A girls guide to moving.., p.2
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       A Girl's Guide to Moving On, p.2

           Debbie Macomber
 

  I wasn’t interested in living in that plush home any longer. My life there with all the expensive furnishings and designer details had been a sham. The memories were too much for me. Sleeping in our bed was torture, knowing Jake had defiled it. For all I knew he may even have made love to another woman in that very bed. Besides, holding on to the house would be a financial struggle. I needed to break away completely and start over. Jake had been surprised when I agreed to move out. I’d used the house along with the country-club membership as bargaining chips in the settlement agreement.

  “Aren’t you going to say anything?” Jake asked.

  I wasn’t sure what to say. “I guess this is it, then,” I whispered, staggering against a wall of emotion. My attorney assured me that eventually Jake would cave. It was either that or we would be headed to a meeting with a court-appointed negotiator. I was willing, but Jake had balked. Neither one of us wanted this to go to trial. The attorneys and the divorce proceedings were expensive enough.

  “Yeah. It’ll be final soon,” Jake said, his voice so low it was almost a whisper. His words were filled with regret.

  “Final,” I repeated, and bit into my lower lip.

  “You okay?” Jake asked.

  “Yeah, of course.” But I wasn’t. After all this time one would think I’d be glad this bickering and madness were about to end. I should be over the moon, eager to put my marriage behind me. I was more than ready to move on. Instead my heart felt like it was going to melt and a huge knot blocked my throat.

  “I thought you’d want to know,” Jake said, sounding as sad and miserable as I was.

  “Thanks. I’ve got to go.”

  “Nichole…Nichole…”

  I didn’t want to hear anything more that he had to say, so I ended the call. With tears blurring my eyes, I tossed my phone back inside my expensive Michael Kors purse. A purse I’d purchased because Jake insisted I deserved beautiful things. Now I understood he’d wanted me to have it because he’d felt guilty. As best I could figure, I’d bought the purse shortly after he learned Chrissy was pregnant with his child.

  Wiping the moisture from my cheek, I put the car in reverse, stepped on the accelerator, and immediately backed into a ditch.

  I don’t know how long I sat in my car with my forehead resting against the steering wheel. I was embarrassed and shaken, and it wasn’t only from the accident. My marriage was over. I thought I was ready, more than ready. The reality of it hit me full force; a deep sense of loss and unreality swamped my senses.

  “Nichole, are you all right?”

  A disembodied voice came at me. When I lifted my head I found Alicia, the hairstylist, standing alongside my upended car. When I didn’t answer right away she knocked against the driver’s-side window.

  “Nichole. Nichole.”

  I lifted my head and nodded. “I am such an idiot.”

  “Are you hurt?”

  I assured her I wasn’t.

  “You’re going to need a tow truck to pull you out of here.”

  I figured as much.

  “Do you have Triple A?”

  I shook my head. It was an added expense I couldn’t afford.

  “Do you want me to call someone for you?”

  “Please.” Still I remained in the car, praying I hadn’t done any further damage to my vehicle.

  Alicia hesitated. “Are you sure you’re all right? You didn’t hit your head or anything, did you?”

  “No, no, I’m fine.” I wasn’t. I wasn’t anywhere close to okay, but that wasn’t due to the fact my car was head up in a ditch.

  Alicia hesitated and then left me. Breathless, she returned a few minutes later. I remained seated in the car, clenching the steering wheel. She opened the driver’s-side door. “Potter Towing will be here within thirty minutes.”

  I nodded. “Thanks.”

  “You need help getting out?” She studied me as if unconvinced I hadn’t suffered a head injury.

  I sniffled, ran my hand beneath my nose, and shook my head. “I’m not hurt, just a little shook up.”

  “Listen, I’d wait with you, but I’m giving Mrs. Fountaine a perm and I don’t want to leave the solution on too long. Denise has gone for the day, so I’m all alone.”

  “Don’t worry; go take care of Mrs. Fountaine. I’ll be okay.” I wanted to blame Jake for this but I was the one who hadn’t looked where I was going.

