turning in her bed, Paula was dreaming the same dream she had dreamed many
times before. She was dreaming of an old merchant vessel with tall trimmed
sails, falling and lurching, tossed like a cork on the raging sea. The
boat was driven forth in darkness by gale-force winds, as huge waves
crashed down on the deck and washed everything not secured into the dark,
churning water. Sea and wind were merciless in the drama that unfolded
before her inward vision.
felt feverish. Dryness in the roof of her mouth made it difficult for her
to swallow. Beads of perspiration formed on her forehead. Her body
temperature rushed from hot to cold and back again. One moment she was
burning up, the next chilled to the bone. She pulled up the covers to shut
out the invasive cold, unaware the chill came from deep inside her. A
virus had invaded her bloodstream to wage its storm in her internal sea.
dream, the reeling ship pitched to and fro. Paula could sense the violent
movement and hear the screeching of the masts straining against the force
of the gale. She could feel the penetrating dampness of the sea and
blinding rain falling out of a pitch dark sky.
saw him—as she had so many times before.
young sailor emerged from the belly of the ship and secured his footing on
the pitching deck by clutching the handrail behind him, his hands now
callused from the ropes after so many days at sea. Momentarily, he braced
himself and closed his eyes against the gusts of the gale. His beard was
dark and curly, his dark hair sticking out in tufts from beneath a woolen
cap. His sideburns curled about his ears, now assaulted by the deafening
howl of the wind. His deep set eyes were dark—and so familiar. His body
was strong, his muscles taut, as he braced against the unremitting fury of
filled her eyes as she watched him edge along the slippery deck to make
his way toward a lifeboat in the stern. An overwhelming urgency seemed to
drive him toward that boat, now swaying to and fro, as though in an
attempt to break free of its rigging in the violence of the storm.
at that exact same moment, in her dream, Paula could see an immense wave
rising up over him—a powerful wave that tossed him out of the ship and
into the churning sea. No one had seen him washed overboard. Perhaps no
one knew he was up on deck. No one but her seemed to hear his desperate
cries for help. And all she could do for him was weep in soft, muffled
sobs. She could no longer see him anywhere in the vast raging sea.
gone, lost forever in the sea that he loved. His mistress had finally
claimed him. He would never again return to hold her, never again kiss her
eager lips. The turbulent sea had claimed her love, again and again, in
the exact same way, in the exact same dream, and she nearly always woke up
time the fever dried most of her tears before she could open her eyes. She
lay in her bed in a cold sweat, her heart racing, as it often did after
that dream. A dream that usually left her with an unfulfilled sense of
longing and reminded her there was no one for her to love aside from her
children and a few good friends. And her love for them would never resolve
that kind of longing.
awake in her bed in Malibu on that June morning in 1967, Paula finally
opened her eyes. Only the sound of children’s laughter competed with the
distant rumble of the surf breaking far out on shore. The song of the sea
welcomed her back each new morning and caressed her to sleep each night.
Suddenly, Paula became aware of her aching muscles as a strong chill shot
through her. Upon taking a deeper breath, her chest felt congested and her
nose began to run. Then she started to cough. A nasty virus seemed to
have triumphed in spite of Maria’s herbal remedies.
housekeeper, Maria, claimed healing powers from folk remedies passed down
to her by a Cajun medicine man, a distant cousin of her father’s in New
Orleans. The herbs had not held up to their promise this time. Nasty
invaders were waging a major attack against Paula’s immune system. She
rolled over and pulled the covers up over her head. She decided to ignore
heard the door creaking open, followed by whispers and giggles, and a
small hand soon lifted the blanket as two light brown eyes peered at her
from just above the top of the mattress.
“Are you awake, Mommy?” Christopher inquired.
“We've brought you breakfast, madam,” Michele said in her best English
With considerable effort, Paula raised up.
Michele was holding a tray decorated with geraniums and seashells.
“Orange juice, coffee, bacon, scrambled eggs and toast for madam,” she
said, curtsying before she placed the tray on the table next to the bed.
“I buttered the toast!” five-year-old Christopher announced, covering
his face with his hands and peering from between his chubby fingers.
“Good morning,” Paula said, “How sweet of you both!”
With that, both children pounced on her, kissing and hugging her until
coffee and orange juice spilled on the toast.
