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The Carmichaels and the Grahams have gathered on Nantucket for a happy occasion: a wedding that will unite their two families. Plans are being made according to the wishes of the bride’s late mother, who left behind The Notebook: specific instructions for every detail of her youngest daughter’s future nuptials. Everything should be falling into place for the beautiful event — but in reality, things are falling apart.
While the couple-to-be are quite happy, their loved ones find their lives crumbling. In the days leading up to the wedding, love will be questioned, scandals will arise, and hearts will be broken and healed. Elin Hilderbrand takes readers on a touching journey in Beautiful Day — into the heart of marriage, what it means to be faithful, and how we choose to honor our commitments.
Table of Contents
Reading Group Guide
A Preview of Here’s to Us
A Preview of The Matchmaker
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THE NOTEBOOK, PAGE 1
I have finally reached the point with my prognosis where I accept that there are certain things I will not live to see. I will not see the day your father retires from the law firm (he always promised me he would retire on his 65th birthday, safe to say that promise was only made to appease me); I will not live to see my grandchildren ride roller coasters, get pimples, or go on dates—and I will not live to see you get married.
This last item pains me the most. As I write this, you are a senior in college and you have just broken up with Jason. For my sake, you are pretending like it's no big deal, you said you knew he wasn't "the One"; his favorite politician is Pat Buchanan and yours in Ralph Nader. So it won't be Jason you end up with—dishy though he was (sorry, true)—but there will be someone, someday, who will light you up. You will get married, and you have said that you would like a big, traditional wedding with all the bells and whistles. Since you've been a little girl, you've had your heart set on getting married on Nantucket, and although marriage is probably further from your mind now than it was when you were six, I hope that is still true.
That's where this notebook comes in. I won't be here to encourage or guide you when the time comes; I will, sweet Jenna, probably never meet the man you're going to marry (unless it's the delivery man from FTD who has been here three times this week. I can tell he has a crush on you). My hand aches knowing that it will not be squeezing your hand just before you walk down the aisle.
But enough feeling sorry for ourselves! I will, in these pages, endeavor to bestow my best advice for your big day. You can follow it or ignore it, but at the very least you will know where I stand on each and every matter.
I wish for you a beautiful day, Jenna, my darling. You alone will make it so.
Finn Sullivan-Walker (bridesmaid): I can't wait to see Jenna wearing her mother's gown. It's vintage Priscilla of Boston, silk bodice with a sweetheart neckline and lace column skirt. There used to be a picture in the Carmichael house of Jenna's mother, Beth, wearing the dress. I was obsessed with that picture when I was younger, even before Beth died. Seeing Jenna in that dress is going to be surreal, you know? Like seeing a ghost.
Douglas Carmichael (father of the bride): I can't stand the thought of giving Jenna away. She's my last one. Well, I guess technically Nick is my last one, but Nick might never get married.
Nick Carmichael (brother of the bride): My sister has extremely hot friends.
Margot (sister of the bride, maid of honor): Can I be honest? I really just want this weekend to be over.
They were on the ferry, the hulking white steamship that was properly named the Eagle, but which Margot had always thought of as Moby-Dick, because that was what their mother used to call it. Every year when the Carmichael family drove their Ford Country Squire into the darkened hold of the boat, Beth used to say it was like being swallowed by a whale. She had found the ride on the steamship romantic, literary, and possibly also biblical (she would have been thinking of Jonah, right?)—but Margot had despised the ferry ride then, and she despised it even more now. The thick, swirling fumes from the engines made her queasy, as did the lurching motion. For this trip, Margot had taken the Dramamine that Jenna offered her in Hyannis. Really, with the seven thousand details of her wedding to triage, the fact that Jenna had remembered to pack pills for her sister's seasickness was astonishing—but that was Jenna for you. She was thoughtful, nearly to a fault. She was, Margot thought with no small amount of envy, exactly like their mother.
For Jenna's sake, Margot pretended the Dramamine was working. She pulled down the brim of her straw hat against the hot July sun, which was blinding when reflected off the surface of the water. The last thing she wanted was to freckle right before the wedding. They were outside, on the upper deck. Jenna and her best friend, Finn Sullivan-Walker, were posing against the railing at the bow of the boat. Nantucket was just a smudge on the horizon; even Christopher Columbus might not have said for sure there was land ahead, but Jenna was adamant that Margot take a picture of her and Finn, with their blond hair billowing around their faces, as soon as Nantucket was visible in the background.
