It was another beautiful day in Boulder. The sky was a pure, uninterrupted blue as far as the eye could see. The emptiness of the vast expanse was only disturbed periodically by the flight of a bird dipping and soaring as if at play. Many of the deciduous trees had already started to turn color, and their leaves boasted various shades of yellow, red, orange, and gold. The cold, winter weather had yet to arrive.
Luke Adler sat in his police cruiser with his partner, Monique Hix. There had been a rash of complaints about drivers speeding along a stretch of road dotted sparsely with expensive homes on large tracts of land. The official pair had parked in a secluded spot among the trees and other vegetation lining the smoothly paved, lazily curved slice of highway. Monique held the radar gun.
“Three over,” she said as a pickup truck drove past. “I don’t know what these people are grumbling about. We’ve been sitting here over an hour, and only a few dozen vehicles have even come by.” Releasing a sigh of frustration, she continued. “And less than a handful of the ones we’ve clocked have been even slightly over the speed limit.”
“Maybe we should move,” Luke replied. “Could be that the speeders are farther down—closer to the expressway.”
“I suppose.” She huffed. “Either that or the rich, pampered women sitting in their mini mansions have nothing better to do than complain about non-existent speeding cars.” The words were no sooner out of her mouth when a flash of red zoomed by.
“Holy shit! What was that?” Luke asked.
“That, my friend, was close to a hundred miles an hour. Let’s go!”
The two officers quickly clicked their seatbelts. As Luke pulled onto the highway, he turned on his flashers and siren. The vehicle they were chasing could only be seen as a speck in the distance.
A quick glance at the speedometer showed the numbers 1-1-6. Even at that speed they were barely gaining on the red sports car. “Come on. Come on,” Luke mumbled to himself, urging his cruiser forward. “Let’s catch this dude before someone gets hurt.” As they inched closer, Luke could see the vehicle was a late model Mustang.
Monique cursed under her breath. “What the hell’s wrong with people? The sucker’s not even slowing down.”
Luke noticed an intersection in the distance. The light turned yellow and then red. The Ford zoomed through the intersection without reducing its speed even slightly. “Shit. You better call this in. Looks like we’re in for a hell of a ride.” The engine whined as the police car reached near its maximum speed.
Taking the microphone from the dashboard, Officer Hix spoke into it. “Car forty-three in pursuit of red, late-model Mustang. Speeds in excess of one hundred miles per hour.”
The box squawked noisily. “What’s your twenty, forty-three?” asked the voice from the other end.
“Northwest Parkway—approaching two eighty-seven.”
“Gotcha, forty-three. Be careful out there.”
“Ten-four. Forty-three out.”
Luke glanced into the rearview mirror. No one behind us. That’s good. The terrain flashed by in his peripheral vision, and he slowed only slightly as they approached the intersection. In addition to the already blaring siren, he laid on the horn. The steering wheel jerked when the vehicle hit a depression in the pavement, and he returned his hands to the wheel—gripping it firmly, palms sweating. The tires of the squad car rumbled as the pavement beneath went from smooth to patchy bumps. His heart thumped in his chest.
As they neared the intersection, a semi started to cross from the left. Quickly turning the wheel sharply to the right, Luke managed to get around the truck by mere inches. Once past, he accelerated with a burst of speed.
Officer Hix’s voice could be heard through the speakers mounted on top of the cruiser. “Pull over.” she shouted. “Pull over. NOW!”
As if by magic, the Mustang complied.
Crushing his foot on the brake, and then slamming the car into park, Luke unclipped his gun and his seat belt simultaneously. His partner was already out and walking toward the driver of the fire engine red vehicle with her pistol drawn. Luke stepped up behind her just in time to hear her shout, “Step out of the car!”
The door opened and lanky, jeans clad legs along with size twelve feet shod with expensive, high top, leather sneakers landed on the ground.
“Step out of the car!” Officer Hix repeated.
