Someone Like You (Idle Point, Maine Book No. 2)
Two sisters, one unforgettable family legacy . . .
They were the daughters of music legends, the unforgettable Mark and Mimi Doyle, whose love story had been played out in the pages of Rolling Stone complete with quotes from Dylan and Baez. Folk rock’s forever couple.
Who would have guessed forever would end one cold winter morning when Mark walked out the door and never came back.
Now it’s thirty years later and his baby daughters are grown women with complicated lives -- and loves -- of their own. Joely lives in Scotland, as far away from the drama of her childhood as she can get while Cat, the older of the two, runs a knitting studio and farm in their hometown of Idle Point, Maine. The only thing the two sisters have in common is their mother Mimi, a deeply troubled woman who is still listening for the sound of her husband’s key in the front door.
But when Mimi has a serious accident, the Doyles find themselves back in the news and a very pregnant Cat is forced to call in a long-ago promise. It is time for Joely to come home and face the biggest challenge of her life: her family.
4.5 * - RT Top Pick “Bretton’s novels tug at the heartstrings.” --Jill M. Smith, Romantic Times
“A multi-layered novel with well developed characters and complicated family relationships, SOMEONE LIKE YOU will keep readers captivated. Highly recommended.” --Marilyn Heyman, Romance Reviews Today
*Starred Review “Bretton, with her insightful observations, gets to the core of her characters in this novel about the many roles women play--wife, daughter, sister, mother, lover--whether by choice or by the force of circumstance. Commitment, avoidance, love, and guilt--Bretton, a master storyteller, superbly dramatizes a great range of emotions in this compelling tale.” --Shelley Mosley, Booklist
Here's a sneak peek:
He was a blue-eyed guitar player with big hands and a wicked grin, and she was the last eighteen year old virgin in Idle Point, Maine.
Their eyes met across the smoke-filled auditorium during the annual Valentine's Day Dance and forty-eight hours later Mark Doyle and Mimi Brennan found themselves standing before a Justice of the Peace in Bel Air, Maryland, vowing to love each other forever.
As it turned out, forever only lasted seventeen years, seven months, and twenty-seven days but for awhile it was almost enough.
Once upon a time, in a very different world, Mark and Mimi Doyle were famous. They hadn't set out to be famous; they set out to make a difference, but they ended up famous just the same.
Every family has a legend that defines it to the rest of the world but not every family sees that legend on the cover of Rolling Stone the way The Doyles did, and with quotes from Dylan and Baez to back it up. Their love story was as famous as they were, part of who they were and what they were trying to do with their music and their words. Mark's talent made the music possible, but try to explain why fame hadn't come his way until he married the shy teenager from Idle Point with the heartbreaking catch in her voice.
Maybe it was because she loved him enough for both of them, enough for the entire world. Maybe it was because when she looked at him in those heady, early days he believed anything was possible and when you believed anything was possible, that was when miracles happened.
For a little while they had it all but then it began to slip away from them like rainwater between their fingers. The world changed. Or maybe they did. Who could say? But they both knew that the trouble started when Mimi found out she was pregnant with Catherine. Their great big Technicolor love only had room for two and when they tried to expand it to include their newborn daughter, it began to crack under the strain.
They weren't stupid people. They understood cause and effect. But somehow Catherine's arrival came as an enormous surprise. They hadn't planned for her. Although they never admitted it, not even to each other, they hadn't wanted her. There was no place for a child within the framework of their marriage, no understanding of what it meant to refocus their attention outward beyond the limits of their own relationship.
By the time Joely was born ten years later, the cracks were wide and deep and beyond repair.
