It was after Thanksgiving, which Russell thankfully blew off because he was too busy, so I got to spend the day with Jess. The divorce papers were ready to go. It was a matter of me deciding when. I was petrified. Russell was his usual self, distant, even more so since all the fights we had been having about seeing parents and other disagreements we seemed to have more and more frequently. He was angry and didn’t speak to me for a week after I refused to go with him on the last time he went to see his parents. He was suspecting something was going on with me and he was right. I couldn’t believe it, but I was having an extra-marital affair. I had seen movies and T.V. shows about such things and here I was acting out my own indiscretions.
I hadn’t been to my parents in a long time and decided I needed to go to tell them in person about my impending divorce, rather than by a phone call or email. Jess said she’d go with me. We flew out on a Friday afternoon after a fierce fight with Russell about me going. It was nothing new, it seemed we fought over everything these days.
Once in the air, I took a deep breath and ordered a glass of wine. My mother would pick us up at the airport. She was already wondering why I was bringing a friend instead of my husband. As they say, the shit was going to hit the fan and I wasn’t looking forward to it. Thank god Jess was with me for moral support.
We got into Des Moines at 9:15 s0 we grabbed some fast food on the way back to the house, and after saying hi to my dad, we crawled into bed. I was stressed out and wanted to talk to Jess but she was in the other guest room and I thought better of it so my folks might not suspect what was going on with us and eventually drifted into sleep.
Saturday we spent doing small talk. I took Jess out for a tour of Des Moines and the newer shopping area by the capitol. Later Saturday afternoon we had had cocktails with mom and dad. Jess was her charming self. I was nervous as a cat on a tin roof. Mom excused herself to prepare some dinner and I joined her in the kitchen. I began making a salad while mom was getting some steaks ready for dad to grill and potatoes to bake in the oven.
“Mom, I need to tell you something, something that isn’t easy for me.”
“Oh-my-god, you’re pregnant?”
I laughed nervously, “No, that’s not it at all. I’m divorcing Russell, Mom. I’m getting a divorce. My marriage is awful and I’m getting a divorce. There, it’s out.”
She paused what she was doing and didn’t say a word for what seemed like hours, grasping for words. Then she blurted out, “This is such a shock! I don’t know what to say! What are you thinking! What do his parents say? Have you tried counseling. Your father . . . I can’t imagine what he’ll say. Why? Isn’t there something to do, work things out somehow? Why?”
“Mom, I’m sorry, but I’ve made up my mind. I am going to leave him and that’s that. Marrying him was a huge mistake from the get go.”
I went on to tell her about how things had been as of late. I did not mention anything about Jess other than we were best friends.
“But, Dana, what do your friends think?”
“Mom, that’s one of the problems with being with Russell, I have no friends, we have no friends, he has no friends . . . that I’m aware of anyway.”
“Oh Dana, this is so disappointing. You seemed so happy. And this Jess person? What about her? Who’s she to you? I see the way looks at you and I think she’s more than just a friend.”
I took a breath and said with maybe too much defensiveness, “She’s just a friend, Mom! She knows what is going on and she’s the only one who I can talk to and who gives me some support.”
“You don’t have to be so defensive! I thought you and Russell were happy together.”
“I was never happy. I just existed, simply existed from day to day. I like my colleagues at work and Russell got angry that I spent time with them after work on Friday nights and we fought. He doesn’t support my career. He doesn’t support anything I like to do. We fight over me not wanting to see his parents, over me coming here . . . over everything anymore. It’s awful being around him. We never talk. We never do anything. We never did anything. I’m tired of it.”
I started to cry. My mother huffed, said no more and continued to prepare for dinner. I felt tense during dinner and didn’t relax until we left on Sunday when my father took us to the airport. I never told my father, leaving it to my mother to figure it out. I was pissed at her for not giving me any support and was happy to have Jess to have a sounding board while I consumed too many glasses of wine on our short flight home and was fairly wasted when I was dropped off at our apartment. Thankfully Russell was out so I showered and went to bed.
But before I went to sleep, a wave of anger came over me and I decided to give Russell present for his birthday on December 13th, divorce papers.
Who were we then?
Where were we going?
Where did we end up?
It is nothing.
