Authors: Angelita Gill
Her stomach dipped. It took her a moment to find her voice as memories of the things they’d done on their Hunter Marine 460 overtook her thoughts. “Jack, I love that boat, but let’s face it, neither you nor I have the time for it. She just sits there empty.”
“Like the cabin.”
She hesitated. “About the cabin―”
“Don’t even think about putting that up for sale, too.”
“I wasn’t going to say anything about selling it.”
“Do you ever go up there?” he asked, his eyes boring into hers as they turned around in a slow, natural circle to the music.
“Not really. Why? Do you?”
Funny thing was they’d spent most of the happy times of their marriage at the cabin, away from Hollywood, corporate America, and civilization in general. It was more their home than the house in Marina del Rey. Her heart could never part with it, not anytime soon, anyway.
They danced for a few beats of tense, unbreakable silence.
She cleared her throat, thick with emotion. “It’s—it’s good to see you.”
He huffed as he looked past her shoulder. “Somehow I find that hard to believe. You were going to ignore me until I came to you.”
“No, I wasn’t. I was just….unprepared. It’s been a long time.”
“I didn’t know you had to prepare yourself to talk to your own husband.”
“Is that what you’re calling yourself these days?” she shot back.
“Selling off our property like some kind of scorned woman makes you wife of the year?”
“I didn’t think you would have any opinion on the matter, Jack. If you can’t bother to pick up the phone and talk about our failing marriage, then why would you care if I sold a damn boat?”
“You’re right. I don’t care if you don’t care.” He released her, setting his palms on her hips as he gently pushed her away from him. “Sell it.” He stepped back, his expression taut and derisive, before turning to stride away.
Heart clenching, she watched him leave, tears filling her eyes.
April scampered to her side a second later, carrying a shot of tequila she mostly spilled on the floor. “Oh wow. What’s going on? Never mind, don’t answer that now. You look like you need some air.” She took Grace’s arm and led her outside.
Grace breathed in deep. She met her friend’s sympathetic eyes. “April. It really feels
“Over?” April downed the tequila, set the glass on the rail, then braced her hands on Grace’s arms. “Because of what happened in the last ten minutes? I doubt that. No, don’t fall apart right now. Take another breath….good. Now, talk to me.”
“H-he found out I was selling the boat.”
“You knew that was likely to happen. In fact, you were kinda counting on it, right?”
“Yes, but now that I think about it, it was a stupid idea.” She put a hand to her nose, stopping the snivel.
“What did he say?” April dug in her clutch for her silver cigarette holder, took one, and snapped the case closed.
“We were talking in circles as usual,” Grace sniffled. “He’s angry because he bought it for me. I told him I didn’t think he would care. He said he didn’t and then walked away.”
“Oh, he cares, all right. At least he showed some emotion. That’s better than indifference, isn’t it?”
“I don’t know what’s worse,” Grace said, rubbing her hands up and down her bare arms. “His indifference or his disappointment. You should have seen the way he looked at me. It was as if he found me repulsive.”
“Ha!” April struck a match to light her cigarette. “That is about as true as a starving lion finding a juicy steak repulsive. From what I could see?” She blew out the smoke over her shoulder, raising a brow, “It’s not over. He still wants you.”
Grace shoulders slumped. “That’s not comforting. The physical part of our marriage was never a problem.”
“I meant love, sweetie. He wouldn’t get so fired up just because you’re selling the boat. If he wasn’t still in love with you, if he wasn’t hoping things would work out, he wouldn’t give a crap
you did with
Grace sighed, gazing up at the night sky, then shook her head. “So selling the boat is what finally gets a reaction out of him? It had nothing to do with me, April. He just can’t stand not having the last word. I can’t hope things will change. I did that so many times when we were together, my head spun. It’s about time I started facing the facts.”
