The love story between William Lerner and Caroline Esterman wasn't really a love story at all. It was an all too familiar tale of two people, born into old money and power, using each other to spread their influence and joining their empires. William Lerner came from a long line of Harvard educated surgeons. He was an ornery man with a quick temper and a penchant for expensive whiskey who had been blessed with the most delicate pair of hands that Boston had ever seen -- gifted with the finesse to remove the type of neurological tumors that lesser surgeons would deem "inoperable". Lerner was nationally known and spent a great deal of his time leaving his young wife alone in a house with empty rooms, shuttling himself across the country from hospital to hospital to attempt impossible surgeries on lost causes.
Though William felt no real affection or love for his wife (he felt sometimes that he was incapable of producing those emotions), they knew that their marriage came with certain expectations. When all of their high society friends started getting pregnant, they decided it was time for them to follow suit -- to produce an heir, someone to carry on the familial legacy that William had worked so hard to maintain. After less than a year of trying, and more than three months of morning sickness, Caroline called her husband at a Hilton in Texas to let him know that he was going to be a father.
Staying loyal to his wife was difficult with all of the time that they spent apart. William was a man with needs, after all, and he found a way to fulfill them in nearly every city that he visited. April of 1970 found him in Seattle, Washington, where he was attempting to remove a particularly nasty grade V intratentorial tumor. It was a surgical technician who barged into the OR, arms poised above her waist to preserve the sterile field, to tell him that he had just become a father. Elias Maxwell Lerner, a son. 9lbs 8oz, 18 and 3/4 inches. There was no celebratory champagne or lit cigars, he simply nodded to the news and continued with his work.
Throughout his childhood, Eli would learn that his father was notoriously hard to please. Any A's that he brought home could have been A+'s, and if he got an A+, his father wanted to know why he hadn't gotten extra credit. His mother was everything that his father was not. Caroline was warm and inviting, caring and loving, and she came to be the center of Eli's world. It was Caroline who taught him about Judaism, the religion that her parents had actively practiced, and it was Caroline who stood beside him at his Bar Mitzvah while his father was in Europe for a medical conference. Eli spent so much time with his mother that naturally, it was he who first to notice the twitches. The spasms. The "fasciculations", his father would remind him.
It was borderline ironic that the neurosurgeon's wife would get a genetic, terminal neurological disorder. Caroline deteriorated, and she deteriorated quickly. It was only three years from the official diagnosis to the paralysis of her diaphragm, and when Eli was 10, she signed an order to forgo resuscitation. Her death hit him hard. The only source of light and warmth in his house had been snuffed out. William continued to work as if nothing had ever happened, leaving Eli in the care of a stern, overbearing, German nanny. Through her, Eli became fluent in German, and also learned the consequences of not following her stringent set of rules.
Eli excelled in school and brought home accolade after accolade, none of which garnered any sign of approval from his father. He graduated from high school at age sixteen with college credits under his belt and a shining acceptance letter to Harvard. Eli had chosen to go into genetics to learn more about the disease that had claimed his mother's life. William celebrated by further fermenting his liver in a pint of whiskey. It was in the first few years of college that Eli met her, the future ex-Mrs. Lerner. Up until they started dating, his romantic exploits had consisted of little more than casual hook ups and flings, but there was something about the way that she approached him that allowed her to stand apart from the others. She was brilliant, she was beautiful, and she didn't take any of his shit. It was a breath of fresh air, right up until his genetic predisposition toward infidelity caught up with him.
He graduated from Harvard at the top of his class and settled into a career as a geneticist, marrying his college sweetheart and playing the role of the dutiful husband. The notoriety that his father had garnered over his illustrious career reflected on Eli, who quickly became one of the top geneticists in the country. He, like his father, traveled often for work. He, like his father, was a man with needs. He, like his father, found ways to satisfy those needs. When he was 26, he got the call that his dalliances had caught up with him. One of his late night conquests was "late". Eli, married with a career on the rise, couldn't handle the PR nightmare than came with an illegitimate child -- so he had her sign an NDA and paid her a substantial settlement.
The model gave the child, his son, up for adoption soon after his birth, and Eli didn't hear from her again. It was around this time that he had shifted his focus to a business start up. With his name at the helm, he was able to engineer a functioning business from the ground up, operating as the founder and CEO of magnetron biotech. Soon after the grand unveiling, his wife caught him sleeping with his CFO. That was the last straw in the slow demise of their union.
His separation and subsequent divorce sent him on a spiral of self destruction, making life a virtual hell for his PR manager. Eli began to fill his time with bronzed models in St Tropez, finding too much comfort at the bottom of the bottle and impulse buying the Boston Bruins as a $20m midlife crisis. In an effort to save his public image, she suggested that he reconnect with his son, so in January of 2019, he hired a PI to track him down and moved to San Francisco in hopes of reconnecting. Eli spends his time as an adjunct professor in genetics at Stanford while moonlighting at UCSF as a genetic counselor.