Della is an Ivy League educated, successful career woman, who hobnobs with the rich and famous in New York City. She has everything she ever wanted, except the man she loves. For over a decade, Della's been hopelessly in love with her best friend. Loving Jake is an exquisite form of torture, but walking away from him is unimaginable. When his marriage suddenly crumbles, the future looks bright for Della and Jake...but can the reality of life with the man she loves live up to the fantasy she's created in her mind? There's only one way to find out...
|Product dimensions:||5.24(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.82(d)|
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By Jayne Conway
CreateSpace Independent Publishing PlatformCopyright © 2017 Jayne Conway
All rights reserved.
The train approaches the Greenwich station a little before noon on a bright, beautiful spring day. Della grabs her overnight bag and the gift wrapped in pink and purple hearts out of the overhead bin and checks the platform for Jake. Skye turns eleven today and Della has never missed one of her goddaughter's birthday parties. She didn't miss Skye's actual birthday for that matter, sitting in the hospital waiting room with Jake's parents and in-laws while Melanie was in labor. It feels like yesterday she picked up the phone to hear Jacob's panicked voice asking for help with his wife crying in the background.
"Jake, calm down and tell me what's happening," she murmured into the phone.
It was still dark outside when he called and woke her from a dead sleep. Quietly, she sat up in bed so she wouldn't disturb Steve ... or was it Seth? She couldn't remember the guy's name, but was intimately acquainted with the rest of him.
"She's having bad contractions but they're still too far apart to go to the hospital," he said, tumbling over his words. "The doctor said not to go in until they're five minutes apart, but she's in horrible pain, Del! I don't know what to do."
"Rub her back," she suggested, not having a clue what a woman in labor needs. "Or maybe she should take a bath? I think I heard that helps."
She could hear him asking Melanie if he should draw a bath and her whimper in response.
"Okay, she wants a bath," he said, his voice shaking. "Stay with me, please. Don't hang up."
"Jacob, Melanie needs you right now. Call me with status updates," she whispered.
"Della! I need you! Can you come here? Please stay with me. I can't do this without you!"
At the time, Jacob and Melanie lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, in an apartment his wife's family bought them as a wedding gift. Della lived downtown in a small Tribeca loft. The man lying beside her began to stir and wrapped his arm around her legs. She rolled her eyes and scooted to the edge of the bed as quietly as she could, reaching for a t-shirt to conceal her nudity from her friend on the other end of the phone.
"Jake ..." she paused, tugging the fabric over her head.
"You're not alone, are you?" he asked, his voice lowering an octave.
"No, I'm not," she replied.
They didn't speak for a minute, the only sound, the bathwater running as he filled the tub. Running her fingers through her hair, she tilted her head back and closed her eyes, then took a deep breath in. If Jacob needed her, she'd be there, just as she had been since their college days.
"I'll be there in half an hour," she finally breathed into the phone.
"Thank you Della," he sighed.
She kicked the guy out of her bed, threw on some clothes and headed uptown, sitting with Jake and his wife all morning and afternoon as Melanie's contractions grew closer and closer together. Jacob's parents drove in from Rhode Island as soon as they got the call and Melanie's parents joined them once they reached the hospital later that evening. She felt completely out of place in the waiting room, but Jake asked her to stay, so she did.
Jake was twenty-four years old when Skye was born. He started the day a scared little boy, and Della was his security blanket. A few hours later, Jacob walked out of the delivery room a man, beaming with love and pride over the birth of his daughter.
When Jake placed the baby into Della's arms for the first time, she felt a little piece of her heart break away and take residence in its new home, within Skye. Della has never loved anyone as fiercely as she loves her goddaughter and would do just about anything for her.
Stepping down onto the platform at the Greenwich station, Della is met by Jake.
"Hey there," she says, stepping into his embrace. "Where's Skye?"
"Home," he murmurs into her hair, squeezing her tight. "I need Della time."
She pulls away from him and frowns.
