Nine Lives - Danielle Steel
Mary Margaret Kelly, Maggie, had lived on four military bases by the time she was eight years old. It was the only life she knew, and she liked it. Her father, Kevin, was an Air Force test pilot, and had been decorated for the missions he flew in Vietnam. Her paternal grandfather had been a Navy pilot in World War II.
Maggie worshipped her father. He was handsome and tall and funny. She loved watching him fly planes, although she knew it scared her mother. Nothing scared her father. He was very brave, and he always told Maggie to be brave too. She tried to be. Her brother, Tommy, also tried to be. He said he was going to be a pilot one day like their dad. Maggie was five years older than Tommy, and she helped her mom take care of him when she was busy. Emma was a nurse before Maggie was born, but she stayed home with the kids now, and she always had a lot to do. The Air Force gave them a good life. Her father was a squadron leader and flew training missions. They moved to a new base in Nevada when Maggie turned nine. Her mom didn’t like it. It was hot most of the time, except at night, and she said that their dad’s missions were going to be more dangerous now, but she didn’t say why. Maggie heard them arguing about it sometimes. But her dad loved what he did. His eyes and his whole face lit up whenever he talked about flying. He loved everything about planes.
They’d only been there for three months when Maggie’s dad went out on a routine training mission. He kissed Maggie in her bed early that morning before he left. He kissed Tommy, who was sound asleep. Emma got up and watched him from the kitchen window while he drove away. By the time Tommy and Maggie were having breakfast, two men in uniform knocked on the door, came in, and sat in the living room with their mother. Emma didn’t make a sound. She just sat there, sobbing quietly, so her children couldn’t hear her. After a while the men left.
She told Maggie and Tommy afterwards that their dad had died. She said his plane had malfunctioned and spun out of control. The officers told Emma that if Kevin Kelly hadn’t been able to stop it, no one could have.
Three days later, Maggie and Tommy went to their father’s funeral. Years later, Maggie could still remember how terrible she had felt, and how impossible it was to believe that her dad would never come home again. The men in his squadron had folded the flag on his casket and handed it to her mother, who had clutched it to her chest with her eyes closed. Maggie had thought she would faint, but she didn’t. Maggie kept telling herself to be brave the way her father had told her to be. And she was, braver than she ever thought she could be. She took care of Tommy when her mother stayed in bed and cried all the time after that. Emma hardly ever got up, and Maggie cooked dinner for them.
They went to stay with Emma’s parents in Oklahoma for a while, then they came back and moved off the base to Las Vegas. It was the first time Maggie had lived among civilians and gone to a local school. Emma got a job as a cashier in a casino. She didn’t want to go back to nursing, she said it had been too long. They stayed in Las Vegas for six months, living on her salary and their dad’s pension. After that, they moved to three different states, and finally made their way to Miami, where Emma got a better job at a resort hotel, working as a manicurist in the spa. She lived a quiet life, and never went out on dates, until she met Harry Sherman.
Maggie was fourteen and her father had been dead for five years when Emma met Harry at the resort in Miami where they both worked. He was the catering manager. He wasn’t handsome like Maggie’s father. He wasn’t exciting. He wasn’t a hero and didn’t fly planes, but Maggie’s mother told her that wasn’t important. What they needed was a man who wasn’t going to risk his life every day when he went to work. She told Maggie that if her father hadn’t been in love