Home > Sunrise on Half Moon Bay(12)

Sunrise on Half Moon Bay(12)
Author: Robyn Carr

He was quiet for a long moment before he said, “I don’t know.”

Amber’s breath went out in a huff. Olivia stood quietly and walked out of the room.

* * *

April arrived, rainy much of the time and Justine’s girls were crying a lot. If Justine thought her own heart was breaking, all she had to do was look at her daughters to see just how much Scott’s affair was hurting the whole family.

Justine called the high school counselor to alert her that the girls had just been informed of their parents’ pending divorce. Scott did not try to talk her out of it, but he did put a lot of energy into trying to negotiate some kind of living arrangement that did not leave him trying to find a hotel.

“I don’t know why I can’t just stay here,” he said. “I’m the one who’s been in charge of the house and the kids.”

“Two reasons,” she said. “One—you’re not one hundred percent in charge. They get themselves up, drive themselves to school and half the time get their own dinner. I do their laundry, spend most evenings with them, help with homework and studying. And two—you’re the one who strayed. You broke the marriage contract.”

“And you don’t even seem that upset,” he said accusingly. “I haven’t seen you shed a tear! I think maybe you’re secretly glad to have a way out.”

“But I’m not,” she said. “Plus there is no other way out now.”

It was true; she still hadn’t cried. She felt like she was locked in a tight box with an iron band wound around her middle and her chest. She even asked herself a few times if it was possible she was having a heart attack. She considered going to see her doctor, who she thought of as a friend. If you met your doctor for drinks or a light dinner now and then, didn’t it make you friends? She thought about asking her doctor if she was abnormal.

She did throw up frequently. She couldn’t eat. Food didn’t appeal, and when she did force something down, it stuck in her throat. She stocked up on yogurt and ice cream and went home from work early so she could be there for the girls when they got home from school. They talked endlessly, trying to get a fix on what their lives might be like going forward. Every single afternoon and evening was consumed with talking. She made them soup or pizza or sloppy joes or anything they had a yen for; the poor things didn’t feel like eating either. She tried to reassure them they would still have both of their parents whenever they wanted them, but she did think it was a good idea that only one of them lived in the family home.

Justine had long heard about that rule of never saying negative things about the departing spouse and that was damned hard, given he was a jerk and a liar. But as it turned out, she didn’t have to say anything at all. Scott was on another planet, free to be with his mistress. He didn’t show up on time, didn’t keep tabs on the girls, didn’t talk to them about what their lives would be like, didn’t try to explain. Didn’t apologize. Instead of begging for forgiveness he merely said, “I haven’t been happy. Don’t you want me to be happy?”

Apparently, it was all about Scott’s happiness.

It was also true there was no other way out, even if she forgave Scott, though he hadn’t asked her to. How did you continue a partnership when one of the partners was capable of a long, insidious, remorseless betrayal?

But Scott just wouldn’t leave. They didn’t fight, though they did grind out a few terse words here and there. He had been banished to the guest room at night, and it felt like he was settling in too comfortably. He had stopped telling her or the girls where he was going, just dropping short sentences as he walked out the door like, “I’ll be home by ten,” or “I’ll be out for a few hours.”

“I hope you’re thinking about a property settlement,” Justine said. “The more we can work out amicably, the better for the girls. They won’t be involved in our negotiations. If we’re smart, we can get through this without doing them any more harm.”

“If you’re going to keep acting like this is my fault, there will be harm,” Scott said.

“I’ll do my best, but this is your fault. You took a lover. I did not.”

And why not? she asked herself. She’d been lonely, too. Scott was busy with his activities all the time and didn’t seem to need her. They spent a couple of afternoons a month as a family doing some activity, and they had dinner together once or twice a week. She was just starting to realize that it’d been a lonely way to live.

She hadn’t taken a lover because there’d never been a temptation. Nor an opportunity! The fact that Scott complained that she’d been working all the time and that she wasn’t interested in his life only added insult to injury because he’d had plenty of time to take a lover. Maybe if he’d been working, worrying about retirement and college tuition and paying the bills, he might not have had the time!

