Chapter One: Hear Me Out

Chapter One

Hear Me Out (*Catch-up Here)

Heather’s best friend Chelsea was a bloodhound for plot holes, fallacies, and faulty arguments. She could sniff out a rationalization before Heather could order a cold brew, throw it back, and formulate a rebuttal.

Heather arrived early for their lunch date, sipping coffee and going over her talking points and The Ten Golden Rules of Arguments, the first one being Be Prepared. A yellow legal pad sat on the table next to a drained cappuccino cup, the brown foam clinging to the insides.

With a yellow #2 pencil Heather checked her calculations. She had run and re-run the numbers convincing herself. If Heather persuaded Chelsea that this future she had planned was the right one, she could proceed with confidence. She functioned in the same way for Chelsea, but Chelsea required less advice with her solid marriage, two boys, successful freelance career. Heather, on the other hand, had needed help since Derek’s affair five years ago.

Chelsea listened, provided real talk, and for the most part agreed with Heather’s journey from heartbreak to acceptance. Chelsea was a master at the second rule of argument: knowing when to press and when to walk away.

If heads of state had a Chelsea in their lives, porn would be wiped off the internet and people would eat more vegetables.

Heather’s plan to sell the apartment she’d inherited from her aunt Hazel would allow her son Jacob to go to his dream university and graduate without crippling debt. It would fund Heather and Derek’s plans to scale their bespoke furniture design business while ending their marriage. Money equaled just enough freedom to not make everyone miserable.

Her friend would be thrilled when Heather said, “The money will eventually move Derek out of the house, and we can divorce like normal people who function like siblings – partially annoyed, mostly functional, but for the most part pretty good friends.” Today when Chelsea asks, as she inevitably will, “How does this benefit you?” Heather will say, “Hear me out. I need this to shore up a solid future for me to lean into when the tsunami of my clichéd, but empty-nest-anxiety, comes at me like a flock of Hitchcock’s birds. It’s a long-term plan to ease us all into a different future.”

When Chelsea puts her hand up and says, “That’s a pretty good deal for Derek,” Heather will say, “This is for me, not Derek.” She’d practiced it in the mirror that morning, squinting at herself, searching for hidden insincerity. There was no falseness in her features, just the faint expression of a woman who’d entered an elevator, pressed the twenty-second floor and when the doors opened, the building was gone. Twenty-two years of marriage and no husband, no business, no future to show for it. She deserved a transition period.

“Sue me, if I need a minute.” she said to her reflection that morning knowing she was arguing with herself, Chelsea and the world. When someone cheats in a relationship you get rid of them. You fall apart, tell everyone, file for divorce and kick them out of the house.

You don’t live together so your kid who has cystic acne and is going through the kind of puberty where his arms are longer than his legs and he’s starting freshman year in high school as a kid who can’t catch a ball, doesn’t have to shuttle back and forth to an unfinished apartment because the father can only afford the chair he makes himself.

You don’t try to understand the cheater’s point of view and examine the divorce settlement for a fair and equitable plan and re-consider because on some level you feel like it’s your fault. She’d already stayed long after she’d known their connection wasn’t the kind of epic love movies were made of.

These thoughts were for her, not Chelsea. Heather was leaning into the third rule of arguing.  Stick to what you want to say.

When Chelsea flashed the disbelieving side-eye about maintaining a business with her soon-to-be ex-husband, Heather will point to the numbers. The demand for custom furniture is booming. If they invest in the business, produce and distribute they can separate without losing everything they built over the years.

Chelsea moved past the cafe window and through the front door like the force of nature she was. She dropped her car keys on the table with a clatter, and said, “Hi H. Hey, before we start chatting and I forget, I’ve been meaning to ask you, how’s that organic farm box/meal service you signed up for? Is there enough food?”

Without thinking, Heather said, “Yes! The three of us can hardly finish it all before the next one comes,” The moment the word ‘three’ left her lips she knew all that rehearsing had been for naught. Heather clapped her hand over her mouth. Rule number six Watch out for crafty tricks had been violated. Chelsea had gotten her to incriminate herself in the first five seconds.

“You’re still cooking and feeding him. That’s a pretty good deal for Derek.”

“What am I supposed to do? He lives in the basement! I’m making dinner for Jacob. How would it look to sit there, just of two of us, knowing Derek is downstairs eating peanut butter.”

Chelsea gave her the, you could have divorced him five years ago, look.

She replied. “I should have dumped everything I’ve worked for? Grow old in a house I wrestled from my husband, wander around admiring the baseboards while my pubic hair turns grey?” At that moment Heather moved her plans to sell the apartment into her bag and zipped the top compartment shut.

“Stop fast-forwarding to your eighties.” Chelsea tugged out the chair and sat, never breaking eye contact.

