I'd been working on an oil rig out in the Gulf of Mexico several years, but this year I was out off the Pacific Coast. I hated it. Last year I was able to get off the platform and see my wife every three weeks, but arranging travel home was more difficult from where I was now. I signed up for ten-week clips and stayed on the rig the whole time. Now I was flying into Biloxi and headed for home. I had cleaned up just before getting on the plane and was hoping Betty wouldn't be too turned off and would fool around just a little in the airport parking lot seeing as it was nighttime.
Instead of my wife meeting me, I came out and there was my Mom waiting, and I could tell there were tears about ready to fall. She rushed up and hugged me. "Pete, there is a man waiting for you. He has some papers to give you and then I will explain."
"Peter Roydon, 502 Magnolia Avenue, Biloxi?"
"That's me. What's this all about?"
"You have been served. Thank you Mrs. Roydon, for pointing out your son to me. Goodnight." He waved and walked off. I stood there with a brown paper 9x12 envelope in my hands.
"What is this, Mom?"
"Divorce papers. Elizabeth has left you. I don't know much except what she has told me. Your house has been sold. She had your power of attorney for that because she deemed your work was high risk and you agreed. I have at home an envelope with an accounting of the assets you and she have. She claims she has treated you fairly. I also have a letter explaining why she has done this to you. I imagine she has all of the t's crossed. She's a lawyer, so why wouldn't she?"
"From what you say, I'm sure she has. I never had a clue. We talked by e-mail just about every night. That's why we both have laptops. Well I'll find her and get this straightened out. Where is she now?"
"I have no idea. She left eight days ago. I promised her I wouldn't call you because she said you might get depressed and jump off the platform."
"I don't think I would have, but thanks for the thought. You know me better than that. Well, there goes a few years down the tube. How long does this take to become finalized?"
"Six months, I think. No one ever got divorced in our family before."
"How about Nancy and George? Have you talked to them?"
"I called them, but they wouldn't talk about this at all. I think they are very upset with Betty, but she is their daughter."
"Guess you're right."
"Come along home. You'll be staying with your dad and me until you get another place to live."
"The house really has been sold? That was fast."
"We didn't know it, but Betty had it on the market less than ten days after you left last time." I turned silent and Mom respected it. We drove by my old home and there were lights on with a strange car in the yard. The garage door was open and the lights on inside. I could see kids' toys scattered around the floor. No doubt about it, this wasn't my home anymore.
"Where's all of my stuff? She couldn't have taken that with her."
"It is all stored over in Bakers Storage Warehouse. We have the key. We went over after we received it and found out she had paid a year's rent in advance."
I could believe everything I was hearing. Betty was the most organized person I had ever known. When she made a decision, she went forward and carried it out, leaving no loose ends at all. This made her an exceptional lawyer and she knew she would advance up the corporate ladder. She had wanted to become a partner in four years, and I knew she would have to pay a premium for it. But still, she must be where she wanted to be.
I wondered how long she had worked on this, if that was her plan. Get settled and then get rid of me. Her parents paid for her college, but I had paid for most of her three years in law school. I'd take that up with a lawyer of my own. I had three weeks to get this settled before I had to return to the oil rig platform.
Right now I was too damned tired to think about my personal life. I had slept some on the plane, but there had been a lot of turbulence and I didn't particularly enjoy flying. I didn't mind being out in the ocean miles from land, but up in the air, not so much.
I tossed the papers the process server had given me on the sideboard and saw some more there with my name on them. I hesitated and then told Dad I was going to shower and go to bed. Dad was concerned. "You all right, Son?"
"Don't know, Dad. Don't have enough information yet. I'll look at things in the morning. Mix me a big rum and coke. I'll down that and maybe I can sleep and not think about this." I was good at putting things off. I mean, when you are miles from shore and weeks from everything and everyone, you get into that habit.
In the morning I awoke and lay there in bed thinking. Betty. Well, we had a strange marriage in some ways, but I never anticipated the divorce. I mean, we were apart almost as much as we were together and lately more. I never doubted her love for me before this. I met her in college and we dated. Before we graduated we were married. I had concentrated on learning all I could about energy and how it was produced. The industry was waiting for me and I was recruited by the present oil company before I received my diploma.
Betty wanted to go on to be an attorney. Her folks had given her the basic education and it was up to her husband to pay if she wanted more. After all, it would be for the benefit of both. The company I worked for had both land and ocean rigs. Those on the sea paid considerably more. "Pete, if you could make more money out there, it makes more sense than to be on land."
"But I would be away from you weeks and months at a time."
"Yes, but we would both be working toward the same goal. I'll be a good lawyer, I know I will. I'll make you so proud of me and it won't be forever."
Three years we lived like this. She studied hard and her marks were exceptional. When I would come off the rig, we'd spend a day catching up. There was never much extra money. All I had was a battered old Ford pickup and she drove a five- year-old foreign vehicle. Hopefully she wouldn't have any studying and we would be able to do things as man and wife.
She too was recruited before graduation by a firm that was the most prestigious in the city. Nothing was said about changing the way we had been living. I did enjoy what I was doing and when buying a house was mentioned, we had a new goal. With Betty employed now, we planned more enjoyable things to do when I was at home. Life was damned good while at home and there was always the carrot held before me of how things were to be when we reached our next goal.
The house we purchased was a four-bedroom, three-bath, much bigger, and in a more upscale neighborhood than either of our parents' homes. It was expensive to maintain as well. When spring came in our eighth year of marriage, I was transferred out to the west coast. Things weren't going quite so smoothly because we were apart longer and Betty was often on a case that demanded her time when I did get home.
Our home, I loved it and I didn't need sea legs. It was a luxury that was denied me for too much of my present life. I did sometimes feel as if I was a stranger in it. Occasionally Betty would have a get-together or party while I was home. I resented these somewhat, because I wanted my wife to myself and felt I deserved her full attention. After the third time at the latest party, I mentioned it to Betty and she did schedule her next one when I was at sea.
I wasn't comfortable with the lawyer types that attended either. I don't think they had reason to, but I was considered a roughneck. Maybe because I was out in the weather all the time. My skin was almost a mahogany hue from the elements and I was basically a quiet person.
I mentioned this to Betty as well. "You intimidate the people I work with. You are so big and rugged looking, they know you could snap them in two if you had reason to. You're my guardian whether you are with me or not. If anyone comes on to me, they soon get told what my husband is like and that's the end of it."
"Do you get hit on often?"
"All the time, Pete. Look at me. I'm tall and good looking, and yes, I have a good figure I'm proud of, and it is all for you. I have built a confident persona and it helps me win cases in court. I couldn't be where I am without you. You don't have to worry about me. I'm yours and yours alone for all of my life." That conversation took place approximately six months ago.
Now downstairs were divorce papers. Something must have happened to radically change her mind. Did she fall in love with someone she worked with? If she had' she must have known at the time she said she was mine forever. Was she knowingly lying to me? Could I live without Elizabeth? Of course I could. I just wouldn't have anything to look forward to when I came off the platform, that was all. I let my mind drift over the months of the last year. If you counted all the time I had spent at home with my wife, it might total three months. This was no way to live.
I suspected though, from what Mom said, it was too late to save my marriage. What about her work? She absolutely loved what she was doing. No, she might divorce me, but she would never give that up. Well, millions of people were divorced every year, so I was just a number now. I got out of bed to look at the paperwork. I would soon be single. My life would change, but how much? Not too much. I would just have to fill in the three months I had every year with Betty. I'll bet someone would be willing.
.... There is more of this story ...