“We’re taking a break. That’s all. I don’t expect it to be easy, but trust me when I say it’s for the best.”
“What did he do?”
“It’s not him, it’s me. I… I really don’t want to talk about it, Marie. Not right now, anyway.”
She didn’t look entirely satisfied with my unwillingness to share, but she wouldn’t push me. She never had. She was always good about giving me space, not smothering me with concern and questions. Because she was, I typically ended up telling her more than I probably should. But this was different.
“I do want to talk about Daniel, though.”
She rolled her eyes and sighed. “Please, not this again. At this point you could probably tell me more than I could tell you about the man.”
“Have you seen the news?”
She nodded. “Yes, I saw that his son died. Tragic. Have you spoken to him about it?”
“Yes, he’s taking it pretty well.”
That sounded more sarcastic than I’d wanted it to. The wine was making me too loose. I set down my glass. I couldn’t afford truth serum slip-ups. I had too much at stake to risk getting sloppy.
“I want you to tell me everything you know about him, Marie. Don’t worry about sugar coating the past. Trust me when I say I have no illusions about him.”
She sat quietly, tracing the rim of her glass. Our eyes met, and I could see there was more that she hadn’t told me. No doubt for my own sake.
“Why do you want to know so badly? Don’t you ever think that Patty didn’t tell you for a reason?”
“I think about that every day.”
What if I hadn’t been so damn curious? I’d never have found Mark. I’d still have my anonymity and he’d still be alive. Blake wouldn’t be half responsible for his death and at risk of losing his own life. Jesus, everything would look so different right now. So very different.
“I want to know because I don’t entirely trust him. He wants me in his life. Not publicly as his daughter, of course, but I need to know what I’m getting into. He’s not extremely forthcoming, and his wife wants me at a distance. It’s complicated. I figured if you could tell me something about his past, that would be a start. At the very least, I’d like to know who he was.”
She stared into her glass, her mouth in a grim line. “I had no idea you’d find him, but the minute you did, I had this terrible feeling that it would come to this.”
“To me having to tell you all this. Patty made me promise to never tell you. Until recently I kept that promise easily because you never really asked. Now you’re asking me to go against her wishes after all these years?”
Nothing mattered more now than getting to the bottom of who Daniel really was. What made him tick, who mattered most. I had to figure out how to reason with such a ruthless and uncompromising man. I pushed on, unwilling to let guilt mix into what I was feeling right now.
“You’re not going against her wishes. I already know who he is. I did that all by myself. Now all I need is for you to help me fill in the blanks.”
“That damn picture.” She mumbled a curse under her breath. She rarely cursed. She sighed again. “They were in love. Any stranger could see that. I told you once that everyone loved Patty. That’s true. She was pretty, of course, but warm and charismatic too. She had a beautiful energy that drew people to her, and Daniel saw that. Like a moth to a flame, he had to have her. He pursued her, pulled out all the stops. Romantic as hell really, and it didn’t take long before she was head over heels for him too. After a matter of months, they were inseparable.”
“So what went wrong?”
“The school year was coming to a close. Obviously she wanted to know where the relationship was going and if they had a future. Every time she asked him about it, he’d dodge the question. He’d put her off, saying they’d didn’t need to worry about it right now. They’d talk about it when the time came. Of course the time came when she realized she was pregnant. She needed answers. Now or never, she had to know if they were going to be together.”
“Did he end it?”
“No, he sent her back to her family in Chicago after graduation. Told her he had to try to work it out with his family. A high-powered staunchly political family like his was bound to have strong opinions about the situation. It didn't matter that she came from a good family. He could play around all he wanted, but they expected him to marry someone strategic, someone who could bring value to the family and the Fitzgerald name.”
“Sounds like an old-fashioned notion.”
“Hardly. Not when money and power are at stake, trust me.”
“So what happened?”
“She came back home and waited. Weeks went by. Finally, he called her and told her that it wasn’t going to work out between them. He’d be starting law school in the fall, and having a wife and a baby simply didn’t play into those plans. His family wouldn’t have any part of it.”
“He ended it, just like that?”
“He said he loved her, truly did. She said he seemed sorry, for what it’s worth, but he was like a puppet in that family. So dependent on the wealth, slave to the expectations. He had a future all planned out for him that he had to live up to. She, and you, didn’t fit into that plan.”
I knew the story well, but to imagine Daniel—intimidating, powerful Daniel—like that seemed strange. He’d been like half the people I’d gone to school with at Harvard, independent and cocky as hell until parents’ weekend, and then how quickly they fell in line. They couldn’t risk losing Mommy and Daddy’s financial support.
Who knew how he really felt, but Marie had completely discredited what he’d told me.
“Did he know she was going to keep me?”
“No. He told her she should end the pregnancy, but Patty never told him what she planned to do. They never spoke again, so he might have assumed that she did.”
I thought back to our brief time at his house on the Cape, when I’d asked him why my mother had never told me about him. After she went back to Chicago, I assumed she was going to take care of it. I didn’t hear from her, and I didn’t want to reach out and raise suspicions with her family.
Dirty fucking liar.
I sat in stunned silence, trying to wrap my head around why he would possibly want anything to do with me now after cutting us off so coldly before. His life was following the grand plan that had been laid out for him years ago. What was so different that I now fit into it?