Read Mid Life Love: At Last Online
Authors: Whitney Gracia Williams
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Contemporary Fiction
I drove down the interstate and flipped through all my memories—birthdays, get-togethers, anniversaries—and in every last one the two of them were right by my side as always. I thought back to more recent memories as I crossed over the state line, and then a couple ones started to stick out—a couple ones that I would have never second guessed before...
Three months ago...
eath by falling off a building or drowning in the ocean?” I threw a peanut M&M at Ryan.
“Falling off a building.”
“It would be an instant death once my body hit the concrete. Drowning takes way too long. Plus, there’s no guarantee my body would be found if I died in the ocean. I want my body to be in the casket after I die.”
I nodded at his logic and looked up at the bright, blue sky.
We were sitting in the grass at Frick Park, enjoying a small breakfast picnic together. We’d been coming to this park once a month ever since we were in high school, ever since he admitted that he was in love with me and wanted to marry me someday.
“Okay, wait.” I looked over at him again. “I have another one: Which is worse? An emotional affair or a physical affair?”
He paused before answering, then he looked into my eyes. “Emotional. It’s easier to cut off sex. Feelings never go away—no matter how hard you try to bury them...”
“That makes perfect sense...So, let’s say your wife is having an affair. Would you rather it be with a stranger or with your best friend?”
“Would you rather lose your wife to a stranger or to your best friend?” I threw another M&M at him.
, Claire. What type of question is that?”
“You’ve asked me much worse before.” I shuddered, thinking about the time he’d asked me whether I’d rather have sex in front of twenty people or get gangbanged by three guys in private.
He looked out over the lake and sighed. “Neither.”
“You can’t choose
.” I shook my head. “That’s one of your rules, remember? Pick.”
“I guess I would pick the stranger...Yeah...The stranger.”
“That’s it? That’s all you have to say? You usually have an entire reasoning behind your pick. Give me the logic.”
“Well I guess it would...It would hurt either way, I just...” His voice trailed off. “With the stranger I wouldn’t have to worry about feeling
betrayed...Whereas, if I lost you to my best friend I—I’m not sure how I would ever deal with that or if I would ever get over it. It’d be the worst thing my best friend could possibly do...”
“I one-hundred-percent-agree.” I pulled him down onto our blanket and kissed his lips. “You know what I was thinking the other day?”
“We never got the chance to have a
“What do you mean?”
I sighed and remembered how poor we were when we decided to tie the knot, how I’d had to buy my wedding dress from the neighborhood thrift store and beg my mom to make all the alterations.
We didn’t even have enough money to rent a venue, and since our church was undergoing renovations, we decided to have it in his mother’s backyard. Don’t get me wrong, that was the happiest day of my life and our moms decorated the hell out of that backyard—so much so that it almost looked like it belonged in a magazine, but it wasn’t everything I wanted it to be.
“Wouldn’t it be great if for our fifteenth anniversary we renewed our vows at an
ceremony?” I asked. “Well, wait. It would probably have to be five or six months after our anniversary.”
“Why is that?”
“Because of Amanda. She’ll have delivered her baby and I would want her to be my maid of honor again—with a real dress and flowers this time.”
He mumbled something that I couldn’t hear.
“And we could have it at a real venue, not in your mom’s backyard.” I smiled. “Ashley and Caroline can be junior bridesmaids. Or do you think they’d rather be hostesses?”
“They’ll probably just be happy to be in the wedding.” He moved closer to me. “I thought you liked our wedding. I did...”
“Oh, I did too, but it wasn’t the wedding of
. You know?”
“It was for me.” He caressed my hand. “I just wanted to be married to you. It didn’t matter
it happened. It could’ve been in the courthouse for all I cared.”
My heart swelled as he pressed his lips against mine.
It was small moments like this that made me appreciate Ryan more and more. Even though he was making ten times the amount of money he was making when we first got married, he always touted me as his best asset and he always found the sweetest words to say.
