Young Margaret Winslow had beauty and a family name, but inside she felt empty . . . until Nick Sebastian gave her his heart and the strength to stand up for herself
The Sebastian women grew up on the story of their parents' great love—how their mother had been an orphan, raised by a forbidding aunt, and then, contrary to all expectations, danced with the love of her life at her sixteenth birthday party. Her aunt Grace called her Margaret, and her daughters would call her Megs, but to her loving parents and her cherished Nicky, she would always be Daisy.
Nicky and Meg's love never faltered—in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, through dingy apartments that Meg always made beautiful, joined by family, stricken by tragedy, through it all: Nicky and Meg had each other, and that was more than enough.
This is their love story.
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Meg At Sixteen
The Sebastian Sisters, Book Five
By Susan Beth Pfeffer
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1990 Susan Beth Pfeffer
All rights reserved.
"What a dump!"
"I know," Sybil Sebastian said. "But I only got home yesterday. I haven't had a chance to unpack yet."
Claire Sebastian laughed. "Home," she said. "You're the only one of us who feels comfortable calling this dive a home."
"I call it home too," Thea Sebastian said. "Maybe not the home of my dreams, but home."
"It's the home of my dreams," Sybil declared. "And I'll thank all of you to treat it with respect."
Evvie Sebastian Steinmetz Greene smiled. "Fear and loathing is more like it," she replied. "It's been what, five years since Aunt Grace died and sort of left us this place, and I still expect to see her every time I walk through the door."
"Her memory does linger," Thea agreed, wrinkling her nose. "Sort of like moldy cheese."
"You never gave her a chance," Claire said. "Sure, on the outside, she was cold and cruel, but inside, she was miserable and rotten. I always liked that about her."
"Five years," Thea said. "Do you remember that first awful Christmas here?"
"Let's not remember the awful times," Sybil said. "There were too many of them that year."
The sisters were silent for a moment, thinking of all that had happened five years before, the move to Boston, the big fight between Evvie and their father, Nick, and then Nick's death.
"He would have been so proud of you," Evvie said to Sybil, and they all knew whom she was talking about. "Graduating with honors from Princeton."
"I liked it there," Sybil said. "But I was always glad to come back here for vacations."
Evvie laughed. "Thank goodness for Aunt Grace's nasty will," she declared. "Leaving the house in trust until the birth of her first legitimate Christian grandson."
"Speaking of which," Claire said. "When are your legitimate Jewish sons arriving? I want to play aunty."
"Sam's bringing them in a couple of hours," Evvie replied. "If you thought they were monsters before, wait until you see them now. They're both crawling and they have this terrible tendency to bump into each other. Sam keeps trying to point them in opposite directions, but that means twice as much chasing for us. I think twins were Grace's curse on me."
"I can't wait to have children," Thea declared. "Of course medical school came first, and then meeting the right man, which I don't seem to have done quite yet, but I really want a large family."
"You want it all," Evvie said. "You always did."
Thea smiled. "I did, didn't I," she said. "I just never thought of it that way."
"You have it all," Claire pointed out to Evvie. "A husband, children, and a career. Almost a Ph.D. What a lousy example you've set for all of us."
"Sure," Evvie said. "And that's exactly the life you've made for yourself, Claire. Domesticity. Education."
"I took some classes once," Claire replied. "No, that isn't even true. I tried three times to take classes, but all three times, something came up right around the second or third session. Shoots in London. Vacations on the Riviera. What's a girl to do?"
"Keep looking beautiful," Thea said. "You're on the Riviera beaches while I'm memorizing bones."
"That's the difference between bones and bone structure," Claire said. "I knew from birth high cheekbones were my way out of this madness."
Sybil tossed some clothing off her bed and stretched out. "What about Schyler?" she asked. "Any change in that relationship?"
"Schyler wants to marry me," Claire said. "And I'm not opposed. I am twenty-three, after all, and it's about time I made my first marriage."
"Are you going to marry him?" Thea asked. "Two weddings this summer? Can I stand it?"
Claire shrugged, and the sisters smiled at the familiarity of the gesture. "I keep telling him he just isn't rich enough," she replied. "I know he's gorgeous, and he's doing well enough, but shouldn't my first husband be somebody just terribly rich? Then after that doesn't work out, I can marry for love."
"Do you love him?" Thea asked.
"I don't know," Claire said. "You're the love expert around here. You tell me."
"Evvie's the expert," Sybil said. "I wish I could have been at your anniversary party."
"Five years," Evvie said. "It feels longer somehow."
"It is longer," Claire said. "You and Sam have been together what, ten, eleven years?"
"Something like that," Evvie replied. "It's gotten so I can't remember a time without him. It was a funny kind of a party, Syb, with none of you there."
"I'm sorry," Thea said. "Interns cannot call their lives their own. You wouldn't believe the maneuvering it took to get this weekend off."
"They insisted on a screen test," Claire said. "I begged them. I said, 'My oldest sister is celebrating her fifth anniversary and she's married to the last decent man in America,' and they said, 'Shut up and act.' As though I knew how."
"Have you heard anything yet?" Sybil asked. "I can't imagine you a movie star."
