THE GIFT OF FAMILY
The flames of memory always seem to glow a little brighter during the holidays. Perhaps that’s why this time of year is so difficult for airline heiress Ivy Macintosh, as she faces thoughts of yet another festive season alone. Since the plane crash that claimed the lives of her husband and two children eight years ago, she’s been submerged in grief.
When eleven-year-old Holly Greenwood knocks on her door, lost and frightened after a forbidden visit to her singing teacher, Ivy’s self-imposed exile is shattered. Holly has an extraordinary voice, and wants nothing more than to perform in an upcoming Christmas musical. Holly’s father, Daniel, doesn’t allow music in their home, refusing to give a good reason why, yet Ivy is drawn to the warmth she senses beneath his gruff exterior. As Christmas nears, their shared concern for Holly begins to draw Ivy back into the world again . . . and toward a family who may need her just as much as she needs them . . .
“Bestselling Michaels’ bittersweet Christmas story offers the promise of a better tomorrow.”
“The storyline is an emotional rollercoaster, so keep a tissue box nearby . . . A great read.”
—RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars
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|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
FERN MICHAELS is the USA Today and New York Times bestselling author of the Sisterhood, Men of the Sisterhood and Godmothers series, as well as dozens of other novels and novellas. There are over one-hundred ten million copies of her books in print. Fern Michaels has built and funded several large day-care centers in her hometown and is a passionate animal lover who has outfitted police dogs across the country with special bulletproof vests. She shares her home in South Carolina with her four dogs and a resident ghost named Mary Margaret. Visit her website at www.fernmichaels.com.
Hometown:Summerville, South Carolina
Place of Birth:Hastings, Pennsylvania
Read an Excerpt
"You're too young to be hanging around with a bunch of old ladies. You need to be with girls your own age," Daniel Greenwood explained to his eleven-year-old daughter, Holly.
"Well, you work around those 'old ladies,' and I think you need to be around women your own age. You will never find a girlfriend at The Upside, now, will you? And I do have friends my own age," Holly countered as she spread Skippy extra-crunchy peanut butter across a slice of bread. "I'm getting bored with peanut butter sandwiches, too. Can't you get some turkey or ham at the grocery store next time? Besides, Miss Carol asked me if I could help out with their Christmas musical production this year." Holly slipped that last bit in because she knew that her dad wasn't very hip with her participating in The Upside's Christmas anything, especially since it involved music. He was worse than Scrooge, and she'd told him that every time she thought she could get away with it.
"Holly, that's enough. The subject is closed. Finish making your lunch before you miss the bus. Again."
Tears welled up, but no way, José, was she going to cry in front of him. He would just tell her to toughen up and get over it. He was mean sometimes, and she wished she had someone she could talk to about her dad. She knew he loved her, but he wasn't a very nice dad the way her friends' dads were. All he did was work and come home, read the papers, throw something in the microwave for dinner, then shut himself up in his den for the rest of the night. He didn't even bother telling her good night on most nights. She tried her best to be cheerful and nice to her dad, but he would always come back with something snotty like, "Don't you have homework or something to do?"
"Get a move on, Holly. I don't have time to drive you to school today. And make sure you come home as soon as school is out. No stopping at The Upside." He gave her that dad look over his shoulder.
She rolled her eyes as soon as he looked away and stuffed her peanut butter sandwich and an apple in her lunch bag. Remembering that she'd forgotten something to drink yesterday, she grabbed a bottle of water and tossed it in her backpack.
Hoping he might be in a better mood this evening, she smiled, then said, "Sure, Dad, see you tonight. Have a good day at work." She had every intention of getting off at the bus stop three blocks from The Upside. She'd promised Miss Carol she would bring her a list of songs they could practice.
He waved her off without saying a word, his usual form of good-bye.
Holly slung her backpack over her shoulder and headed out the front door, making sure to slam it behind her. This was her way of letting her father know he had failed her again. She never said that to him, but it was exactly what she thought. She ran the two blocks to the bus stop, where Kayla and Roxie were waiting for her.
"We thought you were gonna miss the bus again," Roxie said, when Holly all but skidded to a stop.
She leaned over, her elbows on her knees, as she tried to catch her breath. "Almost, but I ran all the way. Dad's gonna kill me if I miss it again. That's, like, five times in three weeks."
Holly had been friends with Kayla and Roxie since kindergarten. They were always together at school, and this year, for the first time since first grade, they were all in the same classroom together. It was Ms. Anderson's fifth-grade class. When they had learned this at the beginning of the school year, they had made a pledge to never, ever let anyone come between them. They'd termed themselves the three girl musketeers.
The orange-yellow bus ground to a noisy stop. Holly was the first to hop on the bus, and she hurried to the much-coveted seat in the rear before anyone else noticed it was empty. She slid all the way over to the window, making room for Kayla and Roxie. They dropped their backpacks on the floor, using their feet to keep them from rolling forward when the bus took off.
