Home > Sunrise on Half Moon Bay(14)

Sunrise on Half Moon Bay(14)
Author: Robyn Carr

Chapter Five

Adele could feel the change in her sister, but she wasn’t sure exactly what it meant. Justine, who had never called often, seemed to have put herself on a schedule, calling Adele at least two mornings a week. She reported only the most rudimentary information. “Scott and I have reached a settlement we can live with. The girls are adjusting with difficulty, but I have promised them that neither of us will abandon them, though we won’t be exactly the kind of family we were. I’m writing up and filing the divorce myself with the help of a friend who is a divorce attorney.”

There was a distant and controlled sound to Justine’s voice that Adele had recognized from other times of trauma and uncertainty. When their mother was failing, when Olivia was having medical tests at age twelve for a possible heart condition, and now, as she was navigating a divorce. There was a deep, throaty sound to her voice, as if she was measuring each word.

“Do you have to get divorced?” Adele asked.

“I’m afraid so,” Justine said. “How can I ever trust him again? He betrayed me. Now I am filled with doubt, unsure if this is the first time. I have to protect what I have left.”

“But is your heart broken?” Adele asked.

After a moment she said, “In a million pieces. But I’m so angry at what Scott has done that I’m not sure it’s for the love of him that I’m in pain. I think, God help me, it’s the betrayal that hurts so much.”

Adele had not seen Justine in weeks, not since that morning she’d driven to San Jose to tell her what she’d caught Scott doing in the pizza parlor. She felt almost as though she was going through a divorce herself, though it was not because she was terribly close to Scott and Justine. It had more to do with the fact that if she had ever believed in anyone’s marriage, it had been theirs.

She went to her weight loss meetings, even adding an extra one every week. She was losing weight steadily, not rapidly. A couple of pounds a week. She amped up her walking, delighted in the fact that her thighs hurt. That held promise in her mind. Someone at one of her meetings said yoga was great for shaping and also would relieve stress, so Adele found a class where she was stretched and twisted like a pretzel to the point of farting. But she forced herself to go back anyway, still waiting for that feeling of spiritual renewal she’d heard so much about. Namaste.

In five weeks she had lost fifteen pounds and she noticed a difference; her jeans were loose. It was almost a religious experience. She couldn’t remember the last time her clothes were loose. Summer was approaching, and she had fantasies of wearing a bathing suit for the first time in eight years.

Her other fantasy was getting a job. Any job. She had so much anxiety about not being qualified for anything, she had become discouraged after the first few applications. In one of her weight loss support groups it was suggested that she check into one of those reentry programs.

“My neighbor was widowed after eighteen years of being a stay-at-home mom. It used to be called the displaced homemakers program for women who had been out of the workforce for a while and suddenly had no job or income or partner. But now I think it’s called reentry and isn’t just for women.”

“I don’t think I really qualify, unless they include displaced caretakers who were working on a master’s degree.”

“But do you have a job?” the woman countered. “Look ’em up and see if they can help.”

Jake, who stopped by at least a couple of times a week, lately bringing things like salad or stir-fry, liked the idea. He pushed it as something to do, something to check off her list. When he was leaving, he remarked on how fantastic she was looking. It made her feel really proud that she’d finally started moving forward.

She looked up reentry programs and found several, all very much alike. They offered counseling, workshops on everything from résumé writing and interview coaching to escaping domestic violence. The websites always encouraged a visit to see which of their many programs would work best. But she called, only to have an energetic young woman tell her the same thing.

She was seeing Jake more often than before. She supposed it was for a combination of reasons. One, after her mother passed, he gave her some time to grieve before dropping in on her frequently. Two, he’d been with her when they sighted Scott and Cat, making out like rock stars right in the restaurant, so they kind of shared the drama of that situation. Three, he was interested in her plans to remodel her old house, and he was a wealth of knowledge about that since he’d done it before. And four, she was not oblivious to the fact that Jake might harbor romantic feelings for her.

Adele dug around in her closet for something professional looking that actually fit her new body. Fortunately, black skirts and nice sweaters never went out of style. She went to the reentry program offices very early, feeling shy and trembly. There was something shameful about having accomplished so little in eight years even though what she had done had been unselfish and giving and had required fierce dedication. She knew she wasn’t supposed to suffer shame. She also knew many caregivers who had put their lives on hold to care for a family member felt the same way. As though they should have been able to do everything.

