She frowned and shook her head. “But you’re not doing anything to fix it.”
“What do you mean fix it? My husband left me for my best friend.”
“He didn’t leave you. Has he spoken of divorce papers?”
I swallowed. “No.”
“So he’s still your husband.”
“Yes, technically, but—”
“I called him last night.”
“What do you mean you called him?”
“I called him,” she said matter-of-factly.
“Why would you do that?”
“I wanted to hear things from his point of view. I wanted to make sure he was okay.”
My heart began to drown once more.
“He cheated on me, Mama. He left me, and you’re asking if he’s okay?”
She didn’t once ask me that question. She never asked if I was okay.
She stood tall, looking as beautiful as ever, and pursed her lips together. “He’s still my son-in-law, Grace. He’s our family.”
“I’m your daughter,” I argued.
“Please listen, Grace,” she whispered. “He said he still loves you.”
“He’s a liar.”
“Bite your tongue,” she scolded me. “We have known the Braun family all our lives, and Finley Braun wouldn’t lie about loving you.”
“You’d be surprised at what he could lie about, Mama. Plus, maybe it takes more than love to make a marriage last.”
“Yes, it does. It takes forgiveness and prayer,” she scolded me.
“She was my best friend. He’s dating my best friend. They are still together.”
“I know it’s messy…” Mama started.
I huffed. “Messy?!” My voice was louder than she liked. “Come on, Mama. You’re being ridiculous.”
“I am not. People make mistakes, Gracelyn Mae, and if you don’t show him that you still want him, you’ll lose him completely. As his wife, it is your duty to stand by your husband even when he’s lost. You have to lead him back home.”
“Autumn didn’t stand before you and say vows. What she did was horrible, but it is no concern to you, not really. She means nothing to your life. Finley means everything. Who are you without Finn, Grace? He’s been by your side more than half of your lifetime. You both are a part of each other. Just because the days are dark doesn’t mean we stop trying. Youth today are so quick to throw away relationships before even giving them a chance to heal. There’s healing in time.”
My stomach was in knots, and I hadn’t a clue how to respond because I’ve somewhat been wondering the same thing. Without Finn, who was I? He’d been such a big part of my existence that I wasn’t certain how to go about living without him.
Our lives had been so tangled that I was almost certain he took parts of me when he untied our love.
Who was I supposed to be now?
Was I even still a person of my own accord?
Without Finley, did I even exist?
Yet none of that mattered. Not really.
Because even if I fought for his love, even if I prayed for him to come back to me, he’d still have had an affair with my best friend. If it were a stranger, perhaps I could’ve moved on. Perhaps I could’ve found a drop of forgiveness in my soul, but with Autumn?
I’d never be able to trust him again, and every second he was gone from my touch, I’d imagine him embraced in hers.
What kind of life was that to live?
What kind of woman would I be if I melted back into the arms of the man who repeatedly betrayed me?
“You aren’t even going to try, are you?” Mama frowned. “You’re not going to give him a chance? He’d said he’s been calling you.”
“I have nothing to say to him.”
“Your stubbornness is going to ruin your life.”
“Mama…” I whispered, blinking a few times and rubbing the side of my neck. “Can’t you just choose me today? If only for one day?”
Not even a glimpse of compassion crossed her face as she glanced around the church. “Gracelyn, I need you to start acting your age instead of acting out like a child. If you are going to stay in Chester for a while, you need to act appropriately.”
“Act appropriately? What are you talking about?”
“You are the daughter of the pastor, which, in turn, makes you the daughter of this town. You have a responsibility to your family, to this town, to show up with a smile and class.”
“I’m serious, Grace. I don’t want to argue, and I’m tired of getting calls from people about how odd you’re acting.”
“What? What does that even mean?”
“People have been talking about seeing you wandering through town crying and how your whole personality seems”—she cleared her throat—“off. Plus, what were you doing down at that auto shop talking to that—thing?”
“Excuse me? Mama, do you have people spying on me?” I asked, stunned.
“Of course not, Gracelyn. Don’t be ridiculous. But this is a small town, and people do have eyes of their own. You need to stay away from those Emery men. They are reckless.”