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Authors: Holly Chamberlin

The Friends We Keep

BOOK: The Friends We Keep
8.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Outstanding praise for the novels of Holly Chamberlin!
“At once both beautiful and heartbreaking,
The Beach Quilt
is a novel that resonates with readers as it highlights the
intricate and important roles that family and friends play,
and weaves a tale of loyalty and hope amidst turbulence and
change. This story stays with readers long past the last page.”
RT Book Reviews
“A thoughtful novel.”
“A great summer read.”
Fresh Fiction
“A novel rich in drama and insights into what factors bring
people together and, just as fatefully, tear them apart.”
The Portland Press Herald
“Explores questions about the meaning of home,
family dynamics and tolerance.”
The Bangor Daily News
“An enjoyable summer read, but it's more. It is a novel for all
seasons that adds to the enduring excitement of Ogunquit.”
The Maine Sunday Telegram
“It does the trick as a beach book and provides a touristy
taste of Maine's seasonal attractions.”
Publishers Weekly
“Fans of
Sex in the City
will enjoy the women's romantic
escapades and appreciate the roundtable discussions these
gals have about the trials and tribulations singletons face.”
Books by Holly Chamberlin
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation
The Friends We Keep
Holly Chamberlin
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
As always, for Stephen
And this time, also for Peggy
Once again, I extend my deep appreciation to my editor, John Scognamiglio. I offer thanks to Joan Donner, from whom I get what talent I have, for her editorial input in an early and difficult stage of the book. Last, but never least, thanks to my husband for creating our lovely home.
It's vitally important that men continue to keep secrets from women, and that women continue to keep secrets from men. The entire male/female dynamic relies on misrepresentation and misunderstanding. Why tamper with a good thing?
—Men, Women, and Secrets: It's All Good
My name is Eva Fitzpatrick. I was born Eve but changed my name to Eva around the time I turned thirty. It seemed to suit me better.
I grew up in a largely nonpracticing Catholic family of Irish and German ancestry and was raised in a very Americanized or culturally neutral way. I know nothing of my family's European roots. My parents didn't speak a word of German. In spite of our last name we never celebrated St. Patrick's Day. We did not go to church unless it was to a relative's wedding or funeral.
Neither of my parents was particularly demonstrative. As the older of two children—my sister, Maura, was born when I was ten—I was expected to be mature almost from the start. I have been working since I was fourteen (I babysat until I could get working papers) and was always a good student. This was partly because I loved learning and partly because it was expected of me. I did not want to disappoint my parents.
My parents died of cancer—first my father, followed a few months later by my mother—when I was just out of college and looking forward to graduate school. My plan was to earn a PhD in English literature and then to teach and write. Because my parents had nothing to leave their children but the house and a small insurance policy, I gave up my graduate career, sold the house for the cash, and went to work to support my younger sister. In spite of my urging—or maybe, because of it—Maura dropped out of college in her junior year.
Two years after that Maura married a man twenty-five years her senior. A few years later, when his cocaine habit had bankrupted them, she divorced him. Now Maura lives in a small town in Michigan with her second, high school–educated husband and their four kids, all girls: Brooke, Britney, Angelina, and Jessica. On occasion Maura hints at needing money. Her husband, Trevor, works at a gas station as a mechanic and she is a night cashier in a local grocery chain. I send a check to a post office box, as Trevor doesn't accept “charity.” I don't know how Maura explains the extra cash.
In spite of the years of financial support, my sister and I aren't close. On occasion, Maura, who is a nice enough person, invites me to visit, but I never do. The thought of staying in my sister's cramped and kid-friendly home (I've seen pictures; there are plastic toys everywhere.) isn't at all appealing and there are no decent hotels nearby. So except for solitary trips to the islands once a year I stay on the East Coast. I hardly ever think of my nieces. Sometimes, I realize that I've temporarily forgotten their names.
I am the senior vice president of the most important advertising agency in the Northeast. I say that without a shred of modesty. I worked my way up from secretary; I learned the business the hard way, which is often the best way. I'm successful and I'm proud of my success. I see no sense in hiding my light under a bushel.
I dress the part of an executive in suits and separates. I am fond of heels and not in the least bit uncomfortable being taller than a man, which does happen, given my height of five feet eight inches.
I carry my clothes well, especially the sleek, tailored pieces I favor. I choose neutrals: black, gray, brown, taupe, and white. I haven't owned a pair of jeans since college, when I dressed in whatever was clean and available. These days, I don't do casual; I am always what my mother called “put together.” People remember a woman with a signature look; she makes an impression.
My hair is professionally colored ultrablonde. I wear it closely cropped in a face-flattering style. My eyes are brown. The contrast between my bright hair and dark eyes is arresting.
