When I was young my mother's favorite song was a country and western tune called "I Always Loved the Rain."
I have to admit it's a catchy song and parts of it still ring through my mind today.
But I've always hated the rain. It washed out baseball games and picnics when I was young. It made driving a pain when I got older.
And it's the reason I'm not living blissfully unaware of my ex-wife's infidelity.
The thunderstorm caught me by surprise about half an hour after I left for my weekly Saturday golf game. I'm not very good at golf but I enjoy the exercise. My wife, Mary, used to come with me. But she decided about a year ago that she had better things to do on Saturday mornings.
When I turned around and drove home, I found out what or rather who that better thing was.
A startled Mary and her boss, Jeffrey, were in a semi-clothed, fully-loving embrace on the couch when I walked in the front door.
The duo probably is lucky I left my golf bag in the trunk of my car or I might have beaten them to death where they sat.
I was sorely tempted.
The pair struggled to get their shirts back on as I stood wide-eyed and open-mouthed at the door. When she finally was clothed, Mary stood with her hands on her hips.
"Don't you have anything to say?" she asked.
I shook my head and stepped out from in front of the door — which I had failed to close.
"Just two words: Get out," I said.
Jeffrey moved as quickly as he could while Mary stood looking at the floor.
"You too," I said. "I'll bag your shit and put it in the garage. I'll call your cell phone this week and leave a message about when you can pick it up."
My wife looked up with tears in her eyes.
"Can't we talk?" she said. "I'm sorry. Honey, I don't have anywhere to go."
"You can go wherever he goes," I said. "Because I'm calling his wife as soon as I get a second to dial the phone."
I kept my composure during the 10 minutes I allowed her to pack some personal belongings. But I was tearful when I called Jeffrey's house.
"Mrs. Elliot," I said when she answered. "This is Eric Sears. I know this is inconvenient for you, but I think we need to have lunch this afternoon. There are some things we need to discuss."
I heard her sigh deeply.
"My husband and your wife," she said sadly. "I can't believe it. I found your number on his cell phone records for the last six months. He said it was work related calls but there were far too many for me to really accept that. But I wanted to believe him. I'll call you back. He just pulled in the driveway."
It was almost an hour before Renee Elliott called me back. I spent the time alternating between rage and despair. Mary had been the only person I've ever loved as much as I love myself. I guess that wasn't enough.
When Renee called she sounded as miserable as I felt.
"Fuck them," I said. "They deserve each other."
That earned a slight laugh.
"I'd like to get together for lunch tomorrow so we can share records," Renee told me. "I plan to meet with a lawyer first thing Monday morning and have the papers delivered to the son of bitch at his office that afternoon."
I added a laugh.
"I've already opened my templates to file the paperwork," I said. "I'll bring some copies of things I give to my clients. I hate divorces. I think I'm going to hate this one even more."
When Renee Elliott walked into the restaurant for lunch my eyes bulged out of their sockets. She was 8 months pregnant if she was a day.
I felt my anger rise with each step she took closer toward me. When she sat down it bubbled over.
"It is a little known fact that the offending party in a divorce can be made to pay for the non-offending party's legal fees," I said. "I brought a list of lawyers who would help you out for little or nothing. But I think I'll get another list of the nastiest ball-busting attorneys I know of. That filthy son of a bitch."
Renee smiled serenely.
"I'm sorry," I said. "My soon-to-be-ex-wife is just as much of a son of bitch."
"Daughter of a bitch," Renee corrected me with a smile. "My emotions are all over the place anyway. Now this. Half of the time I want to castrate him and the other half I'm so sad I can hardly move."
"I should have beaten them both to death with a golf club," I said and I was surprised that I meant it.
I shook my head quickly to clear the image from my head.
"Wow," Renee replied. "That would have solved my problem but you would have had a whole new set. At least as it is, we can help each other."
I pulled a sheaf of papers from my briefcase.
"I opened Mary's e-mail account last night," I said. "Here is chapter and verse of their affair. I haven't read any of these yet because I still have to see her one more time to let her pick up some stuff from the house and I'm afraid of what I might do."
"I'd like to be there," Renee said quickly. "You come to my house while Jeff is there. I'll come to yours while Mary is there."
"It sounds like a perfectly diabolical plan," I said. "Now, I want to give you some free legal advice. Obviously I can't represent you. Something about ethics and conflicts of interest. I don't know. I slept through that week of law school.
"Before you go to the lawyers on Monday, go to the bank. Leave $500 in your checking account and remove the rest."
"Already done," she said. "I transferred every last penny from there last night."
I sat back.
"First things first," I replied. "How did you manage that?"
"Internet banking," she said.