It was true, Heather could zoom into the future too quickly, imagine herself in a nursing home alone and indulge herself in a forecast of doom. This was her entire life she was thinking about chucking. A person had to catastrophize so you didn’t miss any details of difficulties to come.

A woman wearing a blue striped apron set food on the table Chelsea must have ordered on her way in knowing what Heather would want, certain she hadn’t eaten and would likely need a bowl of kale, an ancient grain, and avocado for this conversation. Any conversation that included the future.

Chelsea unwrapped a fork and knife bundle, smoothed the paper napkin on the table, and pulled a Sharpie from her bag. “Don’t speak. Just listen. Okay?”

Heather nodded like a little kid who’d had her plans dashed by the bossy babysitter whose outfit she loved. She watched while Chelsea drew a four-square box next to a brown coffee-cup logo. “These are your options, as you see them.” In the first box, she wrote a DK, “Divorce and Keep the Business.” In the next box, she wrote MK, “Married and Keep the Business.” Heather opened her mouth to protest. She planned on divorcing Derek, just not this very second! But Chelsea made a noise that sounded like “zip it,” and Heather did. She finished the boxes with DQ & MQ, “Divorced or married, you quit the business.”

“Well, we can’t quit the business right away. That’s our livelihood,” said Heather giving away everything in that moment. “If one of us leaves, there is no business, no income.” She was in a sweat trying to catch up. She’d just blown Rule Five, Excel At Responding to Arguments.  

Chelsea knew Heather better than she knew herself and gave her a look that said, Who do you think you’re talking to? “H, I know which box you think you want to live in the rest of your life. The first one is divorce and keep the business. That’s the perfect purgatory for you. It’s the easiest one to defend to yourself and others if anyone asks. You divorce a cheating husband but keep the business for financial reasons. Also, let’s be honest, it requires no real change in your life.” She tapped the marker in the Divorce and Quit the Business box. “I want you to think about this one here.”

“I lose everything then. Once Jacob goes to college, that’s an empty box for Heather,” she said, trying for the distance of a third-person point of view. “Poor Heather. Alone in a box, forever eating the tiny cans of soup for one.”

“Would I do that to you? No. I want everything for you. This is the fullest box.” Chelsea drew one big circle around the four-square with arrows pointing to the edges of the napkin. “This box is filled with everything outside of it, all the possibilities in the universe. You could start a new business, meet a new man, hell, meet a dozen new men, volunteer in India like you’re always talking about.”

“I’m not always talking about India.” Heather saw she was losing this argument and tried clinging to factual inaccuracies. Yes, she’d mentioned India, because it did seem like the country could use a spare set of hands at times. “Also, as I know you remember, I tried dating and that didn’t go well.”

“You went out with one guy with a nose hair beard and gave up.” Chelsea rested her fingers on the back of Heather’s hand and took a beat. “I know you’re good at working with what you have. You’ve honed the skill of making do, keeping promises. You’ve built a business on a shoestring with only the two of you—no investors, no trust fund, just hard work. You promised Derek everything and you’ve given it your all,”

Heather felt the warmth of her friend’s support and deep knowledge of her life. “What if you visualized something new for yourself? And, the way to do that is to see what the outside of the box looks like.”

Neither Jacob nor Derek ever considered her life as they moved forward in their days. And she’d gotten used to it. She had. It was fine, until someone did stop and notice that she had become second to the family in a way that went beyond being a partner, a mother.  Heather could feel her eyes go wide, and soon they would fill with water and she’d be crying in her quinoa.

“Hear me out,” Chelsea said, using Heather’s favorite phrase. “You can’t imagine a future. I get that. So I propose you go to that adorable apartment in New York that you finally have access to. RIP late aunt Hazel,” Chelsea crossed herself. “Stay for a month to see how different life would feel if you plopped yourself into a new space. Live like a single person. Meet people. Go on a date. Open yourself up. Invite people in.”

Heather bit the inside of her cheek. She’d come to argue for selling the apartment not moving into it. She had a plane ticket, a realtor meeting her there. Jacob had accepted his dream college’s offer. If she admitted all of this now Chelsea, who was so much better at debate, would talk Heather out of her plans. A plan she saw that she had already decided upon. Had a deadline for. Had settled into.

So Heather paced herself. She knew not to agree too quickly or she’d give herself away. She fished around in her bowl and speared a cherry tomato, arranged her face like she was newly considering this option. She did not say that she had run the numbers, talked to Derek, that she was leaving the next day for New York and had engaged a company for an estate sale. She chewed a bit of cilantro and swallowed, raised her eyes to the window, decidedly not meeting Chelsea’s gaze, and said, “Okay.”

