The Tides of Memory by Sidney Sheldon

Lucy Meyer pointed to an empty chair on Michael’s right. Roxie De Vere collapsed into giggles, earning herself a death stare from Michael. Talk about the hot seat! On Michael’s left sat Vangie Braberman, the tone-deaf widow of Senator Braberman, who owned one of the smaller cottages on the Pilgrim Farm estate. Vangie was in her late seventies and had a complex series of ailments that provided her with inexhaustible conversational material. Michael De Vere had known her since his childhood, and at this point probably knew as much as Vangie Braberman’s doctor about the old lady’s irritable bowel syndrome, and certainly more than he wanted to. Vangie refused to wear a hearing aid, but carried an ear trumpet that had once belonged to her grandmother, which made her look like something out of a Victorian picture book. She was fond of hitting young people with it if they insisted on mumbling, something that, according to Vangie, Michael’s generation did “CONSTANTLY!”

On Michael’s right, an empty chair sat reserved for Summer Meyer. In the faintest wisp of a silver lining to the cloud currently looming over Michael’s head, Summer’s plane had been delayed out of Boston, so he’d be spared her shy, burning stares for the first course at least. But she was expected to arrive in time for dessert. If Michael’s memory served, no force on earth could keep Summer Meyer away from a good dessert. The prospect of Lucy’s tiramisu would be enough to have her swimming across the sound from Boston. The first whale sighted off the Vineyard this summer.

Meanwhile Summer’s mother, Lucy, trim and pretty in a plain white shirtwaist dress and raffia wedgies, was on her feet, relishing her role as hostess. Lucy Meyer had a motherly, nurturing way about her that Michael’s own mother had always lacked, but she also managed to keep herself in great shape. As a boy, Michael used to fancy Lucy Meyer as the ultimate yummy mummy. He was pleased to see that she hadn’t changed.

“Now, if we’re all seated, before we start I’d like to say a few words.” Lucy’s tinkling, feminine voice rang out around the room. “All of us here tonight have known one another a long time. Arnie and I like to think of this as the Pilgrim Farm family. Every one of you is dear to our hearts. But one member of our party deserves special mention tonight.”

All eyes turned to Alexia, who blushed becomingly at the chorus of “hear, hears.”

“Not content with going into the British Parliament, our very own Mrs. De Vere decided that she should run the whole darn country.”

“And who better?” Teddy chuckled, beaming with pride.

“Who indeed? So as well as a welcome-home party, tonight we would like to say a belated congratulations to the lovely Alexia. You may be a rabid Republican—”

“Conservative,” Alexia corrected.

Lucy’s father had been a politician and her family were all staunch Democrats.

“—but we love you and we could not be more proud. To Alexia!”

“To Alexia!”

Fifteen glasses were raised, the antique crystal clinking and dazzling in the candlelight. During the melee Michael stole a glance at his sister. Roxie’s glass was also raised, but her once-soft face was set like flint. Michael thought sadly, You could strike a match off her rage. There’s murder in those eyes.

“Sorry I’m late.”

Everyone looked up. A tall, dark girl had walked into the room during the toast, dropping her backpack with a thud on the wooden floor. She wore a simple pair of faded Levi’s and a white T-shirt, the neck scooped low enough to show the tan lines from her bikini. Her long mane of chestnut hair was tied back in a ponytail and her makeup-free face glowed with health and youth, despite her obvious tiredness. She was, quite simply, stunning.

“Summer, darling!” Arnie Meyer stood up to hug his daughter.

“At last.” Lucy clapped her hands “Come and sit down, sweetheart, over here. You’re next to Michael.”

Summer blushed and shot her mother a look. Talk about mortifying! Lucy had all but patted the chair!

“Aren’t you going to say hello?”

“Hi.” Summer nodded awkwardly at Michael. “It’s been awhile.”


He wanted to say something suave, but he was too busy picking his jaw up from the table. Bloody hell. If Arnie hadn’t said her name out loud, I wouldn’t even have recognized her.

“Are you on the island for long?” Summer asked Michael politely.

“Erm . . . I, erm . . .”

