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Faith and Jack had talked a lot about it the year before he died, when he and his wife had separated yet again. He and Faith had both been aware of the parallels in the relationships they had. They had married cool, aloof people, who were neither affectionate nor warm. Although Alex had seemed affectionate at first. But he had cooled rapidly by the time Eloise was born. And it had been a progressive cooling process after that, it was just the way he was. Faith no longer resented it, but accepted him as he was.

Alex was also far more sophisticated than Charles had been. Charles had been more of a rugged man's man, a West Point man to the bitter end. But in some ways, over the years, Alex had begun to remind her of Charles. Her mother had been long suffering. It was her defense to keep the world at bay. She managed to convey that life had disappointed her, without saying it in words, and yet she did what was expected of her, and had been married to Charles for thirty-four years when she died. She never seemed happy to Jack or Faith. It was not a marriage Faith would have wanted, and yet in an odd way, it was the one Faith herself had now. She wondered why she hadn't seen that when she and Alex married. And Debbie, Jack's wife, was just as cold to him.

Their history was what had made Faith determined to be overtly affectionate with Zoe and Eloise. She had gone to great efforts to go overboard the other way, and with Alex as well at first. But he had made it clear over the years that affection was something that not only made him uncomfortable, but that he didn't need from her. He needed an orderly life, a great career, a handsome house, and a wife who was there for him, doing what he expected her to do, while he conquered the business world. But he didn't want the little frills and flourishes and warmth Faith would have liked to offer him. So instead, all the love that came bubbling out of her, she lavished on her brother and her girls.

The limousine was waiting outside the house, when Faith left at ten-fifteen. She was wearing a black dress and coat, black stockings and high-heeled black leather pumps. Her blond hair was swept back in the same bun she had worn the day before, and the only jewelry she wore was the pair of pearl earrings that had been her mother's and that Charles had given her. Faith looked sedate and subdued and dignified, and beautiful, and despite what she wore, she looked younger than her years. There was something open and kind about her face, and she had an easy smile and gentle ways. When she wore blue jeans and her hair down, she still looked almost as young as her girls. Whatever sorrows she had had in recent years had not appeared on her face, and as she slipped onto the backseat of the limousine, she was thinking of Jack. He would somehow have managed to be irreverent, even about this somber day. He would have made it easier for her, and found some subtle levity or absurdity that he would have whispered to her. Just thinking of it, as they drove to Allison's hotel, made her smile in spite of herself. He had been full of mischief right up to his untimely and unexpected end.

Jack had been an attorney in a Wall Street law firm, and had been much loved by his colleagues and friends. Only Alex had found him undignified and had issues with him. The two men were at opposite poles on every subject, and Jack had found his brother-in-law tedious, although he rarely said as much, out of deference to her. He knew there was no point discussing it, Faith didn't like his wife either, and talking about it just made it more awkward for him. Their spouses were a taboo subject most of the time, except when they themselves chose to bring it up. And Jack was wise enough to offer as little criticism as possible, out of his deep love for her.

Allison and her husband were waiting outside the hotel when Faith stopped to pick them up. They looked like solid, decent older people. They had run a large prosperous farm in Canada for forty years. They had three sons nearly Faith's age who helped them run it, but hadn't come to the funeral, and a daughter who had stayed home because she was ill. Allison and her husband Bertrand seemed uncomfortable with Faith. She was sleek and citified, and although Allison had known her since she was a child, they had scarcely seen each other once adults, and their lives were centered in different worlds.

They inquired about Alex, and she explained that he had to fly to Chicago for the day. Allison nodded, she had only met him a few times, and he was like someone from another planet to her. They had been of no interest to him, and he had made no effort to talk to them when they met, and again when he saw them at Faith's mother's funeral. He knew that Allison meant little to Faith. They were virtually strangers to each other after being related for more than three decades, and Faith couldn't help wondering as they drove to the church if they would ever see each other again after today. She had no real attachment to her, and knowing that increased her sense of loss again. Allison was yet another person who was about to slip away from her. Her entire life seemed to be a peeling-off process. No one was entering her life anymore, everyone was exiting. Jack, her mother, Charles, her daughters in their own way … now Allison … she had begun to feel in recent months as though everything in her life now was about loss. And Charles's death, however timely and appropriate at eighty-four, seemed like yet another blow. Another departure. Another person moving away from her, abandoning her.

She and Allison and Bertrand said little to each other on the way to church. Allison seemed quiet and composed. She and her father rarely saw each other, and had never been close. She told Faith she wanted to invite people to come back to the hotel afterward, if there was anyone she wanted to include. She had taken over a large sitting room, and ordered a buffet, which Faith thought was a nice touch, and thoughtful of her when she offered it. It would be nice for their parents' friends.

“I'm not sure how many people I'll know,” Faith said honestly.

The obituary they'd given to the newspaper had said where the funeral was, and she had called a number of her parents' friends. But many of their old friends were gone, or in convalescent homes. Charles and her mother had lived in Connecticut for many years, and had had a number of friends there, but after her mother's death, Faith had moved Charles into town, to a care facility, and he had been ill for most of the past year. His death had come as no surprise to any of them. But it was hard to say how many people would come to his funeral service. Faith suspected that attendance would be pretty thin. They were going to the cemetery immediately after the funeral, to bury him. And she and Allison agreed that more than likely by one-thirty they'd be back at the hotel. They anticipated greeting people at the hotel for the remainder of the afternoon, and Allison and Bertrand were flying back to Canada at eight o'clock that night. Faith and Alex were going to a business dinner, which would be a good diversion after a depressing afternoon.

All three of them were surprised, as they entered a side door of the church, how many people had actually come and were already sitting in the pews. Charles had been a respected member of the community in the small town in Connecticut where they had lived. Surprisingly, Faith always felt, people had been fond of him, they thought him decent and upstanding, and even interesting. He had been stationed in some exotic places in his youth, and often had tales to tell, although he didn't share much of that with his wife or stepchildren. But people beyond his immediate circle had always thought well of Charles. He was not nearly as chilly to them, and made considerably more effort with them, which had always seemed odd to Faith. Particularly since he and her mother hardly ever seemed to exchange more than a few words, and she could never understand what her mother had seen in him, other than that he had been a solid citizen, and at one time a nice-looking man. But as far as Faith was concerned, her stepfather had been utterly without charisma or charm.