Book Three of the Haverford Trilogy
In Book Two in the Haverford Trilogy (Lydia), Ellie Nelson marries David Grant, a wealthy architect and philanthropist. Ten years later, in Book Three, Ellie and David are having marital problems. While David is on a field trip in Darfur, Africa, Ellie packs her bags and takes her
children to her mother’s farmhouse in Haverford.
Lydia Nelson, the Nelson family matriarch, is now ninety years old. She welcomes
her daughter home but is concerned that Ellie has left New York without informing David.
When David discovers that Ellie is living in Haverford, he makes plans to return to the States. The night before he leaves, however, he is kidnapped.
That same week, Ellie discovers that they have lost most of their money through
a Ponzi scheme. Wanting to support his philanthropic projects in Africa, David
invested their money with a long-time family friend that he trusted.
The story unfolds in New York City,
Africa and England but ends in the small town of Haverford where it all began.
Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Rich Boy
She held the
ornate oak door of the penthouse open for Charles, the doorman. As he maneuvered the baggage cart through, he asked, “Going
on a vacation, Mrs. Grant?”
She smiled and ignored
the question. The less the staff knew the better. She had been tempted to sneak out in the dead of night but that seemed a
The laughter of her children, as they ran across the marble floor
of the foyer, caused a moment’s pain. How innocent and happy they were.
And I intend to see they stay that way.
The thought strengthened her resolve. She was doing the right thing.
“Hurry up, Casey,” Jonathan called behind him to his
six-year-old sister, who was walking with their nanny. As usual, when his ten-year-old feet found just the right small rug,
he slid the rest of the way to his mother.
“One day, you are going to break your neck doing that,”
she told him then laughed and gave him a quick hug.
“Can I go with Charles, Mom?”
“I suppose so. Hurry and catch up. Help him with the luggage.”
“Me, too, wait Jonathan!” Casey cried out. Ellie stooped
in front of her. “No, honey, Charles has too many bags to pack into the car to have time to watch out for you. You and
I are going down together, but I need to talk to Sarah first. Why don’t you go into the kitchen and say goodbye to George
“Can’t we take them with us, Mommy? Grandmother wouldn’t mind. They could play with her bird, Cleo. Parakeets like each other.”
I’ll have to come back for them and the rest of our things
“We don’t have enough room, sweetie, but Sarah will take
good care of them, won’t you, Sarah?”
Ellie looked up into the kind eyes of the nanny, who had been with
them for ten years, and was shocked to see tears.
She turned Casey toward the kitchen. “Hurry up, dear, we have
to get going.”
Ellie waited as her small legs raced across the foyer that was larger
than her mother’s farmhouse kitchen. For some reason, her children had never questioned the discrepancy between the
luxury of their lives in New York City and the simplicity of their grandmother’s life in the small town of Haverford,
New York. They loved the farm. Would they feel the same way when they realized that it was going to be their new home?
A nervous quiver in Ellie’s stomach caused her a moment’s
She glanced at Sarah. Would she call David? Where did her loyalties
“Don’t you want me to come with you?” Sarah asked.
“I would love to get away from the heat of the city.”
Ellie took a deep breath. She was just going to have to trust this
dear woman who had cared so lovingly for her children.
“I’m sorry, Sarah, but I don’t know how long we’ll
be gone. And I need for you to be here when David gets home.”
Sarah nodded, tears sliding down her cheeks.
“I’m ready, Mommy,” Casey said, as she ran back
to them. “Sarah! Why are you crying? Did you hurt yourself?”
“She’s just going to miss us, darling,” Ellie said.
“Now, give her a big hug. Charles and Jonathan are waiting for us.”
The large brown eyes in the small face filled with concern. Casey
grabbed her nanny around the legs. “Don’t cry, Sarah. We’ll be back soon.”
“Of course, my sweet baby. Now go on with your mother. And
give your grandmother a kiss for me.” Sarah turned and walked away.
