Title: JUST ONE YOU
Category/genre: Adult Commercial Fiction
Author: Jacy Sutton
Chosen by editor Rebecca Heyman
If happy enough is enough, then Elle and Beth have it all.
Elle’s got a sexy young grad student boyfriend, who keeps her
satisfied, at least in the bedroom. When she meets a new man who
challenges her intellect and her assumptions, she has to decide if
upending her life is worth the effort.
Beth married her high school sweetheart. She’s never even kissed
another man. There was one guy, a long time ago, who tempted her and he
just got back in touch. Getting reacquainted with him could be
thrilling, but it may threaten the only love she’s ever known.
Beth and Elle’s stories told in alternating chapters, have eerie
parallels. A mysterious shared memory could reveal why each woman chose
the life she leads and what it will take for her to be happy.
JUST ONE YOU is an Adult Contemporary Romance. Like the book, MAYBE
IN ANOTHER LIFE by Taylor Jenkins Reid, and the Gwyneth Paltrow movie,
SLIDING DOORS, this story explores how one choice, one chance, can
transform your life.
ADLEY COLLEGE, ST. PAUL, MN
God, he was young. His hair was thick and blond with brown hues. His face smooth. Only the reddish whiskers jutting from his ruddy skin made it clear he was no longer a teen. His perfect limbs, slim, sinewy, unmarred by spider veins, lay at awkward angles on the small Victorian couch in Elle’s office. The phrase like a baby flitted through her mind before she could stop herself.
David often fell into a fast, deep sleep after they’d made love. A catnap to re-energize. He took her as though he were training for a triathlon, and typically he needed sleep or carbs afterwards. Elle enjoyed both.
If they’d been at her house, the tidy bungalow off Grand Avenue, she would have crept quietly from bed into the kitchen, preparing a meal quickly before he woke. She’d grab a jar of the tomatoes she’d blanched last fall, the way she’d learned that summer in Rome, and toss them with fresh basil from the pot in the sunny west window. To that, she would add ridiculous amounts of pasta in a futile effort to curb his oversized man-boy hunger.
But when they made love in her office, as they had today, Elle would sit in the overstuffed armchair, nestled into the turreted angle. She’d pull her skirt back on, and her blouse, buttoning just two or three buttons. She’d let her bra lie on the floor where he’d discarded it, so when David awoke she could go to him, open her shirt and lie with her chest naked against his as he roused himself from slumber, kissing her indiscriminately on her chin, her throat, her firm, upturned breasts.
Perching on the chair, Elle curled her slim legs under her, and reached for the honey-colored, nubby throw blanket. The natural light from the window above allowed her to read without turning on the harsh overhead that might wake David from his sweet, swift slumber. And, if she were honest with herself, the natural light made her look younger. Not so much older than him.
She should read the Eudora Welty essays piled in a neat stack on the side table she’d painted and distressed last summer, but the afternoon had an indulgent quality she didn’t want to relinquish. Possibly because they’d made love twice, not their usual.
Instead she picked up the worn paperback of Persuasion he’d left in her office that first afternoon. She paged through to her favorite Jane Austen moment: Captain Wentworth’s letter. She’d bookmarked the page using the Save the Date postcard for next summer’s Tennyson High School twentieth reunion. Touching her finger to the words, she whispered the first few lines aloud, “I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.”
And like the afternoon, she found the words as decadent as the chocolate almond truffle he’d fed her just before ...
He wasn’t young anymore. Lord knows, neither was she. But she worked a bit harder at it. Moisturizer twice a day. Sunscreen and spin class. There had been about nine months of hot yoga. Before that, pilates. And earlier still, step aerobics.
And the hair didn’t help. He’d started to lose it right after Allie was born. It came off in lock step with Beth’s baby weight. He was still handsome, though. Slim. No more than ten pounds over his college weight. Hardly noticeable. Maybe only a bit around his waist.
Watching him from the back, Beth admired her husband of fifteen years. Bobby had the boom box playing so loudly he hadn’t even turned when she pulled into the garage. He stood in front of the workbench, staring down intently. When Beth got closer she could see he was busy with the roller shade from Kyle’s bedroom. Kyle had pulled on it too hard and it wouldn’t spring back up. Those things were so touchy.
