“The proposition that I want to make you is that I buy this house. If you feel uncomfortable about it, you can pay the rent to me, although I don’t see why you should. Or some token amount to make it legal, like a dollar a month, or a hundred a year. I don’t give a damn about it. We can ask the lawyers how it has to be. When we get married, I can give it to you as a gift, or put it in trust for you in my will. If we don’t marry, and don’t stay together, which would make me very sad”-she smiled at him, they both knew that there was no risk of that, from all they could see at the moment-“then we could turn it into a loan, and you could pay me back over thirty years, or fifty for all I care, but I wouldn’t pull the house out from under you. This house should be yours, and I’d feel better for you, knowing that you own it now, or that someone does who loves you and isn’t going to change their mind and stop renting it to you. This house is yours, Finn. It belonged to your family for hundreds of years. If you’ll agree, I’d like to buy it now and protect it for you, and our children. And just to cover all the bases, in case this baby doesn’t happen for some reason, I still feel the same way. I don’t need the money. I don’t know what they’re asking for it, but I think it will make a very, very small dent in what Paul gave me.” She was being totally honest with him, as Finn stared at her in amazement. It was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for him, and she wanted nothing from him in return. She just loved him.
“My God, what did he give you?” Finn couldn’t help asking. She was totally unconcerned about buying the house and what it would cost her. And Finn realized she was doing it for him, out of love.
Hope didn’t hesitate when she answered. There was no one else on earth she would tell, except him. She trusted him with her life, their baby, and her fortune. She didn’t consider the money hers anyway, it was Paul’s, and should have been Mimi’s. And now, one day, it would go to this baby, and Blaxton House was part of that baby’s heritage anyway, because it was Finn’s. She was helping him build a legacy for their child, and if not, out of kindness, for him.
“He gave me fifty million from the sale of his company. He sold it for two hundred net after the sale. I’ll get another fifty when he dies, hopefully not soon. And it’s carefully invested. I actually made quite a lot of money last year. I guess money breeds more money. That’s an awful lot for one woman with few needs. I can afford to buy the house,” she said simply. “And I’d like to do that for you. Do you know how much they want for it?” She had no idea what a house like his would sell for in Ireland.
He laughed in answer. “A million pounds. That’s less than two million U.S. dollars.” It was laughable in comparison to the kind of money she was talking about, which was inconceivable to him. He knew she had money, that was obvious, and she had said that Paul had been extremely generous with her. But he had had no idea she had that kind of money. It was beyond his wildest imagination. “And we can probably get them down on the price for cash, way down. The house is in pretty bad shape, as you know. We might even be able to get it for seven or eight hundred thousand pounds, which would be a windfall for them, and a bargain for us. That would be about a million and a half, in dollars.” And then he looked at her sternly. “Hope, are you sure? We’ve only been together for four months. That’s a hell of a gesture.” What she was proposing was the greatest gift of his life, beyond his wildest dreams.
“I’d like to fix it up with you, and do everything it needs. It’s a shame to let the place go to rack and ruin, particularly if we buy it.”
“Let me think about it,” he said. He seemed overwhelmed. He leaned over and kissed her, drained his glass of wine, filled it, and drained that one too, and then he laughed again. “I think I may have to get drunk tonight. This is all a little rich for my blood. I don’t even know what to say to you, except that I love you and you’re an extraordinary woman.”
They both went to bed shortly after that. They were tired, the emotions of the day were too much for him, and he passed out from the wine. They both woke up in the middle of the night. There was a storm outside, and Finn turned to her in the dark, looking at her, propped up on one elbow.
“Yes.” She smiled at him. She was happy with the offer she had made him. It felt right to her, and it was so little money compared to what she had. And it was such a great house for them.
“Can I accept the offer now, or do I have to wait until morning?” He looked like an overgrown boy in the dark, and his eyes were dancing, he was so happy. She was making him the greatest gift of his life. And he was almost afraid she would change her mind and take it back. But he didn’t know Hope if he thought that. She was a woman of her word.
