Winter Storms (Winter #3)

by Elin Hilderbrand

SPRING

MARGARET

Here is a little-known fact about Margaret Quinn: She likes some news stories better than others. At the bottom of her list are terrorist attacks, random shootings, and… the election. Margaret has to fight off her indifference on a daily basis. She has been on familiar terms with the past three presidents and her overwhelming emotion toward them wasn’t awe or admiration, it was pity. Being president of the United States is the most stressful, thankless job in the world and Margaret can’t fathom why anyone would voluntarily pursue it. End of topic.

Margaret’s favorite kind of news story is—would anyone believe this?—the weather. The dull, the prosaic, the default I-have-nothing-else-to-talk-about-so-let’s-talk-about-the-weather topic is, to Margaret’s mind, a stunning daily phenomenon, overlooked and taken for granted. Margaret loves it all: hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, lightning storms, and—the ultimate bonanza—an earthquake followed by a tsunami. This may seem sadistic, but even as she mourns any loss of life, she is intrigued by the science of it. Weather is a physical manifestation of the earth’s power. Margaret also likes that weather defies prediction. Meteorologists can get close, but there are no guarantees.

The world, Margaret thinks, is full of surprises.

Margaret’s ex-husband, Kelley Quinn, has prostate cancer. He was diagnosed just before Christmas, which made for another muted, maudlin holiday. Margaret was tempted to take a leave of absence from the network in order to manage Kelley’s care, but Kelley’s estranged wife, Mitzi, returned to the fold and is now very much in charge. After twenty years of barely concealed animosity, Margaret and Mitzi have come to a place of peace, bordering on friendship, and Margaret would like to keep it that way—so she’s backed off. She gets updates every day or two from her daughter, Ava. Kelley’s cancer is contained; it hasn’t metastasized. He has been traveling back and forth to the Cape five days a week for his radiation treatments. Mitzi goes with him most days, although she’s made no secret of the fact that she finds the radiation aggressive. She would prefer Kelley to treat his cancer holistically with herbs, kale smoothies, massage, energy work, and sleep.

Margaret bites her tongue.

One thing that Margaret knows will make both Kelley and Mitzi feel better is getting definitive news about their son, Bart, who has been missing in Afghanistan since December of 2014. Margaret checks her computer first thing each morning for briefs from the DoD. One soldier from Bart’s platoon, William Burke, escaped to safety, but he remains at Walter Reed in Bethesda. He sustained life-threatening head trauma and, hence, the DoD has no new intelligence about where the rest of the troops are, or even if they’re alive.

But they might soon, Margaret guesses. Assuming the kid makes it.

The winter months are mild, a welcome change from the year before, and spring arrives right on time in the second half of March. It’s not a false spring either, but a real, true spring, the kind portrayed in picture books—with bunny rabbits, budding trees, children on swing sets. Margaret’s apartment overlooks Central Park and by the first of April, the park is a lush green carpet accented by bursts of color—beds of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, iris. Model yachts skim across Conservatory Pond. There are soaking rain showers at night so that in the morning when Margaret steps out of her apartment building and into the waiting car, driven by Raoul, the city looks shellacked and the air feels scrubbed clean.

It’s a good spring. Kelley will be fine, Margaret tells herself. Their son Patrick is set to be released from jail on the first of June. He already has a handful of investors and he plans to open his own boutique investment firm. How he managed this from inside the lockup, Margaret isn’t sure. She made him promise her that, from here on out, everything he does will be legal.

Margaret’s granddaughter, Genevieve, is growing and changing each day. She can now sit up, and technology is so advanced that when Margaret and Kevin connect on FaceTime, Margaret can wave and coo and watch Genevieve laugh. Kevin and Isabelle are busy with the inn, which, thanks to the clement weather, has been filled to capacity since the middle of March.

But what is really painting Margaret’s world pink is that she’s in love. Dr. Drake Carroll has changed from a sometime lover to her constant companion, best friend, and fiancé. They’d both vowed to make time for the relationship to grow. Margaret had wondered if she would be able to keep her promise, and then she’d wondered if Drake would be able to keep his—but she has been pleasantly surprised at how organic and natural it is to be part of a couple again. Weeknights, they stay at Margaret’s apartment, and weekends, they’re at Drake’s. They go out to dinner downtown at places picked by Margaret’s assistant, Darcy, who is a wizard at finding the most fun and delicious spots in the city—the Lion, Saxon and Parole, Jeffrey’s Grocery, Uncle Boons. They’ve been to the theater three times, and they work out side by side at the gym; on Sundays, they order in Vietnamese food and watch old movies. Drake sends Margaret flowers at the studio; he writes I love you in soap on the bathroom mirror. Margaret is besotted. When you’re in love, every day is like a present you get to open.

Margaret’s daughter, Ava, wants to take a trip, just the two of them, before Margaret gets married. It will be a bachelorette trip to celebrate the end of Margaret’s freedom! Ava says.

Margaret is lukewarm on the idea. The last thing she needs at her age is a bachelorette celebration. She harks back to a very drunken night nearly forty years earlier that found her roaming the West Village with her six bridesmaids. Alison, the leader of Margaret’s bachelorette foray, had insisted they stop at a bar to hear acoustic guitar music and then further insisted that Margaret join the singer—a very cute guy with shoulder-length hair and a naughty gleam in his eye—onstage to sing “American Pie.” Margaret impressed the crowd and the band so much with her voice and her knowledge of the lyrics that she got a standing ovation, and the lead singer asked if he could take her home.

No, Margaret had said. She had been genuinely confused. I’m the one getting married.

Obviously any trip with Ava would be a far cry from that, but at her age, even the word bachelorette makes Margaret cringe.

But one day, as she’s kicking it up a notch on the treadmill, Margaret is struck by a realization. This trip Ava is suggesting isn’t for Margaret—it’s for Ava.