Luke almost choked when he looked into the face of the well-built, six foot, teenage boy who raised himself up from the low riding vehicle. That kid looks like he’s barely old enough to drive.
A lazy smile crossed the boy’s face, and he started to put his hands into his pockets.
“Keep your hands where I can see them, and step away from the vehicle,” Monique Hix ordered.
“Sure.” The teen held his hands up in front of himself, and chuckled. “Sorry, I guess I was going a little too fast.” Luke watched as his partner kicked the door of the red Mustang closed. “Hey! Watch it. You’re going to dent my car,” the kid complained.
“Turn around, spread your legs and put your hands on the roof.” When the boy didn’t move, Officer Hix grabbed his arm. “Are you going to cooperate or do I have to cuff you?” she asked.
“All right. All right. You don’t have to get all bent out of shape about it,” the kid mumbled, but he did as directed.
Monique stepped back and nodded to Luke, who then patted down the teen.
“He’s clean,” Luke stated.
“Of course, I’m clean,” the boy grumbled. “Just give me the stupid ticket and let me go, will ya?”
“We’re going to need to see your driver’s license, proof of insurance and registration,” Luke said.
The teen turned toward them. “Can I get my wallet out of my pocket now?” he asked in a sarcastic tone.
To Luke, the kid’s attitude didn’t seem to be even the slightest bit remorseful.
Monique didn’t speak. She just nodded affirmatively, after which she lowered and then holstered her weapon.
Rummaging through his wallet, the boy pulled out his license and handed it to Luke. Glancing at it briefly, Luke passed it to his partner.
After looking at the document, Monique lifted her head and said, “Cameron Hollingsworth.”
“That’s me,” the boy said with a grin. “Actually, Cameron Hollingsworth the third.”
“Do you know how fast you were going, Mr. Hollingsworth?”
He shrugged. “Nah. I wasn’t paying that much attention.” Chuckling he said, “But I suppose you’re going to tell me.”
Ignoring his comment, Officer Hix asked, “How long have you been driving, Mr. Hollingsworth?”
The boy shrugged again. “I don’t know exactly. Probably about a year now.”
“According to your license, you’ve been driving for less than six months. Any time before that, it had to have been on a learner’s permit with one of your parents in the car.”
“If you say so.” With a sigh, the teen continued. “Look. I don’t know if you know who my dad is, but he’s Judge Cameron Hollingsworth.” He looked from one officer to the other. “And I don’t think my father would appreciate you messing with his son like this. So …”
“We need to see your registration and proof of insurance.” When the boy didn’t move, Monique tapped the teen’s license in the palm of her hand and said, “Now you look, Mr. Hollingsworth. I don’t know if you’re aware of it or not, but a minor driver under eighteen years of age who receives six or more points in any twelve months may end up having his license suspended. Right now, I’m thinking of charging you with Careless Driving, Eluding a Police Officer, Creating a Substantial Risk of Bodily Injury by Operating a Vehicle in a Reckless Manner, and Speeding Greater Than Twenty-four Miles-Per-Hour Above the Limit. Each one of those is a Class One misdemeanor, and carries a penalty of up to a year in jail and fines up to one thousand dollars. You could also be sentenced to any number of hours in useful public service and may be penalized even further under law at the discretion of the judge.”
“Didn’t you hear me?” the teen asked. “My father is the judge.”
“And my father’s Santa Claus, but that doesn’t mean every day of the year is Christmas,” Officer Hix replied. “Now why don’t you get back into your car and provide us with your registration and insurance?”
Mumbling something under his breath, the boy slid back into the car. He remained seated, and stuck out his long arm with the requested documents in hand. “Here.”
Taking the information, Monique moved toward the patrol car. Luke followed. Once seated inside, she began to verify the documents. “I should have guessed. The Mustang is registered to Cameron Hollingsworth the third. Mommy and Daddy probably gave it to their little darling for his sixteenth birthday.”
“So the kid’s a spoiled brat. Not much we can do about that,” Luke replied. “Are you really going to hit him with all those charges?”