Margot planted her feet at shoulder width to steady herself against the gentle and yet nefarious rocking of the boat and raised the camera. Her sister looked happy. She looked excited-happy that this was the beginning of her wedding weekend, which was certain to be the most fun-filled and memorable weekend of her life—and she also looked contented-happy, because she was confident that marrying Stuart James Graham was her life's mission. Stuart was the One.
Stuart had proposed to Jenna on a park bench across the street from Little Minds, the progressive, "sustainable" preschool where Jenna was the lead teacher, presenting her with a ring featuring Sri Lankan sapphires and ethically mined diamonds from Canada. (Stuart was a banker, who made money buying and selling money, but he knew the path to Jenna's heart.) Since that day, Margot had cast herself as devil's advocate to Jenna's vision of a lifetime of happiness with Stuart. Marriage was the worst idea in all of civilization, Margot said. For two people to meet when they were young and decide to spend the rest of their lives together was unnatural, Margot said, because everyone knew that human beings changed as they got older, and what were the chances—honestly, what were the chances—that two people would evolve in ways that were compatible?
"Listen," Margot had said one evening when she and Jenna were having drinks at Cafe Gitane in SoHo. "You like having sex with Stuart now. But imagine doing it four thousand times. You'll lose interest, I promise you. You'll grow sick of it. And the enthusiasm that you used to have for having sex with Stuart will migrate—against your will—to something else. You'll develop an unhealthy interest in cultivating orchids. You'll be that mother on the baseball field, harassing the umpire over every pitch that crosses the plate. You'll start flirting with the cashier at Whole Foods, or the compost guru at the local nursery, and the flirting will turn into fantasies, and the fantasies will become a fling, then perhaps a full-blown affair, and Stuart will find out by checking your cell phone records, and your life will be ruined, your reputation will end up in shreds, and your children will require expensive therapy." Margot paused to sip her sauvignon blanc. "Don't get married."
Jenna had stared at her levelly. Or almost. Margot thought that this time, maybe, somewhere deep inside those clear blue eyes, she detected a flicker of worry.
"Shut up," Jenna said. "You're just saying that because you're divorced."
"Everyone is divorced," Margot said. "We owe our very livelihood to the fact that everyone is divorced. It put food on the table, it paid for our orthodontia, it sent us to college." Margot paused again, more wine. She was under the gun to get her point across. It was nearly seven o'clock, and her children were in the apartment without a babysitter. At twelve years old, Drum Jr. was okay to be left in charge until it got dark, then he would panic and start blowing up Margot's phone. "Divorce, Jenna, is paying for your wedding."
Margot was referring to the fact that their father, Douglas Carmichael, was the managing partner at Garrett, Parker, and Spence, a very successful family law practice in midtown Manhattan. Technically, Margot knew, Jenna would have to agree with her: divorce had always paid for everything.
"There is no man on earth better suited for me than Stuart," Jenna said. "He traded in his Range Rover for a hybrid for me. He and two of the guys on his trading desk showed up last weekend to fix a hole in the roof at Little Minds. He brings me coffee in bed every morning when he stays over. He goes with me to foreign films and talks with me about them afterwards at the fondue place. He likes the fondue place and doesn't mind that I always want to eat there after the movies. He doesn't complain when I listen to Taylor Swift at top volume. Sometimes he even sings along."
This was a litany Margot had heard many times before. Famously, after only three dates, Stuart had showed up at Jenna's apartment with a bouquet of yellow roses and a screwdriver, and he had fixed the towel bar in her bathroom, which had been broken since she'd moved in two years earlier.
"What I'm saying is that you and Stuart are tra-la-la now, everything is sunshine and lollipops, but it might still fail down the road."
"Shut up," Jenna said again. "Just shut the eff up. You're not going to talk me out of it. I love Stuart."
"Love dies," Margot said, and she snatched up the bill.
Now Margot tried to center Jenna's and Finn's shining faces in the viewfinder. She snapped a picture, all hair and toothy smiles.
"Take another one, just in case," Jenna said.
Margot took another as the boat pitched side… to… side. She grabbed one of the plastic molded chairs that were bolted to the deck. Oh, God. She breathed in through her nose, out through her mouth. It was good to be gazing at the horizon. Her three children were down in the hold of the ship, sitting in the car, playing Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja on their iDevices. The movement of the boat didn't faze them; all three had their father's ironclad constitution. Nothing made them sick; physically, they were warriors. But Drum Jr. was afraid of the dark, and Carson, Margot's ten-year-old, had nearly failed the fourth grade. At the end of the year, his teacher, Ms. Wolff, had told Margot—as if she didn't know already—that Carson wasn't stupid, he was just lazy.