“Stay away! You’ll catch whatever I have and you don’t want it!”
“Then we couldn’t go swimming,” Christopher said. “That would be awful.”
“It sure would be,” nine-year-old Michele added, “summer’s only just
started. Poor you.”
Unable to resist a display of affection, Paula kissed the side of
Christopher’s head and he promptly pushed her away. “You kissed me, you
mean mother! I don’t want your cold. I want to go swimming.”
“I’m sorry. You will forgive me?”
He nodded and ran from the room, calling back, “Okay.”
“Did you scramble these eggs yourself?” she asked her daughter.
“Naturally, madam,” Michele said in her English accent. “Do you find
them to your liking?”
Paula took a bite. “Quite, thank you. Where’s Maria?”
“I gave her the day off.”
Paula studied her daughter a moment and said, “Tell me you’re not
“Maria’s aunt is sick. She was worried, so I said she could go,”
Michele’s tone had become apologetic and her smile started to fade.
“Michele, I have the flu … or something worse. I hope Maria didn’t
Now looking worried, Michele sat in a chair and said, “I guess I lost my
“I guess you did—and so did Maria!” Paula was angry. “Who gave you the
right to give our housekeeper the day off?”
Michele’s lower lip began to quiver and tears filled her eyes. “I’m
sorry, Mother. I didn’t know you were sick. Maria was going to wake you,
but I said it didn’t matter … that she should take care of her aunt. I
thought it would be all right.”
“In the future, you have absolutely no say in the running of this
household, is that clear?”
“Yes.” Michele reached for a tissue and blew her nose. “I’m sorry.
Please forgive me.”
“I forgive you. How could you know how I feel, but never again, Michele?
Her daughter stiffly nodded.
“I don’t see how Maria could have taken you seriously. You’re only
“Sometimes she forgets.”
Paula sighed, forced to smile as her daughter guardedly hugged her.
“I love you very much, but sometimes you exasperate me.”
“You always say that life can never be dull with me around.”
“Hardly,” Paula said, noting how pretty Michele looked that day.
“Eat your eggs before they get icicles. I’ll be at Sally’s if you need
me.” She promptly turned and ran from the room.
The heaviness in Paula’s chest was becoming oppressive. She had
contracted summer pneumonia three years earlier during her divorce from
Dan. Now she feared the worst. The summer breeze coming down the hall
gave her chills from head to toe.
As luck would have it, her neighbors were having a party that evening.
The two screenwriters next door had interesting friends and only
recently had spoken of introducing her to a man who was looking for a
“real relationship.” Paula wasn’t sure she was interested in a “real
relationship.” For the past two years, all “real relationships” had
ended in “real pain.” She was beginning to wonder if maybe it was too
late for her. Perhaps true love was something that only happened in
romance novels and the movies—after all, she was thirty! Perhaps it was
time for her to devote herself strictly to her painting.
Paula passed on the soggy toast and headed for the bathroom. In the
mirror, she noted double dark circles under each eye. Feeling shaky, she
swallowed two aspirin. The smell of oil paint was sure to turn her
stomach, something that always happened whenever she was sick. No work
until she was feeling better.
Her skin looked pasty, her brown eyes dull and her laugh lines deeper
than on most days. Everyone said she looked young for thirty. Paula had
never cared for the freckles that were everywhere. But she liked how her
copper red hair fell to her shoulders. It upset her family when she was
born with brown hair. She had always wanted her mother’s natural red
hair. For that reason, at twenty, she dyed her hair red. Her Kansas and
Missouri relatives disapproved, but since she’d inherited her mother’s
complexion, everyone else thought her hair color was natural. Michele
had inherited her basic brown hair that streaked blonde in the
Standing under the hard spray of the hot shower, all soaped down, Paula
heard the telephone ringing.
Annoyed, but focused on her children, she quickly rinsed off and dashed
for the telephone, trying not to sound irritated as she said, “Hello,”
standing there dripping wet and chilled to the bone.
Glaring at the telephone, she slammed down the receiver, and it started
to ring again. “Hello!” she nearly shouted.
“What’s your problem?” Dan said in his usual sarcastic tone.
“I’m all wet.”
“You said it,” he said, adding, “It’s me.”
“I was taking a shower.”