“I should.” She waited for a reply to her inquiry on Cameron Hollingsworth III. When it came in, she said. “The boy has a clean record. Could be he’s been through this a time or two already and gotten away with it because he’s a judge’s kid. I’m thinking we need to give him something fairly hefty to get his attention. Otherwise, he’s liable to end up being another statistic. The latest stats say that drivers between sixteen and nineteen are almost three times more likely to end up in a fatal car crash than drivers who are twenty and older.”
“He’s not going to like it.”
Monique shrugged. “Too bad. If Mommy and Daddy don’t want their son to end up dead, I think this is something we have to do.”
“It’s your call.”
“I’m writing him up for Speeding Greater Than Twenty-four Miles-Per-Hour Above the Limit. Hopefully, that will be enough to get his parents’ attention.”
“I hope you’re right.”
* * *
“Come on, Shelly. You know you want to. How long’s it been?” Nathan Silvers whispered in his ex-wife’s ear as he planted soft kisses on her neck.
“You’re right. It has been a long time.” Shelly could feel herself weakening. It had been over a year since the last time she had sex with her husband—or sex with any man, for that matter.
“I know you’re not ready to talk about getting back together or anything, but …” His hand had been caressing her cheek, and now it drifted downward. Gently he cradled her breast and ran his thumb over its center, bringing her nipple to a firm peak.
Shelly’s heartbeat quickened, and she felt a tingle between her legs as her juices began to flow. As much as Nate had been a lousy husband, he’d always been an excellent lover. When he called and asked her to meet him at the house where she used to live, her immediate response had been a quick, and very blunt, “No.” However, she had succumbed when he used his concern for their daughter as the reason for the get-together.
“I noticed that Mary Beth’s grades have fallen a little bit.” The concern in Nathan’s voice had sounded genuine. “Don’t you think we should discuss it? I know she’s not with me very often, but when she is, I want to make sure you and I are on the same page.”
“Why don’t we just meet at a coffee shop? I don’t see any reason for me to come to the house,” Shelly argued logically.
“I’ve fixed up Mary Beth’s room, and I wanted you to see it,” Nathan explained.
“You fixed up her room? Why?”
“I want it to be nice for her when she’s here.”
“Nate, she’s not even allowed to be alone with you right now. It’s only supervised visits. Remember?”
“I know, Shell. I screwed up, and I screwed up bad. I’m really sorry, and I understand you’ll probably never be able to forgive me. But I learned my lesson this time. I’ve changed, honest ... Please?”
Nathan Silvers always seem to know exactly how to get what he wanted. It had been that way since they first met as teenagers back in high school. Shelly hesitated. “I … I don’t think …”
As if reading her mind he said, “You know, Mary Beth’s not much younger than we were when we started dating. We should probably talk about that too … about how we’re going to handle it when she wants to start going out with boys.”
“Well, as far as I know, Mary Beth’s not the least bit interested in boys yet. But she is going to a sleepover at her friend, Peyton’s house tonight. Peyton’s mom is going to bring Mary Beth home from school so she can pick up her things.” Shelly chuckled. “I really don’t know why they call it a sleepover since they’ll get very little sleep. No matter. I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t have to worry about Mary Beth tonight.”
“Please, Shelly. I’ll even fix you dinner, if you’ll let me.”
“No dinner. But I will come over after work for a little while … just to see what you’ve done to Mary Beth’s old room.”
“That’s great, sweetheart. What time can I expect you?”
Shelly chose to ignore his endearment. “I should be able to be there between five-thirty and six. But I can only stay for a little while.”
“I’ll take however much time you’re willing to give me.”
When she arrived at the home she had shared with her ex, he answered the door immediately and ushered her in. It looked as if he’d recently cleaned the place up … along with himself. His hair was neatly combed, and he wore what appeared to be a freshly laundered shirt and jeans. It was also apparent that he had recently shaved. When she breathed in, she caught a whiff of the woodsy scent of his favorite cologne—the one she used to always buy him for his birthday.
