Jill went on. “But that’s just everyday life, you know? It’s what he married. Piled up for twenty-four years with no serious complaint out of him, do they create a motive? I don’t think so. But what about the big-deal stuff? the stuff that really matters?”

The woman’s eyes were wide open now.

Jill slid into familiar territory, her tone confident. “The big-deal stuff is definitely in the plus column. Jack and I talk openly about everything, and I mean everything. We always have. We like each other. Physical intimacy is very good. We attend church together. We go on dates regularly. We spend time with mutual friends. He loves his work. I love mine. Our son is a mature young adult. As far as I know, that covers it. And trust me, I know a lot about marriage.”

The brows disappeared behind Miss Sullen’s bangs. “You sure sound like you do.”

“Well, I’ve studied it for years. I speak at women’s conferences about it and teach it to a women’s Sunday school class. Have for years.” Instantly her jaw locked again. Her cheeks flushed. The gush of boldness ebbed, like water circling a drain. She heard its sickening slurp.

“So,” the woman said, “you’re like an expert.”

“Um, sort of.” The doubts were piling up faster than last night’s snow. She wasn’t about to explain that not only did she speak on the subject, she hosted a syndicated radio show devoted to it. And not only that, but she had even written a book about it.

“Then you know what this is about.”

Jill met the young woman’s dark eyes, more somber than sullen, wiser than thirtysome years awarded. Her black cashmere sweater did not quite reach the top of low-rise jeans. Her tall boots were of soft leather. Silver bangles clinked on her wrists, a huge diamond flashed on her left hand.

Jill said, “How do you know?”

“My husband is fifteen years older. We met at the beginning of his crisis.”

Crisis.

As in midlife crisis.

On any other day up until this day, Jill would have asked the woman a gazillion questions and taken notes. She must be a gold mine of information. She was the prototype of the Younger Woman whose path crossed the Older Guy’s as he bounced around in a confused state of dipping hormones or dying career or diminishing whatever.

But right now Jill was not pulling out her pen and pad. Right now she was imagining Jack grinning at a beauty half his age.

“Then again—” the woman slid her headset over her ears—“maybe he just has the flu.” She picked up her book and began reading again.

Jill leaned her head against the seat back and closed her eyes. “Midlife crisis and divorce.” She whispered the dreaded words as if tasting a kumquat. Their unfamiliar acidic flavor settled on her tongue. Did she have to get used to it?

Tears stung.

I vote for the flu.

* * *

Agonizingly long hours later at the Los Angeles airport, Jill greeted Gretchen MacKelvie curbside with a quick squeeze. “Hi.”

“Where’s Jack?”

“Home. Flu.”

Gretchen held her at arm’s length. Taller than Jill’s five-two by several inches, she was large-boned with long, wavy brown hair and full lips. “Flu.”

“Yes.”

Gretchen’s left eye narrowed; the other flashed neon green. Her ski-slope nose twitched. She had perfected the matronly glare long before she’d turned forty-two. “What’s up with the incomplete sentences, Miss Jaws?”

Jill glared back at her. “It’s either flu or midlife crisis. I’m going with flu.”

“Jill! What happened?”

“Nothing. Absolutely nothing. He just didn’t feel like coming.” She shrugged off Gretchen’s hands. “Is that your rental? The security guy’s heading for it.”