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Of the two girls, Zoe was the most like her, warm, affectionate, good-natured, with a sense of mischief about her, reminiscent of Faith when she was young. She was a terrific student, and a bright girl. But it was Eloise who was closer to her father, they had a kind of silent bond that was more comfortable for him. She was quieter than her sister, and always had been, and like Alex, she was often far more critical of Faith, and outspoken about it. Perhaps because he was. Zoe was always quick to come to her mother's defense, and to stand by her. She had wanted to come to Charles's funeral, although she wasn't close to him. He had never had any real interest in the girls. But as it turned out, she had midterm exams, and couldn't get away. And there was no reason for Eloise to come all the way from London for her step-grandfather's funeral, after he had never given her the time of day. Faith didn't expect it of them, but it would have been nice if Alex could have made the effort to be there.

Faith didn't mention it to him again. As she did with a lot of other things, she let it go. She knew she wouldn't win the argument. As far as he was concerned, she was perfectly capable of going alone. And he knew, just as his daughters did, that Faith and her stepfather had never been close. His loss was more symbolic to her. And what Faith didn't verbalize to him was that it was more painful because it reminded her acutely of the others who had gone before. Her mother, her brother, Jack, whose death had devastated Faith when his plane went down on the way to Martha's Vineyard three years before. He was forty-six years old at the time, had been an excellent pilot, and the engine had caught fire. The plane had exploded in midair, and it was a shock she had only just recently begun to recover from. She and Jack had always been soulmates and best friends. He had been her sole emotional support, and a source of comfort for her throughout her childhood and adult life. He was always forgiving, never critical, and fiercely loyal. They were two years apart, and growing up, their mother had always said they had been like twins. Particularly when their father died suddenly of a heart attack when Faith was ten and Jack twelve.

Faith's relationship with her father had been difficult, nightmarish in fact. It was something she never talked about, and which had taken her a good part of her adult life to resolve. She had worked on it with a therapist, and made her peace with her past as best she could. Her earliest memories were of her father molesting her. He had been sexually inappropriate and abusive with her starting when she was four or five. She had never dared to tell her mother about it, and her father had threatened to kill her and her brother if she told. Her deep love for her brother had kept her silent until Jack had discovered it when he was eleven and she was nine, and he and his father had had a huge fight over it. And he had told Jack the same thing, that he would kill Faith if either of them told. He had been a very sick man. It had been so traumatic for both of them that they had never talked about it again until both of them were grown, and she was in therapy, but it had formed an unseverable bond between them, a love born of compassion, and a deep sadness in each of them that it had happened at all. Jack had been tormented by the fact that he hadn't been able to shield Faith from the nightmare their father had inflicted on her physically and emotionally. It tore Jack apart, knowing what was happening and that he was helpless to turn the tides. But he was only a child. And a year after he had discovered it, their father died.

Years later, Faith had tried to tell their mother about it when she was in therapy, but her mother's denial mechanisms had been insuperable. She refused to listen, believe, or hear, and insisted repeatedly that what Faith was saying was a vicious lie, created to malign her father and hurt them all. As Faith had feared all her life, her mother blamed her and retreated into her own fantasies and denial. She insisted that Faith's father had been a kind and loving man, who adored his family and revered his wife. She had somehow managed to canonize him in the years since he had died. It left Faith with nowhere to go with her memories, except to Jack, as usual. He had gone to the therapist with her, and dredged up painful memories for both of them. Faith had sat and sobbed in his arms for hours.

But in the end, Jack's love and support had helped her put old ghosts to rest. Her memory of her father was of a monster who had violated the innocence and sanctity of her life as a child. And it took Jack years to get over the fact that he couldn't keep it from happening to her. It was a painful bond they shared, and a wound they both fought valiantly to heal. And Faith had finally made her peace with it, in great part thanks to Jack.

But the scars had taken a toll nonetheless. Both of them had sought out difficult relationships, with people who were cold and critical of them. They managed to match their mother's coldness in their mates, and found spouses who blamed them for anything that went awry. Jack's wife was neurotic and difficult, and left him several times, for reasons that no one could understand. And Alex had kept Faith at arm's length for years, while blaming her for whatever problems came along. Their choices were something she and Jack had discussed often, and although they both understood what they'd done eventually, neither of them had ever been able to turn it around. It was as though they had chosen situations that reproduced many of their childhood miseries, so that this time they could win them over and make the outcome different, but they had chosen people who couldn't be won, and the outcome in each case was as disappointing as their childhood had been, though less traumatic at least. Jack handled it by being a peacemaker and tolerating almost anything his wife dished out, including frequent abandonment, so as not to anger her or risk losing her. And Faith had done much the same thing. She rarely if ever argued with Alex, seldom challenged him. The lessons her father had taught her ran deep. She knew in her heart of hearts that she was to blame for everything. It was her sin, not his, and somehow her fault. Her father had convinced her of it. And as awful as it had been, his final punishment had been to abandon both of them when he died. Faith had somehow sensed, or feared, that she was to blame for that too, and it made her careful not to do anything in her marriage that would make Alex leave her. In some part of her, she had spent a lifetime trying to be the perfect little girl, to atone for the sins no one but her brother knew about. She had thought about telling Alex the truth about her childhood over the years, but never did. At some deep, unconscious level, she was afraid that if he knew what her father had done to her, he wouldn't love her anymore.

And in recent years, she wondered if Alex ever had. Perhaps he loved her in his own way, but it was a love based on her doing as he said and not rocking the boat. She had sensed early on that he couldn't have borne hearing the truth about what her father had done to her. Her dark secret remained with Jack and his was the only unconditional love she'd ever known. It was mutual between them. She loved him totally and unconditionally, as he did her, which made it even harder for her when he died. His death was an almost unbearable loss for her, particularly in light of everything she didn't have at home.

It had been difficult for both of them when her mother married Charles when Faith was twelve and Jack fourteen. Faith had been suspicious of him, and fully expected him to do the same things her father had. Instead, he ignored her entirely, which was a mercy for her. He was not a man who was comfortable with women or girls. Even his own daughter was a stranger to him. He was a military man, and he was hard on Jack, but he was at least able to demonstrate some affection for him. All he did for Faith was sign her report cards and complain about her grades, which he seemed to think was expected of him. It was his only role. Beyond that, Faith didn't exist for him, but that was comfortable for her. She was amazed when he didn't initiate sexual practices with her, she had expected them, and was stunned when he showed no interest in her. The relief she felt made up for the coldness Charles always exhibited to her, and everyone else. That was at least a familiar style to her.