“You can accept the offer anytime you like,” she said, with a gentle hand on his neck as the wind howled outside. It was raining hard. Spring didn’t come easily in Ireland, and it was an odd feeling for her, knowing this was going to be her home now, but she loved it too. And she was proud of his ancestral house, sharing it with him, and hopefully their child, or even children. The future lay brightly before them.
“Maybe we should wait and see if the place falls down tonight. That’s a hell of a wind blowing,” Finn said with a smile.
“I think it will be okay,” she said, still smiling.
“Then I want to say yes to your generous offer. Thank you for giving me back my house. And I promise you, when we get married, when I make the money for it, I’ll pay you back. I’ll rent it from you, for the same price I pay now. And I’ll pay you back in installments, whenever I can. It may take a while, but I’ll do it.”
“You can do it any way you want. But at least you’ll know the house is yours and no one can take it away from you, nor should they. You’re the rightful heir.”
He nodded with tears in his eyes, even though he was smiling. He was in awe of her again. “Thank you. I don’t know what else to say. I love you, Hope.”
“I love you too, Finn.” He put his head on her shoulder and went back to sleep then, like a child. He looked as though he felt peaceful and safe, as she lay holding him, and gently stroked his hair. And finally, she fell asleep again too, as the storm raged on outside.
The day after the storm Hope called the bank and made all the arrangements to buy the house, and Finn helped her. They had lost a tree in the night, but they didn’t care. It hadn’t hurt anyone, and had done no damage. And the owner of the house, who had bought the property as an investment, was happy to accept seven hundred and eighty thousand pounds, a million five hundred thousand dollars. It was a terrific price, and Finn was ecstatic. Hope had the money wired, and since there were no conditions on the sale, Blaxton House was theirs eight days later. Legally, it belonged to her, but she had all the papers drawn up, leaving it to him in the event of her death, and allowing him to pay a nominal rent for now. Once they were married, the house would be put in trust for their child. And if for some reason they didn’t marry, or there was no child, he could still buy the house from her, over an extended time.
It was a fantastic deal for him, and one he never could have gotten otherwise. And she was already making plans to restore it to its original beauty. Hope was thrilled to have a free hand for the restoration. There was nothing in it for her, except the joy of making Finn happy, and knowing that they owned the house they were living in, and where their baby would grow up. She reminded Finn again that the deal was not contingent on her pregnancy. If for any reason they lost the baby, nothing changed. And if their relationship failed, she was still willing to let him buy the house from her over time. It was the ideal arrangement for him, and he said she was the most generous woman in the world. Hope insisted it was a blessing for them both. She had asked no one’s advice and needed no one’s permission. She just did it, and notified her bank to make the wire transfer to the previous owner. Everyone was extremely pleased with the deal. And Finn most of all, but Hope was happy too. He put the deed to the house in his desk drawer like it was made of gold. And then he turned to Hope, and knelt down before her, looking into her eyes.
“What are you doing?” she asked, laughing at him, and then saw his serious expression. This was clearly an important moment to him.
“I’m formally asking you to marry me,” he said solemnly, taking her hand in his own. There was no one to ask. She had no relatives except Paul, and that wouldn’t have been appropriate, although Finn was grateful to him as well for how generous he had been with Hope. “Will you be my wife, Hope?” Tears filled her eyes as he knelt before her, and she nodded. She was too moved to speak, and cried much more easily now, with their baby in her womb.
“Yes, I will,” she said in a strangled voice, and then choked on a sob. He stood up then and took her in his arms and kissed her.
“I promise I’ll take care of you all your life. You won’t regret it for a minute.” She didn’t think she would. “I’ll get you an engagement ring the next time we go to London. When do you think we should get married?” The baby was due in November, and she wanted to do it before that, if only to legitimize the child. But she didn’t want to wait anyway. They were both sure about their love.
“Maybe we shouldn’t make official plans till you tell Michael,” Hope said, thinking of his son, and not wanting him to feel left out. “Maybe we could get married this summer in Cape Cod.” That would mean a lot to her.