No one was there, but the door was unlocked. She entered an office that was lined with chairs, a typical waiting room. A computer monitor sat on the only desk. There were a couple of doors, one of which opened abruptly. A woman who did not look entirely happy stood there. Her hair was salt and pepper, the coarse black threaded with steely gray, but her skin was young and creamy and Addie couldn’t guess her age.

“Are you here for the part-time receptionist work?” she asked.

“Well, sure,” Adele said. It can’t just be that easy, she thought.

“Are you going to be able to handle that computer?” the woman asked.

Nonplussed, Addie went to the desk and turned on the computer. Up came the screen. It asked for the password.

“Everything you need should be in that notebook right there. I put it on the desk this morning, but at close of business make sure it gets put back in the bottom drawer. I changed the password and wrote it on the first page. In the bottom drawer are the intake forms and clipboards. It’s not a real busy day, just a couple of small workshops. We’ll have a few counselors coming in—their names should be on page five of the notebook. Go ahead and have a seat. There’s coffee in the break room. Feel free to help yourself. I’m sorry. Forgive my manners. You are?”

“Adele Descaro. And you’re...?”

“No one told you? Fran Costello.” She finally smiled. “Also an Italian name. Maybe we’re cousins. Just so you know, a lot of people wander in. Some will call ahead for appointments, and there’s an appointment calendar on the computer. Acquaint yourself with the computer files and if you have any trouble, let me know and I can help. Hopefully it’s all very self-explanatory.” Then she smiled unexpectedly. “I’m really relieved you’re here.”

“You are?” Adele asked.

“Good grief, yes! I needed the help.” She looked at her watch. “Take some time to get comfortable with the computer. People will start coming in soon. I have a few appointments and a couple of meetings. Felicity will be in later—she can conduct some interviews. She’s a social worker.”

Adele remembered the name. That was the woman she’d spoken to, the one who told her to come in and they’d decide together what she needed. “Is anyone going to interview me?” she asked.

“Nah, just do your best and ask for help if you need it. Check the appointments first—you’ll want to direct people to the right place.”


Adele opened the notebook, found the password on the first page and got the computer up and running. “I have a question,” she said as Fran was trying to escape into what Addie assumed was her office.

“That was quick,” she said, pausing in the doorway.

“What are the people who will be showing up today displaced from?”

“Any number of things—women who haven’t been in the workforce in years and are suddenly widowed or divorced and just ready to get back to work and find their skills and experience rusty, maybe illness, a family member’s illness, military men and women whose skills don’t match the current job market or who have been displaced since active duty, homeless people trying to get on their feet, maybe drug addicts in recovery, migrants or refugees, anything that took them out of the job market for a while and they need help reconnecting. If you read any of the intake forms, please remember that information is confidential.”

“Of course,” she said.

“Don’t give advice. Leave that to the counselors. Just be friendly, welcoming, ask them if they’ve been here before, if not give them an intake form.”

“And should I answer the phone?”

“Of course! Answer Banyon Community College Reentry and Employment Counseling. I’ll answer my own phone or if I can’t, it’ll go to voice mail. If a call comes for me on the general number, my extension is 515. Good?”

“Good,” Adele said a little weakly.

Shortly, a few women began to trickle in and timidly approach her desk. Most of them looked the way she felt—scared and nervous and shy.

“Just fill out this intake form and then one of the counselors can help direct you to the best services,” Adele would say.

They would invariably tell her what had happened to them.

“My husband left and I thought he’d come back but here I am. I’ll have to work.”

“My husband lost his job and can’t find another, so I’m going to have to go back to work.”

“I was a corporate administrative assistant until my first child came along, and I’ve been a stay-at-home mom, but—”

Then a woman came in who said, “My husband died and there’s no money and I’m seventy. Do you think I can get a job at my age?”

Addie was frozen for a moment. Stricken. She’d been worried about her fifty-two-year-old sister, but seventy? People should be retired at seventy. But what if you couldn’t?

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