Casey looked up at Ellie. “Jonathan will be upset when I tell
him that Sarah cried.”
“Then maybe it would be best not to mention it, sweetheart.
Com’n now, let’s go see Grandma.”
on the living room couch, enjoying the scent of roses that wafted through the open windows. She was having a hard time staying
awake. Her naps during the day had become more frequent lately, but she liked drifting down into soft darkness, sometimes
dreaming, usually waking an hour later, feeling refreshed.
Today, however, she was listening for the sound of Ellie’s
car coming down the long driveway to the farmhouse. Her grandchildren would soon be here for their annual summer visit. It
was later this year because of Jonathan’s camp, but finally, they would be arriving and staying until school started
Lydia shifted to a sitting position, trying not to disturb her two
feline friends. In order to be comfortable, however, she had to move Muffin to the end of the couch beside Sidney, who opened
one eye then closed it and continued his nap. The slight effort it took to lift Muffin caused a moment’s dizziness. Although she felt well most days, these attacks were occurring more often. She probably
should tell her doctor, but she knew better than tell her family. They already kept too close an eye on her.
She had agreed not to plant
the garden anymore, but she still enjoyed taking walks through the fields around the house. Lying in the tall grass and staring
up into the clear blue sky was such a joy. If members of her family knew about her excursions, they would talk about the danger
of bugs and snakes, of not being able to find her if she fell ill. Lydia loved them but their constant concern was a daily
reminder that she only had so much time left, and you couldn’t live a happy life with that as an ongoing theme. Besides,
she was only ninety years old. Now when she was one hundred, she intended to milk it for all it was worth. She planned to
say, “I feel a hundred years old today,” do a double take and add, “Oh, I am one hundred!”
laughed at her own joke, jostling both cats, who stretched and watched her through half-closed eyes. She couldn’t remember a time since her husband, John, had died twenty years ago that a cat hadn’t
been in the house. Her beloved Calico had lived fifteen years, and she had grieved his death as though a member of the family
had died. She was sure that would be her last animal, but shortly afterwards,
her neighbor found a new litter of kittens in his barn. Lydia had talked her
son, Jim, and his wife, Louise, into taking two of them. Her oldest daughter, Susan, and her husband, Ed, agreed to take another,
leaving the two companions lying beside her. They closed their eyes again, and Lydia could feel herself drifting off.
wasn’t the car driving up the driveway that awakened her. It was the laughter and chatter of her two grandchildren.
Before she could even move, they both were on the couch, hugging and kissing her. Muffin and Sydney jumped off and ran for
their lives, with Jonathan close behind.
them hide for a few minutes, darling,” she said. “They need to adjust to all the excitement. Where’s your
here,” her daughter said, dumping several suitcases on the floor.
joined Lydia on the couch, collapsing beside her.
you ready for this invasion, Mom?”
always ready for these two sweethearts. I swear Casey has grown an inch since you were here last.”
already outgrown her summer clothes. We’ll have to get a size larger for her school clothes. I plan to go shopping next
week for both of them.”
thought they wore uniforms.”
hesitated. “Uh, well, they’ll need after-school clothes, and I’d like to see what the stores in Haverford
have to offer.”
smiled to herself. Ellie shopped in stores like Neiman Marcus. What in the world did she expect to find in Haverford?
sat beside her on the couch, snuggling close. Jonathan sprawled on the floor, trying to coax the cats from underneath the
skirt of the round table in front of the window. Sidney’s small white face peeked out. Muffin was nowhere in sight.
She was adverse to being grabbed and hugged.
okay,” Jonathan whispered to them. “We’ll be quiet. Come on out.”
slid off the couch and joined Jonathan on the floor.
them be, guys,” Ellie said, as she pushed herself off the couch.
doesn’t look well, Lydia thought. Ellie had always appeared younger than her years with her short, curly hair, large
brown eyes and pixie face. Today, however, she looked her age of forty-eight, if not older.
are you going, honey?” Lydia asked.
get more bags.”
heavens, you brought half the house.”
