“Of course I’m concerned about both of them. But I don’t know that where I live is their decision any more than it’s yours.” Harper could feel her temper rising, any softened feelings from their brief moment before having disappeared. “Let it go, Mother. This is my home and this is where I’m staying.”
“Aren’t you being selfish?”
“Me selfish? Greenfields Park is where you grew up. Yet you turned your back on it and chose to live in New York City. I grew up in New York and chose to live on Sullivan’s Island. You can’t expect me to feel a binding loyalty to Greenfields Park when you yourself did not. You can even say I’m following your example.”
“You really mean to say you have no loyalty to Greenfields Park? That you would see it sold? A place where you’ve been happy?”
“I was happy there. The times I was allowed to visit. Anything was better than the dorms of whatever boarding school I happened to be enrolled in at that minute. I was happy at Sea Breeze, too. But I don’t think you care if I was happy at Sea Breeze because it doesn’t suit your plan for me. I was merely a placeholder, wasn’t I? To take over your responsibilities at Greenfields Park while you live the big New York City dream you’ve always wanted. That’s why you had me, wasn’t it? And do you think that anything in this world could compel me to put my own child in that same position?” Harper paused to quell her rising emotions. “I think not.”
Harper glanced at Granny James. She had paled visibly. Her eyes appeared sunken.
After a long pause Georgiana’s voice went flat, void of emotion. “I didn’t know you felt that way. Pity. Once again, Daughter dear, we do not see eye to eye. Nonetheless I wish you the very best. Again, my congratulations.”
“Will I see you at the wedding?” The little girl in Harper, the one who always pictured her mother walking her down the aisle, needed to know. What did she have to lose?
There was a momentary pause, then her mother said in her crisp British accent, “I think not.”
When the line went dead, Harper thrust the phone back toward her grandmother. True to her career, her mother really was good with words. She was well aware that by repeating the very words Harper had spoken, cool and without emotion, the dagger would be all the more sharp.
“I don’t want to ever talk to her again,” Harper said, barely able to speak the words, her lips were trembling so. She had thought she’d grown accustomed to her mother’s vitriolic conversations. But today, damn her, Harper had once again slipped into the fantasy—for the briefest, sweetest moment—that her mother was truly happy for her. That she cared. Fool, she told herself. When will you ever learn?
“What did she say?” asked Granny James in a low voice.
Harper swiftly wiped away a tear from her cheek. “Must we discuss it?”
“Yes, dear, I think we must. Tell me what she said.”
Granny was no stranger to Georgiana’s ability to cut a person off at the knees. Granny had been there for Harper for all of her life to listen, to console, to reassure her that she was loved.
“Well, first she congratulated me on the baby.”
Harper laughed derisively. “Then she proceeded to tell me to sell this backwoods house and move to Greenfields Park. She was quite clear it was my responsibility. Even my destiny. I suppose to fulfill her own sense of duty.”
“Oh, this is such a mess. I never expected Georgiana or you to take the reins at Greenfields Park. I’d hoped, of course. But, Harper,” Granny James said with annoyance, “we’ve been through all this long ago and made our peace. You live here at Sea Breeze and I think you’ve made the right decision because you love it here.” Granny smiled a watery smile. “And so do I. Most of all, you’re happy.”
“Why can’t my mother understand that?”
“Oh, Harper, I wish I knew. There’s something missing in that woman.”
“I know. A heart.”
Granny James looked at her hands with pinched lips.
“But what about Greenfields Park?” Tears flooded Harper’s eyes. “Did I let you and Papa Jeffrey down? I’d feel horrid if I did.”
Granny James reached out to take Harper’s hand and pull her close against her chest. “Dear girl, no! Not at all.”
Harper leaned back and wiped her eyes, sniffing. “But what will happen to it?”
“I don’t know where to begin.” Granny James moved the breakfast tray away and pushed back to sit higher against her pillows. Once settled, she placed her hands on her thighs. “It’s time I tell you, dear. I’ve sold Greenfields Park.”
“Sold it?” Harper was shocked. Greenfields Park was a large estate, a historic manor house filled with antiques, portraits.
“But you knew it was meant to be sold.”
“Y-yes,” Harper stammered. “But so quickly?”
“Not so very quickly, actually. You see, I’ve known for some time I might have to sell it. What with your grandfather’s Alzheimer’s. Georgiana made it very clear she was staying in New York. So I waited for you to decide whether you’d come back to take over the estate. I hoped you would, of course. No guilt,” she said, pointing at Harper when she saw the desolate expression on Harper’s face. “You’re entitled to make your own decisions.” Granny James’s fingers creased the edge of her sheets. “But once you decided to stay at Sea Breeze, I was free to act on, frankly, several offers that had been floating around for some time. Greenfields Park is quite the plum, you know. There are very few estates like it available.” Harper heard the pride in her grandmother’s voice.
“I’m not surprised it sold, Granny, only how fast. I’m kind of in shock, to be honest. I didn’t get the chance to go back for a last look-see. A farewell. I had some very happy days there. I would have liked to show Taylor the property.”
“Oh, there’s plenty of time for all that. It’s going to take me a while to settle everything and parcel out all of the treasures inside. There are so many decisions to be made, not only by me, but by you and Georgiana.” Granny delivered a firm look. “I want to keep the important family pieces, of course. You’ll have to come soon to choose what other pieces you want. Then I’ll pass some on to nieces and nephews. The nonfamily pieces I’m selling with the house. A sheikh from Saudi Arabia bought the place and wants everything possible included. Can you imagine?”