Like his father. Drum Sr. was living in San Diego, surfing and managing a fish taco stand. He hoped to buy the stand and possibly turn it into a franchise; someday he would be a baron of fish taco stands up and down the coast of California. The business plan sounded hazy to Margot, but she encouraged him nonetheless. When she met him, Drum Sr. had had a trust fund, which he'd frittered away on exotic surfing and skiing trips. His parents had bought Drum and Margot a palatial apartment on East Seventy-third Street, but his father offered nothing more in the way of cash, hoping that Drum would be inspired to get a job. But instead Drum had stayed home to care for the kids while Margot worked. Now she sent him a support check for $4,000 every month—the trade-off, along with a lump sum of $360,000, for keeping the apartment.
However, after the phone call she had received last night, she supposed the palimony payments would end. Drum Sr. had called to tell her he was getting married.
"Married?" Margot had said. "To whom?"
"Lily," he said. "The Pilates instructor."
Margot had never heard of Lily the Pilates instructor before, and she had never heard the kids—who flew to California the last weekend of every month, trips that were also financed by Margot—mention anyone named Lily the Pilates instructor. There had been a Caroline, a Nicole, a Sara, pronounced "Sah-RAH." Drum had women moving through a revolving door. From what Margot could tell, girlfriends lasted three to four months, which aligned with what she knew to be his attention span.
"Well, congratulations," Margot said. "That's wonderful." She sounded genuine to her own ears; she was genuine. Drum was a good guy, just not the guy for her. She had been the one to end the marriage. Drum's laid-back approach to the world—which Margot had found so charming when she met him surfing on Nantucket—had come to drive her insane. He was unambitious at best, a slacker at worst. That being said, Margot was astonished to find she felt a twinge of—what? jealousy? anger? resentment?—at his announcement. It seemed unfair that news of Drum's nuptials should arrive less than forty-eight hours before Jenna's wedding.
Everyone is getting married, she thought. Everyone but me.
Jenna and Finn were as young and blond and pretty as a couple of milkmaids on a farm in Sweden. Finn looked more like Jenna than Margot did. Margot had straight black hair, the hair of a silk weaver in Beijing—and she had six inches on her sister, the height of a tribeswoman on the banks of the Amazon. She had blue eyes like Jenna, but Jenna's were the same color as the sapphires in her engagement ring, whereas Margot's were ice blue, the eyes of a sled dog in northern Russia.
Jenna looked exactly like their mother. And so, bizarrely, did Finn, who had grown up three houses away.
"We need to get a picture of the three of us now," Jenna said. She took the camera from Margot and handed it to a man reading the newspaper in one of the plastic molded chairs.
"Do you mind?" Jenna asked sweetly.
The man rose. He was tall, about Margot's age, maybe a little older; he had a day or two of scruff on his face, and he was wearing a white visor and sunglasses. He looked like he was going to Nantucket to sail in a regatta. Margot checked his left hand—no ring. No girlfriend in the vicinity, no children in his custody, just a folded copy of the Wall Street Journal now resting on his seat as he rose to take the picture. "Sure," he said. "I'd love to."
Margot assumed that Jenna had picked the guy on purpose; Jenna was on a mission to find Margot a boyfriend. She had no idea that Margot had allowed herself to fall in love—idiotically—with Edge Desvesnes, their father's law partner. Edge was thrice married, thrice divorced, nineteen years Margot's senior, and wildly inappropriate in half a dozen other ways. If Jenna had known about Margot and Edge, she would only be more eager to introduce Margot to someone else.
Margot found herself assigned to the middle, pegged between the two blond bookends.
"I can't see your face," Regatta Man said, nodding at Margot. "Your hat is casting a shadow."
"Sorry," Margot said. "I have to leave it on."
"Oh, come on," Jenna said. "Just for one second while he takes the picture?"
"No," Margot said. If her skin saw the sun for even one second, she would detonate into a hundred thousand freckles. Jenna and Finn could be cavalier with their skin, they were young, but Margot would stand vigilant guard, despite the fact that she must now seem rigid and difficult to Regatta Man. She said in her most conciliatory voice, "Sorry."
"No worries," Regatta Man said. "Smile!" He took the picture.
There was something familiar about the guy, Margot thought. She knew him. Or maybe it was the Dramamine messing with her brain.
