On most summer nights, Mac and his family would be on the deck, relaxing with a glass of wine, enjoying the refreshing sea breeze, sounds of the surf breaking along the shore, and the aroma of something delicious on the grill. Unfortunately, with the press still camped out on the beach, the three McDonald sisters decided to go into the kitchen to prepare dinner. Mary Beth suggested to Sally that she and her brother go upstairs to play video games.
Looking at her parents, Mary Beth said, “You two need time to discuss things privately. Besides, we need to get to know our little sister!” she said with a wink.
Mac and Betsy laughed.
“It’s almost as though there are kids again, Betsy.”
Once their daughters had left the room, Betsy spoke.
“You’ve done a fine job raising the girls, Mac. Thank you. I’m sure it wasn’t easy raising two girls without a mother around, not to mention the emotional baggage my leaving must have caused.”
“Mary Beth did her best to fill your shoes as a mother to Annie. I don’t know what I would have done without her. Looking back, I now realize how much I took her for granted. It’s probably why she got married right out of high school. She spent so much time making sure Annie was okay, she didn’t have time to concentrate on her own studies. Her poor grades denied her college entry after high school, and when Annie did so well in school, I think she resented Annie for her lot in life. They’re okay now, but I sometimes think it still simmers underneath. It exposed itself when we learned Mary Beth knew you were around and didn’t tell us.”
“I know. That’s why I told you this morning, that I made Mary Beth promise to keep my existence a secret. She did try to get me to at least call you.”
“So what happens now, Betsy? You started this story. How does it end?”
“I’d like to be back in your lives, Mac. I’ve missed so much already. I don’t want to miss any more.”
“I don’t think that will be a problem. They are thrilled to have you back,” he motioned toward the kitchen with his head.
“What about you? Betsy asked softly.
Mac paused, leaned forward in his chair, hands folded, with his forearms resting against his thighs. In a voice, slightly louder than a whisper, he replied, “A day has not gone by, that I haven’t thought about you; wondered where you were; why you left; who you were with, or what you were up to. The girls have tried to fix me up over the years, but it never felt right inside. Now that you are back, that part of me is thrilled, but it’s also worried that too much time has passed. To be honest Betsy,” he continued, with now an edge to his voice, “The other part of me is still pissed off at you. Pissed that you never once tried to talk to me about how you felt. Pissed that you had a fling with Warren Wilson. I never told anyone, but I knew, and it hurt. It hurt even more when I read this note,” he said showing her the twenty-five year old piece of stationery he had taken from his pocket. “Twenty-five years is a long time, Betsy. I just don’t know if we can just pick up where we left off.”
“I know what you mean, Mac. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t come back sooner. To be honest, if this thing with Aimee hadn’t happened, God knows if I ever would have tried to re-enter your lives. If it makes a difference, there’s never been anyone else for me either. I was so ashamed after the affair with Warren, that I could never bring myself to be close with anyone again. I also felt the need to constantly guard my past, which made it difficult to have many close friends.”
“Well no matter what happens Betsy, we have our three lovely daughters to keep us connected.” After a short pause, he added, “We were good friends before we started dating. Let’s start this new chapter in our lives by rekindling that friendship first; then we’ll see what happens. Once the media moves on to another story, and the lawyers have straightened everything out, it may be easier for us to move on and live a normal life. Does that make sense?”
“It makes perfect sense,” she said smiling, putting her hand on his, as they looked into each other’s eyes.
Sounds of laughter came from the kitchen, prompting Mac and Betsy to get up from their seats to see what was happening.
“It sounds like a teenage slumber party in here!” Betsy said, as they stood in the opening to the kitchen.
“Ooh, good idea!” Aimee shouted. “Let’s do that tonight.”
“No young lady. I think we should finally get you home to get some rest. Do I need to remind you that you were just released from the hospital this morning?”
“Aaww, Mommmm,” the three girls said in unison, giggling like teenagers.
“Girls, listen to your Mother. There will be plenty of time for sleep-overs later.”
Turning to Betsy, Mac asked with a large smile, “What were you saying about missing so many things?”
At that, everyone laughed themselves to tears.
* * * * *
Just as the family was sitting down for supper, Kevin returned from the hospital, with news about his uncle’s condition. Joining everyone at the table, he explained how doctors told his uncle that his body was sending him a warning. Tests had found a blockage and an angioplasty had been scheduled for the following day. With medication, a proper diet, exercise and less stress, he had a good chance of avoiding a major heart attack.
"Do you think Uncle Liam will be able to relax and enjoy his retirement, now that you have assumed total responsibility for the pharmacy?" Anne asked.
“I don’t think so, but we’ll see,” Kevin answered. “He may get bored after awhile. Perhaps he’ll cover the bench during my vacation. Either way, I have to hire another pharmacist. Needless to say, my vacation is over. I have to return to work tomorrow.”