"So," Roxie said after they were settled in their seats, "did you tell your dad about the Christmas musical?" Five-foot-four Roxie was the tallest of the trio. Holly thought that with Roxie's long blond hair, which reached all the way to her waist, and her clear blue eyes, Roxie was the prettiest girl in their fifth-grade class. Kayla, on the other hand, was a tiny little girl with short, curly black hair and eyes to match. Holly thought that both of her best friends were extremely pretty, and told them so often.
Holly was polite, friendly, helpful to anyone who asked her. She did her best to make good grades in school and succeeded pretty well except for math, where she barely managed a B minus. Ms. Anderson told her she would do better if she studied harder at home, and she'd even offered to come over to her house and tutor her, but her dad went into a rage when she told him what Ms. Anderson had offered. And she really tried, but math was never going to be her best subject.
Her dad was really good with numbers, and she'd asked him more than once to help her, but he'd told her no, she'd have to learn on her own or else she'd never get it. She wanted to tell Ms. Anderson that her father wouldn't help her with math no matter what, or any homework for that matter, but she didn't want to make her father look bad. He had never been really friendly to her, and she still didn't understand how her own dad could treat her like she was nothing more than a piece of yucky old furniture. So many times, she had wanted to tell Kayla and Roxie, but she suspected they knew that she didn't have the nicest dad in the world because they had been to her house lots of times, and her dad rarely acknowledged them when they were there. Sometimes she thought he was mad at her because of her mother, but she figured she was too young to understand that part of her dad. She wished her mother were still alive. It would make her dad happy again, she assumed, though she didn't actually have any real memory of his being happy. Every time she asked him about her mother, he would get so angry at her, so she had decided never to ask about her mother again. There was no one else to ask, either. Her dad had no brothers or sisters, no living parents. His parents had died when he was only a teenager. Holly's mom wasn't even thirty when she died. She kinda thought she remembered her mom, but she wasn't really sure. She had one picture of her mother that she'd sneaked from beneath her dad's pile of underwear when she was seven. If he missed it, he'd never said anything, and she wasn't going to tell him. Her mom was so pretty, with deep, reddish-gold auburn hair like hers. Her eyes were a clear gray, and Holly sometimes thought they kinda twinkled back at her whenever she took out her picture, even though she knew that pictures didn't smile or twinkle at people. It was wishful thinking, and she was smart enough to figure that out.
"I told him Miss Carol wanted me to help out with the music, but all he heard was The Upside and music, then told me I needed to hang out with girls my own age. I told him that I would come straight home after school." Holly hated dishonesty. "I crossed my fingers, you know, just so I could, well ... lie." She smiled, and she knew that her best friends would get what she meant.
She had another secret that was ready to burst from her mouth, but she had promised Maxine she wouldn't tell a living soul. Still, it is the coolest thing ever. If it really does happen. She quickly pushed those thoughts aside before she revealed their secret.
"I don't see why it's such a big deal. It's not like you're hanging on the street corner with drug addicts," Roxie said with all the knowledge of a street-smart eleven-year-old.
"She's right," Kayla added. "Your dad should be glad we're such nerds."
They all laughed.
"I don't think he even knows what a nerd is," Holly said with a bit of sadness in her voice.
Roxie wrapped her right arm around Holly. "He knows, he's just mad at the world. At least that's what my mom says."
Holly jerked to attention. "How would your mom know? She hardly knows my father," Holly said.
Roxie seemed slightly uncomfortable. "I know, but she told me once that she knew your mother." She'd never said anything about this to Holly because she knew it would just raise more questions that she probably wouldn't have the answers to.
"How come you're just telling me this now?" Holly asked.
"I didn't want to hurt your feelings is all," Roxie said quietly.
Holly nodded. "Sure, I know. I'm sorry. I just ... Well, I've never really talked about my mother. It just seems weird, you know? Maybe someday I could talk to your mom about her."
"Maybe," Roxie replied.
Kayla spoke up. "You guys are way too serious today."
"Sorry," they both said at the same time, and they all laughed.
"Two more stops," Roxie said, as though Holly and Kayla were suddenly clueless. They had been riding this same bus, the same route, with most of the same kids who'd lived in the same houses, since they were born.
Billy Craydell and Mandy Simpson hopped on the bus at the next-to-the-last stop, followed by Terri Walker, whom most of the fifth-grade boys called Street Walker. Holly felt very bad for her because she was a nice girl, just shy. She'd make a point to say hi to her today. Ms. Anderson once told the class that it took little effort to be nice; every Friday in class, she'd ask if anyone had had occasion to put her advice to use. Holly would this week.
The bus clanged to a stop in front of the two-story redbrick building that housed grades one through five. Kindergarten classes were held in the cafeteria, and Holly never really counted that as a real grade, though she supposed she should. Holly remembered attending kindergarten classes in the cafeteria and thinking she was so grown-up. If only she was an adult, she thought now as she waited to exit the bus.
