Broken Resolutions

Six long-time friends gather for their annual New Year’s Eve party. They are meeting at Craig and Hannah’s spectacular home in the country. Hannah is a best-selling romance novelist. Craig is her adoring husband. All seems perfect.

Except nothing is. No one knows that Craig left Hannah several months ago and is living across town with another woman. Tonight, Craig and Hannah will play the part one more time. Because tomorrow will be soon enough for broken dreams and reality. Tonight, they just have to get through the party.

But they didn’t plan on the snowstorm. A snowstorm that will keep them all snowed in together for the next three days – including two ex-spouses who have both brought dates! Anyone can “play nice” for a short time, but three days is plenty of time for secrets to be discovered, for illusions to be shattered, and for resolutions to be broken.

So, dab a little perfume behind your ear, put your party dress on, and slip into your favorite heels. You’re invited to the party!

Excerpt

Broken Resolutions

 Chapter One

 It is a great house for parties.

It is the kind of house that Scarlett O’Hara would build today if she made her money writing romance novels instead of selling cotton and lumber. A stunning two-story brick with three fireplaces, a two-story living room, and four bedrooms, it is situated on fifty acres, and nestled at the end of a long and winding tree-lined drive. It is the sort of place they dreamed of as a young couple. They had imagined the perfect piece of land with woods and a pond, and they had found and bought it. They had imagined a perfect house, this house, and they had built it. Every wall, every window, was carefully selected and positioned. A part of them was in every decision. And when the foundation had been poured, they had each put their handprints into the wet cement. Two adults and one child – laughing as the cement dried upon their hands and their dreams began to take form.

It is an impressive house, although it was not built to impress. It was built to be their home. A haven, a shelter from the storms and cold. A secure nest in the shaking bough of the rest of the world. A place to chart their daughter’s growth on the inside of a closet door. A place to bake cookies in a sun-filled kitchen. To soak in a hot candle-lit bath on a cold and rainy afternoon. To sit by the fire in a deep chair with a good book while snow pelts the windows. A place where, if you want, you can wear your pajamas all day long. A place of welcoming smiles, whispers in the dark, and sweet satisfied sighs.

Into this home they have welcomed their friends to celebrate New Year’s Eve for the last ten years. Before that, the group met for fifteen years in various apartments, and rented houses, but the party has always been held at “Craig and Hannah’s.” In keeping with that tradition, tonight they will all gather to exchange presents, count down the demise of one year, and welcome another. In that respect, tonight will be no different. But in every other way, it will be completely different. For they have a secret. They are getting a divorce.

Tonight they will be Craig and Hannah Hartman, the “perfect couple” one last time. There will be time enough for the truth, shattered illusions, and the end of so many dreams. But not tonight. Tonight they will pretend to be happy and in love, and no one will question it, because it is what their friends expect. In fact, the strength of their relationship is the one reality that has never changed. Until now.

They prepare for this party, their last together in the house, on separate sides of the huge master bath. They each stand at a vanity and mirror, on opposite sides of the room. On a third wall, the pointed end of a heart-shaped whirlpool tub points accusingly at the empty space separating them.

“I can’t find my tie clip,” he says.

“Imagine that.” She is closer to fifty than forty, but could pass for thirty-five. She is lean and fit, and although she doesn’t know it, beautiful. Wearing black nylons and a full black slip, she leans forward to look into the mirror. She avoids looking at his reflection in the mirror and applies her makeup in agitated manner, preoccupied with creating an image.

“Do you know where it’s at?”

“That’s not my job anymore. Call Shelia. She does know what a tie clip is, doesn’t she?”

“Funny. Really funny.” He too, is close to fifty and fit. But tonight he looks tired, and dark circles are under his eyes. He stands near his vanity and watches her, his shoulders drooped and weary.

She goes back to applying her lipstick. His favorite shade.

“I don’t know why the hell I have to wear a suit anyway,” he says. He is fully dressed (with the exception of the tie clip), in a black suit, white shirt, and dark red tie.