I’m going to leave most of the bags in the car. Since we plan to move into the cabin in a few days, I don’t want
to unpack too much as we’ll just have to repack. Did Jack get it cleaned up for us?”
always used the cabin that she and David had built in the nearby woods whenever she visited during the summer.
had a heart attack back in the winter and isn’t doing strenuous work anymore,” Lydia said. “His son has
taken over, however, and he gave it a good cleaning.”
cats now warily poked their heads out to be rubbed between their eyes and ears. Lydia was filled with happiness at the sight.
She was so glad to have everyone here. It was going to be a wonderful few weeks.
on the front porch swing, watching for Ellie and the children to appear in the field between the farmhouse and the woods.
Although David had cleared a dirt road leading from the main road to the cabin, there was a well-worn path through the field.
There they were. Even from this distance, Lydia could see that her
daughter walked as though carrying a heavy burden. When was she going to explain what this prolonged visit was all about?
Lydia had tried to be patient, but the children had to return to school in two weeks, and Ellie kept avoiding her questions
about when she would be leaving. The subject of David was off-limits, too.
Ellie would only say that David’s latest trip to Darfur was
more involved than his other philanthropic projects. When she described what his group was trying to accomplish, it also sounded
dangerous. Thankfully, he would be returning any day now.
Excited shouts brought Lydia out of her reveries. Casey was running
full speed down the driveway while Jonathan and Ellie strolled behind. Her grandson normally would be chasing after his sister,
rather than patiently walking with his mother. Perhaps he sensed that she needed loving attention. Maybe I should ask him
what’s going on, Lydia thought. No. She mustn’t put him on the spot.
“We saw a mother deer and her baby!” Casey threw her
wiry body into Lydia’s arms. “We kept real quiet, and they walked
right up to the stream and started drinking. They were so pretty. It made me
Lydia reached out to touch the shining brown hair pulled back into
pigtails. Casey was a miniature of Ellie, both in spirit and looks.
“Why did it make me cry, Grandmother?”
Lydia cupped the delicate
face in her hands. “Because it touched your heart, my darling. Sometimes things are just so beautiful that they bring
tears to our eyes.”
Jonathan bounded up the steps and across the porch. “Did she
tell you about the deer?” he asked. “It was awesome.”
“Awesome,” Lydia repeated. “I’m sure it was.”
Jonathan reminded her of his dad. They both had the same serious,
introspective nature. However, David was not Jonathan’s biological father. Just
before meeting David, Ellie, at thirty-eight, had chosen to be a single mother through artificial insemination. Within nine
months, she had a son and a new husband. It had been quite a year. From the first moment Lydia looked into Jonathan’s
newborn eyes, their connection had been soul deep. They knew one another.
Ellie sat in the wicker chair beside the swing. There were dark circles
under her eyes, indicating another sleepless night.
“Kids,” Lydia said, keeping her voice light. “Why
don’t you go inside and pour yourselves some lemonade? You know where the cookies are. But no more than two apiece.
“Can we let Cleo out of her cage for a little while, grandmother?”
“I guess so but keep her in the kitchen. She’s getting
old, like me, and can’t fly so well anymore.”
The children ran into the house, and the screen door slammed behind
them. Mother and daughter looked at one another. Lydia cleared her throat.
“All right, Ellie. I’ve tried to wait until you were
ready to talk about it, but I need to know. What’s going on? What’s wrong?”
Ellie looked away.
A pressure began to build in Lydia’s chest. Any anxious feeling
lately seemed to cause the sensation. She tried to ignore it as she waited for her daughter’s response.
“I just haven’t wanted to get into it until I was sure
that…. I didn’t know if I would have the courage to go through with
it. But today I called the children’s respective schools and told them they wouldn’t be returning this fall.”
Confused, Lydia asked, “Are you and David moving? Oh, dear,
you aren’t taking them to Africa, are you?”
“Good Lord, no! That’s David’s territory. Disease.
