Authors: Danielle Steel
“You could have sold it and split the money with them, and they could have moved someplace better,” she said sensibly, but it only showed Peter that she didn't understand.
“They don't want to do that, Kate, and that's probably what Dad was afraid of. He didn't want us to sell the farm. It took him his whole life to buy it.” She didn't tell him what a disaster she thought it was, but he could see it in the way she looked at him, and in the silence that grew between them. As far as Kate was concerned, the farm was even worse than Peter had told her when they were in college, and she was relieved that they'd never have to come back here again. At least she wasn't going to come back. And if she had anything to say about it, after his father had disinherited him, Peter wasn't going to either. As far as she was concerned, Wisconsin was now relegated to the distant past. She wanted Peter to move on.
Muriel was still upset when they left, and Peter had the uncomfortable feeling that he was saying good-bye to her, and not just his father. It was as though that was what Kate wanted, although she never came right out and said it to him. It was as though she wanted all his ties to be to her, all his roots and his bonds, his allegiance and affection. It was almost as if Kate was jealous of Muriel, and the piece of his life and history that she represented, and his not getting a piece of the farm was a good excuse to end it once and for all.
“You were right to leave here years ago,” Kate said quietly as they drove away, she seemed to be unaware of the fact that Peter was crying. All she wanted was to go back to New York as fast as they could get there. “Peter, you don't belong here,” she said firmly. He wanted to argue with her, to tell her she was wrong, to stick up for them, out of loyalty, except that he knew she was right, and he felt guilty about it. He didn't belong there. He never had.
And as they boarded the plane in Chicago, he felt relief sweep over him. He had escaped again. At some level, he had been terrified that his father would leave him the farm and expect him to run it. But his father had been wiser than that, and knew Peter better. Peter had nothing to do with the farm now. He didn't own it, it couldn't devour him, as he had feared it might. He was free at last. It was Jack and Muriel's problem now.
And as the plane lifted off the ground and headed for Kennedy, he knew he had left the farm behind, and everything it represented. He only hoped he hadn't also lost his sister at the same time.
He was quiet on the flight home, and over the next weeks, he mourned his father in silence. He said very little about it to Kate, mostly because he had the feeling she didn't want to hear it. He called Muriel once or twice, but she was always busy with the kids, or rushing out to help Jack with the daily. She never had time to talk, and when she did, Peter didn't like the comments she made about Katie. Her open criticism of his wife created a definite chasm between them, and after a while, he stopped calling. He threw himself into his work, and found solace in what happened at the office. He was completely at home there. In fact, his whole life in New York seemed like the perfect existence to him. He fit in perfectly, at Wilson-Donovan, among their friends, in the social life Kate had carved out for them. It was almost as though he had been born into it, and had never had another life before that.
To his friends in New York, Peter was one of them. He was smooth and sophisticated, and people laughed when he said he'd grown up on a farm. Most of the time, no one believed him. He seemed more like Boston, or New York. And he was goodnatured about making the adjustments the Donovans expected of him. Frank had insisted they live in Greenwich, Connecticut, as he did. He wanted “his baby” close to him, and besides, she was used to it, and she liked it, Wilson-Donovan was based in New York, and they kept a studio apartment there, but the Donovans had always lived in Greenwich, Connecticut, an hour's ride from New York. It was an easy commute, and Peter rode in on the train with Frank daily. Peter liked living in Greenwich, he loved their house, and he loved being married to Katie. Most of the time, they got on splendidly, and the only major disagreement they'd had was over the fact that she thought he should have inherited the farm and then sold it. But they had long since ceased to argue about it, in deference to each other's conflicting opinions.
The only other thing that bothered him was that Frank had bought their first house for them. Peter had tried to object to it, but he didn't want to upset Katie. And she had begged him to let her father do it. Peter had complained, but in the end, she won. She wanted a big house so they could start a family quickly, and Peter certainly couldn't afford the kind of house she was used to, and her father thought she should live in. These were the problems Peter had been so afraid of. But the Donovans handled it all graciously. Her father called the handsome Tudor house a “wedding gift.” And to Peter, it looked like a mansion. It was big enough to accommodate three or four kids, had a beautiful deck, a dining room, a living room, five bedrooms, a huge den for him, a family room, and a fabulous country kitchen. It was a far cry from the battered old farmhouse his father had left his sister in Wisconsin. And Peter had to admit sheepishly that he loved the house.
