The Year We Turned Forty

BOOK: The Year We Turned Forty
8.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Praise for
The Status of All Things

“Pop culture references and a healthy sprinkling of magical realism combine to make
The Status of All Things
a timely reminder that all is not what it seems. With a sparkling narrative that will have you turning pages at a breakneck speed, this is women's fiction at its finest.”

—Tracey Garvis Graves,
New York Times
bestselling author of
On the Island

“What a treat!
The Status of All Things
is a fun, clever and utterly engaging story of love, loss, the power of destiny and the importance of friends. A thoroughly enjoyable read. I loved everything about it, from beginning to end.”

—Mary Kubica,
New York Time
s bestselling author of
The Good Girl

“A new twist on modern day women's fiction . . . the integration of magical elements works surprisingly well in this witty story that is much more than charming romance. A fun and fast read for fans of Meg Cabot and Jennifer Weiner.”

Library Journal

“I raced through
The Status of All Things
at a breakneck pace. A perfect blend of what-if and what-should-be, Fenton and Steinke have found a rhythm together that works. They bring that little touch of magic we could all use in our own lives to the page with vibrancy and wit.”

—Catherine McKenzie, bestselling author of

“Written with heart and keen insight into the influences of social media,
The Status of All Things
tells the tale of one woman's quest to change the past. The story gives us magic, a touch of whimsy, and a reality that's hard to shake. Smart and true with a pitch-perfect ending, it will leave readers feeling satisfied and also asking ‘what if?' ”

—Michelle Gable, internationally bestselling author of
A Paris Apartment

“With their razor sharp wit and astute social commentary, Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke—two of women's fiction's brightest stars—tackle the question: Would you be truly happy if you could rewrite your own fate via Facebook? And the answer is definitely not what you expect.”

—Emily Liebert, author of
When We Fall

Praise for
Your Perfect Life

Your Perfect Life
has all of the ingredients that I love in a book—relatable characters who make me laugh out loud, a delicious, page-turning premise, and sweet and surprising insights about the perfect life may be the one you've already got.”

—Jen Lancaster,
New York Times
bestselling author

“I loved this from the very first line (which will go down in history as the funniest, bravest first line ever). Hilarious, honest and truly touching, Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke are two important new voices in women's fiction who write about life in such a real, relatable way.”

—Sarah Jio
, New York Times
bestselling author

“For every woman who's ever wondered about the path not taken, Fenton and Steinke mine—with tremendous humor and insight—the mixed blessing of unexpected second chances.”

—Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus,
New York Times
bestselling authors

“Liz and Lisa's voices are warm and comforting, like a relaxed chat with great friends while wearing cozy PJs and sipping wine. I highly recommend
Your Perfect Life

—Beth Harbison,
New York Times
bestselling author

“Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke blend their voices seamlessly and hilariously and remind us that even though the grass often looks greener under our friends' lives, nobody gets happily ever after unless they go after it.
Your Perfect Life
is clever, quirky, fresh, and ultimately, empowering!”

—Claire Cook, bestselling author of
Must Love Dogs
Time Flies

Your Perfect Life
puts a fresh twist on a ‘Freaky Friday' scenario: What if you switched bodies with your best friend, and got the life you'd always secretly coveted? I adore Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke's witty, winning style and gobbled up their debut novel.”

—Sarah Pekkanen, author of
Things You Won't Say

“Sassy, heartfelt, and smart,
Your Perfect Life
is a clever take on switched identities that will make you think hard about the choices you've made in your life and what matters most to us all in the end.”

—Amy Hatvany, author of
Safe with Me

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For Shane and Riley—you are the very best part of me.

To my mom, Valerie—for telling me I could.

June 2005

“Push! Harder!”

The labor-and-delivery nurse belted out the command as Jessie shook her head defiantly in response, her entire body trembling, sweat and tears dripping down her face, pooling at the base of her neck. Even as the baby crowned, she knew she wasn't ready for its arrival.

“I can't,” she finally managed, her mouth as dry as a ball of cotton. She'd kill for a drink of something that would quench her thirst—in fact, she could vividly picture herself strangling the nurse in exchange for a tumbler piled high with huge cubes of ice and filled to the brim with cold water.

do this.” Her husband Grant's breath felt like fire on her ear, his words fast and fumbled, desperation lacing every one. He and the nurse had been having a not-so-subtle conversation with their eyes for the last hour, their concern heightened with every raised eyebrow and pointed look at the baby's heart monitor attached to Jesse's protruding belly. “You have to. It's time. Please, honey.” Grant's pale skin was glistening under the
fluorescent lights, his dark hair matted against his head as if he was the one who'd been in labor for almost twenty hours. He rubbed the corners of his dark green eyes vigorously, and Jessie knew he was searching for the encouraging yet forceful words that would make her want to push the baby out, but his slumped shoulders exposed how close he was to admitting defeat.

