I haven’t written anything in a while, sorry about that (although that’s kind of an arrogant thing to say, as if you guys are waiting with bated breath for Jezzaz to bestow upon you his wonderful writing! Yeah, right:)) Real life has been all consuming recently. Hopefully, you guys will accept this in the meantime, until I can finish some of the other stuff I have going.
This story is slow; there is no explicit sex but plenty of references. Since it is so slow, I decided to drop it all as one entry rather than chapters, as I normally do. It is a slow burn, so be aware that it’s not my normal fare. If you are one of those people who talks about how wordy my stories are, you might want to give this one a miss, fair warning.
We never really do hear about what happens to the woman who leaves for whatever reason, do we? Most of the time we hear about it from the point of view of the person left behind, never hers. I thought it might be interesting to hear from her perspective...
I will get back to finishing Ingrams, and also making sure Ryan gets what is coming to him soon...
I hope this resonates with some out there.
Edited by the incomparable Blackrandi1958 and also input from GirlInTheMoon, both of whom are terrific writers and also awesome humans for spending their time making this better.
The Wrong Side of Smart.
Jeff clattered his plate onto the table, and I winced, but when he drank his water, slurping it, and burped at the end of it, I just lost it. Finally, irrevocably, and totally, I lost it.
I was so far at the end of my rope, I couldn’t see the start of it. My nerves were so frayed you could plat them. I’d had enough, and I just screamed, “I goddamn well want a divorce!”
There was a stunned silence. Me, because I couldn’t believe I’d finally given voice to the all-consuming thought I’d had for the past six months, and him, well, because he couldn’t believe anything was amiss in The Life of Jeff. He just stared at me, the glass of water on the way to the table.
“Whh ... What?” he said, with that stupid wobble in his voice he always had when he was surprised.
What the hell. I’d said it now. It was finally out there. Go for broke, girl. Let it all out.
“Yeah, I do. Jesus, Jeff, you can’t possibly have not noticed how pissed off I’ve been over the past six months? I mean, even in your poor-ass deluded state you’ve got to have an inkling that I’m ready to walk? Surely?”
“Well, yeah, I just thought...”
His voice trailed away. Oh, this I had to hear.
“Well...” he squirmed, obviously uncomfortable. “I thought ... well, you are hitting your late ... forties. I thought ... Menopause?” The last word was almost whispered.
I sat there, speechless. He actually thought I was going through menopause? This fucking clueless moron. I started feeling better about my outburst. He deserved it.
“I’m forty-six, you mother-fucker,” I hissed through clenched teeth.
“I can still have kids for years. Unlike you, you fucking waste of space. When was the last time you got it up without a blue pill??” I sneered at him. It was all coming out now.
He was taken aback. “I thought ... when we used those, it was...”
“It was what? Great? An all-nighter? Fuck. You waste most of those anyway, cos you just roll over when you are done and start snoring. What the fuck? You think you’re some great lover? Casanova?”
I wasn’t being quite fair here, there were times when he still had to peel me off the ceiling, but I wasn’t about to let him know that. They were few and far between and in the last year, rarer than finding rocking-horse shit. And to totally honest, it’s not like I instigated it much, or even really participated that much beyond being physically present. I mean, there’s only so many half-hearted attempts to get yourself off you can take, right?
He did snore though, and that was another brick in the wall of Let’s Get Jan Divorced. When we were done and he rolled over, instead of actually, you know, cuddling or something, he just started the snorting and snoring. It’s enough to drive anyone to drink. In fact, that’s exactly what I do. I get up and have a glass of wine, get my breath back, watch an episode of Sex in the City and wonder if any of those bitches ever had to deal with a snoring husband for seventeen years. I’m willing to bet not. That’s not a script with a nice half hour resolution, however real it might be.
Frankly, what I really wanted was a joint. We used to have those back in the day, but since the kids came along? NooOOOooo. Not in the house, decreed Saint Jeff. The moment they came along, all fun ceased. Well, it sure felt like it. No more Saturday nights out, blasted to the gills. No more weed tasting parties. Those were the best! What I remember of them, anyway.
