“Do you tell me everything about your business, Hope?” he was shouting at her.
“As a matter of fact, I do. I tell you about everything that happens in my life.”
“That’s because museums want to hang you, galleries are begging to show you. Heads of state want you to shoot their portraits, and every magazine in the world wants to buy your work. What the hell is there for you to be embarrassed about? I hit a dry spell for a while, didn’t deliver two fucking books, and the next thing I know those assholes are suing me for almost three million dollars. Do you think I’m proud of that? I’m scared shitless, for chrissake, and why the hell do I have to tell you so you can feel sorry for me, or walk out on me because I’m broke?”
“Is that what you think I’d do?” she asked him, looking at him sadly. “I wouldn’t walk out on you because you’re broke. But I have a right to know what’s going on in your life, especially important stuff like that. I hate it when you lie to me. I don’t want to hear a better story, the one you can dream up. All I ever want to hear from you is the truth.”
“Why? So you can rub it in my face, about how successful you are, and how much fucking money your husband gave you? Well, good for you, but I don’t need to humiliate myself so that you can feel better at my expense.” He was speaking to her as though she were the enemy, and justifying every lie he had ever told.
“I’m not trying to feel better,” she said miserably. “I just want an honest relationship with you. I need to know that I can believe what you say.” She almost said something about what she now knew about his childhood, but she wanted to know the rest of the story from the investigator first. Confronting him on any of his lies was going to rock the boat violently, or maybe even sink it. She wasn’t ready to face that yet. But it was hard to know what she did now, and not say it.
“What difference does it make? And I didn’t lie to you about the lawsuit, I just didn’t tell you about it.”
“You told me you signed a new contract, and you didn’t. You told me you wrote a hundred pages while I was in New York, and you wrote ten or twelve. Don’t lie to me, Finn. I hate it. I love you just the way you are, even if you never sign a new contract and never write another page. But don’t tell me things that aren’t true. It makes me worry about what other lies you’re telling me.” She was being as honest with him as she could, without totally blowing him out of the water and telling him about the investigator’s report. She didn’t want to go there yet.
“Like what?” he challenged her, with his face right up against hers.
“I don’t know. You tell me. You seem to be pretty creative about it.” He had lied about his son too, and the house which he didn’t own and had claimed he did.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“All it means is that I want to know that the man I’m marrying is an honest man.”
“I am,” he said belligerently. “Are you calling me a liar?” He was goading her to do it and she was trying very hard not to. It would only make things worse.
“I don’t know what or who you are sometimes. Just don’t lie to me, Finn. That’s all I’m saying. I want to trust you. I don’t want to wonder if you’re telling me the truth.”
“Maybe the truth is none of your fucking business,” he said, and stormed out of the kitchen, and a minute later, she heard the front door slam, and saw him run down the front steps, get in his car, and drive away. They were not off to a good start, to say the least, but it had to be said. She could no longer pretend that she believed everything he said, because she didn’t. But she found herself thinking of Mark’s words too, as she walked around the garden to get some air. It wasn’t a good idea to corner Finn in his lies. It would only create situations like the one they’d just been in, and all she wanted was for him to tell the truth, so she could believe him again and they could go on with their life. She hadn’t given up hope of that yet, even if Mark Webber had after he read the report. Hope still believed they could turn it around, and she wanted Finn to help her do it. She couldn’t do it alone.
She walked up the front steps with a heavy heart, as Finn drove up to the house again, and when he got out of the car, he looked apologetic. He came to walk beside her, and turned her around to look at him.
“I’m sorry, Hope. I was an asshole. I just get ashamed sometimes that I don’t do things better than I do. I want everything to come out right, and sometimes it doesn’t, so I pretend that everything’s fine. I want it to be fine so fucking much, that I guess I lie about it.” She was touched that he’d admit it, and it gave her hope that the situation could be fixed. And she felt terrible about his childhood and youth, although he didn’t know it. She smiled up at him, and he put his arms around her and kissed her. She was even more moved to see that there were tears in his eyes when he did. He had humbled himself to her, and admitted his mistake. She was praying that it meant he wouldn’t do it again. All she wanted was the truth.
