Authors: Danielle Steel
for the bitter
and the sweet.
with all my love,
A novel for our times, a story of choices and new beginnings
Never settle for less than your dreams. Somewhere, sometime, someday, somehow, you'll find them.
had her camera poised as an unruly army of nine-year-old boys ran across the playing field after the soccer ball they had been heatedly pursuing. Four of them collapsed in a heap, a tangle of arms and legs, and she knew that somewhere in the midst of them was her son, Sam, but she couldn't see him as she shot a never-ending stream of pictures. She had promised to take photographs of the team, as she always did, and she loved being there, watching them on a warm May afternoon in Westport.
She went everywhere with her kids, soccer, baseball, swimming team, ballet, tennis. She did it not only because it was expected of her, but because she liked it. Her life was a constant continuum of car pools, and extracurricular activities, peppered with trips to the vet, the orthodontist, the pediatrician when they were sick or needed checkups. With four children between the ages of nine and fourteen, she felt as though she lived in
her car, and spent the winters shoveling snow to get it out of the garage and down the driveway.
India Taylor loved her children, her life, her husband. Life had treated them well, and although this wasn't what she had expected of her life in the early years, she found that it suited her better than expected. The dreams that she and Doug had once had were no longer relevant to life as they now knew it, who they had become, or the place they had drifted to since they met twenty years before in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica.
The life they shared now was what Doug had wanted, the vision he had had for them, the place he wanted to get to. A big, comfortable house in Connecticut, security for both of them, a houseful of kids, and a Labrador retriever, and it suited him to perfection. He left for work in New York at the same time every day, on the 7:05 train out of the Westport station. He saw the same faces, spoke to all the same people, handled the same accounts in his office. He worked for one of the biggest marketing firms in the country, and he made very decent money. Money wasn't something she had worried about much in the early days, not at all in fact. She had been just as happy digging irrigation ditches and living in tents in Nicaragua, Peru, and Costa Rica.
She had loved those days, the excitement, the challenges, the feeling that she was doing something for the human race. And the occasional dangers they encountered seemed to fuel her.
She had started taking photographs long before that, in her teens, taught by her father, who was a correspondent
The New York Times.
He spent most of her childhood years away, on dangerous assignments in war zones. And she loved not only his photographs, but listening to his stories. As a child, she dreamed of a life like his one day. And her dreams came true when she herself began freelancing for papers at home while she was in the Peace Corps.
Her assignments took her into the hills, and brought her face-to-face with everything from bandits to guerrillas. She never thought of the risks she took. Danger meant nothing to her, in fact she loved it. She loved the people, the sights, the smells, the sheer joy of what she was doing, and the sense of freedom she had while she did it. Even after they finished their stint with the Peace Corps, and Doug went back to the States, she stayed in Central and South America for several months, and then went on to do stories in Africa and Asia. And she managed to hit all the hot spots. Whenever there was trouble somewhere, for a while at least, India was in it, taking pictures. It was in her soul, and in her blood, in a way that it had never been in Doug's. For him, it had been something exciting to do for a time before he settled down to “real life.” For India, it
real life, and what she really wanted.
She had lived with an insurgent army in Guatemala for two months, and had come up with fantastic photographs, reminiscent of her father's. They had won her not only praise internationally, but several prizes, for her coverage, her insight, and her courage.
When she looked back on those days later on, she realized she had been someone different then, a person she thought of sometimes now, and wondered what had
happened to her. Where had that woman gone, that wild free spirit filled with passion? India still acknowledged her, yet she also realized she no longer knew her. Her life was so different now, she was no longer that person. She wondered sometimes, in her dark room, late at night, how she could be satisfied with a life so far removed from the one she had once been so in love with. And yet, she knew with perfect clarity, that she loved the life she shared with Doug and the children in Westport. What she did now was important to her, as much as her earlier life had been. She had no sense of sacrifice, of having given up something she loved, but rather of having traded it for something very different. And the benefits had always seemed worth it to her. What she did for them mattered a great deal to Doug and the children, she told herself. Of that, she was certain.
But there was no denying, when she looked at her old photographs, that she had had a passion for what she did then. Some of the memories were still so vivid. She still remembered the sheer excitement of it, the sick feeling of knowing she was in danger, and the thrill of capturing the perfect moment, that explosive split second in time when everything came together in one instant in what she saw through her camera. There had never been anything like it. If nothing else, she was glad she'd done it, and gotten it out of her system. And she knew without a doubt that what she had felt was something she had inherited from her father. He had died in Da Nang when she was fifteen, after winning a Pulitzer the year before. It had been all too easy for India to follow in his footsteps. It was a course she couldn't have
altered at the time, or wanted to. She needed to do it. The changes she had made came later.
She returned to New York a year and a half after Doug had gone home, when he had finally issued an ultimatum. He had told her that if she wanted a future with him, she had better “get her ass back to New York” and stop risking her life in Pakistan and Kenya. And for only a brief moment, it had been a tough decision. She knew that a life much like her father's was out there for her, maybe even a Pulitzer like his one day, but she knew the dangers too. It had ultimately cost him his life, and to some extent his marriage. He had never really had a life he cared about beyond the moments when he risked everything for the perfect shot, with bombs exploding all around him. And Doug was reminding her that if she wanted him, and any kind of normalcy, she was going to have to make a choice sooner or later, and give up what she was doing.
