I’ve recently read posts by authors who have struggled with various challenges including depression, physical illness and parenting a bi-polar child. I applaud their candor because by telling their story, they gave hope to someone else. So here’s my story and my wish that it gives someone hope.
By definition, a romance has a happily ever after ending. We romance writers call it the HEA. But have you ever wondered what happens when the “ever after” part ends? For me, it ended after 37 years, 7 months and 12 days of marriage. With the stroke of a judge’s pen, my marriage was over.
My world changed. Life as I knew it ended. I was a single woman on her own – at the age of 59. The kids were grown so I hadn’t had Mom duty for a while. But what was I going to be if I wasn’t a wife? I’d married right out of college and it was all I’d ever known.
I’d been drawn to romance novels because of the HEA, and when I began writing, all I wanted to write was romance. How was I going to write HEA when my own had ended? I wasn’t, that’s how. For what seemed like ages, I could hardly write a coherent grocery list. Creativity is greatly affected by major life changes, and divorce is at the top of that list.
Fortunately, I had supportive family and friends, and I was smart enough to seek professional help as well as a support group. I learned about the five stages of grief because I was indeed grieving the end of my marriage.
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I went through every stage, sometimes doubling back through a stage more than once. All I could do was take life one step at a time and work through that grief.
I’m happy to say that in the 5 ½ years since the divorce became final, I have made a wonderful new life for myself. I have new friends who were all in the same situation I was in. I bought a car by myself after my old one was wrecked, and I recently bought a small condo. I sold my first book two years ago and have had two more out since then, including my most recent release, PICTURE THIS.
How do you deal with divorce? One day at a time. Surround yourself with supportive people and use all the resources available to you. I won’t say it’s an easy path, but recovery is possible.
One of my favorite sayings is this: Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end. That became my mantra. And if you are struggling with a major life change, let it be your mantra too.
My favorite movie is Romancing the Stone, and when Joan Wilder has given her editor the manuscript detailing her adventures with Jack T. Colton, her editor says, “Joanie, you are now a world-class hopeless romantic.” Joan replies, “No, hopeful. Hopeful romantic.”
That’s me – a hopeful romantic. I don’t know if I will ever marry again. But I know that life is full of happiness in a lot of ways, I am once again able to write romance and I’ll believe in HEA forever.
When it comes to relationships, Tess Callahan is gun-shy. An ambitious Atlanta divorce attorney, she’s seen the aftermath of relationships gone bad, which is why she has no time in her life for any man except for Nick Russo. Handsome and exciting, he’s the perfect choice to give her all she desires—including the fact he’s never around long enough for things to get complicated. Until suddenly they do.
Nick Russo has the world. His job as a photographer takes him everywhere, and he wouldn’t give that life up for anyone, not even the beautiful and brilliant Tess Callahan. Or so he thinks. An unexpected pregnancy is about to bring everything into focus, a brighter and more colorful world than he ever thought to imagine. The possibilities are endless, and they’re something he can capture not just on film but in reality.
“We have something we need to talk about,” she said cautiously and gauged Nick’s reaction. Sure enough, he looked at the monitor again. He scrubbed his fingers across the back of his neck then ran them through his hair, causing the wayward locks to become even more tousled.
He crossed his arms defensively and leaned back in the chair. “I’m all ears.” His tone was cool and even.
Maybe she could get through this without crying.
She waved a hand over her stomach. “I guess you were a little surprised to see me like this.” Her voice faltered. She reached for a glass of water on the tray and took a long drink.
His dark eyebrows raised inquiringly above espresso-colored eyes that remained trained on her face. “Oh yeah. More than a little. Surprised is an understatement.”
“And I guess you’re wondering how this happened, huh?”
“I think it’s pretty obvious how it happened, but there’s a question that’s really burning in my mind right now. Actually it’s been burning there since I saw you this afternoon.”
He never said the words, but Tess knew what they were, and the time had arrived to come clean about everything.
Tess placed her hand gently on her abdomen and looked directly at him. “This is your baby, Nick.”
He nodded. “I pretty much suspected it was, but I don’t know whether to be excited or mad or confused.”
She could understand the first two reactions. But the third?
“Well, I did use a condom. Every single time,” he said with a hint of irritation in his voice. “I take that responsibility seriously.”
“You know as well as I do they’re not foolproof. Nothing is foolproof. Abstinence is the only method that’s one hundred percent effective to prevent pregnancy, and I don’t seem to remember either one of us being a great big fan of that.” Tess felt the baby kick as if to tell her to calm down. “I didn’t date anyone while you were gone. I can have DNA tests run if you…” Her voice trailed off and she looked away, avoiding his gaze altogether.
“No, there’s no need for that. I have no reason to doubt you. I do wonder why you didn’t tell me, but we’ll table that discussion for the time being. However, I am concerned about you not taking the doctor’s advice. This is serious business, Tess. That’s our son who’s at risk.” He gestured toward the monitor that displayed the baby’s vital signs. “Since I’m between assignments, I’m going to help you.”
Tess lost her battle against the tears, and Nick was beside her in two strides. He sat on the edge of the bed and used his thumb to wipe away the tears. Then he leaned over and kissed her gently on the cheek.
“If the doctor will release you from the hospital, I’ll stay with you until you can hire someone to come in and help. Is that a workable solution?”
Tess nodded, unable to speak around the lump in her throat.
“You worry about everything else, and I’ll put the chest together,” Nick offered. “After all, I do have every conceivable screwdriver known to man.”
“Thank you. I’d like that very much.”
Tess heard him chuckle softly. “That had to hurt, Tessie. You accepting help from someone had to hurt a damned lot. I was afraid you might tell me to go to hell again.”
“Don’t tempt me.”
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