“I love you, Finn,” she said as they walked into the house hand in hand. “You don’t ever have to make things better than they are for me. I love you just the way you are, even when things aren’t great. What are you going to do about the lawsuit?”
“Finish the books, if I can. I’ve had a hell of a time with this last one. I’ve been stuck for months. And my agent is trying to stall them. They just gave me another three months, but I’m screwed without a new contract. I’ve run out of money. I don’t have a fucking dime. Thank God you bought the house. If I were still renting here on my own, I’d be out on my ass. And my great-great-grandfather’s house would be in someone else’s hands.” He had just told another lie, but it was one she would live with for now. If he wanted to tell stories to dress up his childhood, she could let him do that, to save face. He was too ashamed about his real childhood to tell her the truth about it. Compared to her storybook happy childhood in New Hampshire, his had been a nightmare. She just didn’t want him lying anymore about his present life. And she was sorry to hear how broke he was, although it didn’t surprise her. She had suspected as much when he hadn’t paid his token rent. She knew he would have paid that if he could. It seemed like all the lies he told were out of shame.
“Well, at least you don’t need to worry about the money,” she said gently. “I can carry the expenses here.” She already was.
“And what am I supposed to do?” he asked, looking unhappy as they took off their coats and hung them up in a closet in the front hall. “Ask you for an allowance, or money for the newspaper every day? I’m fucked without a contract.” He sounded bitter about it, as they walked slowly upstairs together, but at least he was no longer angry at her. Things were a little better.
“If you finish the book, they’ll give you another contract,” she tried to reassure him.
“I’m two books behind, Hope. Not one.” At least he was being honest about it now.
“How did that happen?”
He smiled ruefully and shrugged. “Having too much fun before I met you. At least now I have more time. I just don’t feel like working. I want to be with you all the time.” She knew that, but he had also just had three weeks to work without her, and he hadn’t. He really needed to put his life back together. While she had been cleaning up his house, he had been doing nothing except hanging out with her.
“It sounds like you’d better get to work,” she said quietly.
“Do you still want to marry me?” he asked, and looked like a boy again as he said it, and she put her arms around his neck and nodded.
“Yes, I do. I just want to make sure that we’re both being grown-ups about it and have an honest relationship with each other, Finn. We really need that if we want this to work.”
“I know,” he said. The steam had gone out of him. He was so wonderful at times, and so unreasonable at others. And he had been mean, blaming Hope for the miscarriage, which made her feel awful every time, and was neither loving nor fair. “What do you say we go to bed and take a nap?” he asked, looking mischievous, and she laughed, and then ran up the stairs behind him, and a moment later, he locked their bedroom door, swept her up in his arms like a child, and tossed her into bed, where he followed her a moment later. He got no work done that afternoon, but they both had a great time, and the rift between them seemed to have been repaired. He wasn’t always truthful with her, but he was full of charm, and sexy beyond belief.
The following afternoon Finn drove her into Dublin to buy some more fabric and other things she needed for the house. She felt guilty taking him away from his work, but she still wasn’t comfortable driving in Ireland, and Winfred was a terrible driver, so Finn volunteered. The atmosphere between them was light and happy again, and they were both in good spirits. They had gotten everything they wanted in Dublin, and Hope was happy to see that Finn was in a good mood. That wasn’t always the case these days, and she had the feeling he was drinking more than he used to. And when she had checked with Katherine, she agreed, but Hope didn’t say that to Finn. She knew he had a lot on his mind, particularly with the lawsuit in New York and two books to write.
“You know, I was thinking,” he commented, as they headed toward Blessington on the two-lane road that ran through the Irish countryside. It still looked like a postcard to Hope, even on a cold November day. “It would make things a lot easier for me, and be less embarrassing for me, if we set up some kind of account that I could draw from, without having to ask you.” She looked startled as he said it, although it made sense. But they weren’t married yet, and it was a fairly bold request.
“What kind of account?” she asked cautiously. “How much are we talking about?” She could see his point, particularly in his current state of destitution. She assumed he meant a few thousand dollars for minor expenses. She could live with that, although it felt a little awkward to be discussing it. But they were almost married. She was still hoping to get him to wait till June now, but she hadn’t said that to him again, since he got so upset when she did before.
