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By Pamela Morsi
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter One"The way I see it," I announced to my husband. "We either renew our vows and start this marriage all over again or we just call it quits and get a divorce."
Sam's jaw dropped open and he looked at me as if I'd lost my mind.
Maybe I had.
It might have been boredom or empty nesting or some weird premenopausal psychosis, but I got up that morning feeling like something had to change and that something had changed. It was as if my life, my marriage, was on some monumental precipice. All that was required was for me to give it a little push.
So I pushed.
"You want to renew our wedding vows?" The tone of Sam's question was conciliatory, almost condescending. "Then we'll renew our wedding vows. You don't have to get dramatic or threaten me about it. Number twenty-five is a big anniversary. A nice party with a little ceremony would be fine."
"I'm not looking for a reason to throw a party," I told him. "It's time to make it clear that we're together because we want to be."
He shrugged off that comment. "I'm here. I'm married to you," he said. "Because I want to be goes without saying."
My translation of those words from Sam language to plain English was "Hey, babe, I love you as much today as ever." But I was no longer certain that making up my own interpretations of his feelings was going to be enough.
We sat across from each other on the deck outside the family room. Sam had been here first, already showered and dressed before I'd even awakened. That was not unusual. Sam had always been a notorious early riser. Fit and tan, at age forty-five, he still had most of his abundant hair, though it was graying, especially at the temples. Dressed in khaki Dockers and a golf shirt, with the swimming pool in the background, Sam looked like a magazine ad for the successful middle-class businessman at his leisure.
He was that, of course, but he couldn't be summed up that easily.
Still in my nightgown, makeup free and bed-headed, I carried my coffee out to join him.
He leaned over to give me a good-morning kiss and handed over the Lifestyle section of the newspaper without me even asking for it. That was because he thought he knew me. He thought he knew what I wanted.
I thought I knew him, too. But I no longer knew what I wanted from him. Or if he still wanted anything from me.
"Still being here is not enough," I told him. "I refuse to have a marriage based on inertia. If we can't find a reason to stay together, then I'd just as soon start over by myself."
From the stunned look on his face, I could tell that Sam was finally taking the discussion seriously. He weighed his response, carefully working out the appropriate words. He was like that. At home or on the job, he rarely allowed himself the luxury of being impulsive. When he spoke his tone carried just exactly the right amount of concern, question and curiosity.
"I didn't realize that you were unhappy," he said.
"I'm not unhappy," I told him defensively. "How could I be? I have a satisfying career, two healthy, welladjusted kids and a wonderful home. I'm emotionally stable and financially secure. Any woman who has all that can't possibly get away with saying she's unhappy."
Sam let that sink in for a moment.
"So you're not unhappy."
"No, I'm not unhappy."
"Usually when the D word is mentioned, it's because something is terribly wrong," he said. "It's kind of the poster-child for unhappy."
"How would you know?" I asked him. "You've been married to me for almost twenty-five years, and as far as I can remember, this is the first time the D word has ever even dropped into a discussion."
I was right about that.
"So why has it dropped in today?" he asked.
That question momentarily stumped me. It wasn't that easy to explain. I took a sip of coffee and then looked thoughtfully into the eyes of the man who had been my partner for more than half of my life.
"Things are different now, Sam," I said. "With Lauren out of college, married, and Nate as settled as he probably will ever be, it's as if we've suddenly got our own lives back."
He shrugged. "We've worked hard, we've done our job as parents and, knock on wood, they've both turned out okay," he said. "We have every reason to be proud of that. And I'd say we've earned some time on our own."
"I agree, I totally agree," I told him. "But it's like a door is opening to a whole new life. I want to know why we should we spend that life together."
Sam tightened his jaw. I could tell he was getting annoyed.
"I don't understand what you're getting at," he said.
"If it's something that I've done or not done, I think you're going to have to spell it out to me. You know how hard it is for me to figure out what you're thinking."
"If you met me today, now, this morning," I asked him, "would you choose to be married to me?"
"Of course," he answered too quickly.
"No, think about it," I insisted. "If we were total strangers, just starting out on our own in our midforties, forties, would you want to date me, sleep with me, spend the rest of your life with me?"
Sam folded up the newspaper and laid it on the mottled glass patio table with a snap of irritation. He leaned back in his chair and eyed me speculatively.
"Is this one of those 'no right answer' questions you women come up with?"
"We women didn't come up with this question, I came up with it. This is not some Cosmo survey, it's the rest of our life."
It sounded serious and I wanted it to be.
"So what's your answer?" I persisted. "If you weren't already married to me, would you want to marry me?"
My husband, Sam, definitely requires some read-between-the-lines skills when expressing his feelings, but he isn't one of those inside-himself kind of guys who can only respond to relationship questions with yes, no and I dunno answers. He is actually fairly adept at verbalizing his inner concerns and conflicts. As a husband, Sam has always been able to share with me. I credit part of this ability to his having been raised by his widowed grandmother. He's also had some times when the surface of his life was so rocky that he's had to dig down deep to stay anchored.
And he's dependably honest.
"If you weren't already married to me, would you want to marry me?"
"How can I know?" he answered. "If I hadn't married you, I don't know what kind of guy I'd be. And I don't know what kind of woman you'd be if you'd spent the last twenty-five years somewhere else."
I nodded thoughtfully.
"Okay, that's a fair enough answer," I admitted.
He smiled and let out a little sigh of relief.
I shook my head. "But I have to let you know," I warned him, "I'm not sure that I'm willing to spend the next twenty-five years with you if our only reason for being together is that we always have been."
His brow furrowed with genuine concern.
"Was my pregnancy the only reason that you married me? Can you even remember how you used to feel about me? What was our getting together all about?"
Excerpted from Suburban Renewal by Pamela Morsi Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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