Lost and Found - Danielle Steel

Chapter 1

Madison Allen lived in an old brick firehouse in the West Village in downtown New York, a few blocks east of the Hudson River. The firehouse was a hundred years old. It had been a departure for Maddie, after living on the Upper East Side most of her life. She had raised her three children in a comfortable although not luxurious apartment, in a serious-looking prewar building. Buying the firehouse downtown had been an act of independence for her, and it had become a labor of love. She had bought it fifteen years before, when her youngest child, Milagra, had left for college. Her older two, Deanna and Ben, were twenty and twenty-one when she bought it, and still came home for school holidays. Two years later, they had moved into their own apartments, and never came home to live again after they had graduated.

Deanna moved into an apartment in Chelsea and got a job as an assistant designer for a successful contemporary fashion brand that was popular with young women. She had gone to Parsons School of Design and had real talent. She was fiercely competitive with other designers and single-minded with her love of fashion, always focused on her own success. She was less intellectual than her brother and sister. Ben, her younger brother, had a keen instinct for business and had done well. Milagra, the youngest, had been writing since she was fifteen, and her first novel was published by the time she was nineteen. All three of Maddie’s children were very different from each other, with their interests in design, business, and literature. Unlike her younger siblings, Deanna had a killer instinct.

After graduating from Berkeley, Ben had decided to stay in San Francisco, in the world of start-ups. He swore he’d never come back to New York to live, and he hadn’t. He loved the outdoors, California life, and the high-tech world. He was a kind and loving person, a good husband and father, and caring son, although Maddie seldom saw him, and rarely contacted any of them. She didn’t want to intrude on them now that they were adults, and most of the time waited to hear from them. Sometimes it was a long wait, so she called them. But she held out as long as she could.

Milagra had gone to UCLA, taken postgraduate writing classes at Stanford, and moved to Mendocino in northern California. She needed isolation to write her books, and silence. So Maddie heard from her the least often.

Maddie would have rattled around her old apartment alone, like a marble in a shoebox, if she’d stayed there. When she moved downtown, her children had been shocked, and objected strenuously. They felt awkward in their mother’s new and somewhat unusual home. But she was firm about it and knew it was right for her at the time and they would adjust to it eventually. And as she knew they would, they grew up and left.

The firehouse still had its original brass pole that the firemen had used to slide down. She had someone come in to polish it every few months, and had tried sliding down it once herself. It was scary and exciting and fun, though she had come down faster than she’d expected. Buying the firehouse had been a happy event for her, and a new adventure. She’d loved it then and still did.

And the statement she made with the move was not as harsh as her children had claimed or feared. There were four floors, with two good-sized rooms and a smaller one that shared a bathroom on the top floor and were set up as bedrooms for Ben, Deanna, and Milagra whenever they wanted to come home. They had hardly ever used them, and now, fifteen years later, never stayed there at all.

With a successful start-up to his credit in his life as a young entrepreneur, Ben had no time to come home. After he sold the business and started a second one, he was even busier. He had a knack for discovering a need that no one else had thought of, and capitalizing on it. Married now, at thirty-five, with three children of his own, Willie, Charlie, and Olive, six, five, and three, he rarely came to New York, and stayed at a hotel when he did. His wife, Laura, was from Grosse Pointe, a suburb of Detroit, and had friends and relatives in Chicago, but she came no farther east than that.

They had full and