“I need your help,” Julia said quietly into the phone. It was important that no one from the staff hear her conversation. “I know Nathan is unhappy, and it is only a matter of time.” The silence coming from the other end of the line was deafening. “Sara, are you there?” She heard a long winded sigh before she heard a reply, “Sorry Jules, I am here.” Sara’s voice cracked with desperation to find the strength to tell her dear friend what was really on her mind. “You are just as unhappy Jules, and this marriage of yours has been in a shambles for a long time. Truthfully, it started to turn sour not too long after the kids were adopted, right?” Julia didn’t have to think too long about that, Sara was right, the trouble did start shortly after they adopted the twins.
It was late. Their Santa Barbara home stood dark and quiet, with the exception of a light glowing in the library where she sat. The home was filled with the perfect mixture of warm rich colors and textures, as most Mediterranean style homes were. She felt safe and happiest when she was in this home versus any of their other homes. She especially loved the numerous sounds of being on the water. The crash of the waves had a profound calming effect on her. She often hoped that her children, Mason and Margo, would one day experience that same effect when hearing the wave’s crash.
The headlights from Nathan’s Aston Martin cast a soft glow through the library windows. “Sara, I have to go, Nathan’s home. I’ll call you tomorrow.” She pressed the end button and tucked the phone in her robe pocket. Julia picked up the book she had been reading. It was a gift from Nathan and he’d be pleased to see her enjoying it that is if he bothered to stop and say good night.
Most of the staff had retired for the evening. The 2,000 square foot guesthouse was the perfect layout for the staff and was close to the main house when their services were needed. Ms. Ella, the cook, had remained in the kitchen, busying herself until “Master Wilde’s” return. He welcomed her nighttime snacks if he had eaten early. Ms. Ella had been with the family for years and knew just what he liked.
“Good evening Mr. Wilde,” Louis, the butler, said. He had a voice that ran deep and steady. He didn’t usually open the garage entrance for him so he startled Nathan. “Oh good evening Louis. You startled me. Is everything alright?” “Oh yes sir, we just expected you earlier. May I have Ms. Ella bring you a drink or snack sir?” “Yes, a light snack and a martini to my office would be nice.” He replied. “Sir” Louis acknowledged as Nathan turned to retire to his office. Julia sat quietly, listening to his retreating footfalls. When it was clear that she was going to bed alone again, she placed her book on the coffee table and turned out the light.
As she retreated to her bedroom, she found herself recalling the first time she had ever laid eyes on Nathan Wilde. They were both in their twenties. He was tall, well built, dark hair, Smokey blue eyes, chiseled chin. Everything about him said power. He was still a working pilot back then, having worked for the same employer for years. The fleet of Aircraft that he flew was equivalent to three then. Later, when the fleet was sold it included six Aircraft. Nathan worked for a private owner, Mr. and Mrs. Streamwood, for over ten years. They had become family. In fact it was the Streamwood’s who introduced her and her family to him. Julia’s family owned a popular restaurant in Renton, Washington, just outside of Seattle. Tom and Virginia Streamwood had become regulars at the restaurant – frequenting two or three times a week. As much as Virginia loved to cook, she wasn’t the greatest at it, which is why she rarely did so. Not to mention the fact that they employed six cooks on the Streamwood staff, so it was rare that she had to cook. And it didn’t hurt to give the cooks the night off on occasion, inevitably making her feel generous. Occasionally when they came to the restaurant for dinner, they would bring Nathan with them. But it was Julia’s sister, Isabel, that was first to date Nathan. That relationship was broken when Isabel found an opportunity to help less fortunate families in the Southern United States, mostly hurricane victims. It wasn’t until months after Isabel left that Nathan and Julia bumped into each other at a coffee shop. They sat and talked for hours that day. And with the blink of an eye, it seemed, they were an item. As time past, they grew to love each other, but the romance was never the passionate love affair that resonates with true love. Reality was Nathan never really got over Isabel, with whom he had experienced great passion. Nathan had fallen completely in love with Isabel in the short time they were together, and Julia feared, even after being married for seven years, that he would always love Isabel. It was painful for Julia to be the runner-up for all of those years, especially to her sister. And it was time she did something to change that. It was time she spoke to Nathan about a divorce. Unfortunately, she had no time for that now, one of the biggest social gatherings that she and Nate were hosting was taking place on Saturday, only five days away, and she had a mountain of last minute details to work through, starting with the food. When she had last spoken to Ms. Ella and the other two cooks on their staff, they had hired some extra kitchen help for the night, which included servers. But the menu details still needed to be finalized. She knew what direction she needed to go, first thing in the morning, to accomplish this task. For now, she would try and get some quality restful sleep.