"Should I take one more, Margot?" he said. "Just to be safe?"
Regatta Man removed his sunglasses, and Margot felt as though she'd been slapped. She lost her footing on the deck and tipped a little. She looked into Regatta Man's eyes to be sure. Sure enough, heterochromia iridum—dark blue perimeters with green centers. Or, as Margot had thought when she first saw him, he was a man with kaleidoscope eyes.
Before her stood Griffin Wheatley, Homecoming King. Otherwise just known as Griff. Who was, out of all the people in the world, among the top five Margot didn't want to bump into without warning. Didn't want to bump into at all. Maybe the top three.
"Griff!" she exclaimed. "How are you?"
"I'm good, I'm good," he said. He cleared his throat and nervously shoved the camera back at Margot; the question of the second photo seemed to have drifted off on the breeze. Margot figured Griff was about half as uncomfortable as she was. He would be thinking of her only as the bearer of disappointing news. She was thinking of him as the worst judgment call she had made in years. Oh, God.
He said, "Did you hear I ended up taking the marketing job at Blankstar?"
Margot couldn't decide if she should pretend to be surprised by this, or if she should admit that she had been Googling his name every single day until she was able to reassure herself that he'd landed safely. The job at Blankstar was a good one.
She changed the subject. "So why are you headed to Nantucket?" She tried to recall: Had Griff mentioned Nantucket in any of his interviews? No, she would have remembered if he had. He was from Maryland somewhere, which meant he had probably grown up going to Rehoboth or Dewey.
"I'm meeting buddies for golf," he said.
Ah, yes, golf—of course golf, not sailing. Griff had spent two years on the lower rungs of the PGA Tour. He'd made just enough money, he said, to buy a case of beer each week and have enough left over for the Laundromat. He had lived out of the back of his Jeep Wrangler and, when he played well, at the Motel 6.
These details all came back unbidden. Margot couldn't stand here another second. She turned to Jenna, sending a telepathic message: Get me out of here! But Jenna was checking her phone. She was texting her beloved Stuart, perhaps, or any other of the 150 guests who would gather on Saturday to drink in the sight of Jenna wearing their mother's wedding gown.
"I'm here for my sister's wedding," Margot said. She chewed her bottom lip. "I'm the maid of honor."
He lit up with amused delight, as though Margot had just told him she had been selected to rumba with Antonio Banderas on Dancing with the Stars. "That's great!" he said.
He sounded far more enthusiastic than she felt.
She said, "Yes, Jenna is getting married on Saturday." Margot indicated Jenna with a Vanna White flourish of her hands, but Jenna's attention was glued to her phone. Margot was afraid to engage Jenna anyway, because what if Jenna asked how Margot and Griff knew each other?
Thankfully, Finn stepped forward. "I'm Finn Sullivan-Walker," she said. "I'm just a lowly bridesmaid."
Griff shook hands with Finn and laughed. "Not lowly, I'm sure."
"Not lowly at all," Margot said. This was the third time that Finn had made reference to the fact that she wasn't Jenna's maid of honor. She had been miffed when Jenna first announced her decision to Margot and Finn, over dinner at Dos Caminos. Finn had ordered three margaritas in rapid succession, then gone silent. And then she had gotten her nose out of joint about it again at the bridal shower. Finn was upset that she had been stuck writing down the list of gifts while Margot the maid of honor fashioned the bows from the gifts into a goofy hat made from a paper plate. (Jenna was supposed to wear that hat tonight, to her bachelorette party. Margot had rescued it from the overly interested paws of Ellie, her six-year-old daughter, and had transported it here, more or less intact, in a white cardboard box from E.A.T. bakery.)
Margot had told Jenna that it would be fine if Jenna wanted to ask Finn to be the matron of honor. Margot was eleven years older than Jenna; Finn had always been more like Jenna's sister. Now Jenna and Finn were both in the throes of the nuptial era; everyone they knew was getting married. For the two of them, being the maid of honor was an actual honor—whereas Margot had been married and divorced and, quite frankly, couldn't care less.
But Margot knew the reason why Jenna would never ask Finn to be matron of honor. It was because of the Notebook. It had been assumed by their mother that Margot would serve as Jenna's maid of honor.
Margot said, "Finn just got married last October."
"Oh, really?" Griff said.
Finn gazed out at the water. "Yeah."
"Her husband is a golfer, too," Margot said. "Scratch!"
Finn's husband, Scott Walker, had been on the golf team at Stanford, where Tiger Woods had played. Now Scott was a hedge fund manager making a bajillion dollars a quarter.