“We’ve always dressed for the party.”

“So. There’s lots of things that we’ve always done that we aren’t doing now.”

“Thank God.” She presses her lips together and looks into the mirror. Dropping the lipstick tube into the open drawer of the vanity, she withdraws a small brush and runs it through her hair.

“That’s a waste of time. Not enough left to brush,” he says, referring to her new haircut. Items clatter as he turns his attention back to the vanity he is standing near and opens and closes drawers in his search for the tie clip.

Gritting her teeth, she struggles to keep any expression from her face as she runs the brush through her bangs.

“Did you throw away my tie clips?”

“You took them with you when you moved out.” Picking up a perfume bottle, she pulls off the top and dabs some behind her ears and on her neck. His favorite kind.

“Then why can’t I find any of them?”

“Stupid?” She puts the lid back on the perfume bottle and returns it to its former position atop the vanity.

“Do you have to be so nasty?”

“Nasty?” For the first time, she turns to face him. “You have the nerve to call me nasty after all the crap you’ve pulled?”

“Oh great, here we go again. Do you ever let anything go?”

“Only you.” She gives him a vicious little smile and turns back toward the mirror.

“You know, I don’t have to do this. I don’t know why I ever agreed to this anyway.”

“It was your idea,” she says.

“Well, it was a bad idea.”

“Big surprise.”

“I’m not kidding. I don’t have to do this.”

“No you don’t.” She turns back toward him again. “You can call Jenny and tell her that we’re getting a divorce and that a month ago you moved into an apartment across town with a tramp who has the IQ of a gnat. A tramp who also happens to be the same age as Jenny!”

He walks over to the heart-shaped tub, sits down on the edge, and places his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. “I don’t feel like doing this,” he whispers.

She wonders whether he means that he doesn’t feel like arguing or going through with the evening or getting a divorce. She fights the impulse to close the gap between them, place a hand on his back, draw his head to her body, and assure him that everything will be okay. Just as she has so many times before in the last twenty-five years. But she knows that everything will not be okay, and she can’t lie to him. Even now.

“I’m so tired,” he whispers. “I’m just so tired.”

She turns her back on him and focuses again on her makeup. It was either that or cry, and she has already done enough of that.

Finishing the makeup, she walks across the room and toward the master closet. Entering the closet, she closes the door behind her and leans against it in the dark. She can’t cry now. If she starts crying her eyes will be red and one of their guests will surely notice. Hannah takes a deep breath and tries to steady herself. In just the same manner she had learned during childbirth. In through the nose, and out through the mouth. She takes comfort in the solid mahogany door. Sometimes the house seems like the only thing in her life that feels real and solid. She feels so unstable lately, as if she is an unwilling participant in a magic trick. The tablecloth has been pulled from under her and she is suspended in the moment before she either falls or remains standing.

“Hannah?” Craig is outside the closed closet door.

She does not answer.

“Why are you in the closet in the dark?”

“I’m not.”

“You’re in the closet. There’s no light on.”

“I’m getting dressed.”

“In the dark?”

“I know how. I’m very good at this. I’ve dressed my body several times.”

Silence.

“Hannah?”

More silence.

She can hear his breathing. Familiar. Comforting. In the silence, the rhythm of their breath becomes one. He on one side of the door, her on the other.

“Hannah. I’m sorry that I’ve put you in this position.”

Her eyes burn.

He continues. “I know that this must be hard for you. But we can get through tonight. It’s only one night. We’ll do this, and then after the holidays are over we’ll tell everyone. We both agreed to this. We don’t want Jenny to think of Christmas and New Year’s as the time her parents split.”

Tears threaten and push at the corners of her eyes. His voice. She loves it so much. Now, talking to her in a throaty whisper, it is almost more than she can bear.

She flips on the light. “Get away from the door.” Crossing the closet she reaches for a dress.

“Are you okay?” he asks.

She opens the door and walks through quickly, the dress draped over her arm. “How am I supposed to get dressed with you blabbering outside the door?”

