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Prodigal Son(9)
Danielle Steel

“Are you leaving me?” Peter asked her bluntly, wanting to get clear on her implication.

“I’m leaving New York and the mess we’re in here. My father offered us a safe haven. I’m going there. We’re already starting to drift apart. You don’t have time to think about us right now, you’re too busy trying to keep your head above water, and I understand that. You’re drowning, Peter. But I’m not going to let you drown me too. I’m getting the hell out. What happens to our marriage after this is up to you and what you do now.”

“Are you saying that if I don’t move to L.A. and become your father’s minion, you’ll divorce me?” He was pushing her, and she was more than willing to push back.

“You’re not going to have a job here for a long time. You might as well go too.” She didn’t answer his question.

“What if I find a job somewhere else, like Boston or Chicago?” He was testing the waters to see how far she would go.

She hesitated for a long moment, as their eyes met, and then she answered him at last. “I’m going home, Peter. To L.A. I’ve lived here for fifteen years, for you. It hasn’t worked out. Figure out what you want to do,” she said quietly, and then left the terrace, as he sat there alone, staring into space. He had heard her message loud and clear. If he wanted to save their marriage, which was about all he had left now that he cared about, he had to move to L.A., on her terms. And he could see what would happen if he didn’t. He laid his head back against the deck chair and closed his eyes as he thought about it, and silent tears rolled slowly down his cheeks. He had never been so miserable in his life. It reminded him of the days when he could barely read, when it seemed as though everyone else knew the answers except him. It was a terrible helpless sensation. But this time he didn’t strike out at anyone. He just felt like he was dying inside, and losing everything that mattered to him. His career, his wife, and his boys. She had delivered a hell of an ultimatum, and her message to him was clear.

Chapter 2

The weekend was as awful as they both expected. It was the undoing of a life, like a movie in reverse. They put the house in the Hamptons on the market, at a painfully low price. But Peter wanted to sell it soon. He photographed all their artwork, and planned to call their art dealer on Monday. He was also going to contact Sotheby’s and Christie’s to see about auctioning whatever he could. He was willing to sell to whomever would pay the highest price. All the art and objects they had collected over time were being dispensed with. The beach house they had loved and where they had had such good times would belong to someone else.

Peter left the Rolls and the Ferrari at the car dealership and was startled when Alana refused to give up the Bentley. She said she was sending it to L.A. Her father was paying for the transport, and offered to buy the car from Peter, which he wouldn’t agree to. He didn’t want her father paying for anything, so he said she could keep it, which was a hardship for him since they needed the money. She wanted it in California, and Peter didn’t argue with her. He hated making her unhappy. The atmosphere between them had grown chilly, and had been ever since their conversation on Friday, when Alana had made her position clear. She was on the phone with her father every five minutes now, and she was planning to leave for L.A. the following weekend with the boys. She didn’t ask Peter how he felt about it—she announced it to him as a fait accompli.

They had left Ben and Ryan in the city, to play at their friends’ houses, while Alana and Peter went out to Southampton to deal with the house and cars. They didn’t want to use the beach house since it was being shown for a broker’s open on Tuesday, so they went home, and Peter drove them back to the city in silence. He was feeling defeated by the decisions she was making. It was a painful process, and they kept to themselves in separate rooms on Sunday, and then took the boys out to dinner. Ben, their nine-year-old, was excited about living with Grampa Gary in his guest house. At fourteen, Ryan was unhappy to leave his friends, since he had just started high school at the Lycée. And Ryan was visibly worried about his father. After dinner, they played a game of pool in the game room while Ben went to watch a movie in their projection room with his mother.

Ryan startled his father with a painful question halfway through the game. “Are you and Mom getting divorced?” Peter didn’t know what to answer but put a good face on it for his son’s sake. He had been asking himself the same question for two days, since Alana told him she was leaving and taking the boys to L.A., and he could sense that she had no intention of coming back to New York anytime soon, if ever.

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