Three in Haverford Trilogy
Two in the Haverford Trilogy (Lydia), Ellie Nelson marries David Grant, a wealthy architect and philanthropist. Ten years later, Ellie and David are having marital problems. While David is on a field trip in Darfur, Africa, Ellie takes her children to her mother’s farmhouse
the Nelson family matriarch, is now ninety years old. She welcomes her daughter
home but is concerned that Ellie has left New York without informing David. When
David discovers that Ellie is living in Haverford, he makes plans to return to the States.
The night before he leaves, however, he is kidnapped.
week, Ellie discovers that they have lost most of their money through a Ponzi scheme.
Wanting to support his philanthropic projects in Africa, David invested their money with a long-time friend of his
unfolds in New York City, Africa and England but ends in the small town of Haverford where it all began.
me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Rich Boy
She held the ornate oak door
of the penthouse open for Charles, the doorman. As he maneuvered the baggage
cart through, he asked, “Going on a vacation, Mrs. Grant?”
smiled and ignored the question. The less the staff knew the better. She had been tempted to sneak out in the dead of night but that seemed a bit dramatic.
The laughter of her children, as they ran across
the marble floor of the foyer, caused a moment’s pain. How innocent and
happy they were.
I intend to see they stay that way.
The thought strengthened her resolve. She was doing the right thing.
“Hurry up, Casey,” Jonathan called
behind him to his six-year-old sister, who was walking with their nanny. As usual,
when his ten-year-old feet found just the right small rug, he slid the rest of the way to his mother.
“One day, you are going to break your neck
doing that,” she told him then laughed and gave him a quick hug.
“Can I go with Charles, Mom?”
“I suppose so. Hurry and catch up. Help him with the luggage.”
“Me, too, wait Jonathan!” Casey cried
out. Ellie stooped in front of her. “No,
honey, Charles has too many bags to pack into the car to have time to watch out for you.
You and I are going down together, but I need to talk to Sarah first. Why
don’t you go into the kitchen and say goodbye to George and Gracie?”
“Can’t we take them with us, Mommy? Grandmother wouldn’t mind. They
could play with her bird, Cleo. Parakeets like each other.”
I’ll have to come back for them and the
rest of our things later.
“We don’t have enough room, sweetie,
but Sarah will take good care of them, won’t you, Sarah?”
Ellie looked up into the kind eyes of the nanny,
who had been with them for ten years, and was shocked to see tears.
Casey towards the kitchen. “Hurry up, dear, we have to get going.”
as her small legs raced across the foyer that was larger than her mother’s farmhouse kitchen. For some reason, her children had never questioned the discrepancy between the luxury of their lives in
New York City and the simplicity of their grandmother’s life in the small town of Haverford, New York. They loved the farm. Would they feel the same way when they
realized that it was going to be their new home?
nervous quiver in Ellie’s stomach caused her a moment’s pause.
She glanced at Sarah. Would she call
David? Where did her loyalties lie?
you want me to come with you?” Sarah asked. “I would love to get
away from the heat of the city.”
a deep breath. She was just going to have to trust this dear woman who had cared
so lovingly for her children.
sorry, Sarah, but I don’t know how long we’ll be gone. And I need
for you to be here when David gets home.”
tears sliding down her cheeks.
ready, Mommy,” Casey said, as she ran back to them. “Sarah! Why are you crying? Did you hurt yourself?”
going to miss us, darling,” Ellie said. “Now, give her a big hug. Charles and Jonathan are waiting for us.”
brown eyes in the small face filled with concern. Casey grabbed her nanny around
the legs. “Don’t cry, Sarah.
We’ll be back soon.”
course, my sweet baby. Now go on with your mother. And give your grandmother a kiss for me.” Sarah turned
and walked away.
up at Ellie. “Jonathan will be upset when I tell him that Sarah cried.”
maybe it would be best not to mention it, sweetheart. Com’n now, let’s
go see Grandma.”
