Authors: Barbara Delinsky
“That’s for sure,” Hillary said. “I know what I’ve felt these past few days. It has to be something like what you’ve spent years and years feeling.”
Pam gave a sage nod. “The anger. The sense of injustice. The need to lash back. I’ve felt all of those things. But you know that. You’ve seen me kicking and screaming, banging my head against the wall because of things John’s done.”
The image of ladylike Pam banging her head against the wall made Hillary smile. “It’s been a while since the kicking and screaming. I remember the first time I saw it, though. You couldn’t have been more than eight. You were in Timiny Cove over school vacation. John was having a go of it with your dad, and because of that, what was supposed to be a special time between you and Eugene was ruined.”
Pam remembered well, if not the specific incident then dozens just like it. “Those two were like oil and water. Ten minutes in the same room with each other and there was trouble. If I was eight, John would have been twenty-four, so he’d have already been involved in the company. He thought he knew how to handle things, but his way was the antithesis of my dad’s. He was arrogant even way back then. Twenty-four and wanting to run the ship. He was born arrogant.”
“So were you, I thought. You looked like a spoiled child throwing a temper tantrum.”
“Frustration. It was frustration.”
“You were furious that anything or anyone should upset your plans.”
“My relationship with Daddy was special,” Pam argued in indulgent self-defense. “When school was in session, I was in Boston. He split his time between us and Maine, so I didn’t see him much. But every vacation I went to Timiny Cove. Mom stayed behind in Boston, so it was just Eugene and me. He had John cover for him at the mines. It used to drive John nuts.”
Hillary could understand that. “He didn’t like Timiny Cove any more than your mom did.”
“No. He wanted to be in the city. That’s where everything was happening, he said. Nothing happened in the sticks.”
Hillary reminisced with a chuckle. “The sticks.”
“You hated it there too. You used to ask me all kinds of questions about life in the city. Remember?”
“Uh-huh. It must have seemed bizarre. I was ten years older than you were. But I was starving for information. John gave me some, but never enough. He always held back a little to keep me curious. You told me everything you knew.”
“Which wasn’t an awful lot.”
“To me it was. Besides, I liked you.”
“Because I was John’s sister?”
“No. Well, yes, maybe at first, but I really did like you. You had a spark. You were fun. Happy.”
“Except when I was throwing temper tantrums,” Pam said with a droll look. Then the look grew pensive. “I loved the time I spent in Timiny Cove. The house was big and airy, the people friendly and interesting.”
“They were colorful.”
“They were, Hillary. How else would you describe Phoebe Hanks or Rufus Hackett or Dwayne Wardwell? God,” she sighed through a smile, “they were great. Phoebe with her crochet hook making those hideous slippers, one after another after another, Rufus with his chipmunk cheeks and his toothless grins and the jokes whose punchlines he always messed up, Dwayne looking so stern under his butch haircut—all of them with hearts of gold. Daddy and I used to play poker with Rufus and Dwayne. I remember it so clearly. . . .”
And so it began. Hillary hadn’t asked for it, but it was easy to keep Pam going. A question here, a disbelieving look there, a teasing prod drew forth Pam’s unique impressions of Timiny Cove. She accepted Hillary’s curiosity about those impressions. Likewise, the questions Hillary asked about Eugene St. George and, of course, John seemed perfectly natural.
As Hillary listened closely, her interviewer’s mind filing every detail, a distant part of her brain foresaw other lunches, other mornings, afternoons, or evenings spent with Pam or Patricia or Cutter. She would tell them what she was doing, because they meant the world to her, and if they had qualms, she would soft-pedal one private chapter or another. She would be compassionate, where they were concerned.
Where John was concerned, she would be merciless.
Timiny Cove, 1964
AM LEARNED TO BLUFF WHEN
she was eight years old playing poker in the back room of Leroy Robichaud’s general store. She didn’t do it deliberately, at first. She was innocent and enthusiastic, and she dared risk her pennies on a hand that none of the others would have, because she had never known what it was like to have to count her pennies to survive.