“I’d rather get married here,” Finn said honestly. “Somehow it would seem more official. We could still do it over the summer, when Michael is here. He always comes over at some point, even if it’s not for long.”
“I need to meet him first, before we tell him,” Hope said sensibly, and they both agreed that they didn’t want to tell him on the phone. He knew nothing about her, and suddenly they would be calling to say that his father was marrying a total stranger, and having a baby. It was a lot for Finn’s son to swallow at one gulp. Hope wanted to give him time to meet her and adjust to the idea. And she had to tell Paul, and she knew it might be a blow for him at first, knowing she was with another man, and having his child. They needed time for others to get used to their plans. And summer seemed soon enough to Hope, or even fall. That gave them time to get organized too. A lot had happened in a very short time. Their relationship, a baby, and now they were planning to marry. The rapidity of it all still took her breath away. In four months, she had a whole new life. A man, a child, a house. But Finn was wonderful to her and she was sure.
She was busier than ever once they bought the house. It was well into April by then, and she decided to postpone her jobs in New York in May. She didn’t want to fly before the end of her first trimester, when the baby would be solidly ensconced. She asked Mark to move all her May commitments to mid-June, and didn’t tell him why, although her bank had told him she had bought the house.
“So you bought a place in Ireland,” he said with interest. “I’ll have to come over and see what you’re up to over there. How’s everything with Finn?”
“Perfect,” she said, sounding ecstatic. “I’ve never been happier in my life.” He could hear it, and he was pleased for her. She had been through some very tough times, and she deserved all the happiness she had now.
“See you in June. I’ll get everything worked out. Don’t worry about it. Just have fun with your castle or whatever it is.” She told him a little about the house, and he liked hearing the joy and excitement in her voice. Hope hadn’t sounded like that in years.
And for the next two months, she and Finn never stopped. Hope hired a contractor and started doing the repairs the house needed so badly. They had to put a new roof on, which cost a fortune but was worth it. Windows were sealed that had leaked for fifty years. Dry rot was cut out, and she made arrangements to have the interior of the house painted while they were in Cape Cod for the summer. And she was buying antiques in shops and at auctions, to fill the house with the furniture it deserved. And every time Finn saw her, she was carrying something, dragging a box, climbing up a ladder, or stripping a paneled wall. She boxed up the books in the library so they could work on the shelves. She never stopped, and more than once Finn gave her hell and reminded her that she was pregnant. She still acted as she had when she was pregnant with Mimi, and Finn reminded her that she was no longer twenty-two years old. Sometimes Hope remembered to be careful, and the rest of the time she laughed at him and told him that she wasn’t sick. She had never felt better or been happier in her life. This was like the reward for all the sorrow that she’d been through. She believed that Finn was the miracle that God had given her, and she said it to him all the time.
She was working particularly hard one afternoon, packing up the dishes so they could have the inside of the china closets painted, and she complained afterward that she had hurt her back. She got in a warm tub and it felt better, but she said that it really ached, and Finn scolded her again, and then felt sorry for her, and rubbed her back.
“You’re a fool,” he chided her. “Something is going to happen, and it’ll be your own goddamn fault, and I’ll be pissed. That’s our baby you’re tossing around, while you work like a mule.” But it touched him too that she loved his house so much and was doing it all for him. She wanted it to be beautiful now so he’d be proud. It was her labor of love for Finn, and so was their child.
She slept fitfully that night, and stayed in bed the next morning. She said her back still hurt, and he offered to call a doctor, but she said she didn’t need one. He believed her, although she didn’t look well. He thought that she looked pale, and she was obviously in pain. He came up to check on her an hour later, and found her on the bathroom floor, in a pool of blood, barely able to crawl, as she looked up at him. He panicked when he saw her and rushed for the phone. He called for the paramedics and begged the operator to send them fast, and then returned to Hope in the bathroom. He was holding her when they arrived, and his jeans were soaked with blood. She had lost the baby and was hemorrhaging, and she lost consciousness when the paramedics picked her up and put her on a gurney to carry her out. Finn ran along beside them, praying she would live, and when she came to in the hospital hours later, after they had cleaned out her womb, Finn was staring at her with a dark look. She reached out a hand to him and he turned away and got up. She was crying and he was staring out the window, and then turned to look at her. He looked both angry and sad, and there were tears in his eyes too. He was thinking of his loss, more than hers.
