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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: Chapter 62


WITH CELIA’S PASSING AND HARRY gone and myself finally in a marriage that, while chaste, was stable, my life officially became entirely void of scandal.

Me. Evelyn Hugo. A boring old lady.

Robert and I lived a friendly marriage for the next eleven years. We moved back to Manhattan in the mid-2000s to be closer to Connor. We refinished this apartment. We donated some of Celia’s money to LGBTQ+ organizations and lung disease research.

Every Christmas, we threw a benefit for homeless youth organizations in New York City. After years on a quiet beach, it was nice to be members of society again in some ways.

But all I really cared about was Connor.

She had worked her way up the ladder at Merrill Lynch, and then, shortly after Robert and I moved back to New York, she admitted to him that she hated the culture of finance. She told him she had to leave. He was disappointed that she hadn’t been happy with what had made him happy; that was obvious. But he was never disappointed in her.

And he was the first person to congratulate her when she took a job teaching at Wharton. She never knew that he had made a few calls on her behalf. He never wanted her to know. He merely wanted to help her, in any and all ways that he could. And he did that, lovingly, until he died at age eighty-one.

Connor gave the eulogy. Her boyfriend, Greg, was one of the pallbearers. Afterward, she and Greg came to stay with me for a while.

“Mom, after seven husbands, I’m not sure you’ve had any practice living on your own,” she said as she sat at my dining room table, the same table she used to sit at in a high chair with Harry, Celia, John, and me.

“I lived a very full life before you were born,” I told her. “I lived alone once, and I can do it again. You and Greg should go live your lives. Really.”

But the moment I shut the door behind them, I realized just how huge this apartment was, just how quiet.

That’s when I hired Grace.

I had inherited multiple millions from Harry, Celia, and now Robert. And I had only Connor to spoil. So I also spoiled Grace and her family. It gave me happiness to give them happiness, to give them just a little bit of the luxury I’d had for most of my life.

Living alone isn’t so bad once you get used to it. And living in a big apartment like this, well, I’ve kept it because I wanted to give it to Connor, but I have enjoyed some aspects of it. Of course, I always liked it more when Connor would spend the night, especially after she and Greg broke up.

You can make quite a life for yourself hosting charity dinners and collecting art. You can find a way to be happy with whatever the truth is.

Until your daughter dies.

Connor was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer two and a half years ago, when she was thirty-nine. She was given months to live. I knew what it was like to realize that the one you love would leave this earth well before you. But nothing could prepare me for the pain of watching my child suffer.

I held her when she puked from the chemo. I wrapped her in blankets when she was so cold she was crying. I kissed her forehead like she was my baby again, because she was forever my baby.

I told her every single day that her life had been the world’s greatest gift to me, that I believed I was put on earth not to make movies or wear emerald-green gowns and wave at crowds but to be her mother.

I sat next to her hospital bed. “Nothing I have ever done,” I said, “has made me as proud as the day I gave birth to you.”

“I know,” she said. “I’ve always known that.”

I had made a point of not bullshitting her ever since her father died. We had the sort of relationship where we believed each other, believed in each other. She knew she was loved. She knew that she had changed my life, that she had changed the world.

She made it eighteen months before she passed away.

And when they put her in the ground next to her father, I broke like I have never broken before.

The devastating luxury of panic overtook me.

And it has never left.


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