"What's the matter, Jake?" she asks, but he pulls her against him again.
"Let me hug you, okay? I just need a hug," he whispers.
Confused, but accommodating, she relaxes in his arms, waiting out the hug before pressing him for information. She gauges his anguish by the intensity of his hug. The longer and tighter he holds her, the more upset he is.
She's known Jake for what seems a lifetime and the last time he held her like this was on his wedding day. He'd been dating Melanie for a few months when she got pregnant and it's no secret that's why they married. No one thought their marriage would last, but somehow they've made it work.
On the day of their wedding, however, Jake was petrified, and clung to her just like this.
What is going on? she wonders. Did he have an argument with Melanie? Is something wrong with Skye or maybe his parents?
Finally, he takes a deep breath in and sighs, releasing his hold on her. He's several inches taller than Della, and when his bright blue eyes meet hers, they're filled with sadness and fear. Della searches his face for clues and notices a few grey hairs peppering his otherwise dark brown hair. She hasn't seen him in a month and the grey hairs are new.
"Are you gonna to tell me?" she asks. "Or make me guess?"
"Let's go to the car," he says, slinging her overnight bag over his shoulder.
Settling into the tan leather seat of his Lexus, she waits until he's ready to talk.
"I lost my job," he finally whispers. "There were layoffs at the firm and I've been let go. I found out yesterday."
She takes his hand in hers and squeezes it reassuringly. They are in the middle of the worst recession this country has faced since the Great Depression and Jake's in the financial sector. It was bound to happen eventually; they discussed this very thing when she had drinks with him last month. This was a foregone conclusion to his career in equities trading.
"I'm sorry, Jake," she says. "Everything's going to be okay, I promise."
He nods his head, then rests it against the steering wheel.
"I just feel so helpless right now. Melanie is freaking out and we had a huge fight last night. She wants to ask her parents for money and I put my foot down and said we need to scale back on expenses until I find something else. I have a family to protect and provide for, Della. I'm thirty-five years old and don't want to take their money. But there are no jobs out there right now, not in my field. It could be years before the economy turns around. I don't know what to do."
"Jake, you don't even like your field," she reminds him. "Maybe it's time to find another one? You're still young, there's time to make changes. If you could do anything in the world, what would it be?"
"You know what I've always wanted to do," he smiles. "But that's not exactly realistic, is it?"
She smiles, remembering their youthful dreams. Jake wanted to be a musician and Della, a novelist. During college, Jake spent many evenings playing his guitar and singing at local bars to a small but fervent group of followers, Della included. He's a talented singer-songwriter, and his fans believed he was going to make it big. Jake insisted he did it for fun, but Della saw the fire in his eyes whenever he was onstage.
Then he moved to New York and the wife and child came along, and she hasn't seen him pick up a guitar in over a decade.
"Why not?" she smiles. "At least while you're looking for another job, there's nothing to stop you from writing music, Jake. Maybe now is your opportunity?"
He turns to her, a real smile spreading across his face.
"You're right. Why not? I got a decent severance package and we have enough in savings to get us through a couple of years if we downsize."
"Anything is possible, my friend," she reassures him. "Look at this time as a gift, a chance to do something you love while you figure out your next moves. Remember Thoreau. 'Go confidently in the direction of your dreams' ..."
"Live the life you imagined," he continues and looks into her eyes. "Thank you, Della."
* * *
Jake's wife, Melanie, specializes in 'over the top' and Skye's eleventh birthday party is off the charts, the most extravagant children's party Della has ever attended. No one would guess the Wheeler's are facing the same financial problems as so many others by appearances. Ponies and face painters, caterers and wait staff. Do children eat caviar and lobster salad? she wonders, grabbing a champagne flute off a passing tray.
When Della was a kid, inviting a few friends to go bowling and eating Carvel ice cream cake was as fancy as it got. She knows her goddaughter. Skye would've preferred a day hiking in the mountains to this circus. Melanie has given it her best effort to turn her little girl into a princess, but Skye is a tomboy at heart and remains miraculously unspoiled given her privileged surroundings. The poor thing looks desperately uncomfortable in the ridiculous poufy pink tulle dress Melanie made her wear today.