Lydia lay on the living room
couch, enjoying the scent of roses that wafted through the open windows. She
was having a hard time staying awake. Her naps during the day had become more
frequent lately, but she liked drifting down into soft darkness, sometimes dreaming, usually waking an hour later, feeling
Today, however, she was listening for the sound
of Ellie’s car coming down the long driveway to the farmhouse. Her grandchildren
would soon be here for their annual summer visit. It was later this year because
of Jonathan’s camp but finally they would be arriving and staying until school started again.
Lydia shifted to a sitting position, trying not
to disturb her two feline friends. In order to be comfortable, however, she had
to move Muffin to the end of the couch beside Sidney, who opened one eye then closed it and continued his nap. The slight effort it took to lift Muffin caused a moment’s dizziness.
Although she felt well most days, these attacks were occurring more often. She
probably should tell her doctor, but she knew better than tell her family. They
already kept too close an eye on her.
She had agreed not to plant the garden anymore, but she still enjoyed taking walks through the fields around
the house. Lying in the tall grass and staring up into the clear blue sky was
such a joy. If members of her family knew about her excursions, they would talk
about the danger of bugs and snakes, of not being able to find her if she fell ill.
Lydia loved them but their constant concern was a daily reminder that she only had so much time left, and you couldn’t
live a happy life with that as an ongoing theme. Besides, she was only ninety
years old. Now when she was one hundred, she intended to milk it for all it was
worth. She planned to say, “I feel a hundred years old today,” do
a double take and add, “Oh, I am one hundred!”
Lydia laughed at her own joke, jostling both cats, who stretched and watched her lazily through half-closed eyes. She couldn’t remember a time since her husband, John, had died twenty
years ago that a cat hadn’t been in the house. Her beloved Calico had lived
fifteen years, and she had grieved his death as though a member of the family had died.
She was sure that would be her last animal, but shortly afterwards, her neighbor found a new litter of kittens in his
barn. Lydia had talked her son, Jim, and his wife, Louise, into taking
two of them. Her oldest daughter, Susan, and her husband, Ed, agreed to take
another, leaving the two companions lying beside her. They closed their eyes
again, and Lydia could feel herself drifting off.
It wasn’t the car driving up the driveway that awakened
her. It was the laughter and chatter of her two grandchildren. Before she could even move, they both were on the couch, hugging and kissing her. Muffin and Sydney jumped off and ran for their lives, with Jonathan close behind.
“Let them hide for a few minutes, darling,”
she said. “They need to adjust to all the excitement. Where’s your
“Right here,” her daughter said, dumping several
suitcases on the floor.
Ellie joined Lydia on the couch, collapsing beside her.
“Are you ready for this invasion, Mom?”
“jI’m always ready for these two sweethearts. I swear Casey has grown an inch since you were here last.”
“She’s already outgrown her summer clothes. We’ll have to get a size larger for her school clothes. I plan to go shopping next week for both of them.”
“I thought they wore uniforms.”
Ellie hesitated. “Uh,
well, they’ll need after-school clothes, and I’d like to see what the stores in Haverford have to offer.”
Lydia smiled to herself.
Ellie shopped in stores like Neiman Marcus. What in the world did she
expect to find in Haverford?
Casey sat beside
her on the couch, snuggling close. Jonathan sprawled on the floor, trying to
coax the cats from underneath the skirt of the round table in front of the window. Sidney’s
small white face peeked out. Muffin was nowhere in sight. She was adverse to being grabbed and hugged.
“It’s okay,” Jonathan whispered to them. “We’ll be quiet. Come on
Casey slid off the couch and joined Jonathan on the floor.
“Let them be, guys,” Ellie said, as she pushed
herself off the couch.
She doesn’t look well, Lydia thought. Ellie had always appeared younger than her years with her short, curly hair, large brown eyes and pixie
face. Today, however, she looked her age of forty-eight, if not older.
“Where are you going, honey?” Lydia asked.
