Just a couple of notes: I wrote this chapter and several others after it before I got sick with Covid so if it doesn’t make sense, it was simply my normal brain fog. I also tentatively changed the name of the book from The Next Chapter to A New Chapter. We will see if I stick with that. What do all of you think? Don’t care? I wouldn’t blame you. Let me know in the comments.
For anyone new, these chapters are part of a book in progress so there are typos and errors and plot holes that I fix before I self-publish the book later down the road. Or hopefully, I fix them and don’t upload the wrong file like I did for a couple previous books. Argh! Anyhow, moving right along to chapter 12.
To catch up with the rest of the story click HERE.
Ginny looked at the dress and blouse Liz had lain on the bed and pondered it for a few moments. She turned to her closet and pulled out a blue dress and then a maroon one. The blue dress was sleeveless, like the black one. The maroon one featured short, puffed sleeves, which had never looked good on her. She eliminated it from her selection and looked between the black and blue dress.
Liz was probably right about the black dress. It would look nice with the white blouse pulled over it.
The problem was, Stan had seen her in all of these dresses. She worn the black one for last year’s banquet. She shouldn’t wear it two years in a row, should she? She could wear the white blouse with that blue skirt with all those funky swirling patterns on it. It had been a gift from Olivia. She hadn’t been brave enough to wear it yet.
She bit her lower lip and studied the skirt then slipped it on. It fell down to her shins, perfect to wear with those brown suede boots she’d picked up at the consignment shop at the beginning of summer.
She tried the boots on and pulled on the blouse then stood in front of the full length mirror on the back of the door.
Huh. Not too shabby.
She turned to the side and her gaze fell on her belly. It was slightly less pronounced than the last time she looked, but she would still need another few bike sessions before it went all the way away.
She thought about what Liz had said earlier. “Just wait until Stan sees you. He won’t be able to keep his hands off you.”
Ginny’s chest tightened. Wouldn’t he, though? He was certainly able to keep his hands off her a lot these days. She couldn’t even remember the last time he’d hugged her, let alone held her in his arms.
The engine of Stan’s car rumbled in the driveway and she took a deep breath and reached for the necklace she’d laid out on the dresser. She needed to hurry. Stan loved to be early to these banquets.
She had already pulled out the suit he like to wear, along with the white shirt, blue tie and matching cuff links.
She looked at her earrings in the mirror, leaned back and took a deep breath. The outfit wasn’t perfect, but it would have to do. She was out of time.
She descended the stairs and found Stan loosening his tie in the living room, looking down at an opened newspaper on the coffee table. “Hey, hon. I’ve only got a few minutes. I’ve got to head up and get dressed.”
“I set everything out for you,” she said, stepping off the bottom step.
He slid the tie he’d been wearing all the way off and unbuttoned the top two buttons of his dress shirt. “Thanks.” He turned and started to walk toward the stairs then stopped. His brow furrowed and he frowned. “What are you all dressed up for? You have another night out with Liz? It isn’t time for the fundraiser yet is it? I thought that was in a couple of weeks.”
Her chest constricted. Was he joking? If so then that would be a departure from his recent demeanor. “What do you mean why am I dressed up. Your banquet is tonight, right.”
Stan was still frowning. He shrugged a shoulder. “Well, yeah, but you told me a few weeks ago you hate these things. I gave your ticket to Frank. He had a date he wanted to bring.”
She tossed the small black purse she’d planned to take on the recliner next to the couch and turned away from him, her hands on her hips. Her lower lip quivered, and tears stung her eyes but she wasn’t going to let him see she was upset. It wouldn’t matter anyhow. He’d probably call her too sensitive or remind her she was “going through the change and that makes everything seem worse than it is.”
“You don’t mind, right?” He walked toward the stairs.
She drew in a shaky breath and tried to keep her tone calm. “No. I guess not. It’s just that I go with you every year and —.”
He was half way up the stairs. “Yeah, but you’ve been so busy this year with the library and the fall fund raiser and now helping Liz. I talked about it with you the other day, remember?
“No,” she mumbled as the bedroom door closed upstairs. “No. I do not remember.”