Her father also wanted to hire someone to clean and cook for them, but there Peter drew the line, and announced that he would do the cooking himself if he had to, but he was not going to allow Frank to provide them with hired help. Eventually, Katie learned to do the cooking, for a little while at least. But by Christmas, she was so violently ill from morning sickness, she couldn't do anything, and Peter had to do most of the cooking and clean the house. But he didn't mind a bit, he was thrilled about their baby. It seemed almost a mystical exchange to him, a special kind of consolation for the loss of his father, which still pained him more than he ever said.
It was the beginning of a happy, fruitful eighteen years for them. They had three sons in their first four years, and ever since, Katie's life had been filled with charity committees, parents' associations, and car pools, and she loved it. The boys were involved in a thousand things, soccer, baseball, swimming teams, and recently Katie had decided to run for the Greenwich school board. She was totally involved in her community, and very concerned with world ecology, and a number of issues Peter knew he should have been interested in, but wasn't. He liked to say that Katie was involved in global issues for both of them. He was just trying to keep his head above water at work.
But she knew a lot about that too. Katie's mother had died when she was three, and she had grown up being her father's constant companion. As she grew up, Katie knew everything about his business, and that never changed even after she and Peter married. There were times when she knew things about the company even before Peter did. And if he shared a bit of news with her, he was always startled to realize it wasn't news to her. It caused some problems over the years, but Peter was willing to accept Frank's place in their life. Katie's bond to him was a great deal stronger than Peter had expected, but there was no harm in it. Frank was a fair man, and he always exercised good judgment about how far to go with his opinions. At least Peter thought he did, until Frank tried to tell them where to send their son to nursery school. That time, Peter put his foot down, and kept it there until high school, or at least he tried to. But there were times when Katie's father was completely immovable, and it upset Peter even more when Katie sided with him, although she usually tried to phrase it as diplomatically as possible when she echoed her father's opinions.
But despite her diplomacy, Kate's ties to her father remained strong over the years, and she agreed with him more frequently than Peter would have wanted. It was Peter's only complaint in an otherwise happy marriage. And he had so many blessings in his life, that he didn't feel he had a right to complain over the occasional battle of wills with Frank. As far as Peter was concerned, when he examined his life, the blessings far outweighed the pains or the burdens.
The only real sadness in his life was when his sister died at twenty-nine, of cancer, just as his mother had, though Muriel was far younger. And like his mother, his sister had been unable to afford decent treatment. She and her husband had been so proud, they never even called and told him. She was at death's door when Jack finally called, and Peter was heartbroken when he flew to Wisconsin and saw her. She died only a few days after that. And in less than a year, Jack sold the farm, remarried, and moved to Montana. For years afterwards, Peter didn't know where he'd gone, or what had happened to his sister's children. And when he finally heard from Jack again, years after Muriel had died, Kate said too much water had gone over the dam, and he should let it go and forget them. Peter had sent Jack the money he'd asked for when he called, but he'd never gotten to Montana to see Muriel's children. And he knew that when, and if, he did, they would no longer know him. They had a new mother, and a new family, and Peter knew that Jack had only called him because he needed money. He had no real sentiment for his late wife's brother, nor Peter for him, although Peter would have liked to see his nephews and nieces. But he was too busy to fly to Montana to see them, and in a way, they were part of another life. In some ways, it was easier to do as Kate said, and just let it go now, although he felt guilty about it whenever it crossed his mind.
Peter had his own life to lead, his own family to think of, his own children to protect, and do battle for. And there had indeed been a battle royal, four years before when their oldest son, Mike, applied to high school. Apparently, every Donovan in memory had gone to Andover, and Frank felt that Mike should too, and Katie agreed with him. But Peter did not. He didn't want to send Mike away to school, he wanted him to stay at home until he went to college. But this time, Frank won hands down. It was Mike who cast the deciding vote, and his mother and grandfather had convinced him that unless he went to Andover, he'd never get into a decent college, let alone business school, and he'd miss every possible opportunity for a good job later on, and valuable connections in the meantime. It seemed ridiculous to Peter, who pointed out that he'd gone to the University of Michigan, night school in Chicago for his senior year, had never been to business school, and had never heard of Andover when he was growing up in Wisconsin. “And I did all right,” he said with a smile. He was running one of the country's most important corporations. But he hadn't been prepared for what Mike would say when he answered back.