“I don’t know. I was trying to figure it out yesterday. Nothing crazy,” he said blithely. “A couple of million maybe. Like five, so I have some cushion and don’t have to ask you for every little thing I need.” She thought he was joking the way he said it, and she laughed. And then she saw the look on his face and realized that he meant it.
“Five million?” she asked, with a look of disbelief. “Are you kidding? What on earth are you planning to buy? The house only cost one and a half.” And she had spent that just to make him happy, to buy a house that, it turned out, had never belonged to his family after all.
“That’s the whole point. I don’t want to have to ask you for every penny, and then have to explain what I want to spend it on.” He sounded as though it made sense to him, and she stared at him incredulously, with a sinking feeling in her stomach.
“Finn, a spending account of five million dollars is insane.” She wasn’t angry, she was shocked. And he hadn’t hesitated to ask her for the money, as though it were a ten or a twenty floating around in her purse.
“With the kind of money you have?” Finn suddenly looked annoyed. “What the fuck is that about? Trying to control me by keeping the purse strings to yourself? Five million bucks is small change to you.” He wasn’t even being nice about it. It was as though everything between them had changed. Suddenly he wanted money, and he alternated between his old sweetness, and being angry and accusatory a lot of the time. This was not the Finn she had fallen in love with. It was a new one who upset her a lot of the time, and then would suddenly revert back to being loving again. But he did not look loving now. This was the new Finn in full bloom, with his hand up to his elbow in her purse. That was very new, and she didn’t like it at all.
“That’s a lot of money to anyone, Finn,” she said quietly. She was not amused.
“All right, make it four. If I’m going to be your husband, you can’t keep me on an allowance.”
“No, maybe not. But I’m not going to give you millions either, to blow however you want, or I’ll be out of money as fast as you are. I’d rather just pay the bills, the way I do now, and keep a few thousand in a petty cash account for you.” It was as far as she was willing to go. She didn’t want to buy him, and she was no one’s fool. She had learned a lot about handling money since her divorce.
“So you’re going to keep me on a leash,” he said angrily, narrowly missing a truck on a turn in the road, and his driving was scaring her. The road was wet and it was already dark, he was driving too fast, and he was furious with her.
“I can’t believe you’re asking me for five million dollars in an account for you,” Hope said, feigning a calm she didn’t feel.
“I told you, four would be fine,” he said through clenched teeth.
“I know you’re having money troubles, but I’m not going to do that, Finn.” She was offended that he had asked her, and even more so that he was insisting. “And when we get married, we’ll have to have a prenup.” She had mentioned it to her attorneys in New York several months before. They had already done a rough draft. It was relatively simple and said that what was Finn’s was his, and what was hers was hers. For obvious reasons, she didn’t want to commingle funds with him. Paul had given her that money, and she was keeping good track of it.
“I had no idea you were cheap,” he said bluntly, as he took another sharp turn in the road. It was an incredible thing for him to say to her, given what she had done for him with the house. He seemed to have forgotten very quickly her generosity with him. And she wasn’t cheap, she was smart. Especially given his newly discovered talent for telling lies. She was not about to turn her fortune over to him, or even a portion of it. Five million dollars was ten percent of what Paul had given her after twenty years.
They drove the rest of the way home in stony silence, and when he came to a sharp stop in front, she got out and walked into the house. She was extremely upset by his request, and he was even more so about her refusal. He walked straight into the pantry and poured himself a stiff drink, and she could already see the effect of it when he came upstairs to their room. She suspected he might even have had a second one by then.
“So what would you think is reasonable?” he asked her as he sat down, and she looked at him with a pained expression. Things were going from bad to worse. First his obsession with her getting pregnant, then the lying, and now he wanted a huge amount of money from her. Day by day he was turning into a different man, and then out of nowhere she’d get a glimpse of the old one, who had been so wonderful to her, and just as quickly he’d disappear again. There was something very surreal and schizophrenic about it, and she remembered his brother referring to him as a sociopath in the investigator’s report. She wondered now if maybe he was. She also recalled reading an article about something called “intermittent reinforcement,” where people were alternately abusive and loving, and their victims were so confused, they became more determined than ever to work things out. She felt like that now. Her head was spinning. His manipulations were a powerful magnetic force. It was almost as though his mask was slipping more and more and what she was seeing behind it was scaring her to death. She still believed that the good Finn was in there somewhere. But which one was real? The old one or the new one, or both?