“To get more bags.”
“Good heavens, you brought half the house.”
“Actually, I’m going to leave most of the bags
in the car. Since we plan to move into the cabin in a few days, I don’t
want to unpack too much as we’ll just have to repack. Did Jack get it cleaned
up for us?”
Ellie always used the cabin that she and David had built
in the nearby woods whenever she visited during the summer.
“Jack had a heart attack back in the winter and isn’t
doing strenuous work anymore,” Lydia said. “His son has taken over,
however, and he gave it a good cleaning.”
The cats now warily poked their heads out to be rubbed between
their eyes and ears. Lydia was filled with happiness at the sight. She was so glad to have everyone here. It was going to be
a wonderful few weeks.
Lydia sat on the front
porch swing, watching for Ellie and the children to appear in the field between the farmhouse and the woods. Although David had cleared a dirt road leading from the main road to the cabin, there was a well-worn path
through the field.
There they were.
Even from this distance, Lydia could see that her daughter walked as though carrying a heavy burden. When was she going to explain what this prolonged visit was all about?
Lydia had tried to be patient, but the children had to return to school in two weeks, and Ellie kept avoiding her questions
about when she would be leaving. The subject of David was off-limits, too.
Ellie would only say that David’s latest
trip to Darfur was more involved than his other philanthropic projects. When
she described what his group was trying to accomplish, it also sounded dangerous. Thankfully,
he would be returning any day now.
Excited shouts brought Lydia out of her reveries. Casey was running full speed down the driveway while Jonathan and Ellie strolled behind. Her grandson normally would be chasing after his sister, rather than patiently walking
with his mother. Perhaps he sensed that she needed loving attention. Maybe I should ask him what’s going on, Lydia thought.
No. She mustn’t put him on the spot.
“We saw a mother deer and her baby!” Casey threw her wiry body into Lydia’s arms.
“We kept real quiet, and they walked right up to the stream and started drinking.
They were so pretty. It made me cry.”
out to touch the shining brown hair pulled back into pigtails. Casey was a miniature
of Ellie, both in spirit and looks.
did it make me cry, Grandmother?”
cupped the delicate face in her hands. “Because it touched your heart,
my darling. Sometimes things are just so beautiful that they bring tears to our
Jonathan bounded up the steps and across the
porch. “Did she tell you about the deer?” he asked. “It was awesome.”
Lydia repeated. “I’m sure it was.”
reminded her of his dad. They both had the same serious, introspective nature. However, David was not Jonathan’s biological father. Just before meeting David, Ellie, at thirty-eight, had chosen to be a single mother through artificial
insemination. Within nine months, she had a son and a new husband. It had been quite a year. From the first moment Lydia looked
into Jonathan’s newborn eyes, their connection had been soul deep. They
understood one another.
Ellie sat in the wicker chair beside the swing. There were dark circles under her eyes, indicating another sleepless night.
“Kids,” Lydia said, keeping her voice
light. “Why don’t you go inside and pour yourselves some lemonade? You know where the cookies are. But no
more than two apiece. Okay?”
“Can we let Cleo out of her cage for a
little while, grandmother?” Jonathan asked.
“I guess so but keep her in the kitchen. She’s getting old, like me, and can’t fly so well anymore.”
The children ran into the house, and the screen
door slammed behind them. Mother and daughter looked at one another. Lydia cleared her throat.
“All right, Ellie. I’ve tried to wait until you were ready to talk about it, but I need to know. What’s going on? What’s wrong?”
Ellie looked away.
A pressure began to build in Lydia’s chest. Any anxious feeling lately seemed to cause the sensation. She tried to ignore it as she waited for her daughter’s response.
“I just haven’t wanted to get into
it until I was sure that…. I didn’t know if I would have the
courage to go through with it. But today I called the children’s respective
schools and told them they wouldn’t be returning this fall.”
Lydia asked, “Are you and David moving? Oh, dear, you aren’t taking
them to Africa, are you?”