On a crisp and sunny October morning during the Carter administration, Mark Doyle shrugged on his faded leather jacket and said he was going out to buy a new string for his favorite acoustic guitar, an old Gibson that smelled vaguely of cherry pipe tobacco and Jack Daniels. They were living in Pennsylvania at the time in a little cabin that Arlo and Ramblin' Jack had snagged for them. The days of sold-out concerts and Rolling Stone covers had come and gone. These days they were lucky to score a gig at an oldies revue for people who asked, "Didn't you used to be famous?" But their old friends were good friends and somehow the Doyles always managed to have a roof over their heads and food on the table.
That morning Mimi was subbing for a waitress friend at the diner two towns over. Joely, who was barely a toddler, slept soundly in her crib while ten year old Catherine stood guard by the front door. Mark used to laugh and say his girl was trying to keep the bad guys out but they both knew the truth. What she was really trying to do was keep the good ones safely inside.
He stopped on the front porch to adjust his collar, his big graceful hands skimming across the supple leather the same way they skimmed across the strings of his guitar. Cat was a quiet kid, watchful and observant, a changeling in a family of extroverts and exhibitionists, but even she saw nothing different in his manner, no hint of what was about to happen.
"It's cold," he said, and he ruffled her bangs with the back of his hand. A ripple of happiness, pure as the first snow, moved through her narrow chest. "Go inside and put on a sweater, Kit-Cat."
She nodded silently but she didn't move an inch. It wasn't often that she had his full attention and she savored the moment the way another kid would savor a hot fudge sundae. She held her breath and waited for him to ask her to walk with him to the music store the way he sometimes did. He opened his mouth to speak and her heart almost burst through her chest.
"Take care of your mother and sister," he said.
She nodded again. Of course she would. He didn't have to ask her to do what was right.
He ruffled her bangs one more time then strode off down the block.
That was the last time she saw him.
Joely was too young to know what had happened or to feel the loss. If Mimi felt the loss, she wasn't saying. In fact she wouldn't even admit that he was gone. She insisted Mark would be home any second with the guitar string and a pack of Marlboros. Every morning Mimi for the first few months Mimi woke up her girls with the words, "This is going to be the day! Daddy will be back by suppertime. Just you wait and see."
And every night the three of them ate supper without him.
Still Mimi persisted in her optimism. The bad times hadn't happened yet, the dark depressions, the lost years. Back then Mimi was just an optimist, one of those people who were born believing in eternal sunshine, blue skies, and happy endings.
Seven months and three weeks after Mark walked out the door, Mimi packed their belongings into the old VW bus and took her daughters back home to Idle Point. She had tried to keep things going but the gigs had finally dried up and so had the kindness of strangers. When Mark left, he took the magic with him.
The only thing left was family.
Loch Craig - now
Joely Doyle woke up a little before five on the morning of the summer solstice to sunlight streaming through the sheer curtains at her window and an explosion of bird song. This was her sixth summer in Scotland but she had yet to accept the fact that nightfall was little more than a gathering dusk that lingered a few hours then gave way once again to daylight. A Scottish summer, beautiful as it was, left her feeling unsettled and nostalgic for the inky blackness of childhood summers in Maine when she and her sister Catherine would lie on the beach near the lighthouse and sleep beneath a blanket of stars.
Her earliest memories were of her sister's voice, the gentle touch of her hand. Their mother had been a shadowy presence when she was growing up; it was as if Mimi knew that Cat would do a far better job of mothering Joely than she could ever manage. Mimi was an ineffectual creature who had tried reality on for size and found it wanting. She lived in a construct of imagination and hope, a place so antithetical to Joely's professional world of pure immutable fact as to be incomprehensible.
Joely wasn't much for nostalgia. Looking back had always struck her as a bloody waste of time and energy, but on that particular morning, she awoke on the edge of a dream about home that lingered like morning fog on the heather. She saw the two of them as they had been years ago. Fifteen year old Cat struggling to get both herself and five year old Joely dressed and ready for school while their mother slept off another night of regrets.