“Come on in, Shell. Let’s go in here,” Nathan said as he led her into the living room.
“I can’t stay long,” she reminded him.
“I know.” Two stemmed glasses and a bottle of dark liquid sat on the coffee table. “I don’t drink much anymore, but I thought a little sip of wine might be all right. See? I even got out the nice glasses you used to like. And I already poured some for us. Okay?” Seating himself at one end of the sofa, he handed the stemmed glass to her and then patted the spot next to him. “Please. Sit down.”
Pointedly, Shelly took a seat at the opposite end of the couch. “So how did you even know about Mary Beth’s grades? Report cards aren’t due to be sent out for a while yet.”
“I called and talked to a few of her teachers.”
“None of her teachers said anything to me about you calling the school,” Shelly answered quickly.
“I’m her father, ain’t I? Don’t I have a right to check up on my own kid?”
The belligerent tone of his voice sounded more like the Nathan of old. “I suppose you do, but you never showed much interest before. Why now?”
“I keep trying to tell you, Shelly … I’ve changed. I’m worried about Mary Beth now that she’s getting older. I talked to her counselor and a couple of her teachers. They told me her grades were slipping a bit, and it sounded like maybe she’s been hanging around with some kids that are a little questionable. Is that true?”
“Well, I don’t know about all that. But what is true is I’ve been somewhat concerned about Mary Beth myself. I didn’t think it was anything major, but she’s been sort of …” Shelly shrugged and absently took a sip of the wine she’d been holding. “I don’t know. I guess I’ve been writing it off to the normal teenage-girl-pulling-away-from-her-mother thing.” She sighed. “I still get glimpses of the ‘little girl’ Mary Beth used to be, but most of the time …”
Nathan nodded and gave Shelly a look filled with what appeared to be understanding. “The last time I saw her, she spent most of the time on her cell phone either texting her friends or fiddling around with one social media thing or another.”
“It’s not much different when she’s with me,” Shelly admitted.
Nathan chuckled softly. “To parenthood,” he said as he raised his glass.
So lost in the discussion about their daughter, Shelly wasn’t sure how Nathan had managed to move from the opposite side of the sofa to the spot next to her where he now sat. Without thinking, she tapped the crystal in her hand to his before taking another swallow.
She watched as he set his glass on the coffee table. He then leaned toward her and brushed a lock of Shelly’s silky blonde hair behind her ear. “You’ve always been such a great mother,” he whispered as he ran his fingers along the sensitive skin of her neck.
Her head was tilted in such a way that her hair had slid behind her shoulder. Shivers of pleasure coursed through her as she felt his breath caress her skin just before he caught her earlobe between his lips. “Nathan, … I … We …”
“Shhh,” he whispered as he continued to place soft kisses along the side of her throat.
Shelly closed her suddenly heavy eyelids and allowed her body to enjoy the pleasurable feelings that were beginning to stir. As Nathan’s lips continued to tease and tantalize the delicate skin of her neck and jawline, her belly clenched in desire. When his hand covered her breast her nipples hardened and the tingling between her legs increased. “We shouldn’t …”
“Shhh,” he whispered again as he took the wine glass from her hand. After setting it on the table next to his, he stroked his finger gently along her chin. Leaning toward her once more, he nipped softly at her lips and then used his tongue to trace the outline of her mouth.
Her heart beat heavily in her chest, and she was finding it difficult to breathe normally. Using his teeth and tongue, Nathan teased her lips open. As he moved closer to her, she felt the evidence of his desire hard against her hip. Hard and ready. Sliding his hand down to cup her rear, he pulled her on top of him as he lay down on the couch. Her mind was fuzzy, but she couldn’t ignore the heat that flared, pulsing through her body. Weakly, she tried to push away.
“Come on, Shelly. You know you want to. How long’s it been?” Nathan whispered in her ear as he planted soft kisses on her neck. His hand cupped her breast through the thin fabric of her blouse.
“You’re right. It has been a long time.”