She awoke the next morning to a light breeze bringing the smell of Santa Barbara Daisies through the air. The smell was pleasing to her, and she felt refreshed and eager to take on the day. For a moment she reflected on her marriage to Nathan and wondered if he had ever come to say hello or good night last night, since she fell asleep rather quickly. Once she had cleaned up, she headed downstairs to speak to the cooking staff. As she passed Nathan’s office she saw him sitting in one of the chairs looking over something. He looked up as she entered the room. “Good Morning Nathan” Julia boasted, smiling ear to ear. It was a smile she had perfected over the years, so plastic that even the blind could see through it. “Ahh, Good Morning Jules” he replied. One thing was true; she always loved the nicknames he gave her. “Listen; do you have a few minutes? I’d like to talk to you about something” he said. After careful thought, she knew this was the time to have this talk. “Of course Nate, what’s on your mind?” She knew all too well what was on his mind, and as afraid as she was to ask the question, she also felt a huge weight lifting from her as he began to speak. “I love you Julia,” he said. “I love you too Nathan.” “But it’s not enough anymore,” he said. When she looked into his eyes, she saw hope. Something she hadn’t seen in quite some time. He gazed at her with concerning eyes. “Our marriage just isn’t working anymore,” Nathan said. Julia fought hard not to let the smile in her heart show through. “I agree Nathan. It’s time we go our own ways.” She looked up at him, neither was surprised that the other wasn’t tearful. “First things first, we need to get through Saturday’s party successfully,” she said. Nathan agreed. The last thing either of them wanted to do was tarnish their reputations. “Perhaps we can have brunch on Sunday and discuss specifics on what to do next?” she said. Nathan gave his usual nod of acceptance as she began to leave the room. She stopped at the doorway, only briefly, to excuse herself to the kitchen to discuss party specifics with the staff.
As she made her way to the oversized kitchen, she felt happier and more relieved than she had in months, years even. Her spirit was light and cheery, for the first time in what seemed to be an eternity.
Louis, Ms. Ella, and the other kitchen staff noticed a difference in her. A difference they didn’t dare bring up, for fear she would realize how nice she was being and snap out of it. The next five days went by uncharacteristically smooth. There were no usual last minute problems with kitchen or wait staff, no problems with the party planning company’s staff being able to accommodate the extra requests; she felt as though they must have all been aware of this being her last party in this house. She couldn’t help thinking of how much she would miss this house, and even though she hadn’t finalized plans with Nathan, she had decided on which two of their six homes that she wanted to keep, and the Santa Barbara home wasn’t one of them. The two homes she did choose were decent in size, yet neither had such a grand room to host a party of this caliber. Truthfully, she was ok with that.
As she was finishing up getting herself ready for the party, she could hear the early bird guests arriving. These were the group of folks, usually three to five couples, who were faithful in their thirty minute early arrivals. She often thought they did so to enjoy a cocktail or two before anyone they weren’t necessarily fond of arrived. She made her way down the main staircase to greet their arriving guests wearing a red, spaghetti strapped gown that was simply breathtaking, mostly because she was breathtaking. Her long, flowing chestnut hair had been curled in all the right places, and her beauty, for a thirty-five year old woman, had always been very striking. Tonight was no exception.
This party would not be far from the normal party. The occasion stemmed from Nathan and his golf buddies winning a local tournament, thus wanting to celebrate. She was confident that this party would go off without a hitch, just as all the others. Besides, it seemed their friends and colleagues never really needed a reason to gather for celebration, making her job to please the crowd and easy one. As she gathered the guests from the foyer, guiding them to the grand room, Nathan stopped her. “Excuse me everyone, would anyone mind if I steal Julia for a moment?” he said. Of course, everyone obliged as he pointed the direction for them to follow to the party, although many already knew the way. “What is it Nathan?” she said. He looked at her with adoring eyes. “You are a very striking woman, Jules. I truly hope we will always remain friends,” he said. “Of course, Nathan, that is how we started. Now what is this about?” she said in an angrily tone. “Well, my brother Brian is here. He showed up this morning.” Nathan anticipated she wasn’t going to be happy about this, since she never liked or understood Brian. “Oh,” she said, “You mean the man who can’t stop drinking and seducing women, has decided to come and ruin my last party here?” Julia couldn’t believe her ears. She couldn’t believe that the one brother of Nate’s that she despised, was actually there, and attending her party. “Technically, yes Jules, but he is not the same man he once was,” Nathan claimed. His eyes were full of hope. All Julia could do was pray that what he said was true, and maybe it was, after all, it had been almost five years since she had seen Brian, perhaps he had changed. “Well,” she said, “If he truly has become a better man, then I will be happy to see him. Where is he?” She feared that Nathan’s response would be “At the bar with the Fletcher Widow” or something of the nature. “He’s mingling with the guests by now, drinking sparkling water. He’s adopted a rule of only three drinks per party, as to not make a mockery of himself,” Nathan proclaimed. He could see from the facial expression, that Julia was impressed. Brian sounded like he had grown up a great deal, which was good for him.