The fact is, I hated my life. I hated the man I’d married, who had singularly failed to make anything of himself. Oh sure, the kids loved him, but then what kids wouldn’t? He had a job making toys, for god’s sake. Toys! He went to college for that. I mean, seriously, he did. He has a master’s degree in child psychology, for whatever that was worth. You have any idea how you explain that to your girlfriends? You don’t just blithely drop that little tidbit in, when everyone is comparing husband’s dick size, let me tell you. I usually tell them, airily, “Oh, he’s got a degree in psychology and spends his days putting that to good use,” and then move on hurriedly. It has the dual effect of making him sound more mysterious, thank Christ, and also meaning I don’t have to go into details, because while I hate liars, I’d lie my fucking head off if I was really pressed about shit like that. I mean, wouldn’t you? He makes toys for fucking toddlers, for shit’s sake.
I mean, sure, I knew that going in. Obviously, but I figured he’d be doing shit like coming up with national curriculums to make kids learn faster or stuff like that, not advising TV shows like Little Einsteins. I mean, seriously? How do I spin that as a worthy job for my husband?
Melissa— she’s my bestie, over at Moccha Realty, where I work— her husband was a NASCAR Mechanic. Now that’s worth bragging about. Cyndi? Her husband designs earthquake resistant buildings. Joanie, she’s married to a judge. Okay, traffic court, but still, he’s a judge.
I don’t want you to get the impression that I’m all just surface view, though. I know the value of doing what you love, reflected happiness and all the rest of it. I get it. God knows, selling and leasing commercial real estate wasn’t quite where I expected to be at this point in my life either. I don’t honestly know where I expected to be, really, but this frustrated, this fed up with my husband and my marriage, yeah, not there, not at all.
The thing is, I could bore you with a litany of issues I have with my husband; there’s no one big thing that’s wrong. He doesn’t beat me or ignore me, or ignore the kids or abuse them. It’s more like death by a thousand cuts. He snores, he burps, he farts. I know, he has a gastrointestinal tract imbalance. I hear that every time he farts in public, but you know what? That only goes so far. I know it’s not ‘his fault’, but there comes a point where he farts at the crucial moment of a movie and all your friends who are over for a dinner party start laughing that you just can’t deal any more.
His driving scares the bejesus out of me, and I’m genuinely terrified for the kids in that car of his. He drives a Mustang, and apparently he’s had warp drives fitted to it. Half the time he gets to where he is going before he actually left, with the speeding tickets to prove it.
He hates coffee. I mean, who hates coffee? What did I do in a past life to deserve a husband who hates coffee? He drinks weird beer and turns his nose up at the Pabst Blue Ribbon or Budweiser that I drink, if beer is on the menu.
He’s constantly picking wax out of his ears. He can burp the alphabet, something the kids find enormously funny. He insists on singing along with the latest teeny bopper sensation. Even the kids look at him funny when he does that, particularly when he’s doing the drop-off at school.
Maisy - who is sixteen - is mortified by this. I know how to do it; you drop her off at the first available parking spot, you don’t say a word as she gets out, and the moment she is out, you take off. You are a parent, and therefore meant to be invisible. I get it. It’s how I was at that age; it’s the natural order of things. Him? Oh no, he has to get out of the car and hug her and embarrass the hell out of her, cheerily waving at all her friends, whose names he doesn’t remember. For FUCKS sake.
And the bike racing he does on the weekend with Drew, our son, who is fourteen; I mean, how dirty can you actually get? I swear he just goes out to the desert and digs up as much mud as the pair of them can carry, and then just climbs back in the car, to bring it into MY house.
He uses my eyebrow tweezers to pick hairs out of his nose. He NEVER puts the toilet seat down, and when he’s had to go, it looks like an explosion in a shit factory in there. And smells like it, too.
