|Publisher:||She Writes Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Her work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, and literary journals such as ;upstreet, Distillery, Skirt, Long Island Woman, and the Hartford Courant. In 2009, Jean was selected to attend the Advanced Fiction Workshop, led by Nahid Rachlin, at the 92 Street Y. ;A short story, “Friday Night at the Olympia Theater” can be read online in ;Slow Trains, Spring, '09. Additionally, a memoir piece, “Leaving Charles,” appears online ;in ;Persimmon Tree, summer, 2011. Several poems, “Dancing with My Mother,” (a finalist), “Evening,” and “Views of the Valley, page 76,” can be read in 21st Century Women's Voices, 2013.
Read an Excerpt
Running on Empty
At seven thirty in the morning, on October 9, 2009, Lidia Raven, divorced mother of two, lingered in bed enjoying a no-school day at Greenwich High School. She had looked forward to this day, a little reprieve from the frantic morning ritual of getting her seventeen-year-old twins, Carly and Clarisse, out the door and off to school. Of late, senioritis had kicked in and had lain claim to her otherwise conscientious daughters. But on this morning, while she lay happily reading her novel—just as Julian the protagonist was about to sleep with the Irish singer—she heard a plane’s engine sputtering in the distance. Moments later Lidia became aware of a humming noise getting louder, much louder. That’s close, way too close, she thought, tossing aside the covers, her book tumbling to the floor. “My God, it’s going to hit,” she said out loud, her feet on the floor before she had willed her body to move. Fear ignited an adrenaline surge that sent her sprinting up the stairs to the girls’ bedroom. Standing between both beds, she pulled the quilts away, shaking the sleep from both until, startled, they lay staring up at their frenzied mother.
“Downstairs, now!” she screamed, pulling them to the landing and practically pushing them to the bottom, where she then shoved both in the closet under the stairs, a space barely large enough to hold them. Opal, their usually sensible black Lab, began barking hysterically, having been roused from her morning snooze. Lidia reached out and dragged Opal in by the collar. In this cramped space Lidia opened her arms like wings and wrapped them around her whimpering girls, Opal beside them. “What’s happening?” the girls cried. “Mom!”
“Shhh,” was Lidia’s only response, certain the end was at hand, no time for anything but to comfort, to be calm; no time to think, only to pray, Dear God, please don’t let them suffer. She felt waves of panic needing to be stifled, dread to be endured—until she thought her heart would burst; she felt regret for all that would not be—for her girls—her magnificent girls. How could this be happening? Lidia heard the thunderous noise and felt the vibration rattle her skull and every bone. Then she braced herself for the end of their mortal lives.
The plane she knew had been hurtling toward them struck with unearthly force. The trio and their dog were slammed against the wall, but the staircase held even as roof, walls, beams, and plaster crashed all around them. In an instant their life-saving little closet under the stairs was buried in their home’s rubble, but they had miraculously survived. The closet was intact.
Lidia heard her daughters crying inconsolably, but she could not stop herself from laughing. They were alive. The worst thing imaginable had not happened. Her daughters had not been blown to oblivion. Squeezing them to her and thanking God out loud, she then unwrapped herself from her daughters, moving to touch them, to feel arms and legs, assuring herself they were alive. Alive.
“Mom, stop,” cried Carly. “Why are you laughing? Are you okay? What’s the matter with you?”
“What’s happening to us?” asked Clarisse, her voice quaking.
“We’re okay,” she said, in disbelief, reaching out to feel for each of her girls, and Opal too. It couldn’t have been more than nine in the morning, but the rubble surrounding them blocked out all but small slivers of light.
Lidia took a deep breath before trying to calm her daughters. “It was a plane, a plane hit the house,” she explained, summoning all her strength to sound in control, her voice low but shaky.
“How will we get out?” asked Clarisse. “How can we get help?”
Just then, Opal, who had been quivering on the floor, roused herself and began digging below one of the slivers of light.
“We just have to be calm until help comes. The neighbors have called for help by now. I’m sure of it.” She took one daughter under each arm and reached up to stroke their long dark hair, rocking them gently from side to side. Surely they would be saved. They hadn’t survived the crash above only to die entombed below. Surely no god would be that cruel.
