Home > Sunrise on Half Moon Bay(11)

Sunrise on Half Moon Bay(11)
Author: Robyn Carr

And so Adele, somewhat shaken by the idea of her older sister getting a divorce, just walked every morning, ate a lot of celery and countless chicken breasts, dropped four more pounds, then two pounds, then three pounds. She stripped the varnish off the baseboards and watched a number of videos on reupholstering, wallpapering, refinishing floors, and even remodeling a kitchen. She also called several of the local businesses, including resorts, and asked what positions they were hiring for. After she explained her circumstances, that she was halfway to her master’s degree but had stopped to take care of her ailing parents for eight years, it was usually explained that she would start at an entry-level position for minimum wage until she grew in experience and could be considered for a promotion. She kept phoning and studying the online job sources, hopeful.

“But I was a teaching assistant in the English department at Berkeley!” she would protest.

“Eight years ago,” was the reply.

Then she did something she’d done before, many times. She looked up Professor Hadley Hutchinson on the website of UC Berkeley. He was still there. It was an old picture. He would be over forty now. And still drop-dead handsome.

She sighed deeply and longed for cake.

* * *

Ultimately Scott admitted that he had strayed. That was his description of what had happened. He’d strayed.

“So, do you love her?” Justine asked.

“I don’t know,” he answered, sounding exasperated. “I enjoy talking to her. We have a lot in common. We’re both obsessed with fitness, and you don’t show much interest in that...”

“I work sixty hours a week to pay for your fitness program!”

“Hey, I cover that cost!”

“Yeah, while you didn’t have to make a mortgage payment or save for college or pay for utilities or—Never mind that for now. Go on.”

“We talked a lot. And I wasn’t looking for a girlfriend, but one thing led to another...”

“You could have said no,” Justine suggested.

“If you must know, I did. But there was something missing with us, with you and me. There was an empty place inside me and—”

“Stop that!” she yelled. “Stop feeding me those stale old chick flick lines. If there was something missing with us, you should have stopped going to that kayak shack and addressed the problem with me.”

“I did. We’ve been in marriage counseling,” he said.

“Much too late! You’d already been involved with her for a long time! Years.”

“Not years! We were mostly just friends. She was someone to talk to. It’s been fairly recent that we—”

“It’s been years! And obviously we can’t stay married. Or let me put this more succinctly—I can’t be married to someone who lies to me and has another woman on the side. For YEARS.”

“What are you suggesting?”

“I’m not suggesting, Scott. I’m not going to stay married to you. You’re unfaithful and you’re a liar, but most of all you’ve been screwing her while we went to marriage counseling! I can’t stay with you because you have no interest in saving our marriage! You need to leave, and we have to tell the kids.”

“Where am I supposed to go? I have no place to go!”

“Why don’t you see if they’ll set up a cot in the kayak shack.”

“Funny,” he said.

But Justine wasn’t joking.

“We really don’t have to change anything, you know,” Scott said.

“Oh, are you suggesting we invite your mistress into the family?” Justine asked frostily. “Because yes, we do have to change a few things.”

“Of course I’m not suggesting any such thing. And she’s not my mistress.”

“Oh. Sorry. Would you prefer girlfriend? Side chick? Whore?”

“You know, take your potshots at me if you want to, but she’s a very good person. A good Christian woman.”

“In her third marriage,” Justine said. “Three marriages, two bankruptcies, no arrests that I know of, thank God.”

“How do you know that?” he demanded.

“Scott. It’s public record. I’m an attorney. And a smart woman. I looked it up. She sounds like a predator.”

“Stop that!”

“Fine. We’re getting a divorce because you have a girlfriend. We’ll separate and settle our property. We can get it done cheaply or we can each get our own lawyer and spend a hundred grand and a year of our lives we’ll never get back.”

“Justine, where do you think I’m going to go?”

“What did you think was going to happen when I found out? You’ll think of something.”

“Why can’t we live here together as roommates?”