He wants sex at inopportune moments, ‘when the mood takes us’ he puts it. It never damn well takes us when I want to. It’s always just before we are due to go out, the few times we have been out recently. Right when I’m just done with the makeup, he comes up and starts groping me and making suggestions and kissing my neck and I’m like “For Fucks Sake Jeff, we’ll be late!”
He never does any washing, and when he loads the dishwasher, it’s all haphazard and nothing gets cleaned properly. As for paying bills on time, forget it. I used to leave that to him, but after the third time the electricity got cut off because he just forgot, I took over.
I’m telling you all this so you get an idea of what my life is like. I sell and lease commercial real estate for a job; it’s pretty lucrative and I out-earn Jeff two to one, something he doesn’t seem to have any respect for, either.
I’m smart. Well, I think I am. God knows I’m smarter than a lot of the bozos I seem to be selling to. My mom and dad are dead and gone and frankly, good riddance. Mom never warmed to me. I’d do something, something that mattered, something clever or whatever, usually involving one of my friends; I was really good about being able to diagnose their relationship ailments, but did they listen? Did they hell, and tell her about it, and she’d just sigh and mutter, “The wrong side of smart.” It used to really piss me off. I mean, your own mother calling you stupid. What kid can deal with that? My big sis, Tina, she’d just give me the smug smile and then go back to whatever she was doing. Tina was the only person approaching my intellectual level— having to explain Dallas sub-plots to your parents is demeaning—did they really not understand it?
Tina, though, she was every big sister you hate. Everything she touched was great. “Why can’t you be more like your big sister?” I’d get, all the time, with her smirking behind Mom as she said it. Fucking Tina. Smarter than me. She ended up a political science major and was a part of several senators’ election teams. Want to be elected? Call Tina. Something you need spun? Call Tina. Want to be made to feel a complete fucking idiot? Call Tina. Well, that last one was more about me than anyone else, but still. Tina was someone I loved from afar and got extremely frustrated with in person, because she just cut to the core of everything using a fucking diamond scalpel with “For use on January” written on the side...
We’d not seen each other in years; she’d moved to Washington, married some socialite dude or something, and was currently ‘taking a couple of years out’, sailing the world on their sixty-foot yacht. She’d written some textbooks on politics, and lectured at some Ivy League schools and married money, and now she was living the life of Riley. Getting hold of her was hard a lot of the time because she was ‘at sea’. I kept waiting for her to invite us to come visit, but it wasn’t happening and there was no way I was going to ask, so Tina was just not there at the time.
We lived in a suburb of Seattle, and let me tell you, business was booming. Recently, our company got selected to sell this entire new building in downtown Seattle, and it had been a hell of a job. Companies like Amazon and Google were vying to get office space, and we had to be available to show it at all hours.
Melissa, my friend I mentioned, she was recently divorced herself. She was miserable for the first six months, but after that, she got in her groove. We were all thrilled to hear her stories on Monday of her weekend. She seemed to jet off to Vegas regularly, and then came in starting her stories like, “So there I was, he was covered in baby oil, and he had a saddle and some jumper cables over one shoulder...” Yeah, I know it’s a Jeff Foxworthy quote, but when she said it, it was dripping with sauce, and you knew it would be followed up with salacious details.
She seemed happy, you know? God knew I wasn’t. I just needed a break. I needed to find myself, because I didn’t seem to remember who I was anymore. Not with this man-child I married, and then two other children on top of him. It’s just not what I signed up for.
I know I’m not perfect, either, obviously. I have my foibles. I can’t seem to stand Prius drivers, for example. I mean, I get the point of the car, but around here, it’s like a badge people use to exclaim to everyone else, “Look! I’m so much more concerned with the environment than you are!” There’s this thing called ‘conspicuous conservatism’, which is basically making a big deal about what a tree hugger you are, and boy, do people around here have it in spades. I see a fucking Prius— which can’t be anything else but an electric car, and massive nerd statement at the same time— and I just want to scream. And I get a lot of opportunities around here, let me tell you.