“I’m certain the neighbors have called for help—Mrs. Beltran, for sure.”
Their house on a cul-de-sac on Apple Way in Greenwich had once been the only house on the street, but now they were in the middle of a neighborhood with much newer center colonials and only a few remaining white shingle farmhouses. The Ravens’ nearest neighbor and long-time family friend, Mrs. Beltran, lived in one of the older homes.
No sooner had she uttered these encouraging words than Lidia heard muffled voices.
“Do you hear that, girls? Someone is out there. Do you hear them?”
The three wriggled toward Opal, trying to concentrate on the voices.
When the first muffled sounds became recognizable words, the trapped party screamed with relief.
“Oh my God,” said Clarisse. “It’s Mrs. B.”
“Are you in there? Lidia? Carly, Clarisse, can you hear me?”
“Yes!” they all screamed in unison.
“Help is coming. Just wait. Don’t worry, okay?”
Carly and Clarisse huddled against their mother. Believing now they would be rescued, their panic gave way to shorter and softer cries and then to silence. As they sat and waited for help, Lidia’s relief at having survived the crash ebbed as a new fear rose. Her body stiffened. She felt the girls tense up, sensitive to her every move. She tried to relax but could not stop thinking about the plane, no doubt now lodged somewhere in the house, that would surely at some point explode, creating unbearable heat and sucking out all the oxygen. How could they escape that fate? Had they come this far only to die after all? Her heart began to race again. She could not utter a word or make a sound to awaken fear in her now calm girls, but her thoughts soon turned to escape—how would they escape? An urge to begin clawing their way out overtook her when the beam from a flashlight shone directly into the place where they were crouched.
“We’re in here!” Carly cried out.
“Help us,” said Clarisse.
With that, both girls scrambled out from under their mother and onto their knees, screaming encouragement to their would-be rescuers. “We’re here, we’re here! Help us, please.”
They heard muffled voices in response, calling back to them and tapping on the wreckage above.
Within minutes, the digging began. At first it sounded as though handheld shovels were trying to move through the mountain of rubble. Then it seemed an earthmover must have been slowly and carefully removing the debris around them.
In the frenzy of activity that followed, they were freed, wrapped in blankets, checked for injuries by the EMS, and proclaimed whole, but just the same requiring an ambulance ride to the hospital for good measure. Amid flashing lights and with the whole neighborhood turned out to watch, Mrs. Beltran was the first to greet them, near collapse with relief. All three were strapped into gurneys, about to be lifted into the back of the emergency vehicle waiting for them.
“Wait,” said Lidia, lifting up on her elbows. “Our dog. What about Opal?”
“It’s okay, Lidia, dear. I’ve got her. She’s right here.” Lidia glanced down to see Opal near her gurney but staying close to their trusted neighbor.
“Of course, Mrs. B. You’ve got her. Thank you,” said Lidia, relieved. As the girls were lifted into the ambulance, Lidia began to lie back down, but no—again she hoisted herself up, this time to take a long look at the devastation, the pile of broken boards, pulverized plaster, the ruthlessly strewn bits of furniture and personal belongings that had constituted her family’s home for four generations.
The first sensation to emerge after numbness was nausea. “Will they make sure no one touches anything?” Lidia asked. “I have to get back here, soon, to see what can be salvaged.”
“Your property is now an investigation site, Ma’am. Don’t worry. The police will go over all this with you,” a handsome young medic said, hoisting Lidia into the ambulance.
Lidia, somewhat assured, couldn’t help wondering about little things—family photos of the property from the 1930s, before construction had started, for one. She had particularly loved looking at the images of empty fields and acre upon acre of apple orchards. Her grandfather had built this house, and it was the house where her father had been born, where Lidia had grown up and then lived with her ex-husband until the divorce three years earlier, where they’d raised their girls.
