Don’t cry, Libby said to herself as she scraped mud off the Tory Burch wedge pumps she’d just bought in Manhattan last week. They’d cost nearly as much as her airfare. Her perfect shoes were probably ruined. Truthfully, though, it wasn’t the soiled shoes that had upset her; she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown in general. In an attempt to alleviate the distress that was now consuming every inch of her body, she allowed her gaze to settle on the dogwood tree in the yard.
It looked just like the one she had climbed as a kid. Back then, her thin frame had allowed her to climb its narrow branches easily. Putting her foot at just the right spots where the branches forked out from the trunk of the tree, she’d grab a higher branch. She could feel the grit on the palms of her hands despite the tree’s smooth bark. With every step, the branches wiggled under her feet, shaking the white flowers bunched at the ends.
When she reached the top, she’d lean against the trunk and pick the blooms, making a miniature bouquet. She could see all the way to the bay. She relished the quiet of her little spot at the top of the tree. With nothing but her thoughts, she’d sit, away from the demands of her mother, the pressures of growing up, and the drama surrounding her family.
But it was never long before her mother saw her through the kitchen window. Celia Potter would yell up to her, telling her that ladies didn’t climb trees, and she had better get down before anyone could see her. She always obeyed. She didn’t necessarily agree with her mother, she had just wanted to make her happy. The memory of it took her off guard.
Three familiar chirps came from her bag, and, still dragging her shoe along the cracked sidewalk, she retrieved her phone. She shifted her bag on her shoulder and looked around. Libby was in the middle of nowhere. She couldn’t even see the next cottage over.
She knew who it was, but at this point they barely spoke to each other. She used to answer his call with something witty and flirty, but now she could hardly muster a “hello” when she answered. The line was silent, and Libby checked the phone to be sure that she hadn’t lost the call. With a grimace, she remembered about the bad cell phone reception, and inwardly cringed at the thought of the lack of service. Even her mobile hot spot wouldn’t work consistently at that range.
“Hello, Libby. I just wanted to confirm that you’re planning to send me the paperwork on the cottage,” Wade’s voice came through smooth and unbothered—whereas she wanted to sob into the phone. The pain of losing him was still right there in her chest, waiting to be unleashed. She took in a breath to center herself before answering.
“I just got here, but yes, I’ll send it as soon as I finalize everything,” her words came out carefully controlled in an attempt to keep herself together. She cleared her throat to try and remove the lump forming there.
Wade Foster was someone with whom she thought she could be happy. He had been the kind of boyfriend she could call any time, and he’d listen if she needed him. He’d brought her flowers on all the major holidays. He knew just when to be romantic as if he’d read a manual or something. Every time, he was right on the mark. So when he proposed and asked her to move in with him a year ago, she was over the moon about it. It was a step in the right direction, a step toward her perfect future.
A planner by nature, she’d mapped it all out in her head: She’d had a quiet, unfussy proposal—nothing drawing a lot of attention, which was exactly what she’d always wanted. Wade had simply gotten down on one knee over a candlelight dinner at a secluded table in the wine cellar of a restaurant. She’d hoped for a small summer wedding, the Vera Wang dress that she’d torn out of her latest bridal magazine, a separate reception held over the weekend at Wade’s family home in the Hamptons, and a honeymoon in St. Croix.
Even more important than all that was the promise of a family. Growing up, it had only been Libby and her mother after her father left them, and she’d relied on close friends to be like family. Libby wanted nothing more than to have a real family with Wade—big, family holidays, the patter of little feet. And it had really looked like it was all going to happen. Until he’d knocked her to her knees by leaving her at her lowest moment.
After the merger at work, things seemed to be going along fine, until out of the blue, she was told they were restructuring her department and she would no longer be needed. Finding a new job was proving difficult, and Wade started working longer hours, spending weeks away on business. Feeling depressed and anxious about the future, she’d turned to Wade for support. That’s when he’d left her.