“I think we all have to return to our normal routines,” Anne said, adding, “I’m back to work on Monday.”
The happy news about Uncle Liam kept the mood light around a truly “family” table for the first time in a quarter-century. Funny recollections from the past, and talk about what each other had been doing filled the dining area as the sun set and the tide rose on the beach.
As predicted by Sergeant Wilson, the TV crews and reporters slowly dispersed as their on-air and print deadlines approached. Sally and Drew laughed as the last news crews quickly packed as the surf crept closer and closer, reclaiming more of the beach for the second time that day.
Around eight o’clock, the phone rang. Mac answered. Everyone in the room remained quiet, listening to Mac’s side of the conversation. “Hi Warren… yes, everyone is still here. We were just discussing bringing Betsy and Aimee to Sanford. Yes, the media has finally left as far as we can tell. That would be great… Thanks. Talk with you soon. Goodbye.”
“What would be ‘great’ Mac?” Betsy asked.
“Warren said the patrol car outside will escort us to the town line, just in case the media is waiting elsewhere. He told me Sanford Police have kept an eye on your place, and all is quiet. Are you and Aimee ready to go? I’ll take you home.” He looked over to Kevin and Anne, giving them a wink. “I had planned to stay here for the weekend, but let’s give the newlyweds one last night of honeymoon, since Kevin’s back to work tomorrow.”
Everyone spent the next five minutes giving good-bye hugs. Betsy and Aimee expressed their thanks for the lovely day.
“When will we see you again, Aimee?” Drew asked.
“If things calm down, and you’re mom says it’s okay, how ‘bout I take you both to Water Country next week?”
“Awesome!” They both answered as if rehearsed. "That's our favorite water park!"
“Well I guess I’m not the ‘favorite aunt’ anymore,” Anne said smiling.
Ever the diplomat, Sally responded, “Auntie Anne, we just have two favorite aunts, now!”
“Good answer,” Aimee said, nodding in approval.
After another round of hugs at the car, Mac drove away with his long-lost wife and daughter. Back inside, Mary Beth and Anne returned to the dining room and began cleaning up, and doing the dishes.
“Annie. I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you and Dad about Mom. I really wanted to, but she made me promise. I was afraid she’d disappear again if I told you guys.”
“I was angry with you at first, but things have worked out. I’ve calmed down. Mom is back, and we have a sister! I suppose I probably would have done the same thing had I been the one to find her. You don’t have any other secrets you’re keeping from me are you?”
“No Sis, that’s the only one!”
* * * * *
Once the dishes were cleaned and put away, Mary Beth took the kids home, following Mac’s lead to give Kevin and Anne one last night alone.
Sitting on deck, they finished the bottle of wine from dinner, and enjoyed the moonlit night.
“It’s been quite a honeymoon, Annie… one for the record books. Aren’t you glad we didn’t go on a cruise?”
“I think I need a vacation to recuperate from the honeymoon! In the course of two weeks, I got married, found a young woman unconscious on the beach, learned that my mother is alive and back in the area, and that the young woman is my biological sister. Not to mention you getting the drug store, and your uncle going to the hospital.”
Anne took a sip of the wine then started to giggle.
“What’s so funny Annie?”
“Yesterday, Mary Beth said this thing with Aimee was something you’d see on a Lifetime Movie. And that was before, she knew Aimee was really our sister, and this whole thing brought Mom back into our lives. Now that is a plot for a Lifetime Network Movie."
When the bottle was finished, Kevin and Anne returned inside.
Heading toward the stairs, Kevin announced, “Well, I’ve got an early day tomorrow… I’m going to bed!”
“Me too,” answered Anne mischievously, “but I don’t have an early day…”
* * * * *
In the car on the way to Sanford, Aimee carried the conversation for most of the way. She was so excited about having real family, with sisters, a dad, a brother-in-law, and a niece and nephew who thought she was cool.
Betsy directed Mac through Sanford until they reached her apartment.
“It’s good to be home, and finally sleep in my own bed,” Aimee said as they pulled into the driveway. Then with a certain amount of sarcasm, said, “I don’t know what I’ll do without having someone wake me up in the middle of the night to ask me if I’m resting comfortably, though?”
“Well, take the next few days to rest. You’ll need it if you’re taking the kids to Water Country next week,” Mac said.
“Good night Daddy,” Aimee said arching over the front seat to give him a kiss on the cheek. “See you soon?”
“Aimee, I’ll meet you inside. Do you have your keys?”
“Oh, wait, no I don’t. I left them in my car… oh my God, that’s right, my car and things are still in a Harbor Point impound lot!”
“I’ll call Warren and find out where they are.” Mac volunteered. “I’ll come give you a lift back to the beach tomorrow.”
“Ooh… quality time with my dad. It’s so cool having a father!”
“Here is my house key,” Betsy said, offering her keys to Aimee. “I’ll be right in.”
They watched as Aimee entered the house, seeing lights come on as she ventured through the apartment.