“You killed our baby,” he said brutally, and she broke into a sob, and she reached out to him again, but he didn’t come near her. She tried but was too weak to sit up. They had given her two transfusions to make up for the blood she’d lost.
“I’m sorry,” she managed to say through her sobs.
“All that stupid lifting and carrying, look what it did. You just made it to three months, and now you fucked it all up.” He said nothing to comfort or reassure her, and Hope looked heartbroken as he raged at her. “It was a shitty thing to do, to the baby, and to me. You killed a healthy baby, Hope.” It didn’t occur to him that maybe the baby wasn’t so healthy if it hadn’t survived past that point, but there was no way to know now, and she felt bad enough. “How could you be so selfish and so dumb?” She was sobbing, listening to him berate her, and a few minutes later, he stormed out. She lay in bed, inconsolable, thinking of everything he’d said to her, and the nurse finally gave her a shot as she cried incoherently, and when she woke up hours later, Finn was sitting next to her again. He still looked grim, but he was holding her hand. “I’m sorry for what I said,” he said gruffly. “I was just so disappointed. I wanted our baby so much.” She nodded and started to cry again, and this time he took her in his arms and consoled her. “It’s all right,” he said. “We’ll do it again.” She nodded and just lay in his arms and sobbed. “Even if I act like a fool sometimes, I love you, Hope.” As he said it, tears rolled down his cheeks, and hers.
Hope left for New York two weeks later in June. She was thin and pale and very subdued, and she knew that Finn was still upset. He blamed her fully for the miscarriage, and insisted that only her carelessness had caused it. He refused to accept the idea that age might have been a factor, or it could have happened anyway. He never missed an opportunity to tell her that it was her fault. He kept telling her they’d both feel better when she got pregnant again and did it right this time, which only exacerbated her own unspoken guilt. She had apologized to him a thousand times. Finn acted like she had betrayed him, and their child. She felt like a murderess every time she looked at him, and she wondered if he’d ever forgive her. All he talked about was doing it again. And it was almost a relief to get on the plane to New York and get away from him. And she was by no means ready to do it again, or not this soon at least, if at all. He acted as though she owed it to him. But after losing Mimi, now losing this pregnancy had her in deep mourning suddenly. And she was in disgrace with Finn as well, which nearly broke her heart.
She managed to finish all her assignments in New York, and had been hoping to see Paul since she hadn’t seen him in six months, which was far too long. But when she called him on his cell phone, he said he was in Germany, checking out a new treatment for Parkinson’s, and he planned to stay there for a while. She was sorry to miss him, but they promised to meet in the fall.
She had lunch with Mark Webber, who thought she looked exhausted and said she was working too hard. But she insisted she was happy, and he hoped she was. But she didn’t look as happy to him as she had sounded on the phone. Finn’s harsh criticism of her when she lost the baby had hit her hard. There had been a cruelty to it that was hard to get over now. It was the first time he had been unkind to her in the six months they’d been together, and the first time a shadow had come between them.
Mark had gotten her several assignments for the fall, and she wasn’t sure if she should take them or not. If she got pregnant again, she knew that Finn wouldn’t let her fly to New York. Suddenly something that had been both an accident and a blessing had become a life-or-death project that took precedence for Finn. And for the first time, Hope felt unsure of herself. She felt profoundly guilty, and nervous about doing it again.
She went to see her doctor in New York, who told her that she had to wait at least three months before trying to get pregnant again, and reminded her sensibly that she might have lost the baby anyway, even if she’d stayed in bed. But after everything Finn had said to her, she felt responsible and depressed. She had already decided to put their wedding off till December, since now there was no rush. She was too depressed to plan their marriage.