Joely had been in diapers when their father walked out on them. Her memories of him were secondhand, gleaned from old record albums and articles in Rolling Stone, from her sister's stories, and her mother's endless yearning. Sometimes she thought her mother's internal clock had stopped ticking the day Mark Doyle left. There were times when Mimi actually seemed surprised to see them at the breakfast table, as if the stretch marks and the endless labors had never happened and her daughters had been sprung on her like a pair of subpoenas.
Joely rarely remembered her dreams and when she did they were usually one-dimensional replays of a mathematical problem she had struggled with at work. But this dream had been very different, so rich with image and detail that for a second she thought she was back in Idle Point, looking for a way out. Relief took a few seconds to catch up.
Yawning, she stretched and bumped up against the tiny form sleeping next to her.
Annabelle was curled up on William's side of the bed. When he was away on business, the child had taken to slipping out of her own room in the middle of the night and climbing into bed with Joely. Annabelle was a sound sleeper, happily oblivious to the assault of sunlight and bird songs that would keep Joely awake until September. Her right thumb was curled close to her mouth, the one surviving remnant of her baby ways.
How far away those days seemed. When they first met, Annabelle had been a bundle of "Look at me!" and "No!" yelled from the top of toddler lungs. That toddler was now only a memory and a little girl with very specific likes and dislikes and requirements had taken her place. A beautiful, tiny individual who delighted Joely's soul simply by breathing.
Next to her, Annabelle buried her face deeper into her father's pillow. She was seven now, a beautiful child with hazel eyes and soft curling brown hair. Where William was analytical and precise, his daughter was fey and mercurial. Annabelle believed faeries sheltered in the heather. She was convinced a pixie had taken up residence in the cupboard behind her bed. She saw angels dancing where Joely saw nothing more than fog settling over the craggy hills behind the house.
While there was nothing inherently wrong with a no-strings relationship between consenting adults, the truth was that the rules changed when children were part of the picture and they changed again when the child started growing up.
Over the last few months Annabelle had grown curious. She wanted to know why Joely still kept a flat in Glasgow. She wanted to know why she didn't have a cat or a dog or a baby brother.
She wanted to know why she couldn't call Joely "Mummy."
They treated her questions with respect and they tried to answer her honestly. But there were limits. You couldn't tell a seven year old that nothing was permanent. You couldn't sit her down and say that sooner or later everything changed because she wouldn't believe you.
And you wouldn't want her to. Part of childhood was the ability to nestle securely in the now, knowing it would never change. Annabelle wouldn't understand that the people she loved most in the world were changing right in front of her eyes, in ways that would alter her life forever. She was only a little girl, after all, and she wanted them to be a family like her friend Louis's family. The kind that shared a name and a history and a future that was as real and solid as the hills beyond the house.
For weeks Annabelle had been entertaining them with stories about long-ago solstice festivals, charming blends of fact and folklore than had made William and Joely smile at each other over her head. They let her talk them into allowing her to stay up late tonight to celebrate the longest day of the year. They planned to pack a picnic basket and take pillows and blankets up the hill and maybe some of the ancient magic neither one believed in would find its way into their hearts.
William was in Japan, finishing up the last of a series of seminars on the effect of personal economical growth on a country's GNP. He had been gone for two long weeks but during last night's phone call he had promised he would make it home in time to join Joely and Annabelle on the hill tonight. And William always kept his promises.
He was a wonderful father who kept in close touch with both of them when he was away. Emails and digital photos for Annabelle and a phone call every single night, no exceptions.
Joely wished she could pinpoint the moment when she realized how much she dreaded those nightly phone calls. The easy companionable silences they had one enjoyed were now uneasy stretches of meaningless small talk. At times it seemed the only thing they had in common was their love for Annabelle. Joely had the terrible feeling that they might have reached the natural end of things.
The thought came close to breaking her heart.
Annabelle mumbled something then flopped onto her back, her stuffed Tigger clutched to her chest.