“I’m not going to give you any money, Finn,” she said calmly, and then she saw that he had brought the bottle of scotch upstairs with him and poured himself another drink.
“You don’t think you can get away with that, do you?” he asked, turning nasty. “You’re sitting on fifty million bucks from your ex-husband, and I’m supposed to hang around, waiting for small change.” She had thought he was making a decent living, which would have solved the problem, but even if he wasn’t, she wasn’t about to start pouring millions of dollars into his accounts. It wasn’t right, and she didn’t want to buy a man. She realized too that he had complained about his expenses, sending Michael to college, and she wondered now if he paid for anything for his son, or if Michael’s grandparents were paying all his bills, and Finn was paying nothing.
“I’m not trying to get away with anything. I don’t want to buy a husband, or confuse things between us. I think what you’re asking for is unreasonable, and I’m not going to do it.”
“Then maybe you should marry Winfred instead. Maybe what you want is a servant and not a husband. If you’re only going to put a few thousand in an account and keep the rest yourself, then you should marry him.”
“I’m going to bed,” Hope said, looking unhappy. “I’m not going to discuss this with you anymore.”
“Did you actually expect to marry me, and not level the playing field a little? What kind of marriage is that?”
“A marriage based on love, not money. And honesty, not lies. Whatever happens after that is a matter of good fortune. But I’m not going to make a deal with you, or have you dictate to me to put five million dollars, or even four, in your petty cash account. That’s disgusting, Finn.”
“Your sitting on fifty million bucks of your ex-husband’s money and keeping it to yourself sounds pretty disgusting to me too. And fucking selfish, if you ask me.” It was the first time he had ever said anything even remotely like that to her, and she was shocked beyond belief. And she hadn’t appreciated the comment about marrying Winfred either, if she didn’t want to pay up. Finn was being rude, and mean. And tipping his hand in a frightening way.
Hope didn’t say another word to him. She turned around and walked into their bedroom and went to bed. She didn’t hear him come in that night. She had lain there for a long time before she fell asleep, wondering what was happening to her and what Finn was doing or turning into, right before her eyes. But whatever it was, it wasn’t good. In fact, things seemed to be falling apart at a rapid rate and getting worse day by day. It was getting harder and harder to believe that things would work out. She felt as though her heart were breaking as she went to sleep.
From the day Finn first asked her for money, things went steadily downhill. The tension between them was unbearable, the arguments were constant, his drinking increased noticeably, and the conversation was always the same. He wanted four or five million dollars from her, no questions asked, in cash. And now he was demanding more when they got married. He asked her to go to the fertility doctor too, and this time she flatly refused.
The only thing that was keeping her there was the tender memory of how loving he had been with her before. It was almost as though he had temporarily lost his mind, or was having a nightmare, and she was waiting for him to wake up and become himself again. But so far he hadn’t. He just kept getting worse, while she clung to the belief that he would once again become the man she’d fallen in love with. And on some days, she wondered if that man, of the first eleven months, was even real. By Thanksgiving, she was beginning to wonder if he ever had been. Maybe the man she had known and loved was an act Finn had put on to suck her in, and this one was the real one. She no longer had any idea what to think. She felt off balance and confused, and she was miserable all the time. It had been going on for weeks.
On Thanksgiving she made a traditional turkey dinner for them, which was ruined when he started to argue with her halfway through the meal. It was the same horrifying conversation about the money he wanted, and why he felt she should give it to him. She finally got up and left the table without finishing her dinner. Listening to him wheedle, rage, and insult her made her feel sick.
As she lay in bed that night, thinking that maybe she should pack her bags and fly home, Finn suddenly turned to her and became loving again. He didn’t mention the money, thanked her for a beautiful dinner, and told her how much he loved her, and was so tender with her and kind to her that she actually made love with him, which they hadn’t done in days. And afterward, she felt psychotic, no longer knowing what to believe or what was real.
