Title: My Biggest Mistake
Author: Leddy Harper
Release Date: AVAILABLE NOW!!
SYNOPSIS:Edie had spent her whole life planning her future, imagining her husband, her kids, and even which minivan she’d drive. Lucky for her, she didn’t have to wait long, marrying her high school sweetheart right after graduation.All of Edie’s dreams had come true, until they were no longer her dreams. Unable to deal with the lingering depression caused by having children, she left her whole life behind, walking away from the one thing she'd always wanted.Donovan Leery loved his wife with everything he had and could never imagine life without her. Until he came home from work one day and found a letter from Edie, explaining she needed a break. Not only leaving him to live his life without her, but alone to raise their three small children.But what happens when Edie is ready to come home? When she’s ready to fight for it all back? She knew it wouldn’t be easy. But she didn’t care. After spending years getting her life back together, she was ready to fight for her family. And a fight is what Donovan would give her.She'd fight to make up for her Biggest Mistake.PURCHASE HERE:
When you’re young, you always think about how life will be when you grow up. What you’ll do for a living, what your Prince Charming will be like, the kind of house you’ll live in. I know that when I was young, I had everything planned out.
I’d sit in the backseat of my mom’s car and look at the scenery as we passed. I’d watch the people walk by and imagine doing that myself, walking the streets of the city with my husband and children. I’d spot a minivan next to us at a stoplight and picture myself driving one, taking my kids to school or to soccer practice. I’d see a man in a suit and tie and think that one day, my husband would look just like that.
And it pretty much happened just as I’d pictured it. I had married my high school sweetheart six months after graduation. I worked part time and helped him with his schoolwork at nights when I was home. I loved to do his laundry, cook his meals, and see him off in the mornings as he left for his college classes. His friends used to joke that I was the perfect wife. And I was. I had loved every moment of it.
Weeks before the end of his final year of college, we welcomed our first child, a beautiful and healthy baby girl. She was the sweetest thing in the world and I doted on her hand and foot. Nothing was ever good enough for my princess except my love. My life was perfect—Donovan was about to graduate and had planned to work with his father, we’d recently purchased a beautiful brick home five miles away from his parents, and we had a perfect baby. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
But I didn’t have to ask for more to get it.
When Livvy was six months old—two months shy of our fourth wedding anniversary—I found out I was pregnant again. I had been a little nervous, but Donnie was elated. He wanted a houseful of kids, as did I, only I hadn’t anticipated having them so close. But the more I thought about it, the more I grew to like the idea. They would be best friends. I just knew it.
“Looks like we have two heartbeats,” the ultrasound tech had said with a smile.
Two heartbeats. As in more than one. Not more than one heart inside one body, no…two separate babies. Inside of me. At once. Twins. Could I do it? Of course I could. That only meant I wouldn’t have to be pregnant as many times to fulfill our dreams of having a soccer team in our family.
It was a good thing.
Donnie bought me a van—the exact one I’d been looking at since finding out I was pregnant with Livvy. He’d been doing exceptionally well at work, which meant I didn’t need that part-time job anymore. That was good, because I faced a full-time job at home with Livvy and two babies on the way.
But I was happy. Stressed…but happy.
“I see two hot dogs in there,” the ultrasound tech had exclaimed as we stared at the monitor in front of us.
Hot dogs—the creative terminology the ultrasound technicians at the doctor’s office coined for boys. Two boys. I’d been so in love with my baby girl that the idea of having boys scared me. But Donnie was excited, and eventually, it began to rub off on me.
There I was, twenty-two years old, mother of one baby, and pregnant with two more. I had the house of my dreams, my real life Prince Charming, and even the minivan. I walked the streets of town with my family and kissed my husband goodbye after fixing his tie and tucking it into his suit coat.
I had it all.
