A girls guide to moving.., p.1
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       A Girl's Guide to Moving On, p.1

           Debbie Macomber
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A Girl's Guide to Moving On


  A Girl’s Guide to Moving On is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2016 by Debbie Macomber

  All rights reserved.

  Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

  BALLANTINE and the HOUSE colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

  ISBN 9780553391923

  eBook ISBN 9780553391930

  randomhousebooks.com

  Book design by Dana Leigh Blanchette, adapted for ebook

  Cover design: Belina Huey

  Cover photo-illustration: Debra Lill

  v4.1

  ep

  Contents

  Cover

  Title Page

  Copyright

  A Note from the Author

  Prologue: Nichole

  Chapter 1: Nichole

  Chapter 2: Nichole

  Chapter 3: Leanne

  Chapter 4: Nichole

  Chapter 5: Leanne

  Chapter 6: Nichole

  Chapter 7: Nichole

  Chapter 8: Leanne

  Chapter 9: Nichole

  Chapter 10: Leanne

  Chapter 11: Nichole

  Chapter 12: Leanne

  Chapter 13: Nichole

  Chapter 14: Leanne

  Chapter 15: Nichole

  Chapter 16: Leanne

  Chapter 17: Nichole

  Chapter 18: Leanne

  Chapter 19: Nichole

  Chapter 20: Leanne

  Chapter 21: Nichole

  Chapter 22: Leanne

  Chapter 23: Nichole

  Chapter 24: Leanne

  Chapter 25: Nichole

  Chapter 26: Leanne

  Chapter 27: Nichole

  Chapter 28: Leanne

  Chapter 29: Nichole

  Chapter 30: Leanne

  Chapter 31: Nichole

  Chapter 32: Leanne

  Chapter 33: Nichole

  Chapter 34: Leanne

  Epilogue: Nichole

  Dedication

  Ballantine Books from Debbie Macomber

  About the Author

  Dear Friends,

  As an author with a long publishing history, I’m often asked if there’s a favorite book I’ve written. Certainly some stories are stronger than others. That said, I’m proud of every single published book. Perhaps the best way to explain this is to say that behind the words on the page beats the heart of the writer. My love of story is right there ready to link with your love of reading.

  I want you to know A Girl’s Guide to Moving On is a special book. I couldn’t wait to get to my computer each morning, and the chapters poured out of me in such a rush that I could barely get the words on the page fast enough. My hope is that you feel that same enjoyment when you read Nichole’s and Leanne’s stories. When I read a good book the story will often linger in my mind. It’s hard to let go of the characters. I had a hard time letting go of Rocco and Nikolai. Treat them with care and fall in love with them the way I did.

  Hearing from my readers is a huge bonus to me as an author. I’d love to hear from you. Contacting me is easy. You can leave me a message on my webpage at debbiemacomber.com or on Facebook or Twitter. If you’d prefer to write a letter, my mailing address is P.O. Box 1458, Port Orchard, WA 98366. I look forward to reading your comments.

  Warmest regards,

  Not so long ago I assumed I had the perfect life. Because my husband made a substantial income, I was a stay-at-home mom for our toddler son, Owen. My husband loved and cherished me. We lived in an upscale community outside of Portland, Oregon. Jake and I were members of one of the area’s most prestigious country clubs. My in-laws lived close by and adored their grandson, especially my mother-in-law, Leanne.

  Then, in a single afternoon, my entire world imploded. I learned that my husband had been having an affair, possibly multiple affairs, and had gotten his latest conquest pregnant. Leanne was the one who told me.

  It was common knowledge that over the course of their marriage my father-in-law had been less than faithful. I often wondered if Leanne knew or if she turned a blind eye.

  She knew.

  When Leanne learned that Jake had followed in his father’s footsteps she couldn’t bear seeing me go through the humiliation and crippling low self-esteem she’d endured through the years. Her fear was that Owen would grow up to be like his father and grandfather, disrespecting his wedding vows, tearing apart his wife’s self-worth.

  I wasn’t like Leanne. I refused to look the other way and I couldn’t pretend all was well in my marriage. That said, I was afraid to walk away from Jake. I feared being alone, facing all the struggles of being a single parent and so much else. A divorce would mean a complete upheaval in my and Owen’s lives, not to mention our finances. I needed encouragement and support.

  My parents were gone, having died within a short time of each other. My two sisters lived in another state, and while they were supportive and wonderful, I needed someone close who would walk with me through this valley of tears.

  That person, to my surprise, was Leanne. When I filed for divorce, she followed suit and filed at the same time, walking away from her thirty-five-year marriage. She’d had enough.

  This was how we ended up living in apartments across the hall from each other in downtown Portland. We became our own support group, encouraging each other. She helped me wade through the emotional mire that went hand in hand with the death of a marriage. Together we faced each day of our new independent lives. I don’t think I would have survived without her, and she said the same of me. We’d been close before, but we were even closer now.

