What happens when two men who have been together for seventeen years fall out of love? Sivan Cruz, a set director in San Francisco, and Walter Wainwright, a big shot Bay Area lawyer, find out the hard way. Walter loves Sivan with all his heart but rarely talks about it, and Sivan needs to hear the words. The language of the love they have shared for so long, that has enabled them to build a life together and raise two children, stops working. They become—still.
When Sivan asks for a divorce, Walter doesn’t know how to say no. They separate, but while Sivan sees the relationship as over, Walter sees only a temporary setback. He has never lost his passion for Sivan and decides he has to say something before he ends up loving his husband in silence for the rest of his life.
I USED to be so normal. I had a minivan. I drove children to school and soccer practice and karate lessons and football and ballet. Even though I’m only an okay cook, I did it. I picked up dry cleaning and took the dog to the vet. I have countless videotapes of swim meets and football games, piano recitals and camping trips. There was never enough money to blow, and some things that should have been repaired or replaced were not, the money going instead to pay for braces and prom pictures and saving for college. We turned a blind eye to whatever wasn’t an emergency. As a result, the house deteriorated, the car suffered, and in the end, most of all, a marriage crumbled.
Life is less about time and more about patterns. We step into familiar interactions with people, and regardless of whether they are healthy, we tend to stick with them until the day comes when we can’t stay silent or blow up or yell and scream even once more. On that day you stop, realizing you’re doing things because of comfort and convenience, not because you’re in love. In that moment, you look across the room at the person in it up to their eyeballs with you, throw up your hands, and call it what it is, the end.
“What?” he flared from where he leaned against the kitchen counter.
I felt a surge of feeling for him at that moment. He was my war buddy. “Honey, let’s get a divorce.”
Long silence, and for a split second I regretted my words. We had seventeen years together, after all. We had struggled together, raised two beautiful kids together. We both had known that we were done for so long, but we’d stuck it out for Chloe and Declan. People said it was bad to stay together for your children, but being apart, shuttling them between two homes, didn’t seem like the best scenario either. They’d lived that when they were small, even though neither remembered.
So we had toughed it out through silences that stretched into weeks, screaming matches waged behind closed doors, and an ever-widening gap of intimacy. It wasn’t that we weren’t having sex anymore, but that was the only constant. We didn’t touch or give quick pecks on the cheek for hello and good-bye; we didn’t hold hands. He didn’t need to touch me outside our bedroom, and that in itself was sad. We could both sleep like logs in the middle of a fight, and it became normal for me to fall asleep reading a book on the couch, working on a design on my laptop, or watching a movie with our dog. Being an attorney, working his way up the ladder at the firm, he kept long hours, so it was inevitable that we became those ships that passed silently in the night. It was only when I would need him or he would want me that we felt any connection at all.
But sex alone cannot save a relationship. It was over—we were roommates with benefits, not even friends, and we didn’t have to be. We could afford our own places; we could share our kids and not even have to pretend we liked each other.
I took my ring off to clean the rain gutters six months ago and never put it back on.
I realized my mind had been drifting back over close to two decades.
His sigh sounded long and annoyed. “That’s what you want, you want to end us? You want a divorce?”
So clinical. “Jesus, Walter, don’t you?” I was exhausted. He had to be done too.
He stared at me. “It seems like you need a change.”
I pointed at him. “You do too. Don’t switch this around on me. You know you hate me just as much as I hate you.”
His mouth pulled into a dark scowl. “You hate me?”
“Some parts of you I do. Some parts of you absolutely melt me.”
His face softened.
“You’re a fantastic father,” I continued.
“But a crappy husband?”
“And I’ve been a worse one.” And I had been. I knew I was selfish.
“You never cheated on me.”
“Which makes me loyal, not good.” I exhaled deeply. “You deserve better, and I—”
“You want somebody else?”
“I don’t want to feel bad anymore. I want the weight off. I don’t want to see the disappointment on your face every single day of my life. Nobody hates me as much as you.”
“I don’t hate you.”
I started to walk out of the room. “I think one of us should keep the house… it’s where the kids grew up, and now that they’re both away at school, they need a place to come home to.”
I turned to him. “You can have it. I’m gonna move to Chinatown. Rachel has a loft to show me. I mean, it makes sense, it’s closer to work. The commute from here to the new job every day is a pain in the ass.”
“You love this house.”
I sighed regretfully, because the house in Potrero Hill had been my dream when we first bought it, after he sold his and I was able to come up with my half of the down payment. “I used to. I loved it when we first moved in, I loved it when the kids had sleepovers with their friends here, I loved it when we had family game night or movie night, I loved it when we had parties here and when you….”
“When I?” His voice was gravelly and low.
“I loved it when you liked me.”
“I don’t love it now,” I said sharply, closing the door on the past.