Starvation. He’s in his element.” Lydia was shocked at the bitterness in her voice.
“But darling, he does wonderful work over there. I thought
you were proud of him.”
The look of despair that appeared on Ellie’s face told Lydia
what she had suspected for weeks. Something was terribly wrong.
“That’s true,” Ellie said. “And
I’ve always admired the way he handled his family’s wealth. Many trust fund children live selfish, superficial
lives. They feel entitled. But not David. He used half his money to set up the
foundation that has helped so many children.
“If you remember, I didn’t know about his
family’s social status or wealth until just before our wedding.”
Lydia thought back on their conversation when Ellie
got married. It had seemed a bit unreal at the time. Over the years, when she visited her daughter, Lydia had seen a world
of luxury far removed from life in the small town of Haverford.
“Are you worried that David is spending too much
Ellie’s laugh sounded harsh. “Money isn’t
the problem. Even after supporting the foundation, we have plenty. You wouldn’t believe how much we spend every month
to maintain our lifestyle. Our accountant pays all the bills, but occasionally, I see the statements. I feel guilty just thinking
“But darling, you and David work hard and have
been generous with your money. And Jonathan and Casey aren’t spoiled. You’re doing a wonderful job raising caring,
loving children. Why should you feel guilty?”
Ellie sat quietly for several minutes before replying.
“I haven’t talked about my feelings that much over the years because complaining about living in a world of wealth
doesn’t garner much sympathy.” She stared toward the mountain in the distance. “This is your world, Mom,
and it’s where I feel comfortable and most like myself. I just don’t fit into David’s world. I mean, his
sisters have been wonderful to me—and patient. Everything I know about entertaining I’ve learned from them. They’ve
guided me through a labyrinth of rules, which I still forget half the time. They drag me to fashion shows every year and help
me acquire the proper attire for each season. But the truth is I’ll never fit in, because I really don’t care
about most of it.”
Lydia could understand Ellie’s frustration but
“Okay, dear, I hear what you’re saying,
but you and David have helped so many people with your money. Isn’t that rewarding?”
“To a degree, of course, and I support David’s efforts
to make a difference in the world. But, Mom, he has an obligation to his family, too. His obsession with his philanthropic
work is growing worse every year. The kids and I have only seen him for maybe two out of the past six months. I’ve gone
along with it for years but his last demand was the proverbial last straw.”
She stood and crossed the porch to look in the screen door, apparently
listening for the voices of Casey and Jonathan in the kitchen.
“I don’t want them to hear any of this. They adore their
father and accept his absences much better than I do. But I’m going to have to tell them about my decision soon. Jonathan
keeps asking about school—the potential new school he thinks he’s going to attend.”
“New school? He hasn’t said a word to me about it.”
“I asked him not to talk about it, that I wanted to tell you.
It’s the all-boys boarding school where David went—where his father and grandfather went before him. Can you believe
those poor little boys were sent away from home at such an early age and didn’t see their family except for vacations?
David just assumed that Jonathan would follow in those traditional footsteps.”
Jonathan sent away? The thought broke Lydia’s heart.
Barely able to speak, she said, “I can’t imagine such
a thing. And surely, Jonathan doesn’t want to go.”
Anger flared in Ellie’s eyes. “Of course, he doesn’t,
but his father is his hero, and he never questions David’s decision—no matter how stupid!”
Ellie began pacing up and down the porch. “David and I have
argued about this for the past two years. Finally, he simply enrolled him over my protests, convinced that Jonathan needs
masculine role models since he can’t be around that much. He’s out saving the world, so he needs to hire male
surrogates for his son.”
Now Lydia understood the depth of Ellie’s emotions as she was
experiencing the same strong feelings herself.
She closed her eyes for
a moment, took a deep breath and prayed.
Dear God, give me the strength I need to help my daughter.
The pressure in her chest eased, and her thoughts began to clear.
Ellie had done the right thing. Until this problem was resolved, Jonathan would be safe here.