But the problem was that there was always something to do. Dishes to be washed, bathrooms to be cleaned, the cat box to be emptied; cars needed tune-ups, laundry needed to be done, and bills had to be paid. Even though Kevin helped a lot with his chores, he was almost as busy as she was with school and friends and all his other activities. As it was, magazines went straight to the garbage unread, letters went unwritten, and sometimes, in moments like these, she worried that her life was slipping past her.
But how to change all that? "Take life one day at a time' her mother always said, but her mother didn't have to work outside the home or raise a strong and confident yet caring son without benefit of a father. She didn't understand the pressures that Theresa faced on a daily basis. Neither did her younger sister, Janet, who had followed in the footsteps of their mother. She and her husband had been happily married for almost eleven years, with three wonderful girls to show for it. Edward wasn't a brilliant man, but he was honest, worked hard, and provided for his family well enough that Janet didn't have to work. There were times when Theresa thought she might like a life like that, even if it meant giving up her career.
But that wasn't possible. Not since David and she divorced. Three years now, four if you counted the year they were separated. She didn't hate David for what he had done, but her respect for him had been shattered. Adultery, whether a one-night stand or a long affair, wasn't something she could live with. Nor did it make her feel better that he never married the woman he'd been carrying on with for two years. The breach of trust was irreparable.
David moved back to his home state of California a year after they separated and met Annette a few months later. His new wife was very religious, and little by little she got David interested in the church. David, a lifelong agnostic, had always seemed to be hungry for something more meaningful in his life. Now he attended church regularly and actually served as a marriage counselor along with the pastor. What could he possibly say to someone doing the same things he'd done, she often wondered, and how could he help others if he hadn't been able to control himself? She didn't know, didn't care, really. She was simply glad that he still took an interest in his son.
Naturally, once she and David had split up, a lot of her friendships ended as well. Now that she was no longer part of a couple, she seemed to be out of place at friends' Christmas parties or backyard barbecues. A few friends remained, though, and she heard from them on her answering machine, suggesting that they set up a lunch date or come over for dinner. Occasionally she would go, but usually she made excuses not to. To her, none of those friendships seemed the way they used to, but then of course they weren't. Things changed, people changed, and the world went rolling along right outside the window.
Since the divorce there had been only a handful of dates. It wasn't that she was unattractive. She was, or so she was often told. Her hair was dark brown, cut just above her shoulders, and straight as spider silk. Her eyes, the feature she was most often complimented on, were brown with flecks of hazel that caught the light when she was outside. Since she ran daily, she was fit and didn't look as old as she was. She didn't feel old, either, but when she looked in the mirror lately, she seemed to see her age catching up with her. A new wrinkle around the corner of her eye, a gray hair that seemed to have grown overnight, a vaguely weary look from being constantly on the run.
Her friends thought she was crazy. "You look better now you did years ago;' they insisted, and she still noticed a few men eyeing her across the aisle in the supermarket. But she wasn't and never would be, twenty-two again. Not that she would want to be, even if she could, unless, she sometimes thought to herself, she could take her more mature brain back with her. If she didn't, she'd probably get caught up with another David - a handsome man who craved the good things in life with the underlying assumption that he didn't have to play by the rules. But dammit, rules were important, especially the ones regarding marriage. They were the ones a person was never supposed to break. Her father and mother didn't break them, her sister and brother-in-law didn't, nor did Deanna and Brian. Why did he have to? And why, she wondered as she stood in the surf, did her thoughts always come back to this, even after all this time?
Copyright © Nicolas Sparks. Reproduced with the permission of the publisher Warner Books. All rights reserved.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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