Jean Kingston had it all. . .or did she?
“Be careful, Jean honey,” Nona had said when she began dating. “Sometimes boys don’t think above think above the belt buckle.”
I always listened before. Why did Rand make me forget everything she said?
Jean thought of her stepmother and longed for Nona’s steady, unflappable presence. Her throat ached with the knowledge it was gone forever. She looked down at her porcelain-perfect daughter sleeping in the designer crib Rand had chosen. If I give you the same advice someday, will you listen?
She’d met her husband even before she finished her interior design course at Stephens College. Though she had a scholarship, she knew Nona and her father did without so she could fit in with her more affluent classmates. She’d fit in well enough to be invited to the party at the local country club where Rand—the handsome, charming son of a wealthy family—had literally swept her off her feet. Within a month, he’d also swept her into his bed.
She wasn’t sure if his proposal was simply the honorable thing or a real commitment to spending the rest of their lives together. Nevertheless, just two months after she graduated, they were married and flew to Hawaii for their honeymoon. When her father died, she had to insist they cut short the trip and come home.
His parents gave them a sprawling, two-story house in River Oaks, and Rand joined his father’s investment firm. Between business and social engagements, he stayed away from home more than Jean thought really necessary. Her pregnancy with Juliana had been difficult and the breech birth even more so. “Wait a couple of years before you try again,” the doctor advised. Like the gallant husband he affected to be, Rand agreed, though he’d never hidden his desire for a son.
Gazing at the baby, Jean remembered every detail of the time and place when she’d first overheard the gossip about Rand and Margaret, a broker with another firm. Julianna was eight months old.
I can’t let him leave. What would I do? How would I manage on my own with the baby? He wants a son, and if I give him that. . .if he has what he wants. . .
Despite the doctor’s warning, Jean wasted no time getting pregnant again.
She remembered, too, drifting in the gray aftermath of anesthesia and hearing Rand and the doctor discussing the barely-six-month baby boy who had never drawn a breath and the pronouncement there would be no more babies ever.
“What would you like to do, Mr. Kingston?”
“What do you usually do in cases like this?”
“I can arrange for it to be disposed of.”
Jean tried to speak, to tell them his name was Peter for her father, that she wanted to see him and hold him, but the tube in her throat silenced her.
Though there were no more babies, there were many more affairs. She ignored them. She’d always been the good, obedient little girl, and now she was the good, obedient wife. Julianna belonged to Rand—she accepted that, too. He gave her everything she wanted and groomed her to be the son he’d never have, the business associate he planned for Kingston and Kingston.
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Jean held up her head, closed her ears, and went on. And then it happened. Rand dumped her for Juliana’s college roommate, and after thirty-three years, Jean floundered as she tried to find out who and what she really was
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