He nudged her legs apart and pressed into her with the hard ridge in the front of his pants. “I want you so bad, Shelly.” Nathan’s voice was practically a groan.
In the corner of her mind, she knew what she was doing was a mistake, but the feel of him moving up and down between her legs had her gasping for breath … heart pounding. Obviously, if her reaction to Nathan—a man she had divorced for a very good reason—was this strong, it had been way too long since the last time she’d had sex. Forcing herself to ignore the desire that raced through her body and the chill bumps that rose on her skin, Shelly managed to shake her head and pull herself up to a sitting position.
“No, Nathan. I’m not doing this. I’m sorry, but I have to leave now.” Standing on wobbly legs, Shelly walked out of the house. Once she slipped into her car, she laid her head on the steering wheel. What was I thinking? Showing Mary Beth’s room to me was probably the last thing he had in mind. I should never have let him talk me into coming over here. When she looked up, the front door was open, and Nathan was standing on the porch. Quickly, Shelly started her vehicle and backed out of the driveway.
Her head was pounding, but she managed to make it back home without incident. Since she wasn’t at all ready to try and explain her somewhat disheveled appearance or to answer any questions about what had happened during her visit with her ex-husband, Shelly was glad there was no sign of her daughter being in the house unexpectedly. Once inside the cozy home she and Mary Beth shared, Shelly went straight to her room. Slipping off only her shoes, she plopped face down on her bed and immediately fell asleep.
The unremittent ringing and vibration of her cell phone roused Shelly from a deep slumber. It was dark when she opened her eyes. A quick peek at her phone showed that Brooke Adler was calling. “Hi, Brooke. Can I call you back in just a sec?” Shelly asked.
“Sure,” Brooke said. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah. I was sleeping. It’ll only be a minute.” After disconnecting, Shelly entered the small bathroom attached to her bedroom and splashed cold water on her face. That was weird. It’s almost like I was drugged or something. When the thought crossed her mind, she looked at herself in the mirror. Everything looked normal, but a dull headache still throbbed at her temples. Nate wouldn’t have …? Pushing the unpleasant idea aside, Shelly dried her face, picked up her phone and took it with her into the kitchen.
She put water on to boil and set out a small teapot decorated with vertical stripes in a simple geometric design. Brooke had an identical one in her home, and had given a matching one to Shelly as a house warming gift when Shelly and her daughter, Mary Beth, had moved from Brooke’s home into their own a short time earlier. Shelly smiled to herself as she remembered when Brooke had presented her with the unexpected present.
* * *
“You’ve done so much for Mary Beth and me already, Brooke. You certainly didn’t have to buy us a gift. In fact, you should be the one unwrapping something—not me,” Shelly protested as she tore off the decorative paper. “Sharing your lovely home with Mary Beth and me for these past months was more than enough.”
“Nonsense.” Brooke waved her hand dismissively. “It’s been wonderful having the two of you with me. In many ways, I wish you could stay.”
Shelly chuckled. “Zack might have something to say about that. There’s not that much time until your wedding, and you’ll both need at least a few days for him to get moved in and settled.”
“He’s not officially moving out of his condo until after the wedding. When we get back from our honeymoon, he’ll be unpacking his suitcase in our home.” Brooke sighed. “When I bought this house, I had visions of myself with a husband and children—the people who would truly make it the family home I dreamed of. I figured it would happen at some point in time, but I honestly didn’t think it would be this soon.” With a smile, Brooke continued, “You know, when I first talked to Mom and Dad about helping me buy this place, I thought they might tell me I was biting off more than I could chew. After all, this neighborhood is definitely meant for families—not single women. Just look at this place.” She swept her hand around to encompass the comfortable, yet spacious interior. “Three bedrooms, two and a half baths, a big front porch, a basement, an attached garage—this is just so much more than I needed for one person.”
“I’ll bet they knew you weren’t buying this house with the idea of living here alone, don’t you think?” Shelly asked.