Owen had remodeled the downstairs before she’d gotten pregnant with Carly and Clarisse. Hoping to start a family, the couple had combined several rooms to form a large master bedroom, the likes of which their architect had assured them would form a comfortable suite, including a bathroom with his and her sinks, a small but quite serviceable reading room/office, large walk-in closets, and a sweeping view of the sloping backyard that led to what had once been her family’s orchards. All of this remodeling would pay off handsomely, he said, in increased resale value when one day they went to sell, neither of them knowing then what the future would hold for them. While the work downstairs was underway, Lidia and Owen applied themselves to turning their old room upstairs into a nursery, efforts that required some rethinking once they found out they were expecting not one but two bundles of joy.
Now she looked at the ruins. Instead of her home, the once beautiful two-story white shingle farmhouse with its historic preservation plaque on the door, there was a mountain of debris, the tail of a small plane protruding from the general vicinity of where the girls’ bedroom had been, that side of the house demolished beyond recognition, the rest still feebly standing. Lidia shuddered. Her girls. But they were safe. They were all safe. A miracle.
“The pilot,” said Lidia suddenly, aware that at least one other life had been gravely endangered, or worse. “Is he . . .?”
“She,” said the medic, who was now monitoring Lidia’s blood pressure, as the ambulance doors were closed behind them. “She didn’t make it. Only one fatality—there was no one else. You and your daughters are very lucky, Ma’am.”
“Yes, we are. That poor woman,” said Lidia. Images she didn’t want to conjure up flashed through her mind. She began shaking uncontrollably, knowing the pilot was lying dead in the wreckage—in our home, Lidia thought as the ambulance drove away.
It was three o’clock in the afternoon before Polly Niven came to pick up the Ravens from the hospital. They’d been there for nearly five hours, and Polly had been in the waiting room for nearly as long, ever since she first got the call from Lidia, who explained what had happened. Polly, after retrieving Opal from Mrs. Beltran, came to get the Raven girls, as she called them, in her old but recently purchased 1998 Subaru Forester. She had Opal in the way back.
“Let them through. My word,” exclaimed Polly, whose short cropped white hair was shining in the fall afternoon sunlight. There was but a short distance between the hospital exit and Polly’s car, but the crush of reporters was blocking the path of the fleeing party. With each step, Polly’s long pale blue flannel skirt billowed around her legs and over her black leather boots, heightening the impression that a whirlwind was about to be unleashed if those obstructing her did not stand down. Her long slender fingers adjusted the delicate and intricately hammered silver belt she’d once bargained vigorously for in Kathmandu. The belt now slung low on her slim waist over her matching blue tunic, adding to the illusion of Polly’s youth, dispelled not so much by her white hair as by the fine wrinkles on her face going both horizontally and vertically, forming a kind of grid under her eyes extending down onto her high cheeks bones. Even so, no one ever guessed her true age.
“The only thing hard about being eighty,” Polly remarked on her milestone birthday, “is that I can’t do splits in yoga anymore.”
Pushing her multi-colored, hand-woven wool shawl, obtained during the same bargaining match in Nepal, securely onto her shoulders, she led her charges to the car, shielding them from a phalanx of reporters all boisterously and quite rudely, Polly pointed out, pushing their cameras and microphones toward the escaping party of four.
“How are you three holding up?” Polly asked as they drove toward Old Greenwich, a part of town with more than its fair share of mansions on the Long Island Sound. Stealing a furtive glance toward Lidia next to her and then through the rearview mirror toward the girls, she tried to determine the extent of their emotional trauma. A firm believer in the healing power of positive energy, a certainty she had picked up on Mount Fuji during the harmonic convergence of 1987, Polly believed she should go slowly, letting them talk when they were ready and in the meantime keeping it light.
“I must say, you look pretty good in your second-hand duds,” she said, referring to the clothes she’d gathered together for them and brought to the hospital.
“Pretty cool, Polly,” said Clarisse. “How did you know I like vintage jeans? These are so real—not like the ones they make to look old.”
“Oh, I have my ways. I just consulted the Oracle of Apple Way,” she said, nodding toward Lidia. As soon as the name of their street escaped her lips, Polly drew a sharp breath. “I’m sorry. I was trying to . . . I didn’t mean to . . .”
“It’s okay, Polly,” said Lidia, gently petting Opal, who had precariously balanced herself between the back and front seat and who had put her head on the armrest separating Polly and Lidia. “You can speak the name of the street. We’re going to have to go back to the house. We’re going to have to talk about what happened.”