It is everything.
It is life.
It is death.
Where were we?
Where did we go?
How did we get there?
How naked were we?
Is it all bullshit?
Is it all truth?
Is it all fantasy?
Is anything real?
The desert of life?
The rhythm of song?
The slither of a snake?
The empty desert?
Nothing is there.
Nothing to see.
Nowhere to go.
I spent every night that week at Jess’s condo, only going to the apartment for clothes and necessities. I was giddy with the excitement of being with someone who I felt honestly cared for me. However, I knew this was new and the newness would eventually wear off and reality of sharing a life together would set in. Sharing a life with another woman? It was a very strange concept for me to wrap my brain around. It didn’t seem right, it was against everything I was ever taught to believe. I felt it odd to even think about being with a woman, I never thought of myself as being gay. Maybe I wasn’t gay, maybe I was bisexual or something else or just needed to have relief from a dead marriage.
How was I attracted to her? Sexually? Yes! Emotionally? Yes! As a friend? Yes, yes, yes to everything! My brain was in a turmoil at the thought of all this. But, in truth, I hadn’t ever been this attracted to anyone, male of female. I was always too busy to ever allow myself that luxury.
The only person I could really talk to, was Jess, and when I told her my feelings, she said that all she wanted for me was to be happy and hoped she could be part of my life. She then went on to tell me that she had had several relationships over the years and was fully aware of the difficulties in any relationship, but simply wanted for me to be happy no matter what I decided about my sexuality . . . or her. Plus I was still married, sadly . . . still married to a man I had no feelings for.
Yes, there was Russell. Interestingly, he had texted me that he and several others were going to corporate headquarters in New York after the retreat in Atlanta for some new training. I was overjoyed that I would have another week of freedom to be with Jess. The thought of him coming home made me feel sick.
I told Jess and asked her if I could keep hanging out with her at her place.
“Of course you are welcome. I’m thrilled we can have another week. But then what?”
“Thanks. But, then what? Yeah, then what? I don’t know. Everything is so messed up. Every time I think of having to go back to that apartment, I feel sick to my stomach. Sometimes I just feel so tired, I don’t know if I can go on.”
Jess asked, “Then, why don’t you leave him, get a divorce, get free of this guy who you can’t stand to be around? Get free of him and get on with your life.”
“I don’t know if I could or how I could. It would be a major disaster and I don’t know if I deal with all the drama. He’s so programmed to never fail at anything, he’d see this as a monumental disaster in his life. I’m not sure what would happen and, if you get right down to it, I’m afraid he might react violently. I wouldn’t want to be around him when he found out.”
“One of my clients is a divorce attorney and he owes me a big favor for a rare print I found her for a song. Would you mind if I contacted her to see if he would met with you?”
I hesitated for a moment, my heart was pounding with this possibility I never wanted to consider. But now? Maybe I could leave him, be free from this marriage. I had often wanted to leave Russell, but never thought it could be a reality, had no idea how I’d ever do it, how to do it, what I’d do. And now, with Jess’s support, maybe it could happen. I thought about it for a moment.
“Yeah, I’d like that. Call her and see. I’d be happy to meet with her if she has time.”
“Good. I’ll call her tomorrow,” she said.
Jess called the lawyer on Monday and I got an appointment for one o’clock on Thursday of that week. I took that afternoon off from work and went to meet Cynthia Carpenter, Attorney at Law, Specializing in Divorce.
I was greeted by a receptionist in her tenth floor downtown office about seven blocks from the D.A.’s office. I waited in the elegantly appointed reception area and was offered coffee, tea, or water. I asked for tea.
A few moments later, before I had any chance to check messages and emails on my phone, Cynthia came out of her office, introduced herself, escorted me in to her office, and offered me a seat in a plush leather chair. She took a seat across a small coffee table, sat back and crossed her legs, making a tent with her fingers and looking at me with a warm smile.
I guessed her to be in her mid to late fifties. She was not tall but had a presence that filled the room and I immediately sensed she was not someone to mess with. She had bobbed dark hair and was neither attractive or not attractive, she just was. I immediately liked her. Then I caught myself wondering if she was a lesbian, but then I saw a huge diamond on the ring finger of her left hand.
