Turning Thirty-Twelve [MultiFormat]
Click on image to enlarge.
eBook by Sandy James
eBook Category: Romance
eBook Description: Jackie Delgado didn't want a new man in her life until a dreaded blind date turns out to be more exciting than she'd ever imagined. When her youngest son leaves for college, Jackie is hit hard by empty nest syndrome and pours herself into her work as a teacher. Bowing to pressure from friends, Jackie agrees to a blind date. But when Mark Brennan calls, she realizes the date won't be "blind." He's the father of one of her students. Widower Mark Brennan isn't looking for love. After only a few dates with Jackie, he realizes he's quickly forming deep feelings for her. Wracked with guilt that he's "abandoning" his late wife, Mark resists the pull toward dynamic Jackie. When Mark's daughter begins to date Jackie's son, things become more complicated. Can Jackie and Mark find the courage to leave the past behind and embrace a new love? And how will Mark's daughter's pregnancy affect all their lives? [Contemporary Romance]
eBook Publisher: Siren-BookStrand, Inc./BookStrand Mainstream Romance, Published: 2008, 2008
Fictionwise Release Date: September 2009
* * * *
8 Reader Ratings:
"BEST BOOK: Ms. James did an outstanding job writing Turning Thirty-Twelve. I most definitely did not see the twists and turns coming. This book grabbed a hold of my heart and did not let go until the very last page. I still find myself thinking of this book and the characters who made this book so special. I highly recommend Turning Thirty-Twelve to anyone who enjoys a laugh out loud, exceptionally written book that will keep you coming back for more. I would love to see this book either have a sequel or become a series so I can see where my favorite characters are today and how they are faring. Turning Thirty-Twelve was simply an amazing book that I would read many times over which is why I would like to give it the LASR Best Book Rating! I will most certainly be keeping my eye on Ms. James for any books she may have coming out."--Violet, Long and Short Reviews
"4 STARS: Sandy James offers readers a touching romance. I like the characters in Turning Thirty Twelve. Love does not stop when a woman's hair turns gray. The plot of this book is very realistic. James demonstrates the trials of parents everywhere. Fans of romance will enjoy Turning Thirty Twelve."--Anne Boling, ReviewYourBook
"5 HEARTS: Ms. James did a fabulous job creating this storyline and she developed characters that you just can't help but fall in love with, quirks and all. I found this story to be a little bit sweet with a whole lot of hot and sexy mixed throughout. I loved Ms. James' sense of humor that she sprinkled throughout the pages and I found myself laughing out loud numerous times as I was reading. I would highly recommend this story to others and it's a definite keeper in my library. Don't pass this one up!"--Diana Coyle, Night Owl Reviews
"5 CUPS: This story is full of the emotions, courage, insecurity and humor of a real woman. Jackie is not a perky young ingenue and is definitely more likeable and sympathetic because of it. Her marriage and divorce have really killed her self esteem and I loved how Mark makes her see herself differently. He is a wonderful and sexy man with the patience to see just how great Jackie is. Their romance is by no means an easy one and both of them have issues that are addressed and very well. This story is a real gem. The characters are wonderfully drawn and real, the plot is riveting, and the love scenes are very hot, showing the reader that love lives do not end at thirty."--Maura, Coffee Time Romance Reviews
"Voted 2008 Best Bookart--Preditors & Editors poll"
A birthday lament...
What exactly is middle age?
It seems to me that my mother has been middle-aged just about forever. She covers her gray hair with gobs of Miss Clairol, rubs gallons of moisturizer onto her face and hands, and has been retired for a few years. Oh yeah, and she's been through menopause. Of course, my father and I used to joke that she'd been going through menopause for at least the last thirty years. Funny, but Mom never thought we were very amusing.
Now I realize middle age has come and gone in my mother's life. She saw its hand waving goodbye in her rearview mirror years ago. Unfortunately, that can only mean one thing. It's my turn.
I get to be the woman who is constantly checking the part in her hair to see if a gray hair or two or twenty have sneaked into the mixture. I get to be the one who wonders if the little lines that are forming around the eyes should be called "laugh lines" or "wrinkles." I get to be the lady who wonders if she is too old to wear the t-shirts with the cute, naughty sayings on them or if that skimpy little skirt shows too many spider veins or cellulite.
You know, birthdays used to be so much fun. Remember when you'd look forward to presents and cards that had checks and ten-dollar bills tucked in them? Well, those days are all over once you hit twenty. Then on your twenty-first birthday, you get to drink legally, and another mile marker passes by on the highway of life.
