Authors: Danielle Steel
“Oh my God … oh my God …” Olivia. And she was so afraid of the ocean. He could only begin to imagine what had happened to her, as he thought frantically of going to her now. But how would he explain it? What would they say on the news? An anonymous businessman appeared at the hospital today, desperate to see Mrs. Thatcher, and was turned away. He was put in a straitjacket and sent home to his wife to regain his senses. … He had no idea how to get to her, or how to see her without causing problems for either of them. And as he sat down again, and stared at the television, he realized that for the moment, while she was still critically ill, there was probably no way to do it. Another channel said she hadn't regained consciousness yet, and was said to be in a deep coma, and they ran all the tabloid pictures of her and indexed every tragedy, just as they had in Paris. The reporters were camped outside her parents' house in Boston as well, and they showed a few minutes of coverage of her grief-stricken brother leaving the hospital, having just lost his wife and children. It was painful beyond words just seeing him, and Peter felt tears rolling down his cheeks as he watched him.
“Is something wrong, Dad?” Mike had come back in and he was worried when he saw his father.
“No, I'm …I'm fine …something just happened to some friends. It's terrible. A storm off Cape Cod last night, Senator Thatcher's boat went down. It sounds as though a number of people were lost, and several others were injured.”…And she was still in a coma. Why had this happened to her? What if she died? It was beyond thinking.
“Do you know them?” Katie seemed surprised as she walked through the living room on her way
kitchen. “There was something about the accident in the paper this morning.”
“I met them in Paris,” he said, afraid to say more to her, as though she would know from the tone of his voice, or worse yet, see him crying.
“They say she's very strange. I hear he's going to run for president,” Katie said through the kitchen doorway, and Peter didn't answer. He had gone upstairs as quietly as he could, and was calling the hospital from their bedroom.
But he learned nothing from the nurses at Addison Gilbert. He said he was a close friend of the family, and they told him exactly what he had heard on TV. She was in ICU and hadn't regained consciousness since she was rescued. And how long could that go on? He wondered if she would be brain-damaged, if she would die, if he would ever see her again. Just thinking about it made him want to be with her. But all he could do was lie on his bed now, and remember.
“Are you all right?” Katie came upstairs looking for something, and was surprised to see him lying on their bed. He had been behaving strangely for days, as far as she was concerned, actually all summer. But her father had too. From what she could see, Vicotec had been disastrous for both of them, and she was sorry they had ever decided to develop it. It wasn't worth the price that any of them were paying. Katie looked down at Peter then, and she thought his eyes looked damp. She had no idea what he'd been doing. “Are you feeling all right?” she asked again, concerned. She put a hand on his head. But he didn't have a fever.
“I'm fine,” he said, feeling guilty toward her again, but so desperately frightened for Olivia that he could barely think straight. Even if he never saw her again, he knew the world would be a different place without her gentle face, her eyes that always reminded him of brown velvet. He wanted to go to her now and open them, and kiss her again. He wanted to be there for her. And when he saw Andy on TV again, he wanted to strangle him for not being with her. He was talking about everything they'd done, how quickly the storm had come up, how tragic it had been that the children couldn't be saved. And somehow, without actually saying it, he managed to convey that in spite of the loss of life, and the danger to his wife, he was a hero.
Peter was still quieter than usual that night. The promised hurricane had passed them by and he called the hospital again. But nothing had changed. For him, and for the Douglases waiting at the hospital, it was a nightmarish weekend. But late Sunday night, after Katie had gone to bed, he called again. It was the fourth time that day, and his knees felt weak when the nurse said the words he had prayed for.
“She's awake,” she said, as he felt his throat fill with tears for her. “She's going to be okay,” she said gently, and when he hung up, he put his face in his hands and cried. He was all alone, and he could let it out now. He had been able to think of nothing else for the past two days. He hadn't even been able to leave a message for her, but he had sent her all his good thoughts and his prayers. He had even surprised Kate by going to church by himself on Sunday morning.