Joely was wide awake. She wasn't in the mood to read and she was too lazy to head downstairs to watch one of the morning chat shows. Her laptop rested on the night stand and, careful not to disturb Annabelle, she reached over and pulled it into bed with her and connected to the Internet.
The new mail symbol flashed from the bottom of the accessory tray and she clicked over to her email program. Cat had promised to send her a scan of the cardi Sarah Jessica Parker planned to wear on Letterman next week and there was the off chance that there might be some news about funding for the next stage of testing at Clendenning which would translate into a return to work for her.
She hadn't told William yet, but she had been offered a new position with the company on a research team they were forming near Boston. This time last year she wouldn't have given a move like that any consideration at all. Her work was important to her, but the life she had built with William and Annabelle came first.
At least she didn't have to make that decision today. She was almost relieved there was no news about funding in her inbox. Instead there was the requisite bucket of spam and a two-liner from Cat saying she was on her way down to New York to deliver a batch of sweaters to the costume designer at Pink Slip and would send the scan when she got back.
She sent the monthly alumni newsletter from MIT spinning into the trash. She wasn't in the mood to read a laundry list of her classmates' weddings, new babies, and professional successes. She was about to flip over to her browser and surf eBay for Barbie doll clothes for Annabelle's birthday when her computer chimed and a new message popped up in her inbox.
DATE: 21 june
Sorry: change of plans. Harris fell ill (emerg appendectomy) so I'm taking over Kyoto. Sending from terminal at Tokyo airport. Plane boards two min. Will call when settled w/details, hotel, etc. Kiss A for me. Hope she's not v. disappointed. Talk later. Miss you.
"Damn it," she whispered, shutting down the laptop and closing the lid. Annabelle would be heartbroken when she found out her father wouldn't be with them tonight. They had had so much fun planning the goodies they would pack in the picnic basket, speculating about what they would see on the hill tonight as the sun slowly dimmed in the sky. She knew he would have moved heaven and earth to get back home to them--to Annabelle--and that this burst of anger toward him was both unreasonable and undeserved but it was there just the same.
There were times when it was hard to figure out the boundaries. They looked like a family. They behaved like a family. But where they really a family? Annabelle and William belonged together but where did she fit into the mix. She was like one of those house guests who came for the weekend and forgot to go home. There were no blood ties between them. No legal bonds. Possession might be nine-tenths of the law when it came to the family silver, but did it count for anything when it came to your heart?
How did you do it, Cat? How come you never stumbled into a family of your own? Her sister was thirty-eight years old and blissfully independent. She lived alone. She owned her own business. She kept an eye on their mother without being drawn into Mimi's craziness. No messy love affairs. No messy children. No broken heart along the way. Tell me the secret, Cat, because I'm drowning over here.
She knew she couldn't call Cat. For one thing, she wasn't home. Her sister was running around Manhattan doing glamorous things with glamorous people. Besides, the last time she'd dumped her problems in her sister's lap she was thirteen years old and wondering why boys only liked the girls with big boobs and small brains. Cat hadn't a clue what was going on in Joely's life. She would spend half the conversation trying to bring her sister up to speed and the other half wishing she hadn't.
Annabelle sighed and shifted position. Her right foot poked free from the duvet and Joely leaned forward to cover her. Asleep she was the image of William. The fey quality that was so apparent when she was awake vanished and she looked like a tiny scholar with a furrowed brow. She pressed a kiss to the top of the child's head and her irritation with William disappeared.
She hated the thought of telling Annabelle her father wouldn't be with them tonight. William was the one who was breaking his promise. Wouldn't it follow that he should be the one to break the news?
However childrearing was a right brain activity. You couldn't plot it on a graph or turn it into a Power Point presentation. Family life was an exercise in random chaos. You coped with things the best you could and hoped for the best. Parents shared both the joys and the burdens of bringing up children and they didn't keep score.
But there was one small problem with Joely's theory: she wasn't Annabelle's mother and, God help her, she had started keeping score.