“And I don’t need money. I don’t need half your retirement or any of that crap. We’re good, Walter. We’ll both help the kids with school, all right? That’s all that’s important.”
“And if I find somebody new, you’re okay with me having another man in this house?”
I still had to think about it. “Yeah.”
The truth of the matter was, for all his faults, Walter was stunning and would not be lonely for long. The second we were done, a line of men would form around the block to be the next guy in Walter Wainwright’s bed.
I glanced up at my husband. “We were happy here for so long. Why wouldn’t I want you to be happy again?”
He stared at me and I realized, as I always did, that his eyes were so beautiful. “You don’t love me anymore at all, do you?”
“That’s not true.”
“If you loved me—no other man could ever have me,” he claimed.
“I only want you to have what you want.”
“It’s a cop-out.”
“It’s the truth.”
“You used to be so possessive.”
“I used to be a lot of things.”
It seemed as though he was waiting for me to say something, from the way he was leaning forward like he did when he was listening intently.
The sudden drop of his shoulders signaled defeat, and I pounced, ready to drive my point home.
“You know you agree with me,” I stated.
His mouth opened like he was going to say something, but he shook his head instead. His disgust was obvious: I was a quitter. “Do whatever you think is right.”
“Fine,” I snapped, annoyed and suddenly so sure of my plan. “I will.”
And I did.
I bought this book quite a while ago and, I'll be honest, I've been afraid to read it. Not because I thought it wouldn't be good. Oh no. I'm a huge Mary Calmes fan and have loved every single book of hers that I've been privileged to read. My fear came more from a personal side. Within my family, my brother and his wife divorced last year after thirty-two years of marriage and four children. It was, in no way shape or form, ugly, at all. They are still the best of friends and he continues to be in and out of the house and they're both active with the children. It was such a shock, though, and I hated that my brother had to go through this. My fear also came knowing that as I read 'Still' I would be reminded of how easy it can be to let the relationship drift until neither person is happy or fulfilled, and that concept really frightens me. The author wrote this book with views into the past and the present, much like the movie 'The Story of Us' and it made the emotional journey even more impactful.
"But sex alone cannot save a relationship. It was over-we were roommates with benefits, not even friends, and we didn't have to be. We could afford our own places; we could share our kids and not even have to pretend we liked each other.
I took my ring off to clean the rain gutters six months ago and never put it back on."
From the moment Sivan and Walter met, they ignited sparks off one another. At first, they each believed it to be dislike, but when they realized they'd been in the midst of a finely choreographed foreplay for two years, then it was no-holds-barred heat and intensity. Walter worshiped Sivan's body in a way no one ever had, treating him as so much more than a casual hookup, and tenderly caring for his heart just as much. And Sivan, with his fearlessness, his sarcasm, and his meanness, knocked over Walter's ego and barged right through, not allowing Walter to always get the upper hand. Sivan protected Walter from all of life's hurts and slights, and vice versa.
Sivan and Walter's relationship didn't just begin on a sexual and emotional bang, but a realistic one as well. The night they first got together and Sivan went back to Walter's, they find that Walter's ex-wife was killed in an accident that day leaving Walter as a single parent to their two kids. All of this information was pretty much out of the blue for Sivan, and he struggled to take it all in. But, against the odds, they managed to fall in love and create a family together. They bought a home, they had friends, they raised their children, they fought, they loved, and then, what? It's just over? How does that happen?
“You're so full of shit,” I said angrily. ”'From that first day we were together, I saw you clearly”'
“Maybe for awhile you did, but you lost sight of me again, because you had an image in your mind of what love was supposed to be like”'
“That's not true.”'
“It is true. You thought that if I really loved you that I would do this, this, and this. But I'm not you.”
“So working all those hours, spending all the time away from me and the kids, you thought that your love for us was obvious?”
Oh wow. This was everything I wanted and needed it to be. Walter I completely and utterly fell head over heels in love with. Sivan? Well. Sivan I wanted to smack, a lot, for being so blind and completely obtuse in regards to Walter. I understood the why of it, Sivan was abandoned and thrown away by his family at a young age, but seventeen years of love from a man like Walter should have given Sivan some much needed confidence and insight. None of this means I didn't like Sivan, because I adored him, I just needed him to wake up and see what was in front of him. Luckily, Walter had already woken up to the things he needed to do to keep Sivan and not lose him; to the weaknesses he was responsible for in the marriage. A relationship can't work when one person works, away from the home, all the time. Relationships take work, and they take compromise and every day there's a new challenge.
Thank you, Mary. I loved it.
Mary Calmes continues to be one of my favorite authors. I enjoyed this book as with all of her others. A recommended read.
4.5 stars for me! A lovely story of a long term relationship that hits a huge rocky patch - I adored the characters and the emotions they brought me to during my reading. Just the right amount of background at the beginning to set the stage of why they fell in love in the first place, so we could see them circle back around to it.
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