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Authors: Danielle Steel

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BOOK: Legacy
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They sat in Brigitte’s living room for a while, and then Amy had to go back to work. She suggested that Brigitte come to her house during the weekend, and Brigitte said she was going to try and work on her book. And for the rest of the afternoon, she just sat and stared into space, trying to absorb everything that had happened to her. No
man. No job. It was a lot to take in all at once, and on Saturday, after hesitating for a full minute, she answered the phone when her mother called. Ted hadn’t called her, or texted her again since the day after their Valentine’s Day dinner. He was entirely willing to let her go and cut off communication. It was easier for him than dealing with how upset she was. He hated crying women. He always said they reminded him of his mother. He was allergic to guilt and blame, and being made to feel like the bad guy. So he disappeared. It seemed cowardly to her.

Her mother was startled when she heard her daughter. “You sound awful. Are you sick?” She was instantly worried. Brigitte was her only child.

“I … no … yes … well, sort of. I’m not feeling great.”

“What do you have, darling? A flu or a cold?” Actually neither, a broken heart.

“Maybe a little of both,” Brigitte said vaguely, wondering how to tell her what had happened that week. She couldn’t bring herself to say the words.

“How’s Ted? Anything new?” Brigitte’s mother always acted as though she expected him to propose at any minute, and couldn’t understand why he hadn’t. Brigitte hated to admit to her what a mess her life was at the moment, or whine about it. Her mother was always so strong and positive and energetic about life. Brigitte admired her a great deal, and had since she was a child.

Brigitte decided to bite the bullet and start with Ted. “Actually, he had some big news this week. Great news for him. He got his own dig in Egypt. He’s leaving in three weeks.” There was silence at the other end of the phone.

“What does that translate to for you? Are you going to Egypt with him?” Her mother sounded worried when she asked. Having her only child in Boston was hard enough. Egypt was nowhere on her map.

“No, I’m not. This is what he’s always wanted, and he’s going to be there for a long time. At least three years, maybe five. And who knows, if he does a good job of it, maybe ten. That pretty much lets me out of the plan.” She tried to sound calm and philosophical about it, more than she felt.

“Did you know about this?” Her mother sounded disapproving and shocked.

“Sort of. I knew it was what he wanted. I guess I never really thought it would happen, but it did, and things are moving pretty fast. So we kind of decided to end it between us this week and move on. He needs to be free to pursue his dream.” She tried to sound up about it, but she was way down, in a dark pit of self-pity and grief.

“What about your dreams? You’ve been with him for six years.” Her mother sounded stern. She wasn’t angry at her daughter, but at Ted. The trouble was that Brigitte had never identified her dream, neither to Ted nor to herself. So now he had his dream, and she had none. “That’s pretty selfish of him to just go off and do his thing,” her mother said bluntly. She sounded angry, in defense of her daughter.

“It’s what he’s wanted since he started working at BU, Mom. I can’t blame him for that. I just somehow forgot that along the way. Anyway, that’s the way it is.” She swallowed hard then, and decided to tell her mother the rest. “It’s been kind of a crazy week actually. I got laid off yesterday, replaced by a computer.”

“You got
fired?”
Her mother sounded stunned.

“Yeah, that’s pretty much the way it is, with six months’ severance,
so I’m okay financially, but it was sort of a surprise. I knew about the computer, I just didn’t know it would replace me. So it’s been kind of a clean sweep. Ted and BU. Maybe it’s easier that way.”

“For whom?” Her mother sounded irate on her behalf. “Not for you certainly. Ted walks out after six years and waltzes off to Egypt, and BU dumps you after ten. I think that’s shocking, on both counts. Do you want me to come up?” Brigitte smiled when she asked. She felt like such a loser, but it was nice to have her mother’s support. Even though she was outspoken and opinionated, she was devoted, good-hearted, and kind, and had always championed her daughter in all things.

“I’m fine, Mom. I’m going to work on the book and see how that goes. This might be a good chance to finish it in record time. I have nothing else I want to do right now.” She still had the class she was taking toward her doctorate that semester, but after what had happened, she was thinking of dropping it and taking a semester off. She wasn’t in the mood for studying and term papers. Working on her book would be more than enough, given how upset she was.

