Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, January 2010
Hi! My name is Robin Cheeks Barkley. I was born in Waukegan, Illinois, on March 12, 1962, the youngest of three children. I grew up in Zion, which is about halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee. My parents both worked as teachers, and my sister and brother and I were cared for at home by our maternal grandmother, who lived with us. She was deaf, and that had a lot to do with my decision to become an audiologist. Grandma was a very dour woman, and I can count my telling her my career ambitions as one of the few times I ever saw her smile.
In 1989, when I was 27, I married Avaughn Barkley. Avaughn is also from Zion, and while we knew each other casually from school, ours wasn’t one of those high school romances. We didn’t even start dating until I was 26. At the time we were both living in Chicago. I had graduated with my doctorate in audiology and was doing clinical practice at the Loyola University Medical Center. Avaughn, two years older with a degree in finance, was already working at an investment firm in The Loop. It was a whirlwind romance, and I moved into his apartment in Rogers Park. He proposed after six months of living together, and neither of us wanted to wait, so with help from my mother and sister, we put together a simple but elegant ceremony and reception at the Kenosha Public Museum. The ceremony was held in front of a twenty-foot windowed wall that looked out on Lake Michigan. It was lovely.
Avaughn and I lived in Rogers Park for seven more years, until we bought our house in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, a village of 20,000 with Lake Michigan as its eastern border. It’s a beautiful house, and we made it that way. Originally built in the 1970s, it was a relic to the era, with yellow kitchen appliances, shag carpet, and bathrooms done in pastel pink and blue. But the façade was attractive, and it was on the same side of the street as the lake and had a beach behind it. We saw the potential through the dated décor and did a complete remodel of the kitchen and updated the baths. We tore up the carpeting and had it replaced with hardwood. Everyone said that five bedrooms was way too many for two people, but no one said it wasn’t gorgeous. Besides, at the time I still held out hope that…
Avaughn and I started trying to start a family after we’d been married for three years. By then, our careers were on track, and we knew we could provide our children with tons of love and, because we had a good income, all the extras.
I started to worry when six months passed and nothing happened. We both went for workups, and we learned I was the one preventing us from becoming parents. I’d always had female problems, suffering from heavy flows and severe cramps, plus I had recurrent yeast infections. But what did me in was tubal scarring, probably as a result of a ruptured appendix I’d had in college. I began a workup that included having fibroid tumors removed, getting dye injected into my tubes, and a procedure called ZIFT that cost a fortune and wasn’t covered by insurance. Avaughn used to joke that he was going to nickname our child the $100,000 baby.
When it was suggested that we try alternate means of parenthood (i.e. adoption), all the jokes stopped. I sank into a deep depression, one that even our beautiful new house wasn’t enough to pull me out of. Avaughn was honest when he said he couldn’t look upon a child not of his blood as his own. He probably thought he was being equally honest when he reassured me it didn’t matter if it was always just the two of us, but you can never lie to yourself.
At the time I thought we’d settled into a just-the-two-of-us lifestyle. It’s true that infertility has cast a shadow over my life, but once I turned 40 I pretty much put it behind me, acknowledging that my time had passed. I had a good life, and I knew it.
They say a woman can always tell when something’s amiss in her marriage, but I honestly had no idea. I had long since switched to treating hearing and balance problems at a clinic in Racine, but Avaughn continued working in the city, and it wasn’t unusual for him to work late. Since service on the Union Pacific North line usually ends in Waukegan on off hours, if he missed the 6:30 train, he had to wait three hours until 9:30, which didn’t get him home until after 11PM. This usually happened at least once a week, occasionally twice. I didn’t know he was having an affair with an administrative assistant at work until one morning we were making love and he called me by her name. (I’d suggest that any woman who wants to know if her husband is cheating lay some nookie on him first thing in the morning, before he’s fully awake, and see if he makes a verbal slip.)
Anyway, nearly nineteen years of marriage got tossed out with the garbage that day. Avaughn’s girlfriend moved up to Kenosha to be closer to him. That wasn’t a surprise, but what damn near tore me to pieces was when I found out they were having a baby. Avaughn Barkley is going to be a daddy at 50 years old, while I’d go to my grave childless.
As for me, after the divorce I went headlong into an affair with the son of family friends. He was about a dozen years younger than me, and I’m proud to say I wore him out. It was short, wasn’t particularly sweet, but very sexy. There’s been no one since, and sometimes I wonder if there ever will be. Not because I’m carrying a torch for Avaughn—heaven forbid—but because there just aren’t a lot of available men my age, and certainly not here in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. I’m already dreading my high school reunion in May, and I’m thinking about not even going. All my former classmates know that Avaughn and I are divorced and that his girlfriend is pregnant. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what went wrong between us.
Even if I were to meet someone, it would be awfully hard to carry on a relationship. You see, Avaughn and I are legally divorced and have been for over a year now, but our house, that beautiful house I so lovingly remodeled and decorated until it was show-room perfect, the one everyone said was too large for us, is holding us captive. It’s a bad market, and…well, let me put it this way…
Anyone looking to buy a house so Avaughn and I can finally stop living under the same damn roof?
eBook only, published January 3, 2014.
This is contemporary women's fiction and does contain sex.
From the Author: Secrets & Sins contains several plot twists that I hope will come as a surprise to readers. I love getting reviews, but if you choose to write one, PLEASE be considerate of other readers who haven't read the book yet by not divulging these twists in the plot. Thank you so much! -- B.
In this sweeping, 115K-word novel, Bettye Griffin introduces readers to the Cheeks family of Zion, Illinois: Eldest daughter Faye, whose placid, orderly life is about to be disrupted in a way she never could have imagined...middle child and only son Scott, who brings new meaning to the phrase 'midlife crisis'...and youngest daughter Robin, who is divorced from but not exactly rid of her former spouse.
At the center of the story is their mother, Julia Scott Cheeks, who along with her devoted husband Melvin, has tried to keep two scandalous family secrets hidden and has been successful for 55 years...but when Robin mentions the name of the former classmate she has a romantic interest in, Julia fears that the events she has tried so hard and for so long to keep her children from knowing are in danger of being exposed...
Read more about Robin in Secrets & Sins, out now! Kindle owners can get it at Amazon or at Bettye’s eStore. Readers needing EPUB formats for Nooks, Sonys, or other eReaders, or who need PDF formats can get theirs from Bettye’s eStore, where no registration is required and where eBooks always cost $1 less than at other eTailers.
Also, the prequel to Secrets & Sins is a free download! Sinner Man:A Short Prequel is available for download at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and the Bunderful Books website.
Bettye Griffin writes novels about romance in the real world. Her first novel, At Long Last Love, was published in 1998. Bettye expanded to women’s fiction with the publication of The People Next Door in 2005. In 2009, while still writing for a traditional publisher, Bettye launched Bunderful Books and eventually became an independent writer and publisher. In this capacity she publishes both new and backlist titles, including Something Real (2012) and Where There’s Smoke (2013). A native of Yonkers, New York, Bettye now lives, writes, and eats cheese from her home in Southeast Wisconsin. Secrets & Sins is her 24th novel and her first independently published women’s fiction.
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Genre - Women's Fiction, Family Saga
Rating – R
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