“How nice for you.”
“I feel lousy, Dan. What do you want?”
“Is Mike there?”
Recently, her ex-husband had started to call Michele, Mike. Paula didn’t
like it. Michele didn’t like it. But with Dan most arguments were
“She’s over at Sally’s doing whatever they do.”
“I’ve no idea. Could you please call back later?”
“I want to pick up the kids in a couple hours and take them up to Lake
Arrowhead for the weekend. Plus, their cousin Jamie just arrived from
Atlanta. He’d like to see them.”
“Jamie?” Her voice sounded strange to her as she repeated his name.
“June’s eldest boy. Do you remember him from the family reunion back in
“Sure. Tell him hello.”
“What’s the matter with you? You don’t sound so good.”
“I've got the flu or something.”
Michele entered the room. “Are you feeling any better?”
Paula extended the phone to her daughter and said, “It’s your father.”
Her face lit up and she grabbed the phone. “Hello, Daddy. How are you?”
Misery was starting to set in, although Paula decided it was too late to
return to the warm shower. Whatever was decided between Dan and the
children would be fine with her. Dan could be irrational whenever he
decided to be fatherly.
“We’re going to the mountains with Daddy for the weekend,” Michele sang.
“We’re going to stay in the cabin we stayed in last summer. And we may
go more than once. Isn’t that neat?”
“Yes, very neat. When do you leave?”
“Three-thirty. I get to sleep in the top bunk, and guess what? Gerry’s
Gerry was Dan’s latest girlfriend. Eight years Paula’s senior, the woman
was good to the children. At nearly forty-five, Dan was entitled to
older girlfriends. Besides, he tended to be conventional. Paula
doubted he would conduct himself in an inappropriate manner with the
Christopher ran in. “Hi, Mom. Are you feeling better?”
“Daddy’s picking us to take us to Lake Arrowhead for the weekend.
Gerry’s going. We’re taking the station wagon because our cousin Jamie
is here and he wants to drive Daddy’s Porsche. We couldn’t all fit in
the Porsche, anyway,” Michele said. “Isn’t that neat?”
Christopher frowned. “Then I can’t ride in the submarine.”
“What submarine?” Paula and Michele said in unison.
“Andy’s submarine. It’s big and green with yellow stripes. He’s going to
take it down in the ocean to look at the fish.”
“You’re crazy,” Michele said. “Andy doesn’t have a submarine.”
“He does too! I saw it … and everything!”
“Don’t call people names. It isn’t nice,” Paula said.
“It has windows and everything!” Christopher shouted in his sister’s
Michele defiantly crossed her arms. “Christopher, you needn’t get
“Maybe Andy does have a submarine,” Paula said.
“Don’t you think I’d know if he did?” Michele hissed.
“You don’t know everything!” Christopher shouted in her face.
“No you don’t, fatso!” he shrieked. Fatso was Christopher’s
latest dirty word. Anyone who ticked him off was fatso,
regardless of size.
“Nice boys don’t call names,” Paula said.
“He’s not a nice boy,” Michele said.
With that, Christopher whacked her and Michele hit him back.
“Stop it! You’re going to Lake Arrowhead and you need to pack. I don’t
feel well, so please stop!” Paula shouted, surprised by her sudden
Both children looked guilty. But Christopher hit his sister one more
Paula grabbed him. “Wait until I feel better to fight, okay? Don’t hit
Michele. It’s unacceptable behavior for a boy to hit a girl, for anyone
to hit anyone, for that matter.” Then in gentler tones she said, “I
believe you, Christopher. You’ll just have to ride in the submarine
another time. Maybe they’ll have a submarine at Lake Arrowhead you can a
ride in that one.” She knew she was stretching it, but more than
anything else she wanted peace.
Christopher ran out of the room. Michele had a martyr’s look on her face
as she picked up the tray and left. She always hated to lose an argument
with her brother.
Finally, in her warm pajamas and back in bed, Paula lit a cigarette
which was extinguished after one puff. Then she tossed and turned,
trying to get comfortable. She was about to doze off when Michele walked
up with a glass of orange juice.
“Sally’s mother says you need to drink lots of juice.”
Paula obediently drank, feeling worse by the minute.
“We can stay at Sally’s until Daddy gets here.”
