Read Jack's Widow Online

Authors: Eve Pollard

Tags: #General, #Contemporary Women, #Fiction

Jack's Widow

BOOK: Jack's Widow
3.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub






He had hurt her, betrayed her so many times that…



Jackie had always liked N Street. On the day that…



Red Square has never looked more beautiful, he thought.



Over the years she had come to accept that everything…



Not one of the four hundred guests assembled in the…



For the rest of his life Deck would wonder how…



Marilyn’s suicide made the front pages of all the newspapers…



A few days later the photograph was published.



Jackie wrote to Guy asking for help. Now that she…



It was modesty that made her turn her back to…



On one of the last warm nights of summer, the…



Even though the Oval Office contained both the veteran CIA…



After the meeting the general went straight to La Guardia…



The news was bad, very bad.



The moment the plane soared above Dallas, Fort Worth, the…



On the drive downtown Jackie thought about how to deal…



From the moment the decision was made Jackie was aware…



The honeymoon had been better than either of them had…



The CIA kept in touch with Jackie but made only…



Guy was depressed because he had found nothing.



The adults devoted themselves to calming the children. While waiting…




Jack’s Widow
is a work of fiction. While many of the characters portrayed here have some counterparts in the life and times of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, the characterizations, dates of events, time frame, and incidents presented are totally the products of the author’s imagination. Accordingly,
Jack’s Widow
should be read solely as a work of fiction, not as a biography of Jackie Kennedy Onassis or as a factual retelling of her, the Kennedy family, the Bouvier family, the Onassis family, or anyone else’s story.


e had hurt her, betrayed her so many times that she had willed him dead. Often.

Now the November tone of the muffled drum, the black veiling grazing her cheeks, and the mutter of the supple soles of the great and the good marching behind her were proof that her wish had come true.

As the watery Washington sun rubbed its back on the Lincoln Memorial she calmed herself by fastening her gaze on the mane of the riderless horse up ahead.

Her whole life had been a preparation for this moment.

Long before she had become the First Lady she had assumed the qualities of responsibility and reliability.

As the eldest of her mother’s four children, Jackie had been programmed. Her basic instincts had always been to lead, to protect. She would not flinch, she would not fail in these last few hours before they laid him to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.





Everything had changed so fast that it seemed as if all she had done was blink.


That bit of shade up ahead, beneath the underpass, would be a welcome relief from the Dallas sun.


The air filled with the black noise of bullets and then his flesh and blood spurting, splurging, spilling across her.


A last glance at his dear, dead face in the operating room.


Kissing his coffin while her two children and her whole nation looked to her for help.


Tipped out of the White House and removed from the rituals of state, the men and the manuals of influence.


Spirited into a new and unfamiliar home, unable to sleep, unable to cry.


If only she didn’t have to open her eyes.

Nothing was as it had been.

Even the children seemed different, more excitable, altogether less controlled now that there were so many omissions from the calm order of their previous life, the biggest of these being the absence of their father.

John, the baby—no baby, he’s three now, she told herself—had never known anything other than being the president’s son, never lived anywhere but the White House. His life would have been in a complete turnaround if it hadn’t been for Maud Shaw, the reliable British nanny. During those dark, last days she had carefully gathered up every teddy bear, every toy, every blanket that belonged to her tiny charges and watched over them all until the moment she could unpack them.

Unfortunately she hadn’t been allowed to do the same for their mother. Whenever the middle-aged Englishwoman had offered to help she had been rebuffed, very deferentially but very definitely.

Some of Jackie’s belongings had followed the sad cavalcade that took them the mile to their new home, but none of the casual clothes that she wore for her daily exercises had yet surfaced. Even her favorite hairbrush was on the missing list.

At first she was too depressed to notice their absence, but as the days turned into weeks she had a growing obsession that these and other familiar objects might be the key to unleashing her emotions. Nothing else seemed to be able to do so.

Whenever she asked where this or that might be, she was fobbed off by the one person that she would have expected to know, her mother.

Janet Norton Lee Bouvier Auchincloss would have liked to tell her grieving daughter the truth about her belongings, but on the night of the assassination she had taken advice from the family physician, who had insisted that for the sake of her daughter’s mental health it was imperative that she never lay eyes on the bloodied pink and navy suit again.