“I hope it’s always like this, Ryan.” I smiled. “Always.”
“Calm. Easy. Perfect. Just perfect...” I kissed him again.
Two months ago...
ell me why you’re planning a trip to the Panama Canal again?” Amanda tied an apron around her baby bump. “You’re scared of planes.”
“We’re going to take a cruise there, smartass. And I figured that we need to start planning now. You know Ryan doesn’t have much free time outside of his off days. He seems to be
She cleared her throat. “Right. Would you like some cookies? I made your favorite yesterday.” She walked over to her refrigerator and pulled out a tray of mint chocolate chip cookies. “I think I finally perfected my mom’s recipe for these. Do you know she still won’t give it to me? That’s how stubborn she is.”
“Ryan would never cheat on me, right?”
?” She raised her eyebrow. “What did you just say?”
“That....That Ryan would never cheat on me,
“You think he’s cheating on you?” She frowned.
“No...I just...I don’t know. I think I’ve been watching too much Dr. Phil or something. Every couple on there that’s been together for ten or more years seems to fall apart over infidelity. And a lot of them talk about all these signs that signal that an affair could be happening but...Ryan is just really busy now. It can’t be what they say.”
“No, it’s definitely not. Don’t read into it too much.”
I sighed. “I’m sorry I ever brought this up. I don’t even know where that thought came from.”
“Don’t apologize...I’m sure every woman has doubts about her marriage from time to time. I know I do...”
“You do? I thought everything was great now, especially since you finally have a baby on the way.” I leaned over the counter and took a few cookies off the tray.
“Looks can be deceiving.” She looked like she was about to cry, like whatever was on her mind was something that was tormenting her. “Barry is...I don’t know...He’s different lately. He hardly ever speaks to me. It just started happening a few weeks ago...We were fine and then one day he came home, walked into the kitchen, and he just stared at me for a long time—looking me right in my eyes. It hasn’t been the same since. I don’t know what it could possibly—” She stopped and her eyes widened.
“You think you know what it could be?” I took a bite of my cookie. “Oh god, these are really
. You should sell these someday. Can I take half of them home?”
She didn’t answer me. She stood there silently, staring off into the distance like she was in an awful trance.
“Amanda?” I waved my hand in the air. “Hello? Amanda? You there?”
She shook her head and smiled nervously. “Yeah, sorry...Would you excuse me for one minute? I need to call someone...If those brownies go off, would you please take them out for me?” She slid a pair of oven mitts towards me and rushed out of the room before giving me the chance to respond.
When she returned—ten minutes later, it was as if that odd little episode had never happened. And for the rest of the afternoon she and I laughed over our favorite pastime—baking.
“Promise me that we’ll do this for the rest of our lives, Amanda.” I smiled at her as I placed my favorite cookies into Ziploc bags. “Ashley and Caroline are going to be
in the kitchen, so I’ll need you to do this with me when life stresses me out.”
“Of course,” she said. “I’ll always be here when you need me. No matter what happens between us...”
“What could possibly happen between us to make us not be friends, Amanda?”
She smiled and picked up a cookie. “Nothing...”
“Damn right...Next to Ryan, you’re my everything, and don’t you ever forget it.”
ears fell down my face as I tossed quarters into the toll booth, as I flipped through more memories and realized that there
“signs,” but the two of them had worked so hard to cover them, and they’d purposely left me in the dark.
Maybe from the outside looking in the cracks had been easy to see, but from where I’d been standing everything had looked complete.
I sped onto the next highway and turned my music up, trying to drown out the cries I was finally letting free, promising my heart that I would never allow myself to be so trusting and vulnerable.
I’ll never allow another man to get that close to me again... Ever.
“I don’t want Ryan Hayes within
of my fiancée. Are we clear?”
“Yes sir.” “Of course, Mr. Statham.” “As you wish sir.” My top security personnel nodded their heads in agreement.
“I need to know
he’s here by the end of the week, and if he’s still here at that point, we need to figure out a way to get him the fuck out of here and back to Pittsburgh. Dead or alive.”