But it didn’t take long before I found myself in the passenger seat of the car, staring out the window as my husband drove, watching the scenery pass by. I’d watch as the people that appeared to be my age would laugh and have a good time without the presence of young children pulling on their arms or interrupting their conversations. I wanted to be them. I’d see the small apartments with enough room for one and maybe a cat and I’d wonder what it would be like to live there without the worry of stepping on something sharp on my way to the bathroom at nighttime. I’d notice the young couple that looked as if they were on their first date, and I’d try hard to remember what those butterflies felt like, and I’d fail miserably.
Yes, I had it all.
But I decided to walk away.
The one thing I didn’t think of as I packed my bags that morning was what would happen when I looked back and realized the mistake I had made. What would happen to the life I had when I had decided to come back?
Would I be able to come back?
I’d left on a Friday—September twenty-first to be exact. I’d never forget it. The sun had been blazing down, causing the muggy air to stick to my skin and sweat beads to form on my forehead. A frightening contrast to the storm that brewed in my mind.
On a cool, Saturday morning, seven hundred seventy-eight days later, I came back to a very different temperature and with a different temperament. Long gone were the storms that seemed to suffocate me—if only I could protect myself against the other one developing in the distance.
I sat in my car for close to forty-five minutes, doing nothing but watching the house and waiting for some kind of movement. I took in the scenery as I waited, noticing how it all still looked eerily the same as when I’d left. The same drapes hung in the windows, the same pink and purple flowers adorned the boxes beneath the sills, and the same broken mailbox sat cockeyed to the left of the driveway. Nothing had changed in the two years I was gone. I wasn’t sure how to feel about that.
I hadn’t gone to the door yet. Instead, I remained in my car, sitting across the street and staring at the house that had once been my home. I’d had a fourteen-hour drive to come up with what I wanted to say, yet everything I had practiced and planned no longer seemed good enough.
What do you say to your husband two years after walking out on him?
What do you say to your kids…if they even still remember you?
God, I hoped they would remember me. The twins wouldn’t since they were only sixteen months old when I’d left, but I still had hope that Livvy would. It was a far-reach to expect her to, but at least there was a slim chance, wasn’t there? She might have some vague recollection of me…maybe.
A silver van pulled into the driveway, interrupting my thoughts. I no longer cared if I had the right words—or any words for that matter. I only cared about seeing my family. I opened the car door and stepped out, feet moving on their own in the direction where the familiar brick house stood.
Suddenly, everything looked different. The only way I could describe it is when you go back to your childhood home—with so many memories of the place, it holds that familiarity, yet it’s painstakingly obvious that it’s not yours anymore. That’s how it seemed to me as I approached the house, feeling more like I had been intruding than coming home.
Livvy was the first to jump out of the van—my van. She didn’t even look at me as she ran to the front door, screaming to anyone that would listen that she had to pee. I couldn’t help the smile that covered my face as I watched her take off. Her hair had darkened to a light brown instead of the dirty blond it used to be, and it seemed to have lost its curl. She had grown so much, no longer the chubby toddler from the last time I saw her.
Donnie stepped out and threw her the keys in a soft, underhand toss. They landed in front of her feet. She bent down, picked them up, and when she righted herself, she looked right at me. Even through the distance, I could tell that her hair color hadn’t been the only thing that changed—her eye color had, too. They used to be the brightest blue I had ever seen, lighting up like electricity, but they were no longer that color. Instead, they were darker, although I couldn’t quite tell what shade. It sent a pain through me, wondering if I had been the reason she’d lost the light in her eyes. Was I to blame for dimming the way she saw the world?
I smiled at her through my panicked emotion, waving my shaky hand slowly, yet she didn’t show a hint of recognition on her face. She only stared at me like any kid would stare at a stranger. I knew this because I’d spent two years getting those same looks from every child I passed as I stared at them, trying to find my kids in each and every one of them. They never were, though—they all had mommies that hadn’t abandoned them.
Her notice of me was enough to gain the attention of her father.
Donnie turned and gazed right at me. His face grew hard and cold as his jaw squared and his eyes narrowed—clearly unhappy to see me. His reaction had me frozen in place, unable to move any closer due to the debilitating fear that ran rampant through my body, leaving my limbs numb and heavy. I wanted to say something, do something…anything, but I couldn’t. His fierce gaze had me rooted in place.