Janet also knew that many of the items Jackie was looking for were no longer in the White House.

Even before his coffin had landed at Washington’s Andrews Air Force Base, Robert Kennedy, the late president’s brother, had arranged for the removal of everything related to him.

Soon Janet realized that, in their zeal, the Kennedys had also gathered up items personal to her daughter. Now they were in cartons in a guarded ware house especially acquired for their safekeeping.

Janet had been to see them. She wanted to ensure that when the Dallas suit was found it was not sent to the Georgetown house but was dispatched to her own home.

She was assured that her daughter’s things would soon emerge, but that it was important that every carton of contents from the presidential home was categorized so that Jack’s legacy, every
thing from his papers to his rocking chair, would be sent to the archivists for the library in Boston that was to be dedicated to his memory.

To Janet the process seemed secretive and lengthy, but ever since they had taken control over her daughter’s wedding she knew not to argue with the Kennedy family.

For her daughter Jackie, this new life seemed doubly out of control.

It wasn’t just the loss of her husband that made her unhappy, it was the swift change in her position that made her feel that she was doomed to hang on to an existence that resembled a ride on an unstable old steam train rattling along at a feverish pace. In her imagination, a procession of silent, staring strangers insisted on shoveling coal into the furnace that powered the engine. It seemed vital to them that the train must continue to hurl itself along. No allowance was made for her to slow things down.

Part of this rush concerned finding her and her children a new home. The place they lived in now was a gift of diplomacy, lent to them so that they could exit the White House fast. In a few weeks it too would be behind them. Her sister and mother turned up daily with sympathy and real estate information.

Jackie let the two of them push her into an acquisition. Despite the silence from her grieving parents-in-law on Cape Cod, her mother was already working in collusion with them. One telephone call had ensured they would pay for whatever was picked out.

As the moving date drew closer and Jackie showed absolutely no interest in visiting or refurbishing her future home, Janet felt that she had no choice but to tackle the job.

Unable to discuss the house, home furnishings, or any other aspect of her future with her child, Janet decided to reproduce the identical fabrics and colors that Jackie had selected for the private quarters in the White House. She knew that this was a risky strategy. Would reintroducing the designs that her daughter had chosen as the background for family life help or hold up the healing pro
cess? Janet had no way of knowing, but she feared that selecting something different that her daughter viewed as tasteless might induce more unhappiness for them all.

Apart from being with Caroline and John, Jackie spent her time reading the newspapers and magazines from every nation that included coverage of her husband’s assassination and funeral. As she carefully filed away the best reports in the three languages she understood, English, French, and Spanish, she told herself that she was doing this for the children…so that later on they would be able to read how much their father’s death had shocked the world. She knew that soon those November days would morph into history. These shrieking headlines showed how it had actually felt. Their immediacy yelled out from every paragraph and picture caption. The scream that had circled the globe.

In truth she was hunting for the words that would move her to tears. A few days later, as the huge cartons, full of their old life as the first family, arrived, she fell on them, hunting for something, anything, that would lead her to the natural mourning she yearned for.

She pounced on the few love notes he had written. He had never been a flowery writer or a romantic one. Even his witticisms were unable to unlock her unshed tears.

Riffling through the mounds of unimportant thank-you notes and putative White House dinner menus she realized that there was much of her past still unaccounted for. As trunk after trunk was disgorged and not a necktie or a cuff link that belonged to him had been delivered, she finally called the White House herself. Upset that their former boss blamed them for the delay, the White House staff advised her to contact the Kennedy family.

In a fury she confronted her mother.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she shouted at the trim fifty-five-year-old Janet Auchincloss. “You know how I feel, you know how desperate I am to find Jack’s personal things. You know I’ve spent night after night looking for things that mean something.”

Seeing her daughter angry made Janet defiant. It always did.
Even as a little girl her firstborn had been capable of taking the moral high ground. Their relationship had never been easy.

She interrupted. “On that terrible day, before I could start to come to terms with…it—” Janet, in the way of her generation, could never mention death or dying. The word was not allowed past her lips.

She tried again. As always, when she felt her eldest daughter was on her high horse, she was determined not to be bested.

