After lunch, Caitlin brought Noelle upstairs for her nap. Then she lay down next to her and read her a story, and soon the little girl fell asleep.
Caitlin was eager to get back up to the attic and read more of those important papers in the box. After all, she’d agreed to help sort things out! But then she found another letter, this one addressed to her father’s sister, her Aunt Isabella, who was Uncle Richard’s late wife. It was from a woman named Susan.
After she read the letter, she wished she’d never known about it because now she’d have to keep secret what she’d found out and not let her father know. She might even keep it from her mother, who didn’t seem to know anything about this mystery, either. The letter from Susan to Aunt Isabella read as follows:
I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but as you already know, Richard and I are in love. He wants to divorce you and marry me. He also wants me to raise little Emma because he says that you’re not mentally fit to raise her and this worries him.
He’s already moved half of my belongings into your summer house at the beach. We’ve been seeing each other ever since the day you called him to tell him that you were pregnant, when you thought he was away on a business trip. But he was right beside me the whole time you were talking, and I overheard the entire conversation. You always believed that he was away on business. But the truth is, he was always with me instead. He just told you that to keep you from knowing the truth.
I want you to know that Richard’s bought me diamond earrings and takes me shopping at the finest stores right outside of town. Richard buys me anything I want. He’s already met my entire family, and they, too, have often stayed at your beach house on the weekends, including one entire summer. That was the summer you didn’t come to the beach house because you were pregnant with little Emma. When we were there, Richard always took us all out on his boat!
He didn’t want to leave you until after the baby was born. So, he waited. And then waited even longer, until she was a toddler. Now he says he’s waited long enough. He hopes you’ll give him a divorce and custody of little Emma because he wants me to be her mother.
He’s willing to offer you a lot of money to go away and make a new life for yourself. He loves me, Isabella, not you! He told me that he realizes now that he never really loved you in the first place. He says that now that he’s met me, he knows what true love is.
Please do the right thing and let him go.
Caitlin couldn’t believe what she’d just read. The letter upset her terribly and made her cry. She couldn’t imagine what poor Isabella must have felt when she read it! Now she understood her father’s silence and unforgiving attitude towards Richard.
Caitlin couldn’t make sense of the two letters together. She wondered what Richard meant in his letter when he apologized to her father and said that it wasn’t his fault that his wife and daughter died in the Influenza outbreak. That remark confused her. And because her father never talked about his family, not even to her mother, it was a mystery to all of them.
Caitlin’s mother interrupted her tears by calling to her again to come downstairs. She didn’t know the secrets her daughter had just discovered in those letters in the attic. She told her mother she’d be right down and had more than enough packing for the day.
Caitlin composed herself and rushed back downstairs to her bedroom, where she tucked Isabella’s letter into her book with Richard’s letter, then she went down to the kitchen. When she saw her mother, she noticed that she’d been crying too. But when she asked Amelia, she said her tears were over sentimental feelings about moving out of their home.
She tried to hide her sadness by immediately changing the subject, saying they’d have to ask Carmen to start taking more of these boxes to his charities. They needed to get everything packed and out before the contractors came to knock down the old house.
Caitlin said she’d get back to sorting again early the next morning and that she was almost through sorting everything in the boxes.
Caitlin helped her mother get dinner ready while Stacey played with Noelle and her doll-house. Her mind was racing, trying to figure out where Isabella and Emma were living now. She didn’t want to stir anything up about the letters she discovered, so she kept everything to herself. After reading Susan’s letter, Caitlin believed that Isabella was hiding from Richard because he wanted to take little Emma away. She had heartbreaking visions of a child being separated from her mother and the idea took Caitlin’s breath away. She believed that her father knew exactly where her Aunt Isabella and cousin Emma were living, and that he’d kept it secret from his wife and kids to protect his sister and niece!
But she didn’t want to say anything to further upset Amelia after seeing the sadness on her face over moving out of their house. She knew that her mother was trying to hide her real feelings about it from everyone, so Caitlin tried to be cheerful all through dinner. She talked excitedly about all the packing she was getting done and that she’d cleared out the whole attic. She added that she was eager to start on Noelle’s and her own bedrooms next, unless Amelia wanted her to do something else first.
Amelia agreed and added that Stacey had already finished her own packing since she’d started long before and was eager to move on. She told Caitlin that she and Carmen were all packed, too, since everything they owned fit into one box between them.
Amelia and Carmen didn’t have much to pack because they never bought clothes unless they absolutely needed them. They owned just what they needed and nothing more, and they’d never changed this habit, even when they were very well off.
After dinner, Amelia asked Caitlin to help pack up the kitchen things next. Caitlin agreed, then asked when they’d move into the townhouse.
She was surprised to find out that the moving trucks would arrive early the next day and that they’d take turns watching Noelle so she wouldn’t get hurt or be in the way. She added with a sigh that they wouldn’t have to clean the house since it would be torn down.
The following morning, the movers took everything out of the house. There weren’t many boxes because most of the kids had already moved out.
Caitlin again stopped herself from thinking about the letters, but they continued to haunt her. She shed some tears, too, about leaving the Eden house. She focused on moving forward, trying in vain to find words of comfort and promises for the future as she roamed the empty bedrooms, where traces remained on the walls where pictures and awards once hung. She reminisced about her brothers playing ball, hockey, and even basketball in their bedrooms at night, startling the whole family, especially the girls. They’d sure made a lot of noise scrimmaging and bouncing balls off their walls.
Caitlin again stopped herself from thinking about the letters, and suddenly noticed something sparkling on the floor. It was an old glittered swim cap strap laying on one of the girls’ empty bedroom floors. She picked it up and ran her fingers along the textures of hardened glue and glitter of the strap that she hand-made for a special show. It had been hers and it brought back all sorts of memories. The sparkles reminded Caitlin that she’d belonged to something bigger than herself, just as her family did.
Caitlin Eden is one of seventeen orphans adopted by a childless but wealthy young couple, Amelia and Carmen Eden. They adopted two families of children whose parents had either died or were otherwise out of the picture and created a warm and loving family for all of them. Caitlin was a naïve, timid young girl who was always anxious to please but also a bit immature for her age, even as she grew into a teen and young woman.
Eventually Caitlin fell in love with her brother’s best friend, a charming commercial pilot who adores her. He marries her and makes her happy, but tragically dies in a plane crash, leaving her widowed and pregnant after only a brief weekend of marriage.
Meanwhile, her parents’ financial setback forces her to set aside her plans for college and a teaching career. When her family decides to sell their estate to live somewhere more affordable, she discovers some long-hidden, heartbreaking letters from one of her father’s long-lost relatives. This is part of her father’s life that he’s never told anyone, not even her mother, and before long the truth comes out.
One of Seventeen is an inspiring, heart-warming story that will appeal to fans of romance and anyone who has loved and lost and found love again.
About the Author
I once read somewhere that Madeleine L’Engle wrote to inspire the young and also mature adults. She said in an interview that her genre distinctions are both real, “They’re different aspects of one reality.” I resonate my stories in the same way.
One of Seventeen, draws a clear picture of what it really was like to grow up in a family of seventeen children, a wonderful experience most people haven’t lived through. Unlike in my own life, in the novel, I created a family of adopted children to do this.
I hope you enjoy reading One of Seventeen. Thank you so very much for reading!