So yeah, I have my issues, but I’m damn sure I’m more grounded in reality than Jeff is.
The thing is, frustrated as I was, I have to believe that Jeff was, too? It’s not like he hadn’t tried to reach out to me. I could tell; the trouble was, he was doing it using psychology for toddlers. He was using techniques and approaches that are designed to get a ten-year-old to talk to you, not a mature woman who’s probably smarter than he was. When he tried, it both made me angry that he was trying in such a stupid way, and sad that this was where we were. He saw the divide and was trying, but in such a way as to make the chasm even greater than it was in the first place.
Back to the moment. The words were out there. I couldn’t take them back.
He looked back at me, I could see the hurt on his face. Good. Now he knew how I felt, every second I had to look at him.
I. Just. Wanted. Out. This wasn’t how I planned to go about it, but when the moment came, I wasn’t going to be found wanting. If it had to be this way, then so be it. My life was only going to get better by taking drastic steps, and I was pretty sure this was going to be a mercy for him, too, since I’m sure he wasn’t any happier than I was. Who could be?
Right then though, I took a deep breath. I was angry; he was hurt, and I had to try to de-escalate the situation.
“Look,” I said, in a calmer and steadier voice, “I’m not happy. God knows, I’m not happy. I’m pretty sure you aren’t either. This isn’t working. This is not what I signed up for. I just can’t deal anymore, right? I just can’t. I need out.”
I almost sobbed the last, and immediately, Jeff got up to come over to me, missing the entire point of what I was trying to say. He was coming over to hug me, missing the fact that it was him who I was tired of.
“No!” I said, holding up my hand to ward him off. “No, just ... sit.”
Jeff looked confused and like a sad puppy. I had insulted him, sneered at his bedroom performance, and still the man just wanted to ‘hug it out’. What kind of man is this?
“Jeff, I’m serious,” I said, steadily, looking him in the eye as he sat down. “I want a divorce. I need my own life back.”
“I see,” he said, wobbly. “Well, I can’t stop you, and I wouldn’t want to. We all have to make our own path through life.”
That’s just the kind of wishy-washy shit he says, though. I mean, listen to it. I’d had eighteen years of that shit and I just couldn’t take another second of it. Fighting down a surge of irritation, I was about to say something when he said, “I had rather hoped that our paths might be the on the same road, though. Obviously not.”
“See, I just can’t take another platitude like that, Jeff. I just can’t. ‘Make our own path through life’,” I made air quotes, then put my finger in mouth, like I was going to be sick. “Can you hear yourself? Jesus.”
He looked at me, and I could see his stone face come down. He does that when he’s cut himself out emotionally from whatever is going on. I’d seen it probably five or six times in our marriage. When his mother died, when his best friend was killed, when we lost the first baby through a miscarriage, when I was in a car accident, through my own fault, and I lied about it, and once when the kids were involved in a beating of a Jewish kid from their school. They weren’t involved in terms of doing it, but they were there when it happened, and they didn’t do anything to stop it, and Jeff was pissed at them for days afterwards. When the cop showed up at the house, I thought he was going to go off like a rocket, but the stone face came down and stayed down for days.
He had this point where he just emotionally dis-engaged. I don’t know if it was to stop himself feeling any more, or whether he was deliberately dampening to avoid blowing his top. Either way, it was there then. I should have expected it.
“How do you propose this plays out, January?”
Not ‘Jan’ any more. January now. The full name treatment, and he knows how much I detest that stupid name. Well, I guess I’d earned that.
“I don’t know.” I really didn’t. I had planned that a divorce was coming, while I’d blown my top this evening, and it was all rolling along now, I’d known how unhappy I was and how I needed to get out, and I’d entertained several plans. I could move out, or he could. We bought the house together when we were first married, and we were well over half way to paying it off. I liked it, but then so did he.
