Home > Nine Lives(4)

Nine Lives(4)
Author: Danielle Steel

   “I’d give anything to do that,” he said.

   Their romance lasted until spring. He had been Maggie’s first serious crush, until her mother put her foot down. He said something once when he came to visit, about racing motorcycles after he graduated, and Emma came to her daughter’s room afterwards with a doomsday expression.

   “You’re playing with fire,” her mother said with steel in her eyes. “You don’t know what you’re doing. He loves danger, Maggie. He’s a wild one. It’s written all over him. Danger is like a drug for guys like him. He’s like your father. And all that will ever do for you is break your heart. Sooner or later they die, and you’re a widow. I want you to stop seeing him.” It sounded like a death knell to Maggie. He was her only friend.

   “I’m not marrying him, Mom. We’re kids.”

   “He’s not a kid. He’s a young man, and he’s dangerous. You could die with him if you’re foolish enough to get on the back of his motorcycle. I’m not going through that again. We lost your dad. I’m not going to lose you or Tommy. Paul is a death wish waiting to happen. His eyes light up whenever he talks about racing.”

   “He’s a boy. He’ll outgrow it.” Maggie was fighting for her right to see him. She didn’t want to give him up.

   “Boys like that stay boys forever. They don’t outgrow it. They care more about risking their lives than he ever will about you. The last time he was here he said he wanted to climb Everest one day. Maggie, stay away from him.” Emma had tears in her eyes when she said it. Tommy overheard her from the next room and asked Maggie about it afterwards.

       “Are you going to break up with him?”

   “None of your business,” she said, and from then on, Maggie stopped talking about him. They met in secret. She almost slept with him several times, but she was afraid to get pregnant, and she didn’t feel ready. He tried to convince her otherwise, but she managed to hang on to her virginity until graduation. She had a lot to think about. She’d gotten into all the colleges she applied to, and had decided to go to Ohio State. Paul was taking a semester off before he thought about college. He was heading for Southern California to race, and see his father if he came into port while he was there. But his main goal was racing. He was leaving two weeks after graduation, while Maggie had another summer job at the hotel, until she left for Ohio in August.

   Paul wanted to stay in California once he got there. He was going to go to city college somewhere eventually, wherever he was living. It was inevitable that their paths would go in different directions now. They knew it would happen. She was in love with him, but more than that, he had become her best friend. She could tell him anything. He knew everything about her, her hopes and fears, and how much she missed her father. It was like a tidal wave that washed over her sometimes. She didn’t know how her mother could love Harry after someone like her father. But Emma was so frightened now, terrified of everything. Harry was exhausted when he came home at night, and she didn’t want to go out anyway. It was hard to believe she was only forty. She seemed more like eighty to Maggie. She and Harry both did. All they ever did was watch TV and drink beer at night. They weren’t drunks, but she could tell her mother was depressed and had been for years. Maggie wasn’t even sure her mother loved Harry. He was the dullest man who had ever lived. But he was safe, which was all she wanted.

       “When am I going to see you again?” Maggie asked Paul as the days slipped away. He was leaving soon. She was glad that she hadn’t slept with him. She could see now that he couldn’t be tamed. He would probably be a wild card all his life. Her mother might be right about that.

   “I don’t know, Mag,” he said sadly. “I’m going to miss you.” She believed he would, but not enough to stick around or come back. He was hungry for the world now, and all the risks he could take and wonders he would discover. None of that appealed to Maggie. She didn’t have the thirst for risk that he did.

   “Be careful,” she said, and she almost let him talk her into having sex with him that night, but she didn’t. She didn’t want to lose her virginity to a boy she might never see again. She was more sensible than that.

   Their last night together was bittersweet for both of them. She had told her mother she was staying with a friend, but they’d stayed at a motel, and each paid half of it. When the sun came up, Paul took off on his borrowed motorcycle. He turned to smile at her, with the sun shining golden on his fair hair, then he waved and disappeared around a corner. She walked home, feeling her heart ache, wondering where he would go now, what challenges he would conquer, what mountains he would climb.

       He bought a motorcycle that day with money he had saved, and left for California. He’d called her the day before he took off, but he didn’t come by to see her again. They both knew that their paths weren’t likely to cross again. She knew she would never forget him. He would always be the first boy she’d ever loved.



Chapter 2

   Ohio State was good for Maggie. The time she had spent with Paul during her senior year in high school had given her self-confidence and faith in herself. He had told her how smart she was, and how different from all the other girls. He made her feel special. At Ohio State, she majored in art history, and took classes in art and design. She took some business classes too. She thought they could be useful someday. Maggie was a beautiful, dark-haired girl with a good figure. She was a fine athlete, and loved going to football games with the boys she dated. One boy she went out with in her sophomore year wanted to join the Navy and become a SEAL. Her mother objected strenuously when Maggie told her about him. She swore he would be another danger addict who would break her heart, but Maggie lost her virginity to him anyway. Eventually they got tired of each other. She hadn’t heard from Paul for a year by then. She’d had a couple of postcards from him at first. He had won a string of races in Southern California, and then headed to Mexico to race there. After that, he wrote and said he was thinking of going to City College in San Diego, but hadn’t decided yet. The lure of all the things he wanted to do was greater than school. He wrote again that he was going mountain climbing in Argentina, and after that she got a postcard from him that said he was trekking in Nepal. He had told her he was taking any small jobs he could find, saving his money, and then taking off again as soon as he had enough to pay for the next step of his travels. He obviously hadn’t gone to San Diego. She wondered if he’d ever settle down. She couldn’t see it happening. The world was too big and too full of things that excited him. He had an unquenchable thirst for adventure, and she didn’t. Not out of terror like her mother, but she just didn’t want to roam all over the world looking for mountains to climb and challenges to conquer.

       When she graduated, she went back to Chicago. Tommy was a senior then and, after graduation, nearly broke his mother’s heart when he turned eighteen and joined the Navy. He said he could get a better education there. He wanted to be an aeronautics engineer eventually, and a Navy pilot. He did his officer training course the summer after graduation and owed the Navy three to five years after college. He did specialized training, flying fighter planes, and whenever Maggie saw him, he told her he was happy. He looked just like their father and loved flying just as much. His plan was to work for a company like Boeing when he mustered out after graduate school, and he would easily get a great job. His career path seemed like the right one for him.

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