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Jack's WidowA Novel
By Eve Pollard
William MorrowCopyright © 2006 Eve Pollard
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHe had hurt her, betrayed her so many times that she had willed him dead. Often.
Now the November tone of the muffled drum, the black veiling grazing her cheeks, and the mutter of the supple soles of the great and the good marching behind her were proof that her wish had come true.
As the watery Washington sun rubbed its back on the Lincoln Memorial she calmed herself by fastening her gaze on the mane of the riderless horse up ahead.
Her whole life had been a preparation for this moment.
Long before she had become the First Lady she had assumed the qualities of responsibility and reliability.
As the eldest of her mother's four children, Jackie had been programmed. Her basic instincts had always been to lead, to protect. She would not flinch, she would not fail in these last few hours before they laid him to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.
Everything had changed so fast that it seemed as if all she had done was blink.
That bit of shade up ahead, beneath the underpass, would be a welcome relief from the Dallas sun.
The air filled with the black noise of bullets and then his flesh and blood spurting, splurging, spilling across her.
A last glance at his dear, dead face in the operating room.
Kissing his coffin while her two children and her whole nation looked to her for help.
Tipped out of the White House and removed from the rituals of state, the men and the manuals of influence.
Spirited into a new and unfamiliar home, unable to sleep, unable to cry.
If only she didn't have to open her eyes.
Nothing was as it had been.
Even the children seemed different, more excitable, altogether less controlled now that there were so many omissions from the calm order of their previous life, the biggest of these being the absence of their father.
John, the baby-no baby, he's three now, she told herself-had never known anything other than being the president's son, never lived anywhere but the White House. His life would have been in a complete turnaround if it hadn't been for Maud Shaw, the reliable British nanny. During those dark, last days she had carefully gathered up every teddy bear, every toy, every blanket that belonged to her tiny charges and watched over them all until the moment she could unpack them.
Unfortunately she hadn't been allowed to do the same for their mother. Whenever the middle-aged En-glishwoman had offered to help she had been rebuffed, very deferentially but very definitely.
Some of Jackie's belongings had followed the sad cavalcade that took them the mile to their new home, but none of the casual clothes that she wore for her daily exercises had yet surfaced. Even her favorite hairbrush was on the missing list.
At first she was too depressed to notice their absence, but as the days turned into weeks she had a growing obsession that these and other familiar objects might be the key to unleashing her emotions. Nothing else seemed to be able to do so.
Whenever she asked where this or that might be, she was fobbed off by the one person that she would have expected to know, her mother.
Janet Norton Lee Bouvier Auchincloss would have liked to tell her grieving daughter the truth about her belongings, but on the night of the assassination she had taken advice from the family physician, who had insisted that for the sake of her daughter's mental health it was imperative that she never lay eyes on the bloodied pink and navy suit again.
Janet also knew that many of the items Jackie was looking for were no longer in the White House.
Even before his coffin had landed at Washington's Andrews Air Force Base, Robert Kennedy, the late president's brother, had arranged for the removal of everything related to him.
Soon Janet realized that, in their zeal, the Kennedys had also gathered up items personal to her daughter. Now they were in cartons in a guarded ware-house especially acquired for their safekeeping.
Janet had been to see them. She wanted to ensure that when the Dallas suit was found it was not sent to the Georgetown house but was dispatched to her own home.
She was assured that her daughter's things would soon emerge, but that it was important that every carton of contents from the presidential home was categorized so that Jack's legacy, everything from his papers to his rocking chair, would be sent to the archivists for the library in Boston that was to be dedicated to his memory.
To Janet the process seemed secretive and lengthy, but ever since they had taken control over her daughter's wedding she knew not to argue with the Kennedy family.
For her daughter Jackie, this new life seemed doubly out of control.
It wasn't just the loss of her husband that made her unhappy, it was the swift change in her position that made her feel that she was doomed to hang on to an existence that resembled a ride on an unstable old steam train rattling along at a feverish pace. In her imagination, a procession of silent, staring strangers insisted on shoveling coal into the furnace that powered the engine. It seemed vital to them that the train must continue to hurl itself along. No allowance was made for her to slow things down.
Part of this rush concerned finding her and her children a new home. The place they lived in now was a gift of diplomacy, lent to them so that they could exit the White House fast. In a few weeks it too would be behind them. Her sister and mother turned up daily with sympathy and real estate information.
Jackie let the two of them push her into an acquisition. Despite the silence from her grieving parents-in-law on Cape Cod, her mother was already working in collusion with them. One telephone call had ensured they would pay for what-ever was picked out.
Excerpted from Jack's Widow by Eve Pollard Copyright © 2006 by Eve Pollard. Excerpted by permission.
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