Despite Della's pep talk, Jacob is noticeably somber throughout the celebration and is drinking far more than he normally would. He's stayed on the periphery of the group all afternoon, nursing his scotch and soda. His unfocused gaze and social detachment is a red flag to anyone who knows him well.
"I don't know what to do, Della," Melanie whispers, pulling her aside after the cake is served and several guests have taken their leave. "He's being so stubborn! My parents would gladly help us out of this catastrophe."
"He's a proud man, Mel. You can't ask him to change who he is," Della sighs.
"He's talking about budgets, Della!" she murmurs, tears in her eyes. "He mentioned sending Skye to public school and selling this house. He wants us to move somewhere less expensive. Does he expect us to live in some hovel in Stamford or Bridgeport?"
Della bites her lip to stop from laughing. She can only imagine what Melanie considers a 'hovel.' The three-bedroom house Della grew up in would probably qualify. Jake's wife hasn't worked a day in her life and has been pampered since she took her first breath.
Her standard of living didn't change when she married Jacob, her parents saw to that. Mr. Carlyle set their new son-in-law up in a cushy Wall Street firm and Jake's been raking in obscene amounts of money over the past eleven years. Until now.
"Melanie. You sound like a spoiled brat," Della says, meeting her gaze. "He's not asking you to start hooking on the street corner for Christ's sake. Just to reduce spending so he can ride out this storm. He's scared, Mel. Can't you see how freaked out he is? Look at him."
Melanie directs her gaze across the pool and studies Jacob for a moment. He's sitting in the shadows, his shoulder's hunched and staring into space.
Sufficiently chastened, Melanie's flawless complexion turns pink before she looks down at her feet and takes a deep breath.
"We had a horrible fight last night ..." Melanie's voice tapers off. "He asked me to stop going to the spa so often. No more weekly facials and mani-pedi's." Jake's wife lowers herself onto a lounge chair, her face falling; her anxiety transforming to guilt. "He asked me to stop buying clothes and shoes I don't even need ... and I lost it." Melanie covers her face with her hands. "Oh, Della. I'm so embarrassed."
She sits beside Melanie and squeezes her hand.
"I understand how hard this is for you, Mel. What Jake needs now is your support."
Melanie wraps her arms around her and whispers, "Thank you, Della. You're a good friend."
* * *
Later that evening, Della grabs the bag of toiletries from her overnight bag, enters the adjoining guest bathroom and flicks on the bright overhead lights. She twists her keratin-straightened, salon-highlighted hair into a twist and secures it with a clip, then rests her palms on the sink and stares at her reflection for a few moments, taking deep breaths in and out.
You're a good friend ... a good friend.
They are friends, Della and Melanie. Their love for Jake and Skye the tie that binds them. Who would have thought it?
After she tucked Skye in for the night, Della shut the door to her goddaughter's room and caught a glimpse of Jake and Melanie embracing in the hallway, then slipped into the guest suite unnoticed. Crisis averted, she whispers to her reflection. It's not the first time she's played peacemaker between those two, though why she does it is a mystery. Oskar and Rina think she's insane to stay in touch with Jacob, never mind help hold his marriage together!
Knock, knock! The soft rap on the bedroom door snaps her out of her fog. Grabbing her cashmere robe off the bed, Della pulls it over her nightgown and opens the door, not surprised to find Jake on the other side.
"May I come in?" he asks in his flannel pajama bottoms and old, faded Brown University sweatshirt.
She opens the door wider and tilts her head toward the sitting room that's part of the guest suite. Staying with Melanie and Jacob is like staying at a five-star hotel, complete with breakfast in bed. Skye is the server, but their maid/cook/nanny Consuela prepares a delicious, diet-friendly spread.