“Why don’t you come down and visit me in New York?” Her mother was seriously worried about her.

“I have nothing to do there, Mom.” Brigitte hadn’t lived in New York since college, and a lot of her friends had moved away. “I want to send my résumé out to some of the schools here, to see what jobs turn up. Six months will go by pretty fast. I could start somewhere else next fall. And work on the book between now and then.” Her mother didn’t sound convinced and was upset for her.

“I hate to see this happen to you, Brigitte, especially with Ted. You can always find another job. But you invested a lot in the relationship
with him. It’s not easy to find someone at your age, and if you want children, you have no time to waste.”

“What do you suggest? Leaflets or billboards? Or full-page ads? It’s my fault too, Mom. I never pressed the point about children and marriage, I didn’t want to. I wasn’t ready either, I always thought I had time. And I figured it was a sure thing with him. I assumed. Well, it wasn’t as sure as I thought. In fact, not at all. He’s not even sure he ever wants to get married or have kids. I guess I missed that message, and I never really asked, not as seriously as I should have. So this is what I get. Maybe no kids.” She felt sad as she said it, and her mother was sad for her.

“He should have said that to you plainly if that was how he felt, and not wasted your time.”

“Maybe. I didn’t think we were in a rush. I wasn’t ready to commit either.” Neither of them said it, but they both knew that now it might be too late. At thirty-eight, she had been suffering from a delusion of youth. Until now. And suddenly her whole world had crashed, both job and man.

“All you girls today think you have forever to get married and have babies. Women have first babies at forty-five and fifty now, with all kinds of crazy medical help. They don’t get married at all. Sixty-year-old women get pregnant, with astounding interventions. It’s not as easy as you all think, and sometimes all these modern techno ideas boomerang and give women a false sense of time. Nature is still on the same schedule it always was, no matter what men have invented to trick her. I hope you’ll be serious about who you get involved with now. You don’t have time to waste anymore.” It was a stern speech and hard to hear, but Brigitte knew she was right.

“I was serious about Ted,” Brigitte said quietly.

“Not as serious as you needed to be, nor was he. You both thought you were still kids.” Brigitte knew she was right about that too. Her mother usually was. It had been easy living that way, but it had all blown up in her face. “Now he’s going off to Egypt, and you’re all alone. That’s very sad.” She sounded sympathetic. She felt terrible for her.

“Yes, it is. But maybe it’s destiny or something. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be.” Brigitte was trying to be philosophical about it.

“I wish he’d made that clear earlier.”

“Yeah, me too.” But Brigitte also realized that they had both been emotionally lazy, cavalier, and immature. They were grown-ups, not kids.

“Let me know if you want to come down. Your room is here for you anytime, and I’d love to see you. I’ve been making some real progress on the genealogy. I want to show you what I’ve found recently. If you get tired of working on your book, you can help me with it.” Brigitte couldn’t think of anything she less wanted to do right now. The history of her mother’s family all the way back to the Dark Ages in France had always been more interesting to her mother than to Brigitte, although she admired her mother’s hard work on it. It had been her mother’s hobby and passion for years. Their family history was a legacy she had always wanted to give her daughter. Brigitte preferred historical mysteries, and their very proper ancestors always seemed too tame and mundane to her.

Brigitte visited Amy and her boys later that afternoon, and on Sunday she got started again on her book. And for the first time ever, she found the material she had gathered and the whole issue of
women’s suffrage tedious and dry. It no longer seemed as important to her as it once had. Everything in her life seemed lackluster and dull now, and without meaning. Without Ted and her job, she even hated her book. She felt as though she’d reached a dead end in every aspect of her life. What was the point?