"Oh I can," Thea said. "Claire was born to be one."
"I, of course, agree," Claire said, but then she giggled. "That's a first. My agreeing with Thea. My agent's optimistic, but that's the nature of agents. I don't care. If the movie comes through, great. If it doesn't, I still have a lot of good years of modeling left, and there's always Schyler, and what's his name. Donald. He asked me to marry him a couple of days ago, and I said I'd see if the wedding this weekend put me in a romantic enough mood. Of course if it does, I'll still never marry him. Donald's certainly rich enough, but that's where his charms begin and end."
"You wouldn't marry him just for his money," Thea said.
"Well, on second thought, why not?" Claire asked. "Isn't that what Megs is about to do?"
"Claire!" Evvie said sharply. "That's not true."
"You're not about to tell me it's love," Claire said. "Not after Nicky."
"There are different kinds of love," Evvie replied. "Besides, you of all people wouldn't want Megs to fall in love like she did with Nicky. All that grand passion you kept mocking."
"I had my doubts too," Sybil said. "When Megs first told us. But I think she's going to be very happy. She loved being married, you know. She loved all that domesticity."
"She's loved her job too," Evvie said. "I've never been so proud of her as when she went back to school and got a degree in physical therapy. And I've lived close enough to her to see the difference it's made in her. She's more self-confident. She's proud of herself for the first time. She was always proud of us, and of Nicky too, rightly or wrongly, but the past couple of years have been different. Her face gets that glow when she talks about her work, and how well she does it."
"So what are you saying?" Claire asked. "Are you happy or not happy with this marriage?"
Evvie took a deep breath. "I can't really say," she replied. "I know it's been five years, but there's a part of me that still hasn't accepted Nicky's death. Maybe because the end was so ugly. I don't know. Things aren't resolved for me yet, but at least I'm in therapy where my doctor and I work on it. I alternate between guilt and anger. That isn't even true. Sometimes there is so much longing for him. When Rob and Mickey were born, I wanted him there. I wanted him to see his grandsons. Mick looks like him. You can see the Prescott side in him."
"Then Nicky would have favored Robby," Claire said. "That was the way he operated."
"Old resentments die hard," Thea declared.
"Yes they do," Claire said.
"We all had a different Nicky," Sybil said. "I thought about that a lot, especially the last couple of years. Megs was pretty much the same for all of us, even you, Claire. But Nicky was a different person for each one of us. Maybe because we each had our best view of him at different spots in his life. Not ours, but his. I never knew him as well as I did the day he died, and you didn't really know him at all then, Evvie."
"I didn't know anything or anyone then," Evvie replied. "I was so confused about so many things."
"I knew Nicky," Thea said. "He never changed for me."
"That's what I mean," Sybil replied. "Nicky changed enormously after my accident. We all did, but Nicky changed the most. It isn't that I knew him the best, that I had the single best view of him. Just that the Nicky I knew was the one who was changed by my accident, and the Nicky you knew was the romantic, and the Nicky Claire knew, well, I shudder to think about that one, and the Nicky Evvie knew was the ambitious and loving family man. Do you know what I mean? Am I making sense?"
Claire nodded. "You're making sense," she declared. "After all, Megs knew a completely different Nicky. She fell in love with him when she was sixteen, and no matter what happened, that was the Nicky she knew."
"It isn't like that with Sam and me," Evvie said. "We grow, we change. We just do it together."
"You and Sam aren't Nicky and Megs," Sybil replied. "The only thing you have in common is that you fell in love at sixteen."
"That's not the only thing," Evvie said. "But I guess the differences are more relevant than the similarities."
"You even sound like a psychologist," Claire said.
"Have you been in therapy?" Thea asked.
"Moi?" Claire replied, raising her eyebrows in mock horror. "Perfect me?"
"What's the matter?" Thea asked. "Afraid it would lower your cheekbones?"
Claire shook her head. "There was a moment," she said. "Right after that ridiculous elopement business. We were back in Missouri, Megs and I, while Nicky was staying on in Portland with you, Sybs, and I was feeling really very wounded. Megs wouldn't talk to me about what I'd done, and frankly, I wanted some kind of reaction from her. Approval, rage, I almost didn't care, just as long as she would acknowledge it. Which, of course, she couldn't, because to acknowledge it would be to acknowledge that I was stronger than Nicky, that I had taken on his responsibilities."
"It wasn't that simple," Evvie said.
"Maybe not," Claire replied. "But it seemed that way to me. So I was hurting. And I was feeling bad about the elopement itself, what I'd done to Scotty, what he'd done to me for that matter. I was only sixteen. At the time I felt like I was thirty. Nicky knew that. He even told me how young I was, but I didn't believe him. Look what I'd just pulled off. Getting all that money from his father."
"What's the point?" Thea asked. "Well, I'm sorry, but it's not my favorite topic, that elopement. I was involved too, you know. I was used."
"You weren't even there," Claire pointed out. "You had to be told about it."
"Exactly," Thea said. "I had to be. Do you think Scotty would have gone along with your grand scheme if he hadn't been in love with me?"