...” Greg narrowed his eyes at me.
I rolled my eyes. “
or alive...You’re dismissed gentlemen.” I waited for them to leave before falling back into my chair.
I’d been too angry to sleep the night before, and I could tell by the way Claire looked when she woke up this morning that she hadn’t slept well either.
On the one hand, I was happy she’d told me about Ryan making an unwanted visit at her store, but on the other, I was angry with myself. If I had gotten there a few minutes sooner, I could’ve
made sure he would never bother her again.
. Period. I didn’t need him trying to win his way back into her life, or whatever the fuck he was trying to do now that she was happy. I’d worked too damn hard to repair all the damage he’d done, too damn hard to earn her trust and show her that she could be loved again, and I wasn’t going to let him fuck that up.
I need a drink...
“Mr. Statham?” Angela walked into my office without knocking.
“What happened to using the intercom?”
“I have special privileges. Plus, I’m covering for Hayley today so protocol is going to be a little loopy.”
“Why are you
“She has a breakfast date.” She shrugged. “It’s no biggie. She’ll be back in two hours. Anyway, your daily flower delivery to Miss Gracen has just been confirmed, your meeting with Flynn tech is set for noon, the wedding planner’s meeting with you and Miss Gracen is set for three, and you have another appointment with your mother and the therapist at four thirty.”
I hadn’t heard anything she’d said past the words “breakfast date.” Hayley hadn’t mentioned anyone new to me in months. That had to be a mistake.
I shook my head and forced myself to believe that my little sister had simply said the word “date” instead of “meeting.” Then again, I’d heard her and Claire giggling about something over dinner a few days ago, something neither of them seemed interested in telling me.
“And the City Foster Center has invited you to receive the annual Humanitarian Award. “Angela slid an envelope across my desk. “They say they’ll plan the ceremony around your schedule. I know you have the month in mind, but have you set an actual wedding date yet?”
“Not yet...” I leaned back in my chair. “Send me a text later tonight. I think we’ll have one in mind by the end of the day.”
“Of course sir. Do you need anything else from me before I run down to executive affairs?”
“No, Angela. Thank you.”
As soon as she left my office, I picked up my phone and called Corey.
“Yes?” he answered. “Who are we stalking on this lovely day?”
“Are you at corporate?”
“Not yet. I’m still at breakfast. What’s up?”
“I need you to build a file for me as soon as you get in.”
“I have my tablet on me. I can do it for you right now.” He paused. “What’s the name and date of birth?”
“Ryan Hayes. I don’t have a date of birth. He’s Claire’s ex-husband.”
“Good enough. Hold on....” He hummed a few times and mumbled a few words to himself—his normal hacking ritual. “Alright, done. I sent you everything from the three largest databases. When I get back, I can run his name through sixteen more.”
“Thank you. Don’t forget.”
I opened my email and sifted through all the documents and security footage he’d sent. I couldn’t find anything linking him to San Francisco except Claire. Hell, Ashley and Caroline were in Arizona and I knew he was well aware of that.
I was about to set it aside for the day, but I saw an email about a high school class reunion at the Regency Ballroom that was two weeks from now, something Claire hadn’t mentioned to me:
Dear Schenley High School Class of 1991,
It is my pleasure to invite you all to our yearly reunion in California! As usual, I’ll be covering the travel expenses for each of you. (It pays to be CFO of Disney doesn’t it? And YES I’m rubbing that in your faces. Again.) Since we did Anaheim last year and L.A. for most of the years before, I figured we’d do San Francisco for a change!
Now, as usual, if you choose to be a planning assistant, I’ll fly you out a couple weeks before the reunion to help me with certain aspects of coordination, but you must help for at least five hours a day. (You know how HUGE this event is to all of us and we have to make sure each year is better than the last.) If you are an assistant, you’ll help finalize the final itinerary and be responsible for setting up the gift bags for our class of 500 awesome people.