Read Never Too Late Online

Authors: Patricia Watters

Never Too Late (2 page)

"Don't
bring him into this," Andrea warned. "He had nothing to do with
what's happened to our marriage." She marched into the bedroom and swept
open the door to the walk-in closet.

"The hell
he didn't," Jerry said. "You blame me for his death, and you'll never
get over it."

Andrea peeled
off her shirt and hurled it into the laundry hamper. "Yes, I do blame you
because if you hadn't bought him that muscle car he'd still be alive!"
Turning her back to him she shed her clothes and grabbed her robe and shrugged
into it in record time.

"Wrong! If
you hadn't let him go to a party where you had to have known there'd be booze
and no parents, he'd still be alive!" Jerry said, his large frame blocking
her exit.

Andrea faced
him squarely. "And if you hadn't been working late, leaving me to deal
with the kids, like always, you would have been here to stop him from running
off like he did." She shoved her way past Jerry and headed for the
bathroom.

Jerry grabbed
her arm. "This house you live in, that new BMW you drive, your closet
stuffed with designer clothes and shoes, every damn thing you have is because I
work my butt off late at night to provide them. Now go on in the bathroom and
shut the door and turn on the shower like you always do when you want to cut
things off."

"Ha! If
only it were that simple," Andrea said, her voice laced with sarcasm.

"What's
that supposed to mean?"

Andrea glanced at
his crotch, then looked at him, and said, "It means that when I'm finished
my shower and ready for bed, you'll still be intact."

"Don't
worry,
sweetheart
!" Jerry spit
out the words. "You're in no danger of me jumping your body. The urge to
do so isn't there."

Andrea glared
at him. "All I can say is thank heaven the girls will be arriving
tomorrow. That’ll mean two weeks we won't be alone to fight about anything and
everything. How I've managed to stay with you for almost twenty-five years is
nothing short of a miracle."

"That
works both ways!" Jerry said. "I'd like for once in my married life
to find my wife smiling at me with open arms instead of giving me hell if I try
to relax in front of the TV."

"Then why
don't you leave?" Andrea hissed. "The girls are married and gone and
don't need either of us, so what's keeping you from cutting me loose?"

"
Your zillionaire parents!"
Jerry
barked. "They'd bury me alive, along with my business, if I dared cut
their little silver-spoon-fed princess loose."

"You've held
that against me ever since my father offered to buy us a house and you turned
him down flat," Andrea snapped, "which didn't get you any points with
him."

"I'm sure
it didn't," Jerry said, "But if I had accepted your father's handout
I'd just be another one of his lackeys, bowing and scraping to stay on his good
side."

"Well you
certainly can't claim that," Andrea said. "You manage to stay on his
bad side all the time and do whatever you damn well please."

She started
into the bathroom, but when she went to close the door, Jerry braced a hand
against it and shoved it open. "Okay, now just cut the crap," he
said. "It's getting damn tiresome listening to you rag at me day and
night."

Andrea turned
to him and said in a quietly restrained voice, "Me rag at you? Why do you
think I keep visiting my parents?"

"Hell, I
don't know," Jerry replied. "That fifteen-thousand-square-foot
monstrosity of a house with its hot tubs and wet bars and ballroom-size
bedrooms is the last place I'd want to go if I couldn't get along with my
spouse."

Andrea sucked
in a long breath to keep from screaming, and said, "Look, we're getting
nowhere with this. The girls will be here tomorrow and we'll have two weeks
with them at the lake house as well as a wedding anniversary to get through
while we're there, so we need to at least put up a front for them. They don't
need to know that their parents can't stomach each other. And we need to get
each other gifts to open in front of them on the hallowed occasion."

Jerry let out
an ironic laugh. "So what do you want for twenty-five years of hell with
me?"

"Since you
put it that way," Andrea said, holding his steely gaze, "the only
thing I really want is a divorce. But of course you wouldn't give it to me
because my zillionaire parents would bury you alive."

