Today's Reading

Alison laughed at her daughter's enthusiasm. She steered the Jeep between tall rose of Sharon bushes and up David's white shell driveway, and there, in front of the house, stood Jane, leaning against her rented dark green Mini Cooper convertible. She wore a lightweight gray silk pantsuit and Manolo Blahnik stilettos. On the ground next to her were a small Hermes suitcase, her purse, and her briefcase. Her briefcase? For two nights and a day and a half on Nantucket?

"Jane! You're here!" Felicity jumped out of the Jeep, raced over to Jane, and clutched her in a rib-breaking bear hug. Jane wrapped her arms around her sister and rolled her eyes at Alison over Felicity's shoulder.

"It's real. The three of us are really here together!" Felicity crowed. "And look at this house! Wow, Mom."

"Yes, it's wonderful, isn't it? Wait till you see the view." Alison held the door open. "Come in. Look around. Go upstairs and choose any bedroom you want—except the master bedroom, of course. I'll pour some iced tea."

"Do we need snacks?" Felicity asked, talking more to herself than to the others. "Probably not, we don't want to spoil dinner and I did have that bag of Fritos on the boat. Oh, man, it is 'outrageously' satisfying to eat Fritos without the children fighting for them or Noah acting like I'm eating toxic chemicals."

"I'll bring out a bowl of grapes," Alison said.

She leaned against the refrigerator, eyes closed, just listening to her two daughters chatting away as they went up the stairs. It had been a long time since the three of them had been together like this, and she wondered if they could make it through this weekend without some spat or disagreement and hurt feelings. When Alison looked at her grown, capable daughters, it was as if she were seeing living Russian matryoshka dolls, the facade holding a memory of each stage of their development, down to the smallest, youngest infant, still residing within.

Her girls had never been close, and Alison felt responsible for that. True, they did have different fathers. Alison was married to Flint when she had Jane—she'd married Flint because she was pregnant with Jane.

Jane had always been a loner, a reader, a prickly little perfectionist with her straight brown hair held back with a headband. Her arguing abilities were astonishing; no wonder she became a lawyer. She was always a levelheaded, straight-A student, never once crashing the car when she learned to drive (Felicity had dented it a few times), and—as far as Alison had ever known— never once falling into the depths of a tumultuous adolescent love affair. It wasn't that guys didn't pursue Jane. She was attractive, but aloof. 'Elegant'. She was tall, lean, with naturally arched black velvet eyebrows over her hazel eyes. She was smart, no genius, but ambitious and hardworking enough to make all As and get accepted to Harvard and then Harvard Law.

Four years younger than Jane, Felicity was the adored daughter of Alison's second husband, Mark. Mark had tried not to show any preference in his treatment of the girls, and he'd succeeded. If anything, he let Jane have her way far too often. But he couldn't help the way his eyes softened when he looked at Felicity, who had the blue eyes and blond hair of the LaCosta family.

Felicity, Alison had to admit, 'was' adorable. From the moment she'd toddled across the floor, babbling with glee, Felicity was happy and friendly and girly and sweet. As she entered her teens, she chose lace and ruffles, pale pink and baby blue, short flippy skirts, and multicolored friendship bracelets (which she and her friends made themselves, of course). In high school, she'd had lots of friends. And boyfriends. Felicity had been the drum majorette for her high school's marching band. She'd been prom queen her senior year. She'd attended the University of Vermont, married Noah right after graduation, had two babies, and become what Jane sometimes called "the little wifey."

Now Jane was a lawyer in New York, and so was her husband, Scott, although they worked for separate firms. They rented an upscale apartment on West Sixty-Fifth and went backpacking in Costa Rica and river rafting in Utah. Their lives were crazy busy and stressful and completely adult. Alison wasn't sure how she felt about Scott. He was so quiet, restrained, locked up. He was probably perfect for Jane.

Alison wasn't sure how she felt about Felicity's husband, Noah, either. Noah was an idealistic man, brilliant and ambitious. Straight out of college, he'd started a company selling organic drinks with catchy, healthy names. Now, Noah was trying to make "green food," alternative protein foods made, as far as Alison could tell, basically from kale and beet juice. Alison wished him well, although she worried about the stress he carried with him and how exhausted he always seemed.

Noah and Felicity's two gorgeous, funny, good children were the lights of Alison's life. The children adored their father—when they saw him, which wasn't often, since he worked at the office late into the night and on weekends. Alison did her best to feel fond of him and to smooth Felicity's life in little ways—buying her a nice new SUV for driving around with her children, or taking them on a Disney vacation.


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