  Soon after we moved in to our apartments, Leanne and I made up a list of ways in which we would get through this pain. We called it A Guide to Moving On.

  The first item on that list was: Don’t allow yourself to wallow in your pain. Reach out. Volunteer. Do something you love or something to help others.

  That was easier said than done. I often found myself weepy and struggling against this desperate loneliness. I missed Jake and all the little things he used to do, like gassing up my car or changing batteries and fixing things. It added up to a thousand annoying tasks I was forced to do myself now. Plus, being a single mother is no cakewalk, either. I’d always lived with others, first at home with my family, then in college with roommates, and from there Jake and I married. For the first time in my life I was basically alone, and that took some getting used to.

  Leanne was the one to suggest we each take on a volunteer project. One that would get us out of the house and force us to stop dwelling on our own loss. She opted to teach English as a second language two nights a week. And me…I love fashion and keeping track of the latest styles. One of my favorite things to do was read magazines while Owen napped. That was a luxury now. When it came to being a volunteer, I found an agency that helped dress women going into the workforce for the first time. To my delight, I discovered I enjoyed it immensely.

  The second item on our list: Cultivate new friendships.

  We’ve both lived the country-club life, our social lives revolving around our friends from the club. I thought I had good friends in Lake Oswego, but all of a sudden I was a third wheel. As soon as I filed for divorce my social life dried up. That didn’t bother me as much as it could have. What bothered me was how eager my so-called friends were to talk about Jake. They were looking for gossip. A few well-meaning ones couldn’t wait to let me know that they’d been aware of Jake’s
indiscretions for years and just hadn’t known how to tell me. Yes, it was definitely time to find new friends, which was one reason Leanne and I chose to move to the thriving downtown area of Portland.

  The third item and possibly the hardest, for me, anyway: Let go in order to receive. This one came from Leanne, who felt it was important that we not get caught up in a quagmire of resentment and bitterness. She seemed to have a better handle on this than I did. To be fair, she’d separated herself emotionally from Sean years earlier.

  This divorce business (emotional separation) was new to me and I struggled to have a positive attitude. (Even now our divorce isn’t final, almost two years into this mess. Jake has done everything humanly possible to delay the proceedings.)

  This was by far the hardest because it was a mental game. There wasn’t a checklist I could mark off. The goal was to think positively. That was a joke, right? Leanne assured me that once I let go of my bitterness my heart and my life would then be open to receive.

  I’ve had two years to practice and I admit I have been getting better. I don’t hate Jake. We have a son together and my soon-to-be ex-husband would always be part of Owen’s life. Leanne was right, but this step demanded effort. Real effort.

  Leanne is emotionally stronger than me. She is older and has the advantage of life experiences. I appreciate her insight and wisdom. I was also the one who came up with the last item on our list simply because I felt it was that important: Love yourself.

  Again, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. When I learned Jake had been having affairs, I immediately felt that there was something lacking in me. Okay, not immediately, but a close second to the consuming anger that attacked first. This is really about separating ourselves from the weaknesses in our husbands. I lost fifteen pounds the first month after I filed for divorce. My skinny jeans fit again, and while that was great, I was depressed and miserable. It’d been a low point. Loving myself meant eating, sleeping, and exercising—taking care of myself emotionally and physically. (I was so much better off making a list, and I could do that with this step.)

  It meant taking care of myself spiritually, too. After Owen was born I’d gotten slack about attending church services, so after filing for divorce I went back, needing the positive messages and the fellowship. Leanne did, too. And Owen loves his kids’ club class.

  The church offered a divorce support group, and Leanne and I both attended the classes. They were wonderful and many of the items we discussed were part of the list we’ve compiled. The pastor made a funny comment. He said that when he taught marriage classes most of those attending took naps. It was the divorce classes where everyone took notes. I could understand this. I certainly hadn’t gone into my marriage thinking Jake and I would be divorced one day. To me, marriage was forever.

  So this is it. Our guide to moving on. Our guide to letting go and taking the next step to whatever the future might hold.

  The first step in our Guide to Moving On was also the most enjoyable. Every other Saturday I spent the entire day at Dress for Success, a gently-used-clothing boutique. I loved dressing these ladies, whose courage inspired and stirred me. Many had come out of abusive relationships or were looking to get off welfare and find their place in the workforce. It was a joy to fit them with a wardrobe that gave them confidence and the hope that they could succeed.

  “Would you look at me?” Shawntelle Maynor said, as she studied her reflection in the mirror. She turned around and glanced over her shoulder, nodding, apparently liking what she saw. “This hides my butt good.”

  Shawntelle was a good five inches taller than my own five-foot-three frame. Her hair was an untamed mass of tight black curls raining down upon her shoulders. She critically studied herself in the outfit I’d put together for her first job interview.

  I found it hard to believe the difference clothes made. Shawntelle had arrived in baggy sweatpants and an oversize T-shirt. Now, dressed in black slacks and a pink Misook jacket, she looked like a million bucks.