Before anything could happen, someone stepped around the front of the van, appearing at Donnie’s side. She lightly touched his arm, glanced at me with an equal mix of shock and confusion, and then whispered something to him that I couldn’t hear. He nodded at her, never taking his eyes from mine, and then she moved around him to the opened side door of the van.
Two little boys tumbled out with her help. The midmorning sun highlighted their hair, making it shine like gold. She walked them inside, holding each of their tiny little hands, never glancing back at me. Not once did the boys realize I had been standing there at the end of their driveway. It was as if I didn’t exist, as if I weren’t there. But that’s what I deserved, I guess.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, slamming the door closed and taking a step closer to me. His face was a mask of anger, resentment, torment. It only grew harder the closer he came to me, and it made my stomach fall to the ground beneath my feet.
He had changed in two years…a lot. His dark hair had grown longer, which allowed the waves to be prominent on his head. He had facial hair. I’d never seen that much hair on his face before, but the dark scruff that lined his jaw made him appear older, more distinguished, and sexy. He wasn’t the boy I’d remembered from before. And then there were his eyes—the midnight blue that always reminded me of the deepest parts of the ocean had turned a hard, cold, almost steely color, flashing anger toward me. The closer he came, the harder his expression had become. His lips drew tighter, and his nostrils flared wider. He was beyond angry with me. Was that hatred flowing from him?
I did this.
I caused this.
I put that look on his face and made him hate me. I had no one to blame but myself, and I had no excuses to give. Nothing could excuse my actions from two years ago, but I had come back to right my wrongs, no matter how long it would take me to do so. I didn’t care how much blood I had to shed or how many dirty looks I had to take, I was going to make it right if it was the last thing I did.
“Why are you here, Edie?” he asked again, his voice becoming harsher and his jaw growing tighter the longer I made him wait for an answer. The muscles in cheeks clenched, flexing against the skin on his face that had been barely visible beneath his short, dark beard. I’d say his patience was thinning, but that would be a lie. There was no patience left in his demeanor, it was long gone.
What did I say to that? Nothing sounded good, nothing would make any of it right, and no matter what I said, nothing would take away the hurt and pain I had caused. It wouldn’t matter if I told him everything right then and there, giving him every detail of every day I had been gone. It wouldn’t change one thing, because the only thing that would make anything better was if I had never left in the first place.
And I couldn’t go back and change that.
“I’m back.” My voice came out in a hoarse whisper, nothing like the determined voice I had planned to use. I wanted to sound strong, ready to fight for my old life and my family, but that’s not what happened. I sounded weak and afraid.
Maybe that’s because I was weak and afraid.
“For how long?” he asked with a sneer.
I deserved that.
“Forever,” I answered, finding a small part of my confidence.
He rolled his eyes and took a step back, shaking his head as he glanced down the street to avoid eye contact with me. His hands were shoved into the front pockets of his jeans and I could tell by the outline in the denim that they were fisted.
I knew this wouldn’t be easy. I knew I wouldn’t knock on his door and he’d open his arms for me. I had been expecting a fight. But it didn’t matter what I knew would happen or what I had expected, living it was worse than any nightmare my mind had created when picturing this day. It would’ve been easy to accept it and run, climb back into my car and take off. But I had done that once already, and I wouldn’t do it again. It hadn’t been easy. It’d been harder than hell. But nothing was harder than coming back, facing the man that you gave up, and watching your child look at you as if you were a stranger.
That hadn’t been easy at all.
“I want to make things right, Donnie,” I professed, fighting back the tears that burned my eyes like fire.
He scoffed and looked to his feet as he answered. “Make things right, Edie?” His eyes flashed to mine, piercing me with the anger that no doubt raged inside of him. “Make things right? You left! You can’t make that right!”
“I can try.” My façade had begun to crack beneath his bitter words.
