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It's Better This Way
Author: Debbie Macomber

 

Prologue

 


   Julia Jones sat at her desk, the divorce papers in front of her, shouting at her to pick up the pen, sign her name, and put an end to this insanity once and for all. Her heart ached, and she held her breath to the point that her lungs felt as if they would explode. Reaching for the pen, her hand trembled with the weight of what she was about to do. Closing her eyes, she set the pen back on the desktop.

   She’d fought so hard to save her marriage. She loved Eddie. There’d never been anyone but her husband. When he tearfully admitted he’d fallen out of love with her, she intuitively knew he’d become involved with someone else, although he adamantly denied it. She could understand if another woman had fallen in love with her husband; Julia loved him, too. Even at fifty-three, Eddie was handsome, athletic, and charismatic.

   Unwilling to give up on her thirty-one-year marriage, she pleaded with him to try counseling. To his credit, Eddie agreed, although reluctantly. However, after only five sessions, he said it would do no good. He admitted to the affair with a woman named Laura, someone he’d met on the golf course. He no longer wanted to make his marriage work. He wanted out to start a new life with this other woman.

       Still, Julia was unwilling to give up. She was determined. Dedicated to her husband and her marriage. Even after Eddie quit counseling, she continued, seeking ways to build a bridge that would bring her husband back.

   Back to their family.

   Back to the good life they had created together.

   Back to her.

   They were a team. Or had been. Julia had shared nearly every important life experience with Eddie. Marriage. Children. The death of her father. Triumphs. Discouragements. He’d been her soul mate.

   Julia met Eddie in college. They were young and in love, full of ambition, all set to make their mark in the world. They married, encouraged, and supported each other as they pursued their individual careers. Eddie became a professional golfer, and when his career faded, he became a country club pro and later opened his own shop.

   Julia had graduated with a degree in interior design. Her own business had become a success, and she was a sought-after designer, working with contractors from across the state. After marrying and investing their talent and time in building their careers, they’d waited ten years to start their family. Julia was thirty-two before she had Hillary, and Marie a year later. Eddie loved his daughters. They were the pride of his life.

       Even now, Julia didn’t know how this affair had happened. She’d been completely blindsided. She’d assumed they were happy. They’d been together all these years and were at the point when they were about to enjoy the fruits of their labors. Their nest was empty. Both girls were in college, Hillary was about to graduate, and Marie was a year behind her. The two shared an apartment near the University of Washington, where they attended classes. Hillary was studying to be a physical therapist and played tennis for the college team, just as Julia had while in school. Marie planned to be a respiratory therapist.

   Even knowing her husband was involved in an affair, Julia had stubbornly held on to her marriage. Eddie was her best friend. He’d wept with her when her father passed, had been a good father and partner, cheering her successes and comforting her when she faced disappointments. They had been a team, each celebrating the other. They had a good life together, and she wasn’t willing to flush it all away.

   Julia missed her father terribly. Dad would have been stunned and disappointed in Eddie. Countless times over the years, when life had thrown her an unexpected curve, he’d tell her: It’s better this way. He’d said it so often that before he died, her mother threatened to have it chiseled on his tombstone.

   She remembered the first time he said it was when she was six. She’d been invited to her best friend’s birthday party, but had gotten the flu the night before, and couldn’t go. Disappointed, she’d wept in her daddy’s arms, and he’d comforted her by telling her it was better this way. She hadn’t believed him until the following Sunday, when she was feeling better and Heather brought her a piece of her special birthday cake. Later, her dad drove her and Heather to the circus, and they’d had a wonderful time. It had been better than sharing her best friend with everyone in her first-grade class.

       Again and again over the years, when Julia had suffered disappointments—a prom date who disappeared in the middle of the dance, a missed business flight to New York—she would be naturally frustrated and upset, until she remembered her father’s words of wisdom.

   Right then, with her marriage at stake, it didn’t feel like anything would ever be better again.

   Hoping Eddie would come to his senses, Julia begged him to wait six months, praying with all her might that he would change his mind about this divorce. They would find their way through this. Start again. Forgive each other.

   All she wanted was those six months, convinced he would come to his senses.

   Eddie hesitantly agreed, although he made sure she was fully aware that this was his time limit. After six months, she would willingly sign the divorce papers. With a wounded heart, she promised to abide by his stipulation.

   At Eddie’s insistence, they spoke with an attorney. Everything would be ready for when the time came. The settlement agreement had been amicably set in place. He kept his business and she kept hers. She promised, at the end of those six months, that they would put the house on the market. Julia would sell her dream home, the very one she had lovingly decorated. They would evenly split the profits. Of the furnishings, there were only a few pieces Eddie wanted.

   Four months into the six-month waiting period, things had gotten ugly. It seemed Eddie’s lover had grown impatient and wanted matters resolved so they could move on together. She was eager for them to put down roots.

       When Julia held firm to their six-month agreement, Laura got involved, forwarding Julia photo upon photo of her and Eddie together, dining out. Selfies on the golf course. Even one of them in bed together. As best she could, Julia ignored the pictures, refusing to take the bait.

   When she refused to respond, Laura tried another tactic and sent her ugly text messages, reminding Julia that Eddie no longer loved her and wanted out of the marriage.

   You are only delaying the inevitable.

   You are being so selfish and mean-spirited.

   Why are you beating a dead horse?

   You’re a jealous witch.

   For a couple weeks, Julia resisted, until she couldn’t take it any longer. Before she could stop herself, she responded with ugly messages of her own, letting Laura know exactly what she thought of her in words that made her blush now. She hated herself for lowering to Laura’s level. She regretted every word of those texts, furious with herself. She wasn’t that woman.

   At that point, their daughter had gotten involved. Julia had never meant for her daughter to see those texts. When she did, Hillary had gone ballistic. Both their daughters were already furious with their father, and this behavior from Laura didn’t help.

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