By the time she entered the grand room, the party had tripled in size. It appeared that all attending were having a wonderful time, and things running smoothly. She’d finally found herself steps from Brian, as she was talking to Sara, when she heard, “Well, Jules, you look more beautiful than my memory portrayed.” She turned to see a tall, handsome man. His features were not unlike Nathan’s. Very strong, very masculine. “Brian, you look great, how are you?” As she spoke, they embraced and gestured with a peck on the cheek. “Oh, Julia, I have never been a happier man.” As they smiled at one another, she noticed an unexpected change in Brian, just as Nate had suggested. Could Brian have changed in more ways than even Nate knew?
As the night went on, she found herself acting like a school girl, gossiping and chatting with her best girls. But this time, one of the girls was Brian. Over the course of the evening she and Sara had figured something out about Brian. They subtly got him to admit it to them what his biggest change had been. He begged them not to say anything to his family, which of course the two friends agreed. Sara suggested that Brian stay long enough to see Tristan, Julia’s brother, who was visiting the following week, noting they could make a marvelous couple. Julia and Sara were amazed to see how much his face lit up, as though he were hoping for the introduction.
The night progressed beautifully, and Brian’s secret remained safe, that was until Julia’s brother arrived for his visit, but Julia was pretty confident that Nate would be gone by then, allowing her time to gather and move her belongings, which would allow Brian’s secret a bit more time in the closet. Once the party ended, Nathan, Brian, and Julia lent a hand in cleaning up the mess before checking on the children and heading off to their rooms. Julia couldn’t help being pleased with the outcome of the evening. It was truly much more than she had expected. Even though it were her last party at this home, she couldn’t be more thrilled at how it went.
The next morning Julia woke early. She knew the anticipation of brunch with Nathan was the cause. She decided to go for a run along the beach to pass some time rather than sitting around dwelling on the possibilities of their agreement. She believed Nathan was a giving man, but often divorce changed people. They had been together just over seven years, and while that wasn’t a long amount of time, it was a significant amount of time. They had jumped into everything about their relationship, and now she feared, jumping out of this relationship too fast may cost her.
They met in the dining room for their meal together and although she didn’t believe she could keep any food down with all of the butterflies in her stomach, she knew she had to try. She put some bacon and assorted berries on her plate and found herself watching his every move. Once Nathan had filled his plate, he began to speak. “Jules, I want to make this divorce as easy as possible for both of us, after all, I still consider you my good friend.” She smiled at him and agreed, it was all she could do to speak so she kept it short and sweet. “Please tell me if you agree that two of our homes will be sufficient housing for you,” he said. She couldn’t help but think it was selfish of him to want more than half when it came to their homes, but realized it was all she wanted, thus accepting his offer. He asked her to make the decision of which two homes she wanted to keep. Originally she’d thought she wanted to keep the Santa Barbara home, but after careful consideration, she chose their Seattle area home and their Chicago area home. Both homes were on the outskirts of town, so she experienced the tranquil small town feel, with the hustle and bustle of big city life easily within reach. Nathan loved their Chicago home, for many reasons, and she was all but convinced that he would never agree, but to her surprise he agreed. Each of their six homes was fully furnished and staffed, as well as clothing, toiletries, and all of the other necessities. They agreed to donate the other’s belongings in the homes they kept unless the other wanted something specific.
As far as the children were concerned, Julia would have Mason and Margo most of the year with Nathan getting them at various times usually in two week periods. They agreed their school life was important and they wanted them to make and keep friends for years. Once they agreed on a monetary settlement, Julia believed their negotiations were over; however Nathan wanted one more thing. “Jules,” he said, “I have one more request.” Bewildered, she asked “What would you like Nate?” She feared his request would be one that she couldn’t grant. “I need to know how to get a hold of Isabel.” Julia was dumbfounded. She couldn’t believe he had the nerve to ask about her sister and truly think he would get an honest answer out of her. “I shouldn’t be asking, but please hear me out, I truly feel that you are my friend.” She sat there speechless, nowhere close to convinced that she should divulge this information to him, but she found herself willing to hear him out. “I’m listening,” she said. “The short time that I spent with your sister was the best time of my life and I need her back in my life. I am sorry Jules, I know that telling you this hurts and makes me look like an insensitive prick, but don’t we both deserve to be happy?” He made a point, a point that she couldn’t overlook.
After a few minutes of silence, she told him the name of the small town in Georgia where he could find Isabel, as well as a phone number where she could be reached. She felt as though she had done the right thing. Nathan was truly happy to have the information, and she was somehow happy to provide him with that happiness. With their negotiations now complete, it didn’t take any time for Nate to find a phone, and before she knew it, she could hear him talking with her sister. That was it, her marriage was over. And now, finally, after more than seven years, she could begin the blissfully happy life she deserved.