‘My arms ache with the need to reach and hold my precious child, and then to never let go. But I can’t. I know I can’t.’
Heather is devastated. There’s no way she can keep her baby. She can barely pay the bills as it is. But when she meets Grace, a wealthy, single career woman, who wants a baby more than anything, Heather believes she has found the perfect adoptive mother.
As Grace and Heather’s lives become entwined, they are tested to breaking point, though neither can deny the other’s love for the child. But just when they think they are learning how to live with each other, they receive devastating news that turns their fragile world upside down.
Will either mother know what is the right thing to do for the child they both love?
The day of my father’s funeral one of the partners, Bruce Felson, calls to tell me I’ve made Harrow and Heath seven million dollars in a single hour after I set the share price yesterday for a new social media company.
‘You’re on fire, Grace,’ he says with a laugh into the phone, that comfortable, jocular chuckle of an amused uncle, a forbearing father. I’m so tired even my teeth ache, and I’ve been wearing a pair of four-inch Louboutins for eleven hours.
‘Thanks,’ I say, my tone lacking its usual brisk vigor. I wonder why I even answered the call. I’d been in the elevator up to my apartment after attending my father’s funeral service, burial, and an interminable two hours at the country club in Connecticut where I’d held the reception, making chitchat with strangers, old business acquaintances of my dad’s, some of my parents’ old couple friends I hadn’t seen in about twenty years.
When I’d seen Bruce’s name flash onto my screen I’d answered as a matter of habit, a Pavlovian response to the pressures of work, because in venture capital you’ve always got to be on the ball, looking for the next opportunity before anyone else finds it. And I want to make partner before I’m forty, which is in seven months. I’ve been a principal for four years, and I’m ready. I’m so ready.
‘Oh,’ Bruce says, as if he’d just thought of it, which I’m sure he has. ‘Is today your father’s…?’
‘Yes,’ I say simply, and his chuckle peters out.
‘Sorry,’ he says, all stiff politeness now. ‘Did it go, ah, well?’
Do funerals ever go well? Can I even judge such a thing at this moment? People came. A priest spoke. There were a lot of murmured words and wilted sandwiches. ‘It was lovely, thank you,’ I say, and Bruce gives a pleased grunt.
‘Good, good.’ An awkward pause. ‘Well, then. See you tomorrow.’
I disconnect the call and step out of the elevator to unlock the door to my apartment, my hands nearly shaking with the effort. I’m so tired I feel like I could cry, and that is something I haven’t done since my father died a week ago. Behind me my neighbor’s door, the only other one on the floor, opens.
‘Oh, hello.’ The woman’s voice is cheerful, inviting conversation. I’ve been living here for four years and I should know her and her husband’s names, but I don’t. I turn back with a distracted half-smile and my key clatters onto the marble floor. ‘Been somewhere exciting?’ the woman asks brightly, and all I can do is stare.
I’ve shared minimal, meaningless chitchat with my neighbors over the years; I think our longest conversation has been about when the recycling is going to be collected after Christmas. They pushed me a Christmas card under the door several times, and I’ve forgotten to give one back. How on earth can I tell this woman with her squinting, near-sighted smile what I’ve been doing today? So I don’t.
‘Nothing terribly exciting.’ I try to smile but my face feels funny. The woman nods, clearly waiting for more, but I don’t have anything and so I turn my smile into something more of a farewell and stoop down for my key. She stays in her own doorway, waiting, while I fumble with the lock and finally, thankfully, close my door behind me.
My heels click across the marble foyer, echoing in the emptiness. Ahead of me floor-to-ceiling windows overlook Central Park, twilight already settling over it, the shadows lengthening between the clusters of trees, the traffic emptying out, a few cabs gliding down Fifth Avenue.
The air smells of lavender and lemon, the organic furniture polish my cleaner uses. Everything is still and quiet and perfect, my oasis in a full, frenetic life.
My father is dead.
I feel like I should cry, but I can’t. The tears have gathered into a cold, hard lump in my chest. I feel it every time I swallow. I picture it ossifying, getting harder and bigger, choking me, taking me over. But still the tears won’t come. They came after my mother died; hot tears pouring down my cheeks while my father held me. A grief shared is one divided, lessened; I bear the weight of this one all alone, and it’s crippling me. I am bowed beneath it.
I walk to the window, kicking off my heels, flexing my cramped toes, but even that small thing feels like an indulgence I shouldn’t enjoy, not now. Not when my father is no longer alive. How can I enjoy anything any more?
One hand rests on the cool glass, connecting me to the world. Ten stories below two women walk along the cobbled pavement by the park, deep in conversation, gesturing widely. Behind them a mother, or perhaps a nanny, hurries her child along. He’s holding a soccer ball and dragging his feet; the woman is steering him by the shoulder.
When the reception after the funeral ended, I went to the club’s bar and drank two Scotches, neat, my father’s drink, while the bartender polished glasses and the club emptied out. The alcohol seethes in my stomach now; I didn’t used to like whisky, but I learned to drink it. When you work on Wall Street, whether it’s investment banking or venture capital, and just about everyone other than the secretaries is male, you need to do that kind of pseudo-masculine stuff. Drink whisky. Laugh at the titty jokes. Play golf, or at least be interested in it. I’ve even smoked a cigar.
But now I’m home, and the apartment is as empty as it ever was, and I feel like I can’t stand it for a second longer. The silence screams at me, hurting my ears.
On a normal night I’d change out of my suit, pour myself a glass of wine from the expensive bottle I keep chilling in the fridge, and settle down in front of the TV to watch the news on CNN. After about five minutes, if that, I’d switch to Bloomberg to keep up with the financial markets, because I can’t stay away. Then I’d do thirty minutes on my elliptical trainer before getting ready for bed. And I’d feel happy, damn it. I’d feel happy and satisfied, and just a little bit smug, but in a good way. I had it all, I really did. Now I feel as if I have nothing.
I’m alone.The words rattle around like marbles in the emptiness of my mind. Of course, I’ve known I’m alone for a long time. I’ve been single for my entire adult life, save a few forays into relationships that never went all that far, mostly because I didn’t see the point.
My work has precluded a lot of things: lots of good women friends, serious boyfriends, long vacations, any semblance of what most people call normal life. But it’s made me a lot of money, including a cut of the seven million today, and I’ve enjoyed the chase, the discovery, the benefits. I never felt like I was missing out. I never wished for more than I had.
But right now I have a deep, primal need not to be so alone. I need someone here with me, someone to shoulder something of what I feel, and the sad and glaring truth is that there just isn’t anyone to do that.
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Links & Bio
About Kate Hewitt: Kate is the USA Today-bsetselling author of over 60 books of women’s fiction and romance. She is the author of the Hartley-by-the-Sea series, set in England’s Lake District and published by Penguin. She is also, under the name Katharine Swartz, the author of the Tales from Goswell books, a series of time-slip novels set in the village of Goswell.
She likes to read romance, mystery, the occasional straight historical and angsty women’s fiction; she particularly enjoys reading about well-drawn characters and avoids high-concept plots.
Having lived in both New York City and a tiny village on the windswept northwest coast of England, she now resides in a market town in Wales with her husband, five children, and an overly affectionate Golden Retriever.