Bobby worked alone because Kyle was at his part-time job—bagging groceries at the upscale store nearby. It was the only place Kyle had found willing to hire a 14-year-old. He was saving to buy an iPhone. Beth and Bobby had agreed to pay half, impressed with Kyle’s initiative and his several impassioned speeches convincing them the schedule wouldn’t be too much; one weeknight and every Saturday; mid-morning till late afternoon.
Allie, a year younger than Kyle, had been selected for a premier volleyball team that practiced three suburbs away, typically a forty-five minute drive. She’d made the team along with two friends. Although all the girls were fairly athletic, Beth wondered if, in part, the criteria for making the team was the parents’ ability to pay the outrageous fee. But Allie loved it. So Beth drove Saturday morning drop-off, and the mom of one of the friends did pick-up three hours later. The third girl’s parents had wisely begged off, citing too many younger siblings. “If she can’t get a ride there, she can’t play,” the mother had said.
The first Saturday after the hour-and-a-half round trip, Beth had come home and found Bobby in their master bathroom. He’d just finished recaulking the bathtub. The thought of making a thick, black, satisfying line through an item on the to-do list (the one pinned to the kitchen bulletin board, not the one in the laundry room) coupled with both kids gone, aroused Beth more than a bottle of Chardonnay and a roaring fire.
They’d celebrated Bobby’s handyman work with fast, furious lovemaking that had left her gasping. The next week Bobby had taped, then painted, the small half bath in the lower level. And last week the leaky faucet in the kitchen had been dismantled, repaired and reassembled.
Now, week four of the children being gone for hours, he was hard at work on Kyle’s shade. Beth stepped up behind him and he jumped at her touch. When he realized it was her arms around him he’d said, “Give me five minutes.”
They’d never discussed this repair work for lovemaking arrangement. It had simply evolved, but it seemed to suit them both.
Beth went ahead of him into the bedroom, thinking about a shirt she’d bought at the end of the summer, a few months back. Allie had dragged her into one of those clothing stores targeting teen girls. Everything was poorly made, way too revealing and so cheap that kids could buy the clothes themselves, since their mothers never would. Allie was in the back of the store looking at shoes when Beth spied a little white top, sleeveless with a deep v-neck. The lower half of the shirt was see-through, the rest had a white lining, a modest attempt at modesty. It was $9.87 and ridiculously revealing. Beth looked at it on the rack for several long minutes until Allie came to negotiate her purchase. Beth agreed to buy Allie a pair of necessary snow boots and a pair of Ugg knockoffs, after which Allie had triumphantly wandered off toward the ski vests. With her daughter occupied, Beth grabbed the top surreptitiously, quietly asking the sales girl to put it in a separate bag.
Today, Beth found it in her bottom drawer, back left corner. Having never tried it on, she hadn’t realized it was a kind of spandex and half a size too small, with the happy accident of pulling her all together and making her appear a perfect 34C, when really she always thought of herself as more of a B plus.
As she gazed down, scrutinizing, Bobby tramped into the room with a catcall. “My God, you’re hot,” he said, stepping to her without preamble and kissing her hard on the lips. It typically took Beth a few minutes to catch up to his fervor. She felt his lips press down hard, his tongue greedily encircling hers and she made a mindful effort to clear her thoughts. Forget shopping with Allie. Forget the roller shade. Forget dinner.
Bobby’s hand slid from around her waist and pawed hard at her breast, caressing it through the tight fabric. She closed her eyes and listened to his mumbled intimacies. She’d noticed during their lovemaking that his voice dropped an octave, so that it was unfamiliar. It had occurred to her, from time to time, that his honeyed whisperings could be nearly anyone—Brad Pitt; David Beckham; the man who came into the bookstore every Tuesday afternoon, always making sure it was Beth who waited on him; even the young teacher she’d had her senior year of high school.
Beth felt Bobby’s hardness push against her. She reached for the bottom of his T-shirt and pulled it over his head, exposing his naked chest. She laid her palm on him. So familiar—the contours of muscle; the thick, coarse hair, curled tightly like little springs.
“This shirt,” he growled. “You look like a Victoria’s Secret model.”