Home > Sunrise on Half Moon Bay(7)

Sunrise on Half Moon Bay(7)
Author: Robyn Carr

How was this possible? Justine had practically grown up with Scott. They’d met during their freshman year at Berkeley when they were mere children, just beginning to make their way into a future. They dated, fell in love, broke up a couple of times, but always came back to each other. By the time they were sophomores, they were exclusive. Right after graduation, they got engaged, though neither of them had two nickels to rub together. College costs, loans, very little help from their parents and only low-paying part-time jobs between them did not leave enough money for a wedding. The diamond in Justine’s engagement ring could barely be seen with the naked eye, it was so small.

They lived together while they were in pursuit of decent jobs. Justine began teaching as a substitute, but before a year passed she’d acquired a permanent post teaching high school algebra. It took Scott longer to land a job in sales with a sporting goods manufacturer, but it seemed a good fit for someone as gregarious as Scott. By the time they were twenty-four, they could afford a modest but classy wedding with Adele as their flower girl.

At twenty-five Justine took the LSAT. She did better than just very well; she scored at the highest end of the scale. She’d always been a good test taker. Her biggest cheerleader was Scott. At twenty-six she began law school at Stanford, this not quite middle class janitor’s daughter from Half Moon Bay. And she graduated from Stanford with honors. Scott had been so proud of her. But he also said he’d expected it.

When had he stopped being proud of her?

Through the years, through law school and two difficult pregnancies and a high-stress job in the legal department for a major software manufacturer, she’d always thought she and Scott were happy together. She was with her company through their first public offering, a killer project that yielded a handsome bonus and a big pile of stock options, setting her and Scott up for a tidy investment portfolio. From the time her little girls were four and five until now, even with the industry’s ups and downs, she’d managed an excellent income.

And Scott had claimed to be a very satisfied house husband.

Now, after all of that, he was saying she hadn’t been emotionally available?

Scott did contribute to the family income with a little part-time work on and off for the last seventeen years, but the days of his pursuit of a career ended with Amber’s birth. “Me working will just put us in a higher tax bracket. I’m better off staying home and saving the cost of childcare,” he had said.

It had seemed like a fair balance. Scott managed the money, the investments, the retirement accounts, the bills.

“I have to look at those accounts,” Justine said to herself. The one thing she would never advise a woman to do, she had done. It was out of sheer want of time—she couldn’t do it all. And now she had no idea what their true financial situation was. She had three credit cards, never worried about their balances, never wrote a check, never paid a bill. She earned the money, tried to be an attentive wife and mother, worked her ass off and had looked forward to a future of less stress and more fun.

Justine was fifty-two and had been with Scott since she was eighteen. And now he had another woman on the side. What would she do without him? They had always functioned as a team. She couldn’t do her work and his work too! And although she had no problem being alone, she couldn’t imagine having no partner. She thought she and Scott would grow old together, but now she would be alone forever. She didn’t think that due to low self-esteem or lack of confidence, but when the hell would she find the time to even consider a new companion?

Scott, on the other hand, had nothing but time to screw around. He didn’t have the pressure of bringing home a paycheck, for starters. His parents were healthy and strong and didn’t need him for anything but the occasional visit, and they usually provided a dinner or picnic if Scott and his family planned to stop by.

Justine had had years of supporting ill parents and her younger sister, who shouldered all the care. The younger sister she had promised to reward for the commitment she’d made to care for their parents. Now she didn’t even know what she would end up with for herself and her daughters.

She looked at the flowers. Was her life really this cliché? That he would cheat on her and then bring her flowers? To what end? To forgive him? To keep her from looking further into their problems where she would discover his lover? Did he in fact love that other woman?

Suddenly her arm shot out and swiped the vase and flowers off the counter, sending the container sailing across the kitchen and crashing against the cabinets. The flowers lay in the mess of shattered glass and dirty water on the floor.

She shook her head as she looked at the mess. It would not hurt Scott in any way, and now she would have to clean it up. At that moment she made a decision. From now on she would move with more precision and not do things that would only make her work harder. She would have to check her rage lest she make the situation worse for herself.

But she wasn’t going to take this sitting down.