Paula weakly nodded.
“I can stay home and take care of you, if you like. You really do look
“Go have fun with your father. I’ll be all right.”
“I guess I’d only be in the way,” Michele said, quickly kissing her
cheek. “We’ll be at Sally’s if you need us. You know the number.”
Soon she heard the front door close. Finally, Paula was alone with only
the rumbling of the surf and the tinkling of wind chimes as a youthful
image of Jamie filled her mind. It had been five years since the
reunion. Christopher was still in diapers. Michele was three. The family
reunion was one of those interesting times in her life. Mostly, she
found the Thurmans to be cool and formal. From the call Dan placed from
Las Vegas right after their wedding, Paula could sense their disapproval
in terms of the marriage. After meeting them, it seemed to her that his
family’s displays of affection were dutiful, something imposed by blood.
She decided her blood was different—red as opposed to blue.
Paula’s family showed affection because of genuine love. And yet, her
family was comprised of simple folk, Missouri and Kansas farmers who had
to work hard for a living. The Thurmans may have worked hard at some
point in time, but the younger generation lived off what Dan called “old
money.” They lived off the interest without touching the principal. That
was something new for Paula Marlow. Dan considered his family modestly
wealthy, but twenty million had never seemed very modest to her. They
lived modestly enough, which was difficult for her to grasp.
By 1967, Paula still couldn’t agree entirely with the Thurman
philosophy—but she understood it better. They thought of themselves as
frugal, not her choice of words. To her they were aloof, indifferent,
even boring, except for Jamie with his soft southern accent and
Paula would never forget the day they met. She was across the street
from the old Victorian house on Lake Michigan keeping any eye on the
children playing in the park. Michele had fallen and skinned her knee,
with Paula trying to kiss away her tears.
“You must be Paula.”
At the sound of his voice, she looked up.
Looking down into her eyes, with a startled expression on his handsome
young face, the adolescent male said, “I’m Jamie Remington. You must be
Paula, my Uncle Dan’s new wife from California. I’ve heard all about
you.” His tone was warm and friendly and his smile dazzling. “I’m June’s
oldest boy. We just got here from Atlanta.”
With his penetrating, dark brown eyes, deep dimples, and curly dark
hair—he was a beautiful boy of fourteen. From the first moment she
looked into his eyes, an unmistakable bolt of pure electricity shot
straight through her. The feeling quite unnerved her at the time.
From the look in his eyes and expression on his beautiful face, Paula
knew Jamie had experienced the same bolt of lightning. There was
something familiar about him, not the way he looked exactly, more of a
feeling, an indescribable energy.
Paula immediately placed herself in check and pulled in the reins,
questioning her basic moral fiber. After all, Jamie was more than ten
years her junior. Never before had she been attracted to boys. She
preferred older men like Dan. Young, adorable Jamie was her new nephew,
the son of her husband’s eldest sister. Paula made every effort to shut down her
feelings, but most of the time that long ago summer she found that
impossible. She could not stop thinking about Jamie—especially in the
cabin at night next to her husband in bed. It was a challenge Paula had
never expected to encounter at the Thurman Family Reunion.
was the one who made her trip pleasant by treating her with warmth and
sincere affection. During that first week she became aware of his keen
curiosity, intelligence and remarkable candor. She was enchanted by his
southern charms and mild mannerisms, although his younger brother, Bobby,
had no such effect. Jamie was not like the others. Paula thought he might
be the one to break the Thurman mold.
Flattered and amused by his constant attention, Paula often caught him
watching her, even openly staring. Jamie seemed smitten, which flattered
and embarrassed her at the same time.
seem to have acquired a not-so-secret admirer,” Dan remarked one evening
at dinner, nodding toward his young nephew at the other end of the long
could feel herself blushing, and feeling no older than fourteen, as she
glanced at young Jamie. He seemed to sense something had been said about
him. All eyes were suddenly on Jamie. He grinned, turned beet red, and
stared at his plate. He was trying not to look at her, but it seemed
impossible for Jamie not to look at Paula during the entire family
fun to flirt with him. She had tried to resist, but that only made Jamie
that much more persistent. That summer, the young man had awakened to
something deep inside that would soon place his childhood behind him. He
had a serious crush on an older woman he appeared to find beautiful and
desirable. It seemed harmless enough that summer, except, more than once,
Paula had wished she were as young and as innocent as he.
at the cabin, with Christopher napping and all the cousins there, Paula
was the only adult in the room when Jamie turned to her and asked, “Why
did you marry my Uncle Dan? He’s so much older than you are. I’m closer to
your age than he is,” his eyes were steadily on her as he waited for a
went blank. The powerful magnetism between them had her flustered. If
anyone else had asked, she thought perhaps she would have had an answer.