  “Wowza.” I stepped back and reviewed my handiwork. The transformation was stunning.

  “I need help with this hair,” she said, frowning as she shoved it away from her face. “I should have known better than to let Charise cut it. She was all confident she could do it after watching a YouTube video. I was crazy to let her anywhere close to my hair with a pair of scissors.” Her fingers reached up and touched the uneven ends of her bangs, or what I assumed must be her bangs. “I thought it’d grow out, and it did, but now it looks even worse.”

  “I’ve already made you an appointment next door.” The hairstylist in the shop next to Dress for Success volunteered to give each woman at the boutique a wash and cut before her job interview.

  Shawntelle’s eyes nearly popped out of her head. “Get out of here. Really?”

  “Really. When’s your interview?”

  “Monday afternoon.”

  “Your hair appointment is set for ten. Does that time work for you?”

  Her smile was answer enough. Shawntelle had recently graduated from an accounting class and was looking for her first job. She had five children and her husband had deserted the family. The agency had gotten her an interview with a local car dealership. She’d gone through several practice interviews, which had given her a boost of confidence. Now, with the proper outfit, she beamed with self-assurance.

  “I never thought I’d make it without LeRoy,” she whispered. “But I am and I refuse to let that cheatin’ scumbag back. He’s screwed me over for the last time.”

  I smiled at the vehemence in her voice. I was walking this same rock-strewn path. In addition to my volunteer work, I was a substitute teacher for the Portland School District. My degree was in French literature with a minor in education, which qualified me for a teaching position. Unfortunately, no full-time positions were available, so I filled in as needed.

  Thankfully, Leanne was available to watch Owen for me and as a backup there was a drop-in daycare center down the street from our apartment building. I eked by financially, in stark contrast to the lavish lifestyle I’d become accustomed to while married.

  I had to remind myself I was still technically married. The final papers had yet to be drawn up to Jake’s satisfaction. My husband had made this divorce as difficult as possible, thinking he could change my mind. He’d been persistently begging me to reconsider. When he finally realized my determination to see this through, he’d set up every roadblock he could, dragging out the settlement hearings, arguing each point. Our attorney fees had skyrocketed.

  Divorce is hard—so much harder than I’d ever imagined it would be.

  “You’ll call after the interview?” I asked Shawntelle, determinedly pushing thoughts of Jake out of my mind.

  “You got it.”

  “You’re going to do so well.” I gave her arm a gentle squeeze.

  Shawntelle turned and wrapped me in a hug. “Them Kardashian chicks ain’t got nothin’ on me.”

  “You’re beautiful.” And I meant it.

  —

  By five I’d finished for the day and I was eager to get back to my son. Leanne had taken Owen to the park. At nearly four my little man was a ball of explosive energy. I imagined my mother-in-law was more than ready for a break.

  I got in my car and was starting the engine when my phone rang. I drove a ten-year-old Toyota while my soon-to-be ex-husband was in a nearly new BMW, a car I’d bought him with the inheritance I’d gotten after my parents died. That was another story entirely, and one I had to repeatedly push out of my mind. Rule number three: Let go in order to receive.

  I frantically searched through my purse until I located my phone. Checking caller ID, I saw that it was Jake. No surprise. It seemed he found an excuse to call me just about every day. I was able to remain civil, but I resented his efforts to keep me tied to him. Friends had been all too eager to tell me he hadn’t changed his womanizing ways. Now that I was out of the house my husband didn’t bother to hide the fact he was a playe
r.

  This was supposed to have been his weekend with Owen, but he had a business trip. Or so he claimed. Because of what I knew, I’d become suspicious of everything he said.

  “Yes,” I said, making sure I didn’t sound overly friendly. It was difficult to maintain an emotional distance from him, especially when he worked overtime to make it hard. Jake knew all the right buttons to push with me. Through the negotiations for the divorce he’d played me like a grand piano.

  “Hi, sweetheart.”

  “You have the wrong number,” I said forcefully. Every time he used an endearment I wondered how many other women he called “sweetheart.”

  “Come on, honey, there’s no need to be bitter. I’m calling with good news.”

  Sure he was. “Which is?”

  He hesitated and his voice sank lower, laced with regret. “I’ve signed off on the final negotiations. You want a share in the house, then fine, it’s yours, but only when I choose to sell it. That’s what you asked for, right?”

  “Right.” Which meant this bitter struggle was over and the divorce could go through. Twenty-five months after I’d filed we could sign the final papers.

  “You signed off?” If that was the case I’d be hearing from my attorney shortly, probably Monday morning.

  “It’s killing us both to drag this out any longer than it already has.”

  From the minute I’d moved out of the house Jake had believed he could change my mind. I’d gladly given up living in the house despite the fact that my attorney had advised me to stay put. All I asked for was my fair share of the proceeds when he chose to sell it.

 

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