“Yeah, but you married it, Dad. That's different .” It was the worst blow the boy could have dealt him, and something in Peter's eyes must have told Mike just how hard he'd hit him, because the boy was quick to explain that he didn't mean that the way it sounded and that two decades earlier things had been “different.” But they both knew they weren't. And in the end, Mike had gone to Andover, and now, like his grandfather, he was going to Princeton in the fall. Paul was at Andover now too, and only Patrick, the youngest, was talking about staying home for high school, or maybe going to Exeter, just to do something other than what his brothers had done. He had another year to think about it, and he was talking about boarding school in California. It was something Peter would have liked to change, but knew he couldn't. Going away for their high school years was a Donovan tradition that couldn't even be discussed. Even Kate, despite her closeness to her father, had gone to Miss Porter's. Peter would have preferred having his kids at home, but to him it was a small compromise, he said, he lost their company for a few months a year, but they were getting a great education. There was no question about that, and Frank always said they were making important friendships that would endure all their lives. It was hard to quibble with that, so Peter didn't. But it was a lonely feeling when his sons left for boarding school every year. Kate and the boys were the only family he had. And he still missed Muriel and his parents, though he never admitted that to Kate.
Peter's life had moved ahead impressively over the years. He was an important man. His career had gone brilliantly. And appropriately, they had moved to a larger house in Greenwich, when he could afford to buy it himself. This time there was no question of accepting a house from Frank. The house Peter bought was a handsome home on six acres in Greenwich, and although the city appealed to him at times, Peter knew how important it was to Katie to stay where they were. She had lived in Greenwich all her life. Her friends were there, the right elementary schools for their kids, the committees she cared about, and her father. She loved living close to him. She still kept a close eye on his house for him, and on weekends, she and Peter often went over to discuss family matters, or business, or just for a friendly game of tennis. Katie went over to see him a lot.
They went to Martha's Vineyard in the summer to be near him too. He had a fabulous estate there that he'd owned for years, and the Haskells had a more modest one, but Peter had to agree with Kate, it was a great place for the children, and he truly loved it. The Vineyard was a special place to him, and as soon as he could afford to buy a place of their own, Peter had forced her to give up the cottage her father loaned them on his property, and bought her a lovely house just down the road. And the boys loved it when Peter built them their own bunkhouse, which allowed them to invite their friends, which they did constantly. For years now, Peter and Kate had been surrounded by children, particularly at the Vineyard. There always seemed to be half a dozen extra kids staying at their house. Theirs was an easy comfortable life, and in spite of the compromises Peter knew he had occasionally made on the domestic end of things, as to where and how they lived, and the boys going to boarding school, he also knew that he had never sacrificed his principles or integrity, and as far as the business was concerned, Frank gave him a free hand. Peter had come up with brilliant ideas that had rapidly affected the firm positively, and he had brought them growth and development far beyond anything Frank had ever dreamed. Peter's suggestions had been invaluable, his decisions bold but sure. Frank had known exactly what he was doing when he brought him in, and even more so when he made him president of Wilson-Donovan at thirty-seven. His running of the company had been masterful right from the start. It had been seven years since then, four of them spent on the development of Vicotec, which had been costly in the extreme, but once again absolutely brilliant. It had been Peter's baby from the first, and it had been his decision to pursue that line of development at the scientific end, and he had convinced Frank to go along with him. It was an enormous investment but in the long run, they both agreed, well worth it. And for Peter, there was an added bonus. It was the culmination of his lifelong dream, to help humanity, while still forging ahead in the greedy, self-serving, mundane world of business. But if nothing else, in memory of his mother and Muriel, Peter wanted Vicotec to be brought into existence as quickly as they could do it. If a product like it had been available to them, their lives might have been saved, or at the very least prolonged. And now he wanted to save others like them. People on farms and in rural areas, or even in cities, but isolated by poverty or circumstances that would kill them without a drug like this one.