By Tuesday, she was bored stiff with what she’d written. And she had heard nothing from Ted since the week before. She pressed on with the book, but by the following weekend she was ready to scream and felt like throwing it all away. She was getting nowhere with it. She was too depressed about Ted and losing her job. She had sent her résumé out to other colleges, and it was too soon to hear anything back. She realized that this time, if they offered her a job, she’d have to be willing to take more responsibility than she had before. Her unwillingness to take on greater challenges had made her easy to replace with a computer and had done her out of a job. But she didn’t expect to hear from the schools for a while.

And after working on the book for a week, it finally ground to a stop. She had nothing left to say, no energy to say it, and too little interest in her subject. She was blocked. She was beginning to think about Amy’s suggestion to go to a beach, just to get away for a while. It started to snow again and everything about Boston depressed her. She hated knowing that Ted was getting ready to leave, and suddenly in the space of ten days, she felt as though she no longer had a life. Without a job or a man, she felt like she didn’t have much to keep her in Boston at the moment, and on the spur of the moment, she decided to fly to New York. She needed a break from everything, and her mother was delighted when she called her from the Boston airport.

Brigitte looked out the window on the brief commuter flight. She felt childish doing it, but with everything in her life topsy-turvy, it felt good to be going home. She knew that she needed to start over, but for now, she had no idea where to start, and a few days in New York would do her good. Her mother had suggested that she send her résumé to NYU and Columbia too, but Brigitte didn’t want to live in New York again. It was raining, and as the plane landed, she had no idea where her life was going. She wanted to spend a few days with her mother in the cozy apartment she had grown up in. And after that Brigitte planned to go back to Boston, although she had no idea where her life would lead. All she knew now, after the recent changes in her life, was that she wanted it to be different from before. Settling for “easy and comfortable” no longer seemed like enough.

Chapter 3

Marguerite Nicholson looked relieved and delighted when she opened the door to her daughter. It was pouring rain in New York, and Brigitte was soaked just getting from the cab into the building. Her mother hurried to hang up her wet raincoat, told her to take off her shoes, and a few minutes later handed her a cup of tea as they sat in front of the fire. There was something immensely reassuring about being there for Brigitte, like sinking into a down comforter, or a feather bed, with a sigh of relief. Her mother was a capable, intelligent woman Brigitte could always count on. Marguerite had saved them from disaster and turned tragedy into a good life for both of them. She had built a respectable career in publishing. When she retired the year before, she left as a senior editor, with many well-known books to her credit, and respected in her field. She had put her daughter all through school, for both degrees, and taught Brigitte the importance of an education, and she’d been proud of Brigitte’s accomplishments and plan to get a Ph.D. She was only disappointed when Brigitte settled for an uninspiring job in the admissions office
at BU, and even more so when Brigitte’s seemingly endless years of research never produced her long-promised book. She was as disappointed by that as by Brigitte’s failure to marry and have kids. She wanted her to challenge herself and take life by the horns, but so far Brigitte never had. Marguerite knew she was conscientious and worked hard, but she wanted so much more for her. She was well aware of Brigitte’s aversion to risk-taking and she knew where it came from. All Brigitte had ever wanted was to be safe. Her mother had always wanted a more adventuresome, inspiring life for her. Marguerite knew she was capable of it, but something always seemed to hold Brigitte back. She was still haunted by the traumas of her childhood and her father’s death.

They sat in the cheerful living room of the apartment, and the two women couldn’t have looked more different. Marguerite was as fair as her daughter was dark, although both were tall, with good figures, and whereas Brigitte’s eyes were nearly as dark as her hair, her mother’s were an almost sky blue. They had similar smiles, but different features. Brigitte’s looks and bone structure were far more exotic.

The room was warm and pleasantly decorated, there were a few well-worn antiques, and Marguerite had lit a fire in the fireplace before Brigitte arrived. They sat in front of it in worn but elegant old velvet chairs, drinking tea from the Limoges cups her mother was so proud of, which had been her grandmother’s. Marguerite looked aristocratic and genteel, although nothing in the apartment was of great value, but she had good taste, and had lived there for years. Their home had the patina of time. On every wall, there were bookcases filled with books. It was a home where learning, literature, and education
were revered, and anything about their family history fascinated Marguerite, and always had.

BOOK: Legacy
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