Polly focused on keeping a cheerful demeanor as her heart went out to her homeless friends. “How do you like yours?” she asked, looking back at Carly through the mirror.
“I like my sweater,” said Carly. “And the boots, too. So where did you get this stuff?”
“At Closet 2 Closet. You know, the Catholic Church thrift shop, on Putnam?”
“Honestly, Polly. It’s all too much,” said Lidia.
“Nonsense. Not another word.” Polly turned to look at Lidia, her dark hair falling over the neckline of the lavender cashmere sweater Polly had picked for her. Lidia, at fifty-five, was older than most of the mothers with daughters the twins’ age. Polly knew that Lidia and Owen had waited to have children, but now Lidia could pass for an older sister, the three of them tall and slim, with large, almond-shaped brown eyes and delicate features. It was hard to believe, thought Polly, that these three had been in her life for only a year, yet in that time they had come to be very important to her, filling a void that was deeper than she had realized.
Carly, standing five ten, weighing not an ounce over a hundred and twenty pounds, got the lion’s share of attention, beauty being just one of her assets. She was smart and talented, an ace tennis player, and a trained soprano, and she would probably be named homecoming queen once the results of the recent election were announced. Given all the envy she could conceivably have mustered in her peers, she would likely have been universally hated were she not so down-to-earth and kind-hearted. Another of her assets: she was genuinely liked. Her interests at seventeen, though, surprisingly did not include boys. Unlike her peers, she’d rather be on the courts, or rehearsing an aria, or even reading, than going through the routine of dating, splitting up, and either causing or suffering the angst that generally ensued.
Clarisse, no less lovely, was just enough slighter and more subtle in her beauty to take a backseat to her ravishing sister. Had there been no Carly, Clarisse would be the standout girl at school. She was perfectly happy, though, to let her sister be at the forefront and under the scrutiny that came with first place. Clarisse too was a singer and a soloist in the school chorus, her musical talents extending to playing the guitar and writing songs, folk being her special interest. While Carly wore fashionable clothes and was a bit of a trendsetter, Clarisse tended to play down her looks, most days pulling her hair straight back into a ponytail and opting for large black-framed oval glasses instead of contact lenses. Still, she would no doubt be on the homecoming court.
Polly, trying to keep a conversation going, noticed the twins growing quiet. “I’m curious,” she said. “Aren’t phones on the top of everyone’s replacement list? You must be wondering how you’ll get by without them.” And with that, the twins perked up.
After a quick trip to the mall for essentials and new phones, Polly and her houseguests made their way home for a light dinner of soup and salad, and they soon yawned their way to three separate bedrooms upstairs. Snuggled under down quilts smelling of lavender, Polly hoped they would sleep soundly, with thoughts of Apple Way and the tail of the plane sticking out of their house mercifully set aside for the time being.
“I don’t know how to repay you, Polly,” Lidia had said before falling into bed. It will take awhile for new credit cards, for new everything—”
“Don’t say another word,” Polly told her. “Everything will be fine. No need to worry. You’ll see.” Lidia smiled in return and the two said good night.
The Raven girls could stay with her as long as they needed, Polly thought, closing the door to Lidia’s room. To be needed, that would be good, thought Polly. She had not felt that for some time.
The next day, after breakfast, Lidia found herself wrapped in a blanket in a rocker on the sun porch overlooking the Sound. Polly’s home, the Niven Estate, as it was known in town, was a sprawling if somewhat rambling assortment of balusters, cupolas, porticos, and turrets, now all falling into disrepair. No longer able to afford the place, after what she’d only refer to as “the losses” earlier this year, Polly had given notice to her caretaker, gardener, and housekeeper. On the day of their departure, Polly had dipped into a generous portion of her remaining savings to be sure they would have enough to live on until other employment opportunities presented themselves.
Lidia knew that Polly had heavily invested in a recently revealed Ponzi scheme of mammoth proportions, and that she’d been struggling financially to hang on. The estate, one of the last old mansions directly on the Sound that hadn’t been torn down to make way for new ones with the same sprawling features, was safe thanks in large part to Polly’s deceased husband, John Paul Niven, the love of her exceedingly varied life. Had it not been for his other wiser investments, surely the house would have been gone by now. For the time being anyway, Polly had enough to keep going—if she lived frugally.