Finn arrived in New York as soon as she finished her work. He was in better spirits than when she had left him, and he was very loving to her. Hope tried to stay off the subject of the miscarriage, but he mentioned to her several times that he wanted her to see the fertility doctor in London when she went back. He didn’t want to waste any time, and he made Hope feel that she owed it to him. She was still feeling too weak and tired and depressed to argue with him and fight back, so she finally said she would. It was easier than battling about it. And they were going to be at the Cape for July and August, while Blaxton House was being painted from top to bottom. And she was sure she’d feel better by the end of the summer, and things would look different and less depressing to her by then. She was still dealing with all the hormonal changes that came from losing a three-month pregnancy, and so much blood. Her body was still in shock. And Finn’s harsh reaction, blame, and accusations had shaken her considerably. His behavior about the miscarriage was so out of keeping with his normal, extremely loving style of the past six months. She was anxious for him to calm down again, and felt sure he would.
The best thing that happened once Finn arrived was that his son Michael came down from Boston to meet them in New York for dinner, and Hope thought he was an absolutely terrific kid. He was a bright, open, friendly, well brought up, and all-around lovely boy. He had just turned twenty, and looked a lot like Finn. He teased his father repeatedly, and was fairly bold with him, but she was impressed by how well they got along. It said a lot for Finn that he had single-handedly brought up such a wonderful boy, and Hope thought it spoke well of him as a father that their relationship was so good.
Hope invited Michael to the Cape, but he said he was spending the summer in California with his maternal grandparents, as he did every year. He said he had a job lined up at the San Francisco stock exchange for July and August, and he was excited about it. Spending time with him made Hope miss Mimi acutely again, and that night after he left them, Hope complimented Finn.
“He’s a fabulous kid. You did a great job,” she said, and he smiled at her. For the first time, she felt as though things were beginning to repair with them. Losing the baby had been a terrible blow to them both. They hadn’t wanted to tell Michael at their first meeting they were planning to get married. She and Finn agreed to tell him when he came to Ireland in September. She was excited for him to see all the things they were doing to the house. She couldn’t wait to see them herself when they got back. And she was looking forward to having Michael with them. She wanted to get to know him better.
When she and Finn got to the Cape, it was as though nothing bad had happened. He didn’t mention the miscarriage again, he stopped accusing her and making caustic remarks that made her cringe. He was as loving, kind, and gentle as ever. He was the Finn she had fallen in love with seven months before, only better. And she began to relax and feel more like herself again. She put on some weight and felt healthy, and they were together every moment. He had brought his manuscript with him, and he said the work was going well.
Her only disappointment was that he refused to meet any of her friends at the Cape. She and Paul had had an open-door policy at the house, and their friends had dropped in often. Finn told her he didn’t want that happening, it disturbed his work, and he was uncomfortable meeting them whenever it happened. She took him to a Fourth of July picnic at the home of a couple she had known forever, and Finn was standoffish and unfriendly. Several people told him they loved his work, and even then he was chilly, and insisted that he and Hope leave early.
When she questioned him about it the next day, he said he hated that kind of suburban summer community and had nothing in common with them. And what was the point of meeting them? They lived in Ireland. What Hope realized increasingly was that he wanted her to himself. He complained if she went to the grocery store without him. He wanted to go everywhere with her. It was still flattering in some ways, but there were times when she found it oppressive. And he told her that he liked her Cape Cod house much better in winter than in summer, when it was peaceful and the area was deserted. Without exception, Finn had rejected all her old friends. She hardly saw them herself now that she no longer lived in Boston, and she had always loved the congenial atmosphere at the Cape, but it was clear that that was not going to be part of her life with Finn. Although he had socialized a great deal in his youth and gone out with a million women before her, once in a relationship Finn preferred to lead a quiet life with her, and have no social life whatsoever except with her.