She spent a couple of hours with a friend who was an attorney who did a lot of divorces. The advice was familiar to her and exactly what she’d told a dozen friends and Scott—if they could agree on the division of property without lawyers, it would be cheaper and less likely to be contentious. Her friend warned her, “Your biggest problem will be alimony since you’ve supported him for so long.”

“But he could have worked!” Justine said. “He loved not working and having all that time off! I asked him a hundred times if there wasn’t something he wanted to do, even as a volunteer, and he said he’d put in enough hours of volunteer work as a dad!”

“It is assumed that every such decision is made in joint partnership, just as net worth is jointly shared.”

She’d never thought about it because she couldn’t imagine this happening to her, to them. There had been the rare time she’d said to Scott, “Have you heard about Char and Dennis getting divorced after thirty years of marriage? How does that happen? Please tell me that can’t happen to us!”

“Us? The most married couple in the county? Impossible!” he’d said.

And she would let it go. After all, they talked or texted all day, every day. They were constantly in touch; constantly joined at the hip.

She told Adele they would be separating soon, filing for divorce. Despite the fact that Scott had a lover, apparently he had nowhere to go and was living down the hall.

Adele began to cry on the phone. “You guys were one of the only reasons I had faith in marriage.”

“You can’t imagine how sorry I am that this is another shattered image,” Justine said.

So, staring terror in the face, she went to see the CEO of her company. She told him that her marriage was over and explained that none of the options she’d been offered in the restructured company were appealing to her and she wanted to offer her resignation.

“If you resign, there won’t be an exit package,” Wayne Holloway explained. “That’s an expensive decision. Do you have another position lined up?”

She shook her head. “I suppose I’ll talk to a headhunter,” she said. “For years I had fantasies about striking out on my own, starting a private practice or joining one, maybe consulting, something that would be less stressful and give me more time to enjoy my kids before they’re gone. But the demands of the bills were bigger than I was.”

“You’re right not to wait too long, Justine. Otherwise, you might end up spending your whole life trying to hold this company together.”

“What was your fantasy, Wayne?” she asked.

He leaned back in his chair and said, “I’d like to play the piano in a jazz band. Seriously.”

He was not known as a musical talent. “That’s amazing. I never would have—”

“Can I give you some advice?” he asked. “As a man divorced twice?”

“I’d welcome it,” she said.

“Be generous, don’t try to punish him even if he deserves it, but know what your priorities are and set fair boundaries that are nonnegotiable. You’ll be better off in the end if you can settle.”

“He doesn’t inspire my sense of generosity,” she said. “He makes me want to fight for everything.”

“I know. I get it. I’ve been the betrayer and the betrayed. Either way, just keep safe what means the most to you.”

“That’s easy—my girls.”

“Be practical, Justine. Can you be a full-time caretaker and provider?”

“Women do it all the time.”

“It isn’t easy,” he said. “And you wouldn’t be happy without work, so balance the scales. Take some time to think about it. Walk on the beach. Talk to friends. Maybe get a little counseling or find a group for support. Or try church, if that’s your bent. Come up with a plan.”

“I have a little vacation...”

“Justine, take time off, forget vacation. We’ll hold your decision about your future job until you’ve at least reached a preliminary settlement with your soon-to-be ex. Then let’s talk again.”

“You know what makes this hardest?” she asked her boss. “One of the things I’ve been most proud of was my marriage. I thought it was strong. Solid. I thought it had stood the test of time.” Her voice caught. “I thought my husband loved me.”

“Did you ever suspect him of being unfaithful before?”

“Not really,” she answered.

Wayne touched her hand. “I have a feeling that when this is behind you, you’ll be glad it went the way it did. Painful, yes. But worth it? Probably.”

* * *

She took Wayne’s advice. Maybe not to the letter, but she considered her priorities and struggled to push the need to kill Scott way down to the bottom of her list. She went over their books, soaking up the details. She walked on the beach. She saw the kayak shack and got a glimpse of the woman. Cat. She didn’t get too close because she assumed Cat would be able to identify her, and right now her anonymity was important. Later, maybe, she’d let herself be seen.

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