Goodbye Again by Mariah Stewart
On the day she turned sixteen—when she was still Lydia Hess, the Bryant still seven years into her future—Liddy thought she knew how it was all going to shake out. She and her two besties—Emma Harper and Maggie Lloyd—would finish college and return to their hometown, Wyndham Beach, on the lower coast of Massachusetts, to live their happy-ever-afters with the to-be-determined loves of their lives and raise their families. Maggie, of course, would marry Brett, her high school love, but wouldn’t move back home until his professional football career was over (no one in the entire states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island doubted Brett Crawford would be drafted by a pro team, but they all, naturally, prayed he’d go to the Patriots). The three of them—Liddy, Emma, and Maggie—would always be best friends, and their children would play (and be BFFs), too. They’d live out their best lives together, grow old together, and support each other in whatever life might throw their way.
At fifty-nine, Liddy was in turn amused and chagrined by her younger self’s naivete when she considered her bold predictions hadn’t even been half-right once it was all added up.
Liddy and Emma did return to Wyndham Beach after college graduation (University of Rhode Island and Smith, respectively), Liddy to marry Jim Bryant, son of the town’s most successful insurance agent, who had the policies for all the local properties, autos, and businesses locked up. Emma had married Harry Dean, who was older by thirteen years and the son of the president of the First National Bank of Wyndham Beach (and destined to follow in his grandfather’s and his father’s footsteps to the bank’s big corner office). Maggie had strayed most from the script, having (shock!) broken up with Brett after his second season with the Seattle Seahawks, and instead of coming home—where Liddy and Emma could have supported her through whatever heartbreak she must have been enduring, had she taken them into her confidence, which inexplicably she had not—Maggie had stunned everyone by up and moving to Philadelphia, where, two years later, she married Art Flynn, a Philly lawyer, and settled into a life that had been step one in totally blowing up Liddy’s life plan.
Maggie had lived happily on Philadelphia’s Main Line, raising her two daughters and teaching in the private school they attended. Grace, her older daughter, had gone to law school and joined her father’s firm, Flynn Law, after passing the bar. She married the man she’d thought was her one true love, but that hadn’t worked out so well. Natalie, the younger of Maggie’s daughters, taught English at a community college in a Philly suburb and was the single mother of four-year-old Daisy. Both Maggie’s girls had made some questionable decisions over the past few years—mostly where men were concerned—but then again, Liddy conceded, who hadn’t at some point in their life? Three years ago, Art died from a cancer diagnosed only months before his death, and Maggie’s seemingly happy life had come to a screeching halt.
Emma and Harry had one son—Christopher—who’d been a joy to Emma but a source of contention to Harry from the day the boy discovered music. Harry’s vision for their son’s future had had Chris following in his footsteps straight to Harvard and eventually to the office of the president of the bank, but once the boy learned to play the guitar, it was all over. Chris had set his sights on becoming a rock star, and that was exactly what he’d done, becoming the international voice and face of DEAN, the band that had its humble beginnings in the Wyndham Beach garages of their ever-changing teenage participants. Nine years ago, Harry had had a sudden heart attack and died without ever reconciling with his son. Since then, Chris and his wildly successful band—the final lineup having solidified in college—had traveled around the world several times, leaving little time for trips home to visit his lonely mother. So much for Em’s happy ending.
Liddy’s blueprint for her own future hadn’t quite held up, either. She and Jim had bought the house his great-grandfather had built in Wyndham Beach, and they’d planned on renovating it and filling it with children. After years where she’d suffered a series of miscarriages and a stillborn son, Liddy had become mother to a healthy baby girl, Jessica, who’d been the center of Liddy and Jim’s universe from the moment of her birth. Jessie had grown into a remarkable young woman, kind and beautiful and blessed with amazing artistic talents, and who, at twenty-nine, with no apparent warning, had taken her life. A year to the day later, Jim had asked for a divorce, and the collapse of Liddy’s world had been complete.
So much for happy-ever-after.