Brooke nodded her head in agreement. “You’re right. Mom and Dad definitely knew I had plans for the future.” She sighed. “I could almost hear the voices of my then non-existent family filling this very room with the sounds of love and laughter.”
“Oh, Brooke, you so deserve this. You and Zack and the baby …” Shelly placed her hand softly on Brooke’s slightly protruding tummy. “Everything has worked out perfectly. When Sarah’s house became available, I knew it was time for Mary Beth and me to finally move into our own place.”
“I know, but it seemed to happen so quickly. I didn’t even have time to adjust. One day you told me you’d found a house, and the next thing I knew the two of you were gone.” Brooke blinked as if to hold back tears. “I miss you and Mary Beth.”
“We miss being with you too. I thought it might work out that Mary Beth and I wouldn’t move until right before the wedding, but when Sarah decided to use up the paid vacation days she had left and have a permanent substitute for the rest of the year …” Shelly shrugged. “Her house was vacant, and she really wanted to have someone in there to keep an eye on things.”
“Let’s quit talking about this. Just open your gift before I start bawling all over the place.”
Shelly opened the box. “It’s a teapot, and it’s just like yours!”
“Do you like it? I probably should have gotten you something else—maybe some nice wine glasses instead. I can take it back and exchange it …”
“Brooke. Stop. I love it, and I absolutely do not want to exchange it.”
Shelly thought Brooke appeared wistful when she said, “I figured this way every time you use it, you’ll remember all the great times we had together while you were living here.”
“I will,” Shelly promised.
* * *
The pretty teapot sat on a tray atop the coffee table in Shelly’s living room. She held a cup in one hand and her phone in the other.” I’m sorry, Brooke. I guess I must have been exhausted. When I came home, I just walked into my bedroom and basically passed out. I’d probably still be sleeping if you hadn’t woken me up.”
“How are you feeling?” Brooke asked. “Do you think you’re getting sick? Maybe you should have something besides tea? Remember how we used to always have a glass of wine on Friday’s before I found out I was pregnant.”
“Tea’s perfect. Even the idea of wine makes me feel a little nauseous.”
“There have been a lot of bugs going around school. Maybe one of them got you.” Brooke hesitated. “Let me call you right back. I’ll check with Zack and see what he suggests.”
“No, Brooke. Please. I’m fine. It’s just that …”
“What? What is it, Shelly? Something’s wrong. Please. Tell me.”
Shelly sighed heavily. “I went to Nathan’s house this afternoon.”
“You what? Why?”
“He called me … about Mary Beth.”
Brooke huffed. “Since when does he care so much about his daughter? If it wasn’t for …” Stopping in mid-sentence, Shelly heard her friend take a deep breath. “I’m sorry, Shelly. It’s not my place to be bad mouthing Nathan. It’s just that …”
“It’s okay, Brooke. I don’t blame you. Nate’s always been able to get me to do whatever he wants most of the time.” Shelly sighed. “I don’t know. I just seem to lose my better judgement where he’s concerned.”
“What did he say? How did he get you to go over there?”
“He said he called the high school and talked to Mary Beth’s counselor and a couple of her teachers.”
“None of her teachers that I know said anything to me about Nathan calling.” Brooke hesitated. “Not that I would expect them to, but most of them know how close you and I are, and that you and MB were living at my house not so long ago.”
“I know. Of course, he had an explanation for that too. I guess he made it a point to ask the people he talked with to keep their conversation private. I think he knows that if you or I found out about his calls to Mary Beth’s school, we might say something that would make him ‘look bad’ or something.”
“He doesn’t need any help,” said Brooke. “Nathan makes himself ‘look bad’ without anyone’s assistance.”
“You’re right,” Shelly agreed. “Anyway, Nate said he was concerned about her and that he’d fixed up her room. He wanted to show it to me, and he wanted to discuss his concerns about Mary Beth.”
“How’d it go?”
“Not so good,” Shelly confessed.
“Nothing really. Thank God. But I didn’t see Mary Beth’s room …” Shelly set her cup on the coffee table next to the teapot.