The rest of your life you use birthdays to gauge exactly how close you're getting to the magical and tragic age of forty. When a person passes that milestone, birthdays just cause a fight or flight response. You watch the pages of the calendar drop from the wall like some old corny movie showing a rapid advance in time. Your days, weeks, and years are skiing down a slippery slope as you struggle to keep pace.
I turned thirty-twelve today. I'll just give you a second to catch on. It always takes my high school students a beat or two to do the math. Some even whip out a calculator. So the question I have to ask myself is ... Am I middle-aged? And, since I obviously know the answer to that one, I ask myself, what exactly is middle age? Now that one is a toughie!
Is it a chronological phenomenon? I doubt it. I mean if that's the case, I am middle-aged. Women born the same year as I was should live to be almost eighty. Divide eighty by two. That would seriously suck. I choose to push that definition of middle age aside and deal with it like any normal human female. I'll simply wallow in denial.
Is middle age a psychological occurrence? This is much more likely. If it's a state of mind, I can fight it. Don't they always say you're only as old as you feel? If it holds true and I try to act young, then I can miraculously be young. Maybe I'll get some body art, a tattoo. Or how about a new piercing? That'll make me young again. Not! I just wish my boobs believed that tripe about feeling young making you young. Those twin sisters are most definitely middle-aged and falling faster than the thermometer in a Minnesota winter.
Is middle age a sociological event? Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner! Of course it's entirely sociological. People become middle-aged because other people tell them that they're officially middle-aged. It's a product of watching the girls in advertisements become thinner and thinner and younger and younger. It's from watching men trying to feel younger than they are by having an arm around some twenty-something waif with perky boobs and no stretch marks. It's because women over forty are, in many ways, disposable.
Look at it this way--men turn forty and go on the prowl for a red sports car or a trophy wife. Women turn forty and start hunting for the cheapest Botox clinic and over-the-counter hormone products. That hardly seems fair.
Who exactly made these ridiculous rules? I know that I was not invited to that particular convention. In fact, I would venture a huge leap out on a brittle limb that not too many females were involved in the assigning of "middle age" as the last stop on a woman's journey through having a fascinating and important life. Everything after that is stereotypically supposed to be wretched. First divorce, then menopause, then death. Seriously depressing.
I have decided that middle-aged women shouldn't be deemed unwanted. We still matter. Even if we're over forty, we still matter. I still matter, and I intend to prove it.
So, on my thirty-twelfth birthday, I, Jacqueline Marie Delgado, swear on my cake bearing a tombstone reading "Over the Hill" that my sons bought to help "celebrate" the occasion, that I will not be a clichéd middle-aged woman. I promise to continue celebrating being me regardless of what chronology is telling me to do. I vow to make this a year of self-discovery and productivity.
And I promise to never again drink as much white zinfandel as I did tonight.
Welcome to my year.
"Put it in the closet," Nate ordered as Patrick carried another box into the dorm room.
"What closet?" Patrick asked, dropping the box on the ground in the middle of the ten-by-ten cinderblock cell. "You mean that tiny hole in the far wall? My hamster had a bigger cage. Why won't you even think about the frat?"
"Because I'm not fraternity material. I have functioning brain tissue," Nate responded. "Where's Mom?"
I'd been standing just outside the door, listening to them, and feeling a bit melancholy. With a sigh, I dragged the too heavy box full of stuff Nate probably didn't really need into the tiny room my youngest son would call "home" for the next nine months. "I'm here, I'm here. Geesh. What are you two fighting about now?"
"Do you want me to help with that?" Patrick asked.
"Typical guy," I commented. "You ask to help after the job is done." Patrick just laughed at me. The brat.
Nate zipped around the room going from box to box like a bee trying to pick the most succulent flower. "I need to get the bed on stilts or I'll never have enough room."
"It's a dormitory," Patrick countered. "You shouldn't expect to have any room."
"Well, at least I don't have to share it with some drunken preppy who probably slips girls roofies," Nate replied.
I couldn't help but laugh at them. They were twenty-one and eighteen and still fighting like they were both in grade school. My sons hadn't changed a bit. Still as blond as any California surfer, their faces bore that I'm-not-all-grown-up look, dimples and all. But they really weren't children any longer. They had changed in so many ways. That thought instantly brought tears to my eyes. My babies were all grown up. I was going to have to leave Nate behind and drive back to my big empty house all by myself.
