“We better get inside before she loses her mind even more,” Judy warned.
“Are you kidding me? The moment he found out Mama was coming over, he got out of dodge.”
Smart man. “What about Dad? Is he coming?” He worked pretty well as a buffer between Mama and me when we ended up butting heads, which was inevitable. If anything, I was a daddy’s girl through and through, so I always did better when family dinners involved him.
“Mama said he’s working at the church tonight, so it’s just the three of us.”
“Oh.” I groaned. “Wonderful.”
The moment we stepped into the foyer of the house, Mama was there wearing the biggest frown of her life, and her arms stretched out to embrace me.
“Oh, Gracelyn Mae.” She sighed, shaking her head back and forth. “You look awful.”
Home sweet home.
* * *
“I was blindsided at the church today,” Mama told me as we sat down at the dining room table. “You could’ve given me more warning, Gracelyn Mae.”
“I know, and I’m sorry, Mama. I didn’t know anyone saw Finn and me last night.”
“This is Chester. Someone is always watching.”
She wasn’t wrong about that.
“I just cannot believe this is happening.” Mama gasped, seeming completely stunned after learning about what happened between Finn and me. I’d never seen Mama so distraught. She kept shaking her head back and forth in disbelief.
“It’s really okay, Mama. You don’t have to be so heartbroken,” I told her, pushing my food around on my plate.
“You can’t just give up, though, Grace. You can’t walk away from your marriage. Your vows!” she cried. “Didn’t your vows mean anything to you?” I doubt she meant for her words to hurt me so much, but lately, hurting was all that my heart did.
“Mom, come on,” Judy cut in, trying to protect me.
“Of course, they meant something to me,” I whispered, my stomach in knots from her words. Those vows meant everything to me.
“Through sickness and health, Grace. Obviously, Finn is dealing with a demon of the mind. He’s not himself. He wouldn’t ever willingly hurt you, and our family has never had a divorce—ever.” Her overly dramatic reaction was exactly what I expected because everything about my mother was over the top. “What will people say?”
What will people say?
That was her concern?
I couldn’t even reply.
I was currently dealing with my breaking heart pains.
“Grace, it’s like you’re not even fighting for him,” Mom said.
“I’m not,” I told her.
“Don’t you love him?”
I wouldn’t answer her.
“Don’t you care?”
Still, I couldn’t voice my feelings.
“How can you be so selfish?” she asked me, and I giggled. I giggled because she was so serious. I giggled because sometimes laughter was the only thing that kept me from falling apart.
“Selfish? How am I being selfish?” I asked, passing the bread bowl to Judy. She gave me the sincerest frown, and I was so thankful she was my person. Without her there, I would’ve shattered.
“Our family has generations of marriages, long-lasting marriages, and not a single divorce, not ever. Now you want to be the one to soil that? To ruin your family name?”
I rolled my eyes. “Mom, you and Dad don’t even share a bedroom.”
“And probably can’t put up with you,” I muttered under my breath.
“Please speak up, Grace. I hate when you mumble,” she scolded. “You always do that, get so mumbly. Pronunciation is important when you speak. As a teacher, I’d think you’d know this.”
“Sorry. But, look, Finley and I both agree that a divorce is the best idea for us.” That was a lie. A part of me still wanted my husband to love me, but he hadn’t chosen me. He’d chosen her, and I was certain he didn’t have any plans to change his mind.
“He’s agreeing to please you, Grace. He doesn’t want a divorce. He just thinks that will make you happy. All he ever did was try to make you happy.”
“Make me happy?” I questioned, shoveling bread into my mouth. I ate carbs at an unattractive rate when I was nervous, or irritated, or happy—heck, I ate carbohydrates for a living. My hips were living proof of that. “He slept with my best friend, Mom, okay? So, please, tell me how he only wanted to make me happy.”
“He slept with Autumn?” she asked, stunned.
“Oh my gosh,” Mom said, bearing the same grimace my sister did when she found out about Autumn, but her next words were nothing like Judy’s. “How could you let this happen?”
My jaw hit the floor. “What?”
“That came out wrong, but don’t you see?” Mom exclaimed. “You pushed him into the arms of another woman, Grace.”
“Please tell me that came out wrong, too,” I begged.
“You see it, though, right? Don’t you see that? After the last incident—”
“Miscarriage,” I corrected her. She flinched. She always called it an incident because the actual word brought her discomfort. Too bad. I’d lived a lot more discomfort with the word than she had.