This bit comes from the end of the story What Love Means, so it’s got some spoilers.
I ultimately decided to leave Cal’s situation with his parents more open ended, but this is the outline I had of how a conversation between Cal and his father might go.
My parents were used to getting their way. The only thing I could think of to get any financial support would mean I needed to be willing to lose it all. I didn’t like this plan. But it was all I had. It wasn’t about Max. Or Princeton. It was about my family always calling the shots. I could barely picture a life without them or their money, but I needed at least some control in my life.
I had opening notes prepared for this discussion with my father but instead I asked, “Did you say you were proud of me for a moment and ease up because you realized it would be easier to get me to go the Princeton that way?” It could have been he was proud of me for standing up to him. It could have been his way of changing tactics.
Father didn’t do anything so juvenile as roll his eyes, but I had the feeling he wanted to. “I’m not the villain from a bedtime story. There’s no plotting against you. I thought you could use the encouragement. I didn’t know it would inspire…” he trailed off, lips curling down.
“I was seeing him before that.” Very helpful addition to his conversation I scolded internally.
“Is this really what you wanted to talk about?”
“No, I wanted to discuss our impasse.”
“There’s no impasse. If you want to go to school-“
“Mom likes our image a lot. Every Christmas card mentions that I’m at the top of our class and don’t pretend like you haven’t already boasted to your golfing buddies how your son’s going to your alma matter. Me not going to college, how would that look?”
He stared at me for several moments. Instead of trying to school my features, I let my frustration show and fidgeted. He always saw the minute movements anyway, so why pretend I was calm cool and collected? I’d rather show him that I was the opposite of all those things and still pushing forward anyway. Maybe he would slaughter me in the boardroom. No, definitely. But negotiations with family were different.
“It would be worse for you,” he said eventually. “Especially if you didn’t have any money.”
“I don’t care.” I raised my head defiantly.
“You haven’t worked a day in your life.”
I didn’t point out that I’d organized PTA bake sales and fundraising drives for water polo. That might not count in his view. “I’m not backing down.”
“Your boyfriend is worth that much?”
“No. Having some say over my life is worth that much.”
“Don’t be so dramatic.”
“I’m willing to put Princeton on the table.”
“Oh, you’re willing to spend my money to—”
“Or maybe I won’t go to school. I’ll take a gap year, maybe several.”
“I was going to remind you the time for negotiating is over, but your opening gambit amuses me enough to let you continue.”
“I could manage without school. Maybe I’ll devote myself to my boyfriend and spend the whole time posting pics of me and him online. Maybe I’ll run an ad in the paper.”
“With what money?”
“Then I’ll go door to door.”
“What are you proposing?”
“I have the power position.”
Cal shrugs. “We both have things we want from each other. And I’ve never been in a boardroom. I’m young and dumb enough to stick to my guns even if I shoot myself in the foot.”
“That’s why I’ve never taken you hunting.”
“Are you ready to hear me out?”
“Let’s hear your opening offer.”