She sat on the couch, smoothing the skirt down over her knees. Maybe he had talked to her about it. Maybe she’d been texting Sarah about the fund raiser at the same time. Maybe Olivia had called with another California Crisis while he was talking or maybe it was the day Clint had called to say they’d be moving back out in about a month now instead of the two months he’d thought it would be.
She bit her bottom lip and swiped at a tear that escaped the corner of her eye. It was just a banquet and she did hate them. They went on for every with every real estate agent who every walked and breathed in a three-county area taking the podium to update the attendees about every single accomplishment they’d had that year. Then there was Stan, accepting his award, thanking her and while he’d once meant it and they’d once been like a team, that wasn’t true anymore.
His appreciation of her wouldn’t be sincere this time. They barely knew each other these days. He’d be putting on an act at that podium, just like she was putting on an act now. She pulled her shoulders back, straightened her back as she heard the bedroom door open. Time to pretend she was fine with this. Time to pretend she didn’t care. Time to be a grown up and realize her life was changing.
She and Stan weren’t the people they used to be. Not every marriage was like Robert and Annie Tanner’s, close and romantic even 30-years later.
Some people just slowly grew apart and that’s what was happening with her and Stan. She’d never consider divorce, of course, but it was time to accept that their future years would most likely be lived mainly apart.y apart.
Their romantic moments had happened, and been wonderful, but that part of their life was over.
She barely noticed as he leaned down and kissed her cheek. “Hey. You’re okay, right?”
She nodded and stood quickly, heading toward the kitchen, and tightening her jaw with resolve. “Of course I am.”
“Good and listen don’t worry about me. I know you support me. I appreciate that.” He pulled on his suit coat and reached for his keys. “Plus, don’t you have stuff you wanted to do before Tiffany and Clint come back? And what about Olivia, did she ever make up her mind about coming home?”
Ginny pulled a mug for her tea out of the cupboard by the fridge. “Hmm? Oh yes. She said she’s going to stay out there until Christmas break.”
He reached for his jacket and slid the keys into his pocket, walking toward the front door. “Good. That’s settled then. Okay, I’ve got to head out. There’s an abandoned warehouse out on highway 10 that Jake Landsdale wants me to look and I’m going to check it out before the banquet. We’re trying to track down the owners because there’s a huge commercial firm that is interested in the property. I’ve heard they might build a distribution center there. It would mean a lot of jobs for the area. I’ll call you on my way home and let you know how I did, okay?”
“Yeah,” she said at the already closed door. “Okay.”
She sat at the table and swallowed her emotion with a sip of tea. He hadn’t even noticed her hair, she realized as she propped her chin in her hand and her elbow on the table. She laughed softly, her eyes burning with unshed tears. Her prediction had come true. She had told herself he wouldn’t even notice, and he didn’t.
Stan turned his car toward Paskey Road at the bidding of his GPS, Ginny’s expression when he’d left the house still in his mind.
Well, that was weird.
Ginny hated these real estate banquets. Why had she seemed so annoyed that he had given her ticket away? He thought she’d be happy. Now she could stay home and read a book or bake or whatever else she did when he wasn’t home.
“Turn left onto Anderson Road.” The woman’s voice on the GPS was warm, soothing.
Ginny’s voice had once been warm and soothing. Now she just rambled about night sweats, the library, art classes, every single crisis their kids had going on, and most recently about Liz Cranmer. He scoffed, shook his head as he turned the car left. There was a development he hadn’t expected — her forming some kind of connection with their daughter-in-law’s younger, somewhat troubled sister.
He felt guilty calling Liz troubled. Just because she’d tried to kill herself last year didn’t mean he should be placing a label on her. Still, she was a bit, well, troubled. She’d lived a full year with that physical therapist who had made a scene a couple of years ago at a restaurant he and Ginny had been at. Obviously the man couldn’t hold his liquor very well.
“In half a mile, turn left on Henderson Road.”
A twinge of guilt tugged at him. He wasn’t supposed to even know about Liz’s suicide attempt, and he wouldn’t have if Matt hadn’t asked for prayer for her during the men’s meeting last year. Matt hadn’t said at the meeting what had happened or even named Liz. Stan had overheard him talking to Jason Tanner when he’d gone to get his coat. Matt had sworn Jason to secrecy but was deeply worried about Liz, not only her physical health but her spiritual health. Jason had promised to pray and to assuage his guilt, Stan had promised himself to pray for Liz too. He had prayed that night but knew he should have prayed for her more over the last year.