* * *

Driving back home, all Adele could think about was Justine. It was that much more upsetting because Justine did not seem the least bit worried about Scott’s indiscretion. Even with her concerns about possibly losing her job, she’d been as cool as ever. Adele knew Justine had money and a good résumé, so she’d be all right. But what would she do about Scott? Because no matter what she said, Adele knew that her brother-in-law had crossed the line, been unfaithful, and she couldn’t imagine Justine letting that go with an apology.

But she also couldn’t imagine Justine without Scott. To be fifty-two and suddenly discover everything you believed in and valued most a lie? How devastating would that be?

Adele reminded herself that at least Justine had lived a rich life before reaching this crisis. In contrast, she had spent the last eight years treading water. And getting out of shape.

She was driving through town and toward her east end neighborhood when she passed a church with an adjacent building that held offices and a few classrooms. A sign in one of the windows said Weight Loss Clinic. She thought that maybe she could make that small first step toward reclaiming her life, so she went home and looked up the weight loss programs online and found the one at the church she had passed. They called themselves Emerging Women and met several times a week. It was just a few blocks from her house. She decided she could go to a meeting in the morning to check them out.

Like any woman more than ten pounds overweight, Adele had tried many diets, but none that had worked. Or maybe all of them could’ve worked had she lasted more than four days. This time, however, she read about the diet online and found it actually looked fun. They even had products available for sale both at the meeting and in the grocery store for those busy men and women who didn’t have a lot of time for meal preparation. But everything she would need she could get at the local grocer.

Grocery store, not Jake’s market.

Her first meeting was successful. The friendly woman who weighed her in, pronounced her as having thirty-six pounds to lose for her ideal weight.

“I would have guessed a solid fifty,” Adele said.

“You’ll be so surprised at the difference you see and feel in just ten,” the woman said.

Adele listened to complaints and testimonials, heard advice and experiences, stayed late to get the instructions on how to calculate points for meals. She could even get an app for her phone so she could calculate the correct points for meals taken in a restaurant. Any place but Maggio’s.

She went home from her first meeting, cleaned out her refrigerator and made a list for the grocery. After that, she cleaned out her mother’s chest of drawers and half of her closet, stacking up the old clothes in either give away or throw away piles. Then she made a list of things she had to get done immediately. Topping the list was JOB.

She was filled with nervous energy, taking the first steps in starting over at last, unsure what the trigger had been. If she had learned Justine had a life-threatening disease, like cancer, she’d get it—don’t waste another moment of your life on trivial matters. Live as if it counts! Be your best self! But what she had learned was not that. Her wonderful brother-in-law, whom she loved more than she realized, loved like a brother, was a scoundrel. Not to be trusted. And her sister, who loved him and depended on him, was headed for certain heartbreak.

Adele did not dare waste a moment more.

* * *

Justine was just scrubbing up the last of the shattered flower vase when Scott came home, looking over the breakfast bar at her. She was on her knees, sweeping small bits of wet glass into a dustpan.

“What happened here?” Scott asked.

“Oh, an accident,” she said, her voice as pleasant as possible. “I dropped the vase and flowers. There were no survivors.”

“Aw, that’s too bad. There will be more, no worries,” he said. He gave her a smile.

No doubt, she thought. Probably lots of flowers before all was said and done. She judged his rumpled golf shirt and shorts, but she didn’t notice any sweat stains or grass stains, but then it was only March and there was a nice ocean breeze. Still, she’d like to ask to see a receipt for the round of golf. But instead she asked, “How’d you play?”

“Like crap. Eighty-six.”

The rest of their day involved minimal conversation, consisting of routine issues like what to have for dinner and the needs the girls had for the coming week. Then, as had become typical, Scott went to bed before nine while the girls and Justine were all up until eleven. Justine had work from the office to complete before an early Monday morning start, and the girls were finishing homework they’d put off to the last minute.

* * *

Monday came and that meant work for Justine, and even with all the uncertainties in the company, she was anxious to get there. Once she got to the office she texted one of the detectives they often used for legal assistance. It’s not like hers was a district attorney’s or prosecutor’s office—their investigations had to do with background checks on companies they might be involved with in business deals, contracts, that sort of thing. She texted a question.

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