As the sun was making an effort to assert itself from behind the clouds, Lidia read an account in the Greenwich Time about the crash that had destroyed her house.
“The pilot, Tina Calderara, 40, had a long history of stunt-flying and old-fashioned barn-storming, her publicist Anthony Holden announced at a hastily assembled press conference in her hometown of Dayton, Ohio. ‘She was a skilled and careful pilot, having logged many hours in her single-engine Piper Cherokee. We cannot account for her running out of fuel on her way to a speaking engagement in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, nor why she was flying over Greenwich, Connecticut, at 7:30 in the morning when she was due to land at Norfolk International at 8:00 a.m.’ Speaking for the pilot’s family, Holden added, ‘The Walters send their sincerest best wishes to the family whose house was demolished in the crash, and while they are grieving for the loss of their beloved Tina, they are heartened to know that theirs in the only loss in this tragedy.’ It was learned later that the Walters adopted Calderara at two years of age and that the stunt pilot legally changed her name as an adult.
“Poor woman, poor family,” said Lidia to Opal, who’d joined her on the porch that morning while everyone else slept in. “Ran out of gas. That accounts for no explosion, but apparently no one knows why she was flying over Greenwich if she was on her way to Kitty Hawk.” Lidia put the paper aside to stroke her dog. Opal, who had come out from under the chaise for a pat, was five now and had been a barely-weaned pup when the twins first brought her home. Both Lidia and Owen were reluctant to keep her, but the twins swore they would care for her themselves. And then they told their parents’ Opal’s sad story, the coup de grace to get them to keep her.
Opal, they said, had been abandoned, along with her five brothers and sisters, and was found in a cardboard box in a dumpster near school. Chloe, Carly’s oldest friend, had heard the story on the news and had adopted one of Opal’s brothers. She told the twins about the dogs, and the girls had stopped at animal control on the way home from school to see the pups for themselves. They took one look at Opal, the one climbing up the crate and wagging her tail, happy to see them, it appeared, and persuaded the clerk at the desk to let them take her home to show their parents, promising to bring her right back and to fill out the paperwork once their parents approved.
“All they have to do is see her,” said Carly. “They won’t be able to resist.”
And so it was. Misgivings aside, Lidia and Owen relented and Opal took up residence on Apple Way. Lidia remembered how, when Owen left for good, Opal had sat looking out the living room window, waiting for him to return.
I guess we all waited, for a while, thought Lidia. She could still see the faces of her two sullen daughters in those days after Owen had left—Carly with her gently upturned nose and slightly downturned lips, staring into space, for hours, and Clarisse, her similar but somewhat finer features, dulled by her sadness.
Lidia thought back to her pregnancy; she’d been thirty-seven. After having devoted herself to her capital C Career for ten years and having made it to VP of mergers and acquisitions, Lidia had not known she was carrying twins until her third ultrasound, conducted at Lidia’s insistence because, as she put it, “It feels like there’s a party going on in there.” Her doctor finally relented and was then embarrassed, having to explain Lidia’s “hiding” twin daughter.
“It happens sometimes, especially if one is larger than the other,” Dr. Hanna Stevens had told her. Twins. It would be quite an adjustment, she and Owen had thought at the time.
“Owen called, just now,” said Polly, interrupting Lidia’s thoughts as she walked onto the porch and set down a tea tray. Lidia had been so lost in her memories that she hadn’t even heard the phone ring. She wondered if the call had woken up the girls. “He’ll call again later, he said. He just wanted to be sure you were all okay.”
“Thanks, Polly, but you shouldn’t be exerting yourself over us,” Lidia said, reaching an appreciative hand toward her benefactor. It hadn’t been that long ago when Lidia first started driving Polly to the Bendheim Cancer Center in Greenwich, Lidia recalled. She’d signed up some months earlier to be a driver in the Road to Recovery program because she had time on her hands since she had been let go, along with throngs of others, after the onset of the Great Recession. To lessen the pain of job loss, she had secured a pretty decent severance package, so she hadn’t felt the crushing pressure of having to find another job, which was a good thing since so few existed.