“Oh yeah? And how do you plan to do that?” he asked in a voice I’d never heard come from him before. It was gruff and rugged, filled with anger and pain. So much pain, but it was hard to hear it through the resentment. “You can’t go back in time, Edie. You can’t go back and make it right. You’re about two fucking years too late.”
It took everything in me to keep the tears that scorched my eyes from surfacing. It was a fight, one that I knew I would lose, but I held them back as much as I could. “I made a mistake. I know this. I just want to make it right.”
“A mistake? That’s how you’re going play this? Edie, packing up your shit, taking half of our savings, and walking away from your family isn’t a mistake. Taking the wrong exit off the interstate is a mistake. Calculating the budget wrong is a mistake. Abandoning your children and husband is not a mistake. That’s deliberate, that’s methodical, that’s…not a mistake.”
One tear broke through and fell, rolling down my face and falling from my chin. Another tear followed. Before I knew it, my vision had blurred from the mass release of tears that flowed from my eyes, cascading down my face, and falling to oblivion, joining my heart and hopes on the concrete below.
“What does this mean? Are you never going to forgive me? Will you ever let me see my kids again?” Fear consumed me at that thought. Even when I left two years ago, I never imagined not seeing them again. My departure from their lives was never meant to be permanent. It was only meant to get my shit straight so that I could be a better mother and wife. As messed up as it sounds, I did it for them. They didn’t deserve to watch me fall further and further into the darkness inside my head.
Donnie laughed bitterly, startling me with the fury that filled it. “Are you fucking kidding me right now, Idelette? You left them. You walked away from them and went MIA for two fucking years. And now you have the balls to ask to see them?”
“They’re my kids, Donnie!” I cried out in desperation. I wasn’t fighting him. I knew he’d win. After what I had done, I didn’t have a leg to stand on and he had all the right in the world to keep them from me. But I had to try at least. That was why I had come back. I needed my kids. I needed my family. I needed my old life, and I was bound and determined to get it all back—Donnie included.
“They haven’t been your kids in two years. No need to start claiming them now,” he growled at me, spun on his heel, and turned around.
My feet had found their momentum, propelling me forward until my hands were wrapped around his forearm, pulling him into me. I buried my head in his chest as I clung to him, smelling his familiar woodsy scent all around me and trying to find the old comfort of his arms. But I never found them. He kept them at his sides as I sobbed into his shirt, feeling the hard contours of his chest beneath my cheek. I could faintly hear the rhythm of his heartbeat, echoing in his chest. It raced erratically, much like mine. But mine was accelerated by fear, his had probably been from adrenaline or hatred…maybe both.
He pulled his arms up, and for a split second, I thought he would return my embrace. Wishful thinking was all that was. Instead of wrapping me in his arms like he had done so many times before, he held on to my shoulders and pushed me away, taking me in with his steely and narrowed eyes.
His eyes used to calm me. One look into those rare, dark blue pools and I’d forget the world. I’d forget all about whatever had plagued me and lose myself in the love that bled from them. But not this time. I didn’t see any love there. I didn’t recognize the look he gave me. It was all so foreign, and nothing like the visions that would dance behind my eyelids every time I’d close them while I had been gone.
His unshaped, dark brown eyebrows pinched together in the center of his forehead as he peered down at me. It almost seemed as if he were fighting himself with something. “It’s over, Edie. It was over when you left. You don’t get to spend a couple of years doing your own thing, and when you need us, come back. That’s not how things work. Next time you want to fall into me and cry, just remember…you’re the one that walked away. Not me.”
I sobbed so hard that I couldn’t catch my breath enough to respond. I knew that what he’d said had been the truth, but it wasn’t something I wanted to hear. I knew it wouldn’t be as simple as coming back home and having everything fall back into place. I’d only hoped that he would at least give me a chance to speak. But after what I’d done to him, leaving him the way I did, I had no reason to hope.