Patrick had always been the independent and stubborn one. It didn't frighten me to let him go. School was almost too easy for him, so I knew his grades would be good. He was active in pretty much any organization he could join, and I knew he'd network and meet new people. Patrick would thrive at college. But my Nate? My baby? Who would be there to take care of him?
"Uh oh," Patrick said as he took the two steps necessary to cross the entire room and stare down at me from his six-three world. "Waterworks."
"Ah, Mom," Nate groaned. "Please don't cry."
I sniffled. "Who says I'm crying?" Yeah, like that tack was going to work. I realized it wasn't a highly effective message when I felt a tear sliding down my cheek. I wiped it away with the back of my sleeve.
Patrick put his arm around my shoulder. "Mom's got empty nest syndrome. We learned all about it in psychology class. Women hate it when the last chick flies the coop." He tucked his thumbs in his armpits, flapped his wings, and clucked like a chicken. My son was a smart-ass.
"I don't have empty nest syndrome," I insisted, while secretly wanting to have a long talk with Patrick's psychology professor. The man really needed to learn to mind his own damn business.
Nate rolled his eyes. "Mom, I can take care of myself."
"I don't have empty nest. The room's just ... dusty." I had no idea how I was going to leave my little boy behind. I supposed the fact that my "little boy" stood six-two and out-muscled half of maledom should have impacted my opinion of his ability to be independent, but the mother in me only remembered the little boy who would cry when his older brother wouldn't play with him.
How could such a fragile little creature possibly survive the cold, cruel world? Maybe he should stay home with me for another year or two. He didn't need to be in college. I could home school.
My "fragile little creature" came over and gave me a hug that almost knocked me off my feet. "I'll be fine, Mom."
I sniffled a little more and started to unpack the closest box. It didn't take us long to get Nate set up in his dorm room. Of course, my ex-husband didn't show up until after almost everything was unpacked. It just showed that the apples didn't fall too awfully far from the paternal tree.
"Jackie," David said as he walked in the room and deigned to acknowledge my presence in the universe with a curt nod. "You good?"
I gave him the visual once over, noting how impeccably he was dressed. Not a salt and pepper hair was out of place, and he had that scruffy I'm-too-cool-to-shave look that reminded me of several bad eighties television shows. "I'm fine. And you?"
Eighteen years of marriage, and the only word we ever seemed to exchange regularly was "fine." I figured that was at least a better choice of vocabulary than when we were still together. The only word that popped up then was another word that began with "f." We'd used it as a noun, a verb, an adjective, and an adverb. You name any part of speech; we would have found a way to throw the f-word into the mix.
At least now we could have a civil conversation--as long as we didn't talk about anything other than the boys. I really believed I was lucky. At least my former husband paid the kids' bills and didn't drag the trophy bimbo with him everywhere he went. I only had to see Ashley occasionally, which was a really good thing. I would have hated to scratch her pretty little blue eyes out in front of too many witnesses.
"You all settled in, Nate?" his father asked.
"Yeah, but thanks for coming Dad. Hey, do you want to go get some lunch with us?" my entirely too generous and totally naïve youngest son asked.
"I can't stay that long," my ex replied much to my relief. "Ashley and I are taking Duncan to see his grandparents."
Good God, was it hard not to make a snide remark about David's age making him a more likely candidate to be his new son's grandfather instead of his father. But I was the well-behaved ex-wife who bit her tongue and made nice for her boys. "That's a shame," I finally said.
David shot me one of his patented, incredulous glares, and I gave him one of my fake, patronizing smiles. I hoped he realized that I was tremendously grateful that Duncan and Ashley were probably waiting in his Hummer, so he couldn't join us for a happy family lunch. My heart still clenched when I glanced over and saw how disappointed Nate looked.
Damn it all anyway. I had to constantly remind myself that David might have been a pathetic excuse for a husband, but he would always be the father of my boys. I quickly sucked up my own misgivings. "David, why don't you and Ashley bring Duncan along for lunch. I'm sure it would mean a lot to Nate."
He stared at me as if I had just spoken to him in Mandarin Chinese. He cocked his head like a curious child. "What's gotten into you?"
"Nothing. I just thought it'd be nice for you to spend some time with the boys."
Didn't this man have a single solitary clue how hard I was grinding my teeth together, so I wouldn't make one of my typical smart-ass comments? "Really."
"That's nice, Jackie, but Ash's parents are expecting us."
I added yet another demerit to David's perpetual misconduct column, knowing he had hurt Nate. Turning back to my son, I said, "Well, then it's your choice, Nathaniel. Sky's the limit."