Polly had needed to go for radiation treatments every day for six weeks. The only available appointments were at noon, a time that “ruined the day,” as she had said the first time Lidia appeared at her door to drive her.
“I’m surprised they found a driver who could afford so much time and at such an inopportune hour to boot,” she had said to Lidia.
Since that time their friendship had grown beyond anything Lidia could have imagined. From the first crack in the façade of polite conversation (Lidia had confided that her divorce had taken its toll on her and her twins), their bond had strengthened. Polly soon admitted to Lidia how lost she had felt ever since Jean-Paul’s death. It was as though they had found each other at a time of mutual vulnerability. Lidia had to admit that in the years she had devoted to career—before the birth of the twins and while they were growing up—she had been too frantic to cultivate good friends.
“I’m perfectly happy to have you and the girls here with me,” said Polly, bringing Lidia back to the present. “What else would I be doing today? Besides, I’m just so grateful that you’re all . . . When I think what could have . . .”
Lidia reached out for Polly’s hand, gently patting it, at the same time looking away so her friend wouldn’t see the tears forming.
“I think the same thing every time I look at them,” Lidia said.
“Things have been tough, I know, Lidia—and now this . . .”
“In some weird way, I think I’ve been expecting, I don’t know what, a cruel fate? I know that sounds horribly dramatic, but those first few years when Owen and I were, I thought, deliriously happy, I woke up every day and gave thanks for my charmed life: a handsome husband, money, a career—and then two beautiful and rare daughters—smart, talented, loving, and kind. And every day a little voice said, ‘Be careful—such good fortune can’t last.’ It was like I was always scared. Every day I woke up happy, I also woke up scared. What is that all about? Vestiges of Catholic guilt? The belief that we are all sinners and don’t deserve happiness?” She looked at her friend, as though hoping she might have an answer.
“Ah yes, religion. It does manage to keep us in line, doesn’t it?”
“It was like there was a little comic book bomb, you know, the black ball with a lit fuse coming out of the top. I was always waiting for the bomb to explode. And then it did when Owen came home one day and put Robert right in the middle of us. The end of the perfect marriage—and I never saw it coming. Bomb goes off, right? But the funny thing is, that was small in comparison to whatever I thought my fears were. I mean, when I stop to consider. We are still alive. We are healthy. We still have our lives ahead of us.”
Lidia looked over to Polly, who just nodded. She knew that Polly wanted her to talk, wanted her to process. This was Polly’s gift to Lidia—her openness, no rigid “shoulds,” no judgment, just a willingness to listen and to understand.
“I gave Owen so much grief over Robert and the ‘disaster’ he caused for us. But when the plane hit, I thought, so this is it—what I have known all along would happen. But no, it’s not. It’s not the end. We’re homeless, but . . . Oh Polly, I’m rambling, I guess. I mean, divorce and this terrible accident—but we’re still here. I am honestly grateful, in spite of it all. I’ve been so stuck in the breakup for the past three years, me, and the twins too, I think. Yet, there’s so much to be thankful for.”
Lidia turned to look at Polly.
“We have a wonderful friend who has taken us in until we get on our feet. We have insurance for all our losses. I guess I am still living a charmed life.”
“Oh for heaven’s sake,” said Polly, leaning over to give Lidia a hug.
At that moment Carly and Clarisse burst onto the sun porch.
“Guess what?” asked Carly.
“At seven thirty yesterday morning,” continued Clarisse, “when the plane crashed into our house, a bomb crashed into the moon—to find out if there was water.”
“They’re talking about on TV, CNN,” said Carly.
“Some coincidence, huh?” added Clarisse, before they disappeared into the house again.
By noon, the clouds had lifted, the temperature had risen, and Lidia had taken over answering the phone that had been ringing constantly since breakfast. All morning Polly had screened calls fiercely, reporters (there had been many) and other “snoops,” as she called them, getting the “bum’s rush.”
Clarisse and Carly had begun setting up a light lunch of chicken salad and sliced Anjou pears on the sun porch. Polly and Lidia had just joined them when the phone rang again.
