Amy gritted her teeth.
“You could do so much better.”
“Mother, I’m grown.”
“Sometimes I wonder. Carol wouldn’t have wasted her precious time—”
“Don’t start on Carol, either!”
“This is all your father’s fault. He was a loser, but you were his favorite. And you couldn’t see through him. You feel comfortable with losers like him.”
“You married him.”
“Don’t remind me.”
“Not that I’m glad he left me or that’s he’s dead, God rest his soul.”
From her car Amy nervously scanned the broken-down cars and trucks in Fletcher’s front yard. Then she spotted Fletcher’s yellow longboard in the bed of his old blue pickup and felt a surge of relief.
Her mother sighed.
Amy had never liked the house he’d bought and rented out to surfers or the communal lifestyle that went with it, but real-estate prices were high on Oahu. She was hardly in a position to criticize. Here, people of ordinary means had to compromise. Since the value of her mother’s house had appreciated exponentially over the past two decades, Amy had had to move there to save on rent and to help her mom with the property taxes.
“Amelia, are you still there?”
Amy’s fingers traced the smooth leather of the steering wheel. “Mom, listen. This lawyer from France with a snotty accent and way too much attitude called me.”
“What did he want?”
“Aunt Tate died in her sleep last week.”
“I—I can’t believe this. I—I just talked to Tate. She said she’d been to all those parties in Paris.”
“Mom, they already had a memorial service. She’s been cremated and put in a niche or something at Château de Fournier.”
“What? And nobody called her only sister? They stuck her in Château de Fournier? She hated that place!”
“Apparently they just found Tate’s address book today.”
Her mother was silent, in shock, or more likely a sulk. Like a lot of sisters, she and Tate hadn’t always been the best of pals. Tate had done what the women in their family were supposed to do. She’d married up, way, way up, landing a French count the third time around. And she’d never let her family forget it. She’d sent newsy Christmas cards every year to brag about parties at châteaux after her glamorous stepson’s Formula One races, trips to Monaco and round-the-world cruises on friends’ yachts. Her step-children were all celebrities in their own fields. But the main headline grabber had been Remy de Fournier, the handsome, womanizing Grand Prix driver. Not that Tate had boasted much about him lately. Apparently he’d retired from the circuit rather suddenly last year.
After one of Tate’s bright cards or calls, her mother would sulk for days, blaming Amy’s deceased father for never having amounted to anything.
“You’re not going to believe this, Mom, but Aunt Tate left me everything. Château Serene, the vineyard, even the Matisse.”
“What? That painting alone is worth a fortune.”
“Aunt Tate intended to donate it to a museum.”
“You can’t afford to be so generous.”
“Mother! Your baby’s all grown-up. I’m afraid I need to go over there to settle Aunt Tate’s affairs, pack her personal belongings and inspect the property. I hate to impose, but could you possibly watch Vintage?”
“I suppose. If it fails, who’ll pay the mortgage? I’ll need a day, maybe two. After that, I’d be glad to. To tell you the truth, I’ve been a little bored lately.”
Which probably explained why her mother tried to run her life all the time.
“Mom, could you help Nan handle the sale today?” This question was met with silence. “Just for an hour or two? Please! Just to make sure Nan’s not overwhelmed.”
Her mother sighed.
Amy thanked her and hung up. Now all she needed was for Fletcher to hold her and make everything feel all right again.
When Amy opened her car door, the wind tore it from her grasp and whipped her long, brown hair back from her face. Her sandals sank deeply into the shell road, making each step so difficult she was almost happy to step into the high grass of Fletcher’s yard. With less annoyance than usual, she picked her way through scratchy weeds, beer cans, fluttering fast-food wrappers and plastic sacks. Usually she hated the flotsam and jetsam of Fletcher’s front lawn.Lawn. If ever there was a euphemism.
Today she was too anxious to throw herself into his arms, inhale his salty male scent and cling to him forever, to obsess over her issues with his bachelor lifestyle.