a novel by Geri Buckley
"...in her first foray beyond the romance genre, author Buckley offers up...wit and "old farmer's advice"...Stormy Weather is a lively read."~ People Magazine ~
"At times laugh out loud funny, Buckley's book manages to be both inspiring and realistic." ~ Publishers Weekly ~
An excerpt . . .
On the sultry summer day that Vonda Kay Thayer turned fifty, she celebrated her birthday unlike any other.
She took off her thirty-year-old wedding band, packed a bag and a light lunch, and drove to the Grand motel where, with a little help from Andrew Jackson, she persuaded the sweaty clerk in the baby blue Speedo to give her his discreetness and his Frederick's of Hollywood catalog.
She registered into the bridal suite the only room within clear sight of both the motel entrance and the sprawling parking lot. Vonda was so accustomed to the heat and constant humidity, she paid little notice to the musty smell belching out of the window air conditioner.
First, she set her bag down atop the bed, then whipped out a tea cloth, which was little bigger than the wall calendar Jerome's real estate company gave away every Christmas to preferred clients.
Next, she spread the makeshift tablecloth over the lone table in the room, and topped that with her cheese sandwich and a newly uncorked bottle of California Pinot Noir. Jerome had a more refined palate and stocked older wines in the cooler, but this was the last bottle of the silky-textured Bellisimo they'd bought together in Sonoma. The choice seemed apropos.
Out of habit, Vonda flipped on the television to fill the room with the sound of more than just her own thoughts.
Someone had left the dial set to the Weather Channel, and Vonda caught snippets of the nipped and tucked anchors reporting a storm forming off the west coast of Africa. It sounded like a slow weather day as they hashed and rehashed the chances of a major blow possibly sweeping into the warm waters of the Gulf over the summer.
Finally, Vonda dragged a chair next to the window and settled in to peruse the clearance issue of Frederick's.
Only now was she set for her vigil.
What she was doing was against the order of nature. She admitted it.
A wife and mother in the vanguard of baby boomers didn't prance about strange motels. No, they looked after home, kids, and elderly mother-in-laws, while uber-sexy lustbots pranced about with geezers coasting toward retirement, the seasoned men, if you will, the ones trying unsuccessfully to preserve a youthful self-image.
Geezers like Jerome Thayer.
It wasn't long before Vonda caught a gander at her husband's champagne-colored Escalade. The shiny urban truck whipped into the motel's entrance just as her cell phone chirped. She recognized the number as belonging to her big sister and flipped open the phone without tearing her gaze away from the progress of Jerome's truck.
"Don't hand me that," a familiar voice said without preamble. "Here I am, standing on your front porch with a birthday present and chocolate cupcakes that I slaved over and which are now melting thank you very much and you're not home. And why aren't you home where you're supposed to be? Lord love a duck, I couldn't believe my ears when I heard where you were. Y'know, sis, there's a name for what you're doing. It's called stalking."
"No, I'm sitting down," Vonda snapped back, "so I'm a voyeur. It's called . . . voyeuring."
The voice arguing on the other end of the phone belonged to Lurlene dubbed Lolo early on by a toddling Vonda easily the oldest living mammal in town, if you believed every tale of woe she spouted.
"What if someone we know catches you voyeuring?" Lolo said.
"No way that'll happen. My binocs are camo-colored; no one can see me. So how did you know where I am?"
"The desk clerk's in Twyla's Pilates class," Lolo said, speaking of her twin. "He called her. She called me."
Vonda rolled her gaze heavenward, and said, "After I forked over twenty bucks to him, too."
"Its not like you cant afford it. Listen, since I have you on the phone happy birthday."
"Thank you. I appreciate you reminding me I now have one foot in the grave."
"Nonsense. Now you can join AARP and get early bird specials and senior discounts."
"Senior?" Vonda muttered, rolling the word around on her tongue. The taste wasn't for everyone. But then, that was the whole point. "My god."
"What in heaven's name do you think you're accomplishing? Von, you have a beautiful home, beautiful children"
"An unfaithful husband."
"Oh, suck it up, little sister. Who promised you perfection? Thirty years is worth overlooking a few peccadilloes. Think. How many women wouldn't give their left ovary to have a man who's a good provider, a good father, and not bad looking, to boot? In this day and age"
By now, Jerome and the blonde scrambled out of the Escalade. She was petite and, because Vonda's life didn't suck enough, she wore a figure-hugging halter dress obviously made for less generous curves.
He was easy to recognize, duded up in his creamy white Palm Beach linen suit and Kenneth Cole sunglasses. Jerome possessed an innate sense of style. All he lacked were a fedora and an unfiltered Camel to complete the Southern planter power-and-money look.
Vonda watched while Jerome hesitated in one of the motel's first floor doorways and checked an angle over his shoulder, the sleepy blue eyes she knew so well still camped behind the dark shades. Lines of confidence and determination were mapped across his face in that instant before he turned and followed the blonde inside and vanished behind a closed door.
Vonda pushed back from the plate glass window then, lowered the binoculars, and contemplated her husband's cornucopia of extracurricular activities.
"There should be a mandatory waiting period on buying the horse manure of a guy who lives with his mother."
"Speaking of which," Lolo said, "what thoughts have you given to your monster-in-law?"
"Miz Ludie?" Vonda snorted. "Not everything at home revolves around Jerome. Oh, wait. Yes, it does."
"This may be her last summer, y'know."
"I should be so lucky," Vonda said. "I've put up with her crap for thirty years. She's his mother. He can play fetch-and-carry slave for her for a change."
"Now, you're really talking nonsense. Listen, Von, it's a fact of life: sometimes people disappoint. Get over it. Go home before you make a worse mistake than when Ivana dumped the Donald."
Vonda paused to stifle a burp, and then said, "When did life become a one-way street?"
Better yet, when had she become Walter Mitty, plastering on a vacant smile for the world while she retreated to her inner happy place?
Jerome's antics never used to bother Vonda. They bothered her now, she guessed in a moment of clarity, because, today . . . well, today she'd gotten old.
In response to Vonda's question, her sister made a noncommittal noise.
"Lolo, you don't understand," Vonda said.
"Now that I've got one daughter grown and married off and the other two are close behind, I want more out of my golden years than television and yard work and trips to the post office. I'm tired of the monotony, of settling for a mediocre life and a routine relationship. I want passion. Excitement. I want a love affair for the rest of my life."
Lolo huffed and said, "What you want is a pipe dream, Vonda. When are you going to wise up? You're a housewife, a middle-aged housewife. The reality is you don't know how to do anything besides be what you are."
All of which were distressingly accurate, Vonda sadly admitted to herself. That truth was tough to acknowledge, but this was a day for firsts, wasn't it?
Turning fifty the mere act of owning the thought that this ship really was sinking had a way of goosing the inner child into dashing for the lifeboat. Looking at it another way, today marked the first day of the rest of Vonda's life.
She took a deep breath.
Change was coming. It was in the air. She could smell it.
And now it arrived.
In the expectant silence that followed, Lolo's unsolicited advice fueled a very reckless idea in Vonda.
Look for Stormy Weather, a Berkley Trade paperback, wherever books are soldStormy Weather by Geri Buckley
Copyright © 2006, Geri Buckley
all rights reserved