Is it really better to have loved and lost than to never have loved before? Why?
“Do you remember the night we met?” Zoe asked.
Amazing, really: after eighteen years of marriage, she still found him achingly sexy. Crow’s feet creased the corners of his intelligent blue eyes and fine lines etched his cheekbones, giving his boyish features a look of intensity and purpose. Zoe had recognized those qualities from the start, but it was only now, as he was aging, they showed on his face. It was this, and it was him.
Will reached across the table and squeezed her hand. “Of course.”
They’d reserved a corner table at their favorite spot, a homey Italian restaurant in Westford, run by a husband and wife, recent immigrants from the south of Italy. A candle burned in a Chianti bottle at the center of the table and an Italian aria played softly in the background.
It was a rare night out, their daughters visiting friends for the evening. They’d been working 60-hour weeks, Will on a project in California, Zoe seeing clients at Cortland Child Services and taking over completely at home. Her husband had traveled throughout his career. It was different now, with two teenagers, sixteen-year-old Leah, their eldest, giving them trouble.
“I was afraid you’d tell me to get lost,” she said. “My friends were so awful.”
He grinned. “It crossed my mind.”
They’d met in the spring of ’88 at a gig in the Bay Area. He’d dropped out of school to follow his dream of becoming a folk singer. That night, his connection with the audience was intense. He’d felt invincible.
Midway through his second set, four coeds strolled in, jabbering, took a table at the back of the bar. For twenty minutes, he’d tolerated the distraction, and then he’d done something he’d never considered doing before—put down his guitar. “Thanks,” he’d said to the stunned audience. He unhooked his mike. “You’ve been great.”
She’d gone looking for him to apologize. “Why did you? Talk to me?” she asked. The server arrived just then, a tall, lean boy dressed in black, his dark hair tied in a ponytail. She leaned back, giving him room to set the steaming plate of gnocchi in front of her. “I always wondered.”
He tasted a bite of lasagna. “Delicious. Try?” He turned his plate and pushed it closer to her.
“How could I turn you away? You were beautiful.” He met her eyes. “I wanted to marry you. You still are. Beautiful.”
She felt her color rise. After all these years, he still made her heart beat. “I don’t feel so beautiful.”
“Well, you are.”
Smiling, she tipped her wine glass—salute. “Glad you think so.”
Like any couple, they’d had their challenges over the years. The last few months had been rough, harder than anything they’d gone through in the past. It had taken its toll. She felt old.
“It’s been tough,” he said. “I wish there wasn’t so much baggage.”
Every couple has baggage. More than theirs? Less? Her thoughts changed from day to day, depending upon her mood, what and how much she chose to dredge up. He’d had an affair once, years ago. She’d forgiven him and they’d gotten through it. The physical distance was difficult now; the lack of companionship, the emotional distance had created a wall—he was gone when she needed him most, and she was too anxious, too spent, to offer him any support.
“I mean it, Zoe. I love you.”
“I love you too,” she said quietly. Inexplicably, no matter how high that wall, she honestly did.
“Would you do it again?” He leaned toward her, setting a warm hand on her arm. “Marry me?”
She shrugged, laughing, embarrassed. “Sure.”
He raised his brows. “Took you a minute.” God, he looked earnest.
“I meant it,” she said. “I would.”
“Really? Even though—“
Despite the heartache, the pain, whatever joy or trouble the future might bring, she loved him, and, yes, she would marry him again—in a heartbeat. Some days, logically, it made no sense—their abiding loyalty (in light of their problems), their stubborn commitment to the marriage. On good days, though, they laughed and had fun. He made her feel young and gorgeous and special. On those days, the world felt too small to hold all her love for him and their kids.
Whoever said there was any logic to love? The heart, she thought, makes its own crazy sense.
Who are Will & Zoe? They are Leah’s parents in Terri Giuliano Long’s novel, In Leah’s Wake. Zoe Tyler holds a master’s degree in social work and is employed by Cortland Child Services. She is founder and executive director of “Success Skills for Women on the Move,” a motivational workshop for women seeking life changes. Will sells projects for North American Construction, the largest commercial contractor on the East Coast. Project oversight requires frequent travel throughout the U.S. They live in Cortland, Massachusetts, with their daughters, Justine, 12, and Leah, 16.
About the book
A Story of Love, Loss, Connection, and Grace
The Tylers have a perfect life—beautiful home, established careers, two sweet and talented daughters. Their eldest daughter, Leah, an exceptional soccer player, is on track for a prestigious scholarship. Their youngest, Justine, more responsible than seems possible for her 12 years, just wants her sister’s approval. With Leah nearing the end of high school and Justine a seemingly together kid, the parents are set to enjoy a peaceful life…until everything goes wrong.
As Leah’s parents fight to save their daughter from a world of drugs, sex, and wild parties, their divided approach drives their daughter out of their home and a wedge into their marriage. Meanwhile, twelve-year-old Justine observes her sister’s rebellion from the shadows of their fragmented family—leaving her to question whether anyone loves her and if God even knows she exists.
Can this family survive in Leah’s wake? What happens when love just isn’t enough?
About the author
Terri Giuliano Long is the bestselling author of the novel In Leah’s Wake. Her life outside of books is devoted to her family. In her free time, she enjoys walking, traveling, and listening to music. True to her Italian-American heritage, she’s an enthusiastic cook. In an alternate reality, she might be an international food writer. She lives with her family on the East Coast and teaches at Boston College. In Leah’s Wake is her debut novel.