“She is so excited about all of this,” Mac said.
“Had I known,” Betsy began, with a laugh, “I would have gotten her a father a long time ago! Seriously, though Mac, I want to thank you for everything you did today. You and the girls made today easy. I was so worried and so scared about what it would be like. I wouldn’t have blamed you if you handled things differently.”
“Betsy, as I said earlier, there is a part of me that still hurts, but the other part of me is thrilled to have you back in our lives. No matter what happens, we still have our daughters.”
“Yes. That’s true. I’ll probably see you tomorrow when you pick up Aimee.”
“Hey, summer weekends usually mean ‘open house’ at the cottage. Mary Beth and Anne always show up when they are not working Saturday and Sunday. You and Aimee are welcomed to join us too.”
“That would be great, Mac. Thanks.”
The porch lights began to flash on and off, causing Betsy and Mac to look toward the house. Aimee stood in the window with a big smile on her face.
“I guess that’s my cue, see you tomorrow,” Betsy said as she got out of the car.
“I’ll give Aimee a call. See you tomorrow,” Mac said.
Mac waited until Betsy made it to the house. She turned, smiled and waved good-bye just before entering the house. Inside, Aimee was waiting. She had already made some tea and placed her mother’s secret scrapbook on the kitchen table. “Can we look through this together now?
* * * * *
It didn’t take long for feature articles to appear in the Maine Sunday Telegram, and New Hampshire Sunday News. Once the Associated Press picked up the story, it quickly began to appear on TV stations and in newspapers across the country. Producers from the networks were calling. Everyone wanted to talk to the McDonald family – 20/20, 60 Minutes, Ellen, Leno, Conan, Letterman, Oprah, and Barbara Walters.
* * * * *
Watching the large flat screen TV in the corner of the bar, Dan “Sam” Mason watched as Suzette Jones anchoring the local “tabloid” TV news station announced – LOST AND FOUND! Missing New Hampshire woman returns after twenty-five years!
Once considered a “news babe” during her fifteen years on a Boston station, Jones now found herself on the downside of her career. Although she still anchored the news at 6 and 11, she no longer had the youthful appearance the large market stations wanted in their highly paid on-air talent.
She reported on the story Dan knew so well - the disappearance of his ex-wife’s mother. He could feel the anger rise from his gut, causing a string of expletives to flow from his mouth.
“That god-damned, fuckin’, bitch. That friggin’ family screwed me again!”
Dan realized that by making herself known to her family, and no longer hiding in plain sight, Elizabeth Myers McDonald had squashed his blackmail attempts. He had hoped to use the tip he’d received from his girlfriend to extort some money from both Betsy and the family.
As Suzette “threw” the story to a reporter standing on Harbor Point Beach, Dan did something he had not done in months. He poured himself a shot of Jack Daniels, quickly downed it, and repeated the process multiple times.
, he thought, now pouring the whiskey in a tall glass. By the time an old episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” came on after the news, Dan was drunk. It had been awhile, but things had not changed. When Dan was drunk, he was a mean drunk. Some of his “regulars” tried to calm him down, but instead it made him angrier, as he started to throw punches at them instead. The next morning, Dan found himself hung over, in jail, and unemployed.
Twenty-seven hundred miles away, Joan Fitzgerald sat alone in the apartment she had hoped to once again share with her daughter Emily. Unfortunately, Emily had declared her independence by moving into her own place in Eagle.
Since then, rather than listening to Emily recount the events of her exciting day as a new lawyer at Greene & Greene, Joan had gotten into the bad habit of eating a microwaved meal while watching the evening news. Tonight was no exception. She never missed the six o’clock news and Clay Reynolds, its middle-aged anchor with rugged good looks and deep blue eyes. He was paired with Heather Hansberry, an attractive, perky, twenty-something young enough to be his daughter. There were rumors she actually was. Joan turned up the volume as Clay appeared on screen.
“We open our KBOI-2 news tonight with an amazing story from Maine, which apparently has ties to Boise.”
“That’s right Clay,” Heather said, picking up the story, “Twenty-five years ago, Elizabeth McDonald, disappeared from her Exeter, New Hampshire home, leaving her husband and two young daughters wondering where she was and why she left.”
As Heather continued, file photos and b-roll footage courtesy of a New Hampshire TV station filled the screen.
“It appears Mrs. McDonald moved to the Boise-area where she lived for seventeen years as Betsy Myers. Six months after arriving in Boise, Mrs. McDonald gave birth to a young girl she named Aimee…”
Aimee’s high school yearbook photo, and what appeared to be her current State of Maine driver’s license photo now filled the screen, causing Joan to abruptly turn off her TV.
For twenty-five years, Joan hoped the two babies she delivered that day were fraternal twins. Tonight she learned, they could not have looked more alike. Realizing that once Emily learned the truth, she would probably never see or speak to her again, Joan began to sob.