“I thought you could get dressed in the dark?”

“The dark isn’t a problem. You talking is the problem.”

She walks into the bedroom and tosses the dress across the king-sized bed. Crossing the room, she walks to the dresser and opens the lid of the jewelry box that rests there. She can feel his presence in the room, but she ignores him and performs this routine that is so familiar she hardly has to look in the box. First, the heart-shaped ruby necklace. Surrounded by diamonds, it is suspended on a delicate gold chain. He bought it for her after the publication of her first novel, Ruby Red Heart. Her birthday is in July and she had always wanted a real ruby. Next, a ruby and diamond bracelet, a gift after the publication of her second novel, The Yearning Heart. And last, a stunning ring. A perfect ruby flanked on either side by half carat diamonds. That one for her last novel, My Heart’s Desire.

“Are you okay?” he asks again.

“Never better.” She closes the lid of the jewelry box and looks at her reflection in the mirror. She looks at her hair and sighs. She isn’t sure that she likes the new haircut. She is so used to it being long. Turning away from the mirror, she moves back to the bed and picks up the dress. She looks out of place in the room, clad in a black slip, black nylons, and pulling on a black dress. The room is awash with subtle shades of peach. A soft glow of color that bathes the walls, the sheer drapes, the plush comforter and the mass of pillows spread across the bed. It is a room designed for romance and the two look miscast as she angrily tugs the dress over her head and he looks at the floor, his hands surrendered into his pockets.

Wordlessly, she walks over to him, spins around until her back is to him, and stands there while he zips her dress. As soon as he is done, she walks across the room and slips her feet into a pair of outrageous open-toed hot pink high heels. A hot pink bow with tiny silver rhinestones rests atop the shoe, just above her toes. She knows these are exactly the kind of shoes he loves and they make her legs look great. She exits the bedroom wordlessly with him following behind. They descend the curved staircase in single file, her in front of him. Both of their right hands rest on the rich mahogany hand rail. Hannah feels a little wobbly in the shoes, but manages to hide the fact. Overhead, a crystal chandelier hangs from a twenty-two foot ceiling. It is a relatively dark winter afternoon, but the tall arched palladium window positioned over the massive double door captures enough light so that soft reflections from the chandelier are cast against the pale tan walls in irregular patterns of pale pink, blue, and yellow.

Reaching the tiled foyer, they turn right, walk past the two-story grand room, and down the hall to the kitchen. Hannah walks over to the stove, turns on the light, and looks through the glass oven door.

“The lasagna smells great,” he says. Every year, until this one, they had made lasagna together for their New Year’s Eve guests. He thinks of the first year when they made it in Hannah’s college apartment. The stove didn’t work well and it took twice as long as it should have. They were all so hungry they ended up ordering a pizza to snack on until it was done. “Anything I can do to help?” he asks, although he already knows the answer.

“No. Already made the salad. Just have to put in the garlic bread and it’s too early for that.”

“Where’d you get those shoes?” he asks as he looks down at her feet.

Hannah hides a smile but her eyes light up, despite her best efforts. “Oh, I don’t remember.” Of course she remembers. She ordered them online and it took her three days to find them. In the search for them she had already returned two other pairs that were not quite right. These, in her estimation, are perfect.

She looks into his eyes and they both stare at each other. Both looking as if they might be about to speak, but neither knowing what to say. After a few minutes, he looks down at the kitchen floor and says, “I still don’t have a tie clasp.”

Hannah spins on her expensive hot pink heel, walks out of the kitchen, past the great room, crosses the foyer, and enters the library. Walking around her desk, she opens a drawer and quickly pulls out something.

“What are you doing?” Craig is close on her heels. “What are you doing now? Did you put my tie clasps in there?”

Hannah reaches out and slips her left hand in between the buttons of his shirt and gathers his tie against the shirt. With her right hand, she slips something quickly over the gathered material.

Something clicks.

“There,” she says.

Craig looks down at his tie. It is now stapled to his shirt.

“Now you have a tie clasp,” she adds.

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