Authors: Katherine Owen
|Not To Us|
|The Writing Works Group (2011)|
The Novel, Not To Us
Ellie's perfect world unravels.
A best friend's betrayal ends her marriage.
An alarming diagnosis threatens her life.
It all leads to Michael...
But, fate soon tests their perfect union.
Not To Us…
“Strong characterizations and intriguing plot lines kept me riveted to this novel. The storyline of couples facing midlife crisis that tears them apart and still brings them together is very moving...”
Marta Hartman -BookRooster -
“Isn’t it true that when horrible things happen to others, we are quick to think that it won’t happen to us? That’s exactly what “Not To Us” is centered on...an emotional roller coaster ride...a book to be read at leisure so as to enjoy every moment...It touches you...forces the reader to face many truths; that we have no control over our lives, no matter how hard we try. What makes the difference though, is how we deal with it.”
Ellen Fritz -
“...a beautiful work of art... Not To Us is an astonishing story with many unexpected twists and turns...about one woman’s wishes, discovering the strength she didn’t know she possessed, forgiveness and understanding, but most importantly, learning to love herself.”
Cheles Bells -
A Belle’s Tales
“This book was the epitome of an emotional rollercoaster, and I say that with a smile on my face...I read through this book rather quickly, because it captivated me so much...”
Overview of Not To Us
Ellie’s perfect world unravels.
A best friend’s betrayal ends her marriage.
An alarming diagnosis threatens her life.
It all leads to Michael...
But, fate soon tests their perfect union.
And, begs the question: if you get a second chance, do you take a different path?
MORE praise for
Not To Us
“Rather you have been divorced, are the child of divorce, have had cancer of any kind, or a family member of a cancer patient, this book is for you...Wonderful storyline, very detailed characters. Just keep a box of tissues nearby.”
“With Ellie’s life unraveling, she becomes a true to life character. When faced with betrayal and illness, I found myself cheering Ellie on throughout.”
Rebecca Scarberry -
“... I have to say I loved it. It is the story of how a woman’s life falls apart from one day to the next and how she keeps it together. Or not...”
pj “pj” - Bookrooster
“Owen has an incredible ability to create characters who endure amazing loss and overcome it, and wind up being stronger in the end...”
Elena Aitken, Author -
Nothing Stays In Vegas
here are all kinds of ways for a relationship to be tested, even broken, some, irrevocably; it’s the endings we’re unprepared for. My life has become a roller coaster ride mixed with equal amounts of pure joy and exposed fear; and, sometimes, this unfathomable incredulity. This arrives in spurts, like adrenalin or injected heroin; well, how I imagine injected heroin would feel. That’s when I consider that change—change, its inevitability—is coming. And, I can’t stop it. Then, the incredulity comes again. Is this really happening to me? Yes. Incredulity arrives unannounced and jump-starts my failing broken self.
Up until now, I’ve had the audacity to consider my life perfection. I married my college sweetheart, Bobby Bradford. I’ve borne three gorgeous kids with him. I live in a grand house on Bainbridge Island and indulge in an editorial career for a successful New York publisher. Respected, beloved, that’s me. Everything in my life rang true and perfect, until the day at the Four Seasons, three weeks ago. After that day, I look at what I once thought of as my perfect life and discover the foundation is literally breaking down, disintegrating all around me with each passing day.
I’m watching the Baction movie of my life. I’m the damsel in distress caught onboard the runaway amusement park ride careening out of control, going faster and faster. I can’t control the action any more than I can write the script. Let alone, direct it.
And, I’m the heroine already slated for trouble.
It’s been three weeks of bad movie scenes
my life careening out of control in absolute silence. I don’t say anything. I don’t react to what I know to be true. I just go through the motions with my ever-predictable life script, fighting the ever-growing panic, and acknowledge I’m going to have to do something to save myself. Soon.
. I sit in the office chair opposite of Dr. Michael Shaw, anticipating a reprieve from more bad news. I’ve had enough bad news for a lifetime already in just the past three weeks. I play at normal in the starring role as Ellen Kay Bradford
the one I’ve played for over eighteen years.
I’m giving Michael one of my winning, former-University-of-Washington-cheerleader smiles and watch its predictable impact play across his golden features with his captivating return smile.
We banter pleasantries back and forth in his medical office for the first five minutes about the kids, Robert, Carrie, what the plans might be for Thanksgiving and Christmas and back to the kids again. They’re fine. Great. Fine. Great.