I was conflicted about how it should go. I was aware that whoever got the house would more than likely get major custody of the kids, and that’s where the conflict was. I loved my kids, I lived for them, but part of the whole point of this was to get some of my life back. I was drowning in the life I had, and so I wanted some semblance of my old one back. Shared custody would be fine with me; whatever failures Jeff had as a husband, he was a good father, and I was pretty sure he’d say I was a good mother. Shared custody would give us both time off for good behavior; it was as much a gift for Jeff as it was for me.
The thing was, the house was great, but it also came with memories I don’t need, so I’d been looking off and on. I was a commercial real estate agent, but you hear things; I’d seen several developments with apartments attached. There was a really nice three-bedroom executive suite apartment with roof rights, in a new development in downtown Bellevue I’d been keeping an eye on. It would suit me down to the ground – or the roof, in this case -, and I could afford to lease it for a couple of years, with intent to buy.
In lots of ways, it was better that way. I had more resources to draw on than Jeff did, and while I was pissed off with him, turfing him out and keeping the house, well, that would just mean large amounts of alimony, and I didn’t want that, either. And I wasn’t that much of a bitch.
I wasn’t. Really, I wasn’t. I wasn’t cheating on him, although god knows, I had the opportunity. And it wasn’t like it hadn’t crossed my mind.
I loved my kids. I know I’m not putting my best face forward here, but the reality is that my life, as it stood, was intolerable, and I needed to do something about it. So I was.
The kids. I should talk about them, so you know I’m not some absolute monster, even though I seem like it.
We had two. We lost one through a miscarriage, early in our marriage. That was hard to get through. I never felt it was ‘my fault’, and Jeff, bless him, made damn sure I understood he didn’t, either, but I did rail at the injustice of it. How monstrously unfair it was. How upset and sad it made both of us.
We rallied and pulled through, and were rewarded with, first Maisy, and then Andrew, we just called him Drew though. Both are the light of my life. They were millstones around our necks, to be clear, but that’s what comes with the territory. I felt a lot of what they needed were things I provided them with. Running them around to their drum classes and ballet and gymnastics and Karate, setting up play dates for Drew, organizing sleepovers for Maisy and all the rest of it.
I’m sure Jeff felt the same, though; he was the one helping them with their homework; what the hell do I know about simultaneous equations? Compound interest is my limit...
While I’d not really made any concrete decision on how a divorce would go, I kinda had ideas and had been investigating possible approaches. And here’s the kicker; if I told him he would have to leave, he’d probably go, but not immediately. It would take weeks. I could be out in, well, by the next day. As I said, I had resources. Hell, I could move in with Melissa for a few days, while I sorted out the lease on the condo in Bellevue. I could be free of him almost instantly.
So, given that, decision made?
“Look, I could go stay with Melissa for a few days. Organize something,” I offered.
He snorted, “Melissa. I might have known she was involved in this.” There was no love lost between Melissa and Jeff. He recognized her for what she was. She was the enemy of urban stagnation that Jeff represented. She wasn’t that thrilled about him, either, but it was more a reciprocal thing on her part, I think. Strangely, she never really ran him down to me. I was the one doing the running down when we got together. The most she did was ask me ‘if I disliked him that much, why did I marry him in the first place?’
“So you have a place to go then?” he asked.
“Well, yes,” I replied, trying to be conciliatory.
“Been planning this long then?” he asked, point blank.
I sighed. “Jeff, our marriage has been shit for some time,” I started.
“Yes. Why is that?” he interrupted, putting both hands on the table.
“Because you are a pig of a man, and I’m sick of the sight of you!” I wanted to scream as the irritation surged. With a HUGE effort, I kept my mouth shut, and eventually managed to get, “I think we just grew apart,” out. Which, strictly speaking, was true, if far from the complete truth.
“You mean, YOU grew apart. The moment you took that job, our little life here wasn’t good enough for you, was it, Jan? You know what? You’re a snob, Jan. Pure and simple. I was happy. It’s YOU who wasn’t.”