But at that moment, Paula could think of absolutely nothing to say.
cousins also seemed to be waiting, with Jamie’s eyes still locked on her,
as Dan walked into the silent room and inquired, “Does anyone want to go
Dan had saved the day.
but Paula left the cabin, including a somewhat reluctant Jamie. She never
did answer his question.
then she reminded herself that she was over twenty-five, twice married,
once divorced, and the mother of two. She was Jamie’s new “Aunt Paula,”
Uncle Dan’s new wife from California who wore eye shadow, hip-huggers, and
a bikini. No wonder he stared. Her hair was shorter, but the same copper
red out of a bottle. She had always looked young for her age. In a
restaurant that week a waiter had asked for her ID, which went over big
with Dan’s sisters, both of them over forty.
Dan’s hair prematurely white, at forty he looked much older. He had been
mistaken for her father more than once, which amused Paula, but never Dan.
Deep down, Paula knew the entire family suspected her of marrying him for
at the cabin Jamie’s mother June said, “How lucky you are to find a man of
my brother’s caliber and intelligence for a husband. Not to mention the
security this family represents. Dan will take good care of you and your
daughter. You are truly lucky, Paula, considering your history.”
that moment June had never expressed her hostility.
wonder if you really appreciate Dan, if you know how lucky you are that he
married you,” her tone was fully confrontational.
course, I appreciate him. Dan married me because he loves me, June, and
because he loves Michele as much as he does Christopher. Don’t you think
love is a good reason to marry?”
brother married you because you were clever enough to get pregnant,” she
said, with her cold blue eyes fixed on Paula, before June self-consciously
moment, Dan and June’s husband, Allen, entered the highly charged room,
both men unaware of what had taken place. Since eight-pound Christopher
arrived seven months after the wedding, the baby was hardly premature.
Still, it seemed to Paula that most families would be glad to see a
forty-year-old bachelor marry—even with the bride in “a family way.” But
the Thurmans weren’t poor Missouri hog farmers. They only had to bring
home the bacon.
the day Paula realized she would never like June Remington. The fact that
Dan adored his sister was unimportant. Paula avoided June from then on,
with no doubt that she was next in line to ascend the Thurman family
present Queen Bee, Dan’s mother Margaret, was a petite woman in her early
seventies, nervous and frail in appearance, but strong as steel. She
smoked one cigarette after another with one always burning in a small
ashtray she carried. Margaret Thurman moved constantly and her movements
were quick, which Paula found remarkable. She enjoyed her alcohol,
out-distancing her husband, Dan’s father, and keeping pace with Dan, her
youngest child, with a scotch and water always close at hand. Before
dinner, it was gin martinis on the rocks with a twist, wine with dinner,
and cognac late into the night. Margaret Thurman ruled her family with an
unyielding will, with no one brave or foolish enough to go against her
Thurman had married well when he married Margaret Jones—one of the
Michigan Joneses. Her ancestors had founded the small town on Lake
Michigan, a booming metropolis of 5,000 souls. Her family held the primary
interests in the local businesses: lumber and banking. They had invested
well in the crippled Depression stock market, having lost nearly
everything along with everyone else in the Crash of 1929. However, they
did remarkably well in recovering their losses, emerging rich in the
1940s. The Thurmans found it extremely distasteful to discuss assets or to
had never met the late Rachel Jones, Dan’s grandmother. Rumor had it she
resided in the same house, teeming with servants in the grand style to
which she was born. Her only child, Margaret, the town’s little rich girl,
was apparently embarrassed by her mother’s display of high social
standing. Therefore, Margaret had married a hard-working man of
middle-class means and practiced frugality and thrift. Her mother’s
generous financial gifts had been wisely invested in blue chip stocks and
vast tracts of land. The grand Victorian house on Lake Michigan was only
part of Margaret’s legacy from Rachel Jones. There were also many finely
crafted European antiques, most stored in the huge attic. Margaret drove
the same car for ten years, did her own cooking, cleaned her own house,
and raised her own children. Furthermore, she was usually the last one in
town to purchase a new modern appliance. Without question, Margaret Jones
Thurman was an amazing woman.