“I don't know what's happened to him,” she'd said to her father that night on the phone. “I swear, it's all that nonsense with Vicotec. I hate that stuff. It's making him sick, and driving me crazy.”
“He'll get over it,” her father said. “We'll all be happier once it's on the market.” But Katie was no longer so sure, Their battles over it were just too painful.
And the next morning, Peter called the hospital again, but they wouldn't let him talk to her. He kept leaving false names, and this time said he was a cousin from Boston. There was no way of even sending a coded message to her, because he had no way of knowing who might intercept it. But she was alive, and doing well. Her husband said in a press conference how fortunate they'd been, and that she'd be home in a few days. And he left for the West Coast later that morning. He was on the campaign trail, and she was out of the woods now.
He came back in time for the funeral of Edwin's wife and their children. Peter was mesmerized by all the TV coverage and he was relieved to see that, mercifully, Olivia wasn't there. Peter knew her well enough to know that she couldn't have borne it. It would have reminded her too much of her own child. But her parents were there, and Edwin, grieving visibly and standing close to them, and of course Andy with an arm around Olivia's brother. They were the consummate political family, and every possible newspaper and television channel was there, covering it from a discreet distance.
Olivia watched it on television from ICU, and she cried terribly. The nurses didn't think she should watch, but she had insisted. They were her family, and she couldn't be there, but later when she saw Andy give an interview about how brave they had all been, and what a hero he was, she wanted to kill him.
And afterwards, he didn't even bother to call her to tell her how Edwin was. When she called home, her father sounded as though he were drunk, and said her mother had had to be sedated. It was a terrible time for all of them, and Olivia was sorry she hadn't been able to give her life instead of them. The children were so young, and her sister-in-law had been pregnant again, although no one knew it. And in Olivia's eyes, she herself had nothing to live for. She was living an empty life, as the puppet of an egotist. It wouldn't have mattered to anyone if either of them had died, except maybe her parents. She thought of Peter then, and the hours they had shared, and wished there were some way she could see him. But like other people she had loved, he was part of the past now, and there was no way to include him in her present or future.
She lay in bed afterwards, once the television was turned off, and cried, thinking of how futile life was. Her nephew and niece had died, their mother, her own baby had …Andy's brother Tom. So many good people. It was impossible to understand why some were spared and others weren't.
“How's it going, Mrs. Thatcher?” One of the nurses asked her gently as she cried. They could see how unhappy she was. And with her whole family in Boston for the funerals, no one had been in to see her. The nurse was worried about her, and then she remembered. “Someone's been calling you every few hours since you came in. A man. He says he's an old friend,' and then she smiled, “and this morning he said he was your cousin. But I'm sure it was the same one. He never leaves his name, but he sounded very worried about you.” And without a moment's hesitation, she knew it had to be Peter. Who else would call and why wouldn't he leave his name? It had to be him, and she raised eyes filled with sorrow to the nurse standing near her.
“Can I talk to him next time?” She looked almost like a battered child. She was covered with terrible bruises where she had been hit by debris that was torn off the sailboat. It had been a terrible tragedy, and she knew that she would never again go near the ocean.
“Ill try to connect you if he calls again,” the nurse reassured her and moved on. But when Peter called again early the next morning, she was sleeping. And after that, a different nurse was on duty.
Olivia lay in bed thinking of him constantly after that, wondering how he was, and what had happened to Vicotec and the FDA hearings. She had no way of getting news of him, and they had agreed not to contact each other when they left Paris. But now it seemed so difficult. Especially here, in the hospital. She had so much to think about, there was so much about her life now that she hated. She had promised Andy to stick by him, but it was costing her everything she had to fulfill her promise. And suddenly all she could think of was how brief and unpredictable life was, and how precious. She had sold her soul for the next five years, which seemed like an eternity now. She could only hope he didn't win the election. She knew she'd never survive it. And the wife of a president couldn't simply disappear. For the next five years, she would have to stand and face the music.