“Unfortunately not.” Alexia answered for him, telling the table at large: “Michael’s just founded a new business back in England. We feel lucky he was able to make it out at all, don’t we, Teddy?”

“Hmm.” Teddy grunted disapprovingly.

“He has to fly back in a couple of days.”

“Well, I . . . not necessarily,” Michael stammered. His eyes were fixed on Summer’s cheekbones and translucent, bronzed skin. And her lips, soft and the palest of pinks, parting invitingly as she took a sip of chilled white wine. Had she always had those lips? Why had he never noticed them before? “I might be able to stay a bit longer. Tommy can hold the fort for a while. You know. If necessary.”

“Really?” Alexia brightened. Having Michael here made everything so much easier at home. “That’s wonderful. Are you sure you can spare the time?”

“Of course, Mum. Anything for you.”

Roxie De Vere wondered how her brother managed to keep a straight face.

Later, in the kitchen, Alexia helped Lucy prepare coffee.

“Dinner was a triumph, Luce. Thank you so much.”

“It was all Lydia’s doing. Anyway, dinner schminner,” said Lucy, setting rose-printed coffee cups carefully onto bone-china saucers. “Talk to me. What’s it like? I mean what’s it really like?”

“The job? It’s exciting.” Alexia smiled but there was a wariness in her eyes. She was holding something back.


“No buts. It’s a great honor to have been appointed. And a huge challenge, of course.”

“Honey,” said Lucy kindly, “you’re not on Fox News now. You don’t need to give me the party line. Heck, I can’t even vote in Merry Olde England, so you may as well tell me the truth.”

Alexia smiled. “That’s true, I suppose. Well, the job’s terrific. But it’s been stressful. I’ve had one or two unpleasant incidents.”

“Which in English means . . . ?”

“Threats. There was a phone call, a few weeks before I got out here.” Alexia told her about the sinister, distorted voice and the fanatical, fire-and-brimstone cursing. “Something about shedding my blood in the dust. I don’t know.”

“My God,” Lucy gasped. “How terrifying.”

“I wouldn’t go that far. But it bothered me that this wacko had my home number.”

“I’ll bet it did,” Lucy said quietly. “Does Teddy know?”

“He knows about that phone call.”

Lucy knew her friend well enough to read between the lines.

“But there’s more. Something that you haven’t told him.”

The understatement made Alexia smile. “There’s so much I haven’t told him, Luce! Believe me, you have no idea. There are things that, if he knew, he’d leave me in an instant.”

“Teddy? Leave you? Never!”

“He would.”

Alexia sank down into the rocking chair in the corner. Here, in this familiar kitchen with her closest friend, so far from London and Westminster and everything that had happened, she felt an overwhelming urge to unburden herself. To have someone, one other person on this earth, know the whole truth about her past. Who she was—who she had been—and what she’d done. To have someone forgive her.

Could Lucy Meyer be that person?

Putting down the coffee cups, Lucy moved to her friend’s side.

“Alexia, you’re shaking, honey. What on earth’s the matter? Whatever it is, you can tell me. It can’t be that bad.”

Can’t it?

“Someone tried to contact me a few weeks ago. Someone from my past.”

“What sort of someone? A boyfriend, you mean?”

“Of sorts, I guess.” Alexia put her head in her hands. “I want to tell you. I do. But I don’t know where to start. There are things you don’t know about me. Things nobody knows. Terrible things.”

Lucy Meyer took this in. She understood instinctively that she shouldn’t push, that she should let Alexia share her secrets in her own time.

“But this man from your past . . . he knew?”

“Yes. He came to see me. He’d been in prison and he has a history of mental problems.”

“My God, Alexia. You have to tell Teddy. This man sounds downright dangerous.”

“Yes, well, I dealt with it.”


“I had him deported.”


“Was it? You see, now I don’t know if it was the right thing. I owe this man, you see. He did something for me once, something kind and noble, at great cost to himself. But when he needed me, I turned him away.” To Alexia’s own astonishment, she found herself starting to cry. “I just felt under so much pressure! The telephone threats, Billy turning up like that out of the blue . . .”

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Categories: Sidney Sheldon