I nodded and wondered if I had that set up. Mary had taken care of the household expenses.
"Let's have a quick lunch and I'll check to see if you have the program on your computer," Renee offered.
I smiled. I could do basic word entry but I was as about as computer illiterate as a person in this day and age could be.
"Now, you need to put some money back in the account," I said and I watched Renee's eyes flash in anger.
"Hear me out before you shoot the messenger," I said. "Leaving him a little bit to get by on will score big points with the judge. After all, you're the aggrieved party and you're being magnanimous. If you take everything, they'll see vindictive."
"Good," she spat. "I want them to see vindictive. I feel vindictive. I left him is life and his penis. Anything else the son of bitch gets is a bonus."
I liked this woman's spirit.
"I'm just telling you how a court will view it," I said. "You're free to do whatever you want."
Renee sighed again.
"I am absolutely not free to do whatever I want," she said. "I'm due to have a baby any damned day now and my husband was diddling your wife instead of painting the nursery. The paint fumes make me nauseated."
"I'll make you a deal," I said. "You check out my computer this afternoon, I'll paint your nursery tomorrow afternoon. I'm taking a week off from work."
Renee smiled and patted her tummy.
"Deal," she said. "But if we don't eat soon you're gonna have one unhappy hungry woman on your hands instead of just one unhappy woman."
After a lunch in which Renee ate most of the appetizer, all of her entrée and a portion of mine, we headed back to my house where Renee went digging onto the computer.
She quickly found the money management program and made an electronic transfer from checking to savings.
"What the fuck!" I heard from the room set aside for an office as I got us both a bottle of water.
I worried that the baby was on the way and hustled back in. Just as with the day before, I stopped with my mouth open in the doorway.
There in living color on the computer screen was Renee's husband balls deep in my wife.
"They made videos," she hissed. "Dozens of them."
Renee was scrambling to find a CD to burn the incriminating evidence when my cell phone rang.
"Eric?" my wife said when I answered. I handed the phone to Renee.
"Have anything you'd like to say to Mary?" I asked.
Indeed she did. Renee started to go into a tirade about the videos but she saw me shaking my head violently.
I mouthed the word "surprise" and she got an evil glint in her eye.
"You're a pretty low-life bitch," she said instead. "I'm a week away from having a baby and you're fucking my husband. Well you can have him. When Eric and I are done packing all of Jeffrey's shit at my house we're heading to his to pack yours. We'll set it out at the curb for you two degenerates to come and pick up one day this week."
"I don't know," Renee said to an unheard question. "I talked to him yesterday and told him my situation. He came over today to do all the things for me and the baby that the bastard you're fucking was supposed to do.
"You should have just come to me. I would have traded you even up. You can have the piece of shit you got and I'll take the gem you didn't want."
Renee smiled and I shook my head embarrassed.
"I'll ask," Renee said into the receiver as she got another evil grin on her face.
"Mary says there are some work things she needs off the computer," she told me while barely containing her laughter. "She wants to know if she can stop by and get them."
I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing out loud.
"I changed the alarm code before her ass hit the car seat," I lied. "Tell her she can have the whole fuckin' machine. I'll set it outside when I leave for work Wednesday morning. Tell her she can pick it up any time after 7 a.m. It'll be on the porch."
Renee nodded her approval. That would give us a while to hunt through the rest of the files.
"Oh, and ask her to tell Jeffrey hello for me," I said. "I talked to a few of my old clients last night and they're planning to say hi to him from me, too."
It was Renee's turn to bite the inside of her lip.
"Oh, really?" she said. "Hmmm, I figured the two of you couldn't wait to set up housekeeping. I mean, it's not like it's a secret anymore."
"Jeffrey's not with her," she said as she rolled her eyes. "She said it was a one-time thing and she hasn't seen him since he ran out yesterday."
"It was really gallant of him to stay and protect her," I said. "He left like his ass was on one fire. Of course, after what he did to you, Renee, that can't be much of a surprise."
Renee's eyes lost their fire and became suddenly sad.
"Actually, it was a surprise," she said as much to herself as to me. "Well, I hope you and Jeffrey decide to continue your 'one-time thing.' From what I can see, you two deserve each other."
Renee hung up the phone and jumped back on the computer to try to quell her emotions.
I took a moment to follow through on changing the alarm code in case Mary decided a preemptive strike.
Renee and I drove to Staples where we bought a new computer system for each of us and an external hard drive to dump all the files on. Renee was a computer whiz and managed to download my whole hard drive. By the time she was finished it was almost 10 p.m.
It was raining again when I drove her home.
"We need to be careful," she said as I pulled into her driveway.