She was stunned. Something about the look on his face said he was serious. “No! I’m having a hard enough time getting used to the idea you’ve been unfaithful. I’m not continuing to live with you as your wife. We’ll tell the girls this weekend.”

Justine took a couple of additional days off ahead of the weekend. She worked on her laptop, and Scott probably assumed she was doing legal work from home. In fact, she was doing something she should have done a long time ago. She was diving into their financial records—tax returns, online bill paying, credit cards. She needed to find out if Scott had any additional credit cards, bank accounts, cell phones, email addresses and so on. She put in a call to Logan.

“I’ve been wondering about you,” he said. “How are you holding up?”

“I’m okay,” she said. “I’m going through our financial records, but it would be helpful to have a little more information if only to see how deep and far back the lying goes. Scott is a fun, attractive man but still, given this woman’s background, I wonder if he’s being had.”

“That could require surveillance,” Logan said. “Would I be out of line to give a little advice?”

“Knock yourself out,” she said. “I’m not feeling all that smart right now anyway.”

“I’ll be glad to do whatever I can to help you gather information, but the laws are clear. If you can negotiate half of your holdings and property and a reasonable support payment, you’ve done good. You can probably file the papers yourself. If you get the lawyers involved, they’re going to get most of the money.”

“I know,” she said. “Let me know what you find. And if it’s beyond your reach, please just tell me.”


* * *

The conversation with their girls was not easy, but it was very similar to their discussion with each other. Scott started it off.

“As you know, Mom and I have been in marriage counseling because we weren’t completely happy and we’ve grown apart...”

“I was completely happy, and I know nothing about this growing apart,” Justine said.

Scott scowled at her. “There was something missing in the marriage for me. I wasn’t happy and—”

Justine put her elbows on her knees and leaned toward them. “Look, this may be a bit hard for you to understand. While your dad was feeling whatever that growing apart business was, I was working. Often ten-hour days. I might be guilty of not paying close enough attention to him, missing something, but nevertheless, he found himself involved with another woman...”

“Dad?” Amber asked, her spine stiffening in shock.

Olivia was eerily quiet.

“It’s true,” he said. “I strayed.”

That word again.

“I never have before and I can’t believe I did, but there it is. I’m the guilty party. That’s what your mother wants me to say, that I’m the guilty one.”

“But are you sorry?” Amber asked.

“Of course!”

“And so she’s gone now, right? The woman?”

“Not exactly,” Justine said. “Your father is still involved with her. I believe he loves her.”

“Do you, Dad? Love her?”

“We’re good friends, that’s how I can best explain it. If you knew her, you’d understand—”

“Oh, you did not...” Justine said. “She is the reason our marriage is falling apart and our family is torn, and you’re going to argue that she’s just too nice to resist?”

“But you can stop being friends with her, right? Because you can’t still want to be friends now, right?” Amber’s voice was pleading.

“Scott, please be honest with Amber. You and that woman are much more than friends. And you’ve made no suggestion that you’ll stop seeing her.”

There was a heavy silence in the room. Finally it was Olivia’s very quiet voice that broke through. “Daddy, don’t you love Mom anymore?”

“I will always love your mother, but I don’t think I love her in the way I did when we were younger. We’ve grown apart. We don’t spend time together. We don’t have much in common. Your mother’s work takes up a lot of time and is her priority. I don’t blame her, I blame myself. But things have changed and sometimes that happens. Your mother and I are talking about a separation. Not immediately, but soon. We need some time apart.”

“Are you getting divorced?” Amber asked.

“Honey, we love you very much, but—” Scott started to respond.

“Yes,” Justine said. “This is not your fault, either of you. But yes, we’re going to divorce. Because our marriage contract has been broken and can’t be mended. If your father wanted to save our marriage, we might have a fighting chance. But he doesn’t.”

“But you’re in counseling!” Amber cried.

“And the whole while, he’s been seeing another woman. I’m afraid I can’t fight that.”

“Dad!” Amber said. “Don’t you want to be married to Mom?”

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