I was astounded. In eighteen years, Jeff had never spoken to me in that manner. Jeff was always respectful. That was part of the problem and why I responded so cruelly to him, I think, on reflection. That little bit of self-analysis wouldn’t come for quite some time yet.
“Look,” I said, taking a deep breath, spreading my hands and trying to be at least a little more conciliatory than I’d been until then. “How about this. I ... move out for a bit. Separate. We don’t have to rush to divorce. Just give us both time to ... find ourselves. Reinvent our relationship. Stop the downward spiral.”
It was bullshit of course; once out of there, I was free and I was going to remain that way, but he didn’t need to know that. Give me credit for trying to let him down gently, give him at least some hope. I was pretty sure he’d see that this was the best course once we both had our own lives back.
He just looked at me. Stared at me, more like.
The moment stretched out.
“Say something?” I asked.
“Like what?” he answered, his hands spread on the table, bracing him. “This is obviously something you’ve been thinking about a while. What am I supposed to do, argue you out of your feelings?”
I opened my mouth to say something, but nothing actually came to mind. He’d actually hit the nail squarely on the head, once I considered his point. These were my feelings, and they weren’t going away.
He looked at me for a moment longer, then turned his head away and muttered, “Just go then, but I’m having this house. You want to go, go, but don’t come back.”
It was then I knew that this wasn’t the run-of-the-mill argument. Something irrevocable had taken place. A relationship had ended. There was nothing for it, but to follow through; things had been said that could never be unsaid, or glossed over.
Our marriage was done.
I opened my mouth again to say something, some platitude to make the hurt less, on either side, but there was nothing to say. Anything I said would be seen for exactly what it was, artificial salve on the burn I’d just created. It was better to retreat. Get some stuff together, get the hell out, regroup, and return under different better calmer circumstances.
I just said, “I’ll gather some things. I’ll stay with Melissa for a few days, until I sort something out. We need to talk about custody.”
His eyes swung back to me, and they blazed. This wouldn’t go well for me if I continued right then. I’d seen that look before, and the last time I’d seen it, someone had their arm broken.
Still. I had to try, just to lay the ground work. “Relax. I’m not going to try and take them away, but they are my kids too. I have as much right to them as you do. I just want it to be equitable. Okay? I’m not going to even try and deprive you.”
There wouldn’t be any point anyway. Maisy was going to be gone in two years anyway; the courts would allow her to make her own decisions and there would be zero chance it would be with me. Not that we weren’t close, we were, but she had this Dad-Daughter bond that was just like concrete. I had a close bond with Maisy, but her dad could do no wrong in her eyes.
Drew and I had a stronger bond, but even so, I wouldn’t drag him with me. He needed to be where he had grown up, was comfortable, and around his sister.
I don’t want this to sound like I was just ready to walk away from my kids, nothing was further from the truth. AS I said, I lived for my kids, but I needed to get my head into a better place so I could be a better mother for them. Make all the time we spent together quality time, rather than “Jesus Christ, can’t ONE of you take your damn dirty socks up to the washing basket instead of being left on the living room floor, just fucking once?” we seemed to have most of time. Without the swearing (out loud), obviously.
There was no way I’d be deserting them; I just wanted the time to be better, and it would be, once I had some breathing room. Even with Jeff severely pissed at me, as I’m sure he would be for the foreseeable future, he wouldn’t stop me having access to my kids. Our problem was with each other, not with the kids.
Now, if I tried to take some of the furniture, that might be more problematic. Still, one thing at a time.
He didn’t reply, and so, hesitating for a moment, I just said, “I’ll get out of your hair. We’ll talk again soon. I’m sorry, Jeff. We just need ... different things right now.”
With that, I went upstairs. Packing didn’t take long; I’d been mentally cataloging what I’d take with me for weeks; I knew exactly what I needed to gather together for a week. I made sure I had phone chargers, makeup kit, my three books I was reading, clothes for the week, all the usual stuff.