Chelsea narrowed her eyes. She knew Heather was hiding something. She was so much better at The Rules, how to retreat and wait. The skills of arguing in public. She also knew her friend had made a strong case, not one that Heather was likely to forget.

“So, who’s going to cook the organic vegetables for Derek while you’re gone?” Chelsea said, capitulating with a final one-two punch.

Heather thought to herself CheckMate, Chelsea. Nicely played, because in the very corner of her mind, Heather wondered if she should be asking the same question.

xo Ann

So, what do you think? Would you read this book? Did it make you feel anything?

As always a big thank you to Samantha Hoffman for editing this piece. She edits all my essays. Click for her services.


  1. Pam Gardner on February 23, 2022 at 2:08 pm

    Yes! I want to read this book!

    • Ann Garvin on February 23, 2022 at 2:38 pm

      Maybe someday? A version of it — thank you though. xo
      It’s hard to show your unfinished words, thanks for being kind.

    • Bonnie on February 23, 2022 at 2:47 pm

      Absolutely! I would read this.

      • Ann Garvin on February 23, 2022 at 3:59 pm

        Awww thank you Bonnie. Maybe I’ll resurrect this in it’s time. xo Ann

  2. Bonnelyn Thwaits on February 23, 2022 at 3:47 pm

    I wonder how many of us are in finished (stick a fork in it) relationships that continue on as a social construct. How to extricate oneself. Not many of are bold.Do you have an apartment from an Aunt Hattie that I can try? Maybe use it as a grand prize for a raffle. Purchasers of your book would be automatically entered. Your NY apartment would be full year round like a successful Air BnB. I have a countdown app. No one knows that I do. No one knows what it means. The truth for most of us is the failure of transparency. Your ex was in your basement. Mine is still in my bed, and he does not know that he is my future ex. The relationship is over. I have t’s to cross and i’s to dot. But the clock is ticking…

    • Ann Garvin on February 23, 2022 at 3:54 pm

      Wow, this would be a great book. The clock is ticking. Nicely done.

  3. Julia Lewis on February 23, 2022 at 5:19 pm

    Dear Ann,
    Yes I would read this book. I enjoy stories about women after a certain age coming Into their own. Even though they had strenght before, they find a new strength and reason to move forward.

    • Ann Garvin on February 24, 2022 at 2:18 am

      I love those stories too. It gives us all a map for when we struggle.

  4. Suzi Sharp on February 23, 2022 at 6:29 pm

    Yes, I would read this book, and I want to know what Heather decides. Lol

    • Ann Garvin on February 24, 2022 at 2:18 am

      I want to know as well!

  5. Karen Silver on February 23, 2022 at 6:38 pm

    I would read this book. I’m not usually into this kind of story, but you really set the stage with an interesting friendship and the possibilities of starting a new life. Love the box/circle. I’m going to use it!

    • Ann Garvin on February 24, 2022 at 2:17 am

      Thank you Karen!
      Use the box, I think I will too.
      You finish your book and sell it!!

  6. Dauna Easley on February 23, 2022 at 8:35 pm

    Hi Ann,
    Yes, I would definitely read this book. Heck, I’ve lived most of this book. I could be Heather or Chelsea. I used to be Heather…for too long to admit to people who don’t already love and accept me unconditionally.

    Now, I’m more Chelsea, except older. My name is Dauna Easley and I used to be Josh Chamberlain’s high school teacher. He recommended your book, I Thought You Said this Would Work. I just finished reading it for the second time. I have recommended it to most of southwest Ohio. You’re welcome.

    Your book taught me so much. I can’t wait to read what you write next. I have my second novel inside of me trying to get out. The first one was sidelined when I listened to “experts” tell me you could only use the word “said” when writing dialogue. What did I learn from your book that propelled me to read it again? So much!

    I learned the continuous voices in my head are in everybody else’s head too. Those genuine thoughts frequently work so much better than dialogue.

    I thought my life was unique in the number of challenges thrust my way and nobody would believe it. You beautifully demonstrated a book needs MANY internal and external challenges. The more twists, turns and challenges a book presents, the merrier is the reader.

    I learned a thunder shirt might help my granddaughter’s Burnese Mountain Dog, Boomer, with his anxiety.

    I learned (actually, I already knew) grief and humor can be closely related. But you illustrated how to feature this in a novel.

    And now I learned from your website, even fantastic, writers whom I admire, are sometimes uncertain of their talent. This may have been the greatest gift you gave me. Thank you for that Ann.

    But DON’T stop writing. I just discovered your words and I need you around to light my way.


    • Ann Garvin on February 24, 2022 at 2:17 am

      Wow, I am in awe of this letter. Thank you so much. You are lovely. We all struggle with self doubt in all parts of our lives. I will be here. And If I light your way, more the better. Promise you will also write. You have the heart of a writer. xo A

  7. mlaiuppa on February 23, 2022 at 9:07 pm

    Sounds like this is a book about your life and letting go.