I prefer an oversized leather bag to a more traditional briefcase. Into that bag I stuff any combination of the following: my PDA/cell phone of the moment, an extra pair of stockings (in case of runs), a makeup bag, a potboiler novel of the sort I wouldn't dream of admitting to reading, an iPod, my laptop, the latest issues of
the latest issues of my industry's trade publications, the
New York Times
(I read the
Wall Street Journal
and the Boston papers online.), and a bottle of fortified water (You can never be too hydrated.).
I go to the gym five days a week. For years I worked with a trainer but, having learned a thing or two, now I work out on my own. Currently, at the age of forty-two, I'm in the best shape of my life.
I am not married, nor am I involved in a long-term, committed relationship. I don't date. I have a lover, someone with whom I have regular sex. We're not friends; lover is even too intimate a term to describe who Sam is to me or who I am to him. On occasion I have sex with other men. None of them are ever invited to my apartment.
At this point in my life, I have no one to answer to but myself. Everything, I am pleased to report, is in place.
Dear Answer Lady:
I'm seventeen and lied to my boyfriend about being a virgin when we met. The truth is I've been having sex (protected) since I was fourteen. I really like this guy and now I'm wondering if I should tell him about my past. Is our relationship doomed because I lied to him at the start?
Dear Poor Little Thing:
You are under no obligation to tell your boyfriend a thing about your past sex life. Has he told you about his? How do you know he hasn't left something out, like the underage girl he got pregnant? How do you know he isn't lying, for example, about never having had an STD? Everyone lies or withholds information about their sex life. It's normal. So keep your past to yourself and don't give up on the condoms.
My name is John Alfredo Felitti. My parents came to this country from a small town just north of Naples, Italy, when they were still in their teens and unknown to each other. Each joined family already in Windhill, a suburb of Boston. Within a year of their separate arrivals they were married. Five years later I was born. During the interim between the wedding and my birth my father established a decent business as a tailor.
Two years later my sister Theresa was born. We call her Teri. Today she works as manager of a successful clothing store in the Prudential Mall and is married to a guy named Frank. Frank is midlevel management with the electric company. They have three kids: a four-year-old girl named Jean Marie and twin boys, Andrew and Scott, age twelve. Every summer they go to Cape Cod for a week. In the past few years they've offered to take along our parents but Mom and Dad aren't interested in the beach.
A year after Teri came along, my youngest sibling was born, Christina. Chrissy is married to a guy named Mike, who is in construction. Chrissy works part-time as a salesclerk. The rest of her days and nights are spent being a parent to ten-year-old Lucy (after our mother, Lucia) and eight-year-old Paul (after our father, Paolo). Both Teri and Chrissy are active in our parish church, St. Boniface. Much to my parents' dismay, I haven't graced the door of a church since high school graduation, except, of course, when performing a family duty.
Teri and her family, Chrissy and hers, and my parents all still live in Windhill in houses only minutes from one another. Our family is a close one, with few if any smoldering resentments and rare displays of outright anger. Unless, of course, someone “acts up.” Then my mother lets fly with dramatic gestures and pleas to God to take her to his side, etc., etc., until the offender apologizes profusely, at which point Mom blesses herself with the sign of the cross and shuts up. Hey, it works for her. We all find our strengths and play to them.
I have been told that I have a commanding presence. I'm six feet two inches. My shoulders are broad. My body is in shape, thanks to almost daily workouts. My face, which still retains something of youth, is made to seem more serious and mature by my glasses—I have several pairs, with stylish designer frames. (I wear contacts only while exercising.) My hair has thinned only slightly. I'm an anomaly in my family. My parents and my sisters are short and have much darker complexions than I do. My father used to joke that I was the milkman's son (My mother would giggle and smack his arm.), but in truth I take after my father's older brother, long dead (I know him only from pictures.), who towered over the rest of the family. (Maybe he was the milkman's son.)
From childhood, I've had a sense of my own importance. I was the firstborn, the only son of very old-fashioned people. It was a struggle at first but over time it became a habit—not to indulge that sense of importance, but to choose to believe that I'm in this world for a purpose, and that purpose is to do good for others. Since as far back as I can remember I've been the go-to guy for just about everybody I've ever known. If I'm going to command attention, then I'm going to use that power for the good. No one likes a self-important asshole. The last thing I want to be considered is stuck-up, full of myself, arrogant. I work hard to be humble. It hasn't always been easy, when other people see you as something special.
Poor me. I'm teetering on the brink of sounding like a self-pitying wretch, and no one likes one of those, either.
BOOK: The Friends We Keep
8.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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