“Let it go,” said Lidia, putting out a hand to stop Polly, who was on verge of stomping off to answer the offending ring. “If it’s someone we need to talk to, they’ll call back.”
“It might be Dad,” said Carly, placing a tray of dishes on the wicker glass-top table, not looking up
“We should talk to him, if it’s him,” said Clarrise, trying her best to sound nonchalant. “Shouldn’t we?” She looked at Lidia imploringly—As if for approval, thought Lidia.
“Yes, I suppose you’re right,” Lidia said, moving toward the phone.
“Thank God,” said Owen as soon as she picked up the receiver and said hello. “You’re all right? I can’t believe it. And you’re sure, you, the girls, Opal, all okay?”
“It is him—your dad,” Lidia called out from the living room, placing her hand over the receiver of Polly’s heavy, square black telephone. “They don’t make ’em like this anymore,” she’d told the girls the first time they’d gawked over the old phone earlier that morning.
“I’m sorry, Owen. We were just sitting down to lunch, but the girls said I should answer in case it was you.”
“My God, Lidia, I’ve been frantic. It’s all over the news. What were you thinking, not getting in touch with me? And the girls—you—not answering your phones?
“I’m sorry, Owen. We’re fine. It’s been harrowing, but we’re fine. Listen, I’m sorry about the phones, but it’s been crazy. We finally turned them off.”
There was silence on the other end. Lidia knew Owen was chewing on this—that the phones had been turned off, on purpose, without calling him first. She knew it wasn’t admirable of her, but she was savoring (yes, that was the word, “savoring”) Owen’s feeling left out of the family—the family he had abandoned, after all.
Owen took a breath before continuing. “I know it’s been hard on you, Lidia, but—you’re my, you were my wife. Carly and Clarisse, they’re still my daughters. I don’t know what I would do if anything . . .”
After another few awkward seconds, Lidia jumped in.
“They’re not ready yet, Owen.”
“Not ready? It’s been three years, and they hardly speak to me. Shouldn’t they be adjusting by now? Who’s not ready, Lidia—you or them?”
“Do you really want to get into this now, Owen? I thought you called to see how we were. We’re fine, we’ll be fine.”
This time the pause was mutual. Lidia looked out at the girls in time to see them turn away. They had been listening through the open French doors.
“I’ve got to go, Owen.”
“Whoa, whoa. Just a minute, Lidia. They’re my daughters, and I will talk to them, so tell them to turn their phones back on, okay?”
Lidia felt the anger shoot up from the pit of her stomach. Readying herself to retaliate, she thought better of it. “Gotta go,” she mustered and hung up the phone with just enough force to signal her muted fury.
No sooner had the phone struck the cradle than it rang again. “Mrs. Raven? It’s Claudia Dobbs, from Greenwich Time. I was hoping you had a minute.”
Claudia Dobbs had her own byline and wrote the “Out and About” column that Lidia read each week. Lidia was momentarily caught off guard by the idea that a columnist she actually liked would be calling her at Polly’s house.
“This is Lidia Raven, isn’t it? May I ask you a few questions?”
Lidia looked out the window at Polly and the girls, who now sat with full plates, while Lidia’s own plate sat empty; she could see the girls weren’t going to wait for her. Lidia debated whether she might just hang up on Claudia, regardless of how much she liked her column.
“So it appears there’s a connection,” she heard Claudia say.
What in the world was she talking about? Lidia wondered. “I’m sorry, I missed that. What connection are you referring to?”
“Between you and the pilot.”
Table of Contents
Running on Empty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
The Ravens of Ravenna . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Fall Colors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25
Salvaging What Remains . . . . . . . . . .43
Thanksgiving . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
Rebuilding . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .83
The Best and Worst of Times . . . . . .103
Ringing in the New . . . . . . . . . . . . . .119
That Old Gang of Mine . . . . . . . . . . .125
The Iron Box . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .137
Friends and Lovers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151
What Lidia Learned . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 173
Storms on the Horizon . . . . . . . . . . .185
Changes! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .203
Wedding Bells . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .219
Apples of the Moon . . . . . . . . . . . . . .223
End Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .227
Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .229
About the Author . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 231