“What is it, Shelly? What aren’t you telling me?”
“Nate and I … we were kind of …” Shelly felt the color rising up her neck and staining her cheeks and thought, It’s a good thing Brooke can’t see me.
With uncanny understanding, Brooke gasped. “You didn’t have sex with him, did you?”
“No!” Shelly stood and started pacing the room. “But we almost did,” she said softly. “He wanted to. I don’t even know how it happened. One minute we were sitting on opposite ends of the couch drinking a little wine, and the next thing I knew …”
Brooke interrupted. “How much wine did you drink?”
“Not much. Only a few sips really.”
“And you came home and passed out after only a few sips of wine? Shelly, do you think Nathan put something in your drink?”
Shelly sank back down on the couch and dropped her head into her hands. The tears in her eyes were apparent in her voice. “I wish I didn’t, but I think he might have.” She sighed. “When he was telling me how much he had changed I wanted to believe him. I really did, but …”
“Of course you did,” Brooke exclaimed. “That’s the kind of person you are. You’re always looking for the best in people, but this time …”
“I know, but … Well, Nathan is Mary Beth’s father. It would be nice if she had a positive male figure in her life.”
Brooke was silent for several seconds before speaking. “What about Luke? Do you think my brother could be that positive male figure for Mary Beth?”
Thoughtfully, Shelly nodded her head in agreement. “He could be, but I also believe it’s too soon for me to even be thinking seriously about Luke and me.”
“How long has your divorce from Nathan been final now?”
“With everything that was going on, the divorce took a lot longer than I expected. Officially I’ve only been single for a few months. Now that I’m in my new place, I’m a single woman and mother who’s living on my own for the very first time.” Shelly smiled wistfully. “It seems as if I was always married to Nathan. We were both so young. I’d just barely graduated from high school. It’s almost like …” She paused. “I’m not completely sure I even know what it’s like to be unattached.”
After a moment’s hesitation, Brooke responded, “Maybe it would be better if you didn’t get involved right away—with Luke or anyone else for that matter. Maybe you should take a little time to see what it’s like to be ‘Single Shelly?’ ”
“Maybe.” Shelly sighed. “Mary Beth and I were living with you for almost a year, and in a way, I was single the whole time we were there. It gave me a chance to settle into life without a husband. I actually spent quite a bit of time doing the whole ‘self-reflection’ thing, and I discovered quite a bit about myself I didn’t know before.” Shelly smiled to herself. “I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a pretty darn good person.”
“Of course you are! I’ve always known that.”
“Thanks, Brooke. I really appreciate hearing you say that, but the truth is … I didn’t. And after what happened today …” Shelly shook her head. “I just don’t get it. How I let him get that close to me again is baffling. I mean, being away from Nathan for all this time has been great. I’m so much more relaxed and confident. When we were married, it was like walking on eggshells whenever he was home. Without fail, something would set him off, and it was impossible to figure out what it might be from one day to the next.” Shelly chuckled softly.
“What’s so funny?” Brooke asked.
“I was just remembering a huge argument Nathan and I had over toilet paper.”
“Toilet paper? What in the world?”
“He didn’t like the brand I bought—said he’d told me time and time again what kind he liked. How could I be so inconsiderate?”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“No joke. It turned into a big blow-out. As usual, I ended up in tears. Just to try and keep the peace, I made a special trip to the store—took back what I bought and exchanged it for the one he preferred.”
“Geez, Shelly, I don’t know how you managed to stay married to him for as long as you did.”
“I wonder the same thing myself sometimes. I did everything I could think of to make our relationship work. I know I’m not perfect, but I never tried to put all the blame for what wasn’t working in our marriage on Nate. I did my best to be the kind of person I would want to have as a spouse.” After a short pause, she continued, “I guess I just never wanted to end up as one of those statistics—married too young, divorced. You know what I mean.”
“I guess, but you couldn’t just hang around and let him beat you.”