Cecilia Randall had heard of people who, if grantedone wish, would choose to live their lives over again.Not her. She'd be perfectly content to blot just onetwelve-month period from her twenty-two years.
The past twelve months.
Last January, shortly after New Year's, she'd met IanJacob Randall, a Navy man, a submariner. She'd fallenin love with him and done something completely irresponsibleshe'dgotten pregnant. Then she'd complicatedthe whole situation by marrying him.
That was mistake number three and from there, hererrors in judgement had escalated. She hadn't been stupidso much as naïve and in love andworst of allromantic.The Navy, and life, had cured her of that fastenough.
Their baby girl had been born premature while Ianwas at sea, and it became immediately apparent that shehad a defective heart. By the time Ian returned home,Allison Marie had already been laid to rest. It was Ceciliawho'd stood alone in the unrelenting rain of thePacific Northwest while her baby's tiny casket was loweredinto the cold, muddy earth. She'd been forced tomake life-and-death decisions without the counsel offamily or the comfort of her husband.
Her mother lived on the East coast and, because of asnowstorm, had been unable to fly into WashingtonState. Her father was as supportive as he knew how tobewhich was damn little. His idea of "being there forher" consisted of giving Cecilia a sympathy card andwriting a few lines about how sorry he was for her loss.Cecilia had spent countless days and nights by theirdaughter's empty crib, alternately weeping and in shock.Other Navy wives had tried to console her, but Ceciliawasn't comfortable with strangers. She'd rejected theirhelp and their friendship. And because she'd been inCedar Cove for such a short time, she hadn't made anyclose friends in the community, either. As a result, she'dborne her grief alone.
When Ian did return, he'd blamed Navy proceduresfor his delay. He'd tried to explain, but by then Ceciliawas tired of it all. Only one reality had any meaning:her daughter was dead. Her husband didn't know andcouldn't possibly understand what she'd endured in hisabsence. Since he was on a nuclear submarine, all transmissionsduring his tour of duty were limited to fifty-word"family grams." Nothing could have been done,anyway; the submarine was below the polar ice cap atthe time. She did write to tell him about Allison's birthand then her death. She'd written out her grief in thesebrief messages, not caring that they'd be closely scrutinizedby Navy personnel. But Ian's commanding officerhad seen fit to postpone relaying the informationuntil the completion of the ten-week tour. I didn't know,Ian had repeatedly insisted. Surely she couldn't holdhim responsible. But she did. Unfair though it might be,Cecilia couldn't forgive him.
Now all she wanted was out. Out of her marriage, outof this emotional morass of guilt and regret, just out.The simplest form of escape was to divorce Ian.
Sitting in the hallway near the courtroom, she feltmore determined than ever to terminate her marriage.With one swift strike of a judge's gavel, she could putan end to the nightmare of the past year. Eventually shewould forget she'd ever met Ian Randall.
Allan Harris, Cecilia's attorney, entered the foyer outsidethe Kitsap County courtroom. She watched as heglanced around until he saw her. He raised his hand ina brief greeting, then walked over to where she sat onthe hard wooden bench and claimed the empty spacebeside her.
"Tell me again what's going to happen," she said,needing the assurance that her life would return to atleast an approximation of what it had been a year ago.
Allan set his briefcase on his lap. "We wait until thedocket is announced. The judge will ask if we're ready,I'll announce that we are, and we'll be given a number."
Cecilia nodded, feeling numb.
"We can be assigned any number between one andfifty," her attorney continued. "Then we wait ourturn."
Cecilia nodded again, hoping she wouldn't be stuckin the courthouse all day. Bad enough that she had tobe here; even worse that Ian's presence was also required.She hadn't seen him yet. Maybe he was meetingsomewhere with his own attorney, discussing strategiesnotthat she expected him to contest the divorce.
"There won't be a problem, will there?" Her palmswere damp and cold sweat had broken out across herforehead. She wanted this to be over so she could geton with her life. She believed that couldn't happen untilthe divorce was filed. Only then would the pain start togo away.
"I can't see that there'll be any hang-ups, especiallysince you've agreed to divide all the debts." Hefrowned slightly. "Despite that prenuptial agreementyou signed."
A flu-like feeling attacked Cecilia's stomach, and sheclutched her purse tightly against her. Soon, she remindedherself, soon she could walk out these doors intoa new life.
"It's a rather ... unusual agreement," Allan murmured.
In retrospect, the prenuptial agreement had been anotherin the list of mistakes she'd made in the past year,but according to her attorney one that could easily herectified. Back when she'd signed it, their agreementhad made perfect sense. In an effort to prove their sincerity,they'd come up with the idea that the spouse whowanted the divorce should pay not only the legal costsbut all debts incurred during the marriage. It could beseen as either punitive or deterrent; in either case, ithadn't worked. And now it was just one more nuisanceto be dealt with.
Cecilia blamed herself for insisting on something inwriting. She'd wanted to be absolutely sure that Ianwasn't marrying her out of any sense of obligation. Yes,the pregnancy was unplanned, but she would've beenperfectly content to raise her child by herself. She preferredthat to being trapped in an unhappy marriageortrapping Ian in a relationship he didn't want. Ian,however, had been adamant. He'd sworn that he lovedher, loved their unborn child and wanted to marry her.
As a ten-year-old, Cecilia's entire world had beentorn apart when her parents divorced. She refused to dothat to her own child. In her mind, marriage was forever,so she'd wanted them to be certain before making alifetime commitment. How naïve, she thought now.How sentimental. How romantic.
Ian had said he wanted their marriage to be forever,too, but like so much else this past year, that had beenan illusion. Cecilia had needed to believe him, believein the power of love, believe it would protect her fromthis kind of heartache.
In the end, blinded by the prospect of a husband whoseemed totally committed to her and by the hope of ahappy-ever-after kind of life, Cecilia had acquiesced tothe marriagewith one stipulation. The agreement.
Their marriage was supposed to last as long as theyboth lived, so they'd devised an agreement that wouldhelp them stay true to their vows. Or so they'd thought....Before the ceremony they'd written the prenuptial contractthemselves and had it notarized. She'd forgottenall about it until she'd made an appointment with AllanHarris and he'd asked if she'd signed any agreementprior to the wedding. It certainly wasn't the standardsort of document; nevertheless Allan felt they needed tohave the court rescind it.
Her marriage shouldn't have ended like this, but aftertheir baby died, everything had gone wrong. Whateverlove had existed between them had been eroded by theirloss. Babies weren't supposed to dieeven babies born
Excerpted from 16 Lighthouse Road by Debbie Macomber. Copyright © 2001 by Debbie Macomber. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.