Summer’s End: Excerpt

Summer's End
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Chapter One

Deanna Duras opened one eye to look at the clock as the first light stole in beneath the shades. It was 6:45. If she got up now, she would still have almost an hour to herself, perhaps more. Quiet moments in which Pilar could not attack, or harass; when there would be no phone calls for Marc-Edouard from Brussels or London or Rome. Moments in which she could breathe and think and be alone. She slipped out quietly from beneath the sheets, glancing at Marc-Edouard, still asleep on the far side of the bed. The very far side. For years now, their bed could slept three or four, the way she and Marc kept to their sides. It wasn’t that they never joined in the middle anymore, they still did. . . sometimes. When he was in town, when he wasn’t tired, or didn’t come home so very, very late. They still did–once in awhile.

Silently she reached into the closet for the long, ivory, silk robe. She looked young and delicate in the early morning light, her dark hair falling softly over her shoulders like a sable shawl. She stooped for a moment looking for her slippers. Gone. Pilar must have them again. Nothing was sacred, not even slippers, least of all Deanna’s. She smiled to herself as she padded barefoot and silent across the thick carpeting and stole another glance at Marc, still asleep, so peaceful then. When he slept, he still looked terribly young, almost like the man she met nineteen years before. She watched him as she stood in the doorway, wanting him to stir, to wake, to hold his arms out to her sleepily with a smile, whispering to her words of so long ago, “Reviens, ma chÈrie. Come back to bed, ma Diane. La belle Diane.”

She hadn’t been that to him in a thousand years or more. She was simply Deanna to him now, as to everyone else: “Deanna, can you come to dinner on Tuesday? Deanna, did you know that the garage door isn’t properly closed? Deanna, the cashmere jacket I just bought in London got badly mauled at the cleaner. Deanna, I’m leaving for Lisbon tonight (Or Paris. Or Rome).” She sometimes wondered if he even remembered the days of Diane, the days of late rising and laughter and coffee in her garret, or on her roof as they soaked up the sun in the months before they were married. They had been months of golden dreams, golden hours–the stolen weekends in Acapulco, the four days in Madrid when they had pretended that she was his secretary. Her mind drifted back often to those long-ago times. Early mornings had a way of reminding her of the past.

Diane, mon amour, are you coming back to bed?” Her eyes shone at the remembered words. She had been just eighteen and always anxious to come back to bed. She had been shy but so in love with him. Every hour, every moment had been filled with what she felt. Her paintings had shown it too, they glowed with the luster of her love. She remembered his eyes, as he sat in the studio, watching her, a pile of his own work on his knees, making notes, frowning now and then as he read, then smiling in his irresistible way when he looked up. “Alors, Madame Picasso, ready to stop for lunch?”

“In a minute, I’m almost through.”

“May I have a look?” He would make as though to peek around the easel, waiting for her to jump up and protest, as she always did, until she saw the teasing in his eyes.

“Stop that! You know you can’t see it till I’m through.”

“Why not? Are you painting a shocking nude?” Laughter lighting those dazzling blue eyes.

“Perhaps I am, monsieur. Would that upset you very much?”

“Absolutely. You’re much too young to paint shocking nudes.”

“Am I?” Her big green eyes would open wide, sometimes taken in by the seeming seriousness of his words. He had replaced her father in so many ways. Marc had become the voice of authority, the strength on which she relied. She had been so overwhelmed when her father had died. It had been a godsend when suddenly Marc-Edouard Duras had appeared. She had lived with a series of aunts and uncles after her father’s death, none of whom had welcomed Deanna’s presence in their midst. And then finally, at the age of eighteen, after a year of vagabonding among her mother’s relatives, she had gone off on her own, working in a boutique in the daytime, going to art school at night. It was the art classes that kept her spirit alive. She lived only for that. She had been seventeen when her father died. he had died instantly, crashing in the plane he loved to fly. No plans had ever been made for her future; her father was convinced he was not only invincible but immortal. Deanna’s mother had died when she was twelve, and for years there had been no one in her life except Papa. Her mother’s relatives in San Francisco were forgotten, shut out, generally ignored by the extravagant and selfish man whom they held responsible for her death. Deanna knew little of what had happened, only that “Mommy died.” Mommy died–her father’s words on that bleak morning would ring in her ears for a lifetime. The Mommy who had shut herself away from the world, who had hidden in her bedroom and a bottle, promising always “in a minute, dear” when Deanna knocked on her door. The “in a minute, dears” had lasted for ten of her twelve years, leaving Deanna to play alone in corridors or her room, while her father flew his plane or went off suddenly on business trips with friends. For a long time it had been difficult to decide if he had disappeared on trips because her mother drank, or if she drank because Papa was always gone. Whatever the reason, Deanna was alone. Until her mother died. After that there had always been considerable discussion about “what in the hell to do.” For God’s sake, I don’t know a damned thing about kids, least of all little girls.” He had wanted to send her away, to a school, to a “wonderful place where there will be horses and pretty country and lots of new friends.” But she had been so distraught that at last he had relented. She didn’t want to go to a wonderful place, she wanted to be with him. He was a wonderful place, the magic father with the plane, the man who brought her marvelous gifts from faraway places. The man she had bragged about for years and never understood. Now, he was all she had. All she had left, now that the woman behind the bedroom door was gone.

So he kept her. He took her with him when he could, left her with friends when he couldn’t, and taught her to enjoy the finer things in life: The Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, the George V in Paris, and The Stork Club in New York, where she had perched on a stool at the bar and not only drank a Shirley Temple but met her as a grown woman. Papa had led a fabulous life. And so had Deanna, for a while, watching everything, taking it all in, the sleek women, the interesting men, the dancing at El Morocco, the weekend trips to Beverly Hills. He had been a movie star once, a long time ago, a race driver, a pilot during the war, a gambler, a lover, a moan with a passion for life and women and anything he could fly. He wanted Deanna to fly too, wanted her to know what it was to watch over the world at ten thousand feet, sailing through clouds and living on dreams. But she had had her own dreams that were noting like his. A quiet life, a house where they stayed all the time, a stepmother who did not hide behind “in a minute” or an always locked door. At fourteen she was tired of El Morocco, and at fifteen she was tired of dancing with his friends. At sixteen she had managed to finish school, and desperately wanted to go to Vassar or Smith. Papa insisted it would be a bore. So she painted instead, on sketch pads and canvases she took with her wherever they went. She drew on paper tablecloths in the South of France, and the backs of letters from his friends, having no friends of her own. She drew on anything she could get her hands on. A gallery owner in Venice had told her that she was good, that if she stuck around, he might show her work. He didn’t of course. They left Venice after a month, and Florence after two, Rome after six, and Paris after one, then finally back to the States, where Papa had promised her a home, a real one this time, and maybe even a real-live stepmother to go with it. He had met an American actress in Rome–“someone you’ll love,” he had promised, as he packed a bag for a weekend at her ranch somewhere near L.A.

Excerpted from Summer’s End by Danielle Steel Copyright © 1980 by Danielle Steel. Excerpted by permission of Dell, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.