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Danielle Steel

Matters Of The Heart

© 2009

This book is a very special book, and it is dedicated to my very, very, very wonderful children: Beatrix, Trevor, Todd, Nick, Sam, Victoria, Vanessa, Maxx, and Zara, who have seen me through just about every minute of my adult life, and all of my writing career, and are the greatest joy of my existence.

This book is special because, counting my published novels, my unpublished novels from my early days, my works of nonfiction (also published and unpublished), my book of poetry, the children’s books I wrote for my children-the whole shebang, this is my one-hundredth book. It is an awesome moment in my writing life, and is in great part thanks to the endless, never ceasing, ever faithful and patient, endlessly loving support of my children. I could never have accomplished this without their love and support. So this book is dedicated with all my heart and soul, love and thanks to them.

In addition, I can’t reach this landmark event without thanking very special people in my life, who have contributed to this, my amazing agent and friend Mort Janklow, my beloved editor of many years and friend Carole Baron, my also beloved and incredible researcher Nancy Eisenbarth, who provides all the material that makes the books work and has been my friend since we were children. Also my publishers, my editors, and you, my loyal readers, without whom this couldn’t have happened.

To all of you, my heart, my deepest thanks, and my love for this very special moment in my life. And always and above all to my children, for whom I write the books, for whom I live and breathe, and who make every moment of my life with them a precious gift.

With all my love,

d.s.

Some of the greatest crimes against humanity have been committed in the name of love.

A sociopath is a person who will destroy you, without a heart, without a conscience, without even a second glance. At first they are too perfect and too good to be true. Then, they remove your heart, and whatever else they want, with a scalpel. The operation they perform is brilliant, often but not always flawless. And when they’ve gotten whatever they came for in the first place, they leave you traumatized, stunned, and bleeding by the roadside, and silently move on, to do it again to someone else.

d.s.

Chapter 1

Hope Dunne made her way through the silently falling snow on Prince Street in SoHo in New York. It was seven o’clock, the shops had just closed, and the usual bustle of commerce was shutting down for the night. She had lived there for two years and she liked it. It was the trendy part of New York, and she found it friendlier than living uptown. SoHo was full of young people, there was always something to see, someone to talk to, a bustle of activity whenever she left her loft, which was her refuge. There were bright lights in all the shops.

It was her least favorite time of year, December, the week before Christmas. As she had for the past several years, she ignored it, and waited for it to pass. For the past two Christmases, she had worked at a homeless shelter. The year before that she had been in India, where the holiday didn’t matter. It had been a hard jolt coming back to the States after her time there. Everything seemed so commercial and superficial in comparison.

The time she had spent in India had changed her life, and probably saved it. She had left on the spur of the moment, and been gone for over six months. Reentry into American life had been incredibly hard. Everything she owned was in storage and she had moved from Boston to New York. It didn’t really matter to her where she lived, she was a photographer and took her work with her. The photographs she had taken in India and Tibet were currently being shown in a prestigious gallery uptown. Some of her other work was in museums. People compared her work to that of Diane Arbus. She had a fascination with the destitute and devastated. The agony in the eyes of some of her subjects ripped out your soul, just as it had affected hers when she photographed them. Hope’s work was greatly respected, but to look at her, nothing about her demeanor suggested that she was famous or important.

Hope had spent her entire life as an observer, a chronicler of the human condition. And in order to do that, she had always said, one had to be able to disappear, to become invisible, so as not to interfere with the mood of the subject. The studies she had done in India and Tibet for the magical time she was there had confirmed it. In many ways, Hope Dunne was an almost invisible person, in other ways, she was enormous, with an inner light and strength that seemed to fill a room.

She smiled at a woman passing by, as she walked through the snow on Prince Street. She was tempted to go for a long walk in the snow, and promised herself she might do that later that evening. She lived on no particular schedule, answered to no one. One of the blessings of her solitary life was that she was entirely at liberty to do whatever she wished. She was the consummate independent woman, she was enormously disciplined about her work, and in dealing with her subjects. Sometimes she got on the subway, and rode uptown to Harlem, wandering through the streets in T-shirt and jeans, taking photographs of children. She had spent time in South America, photographing children and old people there too. She went wherever the spirit moved her, and did very little commercial work now. She still did the occasional fashion shoot for Vogue if the layout was unusual. But most of the magazine work she did was portraits of important people who she thought were worthwhile and interesting. She had published a remarkable book of portraits, another of children, and was going to publish a book of her photographs from India soon.

She was fortunate to be able to do whatever she wanted. She could pick and choose among the many requests she got. Although she loved doing them, she only did formal portraits now once or twice a year. More often now, she concentrated on the photographs she took in the course of her travels or on the street.

Hope was a tiny woman with porcelain white skin, and jet-black hair. Her mother had teased her when she was a child and said she looked like Snow White, which in a way, she did. And there was a fairy-tale feeling about her too. She was almost elfin in size, and unusually lithe; she was able to fit herself into the smallest, most invisible spaces and go unnoticed. The only startling thing about her was her deep violet eyes. They were a deep, deep blue, with the slightly purple color of very fine sapphires from Burma or Ceylon, and were filled with compassion that had seen the sorrows of the world. Those who had seen eyes like hers before understood instantly that she was a woman who had suffered, but wore it well, with dignity and grace. Rather than dragging her down into depression, her pain had lifted her into a peaceful place. She was not a Buddhist, but shared philosophies with them, in that she didn’t fight what happened to her, but instead drifted with it, allowing life to carry her from one experience to the next. It was that depth and wisdom that shone through her work. An acceptance of life as it really was, rather than trying to force it to be what one wanted, and it never could be. She was willing to let go of what she loved, which was the hardest task of all. And the more she lived and learned and studied, the humbler she was. A monk she had met in Tibet called her a holy woman, which in fact she was, although she had no particular affinity for any formal church. If she believed in anything, she believed in life, and embraced it with a gentle touch. She was a strong reed bending in the wind, beautiful and resilient.

It was snowing harder by the time she got to the front door of her building. She was carrying a camera case over her shoulder, and her keys and wallet were in it. She carried nothing else, and she wore no makeup, except very occasionally bright red lipstick when she went out, which made her look more than ever like Snow White. And she wore her almost blue-black hair pulled straight back, either in a ponytail, a braid, or a chignon, and when she loosened it, it hung to her waist. Her graceful movements made her look like a young girl, and she had almost no lines on her face. Her biography as a photographer said that she was forty-four years old, but it was difficult to

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