Grace sighed. “I’m not innocent in this. I was the one who started the fight that led to him moving out. At the time, I thought he’d throw it back in my face but, just like now, he walked away, saying if it was what I wanted, so be it. I was wrong to think he’d come banging down my door, begging to get back together. You saw him. He’s living his life and is just
I was wrong to hope putting the boat up for sale would make me feel…. I don’t know, like I had control of
. In the end, it was just petty.”
“You should track his ass down and see him on your own terms. Make him talk.”
Grace rolled her eyes. “I’m not going to chase him. He has to want to work it out, too. But it’s like he wants
to make the final decision to end it.”
“Oh, Grace,” April sympathized, “I hate to hear you talk like this. You and Jack were different, meant to last. It could set the room on fire.”
She gave a watery half smile at her friend’s often-dramatic word usage. “I used to think so, too. But that’s just it. Maybe it was meant to burn out after three years. Marriage based on stolen weekends, good sex, and hardly anything in common? How unrealistic was that? I was kidding myself to think we had what it took. We met, we married, we failed.”
“It was real to you and to Jack. Just because you got hitched fast doesn’t make the vows any less real than others who wait years to commit. I never saw you happier than when you were together. And the way he looked at you….”
Grace gripped the balcony rail. “I can’t hang on to what used to be, April. I’ll fall apart.”
“You think it’s really over?”
She shrugged, despair washing over what was left of any hope. “I have to get used to the idea, I think. Start moving on. Somehow.”
“All right, look at me.” April snuffed out her cigarette in a nearby ashtray. “Take a few days and unplug. Don’t make any decisions right now. Then come back on Monday and reevaluate.”
Turning her wedding band around her finger, Grace found herself shaking as she realized her marriage could be coming to an end. She didn’t want to believe it. “It’s a good idea, but I think I’m only suspending reality.”
“Then suspend it for a few days and come back ready for it. And I mean get away, Grace. Get out of town.”
Maybe that was what she needed to clear her head. A day out of the city in some fresh air with some peace and quiet. “I will. I know just the place.”
White walls, white furniture, gray carpet, gray countertops….Jack Crandall felt like he was living in neutral-toned hell as he walked in the front door. He could never quite unwind in the corporate apartment no matter how modern the amenities, efficient the staff, high the thread count.
His house with Grace had rich, deep red walls with stark white contrasts, big, overstuffed furniture, bright yellow roses on the fireplace mantle and shiny hardwood floors. It had color; it had life.
It had her.
Now it was like he was living in a black-and-white movie with no plot, no leading lady, and no happy ending in sight.
Without bothering to turn on the lights, he yanked at his tie before throwing himself into a leather chair in the living room. He stared at his cold, vacant fireplace.
Seeing Grace always killed him a little afterward. Touching her, breathing her, hearing her voice never ceased to shake the very core of his desire. As he had sauntered into the party without an invite, talking his way in, he’d spotted her immediately in the crowd, and he hadn’t been ready for his fierce, internal reaction.
Did she have to be even more beautiful than the last time he saw her? How was that fair? A stunning woman by any man’s standards, he’d taken in that long, wavy, chestnut hair, seizing every opportunity to see into those eyes, a mixture of azure and green. While every woman and their daughter showed off fake tans on their waiflike figures, she stood out with her fair skin and a statuesque, curvy body perfect for a million fantasies, and a smile that weakened his knees. Not that he’d received any smile of any kind when he approached her.
He turned over palms. They shook even now. He balled his hands into fists as he leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees.
Time had done nothing. Distance had done even less.
He honestly thought once he’d been away long enough, she’d ask him to come back.
When he’d heard from a friend she was selling the sailboat, his initial reaction was not anger or shock.
It was sadness.
A deep weight of it sat and sagged in his chest even as he pretended it was no big deal. His first thought was to let it go. If that was what she wanted—whatever.
Soon, though, his forced indifference dissolved down to a small panic.
Was her selling the boat a beginning to the end?
