Home > It's Better This Way(5)

It's Better This Way(5)
Author: Debbie Macomber

   “I do.” Carrie had been stunned when her mother told her the news that her wonderful uncle Eddie was leaving her aunt for another woman. While that was bad enough, it had deeply affected both Hillary and Marie. After the shouting match at Lake Sammamish, neither cousin had anything to do with their father or his new wife. From what Carrie had heard, Uncle Eddie had made several attempts to reconcile, only her cousins weren’t interested. The problem was, he insisted they meet and accept their stepmother, which Hillary and Marie refused to do. They considered the other woman to have ruined all their lives. That their dad had put this woman above them wasn’t something they were willing to forgive.

   “Hillary’s convinced Dad never wanted girls.”

   “That’s not true,” Carrie said, surprised her cousin would say such a thing. Her uncle Eddie had been a good father. He doted on his daughters, teaching them to play golf and taking them on skiing vacations. She’d often joined them on their outings. Carrie knew it must be hard on her uncle to be separated from them entirely. And especially hard on Hillary and Marie. But they were as stubborn as their dad was.

       “I told her that, only Hillary doesn’t believe me. He has stepsons now and is constantly doing things with them. When she heard Dad took Laura’s sons to a Seahawks game, she blew a gasket. That was all the evidence she needed to prove he’d always wanted sons. According to my sister, we were poor replacements.”

   “You don’t believe that, do you?”

   Marie lifted her shoulder in a halfhearted shrug. “I don’t know what to think any longer. I miss Dad and then I don’t. This is what he wanted; he should be happy, only I know he isn’t.”

   Carrie didn’t know what to think. She’d hoped that after all this time her cousins would be willing to move on and accept their father’s choices even if they didn’t agree with them. Then again, she wondered how she’d react if her father had left her mother for a woman far less deserving of his love.

   “I don’t want to talk about my dad,” Marie said. “It depresses me. Besides, you’re the one with the problem.”

   It was easier to get sidetracked than to deal with her own seemingly impossible situation.

   “Didn’t your dad offer to pay for an apartment for you a while back?”

   Carrie wondered now if she should have accepted. “I told him no. Dad has no idea how much a studio apartment costs these days.” She refused to drain her parents’ savings account because she couldn’t find a job that would support her on her own.

       “Do you have any other ideas?”

   Carrie wished she did. “Justin suggested we move in together.” As if that was going to happen! He lived with his mom, and with them both working jobs that paid slightly above minimum wage, they would never make it financially.

   Marie’s head came up and she looked aghast. “You aren’t going to do it, are you?”

   “I’m not that dumb. Justin is…” She paused, not knowing how best to describe her sometimes boyfriend.

   “Not the one?” Marie offered.

   “Not even close.” They got along fine, shared expenses whenever they went out, and could laugh together. Carrie could never see the relationship going beyond what it was—on her end, at any rate. Even though Justin was thirty, he acted more like someone in his late teens. Life was a party. Responsibility was for someone else. Carrie knew if they were to get an apartment together, she’d be left worrying about paying their rent and utility bills because Justin couldn’t be bothered.

   “I’m meeting your mom for lunch tomorrow,” Carrie said. “I’m hoping she might have an idea of what I should do. I feel like such a disappointment to my parents.”

   Her frustration was overwhelming. Carrie didn’t know what she’d been thinking to major in a subject that didn’t lead to a career. Her love of all things French had led her down a dead-end path when it came to finding employment. The only viable option was to teach, which would mean returning to school for an additional degree. She refused to put that financial burden on her parents, after they’d already paid for one degree. Besides, knowing herself as well as she did, Carrie accepted she didn’t have the temperament to be in a classroom all day.

       “Mom will think of something,” Marie said confidently. “She’s good like that.”

   Carrie sincerely hoped so, as she was at her wit’s end.

 

* * *

 

   —

   At 11:50 the following day, Carrie arrived at her favorite Thai restaurant ten minutes before their scheduled meeting time. She’d been eager to get out of the house and spend as much time as was comfortable away, hoping to give her parents breathing space.

   The restaurant was only a block from The Heritage, where her aunt lived. She loved that building. Her aunt claimed it felt like home the instant she walked inside. Carrie understood; she’d experienced that same warmth and welcome. Very few buildings built of brick remained in the Seattle area. Not with the constant threat of earthquakes. The Heritage was set in the middle of a thriving neighborhood, filled with restaurants and small businesses. The location was ideal for her aunt, as she could walk almost anywhere in the downtown area.

   The server handed her a menu and Carrie ordered a pot of jasmine tea. Even though she never ventured beyond her favorite avocado-and-shrimp green-curry dish, she scanned the front and back of the single page while she waited for Julia to arrive.

   “Carrie,” her aunt called as she approached the table.

   Carrie set aside her empty teacup and slid out of the booth. “Aunt Julia,” she said, cheered by the warmth of the greeting. Carrie enthusiastically hugged her aunt.

       Julia sat opposite her, and Carrie poured them both a fresh cup of tea. Her aunt quickly scanned the menu and made her choice before setting the menu aside. She had her own favorite dish and they often shared.

   “It’s good to see you,” Julia said.

   “You, too.” Despite her joy at seeing her aunt, her shoulders slumped.

   “I think I know what you wanted to see me about.” Julia reached across the table and gently squeezed Carrie’s hand.

   Carrie looked up. “Did Mom call you?”

   Julia nodded.

   “I heard them arguing. They think it’s time I got my own place, and I agree. Only how can I ever afford one on what I make? As it is, I’m hardly able to make my car and insurance payment. Mom has me on their phone plan, and I give her money for that, and I contribute what I can toward groceries.” That was all she could afford. She had a measly hundred dollars in savings, and that wouldn’t last a millisecond in a real emergency.

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