He couldn’t figure out what had drawn Ginny to the woman.
Maybe his wife felt like she needed some kind of project to occupy her time when she wasn’t at work.
He squinted into the setting sun, then reached for his sunglasses hooked in the sun visor.
Where was this building anyhow? He needed to check it out before he brought the representatives of that firm from the city here to show them the land. He also needed to find the owner to see if they would sell. This could be a big deal for the area. More jobs would be a definite boon to this area hard hit by recessions and crashing milk prices.
“Three-twenty-eight Henderson Road. There it is.”
The two-story brick structure was barely visible behind a veil of vines and overgrown trees and bushes. Sliding the car into park, Stan reflected again on his wife’s demeanor when he’d told her she didn’t have to go with him to the banquet. The way she’d flopped onto the couch, kicked off her boots. Brown boots he’d never seen her wear before.
There was something different about her too. He couldn’t put his finger on it. Maybe her make-up. Was her lipstick a different color?
He shrugged a shoulder as he stepped into the chilly autumn air and headed toward the building. He didn’t see any signs posted, nothing to indicate who the building belonged to or when it had been built. It was clear, though, it wasn’t in use and hadn’t been for a long time. The windows were broken out, the shingled roof was breaking apart, large metal doors rusted at the top of a flight of stone stairs.
The metal doors were slightly open, and Stan wondered if he should investigate, but decided against it and walked around to the back of the building instead. Maybe he could find a clue to who owned the building there. From what he could remember, this building had once been a factory warehouse of some kind. Despite living in this area his entire life, other than the four years he’d spent away at college, he’d never heard definitively what the building had been.
When he reached the back parking lot, overgrown with grass poking up through the cement and asphalt, he noticed there was another door around the back. It was cracked open like the front, a chain and bolt hanging down from the metal door handle as if it had been cut open.
It was probably someone living in the building, squatting as it was called when the person hadn’t been given permission to live there. Stan would report it to the building owner, if he knew who it was. He walked up the steps toward the door and reached for the handle, then hesitated. This was probably a job for the police, not a real estate agent used to sitting at a desk and on his way to a banquet in one of his best suits.
This building was in the state police’s jurisdiction and Stan doubted they’d come out and investigate a possible squatter. Matt might come with him on his day off, though, if the kid ever had a day off. It seemed like he was always working or volunteering somewhere, which is why it had surprised Stan when he’d read in the paper he’d had a baby with Liz.
When had he had any time for a dating life? Stan turned to walk back toward his car and laughed softly. Not like a man had to have a dating life to father a baby. Still, Matt didn’t seem the type to simply sleep with a woman and walk away. There had to be more to that story. Unlike Ginny, though, he didn’t have any interest or time to take on a personal project. Not too mention Matt’s personal life was none of his business.
He rubbed his hands together to brush off the dirt and slid behind the steering wheel. Turning the car on he realized he didn’t feel the anticipation he should be feeling at the prospect of earning another Real Estate Agent of the Year Award. These banquets really were boring. Having Ginny with him had always broken up the monotony, given him someone to chat with while the other agents droned on and on about their triumphs over the last year. She’d never been too hard on the eyes those nights either.
Oh well. Couldn’t be helped now. She’d probably changed into a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt by now. He’d have to make it up to her next year, if he was nominated again. If he wasn’t, then maybe he’d stay home too. There were only so many speeches about real estate he could listen to and give.
He turned the car back onto the main highway toward the sportsmen’s club, the annual site for the banquet. No more feeling guilty about giving Ginny’s ticket away.
She hadn’t wanted to go anyhow.
This would be a good night. He could go talk shop with his fellow agents without feeling like he needed to rush her home. Besides, she liked quiet nights at home with a cup of tea and a book. She was always saying how much she looked forward to nights like that.
Why was he even thinking about all this? There was nothing to think about.
He flipped the radio station to the oldies channel and leaned back. Singing along to Fat Domino he tapped his hand on the steering wheel.
Yep. It was going to be a good night.