At twenty-six, she married Doug, and worked for
The New York Times
for two years, taking photographs for them locally, but Doug was anxious to have children. And when Jessica was born shortly before India turned twenty-nine, she gave up her job at
, moved to Connecticut, and closed the door on her old life forever. It was the deal she had agreed to. Doug had made it very clear to her when they got married that once they had children, she had to give up her career. And she had agreed to do it. She thought that by then she'd be ready. But she had to admit, when she left the
and turned her attention to full-time motherhood, it was harder than she expected. At first, she really missed working. In the end, she only looked back once or twice
with regret, but eventually she didn't even have time for that. With four children in five years, she could barely keep her head above water or take time out to reload her camera. Driving, diapers, teething, nursing, fevers, play groups, and one pregnancy after another. The two people she saw most were her obstetrician and her pediatrician, and of course the other women she saw daily, whose lives were identical to hers, and revolved only around their children. Some of them had given up careers as well, or were willing to put their adult lives on hold until their children were a little older, just as she had. They were doctors, lawyers, writers, nurses, artists, architects, all of whom had given up their careers to tend to their children. Some of them complained a lot of the time, but although she missed her work, India didn't really mind what she was doing. She loved being with her children, even when she ended the days exhausted, with another baby on the way, and Doug came home too late at night to help her. It was the life she had chosen, a decision she had made, a deal she had lived up to. And she wouldn't have wanted to leave her children every day to continue working. She still did the occasional rare story close to home, if she had time for it, once every few years, but she really didn't have time to do it more often, as she had long since explained to her agent.
What she hadn't known, or fully understood before Jessica was born, was just how far from her old life it would take her. Compared to the life she had once led, taking photographs of guerrillas in Nicaragua, and dying children in Bangladesh, or floods in Tanzania, she
had had no idea just how different this would be, or how different she would become once she did it.
She knew she had to close the door on those early chapters of her life, and she had, no matter how many prizes she had won, or how exciting it had been, or how good she was at it. In her mind, and Doug's especially, giving it up was the price she had had to pay for having children. There was just no other way to do it. Some of the women she knew could juggle work at home, a couple of her friends were still lawyers and went into the city two or three days a week, just to keep their hand in. Others were artists and worked at home, some of the writers struggled with stories between the midnight and four A.M. feedings, but eventually gave it up, because they were too exhausted to do it. But for India, it was impossible. There was no way to continue her career, as she had once known it. She kept in touch with her agent and had done local stories from time to time, but covering garden shows in Greenwich had no meaning for her. And Doug didn't even like her doing that much. Instead, she used her camera as a kind of mothering tool, constantly making visual records of her children's early years, or taking photographs of her friends' children, or for the school, or just playing with it as she did now, watching Sam and his friends play soccer. There was no other way to do this. She was bound and chained, set in cement, rooted to her life in a thousand ways, visible and otherwise. And this was what she and Doug had agreed to. And what they had said they wanted. And she had lived up to her end of the bargain, but her camera was always in her hand, at her eye, or
slung over her shoulder. She could never imagine a life without it.
Once in a while, she mused about working again once the kids grew up, maybe in another five years when Sam was in high school. But that was inconceivable to her just now. He was only nine, Aimee was eleven, Jason was twelve, and Jessica fourteen. Her life was a constant merry-go-round of activities between them, after-school sports and barbecues and Little League and piano lessons. The only way to do it all was if you never stopped, never thought of yourself, and never sat down for five minutes. The only respite she had from it was when they went to Cape Cod in the summer. Doug spent three weeks there with them every year, and the rest of the time he commuted on weekends. They all loved their Cape Cod vacations. She took terrific photographs at the Cape every year, and got a little time for herself. She had a darkroom in the house, just as she did in Westport. And at the Cape she could spend hours in it while the kids visited with friends, or hung out on the beach, or played volleyball or tennis. She was less of a chauffeur at the Cape, the kids could ride their bikes everywhere and it gave her more free time, especially in the last two years, since Sam was a little older. He was growing up. The only thing she wondered from time to time was how grown up she was. Sometimes she felt guilty about the books she never had time to read, the politics she had lost interest in. It felt sometimes as though the world beyond was moving on without her. She had no sense anymore of growth or evolution, it was more a question of treading water, cooking dinner, driving kids and getting from
one school year to another. But there was nothing about her life that made her feel that she had grown in recent years.
India's life had been virtually the same for the last fourteen years, since Jessica was born. It was a life of service, sacrifice, and commitment. But the end result was tangible, she could see it. She had healthy, happy children. They lived in a safe, familiar little world that revolved entirely around them. Nothing unsavory or unsafe or unpleasant ever intruded on them, and the worst thing that ever happened to them was an argument with a neighbor's child, or a trauma over lost homework. They had no concept of the loneliness she had felt as a child, with one constantly absent parent. They were unfailingly ministered to and cared for. And their father came home every night for dinner. That was especially important to India, as she knew only too well what it was like not to have that.