I agreed wholeheartedly but I couldn't understand the importance of it just right now.
"They've proven rather adept at lying," she continued. "I wouldn't put it past them to have someone watching our houses now that they know we've been together."
Suddenly it all became clear.
"They're not the bad guys," I said. "We are. I've had clients who have wanted to go that route but I always declined. I try not to be too sleazy."
"A non-sleazy lawyer," she said. "I never thought I'd see the day."
"I'm still coming over tomorrow to paint the baby's room," I said. "And, if you want, I'll be right there with you when the time comes."
Renee's eyes filled with tears.
"Thanks," she said quietly. "Let's just get through tomorrow."
I helped her out of the car and walked her to the door.
"Should I come in to check to make sure things are alright?" I asked.
"Would you?" she said. "I didn't want to seem like a wuss."
Everything was alright in her house — she had already changed the alarm code — and I patted her shoulder as I was leaving.
"I'm hitting the bank and the courthouse tomorrow," I said. "Do you want to file the paperwork together?"
Renee shook her head.
"I've still got to find a lawyer," she said. "It might be a few days before I get to the filing. But I will go to the bank to make sure everything is above board and let them know that Jeffrey has no access to our accounts."
"I can't represent you," I said. "But I can advise you. I can put together a packet for you to file pro se in the morning if you want. But you don't have to file at all. You know that, right? I mean, you have a child with him."
Renee looked thoughtful.
"Do you read minds?" she said.
I tilted my head to make sure I heard her correctly.
"Uh, no," I said. "I mean, I barely have a mind of my own."
The smile returned to her face.
"I want to file as soon as possible," she said. "But I know how difficult it can be to get an appointment with a decent attorney. If you can put together some paperwork, I'd appreciate it. I'll meet you at the courthouse at lunch?"
I went to the car to get my briefcase and handed a copy of the papers I planned to file in the morning.
"If you get the chance, look through these," I said. "It has a legal separation date and I pretty much asked for two-thirds of everything as primary wage earner of a short-term marriage. I don't know you're financial situation but I can't imagine Jeffrey makes enough as a high school guidance counselor to afford a house this nice."
"No, I'm the primary wage earner," she said. "I do computer programming and networking. I make about 10 times what he does."
A smile came to my face.
"Maybe that's why he was slumming with my wife," I said. "He wanted to get back in touch with the proletariat."
"Did you see those videos?" she said. "It looked like they got in touch with a lot of things. What do you say we drop a copy off at the school board meeting after we take them to the cleaners?"
We didn't stop at the school board Monday morning but I did find an old adversary and approached him.
"What the fuck do you want," Det. Lt. Jason Mangrove hissed when I entered his office. "My alimony is up to date and I haven't talked to the bitch in a year."
"I know," I said calmly. "I'm here on another matter — a personal matter."
Lt. Mangrove didn't move.
"I would like to leave a potential piece of evidence with you," I said with my eyes cast downward. "I hope you'll give me a receipt confirming acceptance and sign this chain-of-custody form."
Mangrove pushed forward on his chair.
"Criminal or civil case," he said. I knew he didn't like me — deservedly so — but I also knew he was a good cop.
"Civil," I said. "If it were criminal I would have given it to anyone in uniform. I just need you to hold on to this until I come for it. I wouldn't have come to you if it weren't important."
Mangrove sighed but he nodded.
I handed over the CD and he sealed it in an evidence bag. He pulled a patrolman inside who witnessed the chain-of-custody signature and I was off.
"How long will I need to hold this?" Mangrove asked as I departed.
"I hope I can call you in a day or two and you can toss it," I said. "I just need it out of my hands and into someone's who can be trusted."
I left before I could hear Mangrove's retort. I had represented his ex-wife in their divorce and I had mistakenly taken his wife's word as gospel. It was only later that I found out she had misled me and the court. But by then Mangrove's reputation was almost in the trash.
I had done my best to make reparation when I found the truth but it wasn't enough and I knew it.
But I also recognized that his word was beyond reproach in the courtroom. It was among many mistakes I'd made a couple of years before.
I shook my head as I left to meet Renee at the bank.
Renee and I were the first two through the doors of Citizens Bank. It took us less than 20 minutes to open new accounts and leave some cash for our wayward spouses.
We smiled to each other when the manager told us someone was trying to access the accounts from another branch and that the people in question were irate that the majority of the money was gone.
"Should have moved quicker," Renee said with a smirk. "He was quick enough to get the Sears house Saturday morning."
An hour after our stop at the bank we filed our Complaint in Divorce at the County Clerk's office. We paid our $170 filing fee and secured the services of a constable to serve the papers Tuesday since it was the last day of school. It seemed like fitting retribution.
