Home > The Wedding Ranch

The Wedding Ranch
Author: Nancy Naigle

 


Prologue


Valentine’s Day was a sore spot for Lorri this year, and being stuck in the office surrounded by co-workers’ flowers and shiny foil heart boxes made it worse.

For her it was more than just Cupid’s big day. It was also the one-year anniversary of the day she was convinced Craig was cheating on her. The last-minute business trip had been a disappointment for them both, or she’d thought at the time. He’d said it would be a late night, so she’d decided to arrange delivery of a charcuterie tray and a bottle of their favorite wine to his room. Only when she called the hotel, he wasn’t registered.

That weird swirling that had hung in her stomach as she ended the call that day made a repeat performance.

She’d have sworn on her life that Craig would never be unfaithful.

But when he returned, he ran down the events of his business trip like he always did, and when she asked about his stay at the hotel, he lied right to her face. Had she not known for certain that he hadn’t been there, she would’ve believed him too.

Confronting him had ended in a nasty argument about lack of trust, and her apologizing for doubting him. He’d said the hotel he usually stayed at was full, and he was rebooked somewhere else at the last minute. Lorri still had her doubts.

This year his business trip over Valentine’s Day had been planned for so long that she’d considered ways to track him to catch him in the act.

But if their marriage had come to that, did it matter? Guilty or not, the damage was done. Which is why she’d finally talked to a divorce lawyer.

Her phone rang, bringing her focus back on work. “Lorri Walker. Can I help you?”

“Happy Valentine’s Day!” Pam’s voice sang out.

“For you maybe. I should’ve sent myself flowers to the office today. I think I might be the only one without them.”

“They just die anyway,” Pam said. “Took me years to get Bobby to understand that. Finally, I get what I really want. He cooks for me, then rubs my feet. My toes are going to be so happy tonight.”

“I guess Craig is still a work in progress on that.”

“Well, I just wanted to check on you.”

“I’m fine. With him out of town I’m picking up Chinese food, and I’m going to eat it right out of the container. I might even crank up the air conditioner and turn on the fireplace—which Craig would never allow—and just relax.”

“Sounds like a perfect night to me.” Pam’s laugh eased the tightness in Lorri’s chest.

A new email pinged on her phone. “Oh, great.” Lorri sighed as she read the message. “I just got an alert that we’re over the limit on our credit card. Again. I hate it when he does that.” Lorri logged in to their bank’s website to make a payment to the account to cover it.

“Maybe he’s going to surprise you with something amazing,” Pam said with a laugh.

“Highly unlikely.”

“You might want to at least pick up some cheap conversation hearts for him just in case,” she teased.

“Definitely not. They don’t make a conversation heart with what I have to say to him. Although throwing a box of them at him does hold some appeal.” Being a graphic designer, her creative mind conjured up an image of heart-shaped candies dropping in slow motion from the sky all around Craig. As he caught the colorful candies midair, he read them out loud. “Cheater.” Tossing it aside, the next read “How Could U” followed by more in pastel colors like, “It’s Over,” “Bye-Bye,” “U R The Ex,” and “Half Mine.”

“No violence. Never do anything you can’t undo.” Pam’s voice held a hint of laughter.

“One little box wouldn’t do that much damage.” The image made her smile. Hey, babe, she’d say. A little shake-shake of the candies, then wham-o. He’d yelp and look at her like she was crazy. “It might be just the right kind of wake-up call.”

“That would definitely get his attention, but Lorri, you’ve really got to pick a side on this. You’re letting this consume your life. You’re losing confidence because of it. I know it’s not easy, but you have to make a decision.”

“I want him to be faithful. To actively participate in our marriage. What I want is for things to be like they used to be.”

“I get it, but we can’t control anyone else, we can only control ourselves—so your options are to forgive him and let it go, or if you really can’t forgive him then you should leave.”

“How do I forgive?”

“I don’t know, but as long as you keep focusing on how he’s wronged you, you’ve got one foot out of the marriage.”

“Ouch.”

“I just want you to be happy. Marriages make it through transgressions sometimes. I can’t say how I’d react. But love guides us, and forgiveness is key.”

“Seems to me if we were both following the same wedding vows, there wouldn’t be anything to forgive. If I just knew the truth it would be so much easier.”

“I’m sorry this happened to you,” Pam said.

Lorri looked down. With a shake of her head, she said, “Me too. I still love him.”

“I know you do. You’re hurting, and a year is a long time to hold on to this.”

“You’re right, it’s no way to live, and I know I didn’t do anything wrong, but it makes me feel like a failure.”

“Honey, you’re not.”

Lorri scanned the charges on the credit card. “I don’t believe this.”

“You are not a failure. You’re wonderful—”

“Not that. I’m looking at the credit card bill. There’s a one-hundred-and-twelve-dollar charge for flowers, and last week there was one for three hundred and twenty dollars at a jewelry store.” Jewelry? He’s buying her jewelry? She swallowed back the acrid taste that suddenly filled her mouth.

“Wow,” Pam said. “It looks like Craig finally figured out Valentine’s Day after all. Maybe it’s not too late for him to shape up and be the man of your dreams again.”

“Honestly that did not cross my mind.” She let out a sigh. “I was thinking he bought someone else jewelry. Or maybe he’s feeling guilty.”

“Marriage is hard,” Pam said. “Especially when trust is broken. It’s like a piece of paper you’ve crumpled. When you smooth it out you can use it, but it’s never the same.”

Lorri hesitated, almost afraid to say the words out loud. “There is a little flutter of hope in my heart right now.” She transferred money to cover the over-credit limit. “You must think I’m an idiot for still feeling that way after all my complaining about him.”

“Not at all. You’re the only one who can decide when enough is enough. You’ll never hear judgment from me. I’m your friend. Your happiness is what matters to me.”

Lorri smiled into the phone. “Thank you. Have a wonderful celebration tonight. Hug Bobby for me.”

“Will do. Call if you need me.”

“I’ll be fine. Bye.” Lorri hung up. Pam was a true friend. The other women they’d met through neighbors, husbands, and country club events. Dutiful wives, all of them. The social time and girls’ lunches were necessary for life balance, but the women weren’t the kind of friends you confided in. It was Pam who had convinced Lorri to confide in their friend Kelsey, the best divorce attorney in Raleigh, about her options so she’d know what to expect if it really came down to that.

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