  Just as Alicia promised, a tow truck pulled into the parking lot about twenty-five minutes later. By then I had climbed out, had collected my purse, and was pacing anxiously, waiting. I’d called Leanne and told her what happened.

  “You’re sure you’re okay?” Leanne asked, and I could hear the concern in her voice.

  “No, no, I’m perfectly all right. I just wanted you to know I’ll be later than usual. Look, I need to go, the tow truck just pulled up.”

  “Don’t worry about Owen. He’s doing great. Take your time.”

  I disconnected just as a hulk of a man jumped out of the tow truck. He had on greasy overalls and a sleeveless shirt. Both arms revealed bulging muscles and full-sleeve tattoos. His eyes were a piercing shade of blue as his gaze skidded past me to my car.

  “How’d that happen?” he asked, studying the position of the car.

  “I wasn’t drinking, if that is what you think.”

  He shook his head and grinned. “You mean to say you did that sober?”

  For the first time since I’d ended the conversation with Jake, I smiled. “I guess it does look like I was on something.”

  His smile was friendly, lighting up his eyes.

  I wrapped my arms around my waist. “How much is this going to set me back?” I asked.

  He named a figure that caused me to swallow a gasp. “I’ll need to put it on my credit card.” I had one I used only for emergencies. I’d once been free and easy with money. I could afford to be then, but no longer.

  “I can give you a discount for cash,” he told me as he pulled out a thick wire cord and hooked it onto the car’s bumper.

  “How much of a discount?”

  “Ten percent.”

  I did a quick calculation in my head. “What about my debit card?”

  “Still got to pay the bank fees with that. Cash only.”

  “Will you take a check?” I had a checkbook in my purse.

  He paused and glanced over his shoulder. “Is it good?”

  I was pissed that he’d ask. “Yes, it’s good.”

  “Then I’ll take your check.”

  Big of him.

  “I know Alicia,” he said as he walked back to his truck. “She said you work at that used-clothing place.” He motioned with his head toward the shop.

  “It’s a volunteer position, so it isn’t like a job.”

  “Yeah, that’s what she said. She said it’s a shop that dresses women looking for work. Guess you must have a good eye for that sort of thing.”

  He didn’t expect an answer and I didn’t give him one.

  Once the car was connected to the tow truck, it took only a few minutes to bring it out of the ditch. He waited to make sure the engine started and I hadn’t done any further damage.

  I set my purse on the hood of the car and pulled out my checkbook. He took the check, folded it in half. He looked at me and then paused before slipping it into his pocket. It seemed like he had something he wanted to say. I waited and then realized he was probably worried about the check.

  “It’s good,” I assured him again, annoyed that he seemed to think I’d stiff him. Maybe he’d gotten stiffed before.

  “Anything more I can do for you?” he asked.

  “Nothing. Thanks. I need to get home.”

  He gave me a salute and said, “It was nice doing business with you, Ms. Patterson.”

  “You, too, Mr….?”

  “Nyquist. Call me Rocco.”

  “Rocco,” I repeated with a smile. “Thank you for your help, Rocco,” I said, eager now to be on my way.

&nb
sp; —

  As soon as Leanne answered the door, Owen dropped his toy and raced into my waiting arms. I got down on one knee and my son hugged my neck, squeezing tightly.

  “Did you have fun at the park?” I asked.

  “Grandma took me on the slide.”

  “Was it scary?”

  He nodded and then, typically, the first question he wanted to ask was about dinner. “Can we have hot dogs for dinner?”

  “Sure.” Wieners were his all-time favorite meal, along with macaroni and cheese. Good thing, because with what I’d been forced to pay for the tow, we were going to need to cut back on groceries.

  “Did you have a good day?” Leanne asked.

  I nodded. “It was great.” And it had been until the call from Jake.

  I didn’t tell her about our discussion. I would later. Her divorce had been finalized eighteen months ago. Sean had made it as easy as possible, giving her whatever she wanted. He seemed almost glad to be out of the marriage. I was envious Leanne hadn’t been dragged into this emotional minefield Jake seemed intent on putting me through.