Lord, no! That’s David’s territory.
Disease. Starvation. He’s
in his element.” Lydia was shocked at the bitterness in her voice.
darling, he does wonderful work over there. I thought you were proud of him.”
look of despair that appeared on Ellie’s face told Lydia what she had suspected for weeks. Something was terribly wrong.
“That’s true,” Ellie said. “And I’ve always admired
the way he handled his family’s wealth. Many trust fund children live selfish,
superficial lives. They feel entitled.
But not David. He used half his money to set up the foundation that
has helped so many children.
“If you remember, I didn’t know about his family’s social status or wealth until just before our wedding.”
Lydia thought back on their
conversation when Ellie got married. It had seemed a bit unreal at the time. Over the years, when she visited her daughter, Lydia had seen a world of luxury far
removed from life in the small town of Haverford.
“Are you worried that David is spending too much money?”
Ellie’s laugh sounded
harsh. “Money isn’t the problem.
Even after supporting the foundation, we have plenty. You wouldn’t
believe how much we spend every month to maintain our lifestyle. Our accountant
pays all the bills, but occasionally, I see the statements. I feel guilty just
thinking about it”
“But darling, you and David work hard and have been generous with your money.
And Jonathan and Casey aren’t spoiled. You’re doing a wonderful
job raising caring, loving children. Why should you feel guilty?”
Ellie sat quietly for several
minutes before replying. “I haven’t talked about my feelings that
much over the years because complaining about living in a world of wealth doesn’t garner much sympathy.” She stared towards the mountain in the distance.
“This is your world, Mom, and it’s where I feel comfortable and most like myself. I just don’t fit into David’s world. I mean, his
sisters have been wonderful to me—and patient. Everything I know about
entertaining I’ve learned from them. They’ve guided me through a
labyrinth of rules, which I still forget half the time. They drag me to fashion
shows every year and help me acquire the proper attire for each season. But the
truth is I’ll never fit in, because I really don’t care about most of it.”
Lydia could understand
Ellie’s frustration but still….
“Okay, dear, I hear
what you’re saying, but you and David have helped so many people with your money.
Isn’t that rewarding?”
a degree, of course, and I support David’s efforts to make a difference in the world.
But, Mom, he has an obligation to his family, too. His obsession with
his philanthropic work is growing worse every year. The kids and I have only
seen him for maybe two out of the past six months. I’ve gone along with
it for years but his last demand was the proverbial last straw.”
and crossed the porch to look in the screen door, apparently listening for the voices of Casey and Jonathan in the kitchen.
don’t want them to hear any of this. They adore their father and accept
his absences much better than I do. But I’m going to have to tell them
about my decision soon. Jonathan keeps asking about school—the potential
new school he thinks he’s going to attend.”
school? He hasn’t said a word to me about it.”
asked him not to talk about it, that I wanted to tell you. It’s the all-boys
boarding school where David went—where his father and grandfather went before him.
Can you believe those poor little boys were sent away from home at such an early age and didn’t see their family
except for vacations? David just assumed that Jonathan would follow in those
Jonathan sent away? The thought broke Lydia’s heart.
Barely able to speak, she said, “I can’t imagine such a thing. And surely, Jonathan doesn’t want to go.”
in Ellie’s eyes. “Of course, he doesn’t, but his father is
his hero, and he never questions David’s decision—no matter how stupid!”
pacing up and down the porch. “David and I have argued about this for the
past two years. Finally, he simply enrolled him over my protests, convinced that
Jonathan needs masculine role models since he can’t be around that much. He’s
out saving the world, so he needs to hire male surrogates for his son.”
understood the depth of Ellie’s emotions as she was experiencing the same strong feelings herself.
closed her eyes for a moment, took a deep breath and prayed.
God, give me the strength I need to help my daughter.
in her chest eased, and her thoughts began to clear. Ellie had done the right
thing. Until this problem was resolved, Jonathan would be safe here.