She spent another four days in ICU, until her lungs were almost clear, and they could move her to another room, and then Andy flew up from Virginia to see her. He had had some work to do there, but as soon as he arrived at the hospital, there were suddenly reporters everywhere, and a camera crew, and one of them even snuck in to see her. She disappeared under the sheets immediately, and a nurse escorted them off the floor, but Andy attracted press like blood attracted sharks, and Olivia was the little fish they wanted to feed on.
But Andy had a great idea. He had arranged a press conference for her at the hospital the next day, right outside her room. He had a hairdresser coming for her, and a makeup man. It was all set up, and she could talk to the press from a wheelchair. But as he explained it to her, she could feel her heart pound, and her stomach turn over.
“I don't want to do that yet.” It reminded her of when Alex had died, and when the press had hounded her constantly. Now they would want to know if she had seen her niece and nephew die, or her sister-in-law, and how she felt now that they were gone and she had survived, and how could she explain it. She felt strangled just thinking about it, and all she could do was shake her head in panic. “I can't, Andy …I'm sorry …” she said, turning away from him, wondering if Peter had ever called again. She hadn't seen the same nurse since she left ICU, and no one had ever told her. And she couldn't ask for him, a man with no name who had been calling for days. She couldn't do anything at all that might draw attention to her.
“Look, Olivia, you have to talk to the press, or they'll think we're hiding something. You were in a coma for four days. You don't want the country to think you're brain-damaged, or something.” He spoke to her as though she were, and all she could think of was her tearful conversation with her brother that morning. He was a mess, and she could only imagine how he felt, after all she'd gone through with Alex. But he had lost his entire family, and now Andy wanted her to talk to the press from a wheelchair.
“I don't care what they think, I'm not doing it,” she said firmly.
“You have to,” he snapped at her, “we have a contract.”
“You make me sick,” she said, turning away from him, and the next day, when they came, she refused to see them. She wouldn't see the hairdresser, or the makeup man, and she never came out of her room in the wheelchair. The press thought they were playing games with them, and Andy held a press conference in the lobby without her. He explained about the trauma she'd been through, and the guilt of being one of the few survivors. He said he was suffering from it too, but it was hard to believe Andy Thatcher was suffering from anything, except an overwhelming desire for the White House, no matter what it cost him. But he wasn't about to lose this opportunity, and the next day, he let three reporters into her room himself. And when she looked up and saw them, Olivia looked pathetically frail, and desperately frightened. She started to cry, and a nurse and two orderlies forced them to leave her. But they'd man-aged to get half a dozen photographs of her before they left the room, and congregated together back in the hallway where they chatted with Andy. And when he returned, after the reporters left the hospital, she came out of her bed and flailed at him with a vengeance.
“How could you do that to me? Edwin's whole family just died, and I'm not even out of the hospital.” She was sobbing as she pounded her hands against his chest, overwhelmed by a sense of violation. But he had needed to prove to them that she was alive and well, and that she hadn't snapped, as they were beginning to suspect, since she seemed to them to be hiding. What she was trying to preserve was her dignity, but Andy couldn't have cared less. What he was protecting was his political survival.
Peter saw the photographs of her on the news that night, and his heart went out to her. She looked frightened and frail as she lay in bed, and cried. The abandoned look in her eyes tore his heart out. She had a hospital nightgown on, and she had intravenous tubes in both arms, and one of the reporters said she was still suffering from pneumonia. It was a dramatic glimpse of her, and sure to arouse a lot of sympathy, which was exactly what her husband had wanted. And Peter could think only of her after he turned the set off.
But Olivia surprised Andy when the hospital told her they were willing to release her at the end of the week, she said she wasn't going home with him. She had already spoken to her mother about it. She was going home to her parents. They needed her. And she was going to the Douglas house in Boston.