After that we celebrated with a late lunch and a trip to Lowe's to pick out the color for the baby's room. Renee tired easily and we stopped often for her to rest so the trip took a little longer than planned. Mary and Jeffrey left several messages on our cell phones but we deleted them unheard. I had already heard most of what Mary would say during my time as an attorney. Renee didn't care a whit what Jeffrey had to say.
I spent the rest of Monday preparing the room that would house Renee's coming addition for painting and all of Tuesday putting on the first coat of paint. Renee selected a nice sand color for the walls with a pale green for the trim. I joked that the green would match the baby poop almost exactly. She didn't find me amusing.
I had forgotten about my promise to Mary about returning the computer on Wednesday morning. Renee had finished with it Monday and had instructed me on how to disassemble the damned thing and pack it away.
I opened the door at 6:30 a.m. to put the computer on the porch and came face to face with my wife.
"I said after 7 a.m.," I said. "It's not after 7 a.m."
Mary looked up at me sadly.
"You had them serve divorce papers at school," she said. "That was awful."
"I had no address for you," I said. "Renee had no address for Jeffrey. It was the best we could do."
"I went to an attorney after I got served," she told me. "I just want you to know that you're wrong. We never committed adultery. It was the first time we met. What you saw was as far as we got. Some kissing, some touching. Nothing more. I was told it doesn't meet the legal definition of adultery."
"So you're saying that you never had sex with Jeffrey?" I asked. Mary nodded.
"Never!" she said with vehemence.
"I'll give you a no-fault divorce in 90 days," she said.
I mentally shook my head. In our state a no-fault divorce meant a 50-50 split of all assets considered to be marital property. An at-fault divorce — such as one involving adultery or abuse — would result in a judge determining the balance but would leave the non-offending party with no less than 67 percent.
"I'll take it under consideration," I said.
"I want to come home," she said.
"I've been thinking about that," I said. "I think it's a good idea."
Mary looked up at me expectantly.
"I don't want the house," I said. "It has nothing but terrible memories for me. You can have it. I'll find an apartment this week and take what I want. If there is anything missing that you want, let me know and I'll consider if you should have it. You can take possession of the marital home at noon Sunday."
"I can already tell you that something I want will be missing," she said.
"How in the fuck can you know that?" I asked heatedly. "I might just take my clothes and leave."
"That's not what I meant," she said quickly. "I want to come home with you and you'll be gone."
"You have no home with me anymore," I said. "You can have the house but there's no way I'll be in it. If you don't want it, you can put it on the market. I've paid three months of the mortgage. It's up to date until September. I'll pay you $1,000 per month in alimony for 24 months. That's one month's alimony for each month we were married. It's the best offer you're going to get."
Mary shook her head.
"If you won't try to work things out then we'll go to court and I'll take half of your net worth," she said smugly. "You might be an attorney, but I know my rights."
I was met by Renee at her door. She had a look on her face that bespoke her emotions.
"You just missed my bastard of a soon-to-be ex-husband," she hissed. "He wants half. I almost told him about the videos. Fuckin' lying piece of shit. I should have taken his balls."
"Idle threats," I said sweetly. "Remember what we have. We can hoist them by their own petard. We'll let them state their case under oath and then rip them apart. I still have hope that they'll see reason and accept our offer."
Renee and I had spent hours Tuesday evening working over the deals we were willing to offer.
Renee wanted to leave them with nothing. I knew it wasn't going to work that way. The courts very rarely left a defendant with nothing. It led to too many courthouse shootings, I always thought.
I also suspected that neither of our cheating partners would accept our generosity. Instead they would want more. I had no doubt that Mary's suddenly precarious financial situation was the reason she wanted me to take her back.
"I need to look for an apartment this afternoon," I said. "As soon as I'm done with Small Fry's room. Can you go through the classifieds for me? It'll keep you away from the smell."
Renee smiled and pulled out a paper.
"It was what I was doing with Dickhead showed up," she said. "Can you believe he wanted to come home? He asked if we could try counseling. I asked if he would consider castration."
"Anyway, there is a nice apartment complex about five minutes from here," she said. "The paper says they have openings. It has a pool. You should take a look."
"Anywhere would be fine with me," I said. "Once I head back to the office my hours will be ugly again."
"I was the same way," she said. "But with, what do you call her, Small Fry, coming soon I'm going to spend less time there."
I considered what she said.
"I have no doubt my hours are what led Mary and Jeffrey together," I said and Renee nodded. "But she sure liked the money."
Renee nodded more vehemently.
"You should think about spending less time at work, too," she said. "Money isn't everything."