  That was until I found Leanne crying nearly hysterically one afternoon, shortly after she’d signed the papers. It hadn’t been kindness or guilt that had prompted Sean’s actions, she’d told me. Sean said he was simply glad to have her out of his life. According to him, she’d gone to seed and he’d lost all desire for her years ago.

  If I hadn’t disliked my father-in-law before, then I detested him now. How a man could be so thoughtless and cruel to a woman who had shared his life all those years was beyond me. Leanne was a beautiful woman. Yes, she was a few pounds overweight, but it didn’t distract from her overall appearance or beauty. She was kind and thoughtful, loving and generous. I admired her more than any other woman I’d ever known.

  Owen collected his things and we walked across the hall to our two-bedroom apartment. It was about a third of the size of our home near Lake Oswego. I missed my garden and the flower beds. Gardening had become a passion of mine. When Owen and I could manage it, I’d buy a house and plant another garden.

  Happy to be in his own home, Owen raced around the living room, his chubby legs pumping as he ran circles around me. I hoped it would tire him out enough that he’d go down for the night without a problem. I read to him each night, and the stack of books grew as he wanted to listen to all his favorite stories. I knew Jake didn’t read to him, because Owen complained that he didn’t.

  We ate wieners for dinner along with green beans that Owen lined up on the tabletop in an arch above his plate. I managed to bribe him to eat two of the green beans. Getting him to eat his vegetables was an ongoing battle.

  After I read him his ten favorite books, he settled down for the night. It’d been quiet all evening, which was unusual. I hadn’t gotten a single call, which made me wonder if I’d let my battery run down. I probably needed to charge my phone. But when I dug through my purse I couldn’t find it.

  Immediately a sense of panic filled me. I needed my phone. Thinking I must have somehow missed it, I emptied the entire contents of my large purse and sorted through each and every item.

  No phone.

  I stood with my hand over my heart when the doorbell chimed. From the peephole I saw it was Rocco, the tow truck driver, standing on the other side. He must have known I was checking because he held up my phone as if to explain the reason for his visit.

  Unlatching the door, I heaved a sigh. “Where did you find it?” I asked, with a deep sense of relief.

  “After you drove off I saw it lying there on the blacktop and realized it must be yours. I got your address off the check you wrote.”

  “Of course. Come in.”

  He stepped into the apartment and his bulk seemed to fill the entire room. His size was intimidating. I figured he had to be at least six-four. He’d cleaned up and changed out of his coveralls. Now he wore a T-shirt and faded blue jeans that emphasized his long legs.

  “I just realized I didn’t have my phone and was going into panic mode. Thank you.” I clenched the cell to my chest.

  “No problem.” He stuffed his hands into his pockets. His sleeves bulged with his muscles. I wanted to examine his tattoos but didn’t want to be obvious about it. It made me curious if he had more tattoos elsewhere on his body.

  “Daddy?” Owen said, racing out of his bedroom. The doorbell must have woken him. Either that or he hadn’t been entirely asleep. He came to a screeching stop when he realized the large man standing just inside the apartment wasn’t Jake.

  Owen’s eyes grew huge as he tilted his head back and gazed up with wide-eyed wonder at Rocco.

  Rocco squatted down and held out his hand. “How about giving me a high five, little man?”

  Owen hesitated for only a moment before swinging his arm into a big circle, slamming it down on Rocco’s open palm.

  “That’s quite a hit for such a little guy.”

  Owen smiled proudly.

  I placed my hands on Owen’s shoulders, steering him back toward his bedroom. “Okay, young man, back to bed.”

  “When will I see Daddy?” he asked, his big brown eyes pleading with me.

  “He’ll come for you next weekend, buddy,” I assured my son. I glanced toward Rocco. “I need to put him back to bed.”

  He surprised me by asking, “Do you mind if I wait?”

  Although I was taken aback, I gestured to the sofa. “Make yourself at home. This shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.”

