got out. I expected her to say how great it was for me and the perfect opportunity. I was waiting for her to say how wonderful I would be. Instead, she unbuckled her seatbelt, leaned over, and kissed me.
I put my hand in her hair and sighed. I loved her surprise kisses.
"It's okay to be nervous," she said softly, running her finger down my nose lightly. "It's a big company you've got there."
"But what if I mess up?" I whispered.
She smiled and put her forehead on the side of my head. "Then you'll fix it."
I shut my eyes and hugged her tightly.
Food was everywhere. We both stopped when we got in the house and stared at it all. My mother was holding a squirming Spaz. She was desperately trying to get to a dish of salmon. Deidre looked uncomfortable and I knew why.
"We'll be a minute," I said and took her upstairs. I went into my room and closed the door. I looked into her eyes. "It's okay to say no."
"But there's so much food down there, Artemis," she whispered. "What will happen with what's left?"
We both knew the answer and she looked away. I thought for a few minutes.
"Do you still have Margie's number?" I asked and she nodded. "We'll call her. She can pick it up and serve it at the kitchen tomorrow night."
She beamed and kissed my lips.