Read Tides of the Heart Online
Authors: Jean Stone
Driven by curiosity, Jess had opened the envelope at the first red light on Route 1. It had been a mistake.
Now she sat frozen, staring at the sharply written words meant for her
attention, meant, surely, to make her palms sweat, her pulse race, and her thoughts whir out of control.
Jessica Bates Randall
it read at the top of a sheet of blue paper that matched the envelope postmarked from the place called Vineyard Haven. The words that followed were few, but their impact was powerful.
I am your baby—the one you gave up. Isn’t it time we met?
No name, no signature, nothing else. And no reference to the fact that Jess already knew her baby was dead.
Behind her a horn blasted. Jess pulled her eyes from the letter: the traffic light was green. She shoved the paper in her purse. Then she stepped on the gas and her car moved forward, steered by this woman who could no longer breathe or see past the pain in her heart and the mist in her eyes.…
Also by Jean Stone
Sins of Innocence
Places by the Sea
TIDES OF THE HEART
A Bantam Book / January 1999
All rights reserved.
Copyright © 1999 by Jean Stone
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To everyone who has loved and lost
and grieved their grief,
then found the place to store the good
and the path to moving on.
To Nancy Fitzpatrick for her friendship over the years, and for her courage to leave Manhattan for the other island she so loves; to Nancy’s great friend, Scott True of The Black Dog Tavern, for sharing his stories of the pulse of the Vineyard; to Ann Nelson of Bunch of Grapes Bookstore for directing me to Vineyard Haven and West Chop; to Catherine Mayhew, genealogist and tour guide extraordinaire; and to Joe Mahoney of the Tuckerman House in Vineyard Haven. Thank you all.
And did I mention those folks at The Outermost Inn? Good grief, we cannot forget them. Carol would never allow that to happen! Thanks, gang. You are all truly special.
From the tiny window of her attic bedroom at Mayfield House, she looked down over the steeple-topped landscape of Vineyard Haven, across the gray winter water to the land beyond: “the Mainland,” some Vineyarders called it; “America,” others said.
She turned to the left and studied the dots of the Elizabeth Islands silhouetted against the snow-threatening sky. Then her eyes dropped to the treetops and annoyance inched up her spine: It had always annoyed her that the tall pines blocked her view of West Chop. Of West Chop and the beach and his house. The house she had wasted so much time watching before she’d known the truth.
“It wasn’t fair,” she said in a whisper, though no one but her father was at the inn now, because it was February and the tourists had gone. No one could hear her lament but her father, and whatever ghosts lurked in the two-hundred-year-old, drafty halls. No one could hear her lament, feel her rage, see her tears.
She looked down at the papers that lay on the small oak chest and wondered what her father would think when he learned that she knew—that she found what she’d found in the secret compartment of the old rolltop desk; that she’d found out about the lies that he’d told. The lies they’d all told.
Then, from the pocket of her long black sarong, she extracted a handful of pebbles of smooth sea glass: blue, brown, rich bottle green—misshapen marbles, jewels from
the sea. She rolled them between her fingers and wondered what would happen next.
And if they’d be sorry when they learned what she’d done.
Jessica Bates Randall glanced up the chintz-covered wall to the clock over her sewing machine.
, she thought. It was nearly six and she’d promised to drop off these draperies at Mrs. Boynton’s in time to be hung for a seven-thirty dinner party. The Boyntons lived across town—in the elitest of the elite side of this southern Connecticut town—where Jess had once lived when she’d thought that it mattered.
It would take twenty minutes to get there. Longer, if the late February sky decided to storm, decided to actually do what the TV meteorologist had predicted.
Stomping on the pedal, she returned to her work, guiding the final hem of raw silk through the whirring machine, trying to remember when—before her divorce—this had been her hobby and it had been fun.
But now it was her business—
Designs by Jessica
, read the peach-scripted name on the window glass of the front door. It was her business and her responsibility.
She would not have been late if Maura hadn’t called. But her daughter was plagued with yet another crisis—one in a
never-ending, knotty string since going off to Skidmore two years ago. This time, it was about spring break.
“Mother!” Maura had shrieked. Maura seemed to have taken up shrieking since she’d been in college, as if it were a rite of passage, like keg parties and living off campus. “Liz thinks Costa Rica is cool, but Heather thinks we should go to Lauderdale, that there’s something deeply spiritual about its tradition. But Liz says no way, and I don’t know what to do. They’re leaving it all up to me.…”
A muscle tightened, then tugged, at the base of Jess’s neck. “What makes you so certain I’m going to allow you to go anywhere?” It was asked half in jest, half in earnest—a wounded reflection of a lingering fantasy that Jess could somehow hold on to the maternal control that weakened with each passing year as her children insisted on growing into adults.
“Mother! You can’t be serious!”
“You’re twenty years old, Maura,” Jess replied, feeling more tired than guilty for challenging her daughter in the ongoing battle for her independence. “But I still pay the bills.”
Silence smoldered over the line. Jess could almost see the pout on Maura’s small face—the much-practiced pout that made the delicate, twenty-year-old face look no more than thirteen.
Then Maura spoke. “Daddy said he’d pay for it.”
The lump that swelled in Jess’s chest felt like a fur ball, a fur ball named Charles, that familiar, annoying fur ball that, no matter how hard she tried, simply wouldn’t come out, apparently destined to remain forever lodged in her gullet.
She wanted to say, “It would be nice if he’d been so generous about child support,” but Jess curbed her words, reminding herself to be grateful for her trust fund, for the fact that she’d not needed money from Charles to raise their three children in comfort, that it was only the principle that angered her. The principle, and her pride.
“Then why don’t you pick somewhere different?” Jess asked. “If Heather wants spirituality and Liz wants to be cool, why don’t you go to Sedona? You can bring back all kinds of stories to enlighten your friends.” Years ago, when New Age was still new, Jess had gone to Sedona with Charles. While she’d marveled at the majesty of the red-rock, sculpted, Arizona mountains and soaked in the peace of the candlelit chapel vista, Charles had busied himself buying trinkets and T-shirts and souvenirs to prove to the country club set that he’d been there, to create the illusion there was a depth in his soul.
“Sedona!” Maura exclaimed with another shriek. “Très cool, Mom!”
So Jess had hung up, her daughter appeased for the moment, leaving Jess with an odd taste of lint still lining her throat and the feeling that she’d lost another round, that it was her own fault for spoiling the kids way-past-rotten in the years since the divorce.
She’d made a cup of tea, drank that, made another—all the while trying to focus on how lucky she was, lucky that Chuck had made it through Princeton, though he now worked alongside his father in the Wall Street firm; lucky that Maura had overcome her past traumas and was funneling them toward a degree in clinical psychology; lucky that Travis, her eighteen-year-old joy, had decided to go to Yale next year, so he would be closer to home. So he would be closer to her.
Distracted, was what she had been. Distracted from her work, distracted from her responsibilities, oblivious to the ticking clock that now said her assistants had left for the day and she was late with Mrs. Boynton’s antique-rose-colored, ten-thousand-dollars-worth of overpriced drapes.