Finally, he takes a deep breath and closes his eyes for a brief moment and then opens them again and just looks at me. “The biopsy shows malignant cells. You have cancer, Ellie,” he says in this let’s-look-at-the-bright-side, manly voice, though I hear it tremble. “Stage two, aggressive, treatable, but we need to move fast.” His words cascade down on top of me like unexpected rainfall. I actually start to shake as his diagnosis begins to resonate with the working parts of my brain.
This isn’t happening.
This can’t be happening. I try to form my brightest smile, but I can’t make my face work.
This isn’t happening.
Not to us
I’m getting my bad news mixed up. I’m not making any sense. I’m just sitting here, looking at him, trying to find some sort of silver lining in all of this. This unraveling of my life. This fucking roller coaster ride. This god-damn ride I want to get off of now. God damn it. I sit silent. Searching for perfect control, I finally form a smile for him. I’m waiting, waiting for the punch line.
“This is a joke; right? You just didn’t tell me I have cancer, because, frankly, if we’re being honest, Michael.” My voice wavers. I try to smile again, but can’t quite make it work. “I’ve got enough shit going on right now.”
I can’t find any solace in his tone. I shift in my chair and just look at him. We’ve known each other for almost twenty years, since the days at the University of Washington when all four of us had been sophomores in college. I’ve seen him naked a half dozen times, in those innocent moments, when we had all gone camping together, drank too much, and let strip poker go a little too far. He is my best friend Carrie’s husband. He is best friends with my husband, Robert. My friend even.
And, yet, in this moment, all I can think of is that there is worse news than this
worse news that I will eventually have to tell
. My resolve gives way. My eyes betray me first and fill with tears, not for myself, but for Michael.
“Ellie, it’s going to be okay,” he says, misinterpreting my tears.
“Not really,” I say.
. “There are worse things going on.”
His handsome face immediately changes to anguish.
“When did you find out?” Michael asks in a distant voice.
“Three weeks ago.” I clasp my hands together. “You?”
“Three months ago.” He gives me a wry smile. Then, he gets up from his office chair and promises to be right back. “Come on, Ellie,” he says, when he returns. “Let’s get out of here.”
Sitting in Michael’s car, an ostentatious, black Lexus SUV, ensconced in the riches of onyx leather, all my senses are quietly being assaulted by the smell of his cologne. I covertly glance over at him. Even in profile, he is handsome.
Always has been
goes the errant thought in my head. It’s too bad I married Robert Bradford; Michael Shaw would have been better for me.
“Where are we going?”
“I haven’t thought that far, yet,” he says with a flash of his white smile.
Again, I feel this attraction for him. What the hell is wrong with me? This man is my husband’s best friend. He is my best friend’s husband. He is the godfather to my sixteen-year-old son. And now, he is my surgeon. It’s apparent on this rainy day in October that, perhaps, I should have gotten a different surgeon, a different opinion. I certainly didn’t like what this doctor, this friend of mine, had to say, but Dr. Michael Shaw is the best. And, Carrie had insisted.
I love Carrie. She’s been my best friend, since our freshman year in college. It’s hard to believe that she and Robert have become involved. I wrestle with all of these competing thoughts, while sitting in Michael’s car, consciously acknowledging that I like his cologne and his profile. Maybe, Robert and Carrie’s liaison was as simple and innocent as this. Maybe, one day, Robert told Carrie that she had cancer and their love affair had started on such a simple premise.
Cancer. I have cancer. No, that’s where the similarities between Carrie and me end. I have cancer; she doesn’t. I’m crying, again. Michael reaches over and takes my hand in his.
“Ellie, it’s going to be okay,” he says.
The gentleness in his voice is my undoing and I slide across the seat to be next to him. “Really, Dr. Shaw? You think so?” I give him a weepy smile. I should be devastated right now, but there is this overwhelming feeling of longing at Michael’s touch. I should be scared out of my mind, but Michael makes me feel wanted, safe.
An hour later, I stand looking out at a view of Lake Washington from the Woodmark Hotel at Carillon Point. Somehow, I know that Michael’s logic follows that being on
is far enough away from the doings of downtown Seattle and Bainbridge Island and our intertwined lives there. It seems risky to me, but I am too out of sorts to question his reasoning beyond a studied stare out the window, waiting for Robert or Carrie to suddenly come into my view, floating somehow on the white caps of this giant blue lake and accuse us. We haven’t done anything, but I’m prepared to accept my fate as a sinner this day.
Room service delivers the food and drink Michael ordered: a bottle of champagne, strawberries, a pot of coffee, a pot of tea, two slices of cheesecake and two orders of French fries and gourmet burgers. I lift the lid on one of the burgers and give Michael a quizzical glance. He shrugs. “I didn’t know what you would be in the mood for, but I do know what you like.” He smiles at me then, in that hesitant, shy boy way of his.