I was done in less than half-an-hour, and then I came back downstairs, two weekend suitcases and a backpack, with my laptop and tablet in it.
I put them by the front door and went back into the kitchen, where Jeff was still seated at the table. I hesitated, not knowing what to say.
It was only then that the shiver went down my back. Something really was ending; I wasn’t leaving for a long weekend in New York with ‘the girls’, or going to visit Tina. This was the proverbial It. It’s one thing to rail against trivialities internally and swear to yourself that “if he does one more thing...”; it was another to actually follow through and change your life, and yet, here I was, doing exactly that.
Never again would we sit down to dinner as a family at home. I was leaving the man who’d been my partner for the past eighteen years.
Part of me exulted that I had the balls to actually do this, to go after what would make me happy. Part of me, that inexplicable part of me, was unutterably sad at the same time. I was ending this, not Jeff. Sure, he’d never have the wherewithal to do it, but all the same, this was me ending this.
I blinked a few times, taking in the kitchen, the table, the water cup.
“I’m going to go now, Jeff. Please understand, we both need this. Don’t say anything to the kids until I am here, so we can do this together. They need to hear it from both of us.”
The earlier anger was forgotten now. I’d made the decision, and I felt ... calmer. I was sad but resolute. This is what I needed, what we both needed. This was the Right Thing.
The kids were out; Maisy was at a sleepover with a friend, and Drew was off on a school trip, to go fossil hunting in Arizona. It was a Wednesday, and both would be home on Friday, so I’d return then, and we’d have the painful “It’s not you, it’s us. Mom and Dad still love you just as much” conversation. I was already mentally rehearsing what I was going to say.
Without looking at me, Jeff growled, “Go. Just ... go.”
I looked around one more time, and then left.
I picked up the bags, took them out to my car, and then locked the door for the last time. Just as I shut the door, I could swear I heard a sob from the kitchen, but I squared my shoulders and moved on. This was it: my life, beginning over again. Jeff, well, he’d have to deal with his own demons. That’s life in the big city.
I called Melissa in the car on the way over to her place. She was fine with hosting me, saying, “Well, the die is cast. Let’s make the most of it!”
She didn’t try and persuade me or pressure me, she just opened her home and let me be me.
It was glorious.
The sense of relief in the first two days was huge. I kept grinning when I realized I had no one to please but myself. No snoring man to put up with. No irritating habits to deal with, unless you counted Melissa’s fascination with the reality TV show Dance Moms.
I finished reading two books, took it easy and felt the pressure fall away.
Friday night I returned to have that conversation I was dreading.
It went better than I had thought it might; it’s not like it was any surprise to Maisy. The only thing she wanted to know was that she wasn’t expected to go with me.
Drew was more interested in how it would actually work. He had three friends at school who had divorced parents, and as far as he could see, it was awesome, both parents doing their best to suck up to the kids, to one-up the other parent. Two birthdays, two Christmases, what’s not to like?
He just wanted to know where he’d be most of the time, and if he’d be having to call someone else Mom or Dad.
They were surprisingly resilient. The only person who wasn’t was Jeff. I caught his voice breaking a couple of times as he was explaining something. I knew this would be hard on him; he wasn’t expecting it and it was a shock to the system. I hadn’t really planned on our parting to happen when I was so pissed off, but then I hadn’t really planned on our parting happening at all. Well, I had, but it was all theoretical, you know? It had all been ‘wouldn’t it be nice... ?’ lots of day dreaming and pie in the sky planning, but it had happened, I’d pulled that trigger, and now we both had be getting on with it.
Over the evening, though, I began to see that it was only just sinking in for Jeff, and that he’d had zero control over any of the process. It had been all me driving it, as usual. This was happening to him, rather than because of him. Well, in one sense. In another, it was all because of him. If he’d been, well, anyone else, maybe we’d still be married. Maybe we’d never have married. I didn’t know, but it was what it was, and we both had to move on and make lives for ourselves. I knew I was going to; that was the entire point of the exercise.