    Here’s mine. My parents are both 92 and in failing health. They are leaving the house to us three kids. My Dad wanted my sister and I to move in and share the house to “get along” but that isn’t going to happen. I was more than willing. My plan was to move in and then rent out my house. I could have the mortgage paid off in five years and bank half a million dollars or more by the time all of my dogs have passed away. At that point I would move to a really nice senior living community I have had my eye on and my parents house could be rented or sold. My Dad said he was leaving me a separate bank account with about $300,000 in it. I was going to use that to fix up their house which is terribly dated and only has one working shower, basically putting that windfall back into the house.

    But none of that is going to happen. If that bank account ever existed it doesn’t any more or my sister has the money. It’s her lawyer doing their will and trust and she will be the trustee after my Dad passes. She has arranged for her deadbeat son (33 year old part time janitor that still lives with her) to not only be executor of the will but to have a rent-free room in the house for life. So that house can never be rented or sold for income. I won’t have the money to so much as repair the shower in the downstairs bathroom that I would use if I moved in. I would be saddled with the roommate-from-hell the entire time. If I put any of my own money into the house, that added value would be split three ways between my sister, brother and me. I would never make back my investment.

    So no renting out my house as I’ll need to return at least once a week to take a relaxing hot bath, soak up a week’s worth of serenity working in the garden, plus I will need my house to move back to after the dogs have passed. My parent’s dog is tied to the house during her lifetime and to maintain custody I’ll need to live with her in the house. I won’t allow my sister and her spawn to have Dolly as they have lost three dogs to preventable accidents and the last one suffered years of criminal neglect.

    So how do I let go? I’ve already resigned myself to not having my house paid off until 2037 and never banking that half million dollars. I’ve given up my dreams of the senior community.

    Some inheritance. With two households to pay the water, gas & electric, cable and insurance I will be lucky to break even.

    So, what will Chelsea advise me to do? Pay the $1000 to have the shower fixed and do without my lovely revitalizing baths for a decade, suck it up and try to ignore the Freeloader until all of the dogs have passed? What do I do with my furniture? I’ll need it for the senior center but can’t leave it in my house if I rent it. The rent won’t cover both the mortgage and putting all of my stuff in storage. It can’t go to my parent’s house either.

    Option three is to pay a lawyer and break the will and trust since both of my parents have been displaying signs of dementia for at least a year prior to the signing of the papers. I would be able to get custody of Dolly and move back to my house and turn my back on the rest. That’s the option I am considering. My sister wants the house for her spawn so she can finally kick him out of her house? Fine. I’ll make her pay for it. Top dollar.

    What would Chelsea advise?

    • Ann Garvin on February 24, 2022 at 2:14 am

      Well this book, is fiction and not my life in any way. I always write fiction.
      Chelsea would draw a box for you. And make you choose. xoxoA

  8. Heidi J Dunfee on February 23, 2022 at 9:29 pm

    Yes, I will read this book and all books you ever write, my friend!

    • Ann Garvin on February 24, 2022 at 2:13 am

      You are a true friend. Always.

  9. Heather Bell Adams on February 23, 2022 at 11:19 pm

    Well, it’s about a Heather so I’m all in! 🙂

    • Ann Garvin on February 24, 2022 at 2:13 am

      As you should be…queen of Heathers

  10. Brenda Ploegstra on February 24, 2022 at 1:30 am

    I think it could be a good book, but if it doesn’t feel right don’t write it. I think you always should follow your gut feelings. I know I’ve made a lot of mistakes by ignoring that feeling. Whatever you decide I’ll be happy – and I’ll read the book if you go that way. Best wishes, Brenda

    • Ann Garvin on February 24, 2022 at 2:12 am

      Thank you Brenda. 🙂

  11. Gabriella Papic on February 24, 2022 at 9:52 am

    Hi Ann, your writing style is so engaging that everything is a pleasure to read. Including this chapter. Your Heather character is especially interesting and also heartbreaking. I’d love to be a fly on the wall during her therapy sessions (especially about her early years!) I think it is a great idea to let things go if they don’t feel quite right.

    • Ann Garvin on March 30, 2022 at 1:44 pm

      Thanks Gabriella, it’s so nice to have your support and eyes reading. xoxo

  12. Nancy on February 27, 2022 at 4:25 pm

    Yes, I would most definitely read it.

    • Ann Garvin on March 30, 2022 at 1:43 pm

      Thank you Nancy. More is coming soon!

  13. Dana Moore on February 28, 2022 at 6:37 pm

    As always, I will read anything you write. You hook me immediately! DM

    • Ann Garvin on March 30, 2022 at 1:43 pm

      You are the warmest of friends… thank you!

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