The other men had. Rufus Hackett and Dwayne Wardwell still did, though nowhere near as much as before the big gem finds; and Eugene, well, Eugene remembered. He told Pam stories of the days when he had lived hand to mouth. She listened to those stories with a child’s round eyes, but they were unreal to her. Nothing in her existence remotely resembled those hard times in the 1920s and ’30s. By the 1940s, Eugene had already turned tourmaline mining into a lucrative venture, and by the ’50s, when she was born, he owned the townhouse on Boston’s Beacon Hill, the stately brick home in Timiny Cove, and the Cadillac. But she listened to the stories for hours, because her father was the teller, and she adored him.
“Raise ya, missy,” Dwayne said, tossing two pennies into the pot after a somber study of the cards in his hand.
Pam studied hers. It wasn’t a particularly good hand, had none of the picture cards that she liked, but she did have a pair of fours, and a pair of anything was better than nothing. “I’ll call,” she decided. She pushed another penny toward the center of the table and grinned at Dwayne.
“You was s’posed to fold like your daddy and Rufus,” he informed her.
When Eugene leaned close to take a peek at Pam’s hand, she jerked the cards to her overalls. “I can do it, Daddy,” she whispered.
“You know how?” he whispered back.
“Yes.” Taking a two of clubs and a three of diamonds from her hand, she laid them delicately on the table and took the two cards that Eugene handed her. A nine of hearts and a three of spades—they didn’t do a thing for her hand; still she widened her eyes just a little bit in mock excitement before composing herself and looking serenely at Dwayne.
He’d been watching her closely, which was just what she wanted. She knew Dwayne. He was the most easily fooled of the three, simply because he didn’t have any children of his own who pretended. He knew that children liked candy, and he always had a barley pop in the pocket of his faded flannel shirt to give Pam before she left for home.
While he gravely studied his hand, Rufus leaned close. “I got a good one for you, Pammy. It’s a traveling salesman joke.”
“Okay,” Pam said. Rufus sometimes tried to distract her with his jokes, but since Dwayne was the one concentrating at the moment, she wanted to hear. “Tell me.”
“Y’see, once there was this traveling salesman, and he has this horse. Now, the two of them was down in Rumford when the old horse up and died.”
“Hush,” Dwayne grumbled. “I can’t think.”
Rufus talked softer. “Now, th’ old horse died on Piscatawogue Street, y’see, and there’s a whole crowd gatherin’ round, and pretty soon a policeman comes up to make out a report. So he asks how to spell Piscatawogue, and everybody looks around. No one knows how to spell it, y’see.”
“Rufus,” Dwayne complained.
“So because no one knows how to spell Piscatawogue, the policeman closes his book and says to the crowd, ‘Okay, you guys, gimme me a hand and we’ll carry this horse over to the next street.’”
Pam was silent, looking first to her father, then to Dwayne for help. Guarding his cards against his chest, Dwayne muttered, “No, no, no. You done it wrong. That ain’t how it goes. You’re s’posed to say, ‘Okay, you guys, gimme a hand and we’ll carry this horse over to Main Street.’”
Pam did laugh then, because even she could spell Main and because Eugene laughed, which was always a treat for her. He didn’t laugh much in Boston.
Then Dwayne made his move. Tossing three cards face down on the table, he took three new ones from Eugene and slipped them into his hand. His expression instantly grew more grim. Aiming a look of disgust at Rufus, he folded, snapping a pair of sevens, a queen of hearts, a king of clubs, and a two of diamonds onto the table.
Fanning out her cards near his, Pam let the others look at her pair of fours while she gathered in the pennies with both small hands.
Eugene gave an even heartier laugh this time. “You’re a wonder, Pammy girl!” he said as he collected the deck and shuffled before dealing another round.