“It was out of my hands. I did what I could. I was advised that we would have to move you out quickly. But even before I could begin to pack, his family let me know that they insisted on doing it all. ‘Preserving the legend’ was what they called it.

“Anyway, what would you have done with it all? They said that they were keen not to lose any of the papers, the ones that were to go to Boston for the library as we agreed. I just thought that it was for the best.” Janet was now speaking to her daughter’s swiftly receding back.

The slim widow wasn’t waiting to hear the rest. Dressed only in black Capri pants, ballerina flats, and a cream cashmere sweater, she flew out of the house, jumped in the car, and drove off without waiting for the Secret Service detail.

She so rarely went out, and for the past few years she’d never done so on her own.

She looked around at the capital city. The flags were flying for a new president now. She probably imagined it but didn’t they look a little different, less buoyant? A little sad and tired?

She noted the Secret Service car had caught up to her. She was not hard to follow since nowadays she always took this route to avoid driving close to the White House. She pulled her sunglasses from the glove compartment and settled down to enjoy the drive out of the city.

Washington in the afternoon had a sunny chill that enhanced the grandeur of the nation’s best-known buildings. The Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument gleamed.

As she turned into the gravel drive that led up to her brother-in-
law’s sprawling mansion she reflected that this was another home that had fallen apart. For all its rustic beauty the house looked unkempt. This was not unusual. Her sister-in-law had followed their mother-in-law’s example. Loads of children were born in quick succession and the kids basically raised each other. The children turned out to be very close to one another, especially the eldest few who grew up very fast because they became little parents early in life. One or two of them were just starting to be on the wild side of adventurous.

So the sight of two waterlogged sunbathers perching on the steps of the outdoor pool, their matching cushions floating on the pale blue water and a wooden sled left upended on the dipping net of the tennis court was not that unexpected. It was the deflated footballs in the gutters and the silence as she entered the house that were different.

As the back door was on the latch she opened it, shouting “hello” until she got inside. She peered into the kitchen; it was two hours after lunch and the large room was empty. Several dirty plates, cold leftovers, and more than a dozen empty wine and beer bottles were visible.

Jackie began opening doors. No one was in the sitting room or the den. She was edging toward the library when from above she could hear a baby crying and an older child shouting at it to keep quiet.

She went up into the nursery. Here, at least, there was a semblance of order.

The two-year-old sat on a rocking horse, her pink dress the same color as the delicate rosebud wallpaper with its matching curtains. The same fabric surrounded the antique crib in which a six-month-old squealed with hunger.

She and the children’s nanny seated themselves on either side of the fireplace. Jackie asked for the baby and the glass bottle and for the first time since the assassination did something that made her feel useful and good. This was so much easier than trying to answer her children’s questions.

Under gentle interrogation she discovered that the mess in the kitchen was due to the daily arrival of old pals who had once worked for her husband; they were using the house as a “for-old-times’-sake” club.

On weekends the elder children had taken to spending their days driving around the estate in their father’s car. The look in the nanny’s eye confirmed her worry; the eldest was only thirteen.

Nanny was too loyal to mention that the children were, like the whole house hold, somewhat out of control.

Their father, Bobby, sat in his study most of the day with the curtains closed, mourning his brother in the gloom with nothing but a small desk light. He mostly slept there too. His wife, Ethel, seemed only able to rest after lunch. Since the assassination the schedule had been unvaried: extra house hold staff would arrive in the afternoon when the children were brought back from school. They were essential since the house now needed twenty-four-hour help. They would come in and clear lunch and then prepare supper for the family and the possible twenty extra guests that might, and often did, turn up.

As Jackie walked along the corridor a sign from the nanny made her slip quietly by the master bedroom. Her sister-in-law would be sleeping inside, but Jackie was not going to be deterred from searching for her dead husband’s belongings. The White House staff had led her to believe that she would find some of the things that she was looking for in Robert Kennedy’s home.

Her brother-in-law, the calm and capable one, was bound to help her.

She continued along the long corridor that followed the line of the house. Outside on the loggia the branches of wisteria, gnarled and bent, framed the picture windows. At the end of the corridor double doors opened onto a huge study.

BOOK: Jack's Widow
3.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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