"It was seven years ago," Sybil said. "Do we have to fight about it today?"
"I'm sorry," Thea said, and she managed a smile. "Some battle wounds don't heal."
"I think that's my point," Claire said. "You were the one who asked me about therapy, after all."
"I'm sorry I ever did," Thea said. "Can we change the subject now?"
"No," Evvie said. "Let Claire finish. Neither one of you has ever been any good at that, letting the other one finish."
Claire shrugged. "It isn't important," she said. "Just that I decided then I could either be whiny and miserable like Thea, or I could accept who I was and what my life had been and go on from there. Which I did. So no, I'm not in therapy, never have been, never will be. No insult intended, Evvie, I'm sure you'll be brilliant at it."
"I'm not so sure," Evvie said. "But I'll give it my best shot."
Sybil looked at her sisters and laughed. "Why is it we love each other so much and whenever we get together, we want to kill each other?"
"That isn't true," Thea said. "Sure, Claire and I have our moments, but otherwise we all get along just fine."
"I seem to remember a certain moment at my graduation," Sybil said. "Just six weeks ago. A battle royal between you and Evvie."
"The twins were too young to be weaned," Thea said. "That's all. I am going to be a pediatrician, after all. I would have thought Evvie would be happy to benefit from my experiences."
"You experience nursing twins and working on your thesis simultaneously," Evvie said. "Then come back to me with your profound advice."
"They're going at it again," Claire said. "Good move, Sybil."
"I was just making a point," Sybil said. "Not trying to start World War Three."
"I'm sorry," Thea said. "It's this damn wedding."
"Ah," Claire said. "The truth comes out."
"Will you listen for just once," Thea said. "I know I should be happy for Megs, getting married again. But inside of me, there's a part that's just dying. It's been like that since she told us, which, if you remember correctly, was at Sybil's graduation. That was when I started picking fights with all of you. And that was when you were all more than willing to fight right back."
Evvie nodded. "He's a good man," she said. "And it's obvious how much he loves her."
"But does she love him?" Claire asked.
"Does it matter?" Evvie asked.
"Of course it does," Thea said. "Megs is still a young woman. She shouldn't settle, the way Claire seems to be willing to."
"Potshot, Thea," Claire said. "Not really called for."
Thea ignored her. "I want to be happy for Megs," she said. "The wedding's tomorrow, for God's sake. It's just, do you remember that night when Clark brought over the videotape?"
"Thea," Claire said. "Drop it."
"I can't," Thea replied. "I think about it a lot. How many people get to see the moment when their parents met? The moment when they fell in love."
"They didn't fall in love just at that instant," Claire said.
"They didn't?" Thea said. "Then you didn't see the same videotape I did."
"They did," Sybil said. "I know they did, and what's more important, they know they did. But what difference does that make? You can't possibly want Megs to stop her life at that moment, Thea. Of all of us, you know the most about loss and the need to go on."
Claire smiled. Thea didn't seem to notice.
"We all want Megs to be happy," Evvie declared. "We just have different images of how that should be."
"Do you like the idea of this marriage?" Thea asked her. "Honestly now."
"Honestly, I don't know," Evvie replied. "Sometimes I'm very happy for her. Sometimes I think about Nicky, and I know it's ridiculous, but I feel like she's betraying him. If their love was so perfect then how can she be marrying someone else?"
"Would you ever remarry, if Sam died?" Sybil asked.
"I can't even think about that," Evvie said. "It panics me. Isn't that ridiculous? Levelheaded Evvie, in a state of total terror."
"I'm happy for her," Sybil said. "I think it's really nice she's getting married."
"You have a vested interest," Thea declared. "Megs moves out of this house, and you move right in. Your very own Beacon Hill mansion. At least until there's a legitimate Christian grandson."
"That's not fair," Claire said. "This house is available to all of us. Sybil's just going to be going to graduate school here, that's all."
"That isn't all, and we all know it," Thea said. "We know what Sybil was willing to do to keep this house."
"My," Claire said. "We are in an ugly mood today."
"We have our share of ugly truths," Thea said.
"She was sixteen," Claire said. "Just. And you know the kind of pressure Nicky could assert. Besides, whatever happened was between Sybil and Evvie and Sam, and if they can all handle it, I don't see why it should bother you."
"I hate this house," Evvie said. "Megs offered it to Sam and me when I was expecting, and I'm so glad I turned her down. It does ugly things to us to be here. Sybil may think of it as home and she's welcome to it as far as I'm concerned, but it's a cruel house, and it makes us all say and think cruel things."
Thea started to cry. "I'm sorry," she said. "Sybil, I know it wasn't your fault. It's just I associate that business, your birthday, all of it, with Nicky's dying, and now Megs is getting remarried, and somehow that makes it feel like Nicky really is dead. Is that dumb? It's been five years, but I still have dreams that he's alive, that it's all been a scheme of his, and he and Megs are just waiting, the way they waited all those years ago, when Aunt Grace wouldn't let them get married. It's like when Megs gets married tomorrow, we're really burying Nicky, and that hurts so much."
Excerpted from Meg At Sixteen by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Copyright © 1990 Susan Beth Pfeffer. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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