seventy, she finally indulged in a few luxuries that included a cleaning
woman and laundress twice a week. Most of her life had been spent in that
three-story Victorian house with its great wraparound porch that commanded
a wide view of the lake. The rooms were large, the bathrooms still had the
old-fashioned fixtures, but the plumbing worked. The furniture was modest,
except for the European antiques, and only reupholstered or replaced when
worn beyond decency. Modesty and frugality were appropriate words for
Margaret Thurman, a true twentieth-century matriarch.
Thurman had done well enough himself. Besides a furniture factory, he
owned several stores. He was a tall, slender man, quiet and conventional,
sometimes gruff. If he had emotions, Paula thought he kept them hidden.
His wife treated him with quiet tolerance and respect. They had been
married for nearly fifty years and had maintained separate bedrooms for an
indefinite period of time. There were no discernible signs of affection
between them, even when they spoke, which was seldom. It was as though
each of them lived alone in that huge house fully unaware of the other
person’s presence. Paula found the situation unnerving.
Thurman was a special brand of Queen Bee—cold, demanding, keeper of the
family fortune, doling out money to her children and grandchildren as she
thought best. In her words, she was teaching them frugality and thrift.
The only problem: she was also frugal in expressing her love. Were her
emotions stored away in some bank vault collecting interest, so that when
the time came for her will to be read, each heir would receive so many
shares of her love, with no one around to pay up?
resembled her mother but was larger in stature like her father. On the
other hand, in attitude and bearing, she was exactly like her mother. June
lived in a large colonial house in Atlanta, the wife of Allen Remington, a
man of middle-class means. That summer at the reunion, Paula was not
altogether sure that June was convinced Allen hadn’t married her for
Grandmother Jones’s stocks and bonds. Allen was a pleasant man, handsome
and charming, but severely criticized behind his back. Apparently, during
the past year, Allen had squandered a few hundred thousand on bad business
ventures in Florida. Thurman money. For that reason, sister June may not
have been feeling fully secure that year. Paula wondered if her
accusations amounted to a form of projection.
seemed to have her mother’s attitude in bringing up her family—four
children, each one striking and intelligent, two girls and two boys,
including Jamie who resembled his father. June dominated her young, except
for Jamie. He had a mind of his own, though was respectful of his mother.
He listened, with his dark eyes sparkling with independence. Paula held
real hope for Jamie.
disagreement with his mother during the reunion, Jamie sought Paula out as
though she were one of his peers. She was flattered.
mother doesn’t seem to understand I have a mind of my own,” he said. “She
never asks me what I think—just tells me what she thinks I should think.
And she has the unmitigated gall to think I should go right along with
her. Don’t you find that amazing?”
Jamie paced back and forth at the picnic
table where Paula was feeding Christopher strained peaches from a jar. Her
response was cautious. Jamie’s love for his mother was plain. Paula
envisioned herself forced to deal with a strong-willed teenage boy one
probably take her time to learn who you are. You need to be patient,
“Patient? Well, that’s not going to be easy!”
other sister, Theresa, two years Dan’s senior, was married to lawyer
Harold Simpson and resided in Philadelphia. The Simpsons liked to travel,
and even though they were conventional, Paula really liked them. Theresa
was small and petite like her mother with a wry sense of humor. They had
two sons and a daughter, Sharon, the same age as Michele. The two girls
became fast friends that year.
June’s four children, Theresa’s three, and Paula’s two, there were nine
grandchildren in the Thurman clan that summer. Dan had adopted Michele the
prior year which made her a Thurman by name—and Dan never treated her like
summer seemed very long ago as Paula was reminded of the virus violently
raging inside her. So Jamie Remington was in California, he had to be
nineteen or twenty by then. Had the Thurman blood in his veins cooled his
boyish curiosity, she wondered, with a crystal-clear image of young Jamie
in her mind, as she drifted off into a deep, sound, peaceful sleep.