Her pregnancy had been difficult for so many reasons, and Jessie wasn't one bit surprised that it was culminating in an arduous labor. In her mind, she deserved every painful contraction, every minute that clicked by without relief.

Jessie could feel her baby fighting its way out now, and she remembered why that severe burning sensation between her legs was called the
ring of fire
. She tried to concentrate on the hideous paintings of pastel floral arrangements adorning every wall, but the searing pain yanked her back to reality just as her doctor walked into the room, effortlessly releasing the commanding words Grant was having trouble articulating. “This baby is coming—
and you have a job to do here, Jessie.”

“Okay,” Jessie huffed before taking a deep breath, gathering a current from deep inside her, and pushing with a force she didn't realize she had. The baby's first cries unleashed a tornado of emotions—of joy and sadness, relief and anxiety. As her newborn son was placed on her chest and she inhaled his smell, she was bewildered by how holding her baby for the first time could be both the best
the worst moment of her life.

•  •  •

“What do you think is taking so long?” Gabriela glanced at the clock on the wall, her long nails tapping the ripped navy blue armrest beside her, her makeup from the birthday party the night before smudged beneath her coffee-colored eyes. She was still
wearing her skintight emerald green dress. Despite the amniotic fluid stain down the side—Jessie's water broke in a violent burst at Gabriela's house the night before, splashing off the travertine tile and onto her dress—it was attracting more than a few approving glances.

“I'm sure it will be any minute now,” Claire declared calmly from behind a tattered copy of an old tabloid magazine. The couple canoodling on the cover had long since split up. “I actually thought because it's her third kid she'd push like one time and poof, we'd have ourselves a baby.”

Gabriela glanced at the swinging doors once more, willing Grant to burst through them like a jubilant new father, dispersing candy cigars as he announced that the baby had arrived safely. When Jessie's water broke, something had cracked open inside Gabriela too—an incredible desire to hold the infant, to nuzzle it against her and marvel at its ten tiny fingers and toes. She'd never wanted children of her own, and had never wavered, not even when her husband, Colin, would place yet another of their friends' birth announcements in front of her with an expectant look in his eyes. She'd gently repeat her explanation—that she didn't feel she was meant to be a mother. Then she'd watch the range of emotions ripple across his face—first the frustration that she wouldn't change her mind
for him,
followed by the realization he'd never be someone's father. But ultimately, the love he felt for Gabriela always won out. She'd been honest about how she felt since early in the relationship, and until they had married, she'd thought he had been on the same page. But then he would drop a hint here, make a comment there, and she often wondered when
or if
he'd finally stop bringing it up. Until eventually, he did.

Which is when something unexpected happened.

Gabriela had recently turned forty. When she did, it revealed a hole inside of her she hadn't known was there. Now, she couldn't wait to see the look on Colin's face when she told him she was ready to be a mom.

•  •  •

Claire eyed Gabriela discreetly from behind her magazine, watching her carefully cross and uncross her long legs. Gabriela could be described as a lot of things: organized, practical, whip smart, even nurturing. But worrisome and anxious were not words Claire would ever use, and Gabriela's nervous behavior baffled her. She was surprised Gabriela had not only come to the hospital but waited here this entire time. It wouldn't have been at all out of character for her to have stayed at the party and visited the baby once it was cleaned, bundled, and sleeping soundly in a bassinet. Jessie had actually tried to convince both of them to do just that. Through clenched teeth and short, heavy breaths, while Grant was pulling up the car, Jessie had practically begged them not to ride with her to the hospital, to please stay and enjoy the party because it was theirs too, the urgency in her best friend's blue eyes taking her by surprise, almost enough to make Claire agree.

Gabriela's, Jessie's, and Claire's birthdays fell within a few months of each other—Gabriela in late May, Claire in June, and Jessie in July—and they'd made a vow almost twenty years before, while sipping beers at a dive bar in Newport Beach, their feet crunching the peanut shells covering the floor, to always celebrate together. Last night, they'd clasped hands as Colin toasted them, making a joke that forty was the new eighteen. Gabriela glowed as her husband captivated the crowd, Jessie shifted her weight, nervous and uncomfortable, her bladder
signaling she needed to go
. And Claire only half listened as she popped a strawberry into her mouth, shyly making eye contact with a man different from any she'd met before, who'd made her heart flutter when they'd grazed arms and shared small talk at the chocolate fountain earlier.

BOOK: The Year We Turned Forty
8.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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