He woke her in the middle of the night, and started arguing with her again, on the same agonizing subject, until she finally fell asleep. She woke up in the morning and he served her breakfast in bed, and was his old attentive, good-humored, loving self. She felt as though she were losing her mind, or he was. But one of them was crazy, and she was no longer sure who. She was most afraid that it was her, and when she said something about his waking her during the night to argue with her, he insisted that he hadn’t, and she felt crazier than ever and wondered if she had dreamed it. She needed to talk to someone, to try and make sense of it, but there was no one to talk to. She had no friends in Ireland, and she didn’t want to call Mark and worry him. And she didn’t want to call the lawyer he had recommended whom she didn’t know. Paul was too sick to talk to. The only person she could talk to was Finn, and he had started telling her that she was acting crazy. She really thought and was afraid that she might be going insane.
The only thing that saved her was that on the Monday after Thanksgiving, Paul’s doctor called her. Paul had developed pneumonia, and they were afraid that he might be coming close to the end, and if Hope wanted to see him, she needed to come to Boston as soon as she could. Without saying a word to Finn after the call, she packed a bag, and was ready to leave by the time he came home from the village with a bag of things from the hardware store, and some laundry soap Katherine had asked him to pick up. And he had bought a big bouquet of flowers for Hope, which touched her when she saw them, but only confused her more.
He was startled when he saw her, already dressed to travel, and zipping closed her bag.
“Where are you going?” He looked panicked, and she told him about Paul. Hope looked upset about it, and he put his arms around her and asked if she wanted him to come. She didn’t, but she didn’t want to insult him by saying no.
“I’ll be fine. I think it’s better if I go alone,” she said sadly. “I think this might be the end.” The doctor had said as much to her on the phone. They had expected it for years, but it was hard to face now anyway. But the last thing she wanted was for Finn to come with her. She needed to get away from him and try to figure out what was happening to her, and who he was. She was no longer sure. Finn was either accusing her of something now, or adoring her, kissing her in their bed at night, or demanding money, waking her out of a sound sleep to argue with her, and then insisting she had woken him while she staggered around in exhaustion the next day. She wasn’t sure, but she thought he was playing mind games with her, and some of it was working, because she felt totally confused. And Finn looked fine and undisturbed.
He drove her to the airport, and she kissed him and ran for the plane. And as she took her seat in first class, all she felt was relief to be away from him, and burst into tears. She slept for the entire flight, and woke up in a daze as they landed at Logan Airport in Boston. She felt as though her life with Finn had become totally surreal.
Paul’s doctor was waiting for her when she got to the hospital. She had called him on her way in from the airport. And she was shocked when he took her to see Paul. In the short time since she had seen him, he had wasted away. His eyes were sunken, his cheeks were hollow. He had an oxygen mask on, and she wasn’t sure if he recognized her at first, and then he nodded, and closed his eyes peacefully, as though he was relieved that she had come.
She sat with him for the next two days. She never left him. She called Finn once, but explained that she couldn’t speak to him from Paul’s room, and he said he understood and was very sweet to her, which seemed strange to her again. He was mean to her so often now, and then loving at other times. She almost hated talking to him, because she never knew which one he’d be. And afterward he’d blame her for starting a fight, when she was certain it was him.
She called Mark and let him know she was in Boston. She promised to keep him posted, and then finally on the third day Hope was there, Paul quietly slipped away, and as he did, with tears rolling down her cheeks, Hope whispered to him that she loved him, and asked him to take care of Mimi, and then he was gone. She stood next to him for a long time, holding his hand, and then she quietly left the room, heartbroken that he was gone.
Paul had left explicit instructions. He wanted to be cremated and buried with their daughter in New Hampshire, where Hope’s parents were as well. It was all over in two days, and seeing him put to rest next to Mimi had an overwhelming finality for Hope. She had never felt so alone in her life. She had no one left now, except Finn. He had been wonderful to her on the phone, ever since Paul died. But now, whenever Finn was nice to her, she wondered how long it would last. He was a different man.