Pam glowed. She loved her father. He was a man to please, a man whose voice could thunder through the house when something wasn’t right, but he never thundered at her. He might yell at her mother, and he certainly yelled at John, but never at her. She was his special gem, he told her, and though she was too big now to ride on his shoulders the way she used to when he took her to the gem pits, he still said the words. Holding a newly unearthed piece of tourmaline in his hand, admiring its beauty in one breath, in the next he would say, “But you’re my special gem, Pammy girl.”
Through her mother’s eyes, she saw him as a man. “Your father is the most handsome of all the handsome men in the world,” Patricia told Pam when she was no more than three or four. “I’ll never forget that first day he walked into the bank and I saw him. So broad-shouldered and sure of himself. He took my breath away.”
“Your mother was barely nineteen at the time,” Eugene teased. “Most anything would take her breath away. She was a beauty then, as she’s a beauty now, but she sure did look pretty with those cheeks of hers all pink.”
“How old were you, Daddy?”
“I was an old man.”
“He was not,” Patricia argued, taking the insult personally. “He was forty-seven and younger of body and heart than many a twenty-five-year-old. When he walked into that bank, I knew he was the one I wanted, even if I didn’t think I had a chance in the world of getting him.”
“She loved my house,” Eugene injected, mischief in his eyes, and Patricia was quick to say that it hadn’t only been that, though even Pam knew how much she adored Beacon Hill. Patricia’s pleasure was evident each time she returned home and walked up the stone steps while envious onlookers passed by.
It was a fairy-tale life, Pam thought, particularly when she watched her parents dress up for a ball. Her mother was as beautiful as her father said, small and willowy, with delicate features and blond hair that was long and flowing, as straight as Pam’s, though Pam’s was dark. Perhaps because of that color difference, Pam didn’t make the usual kinds of comparisons between her looks and her mother’s. She assumed that she was different but just as pretty, because her father always told her so, and she always believed what he said.
Her father was her hero. He was taller than most men she’d seen, had more hair than most—thick, silvery hair—and redder cheeks. Her mother used to say he was ruddy and robust, as he eyed himself in the mirrored door of the armoire. And when his bow tie was neatly knotted and his tuxedo jacket spread smoothly across his shoulders, Pam could see it for herself. He looked grand, like Wendy Darling’s father in
Pam knew her mother liked him best when he was all dressed up and they were going out. “To see and be seen,” Patricia used to tell Pam. “It’s very important. Your father’s name is just becoming known. One day he’ll be a very important man in this town.”
“What do you mean?” Pam would ask, a little unsure because the look in her mother’s eyes suggested that things might change, and Pam didn’t want that. She liked her life the way it was. She couldn’t imagine how things could get better.
“He’ll be wealthy, for one thing.”
“Isn’t he now?”
“Now we’re comfortable.”
“But we have two houses. Melissa Gentile said that makes us rich. She doesn’t have two houses.”
“But the one that she has is far nicer than ours.”
“I like ours.”
“Melissa’s is bigger. Hers is an estate, with lots of land.”
“We have lots of land in Timiny Cove, and our house there is the nicest one in the whole town.”
Patricia grunted. “Timiny Cove is dirty. It’s shabby and poor.”
“I like Timiny Cove,” Pam argued, though from an early age she learned that she wouldn’t change her mother’s mind on the matter of Timiny Cove. “What else is Daddy going to do?”
“Besides make lots of money? He’s going to have an office that’s even fancier than the one he has now. He may even own the building, and if he doesn’t own that one, he’ll own others. Real estate is a good investment. It’s a good way to make money.”
“But if he already has lots of money, why does he need more?”
“Security,” Patricia said in a way that left no doubt about its importance. “You’re a very lucky little girl, Pamela. You don’t know what it’s like to be without. I do. I remember when I had to wear the same pair of shoes for three years even though my feet had outgrown them after one. I remember when my mother used to send me to the butcher’s shop for a small bit of stew meat, knowing that I didn’t have enough money but hoping that the butcher would take pity on us and leave the extra piece or two in the bundle. I remember . . .”