The Impossible Vastness Of Us
A guilty-looking Hayley shook her head. “That’s not true.”
“Eloise told me that Theo wanted to meet me, but you said no.”
She stared at her feet and said nothing.
It never failed to surprise me that she could still hurt me. Angry, I pushed. “So...what was it? Ashamed of me or ashamed of you?”
“I...” She shrugged and looked up at me, seeming helpless. “I didn’t want to take the chance that you’d tell him the truth. I haven’t told him and I know how angry you still are with me, and I... I didn’t want to lose him.”
I laughed bitterly at her confession. “Isn’t that always the way with you, Hayley? Always doing what’s best for you. Not giving me time to get to know this guy, for him to get to know me... No, that doesn’t work for you, right? So who cares if you rip my world apart again and toss me in with these sharks? As long as you’re okay.”
She rushed toward me suddenly, gripping my biceps hard as she pleaded with me. “This is the best thing that will ever happen to us. I know you don’t believe me but Theo is a good man and he can take care of us. No one can hurt us here.”
“No one but each other.”
Her grip fell away. “Are you going to tell him?”
I looked around at my room, knowing that a guest room would never have been tricked out like this—with the laptop and speakers and school supplies. Whatever Theo’s true character, he’d gone to great lengths to make me feel welcome in his home. “You know, I almost feel sorry for the guy.” I turned back to her. “Marrying a woman he doesn’t really know.”
As I stared into Hayley’s tortured eyes I crumbled. The truth was this could be my perfect revenge, taking him away from her by giving him cold hard facts. But I didn’t have that kind of spitefulness in me. “I won’t tell him.”
Hayley sagged with relief. “It’s the right decision, sweetheart. I promise. I am trying to make this up to you. I’ve been trying for six years. What else can I do?”
I flinched as she raised her hand and brushed her thumb across my cheek. Her eyes were wet as she whispered, “Never.”
I held strong and silent until she left me alone in my room. That’s when I finally let my tears fall.
* * *
“This is exciting,” Theo said. “Our first dinner as a family.”
Hayley beamed at him while Eloise and I looked anywhere but at each other as we sat across from one another at the eight-seater dining table.
After being forced from my new bedroom by Theo and Hayley I discovered Theo employed a driver, a cook, three maids and a groundskeeper. Apparently I’d missed the tennis court and badminton court situated beyond the swimming pool.
They had “staff.”
I felt like Cedric Errol in Little Lord Fauntleroy.
As we were served dinner by said staff, I ignored Hayley and Theo as they twittered lovingly with one another until Theo said, “Eloise, why don’t you join Hayley and India tomorrow? They’re shopping for a new wardrobe and could use you as a guide.”
Eloise smiled at her father. “I would, Daddy, but I have a chemistry lab paper to write with Charlotte tomorrow. The paper is due Monday.”
“Oh, well, your education comes first.” He looked disappointed but didn’t push her on it.
I slumped with relief that she wouldn’t be joining us.
“Charles Street has some very nice boutiques,” Eloise said warmly to Hayley. “And of course there’s Newbury Street. You’ll find everything you need there.”
“Thank you.” Hayley turned to Theo. “I’ve never been shopping in Boston.”
“Gil will drive you but Back Bay and Beacon Hill aren’t an easy place to get lost. That’s where your new school is, India. Beacon Hill,” Theo said. “Gil will drive you and Eloise there in the morning and pick you up after school. If you and Eloise end up with different schedules we’ll work something out. Your mother tells me you’re a great soccer player. Tobias Rochester, unfortunately, doesn’t have a girls’ soccer team but we do have a lacrosse team.”
“I’ve never played.”
“Perhaps you’ll be good at it.”
“Does the school have a paper?”
His eyes brightened at my sudden interest in conversation. I think he was pleased that my interest lay in academics. Of course, he didn’t understand that my true motivation wasn’t really about academia, although I did want to get into a good college.
“It does have a school newspaper. An award-winning school newspaper.”
“India was coeditor of her school paper,” Hayley said proudly.
I was surprised she knew that.
Theo was pleased. “Well, we will definitely need to see about getting you on the Tobias Rochester Chronicle.”
“Thank you,” I forced out.
“You’re welcome. Now what else are you interested in?”
“I was on the debate team and I was the theater manager.”
“Well—” Tobias grinned at his daughter “—Eloise has been the lead in the school play for the last three years. Usually they give the leading role to juniors and seniors but Eloise is so talented that she has won every part since she was fourteen. You could surely find India a job behind the scenes.”
“Daddy, our theater isn’t some public school theater. Our theater manager is not a student—he’s an experienced, paid adult.”
He shrugged. “I know that. But India could be an assistant.”
“Yes, I could be an assistant,” I added, imitating Eloise’s big doe eyes.
She looked almost pained. “I think we have all the behind the scenes staff we need.”
“Pish posh,” Theo said. “It’s the start of the school year.”
Pish posh, I mouthed at Hayley. Seriously? Did all Boston upper crust families talk like they thought they were still British?
To my surprise Hayley hid her smile in her napkin at my teasing.
“Yes, pish posh,” I said to Eloise. “You’re the talent. I’m sure you can pull a few strings.”