She drove back to Boston from New Hampshire in a rented car, and then flew to New York, and went to her apartment. She felt as though the world had ended, and she sat there alone for days, calling no one, going nowhere. She hardly ate. She just wanted to think about what had happened, and all Paul had meant to her. It was hard to believe that he was gone.
She met with Paul’s lawyers. His boat was being put up for sale. Everything was in order. There was nothing for her to do. And afterward, she went to see Mark at his office. She looked drained.
“I’m so sorry, Hope.” He knew how hard this was for her. Paul had been all she had left in the world. His secretary poured her a cup of tea, and they sat and talked for a while. “How are things going in Ireland?” At first, she didn’t answer and then she looked at him strangely.
“To be honest, I don’t know. I’m confused. Sometimes he’s wonderful to me, and then he’s awful, and then he’s loving to me again. He says I’m going crazy, and I’m not sure if I am or he is. He wakes me up at night and argues with me, and then the next day he tells me that’s not what happened. I don’t know,” she said with tears in her eyes. “I don’t know what’s going on. He was the best thing that ever happened to me, and now I feel like I’m living in a nightmare, and I’m not even sure whose nightmare it is, his or mine.” What she described sounded terrifying to Mark, and he was deeply worried about her.
“I think this guy’s a lunatic, Hope. I’m really beginning to think so. I think his brother was right and he’s a sociopath. I think you have to get out of there, or maybe not even go back.”
“I don’t know. I need to think about it while I’m here. When he’s nice to me, I feel stupid for being upset about it. And then he starts all over again, and I feel panicked. He’s been asking for money.” Hearing that upset Mark even more.
“How much money?”
“He wants five million in his own account, as spending money.” Mark looked furious at that.
“He’s not crazy. He’s a shit. He’s after your money, Hope.” Mark was sure of that now.
“I think he’s after my mind,” she said softly. “I feel like he’s driving me insane.”
“That’s probably what he wants you to think. I don’t think you should go back there again. And if you do, I want you to call that lawyer in Dublin first, so you have someone to rely on close at hand.”
“I will,” she promised, “but I’m going to stay here for a few days.” She was still too upset about Paul to want to go back. And she felt better now in New York. Every day her mind got clearer, and the confusion Finn was spinning around her had less effect. He was calling her often, but a lot of the time, she wasn’t answering the phone. And then afterward he’d ask her where she’d been and with whom. She usually told him she’d been asleep. Sometimes she just left her cell phone in the apartment and went out.
Mark called her two days later and sounded grim. This time, he offered to come to the apartment to see her. She invited him to come down, and he showed up half an hour later with his briefcase. The investigator had just delivered his final report, and Mark had brought it to her. Mark handed it to her without a word, and waited while she read it. The report was long and detailed, and Hope was shocked by almost everything she read. Most of it was different from what she had heard from Finn. Some he had never mentioned at all.
The report started where the last one had left off, after his childhood and youth, early jobs, and went on to tell about his marriage to Michael’s mother. It said she was a model, with some moderate success, and had married Finn when she was twenty-one and he was twenty. It said that the couple had had a reputation for a heavy party life, with both drugs and drinking, that she had gotten pregnant, and they married five months before Michael was born. The report said that they had been separated several times, both had committed infidelities, but had gone back together, and that they had gotten into a severe accident on the highway, coming back from a party late one night on Long Island. Finn had been drinking heavily that night, and was at the wheel. Their car was hit by a truck at an intersection on the highway. It had been totaled, and his wife had been severely injured. The driver of the truck was killed. There had been no witnesses on the scene, and eventually a car driving by had called the state police from a pay phone just down the road, and asked for emergency assistance. When the highway patrol arrived, they had found Finn conscious and uninjured, inebriated but not extremely, and he had been unable to explain why he had not gone to the pay phone to call for help himself. To do him justice, the report said he was in shock and disoriented after a blow to the head, and he had said he hadn’t wanted to leave his injured wife to walk down the road to the phone. The accident had occurred half an hour before the other car drove by, and medical examiners had concluded that if help had been called sooner, Finn’s passenger, his wife, would have lived. He had made no effort whatsoever to save her life.