While they’d been dating, he could barely manage to take her out where the silverware wasn’t wrapped in paper napkins. After he’d asked her to marry him, he could only afford a simple band with small, modest diamonds encircling it. Once the promotion happened, he’d finally been able to buy something with a wow factor. He would never forget the look on her face when he brought her on board, wrapped his arms around her, and told her it was hers.
She’d told him he shouldn’t have gone to such an expense, but she was thrilled nonetheless.
So if she was selling the sailboat that only meant one of two things: she needed the money, or she wanted to be rid of it.
Jack knew it was not the former; his makeup-artist wife earned more money an hour than some people made in a day. But even if she did earn a paltry salary, her family would help her if she needed it, especially with him out of the picture. Her parents were always quick to remind Grace what she was giving up by marrying a “nobody.”
It might not be true anymore, as he’d become more and more accomplished at Novacom, but her parents still regarded him with contempt, as if he was some villain who had stolen their daughter away to a private island, never to be seen again.
He raked his hands through his hair. The fact she was selling it didn’t matter—it was just a toy. But if she wanted to be rid of it, it was like she wanted to be rid of him, of their memories. After all, the days and nights they’d spent on it were unforgettable. He thought of those intimate moments often. Had to, had to hold on to something, if he was indeed losing her for good.
His recollections of cuddling on the deck, wrapping a big blanket around them, talking about adopting a puppy, laughing about whether to name it Skipper or Captain Sparrow. Memories of making love quietly in the dark on deck…or vigorously below decks.
Damn. If there was ever a time for a strong drink….
But Jack didn’t drink alone. He once told her doing so was never a good idea for a man. And it kept him from doing something stupid, like calling her in the middle of the night, begging to come home.
Pushing from the chair, he stalked to his bedroom and systematically took off his jacket, followed by the shirt and pants, carelessly tossing his designer suit on a chair.
He used to tease Grace about her sloppiness. Lace stockings over the shower rod, makeup samples in every available corner of their house, Hershey’s Kisses wrappers balled up on the nightstand, vintage fashion magazines haphazardly stuffed in the bookshelf.
It drove him nuts sometimes, as he was used to an orderly living space, especially when he was young. When his mother wasn’t fighting with his father, she was the taskmaster of household duties, complaining their middle-class home couldn’t be clean enough.
Grace had told him she was petrified all her life to get a spot on the carpet in her luxurious childhood home, lest her parents notice a single flaw on her behalf, so she’d breathed free when she got her own space.
It was one of the reasons he fell in love with her. She lived her life just as she pleased, under no one’s expectations but her own. Even her snobby parents couldn’t break her spirit, reform her to their own idea of who she should be.
He lay back on the mountain of pillows, sighing, and linked his hands behind his head.
It was her idea to separate and he’d walked out, leased an apartment, and given her space. Jack’s gut burned every time he thought of that night. Every time he recalled how suddenly lost and alone and detached he felt once she’d told him she wasn’t happy. The things she accused him of—choosing work over her, acting like an unemotional cyborg, ignoring her feelings—had hurt him more than he’d ever admit out loud. His pride wouldn’t let him call her these six months; he should never have to convince someone to be with him. Even his wife.
He had thought he was doing his best to take care of her, working day and night to give her the things she deserved, yet she was so miserable she couldn’t even stand living with him anymore.
Though, admittedly, he hadn’t been all that pleased with their life, either. How could he be when he spent more than twelve hours a day away from his wife? Getting up early, coming home late, flying here and there to manage branches and present to investors, giving his heart and soul to his dream, only to come back to an empty house time after time? Their marriage had become convenient. They made time for each other once or twice a month for a weekend, leaving their separate lives behind. Talk of how different their worlds were during the week—about unpleasant things—was practically taboo. He recognized it wasn’t perfect, but what marriage was?
He’d been going about it all wrong, thinking time was all she needed. That she’d apologize and beg him to come home. Now, it seemed, she wanted nothing to do with him, or anything that reminded her of him.