Beth chose to walk back outside at that moment. She moved cautiously to the end of the front walk and stopped at the driveway. It was then that I noticed she was barefoot, which only meant she was comfortable in the house—more comfortable than she’d been before. She stood there without her shoes on and it felt like a knife in my back. She merely glanced at me and then took in the sight of Donnie, dropping her shoulders as he began to walk toward her.
Watching him walk away from me and into the waiting arms of my best friend hurt more than anything. The way her hands gently touched his arms as he approached her, and the way her body shifted into his sent my head spinning and left my stomach knotted. She had been the one person I trusted with everything—hell, I had it in my will that she’d take care of my children if Donnie and I were to die. I guess she’d only been fulfilling my wishes, but that hadn’t been what I’d meant when I made that decision.
She whispered something in his ear and he nodded. Without a backward glance, he walked back inside. Beth followed him, but then turned at the last minute, looking at me with a broken expression that I couldn’t decipher before closing the front door, leaving me outside all alone.
It was what I deserved.
It was what I had once upon a time wanted.
But not anymore.
It was going to be a fight—I knew that much to be true. But I wouldn’t back down. I wouldn’t give up on getting my family back. Donnie needed to see that I was sorry. Beth needed to see that she couldn’t replace me. And my kids needed to see that their mommy loved them, no matter the horrific choices she’d made in the past.
I had been in a bad, dark, lonely place in my life when I left. I wasn’t there anymore. The fog had lifted and the regret cut deep. The loneliness I now felt after being away from my family eclipsed the loneliness I had experienced before. It didn’t even compare.
Pulling myself from the driveway, I trudged back to my car and collapsed against the doorframe with my head in my hands. Crying wasn’t new to me, but this kind was. Before, when I’d cry, it had been out of desperation—out of fear. Now, when I cried, it was out of remorse. Guilt. Shame. But I wouldn’t let that deter me. I had allowed my emotions to run my life once before… I would be dammed to allow that to happen again.
After a deep breath, I sobered my emotions and took a look around at the neighborhood that had once been mine. The house in front of me held so many memories, but the biggest one of all was from the day I walked away. I had made so many bad decisions, so many bad choices, and none of them I could ever take back, but I could take responsibility for them and ask for forgiveness. Donnie wasn’t ready to listen to me, but I could try with the woman I had left my children with as I ran away.
Fear consumed me with every step I took toward the front door. I didn’t assume she would be happy to see me. After what I did to her, I knew she’d have her opinion and I had to accept it. I only hoped she would give me a chance to ask for forgiveness, and maybe hear me out as I explained my situation.
But I never got the chance to do any of that because no one answered the door. And when I looked through the window at the front of the house, I realized why. The house sat empty. But as I turned around, feeling as though all hope of reconciliation had vanished, I noticed a small realtor’s sign sitting to the side of the driveway. I didn’t know what that meant for the Millers, but I knew I couldn’t give up on my quest for forgiveness.
I jotted the number down after climbing into my car and then drove mindlessly back to the hotel room I’d stumbled into at two in the morning. I curled up on the bed and allowed myself one more moment of weakness, knowing that once I got up, I would be a new person. I would stop at nothing to get my family back. All I needed was a nap to help ease the pain that ran through me. The day was still young, and if I allowed myself a few hours to sleep, I could get back up and finish out the day stronger—more determined.
I cried myself to sleep, seeing the images of Livvy’s blank stare as she saw me standing in front of her, and the hatred from Donnie’s eyes. I saw the expression on Beth’s face as she comforted my husband, and the look she sent me before shutting me out.
It cut me deep and I fell asleep, bleeding it all out.
Leddy Harper had to use her imagination often as a child. She grew up the only girl in a house full of boys. At the age of fourteen, she decided to use that imagination and wrote her first book, and never stopped. She often calls writing her therapy, using it as a way to deal with issues through the eyes of her characters.
She is now a mother of three girls, leaving her husband as the only man in a house full of females. The decision to publish her first book was made as a way of showing her children to go after whatever it is they want to. Love what you do and do it well. And to teach them what it means to overcome their fears.