At times it left her feeling isolated. He insisted that it was more romantic that way, and he didn’t want to share her. And he was so loving to her that she really couldn’t complain. Whatever momentary rift had happened to them around the miscarriage was finally healed and forgotten by the end of the summer. Finn was totally the handsome prince again, and even if she hardly saw her friends all summer, she was relieved that she and Finn were closer than they had ever been. In the end, it was as though the sadness of the miscarriage had only brought them closer and made him more loving. And if she had to sacrifice seeing her Cape Cod friends for that, it was worth it. Her life with Finn, and the well-being of their relationship, was more important.
They went back to New York after Labor Day. Finn had an important meeting with his British publisher that he had to go back to London for. Hope stayed in New York to wrap up a few last details after the summer. She had to see her banker and lawyer, and meet with her agent before she left. She was planning to be back in Ireland by the weekend, and was going to spend September there. She didn’t really have to be back in New York until November. She tried not to remember that that was when their baby would have been born. Maybe Finn was right and they would have another. Whatever God decided. She was feeling healthy again and more philosophical about it. And he hadn’t mentioned the fertility doctor again since July.
When she saw Mark, he told her he had a fabulous assignment for her in South America in October, and she had to admit it sounded good to her too, but she hesitated to do it. She knew Finn would be upset, and if she happened to get pregnant again, he wouldn’t want her to fly, although her doctor said she could. She didn’t want to risk his fury again, or a miscarriage, and she looked at Mark sadly and said she didn’t think she could do it.
“What’s that about?” he asked, looking unhappy.
“I just think it’s the wrong time in the relationship for me to be flying all over the world. We’re redoing the house, and Finn gets upset when I go away.” She didn’t want to tell him that she’d recently been pregnant and might try again.
“I think you’re making a big mistake, if you let him influence what assignments you take, Hope. We’re not interfering in his career, and there is no decent reason for him to interfere in yours. That’s bullshit. How about telling him you don’t want him writing a book? You both have important talents and careers. The only way it’ll work between you two is if you both respect that. He can’t manipulate you into not working. Or if he is, you shouldn’t let him.”
“I know,” she said nervously. “What can I tell you? He’s a baby. And we’re planning to get married at the end of the year. Maybe he’ll calm down after that.” She hoped so, but for now he made her feel guilty every time she left him, even for work, although he insisted that he was proud of her, and respected what she did. It was confusing information, and a double message that made her feel unsure of herself and insecure.
“What if he doesn’t calm down then?” Mark said, looking worried.
“We’ll talk about it then. We’ve only been together for nine months.”
“That’s my point. It’s a little early for him to be fucking with your career. In fact, that should never happen.”
“I know, Mark,” she said quietly. “He’s very needy, in a funny way. He needs a lot of attention.”
“Then adopt him, don’t marry him. You’d better straighten this out very soon, or you’ll regret it later.” She nodded. She knew he was right, but it was easier said than done, and with the exception of his poor reaction to the miscarriage, no one had ever been more wonderful to her than Finn. And his unkindness over the miscarriage had been some kind of slip. She was convinced of it, and he had been better than ever in the months since. She was willing to adjust her work schedule for a while to suit him, and she already had three good assignments lined up for November, she didn’t need another one. It wasn’t worth it. So she turned it down. She had done as much for Mimi when she was young. But Mimi had been her child, not a man. Hope felt that she had already lost so many people she loved in her life that she didn’t want to take the chance of losing another. And maybe if she made Finn mad enough, as she had over the miscarriage, he would leave. She didn’t want to risk it.
She saw Paul the day she left, and she had been planning to tell him about Finn, and that they were getting married, but he looked so sick that she didn’t have the heart to tell him. She had to help him feed himself, he could hardly walk now, and he had aged twenty years in the last one. She was frightened when she saw him. He said the treatment in Germany hadn’t worked for him. After that he had gone to spas, and wound up in a hospital with an infection. He was happy to be home in the States. He was on his way to Boston for treatment, and she cried on the way to the airport after she left him. It was terrible watching him slip away and he looked so frail. She was still depressed about it when she got on the plane.