His expression
dead sober, Jerry replied, "You've just convinced me it's worth the risk.
Tomorrow I'll talk to Bill and have him get the paperwork started."

"Fine, you
do that," Andrea said. "And I propose we tell the girls as soon as
they arrive so we won't have to go through two miserable weeks of tippy toeing
around, pretending we're happily married. The thought of it makes me want to
barf."

"That
works for me," Jerry said.

The hard look
on Jerry's face was a reminder of the reason Andrea wanted the man out of her
life. "Then all we need to decide is which of us will go to the lake with
the girls, and who’ll stay here." She waited for Jerry's reply, deciding
whichever he chose would be fine with her, as long as they were
not
together.

"You seem
to be running the show as usual," Jerry said, "so you decide."

Andrea absorbed
that rebuke. "Well, since you never have time for the girls and their
families, you go. It will give me two weeks of silent bliss and you a chance to
get to know your grandchildren. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'd like to
shower."

When Jerry made
no move to leave, Andrea unfastened her belt, dropped the robe on the floor,
and stepped into the glass-enclosed shower. This time she made no attempt to
cover herself because the threat of having to go to bed with Jerry was no
longer there. Feeling a release she hadn't known in years, she threw her head
back, raised the lever on the faucet handle and let a stream of hot water beat
against her naked body...

Jerry let out a
string of expletives, turned from the room and slammed the door.

And Andrea
primed herself for facing their three daughters with the whole ugly truth...

***

The following
day, and within a five minute period, all three girls arrived from different
parts of the state in a great display of hugging and fawning over each other's
children out on the front lawn. After hugging her two older daughters, Megan
and Bailey, and their respective husbands, Andrea crouched to make a fuss over
her grandchildren, then patted the protruding belly of her youngest daughter,
Stefanie, and said, "How are you feeling, honey?"

"Like
crap," Stefanie replied, "but Mitch treats me like a queen so I'm
getting through it."

Andrea's eldest
daughter, Bailey, pulled her three-year-old daughter, Sammie, away from the
fountain in the driveway turnaround and scooped her up to rest on her hip.
"Where's Dad?" she asked.

"At
work," Andrea replied.

"Why do I
even ask?" Bailey said. "But at least he gives us two weeks a year.
We have to love him for that." She gave Andrea a worried look, and said,
"He did arrange to be away from the office for two weeks, didn't he?"

"Of
course," Andrea assured her, though she dreaded breaking the news that she
wouldn't be along... the first time in the twelve years they'd owned the lake
house that the girls would have only one parent to fuss over them. But life
goes on, she told herself, philosophically.

The sound of
Jerry's SUV brought all heads turning in the direction of the black Mercedes
barreling up the long drive. Jerry had barely climbed out when all three girls
descended on him, giving him the bear hugs he always got when he arrived
home... had been since the girls could first toddle. Which for some reason
aggravated the hell out of Andrea today. The girls even had Jerry's hazel-brown
eyes, though Megan was the only one with his intense gaze.

Jerry kissed
each on top of the head, and each looked at him adoringly. But then they'd only
seen one side of their father. Although it was tempting to tell all, she'd
spare the girls that. But Jerry had always been a different man with the girls.
With them he'd had the patience of Job. They were his three dancing
princesses,
he'd called them early on. But with Scott he'd
been different. Stern, demanding, expecting Scott to take his knocks and get
back up and be a man...

Jerry looked
over Stefanie's head at Andrea, and she saw at once the desperation on his
face, and in a moment that reminded her of times past, when they often
connected on a higher plane, she knew he was thinking the same as she...

...We won't tell them yet. Tomorrow will be
soon enough...

She nodded in
agreement, and Jerry relaxed and hoisted Sammie up to sit on his shoulders,
calling her his littlest princess. Sammie giggled and wrapped her arms around
his head and laughed in childish glee as Jerry galloped off...