  Maybe Rocco was looking for a reward for returning my phone. My mind raced with what I could possibly give him. Maybe I didn’t want to know. It probably hadn’t been the smartest idea inviting him into the apartment. I was a woman alone, and I needed to be more aware of dangers. Funny, really. As big as he was, I didn’t feel the least bit threatened. I’d learned to listen to my instincts and they said I was safe.

  Getting Owen down a second time wasn’t as easy as I would have liked. A good ten minutes passed.

  When I returned, Rocco had turned on the television and had made himself comfortable. He sat with his ankle balanced on his knee and his arm stretched out across the sofa, looking completely relaxed.

  “You have coffee?” he asked.

  I blinked before I found the ability to answer. “I do.” I hesitated.

  “Make yourself one while you’re at it,” he suggested.

  This man had nerve. Nevertheless, I brewed us each a cup. He helped himself to milk, digging the carton out of the refrigerator and then putting it back.

  Apparently he had an agenda other than delivering my phone. We stood in the middle of my small kitchen, facing each other, each holding a mug of coffee. If he could be direct, then so could I.

  “What can I do for you, Rocco?”

  He reached inside his pocket and removed the check I had written him earlier. “I have a proposition for you.”

  Seeing the check sitting on the kitchen counter, I wasn’t sure I was going to like what he was about to suggest. “What kind of proposition?” I asked, frowning up at him.

  The edges of his mouth curved upward as if he’d read my mind. “Whatever you’re thinking isn’t it. I have a fifteen-year-old daughter. Her name is Kaylene and, well, she’s a typical teenager. That girl has a mouth on her…”

  “Most teenagers do.”

  He didn’t agree or disagree.

  “I substitute teach at the high school. I hear the way they talk.”

  He arched his thick brows. “Must be hard to tell the difference between you and the students.”

  I wasn’t sure that was a compliment, so I let it go. “What about your daughter?”

  Rocco sipped his coffee. “She wants to attend this dance, which, according to her, is a big deal.”

  “And…”

  “And I am not letting her out of the house with the dress she bought with her friends.”

  “And…”

  “And so I thought we might strike a deal. If you help Kaylene dress for th
is dance in something I can approve of, then I’d be willing to tear up this check and call us even.”

  That sounded almost too good to be true. “What will your boss have to say about that?” I asked.

  “I am the boss. I own Potter Towing.”

  “Oh.” Then I paused. “I thought you said your name was Nyquist.”

  “Good memory. I got the business from a man named Potter. Do we have a deal?”

  I didn’t need to think twice. “Sure.” So that was why he’d been so curious about my work with Dress for Success.

  Rocco thrust out his hand and I did, too. His huge hand swallowed my much smaller one. As far as I was concerned, I was getting the much better end of this transaction.

  I never expected to be living in an apartment at this time of my life. I held it in my mind that after Sean retired our relationship would improve. I thought that we’d travel and spend time together, and, optimist that I am, I hoped we’d make a go of it. I quickly learned that I’d been living a fantasy, believing that with effort we might be able to rekindle the love that had brought us together all those years ago.

  Even in the early years of our marriage Sean had been a generous husband. Hardly a week went by when he didn’t bring home a gift of some sort. To anyone looking in on our marriage we were the perfect couple and my husband was crazy in love with me. In public, Sean was openly affectionate and I was the envy of my friends. He was a good provider and I’d never had to work outside the home.

  We’d been married about five years when I first learned that Sean was involved in an affair. I was devastated, shocked, and unbelievably hurt. If I’d been in my right mind I would have confronted him then and there. Although I wanted to scream and cry and demand to know why he would do such a thing, I didn’t. Instead I swallowed my pride for fear of where it would lead, afraid of what would happen.

  How foolish I’d been, but I loved my husband and Jake was a toddler. The thought of tearing our son away from his father, whom he adored, was more than I could bear. My parents loved Sean, and while it might sound foolish to say this now, there’d never been a divorce in my family. I didn’t want to be the first. In retrospect, that makes absolutely no sense. All these years later I can see that I had been emotionally wounded to the point that I couldn’t think clearly.

 
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