He gave me a weak smile that made me want to smack his father, and then Nate went back to unpacking the last of his boxes.
David crossed the room to slap Nate on the back and say some macho fatherly things that I was sure they didn't want me to overhear. When the word "condom" floated in the air, I excused myself to go see if there were any more boxes to carry up from my mini-van. The notion of my baby needing condoms didn't sit well on my already emotionally overwrought brain. There are simply some things mothers are better off not knowing about their sons.
I wasn't surprised in the least that David's big black phallic-mobile was idling in a handicapped parking spot. Ashley sat in the passenger seat admiring herself in the visor's mirror. Not a long, blond hair was out of place, but she adjusted it anyway. Her face was perfection. The woman really could have been a model. Of course, her figure had instantly returned to its pre-pregnancy state the minute Duncan was born. I was still trying to lose those last few "baby pounds" from giving birth to Nate eighteen years ago. And my hair had always been mousy brown and way too short and baby fine to do anything except just ... lie there.
She flipped the visor closed and caught me staring at her. I actually gave her one of those goofy half-waves. God, I could be so damned lame sometimes. I often wondered exactly what flew through Ashley's mind whenever she saw me. Did she feel any kind of guilt for the nights she stayed late to help David "organize his files" when what she had actually been doing was unzipping his fly? Or did her mind justify her actions in some way? Did she wish I would fade away, so she didn't have to acknowledge that she was wife number two and that wife number three was parked in some junior high school just waiting to finish growing up enough to have her turn at bat?
I had desperately tried not to hate her. I really had. I knew it was poison for me to carry that kind of loathing around. I was entirely aware of this because the marriage counselor had told me so. He even told me that I should have thanked Ashley for showing me that David and I were not really all that compatible. By luring my husband away, she had only revealed the fundamentally unstable foundation upon which my marriage had been based. And he charged us a hundred and fifty freaking dollars an hour for this super-duper advice. So I had really tried not to hate her. But, damn it all, I wanted to hate her anyway.
I didn't see David waltzing up behind me until he started to talk to me. I jumped a good foot, which was pretty phenomenal considering the weight I carry in my caboose.
"Jackie? You okay?"
"I'm sorry we couldn't take you up on the lunch invite. We'll have to do it some other time."
I just nodded again.
"Well, I need to get going."
The asshole actually hugged me. I awkwardly patted his back and then turned him loose. It crossed my mind that it was one of the first times I had stopped hugging before he did. Back in the day, I always squeezed a little bit harder and clung a little bit longer.
Ashley glared down at us from her perch in the huge SUV. I saw the flash of insecurity, and I was petty enough to let myself enjoy it. * * * *
The house was like a tomb. I went over to let my cockatiel out of his cage, and he didn't even whistle at me. The boys had taught the little gray bird to wolf-whistle, and Jellybean seemed to condition himself to make that particular sound whenever I walked in the door. It was the closest thing to a compliment on my looks I'd received from any species of male in years. But he didn't whistle at me tonight.
I wondered if Jellybean felt the same type of gloom that had settled over me the minute I drove away from the dorm. I decided that I'd have to leave the TV on for him to listen to when I went to school the next day. I'd hate to have a depressed bird on my hands. My own case of the empty nest blues was hard enough to handle. How odd--an empty nest that still held a bird.
Logic told me that Patrick and Nate were only an hour away, just forty, teeny miles. Yet the house was still like a tomb.
I dropped my purse and keys on the table and let my eyes wander for a minute. The bottom floor of my Cape Cod was mostly one big open area. The kitchen and the great room were joined, and during the time my boys were growing up, the joint was jumping. Between raising Patrick and Nate and the litany of friends that drifted in and out of my home, there had been very few quiet moments.
As my gaze flitted about the room, I noticed that the place was spotless. The afghan over the sofa was folded neatly. The only pairs of shoes piled by the door belonged to me. The size thirteen and fourteen Nikes had all been packed away as they followed their owners to Indiana University. No Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues were strewn on the floor. The discarded food wrappers that couldn't seem to find their way to the trash, unless a female took the initiative to move them, were absent. There was no blaring stereo, television, or iPod, just a home that was too neat and too silent. Tears welled up in my eyes again.
I remembered some days just wishing for a few moments of peace and quiet, so I could gather my own thoughts and catch my breath. All I really wanted was a short respite from the bustling world of raising two boisterous boys--three if you counted David. A hard lesson, but I was learning to be careful what I wished for. * * * *