At the end of the evening, once the kids were in upstairs, not in bed; anyone with teenagers know they go to bed when they are damn good and ready, and no doubt listening intently, Jeff and I had to have another conversation.
“Look, I know you don’t want to talk about this now, but ... I need to know when I can come by and pick up some things. I have an apartment sorted out now and, well, there are somethings I’m going to need, furniture and what not.”
It was true. That apartment I’d had my eye on was now mine. I’d signed the lease that afternoon.
“Like what?” he said, surly, and not looking me in the eye.
“I don’t know. The coffee table, the second couch, the guest room bed, stuff like that. Nothing you need, but ... I need some furniture. You understand that?”
He looked directly at me for the first time that evening, with his ‘shut down’ face, meeting my eyes directly. I was a little disconcerted; his gaze was straight, without blinking and it was ... for want of a better word, soulless. He wasn’t even looking at me; he was looking straight through me. I’d never seen that look from him directed at me before; it was quite off-putting.
“Fine,” he snapped. “Next Monday. I’ll be here and can ensure you don’t take anything we need. I’ll take the afternoon off, so the kids won’t be here. I’d like for you to be done by the time they get home from school.”
Jeff was high enough in the design department that he could take off when he wanted, and my schedule was mine anyway, so that worked out. I’d just have to arrange a truck to be able to ship all the stuff to my new place. I’d already decided I didn’t want any of the entertainment systems or anything like that; they were all at least two years old, and I wanted all new.
“One other thing. I want you to know, there is no one else. I am no dating, seeing or even thinking about seeing anyone. I’ve never been unfaithful, and I want you to know that this is not remotely driven by any desire for someone else.”
I had to take a deep breath before saying that last sentence. Jeff deserved that from me, at the very least. But the fact is, saying it opened up the question for him of why I was leaving. He’d need to ask himself some hard questions in the next days and weeks, and if he wanted answers, I’d give them to him. But I didn’t need to heap it on him right now. I needed to let him know there was no one else in the short term, and leave it at that.
He just stared at me, with the soulless eyes, and eventually just nodded, not speaking.
That’s what we did. I came by with a couple of the guys from the office to help me shift the bigger items, and Jeff stood there, arms crossed, staring at me as I picked stuff out. He let me take the wedding albums, after I promised I’d have the copied and returned to him. The only thing he wouldn’t allow me to take was anything from the kid’s rooms. Not that I wanted to; I wanted to create a new space for them at my new place, something they could help create themselves, but he saw me wistfully staring into the rooms as I walked past.
I very carefully didn’t take anything to which I knew he had an attachment. I didn’t need to rock the boat, and most of it was pretty tasteless anyway. The sideboard from his mother that had belonged to his grandmother, the plates we got that were three generations old, and perfectly hideous, frankly.
I was in and out in less than three hours. The only thing that really marred it was the fact that while I wasn’t out to rock the boat, Jeff apparently was. He handed me an overstuffed envelop as I left, and I knew exactly what it was. He surprised me; he’d not let any grass grown under his feet. I was both pissed off and also relieved when he did it. It meant he’d let me go, which was exactly where I wanted to be, but I was a little put out that it wasn’t under my control. If he wasn’t reasonable in his expectations, this could get a little ugly.
As it was, when I sat and looked at them the next day, after unpacking a little, they were pretty fair. Only a little alimony, a thousand bucks a month, which I could earn in half a day with the right clients, and child support, and not even that much. Since he was proposing shared custody, but main residential at the house with him, it suited me down to the ground. I got one of the three main holidays a year, the 4th, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and he got one, and for the other, the kids went wherever they wanted to go. It was the same for birthdays. I got them every other week and weekend, or as appropriate.
It was all quite fair, really. I was pleased, and I signed them and dropped them off with Jeff without even getting a lawyer involved. My life was restarting exactly as I’d wanted it.