The receptionist brought in a pot of tea, two cups with saucers, and a selection of sweeteners from stevia to white sugar. We chatted a bit about ourselves to get more comfortable and familiar, then we got down to business.
“So, tell me about your marriage,” she said.
I went on to tell her everything from day one to present time, leaving nothing out. Cynthia stopped me every so often to ask a question to clarify some area. She was writing notes as wee went and had also asked permission to record the conversation as well.
Maybe an hour later, I had finished my saga and the tea.
“Want to take a minute to stretch? Do you need the restroom? More tea?” she asked.
I did have to use the restroom and it felt good to move. I realized I made it through the whole time without crying. I returned and sat to a fresh pot of tea, a small assortment of cookies, and a glass of water with ice and lemon. It hit me we had not yet discussed fees and with this sort of treatment, I didn’t think she would be inexpensive. My question was answered when she rejoined me.
“Okay,” she began, “I’ll be happy to take your case. You certainly need to be done with this marriage and have a life. Now, my normal fee is $500.00 per hour and I normally spend anywhere from ten to twenty or more hours depending on how difficult the other party decides to be. However, I owe a big favor to your friend, Jess, and she is calling it in so I’ll take you on pro-bono.”
I was stunned and responded vehemently, “I can’t let you do that, maybe lower your hourly for me or something, but I want to be fair with you.”
“I appreciate your offer, but I’m happy to do it, as I said, pro-bono.”
We haggled for a few more minutes, finally settling for a flat $2500.00 for everything.
I explained again how afraid I was of Russell so Cynthia told me to set up a time to move out, take what was mine and she’d have the divorce papers served the next day. In the meantime, she’d draw up a restraining order and have it ready if there were any problems. Also, he would be told in the filing that he would not have any direct contact with me, that any contact would be only through his attorney and only through his attorney, if he decided to retain one. It would take her about two weeks to get all the paperwork ready to be filed.
“So, what do you want for a settlement? From what you have told me, Russell has earned a goodly sum and his future earning potential looks to be very good. How much do you think he is presently worth?”
I thought for bit and replied, “He likes to brag about it and the last time he did was a few months ago and he mentioned the sum of over six or seven million.”
“Wow, you could be entitled to a lot of money. Any major debts?”
“No. None I am aware of. He’s very frugal.”
“Hmm, no children? You’re an associate in the D.A.’s office? I’m aware of what associate’s salaries are over there so I know he pulls in way more than you do. Did either of you bring more than the other into the marriage?”
“Russell got a nice signing bonus with Americo. I was unemployed for close to six months, but before I graduated, I had good offers from law firms in other cities than Chicago which I turned down to move here with him.”
“Okay, so you gave up a more lucrative career somewhere else to move here?”
“Yes, that’s correct. I had some really great offers from some good law firms to enter as a junior partner in family law which is where I wanted to practice. I made the law review when I graduated law school and was in demand.”
“Okay then, in that case, I can see probably going for several mill, even though he had the signing bonus to begin with, maybe two point five or three million? What do you think?”
“I think he’d fight that much. I don’t want a fight or have to go to court. I really want to avoid a court battle. Maybe $500,000?”
“I understand your concern, but don’t sell yourself short. So how about one and a half million? Somehow, I doubt if he will contest that. It’s more than equitable and any attorney would advise him to settle instead of going to court as any judge would most likely give you a larger amount, maybe even alimony, given his wealth and your lower salary. You’d be foolish to ask for any less.”
I considered this while having a cookie and some more tea. “You think we can do this then, without any hassle? I couldn’t handle his drama, having to see him in court. Once I move out, I just want it done and never have to see him ever again.”
“Of course there are no guarantees, but chances are he’ll sign off without having to go to court. He’d be stupid to do so and any decent attorney would advise him so.”
“Then let’s do it, the sooner the better. I can certainly live with one and a half million.”
Cynthia asked me to specifically itemize anything I wanted to take with me. All I wanted were some things my parents had given us that were important to me along with my clothes and personal items. I wanted nothing to do with any of the rest of it. I just wanted to be free. I signed some papers and it was put into motion. I only had to decide when to have him served.
llfe in love and death
memories of stories read
wolves hunt together