Inside the school, the hallways were packed with kids lugging backpacks and lunch bags. Most of the older kids deposited their cell phones in their lockers. A new rule required that they not be carried. She had never given much thought to that rule, since neither she nor Kayla nor Roxie had one. She'd planned to ask her dad for one this year for Christmas. She knew he'd tell her no, but she thought it was still worth a try. Kayla and Roxie were asking for cell phones, too, though their parents would probably decide it was time for them to have cell phones, since both girls were about to turn twelve.
Holly spent the morning in Ms. Anderson's class, and at noon they broke for lunch. She found her table and saved places for Roxie and Kayla. She couldn't wait for this day to end. She had so many things to tell Miss Carol when she stopped at The Upside on her way home.
Just the thought brought a huge grin to her face.
Roxie plopped down beside her. "What's so funny?"
"Yeah," Kayla parroted, "why the humongous smile?"
Holly's eyes twinkled with mischief. "You'll just have to wait and see."CHAPTER 2
Ivy did not bother answering the house telephone as she searched for her sneakers. It was a good day if she answered. Most of the time, she just let it ring until whoever called gave up. She'd just finished binge watching all the episodes of Orange Is the New Black, and needed to find something else on Netflix that would totally distract her from life. She scrolled through the selection, deciding on Alias, since there were several seasons. She set the timer to start so she'd be all set when it was time for the next round of binge watching. This series should take her at least a week to ten or eleven days to watch. In between, she'd do the same thing she'd been doing for the past eight years. She'd established a routine of sorts, and it worked for her.
She started her mornings around eleven o'clock with an entire pot of strong black coffee. Overly caffeinated with energy, she would spend the rest of the morning hiking the mountainous trails behind her house. She never had a path in mind when she headed out; instead, she just knew she had to burn off the excess energy she'd consumed from the coffee. After three or four hours, she would find her way back to the house, where she would shower in the downstairs guest bathroom. Really, she thought, as she found her sneakers in the guest bathroom, it was the only room in the house without the memories. The one room that had not been splashed with memories of a life she was no longer living. A life that was beginning to fade with the passing of time, a life she'd assumed was her God- given right as a woman, a life as a wife ... and a mother. It hurt just thinking the word. She could not say it out loud without hot, angry tears streaming down her face. Right when she thought she had a handle on the life she no longer had, it would hit her full force: She was never going to have that life again. It was over. Done. Finished. And had she had the courage, she would have joined her family, but what little faith she had left kept her from joining them in death. Sometimes, though, she wondered if she had chosen to take the easy way out, how would she actually go about doing the evil deed?
She had numerous bottles of tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and several unopened bottles of antidepressants she had been prescribed over the years, but had never taken. Nothing would soften or blur the sadness she lived with daily. No, pills were too easy.
She had seen an episode of True Crime where a woman had poisoned two husbands with antifreeze by pouring it into a drink. Supposedly, it was sweet, and deadly. Ivy simply could not see herself running down to Pep Boys to purchase a jug of the stuff to bring home and add to her ice tea.
Though, really, weren't these thoughts of suicide overly dramatic, when she knew she would never have the courage to see them through to the end? She did not own a gun, and thought that method of taking one's life extremely thoughtless, since someone would have to clean up all the blood. She sometimes wondered if she could somehow magically put a bullet in her brain, then clean up after herself so that no one else had to deal with it, could she then bring herself to do it? But no, that would not be her way to end it all ... if she ever decided to take herself out.
Knives were too scary, and she really did not like the sight of blood, so that, too, was out of the question. She supposed she could walk in front of a car, maybe go to the Blue Ridge Parkway, where tourists gawked at the scenery while driving, and hope she would get lucky and find the one car that realized when it was too late that they were about to hit a pedestrian. No, that was stupid, too, and why burden an innocent person with all that guilt? She certainly had enough to share, but it was all hers, and she would never wish her nightmarish life on her worst enemy. And she only had one enemy, and, fortunately for him, he was dead, too. He was the reason her family had died eight years ago in the crash, which had made national news for more than a year while the National Transportation Safety Board did its investigation. And when the NTSB concluded that the crash was due to pilot error, Ivy had wanted to kill the man who had taken her family and the other passengers: Captain Mark Dwight Murray. He had ruined the lives of so many who had lost their loved ones the way she had. The Boeing 747 had only been airborne for ten minutes when the captain's mistake cost 109 passengers and six crew members their lives.
No, she could not let her thoughts go down that path. Not again. She knew what would happen. She would get into her car and drive to Lucky's Liquors and come home with enough alcohol to keep her numb for weeks; then, when she had gone through her supply, she would do her best to stay sober, and would succeed until her thoughts once again took her down what she mentally referred to as the dark path, and she would trek back to the liquor store and restock her supply of booze.
Ivy hated that she was so weak that she could not be strong like her father, but she couldn't help it. Her life had been nearly perfect; then, boom, it was gone in a flash. She had never recovered and doubted that she ever would. One could not go on after such a tragedy ... could they?(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Holly and Ivy"
Copyright © 2017 Fern Michaels.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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