Finn made a face like she had just eaten snail and vinegar stew, and Margot wondered if something was awry in her seemingly perfect marriage. Scott, Margot knew, wasn't coming to the wedding because of one of the inevitable conflicts for those mired in the nuptial era: his best friend, his roommate from Stanford, was having his bachelor party this very same weekend. Scott was in Las Vegas.
Probably Finn just missed him, the way that Margot missed Edge. The way that Margot lived in a perpetual state of missing Edge. She had sex with Edge, she had conversations with Edge, some more meaningful than others, she occasionally had dinner with Edge—but never the movies, never theater, never ever any kind of benefit or dance or party where other people they knew would be in attendance. Those kinds of events Margot attended alone or with her brother, Nick, who was always sure to leave with someone else.
"Well!" Margot said. She was dying to put the small talk with Griffin Wheatley, Homecoming King, to bed. She would have excused herself to check on the children below, but she wasn't feeling well enough to even step inside the cabin in the name of such a bluff. "Have fun playing golf! Birdie, birdie, eagle!"
"Thanks," Griff said. He took a step toward the chair where his Wall Street Journal awaited, and Margot thought, Okay, that's over. Good-bye, Griffin Wheatley, Homecoming King! Jenna could have asked Idi Amin to take their picture and Margot might have been less flustered.
"See ya," Margot said.
"Have a great wedding," Griff said. And then to Finn, "Nice meeting you, lowly bridesmaid."
Finn scowled at him, but undeterred, Griff called out to Jenna, "Congratulations!"
Jenna raised her eyes from her iPhone long enough to offer the quick, impersonal wave of an Oscar winner.
Finn said, "I'm going down below."
Margot nodded, and with a glance at Griff and another awkward, unnecessary "See ya!" she took Jenna by the arm and led her to the railing on the side of the boat opposite from Griff.
"Look," Margot said. She pointed past the hovering seagulls and the scattered sailboats. They could both see clearly now: the north and south steeples of the churches, the column of Brant Point Lighthouse.
Nantucket Island, their summer home.
Jenna squeezed the heck out of Margot's hand. Just as Jenna had helped Margot with her seasickness by remembering to bring the Dramamine, so now Margot would forget about the unnerving interaction with Griffin Wheatley, Homecoming King, and focus on helping Jenna with her surfeit of overwhelming emotion.
"I miss her," Jenna said.
Margot's eyes stung. The longest, most excruciating weekend of her life had officially begun.
"I know, honey," she said, hugging her sister close. "I miss her, too."
THE NOTEBOOK, PAGE 4
The reception can be held under a tent in the backyard. Call Sperry Tents and ask for Ande. I worked with him on the benefit for the Nantucket Preservation Trust and he was a dream. I do here want to insert a warning and I hope you won't find it trivial: I would be heartbroken if anything happened to my perennial bed. By "perennial bed," I mean the narrow garden that runs along the eastern edge of the property from the white gate all the way to Alfie's trunk. The blue hardy geraniums, the moonbeam coreopsis, the black-eyed Susans, the plum pudding Heuchera, the coneflowers—all of these I planted in 1972, when I was pregnant with Margot. That bed has bloomed reliably for decades because I have taken good care of it. None of you children seem to have inherited my love of gardening (unless you count Nick, and the pot plants in the attic), but trust me, you will notice if one summer those flowers don't bloom. Please, Jenna, make sure the perennial bed remains unmolested. Do not let the tent guys, or anyone else, trample my blue hardy geraniums.
Somehow, he had ended up with the Notebook.
It was Thursday afternoon. Doug had left the office early and had taken the 3:52 to Norwalk, Connecticut, where he lived with Pauline, in a house across the street from the Silvermine Tavern. But when the conductor announced the stop for Darien, Doug grabbed his briefcase and stood halfway up before remembering.
Remembering that the life he had lived for thirty-five years—married to Beth, father of four, in a center-entrance colonial on the Post Road—was over. Beth was dead, she'd been dead seven years, the kids had all moved out, they had lives of their own, some of which they'd already managed to screw up, and Doug was now married to Pauline Tonelli, who had, once upon a time, been his client.
This wasn't the first time he'd nearly stood up at the Darien stop. But it seemed more meaningful today because today wasn't just any Thursday. Today was the Thursday before his youngest child got married.
- On Sale
- Jun 25, 2013
- Page Count
- 432 pages
- Reagan Arthur Books