Will they be letting Consuela go? she wonders as she settles into the oversized armchair across from Jake. That would be a serious blow to everyone, particularly Consuela. The recession has hit the country hard. It seems like everyone is holding their breath waiting for the ax to drop.
"Thank you, Del," Jacob sighs, leaning back against the loveseat.
"For what?" she asks, tossing a blanket across her lap.
"You know what," he says, pointedly.
"Jake, I'm sure you two would've made up without my help. It was nothing," she insists.
He shrugs in response and runs his fingers through his hair. He's hardly changed since high school, she notes for the millionth time. If anything he's gotten better looking, the bastard! Della bears little resemblance to the girl she was back then. She's made it a priority to transform from the socially awkward, chubby girl she was growing up, into a worldly, sophisticated woman of substance. At least, that's her goal. The confidence that she's achieved this goal varies daily.
Della's metamorphosis began the summer before college and by the time she became reacquainted with Jacob, he hardly recognized her. She was a junior at Brown University when her friend, Rina, dragged her to a party at an off-campus apartment and Jake re-entered her life.
Walking through the door, Della realized with dismay the apartment was packed with fraternity guys and jocks, exactly the type of people she avoided. She had enough of their chest thumping and obnoxious behavior growing up with her brother Eli and his friends.
Her brother was the star quarterback of the high school football team, and her house was always packed with athletes and cheerleaders. Della avoided home like the plague back then, spending most of her time at the town library or on Thayer Street in Providence with the rest of her misfit friends.
Abruptly, she turned to leave the party and crashed into someone entering the apartment. When she looked up to mumble an apology, her breath caught in her throat as she laid eyes on Jacob Wheeler for the first time since he graduated high school, over three years earlier. Jake was one of her brother's friends and despite his unfortunate classification as a 'dumb jock', the object of her teenage fantasies.
Her eyes grew wide, her lips parting in surprise as he took hold of her to steady himself.
"I know you ..." he said loudly a long moment later, squinting his eyes as he studied her.
He had clearly tied on a few drinks prior to his arrival and as their eyes locked, Della felt like the bumbling, awkward girl she thought she left behind in Bristol. Since moving to Providence, she'd bumped into many people from her hometown, but it was the first time she'd run into him.
Standing beside Jake, she nodded her head in response, too unnerved to speak.
"What's your name?" he asked, guiding her to the slightly less crowded kitchen.
"Della Stone," she said, trying to steady her shaky voice.
"Della Stone ..." his voice trailed off as he studied her face. "Adeline Stone? Eli's little sister?" he asked, his brows knitting together in confusion.
Again, she nodded, her heart beating hard against her ribcage. She didn't want to be remembered as Addy, Eli Stone's weird little sister. When she left her hometown, she became Della, leaving Addy behind forever.
"You can't be. She was a big girl with coke-bottle glasses."
She stepped back, his words a slap in the face.
"Thanks for the memory," she snapped. "Excuse me, I was just leaving."
Della abruptly left the kitchen, blinking back the tears stinging her eyes as she headed toward the front door. Fuck you Jake Wheeler!
"Wait!" Jacob grabbed her arm, turning her toward him.
Della folded her arms over her chest and took a deep breath in, taking a moment to remind herself she wasn't the person he remembered.
Excerpted from Say Something by Jayne Conway. Copyright © 2017 Jayne Conway. Excerpted by permission of CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
BOOKS BY JAYNE CONWAY,
A Mad Tea Party,
PART ONE | Down the Rabbit Hole,
PART TWO | The Pool of Tears,
PART THREE | Through the Looking Glass,
AND AFTER ... | Advice from a Caterpillar,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for a honest review. The overall flow of this book was nice, and I enjoyed how the characters were not completely what one expected. The beginning was slightly choppy for me because the prologue felt disjointed with being so far in the future before going so far to the past. I didn't entirely like Della in large portions of the book and I really prefer to connect and root for the protagonist, but I appreciated the author making her flawed. In the end, a solid read but made me a bit hesitant to look for other works by Jayne Conway.