And Andrea knew
that Jerry had captured yet another heart. But she refused to let Jerry's
charisma with females, young or old, bother her. She would be a grandmother to
the children in her own way, and they'd love her as well. Still, she couldn't
dismiss the niggling inside that made her wish she'd be the one to be with the
girls and their families at the lake house. But as soon as that respite would
be over the divorce would be underway. Still, she'd wait a little longer before
telling her parents because once her father
knew,
there would be no turning back. He'd make sure of that.

Dinner was a
noisy, jovial affair. Toddlers sat propped around the dining table in high
chairs, and the girls chatted across the table and around their husbands in
order to be heard. The room was filled with joking and laughter, and Andrea
realized this was probably the last time the whole family would be together.
She caught Jerry looking down the length of the table at her, and he clearly
shared her thoughts. But then she remembered how it was when the girls were not
around, and all the reasons for going their separate ways came back. Jerry
seemed to catch her thoughts, or maybe responded to the expression on her face,
because in an instant, that steely-eyed look she detested came back, and she
was again counting the hours until he'd be gone.

After they'd
finished dinner, Megan tapped her knife against her glass, then pushed her
chair back and stood. "Mom... Dad," she said, "we have some
pre-wedding anniversary toasts to make." Andrea forced a smile that felt
as feigned as it was, and waited. She refused to look at Jerry this time. Their
days of exchanging thoughts were over.

When everyone
was quiet, Megan said, "I'll start with you, Daddy." She dipped her
water goblet toward Jerry. "I'm speaking for the three of us when I say
you were our hero when we were growing up. You gave us love and understanding
and direction. And we know that every day you went to work it was so you could
give us the things you never had when you were growing up. But you've given us
so much more than just this beautiful home to grow up in, and our girly
bedrooms, and music lessons, and dance lessons, and private schools, and all
the comforts you could possibly provide to make our lives good. You gave us
love." She blinked back happy tears and said to Stefanie, "You're
on."

Stefanie raised
her cumbersome bulk from the table, dipped her glass first to Andrea at one end
of the table, then to Jerry at the opposite end, and said to Jerry, "But
it's the love you gave Mom over the years that showed us how to find the right
husbands. The three of us managed to find three wonderful guys who have a
little of you in each one of them, because you were the standard from which we
chose our mates." She turned to Andrea and continued. "And Mom, you
showed us how to nurture and love, and how to be patient and understanding when
we were in high drama, as girls will be. You were also our mentor. And I hope
you see a little of yourself in us when you see us with our children, because
you're the model we're using in raising them." She looked across the table
at Bailey, and said, "I believe you're on now, Bail."

Bailey stood,
tipped her goblet to each of them, and said, "Mom, Dad, would you stand
together for the rest of this. Having you at opposite ends of the table won't
work."

Andrea looked
down the length of the table at Jerry, who shrugged, left his place and walked
over to stand behind her, hands on the back of the chair, careful not to touch
her, she noticed.

Bailey looked
at them soberly, and said, "But the two of you also showed us how to hold
things together in the face of tragedy. I can't imagine how it would be to lose
a child, now that I have my own, but you lost Scott. Yet, you've managed to
keep your marriage together when many marriages fall apart after the death of a
child. We all love you, Mom and Dad. And now we come to the crux of this little
spiel."

She opened an
envelope and pulled out a travel folder. "We have something to show you
both how much we love you, and to give you a second honeymoon. This year you
won't be joining us at the lake house, though I know you'll miss all the
diapers and confusion and squalling babies. Instead, we've all chipped in and
we're giving you a ten-day cruise to the Bahamas. The ship leaves from here in
three days, and by the end of the week you'll be sunning yourselves on sandy
beaches, and strolling hand-in-hand through quaint villages. But most of all,
we want you to have time with each other to share your twenty-fifth
anniversary, alone. But when we're at the dock to meet the boat when it
returns, we'll be watching for a couple of middle-aged lovebirds to come
walking down the gangway."

For the moment,
Andrea was too stunned to speak. Then it all came rushing over her like a tidal
wave. Ten days alone with Jerry. Alone in a stateroom to share a bed with the
man she least wanted there. And to celebrate an anniversary she dreaded. But
there was no way she could disappoint the girls...

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