I take a knife and delicately cut the burger in half and take a tentative bite from one. He watches me with studied fascination and I grin back at him.
“It’s good.” I set the burger back on the china plate, feeling self-conscious as he continues to gaze at me. “How long?”
“They’ve been going at it since the Grand Canyon trip.”
“God. I had no idea. I hated that trip.”
“Me, too.” He has this half-smile and shakes his head. I look at him, numb with disbelief and uncertainty.
“Carrie and I had been fighting about going on that trip for weeks and then, when we got there…well, I should have seen it, what was happening, but I just couldn’t make myself look at what was really going on between them.” He gives me this sly smile as he picks up the other half of the burger and takes a bite.
The Grand Canyon trip had been Carrie’s idea. Robert was keen to take our kids and Carrie was keen to take Elaina. I was keen to do none of it. There was nothing about the Grand Canyon trip that had appealed to me. I wanted to go to the beach, but Robert and Carrie sided together against the protests of Michael and me and we ended up going to the Grand Canyon and staying on a houseboat at Lake Powell instead of going to San Diego and the beach. It rained much of the time
some unusual weather that no one could have predicted. We’d spent the majority of our time inside; complaining about the rain since we lived on the outskirts of Seattle. Rain is a standard event eight months out of the year here. Only Robert and Carrie had found the fun on that trip and to learn now from Michael what that fun had entailed just crushes me.
I can’t breathe. I stand up and go back over to the window gasping for breath. I look intently out the window at the white caps of the lake and try to find the equilibrium in my life.
“Are you all right?” Michael asks, as he comes up beside me.
“No,” I say. “I’m fucking dying and my husband is fucking around with your wife.”
“You’re not dying,” Michael says with a sigh. “I won’t let that happen. The other part is true and I’m afraid there’s not much I’ve been able to do about it.”
He puts his arm around me and I find myself turning into him. It has been a long time since Robert has held me this way, longer than the fourteen months since the Grand Canyon trip the summer before last. Michael’s arms feel different
warmer, safer still. I breathe in his masculine scent.
For a moment, I try to forget we’re both married. I lose myself being in his arms and pretend I don’t have cancer.
The kiss between us plunders away almost twenty years of time. We’re sophomores, again, in that moment, kissing each other for the first time. I am Ellie Miles, again, the UW cheerleader and Michael Shaw is the Huskies’ star wide receiver. Robert Bradford and Carrie Weathers are strangely absent from this apparition. This kiss obliterates the reality that we have been in each other’s weddings; married our college sweethearts; that he was at the christening of each of my three children; that I was in the delivery room with him and Carrie when their daughter Elaina was born. All of that is lost, when we kiss each other. It’s as if twenty years of shared memories between families and friends never happened.
He carries me to the bed and begins to undress me. And, I let him. I’m heartbroken by what Robert and Carrie have done and I know that Michael is, too, and yet, here we are, embarking down the same path and I can’t stop it from happening because I want it to, have wanted it,
, for longer than I can remember.
“Michael,” I say now.
Why do I always have to destroy the moment?
“Ellie,” He says my name with reverence.
“Michael…I…have cancer.” The shock of this news overwhelms me and I cling to him, now, willing it to not be true.
“I know, Ellie, and I’m going to save you.”
Michael kisses me again. Some hold inside of me releases and all I can see is him. Our shared past disappears and the future seems like this bright light up ahead of us, beckoning us both.
For years, I’ve watched this man eat cheesecake. His slender surgeon hands delicately grasp the fork and he eats cheesecake one bite at a time. I timed him once. He and Carrie had come over to our house for dinner to celebrate Robert’s newly-formed partnership status at the law firm about seven years ago. It worked out to an average bite every two and half minutes. It took him thirty-seven minutes to take the last bite of his cheesecake that night. I share this story now, as we lie in each other’s arms with the sun sliding towards the horizon.
“You watched me eat cheesecake?” Michael asks.
“I love the way you eat cheesecake.”
He leans over and takes a bite and then feeds me one. “This changes everything, you know,” he says.
“Ellie, I want to be with you. I’m leaving Carrie; I’ve already secured an apartment downtown.”
“Why didn’t we go there today?” I sit up and look at him. Insecurity takes a firm hold of me.
“I didn’t want this to look like a planned seduction.” He grins above me now.
“It wasn’t planned?” I ask, trying to be nonchalant, as if, committing infidelity is something I do every day. A flash of Robert and Carrie together comes to mind, causing me to tremble.