Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 24
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part Two
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part Three
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 4
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 5
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 6
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 7
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 8
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 9
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 10
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 12
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 11
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 13
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 14
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 17
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 15
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 16
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 18
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 19
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 20
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 21
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 22
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disaster at Age 40: Part 23
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 24
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 25
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Epilogue
THE (NON) DATE WHERE I STAND UP FOR MYSELF
Kira’s dust-free, Clorox-smelling living room intimidates me sometimes. The abstract paintings meticulously hung. Sunburst mirror polished to sparkling. A shelf of respected books aligned in perfect symmetry. And the portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Song, gazing down in disapproval from the fireplace mantel.
I sit next to Kira on the cream sofa. Her hand rests on her barely rounded belly and she attempts to distract me. But my mind keeps wandering to the ex-hole, knowing I did a thing. Knowing he’ll be livid when the certified letter from my lawyer shows up.
“The new doctor at the clinic is a hunk. There should be a rule about attractive OBs,” Kira says. “Like no man under 45 years old and above 7 on the hotness scale can work in the lady parts business.”
“Is he single?” My heart isn’t really into the question. First, because feelings for Dylan still take up residence in my chest. And second, because anticipation of Mike’s reaction to the petition I filed takes up residence in my brain.
“No ring, but I’ll dig deeper.”
“Sure.” A red throw pillow rests on my lap and I twist the loose tassels. “Mike should have gotten it by now.”
“Stop freaking out.” Kira steals the mangled pillow from my grasp, setting it aside. “You did the right thing.”
“Obviously. But he’s going to be mad.” I chew on my thumbnail. “Really mad.”
As if my thoughts conjure him, my phone rings, the ex-hole’s name popping up. Closing my eyes, I take a breath and gather myself while Kira scrambles to hit record on her phone. We planned this, me at her house and Kira capturing the verbal assault Mike is bound to dish out.
I answer, putting the call on speaker. “Hello Mike.”
“You’re ridiculous.” He laughs, an ugly bark of sound. “You won’t get another dime out of me.”
A printed paper lies on the coffee table and Kira picks it up, pointing to the words. My “script” to follow for this conversation. I read it out loud.
“Anything you want to say needs to go through my attorney.” I force a tone of indifference. Totally bored here, not gnawing my thumbnail to a bloody stump.
“Are you serious?” His heavy breaths echo through the line. “Your attorney sent me a petition. To modify our child support agreement. Like I have all this spare money to throw around for you and the boys.”
No, just extra money to spend on his own petition for sole custody. I signed for the certified letter the day before, knowing this was the next step he threatened me with. My refusal to set aside my pride (aka blindly forgive all his wrongdoing and reunite our family) triggered his pettiness in the form of a modification request. A request that would give him the boys and force me to pay child support.
Reading through the document made my blood boil. One of the reasons listed for a change in custody was my subjecting the boys to a “revolving door of men,” my excessive dating lifestyle causing them confusion and feelings of rejection. Forget that the only guy my kids have met is Dylan. Mike happily lies to get what he wants.
Clenching my fists, I promise myself a round with the punching bag later. “Anything you want to say needs to go through my attorney.”
Kira pats my shoulder, giving me an approving thumbs up. But the fire in her eyes tells me she wants to go a few rounds of jabbing and upper-cutting too.
“Come on, babe,” his voice turns low and cajoling. “You got my attention, threw your little tantrum. Now it’s time to sort this out.”
Forget the punching bag. His face will do just fine. “What are you talking about?”
“We don’t need to jump through all the legal hoops to have a conversation. Our family should mean more than grubbing for money and throwing out false accusations.” His tone of superiority pumps through me like acid.
“False accusations?” My nostrils flare and I get right up in my phone’s business, wishing it was Mike’s smug smirk. “You make more money than what’s listed in our settlement. I just pointed it out.”
Kira puts her arm around me, easing me back, taking her role as The Anna-Whisperer seriously. Her frenzied pointing at the anything you want to say needs to go through my attorney paper soothes my quickly fraying edges.
“This is what we’re going to do—”
And just like that, my tattered patience snaps.
“No,” I cut him off, satisfied to hear his sputtering surprise. He expects the old me. The woman who willingly rolls over to avoid conflict. Agrees to his demands with a pat to the head and a muttered good girl. But that Anna is dead. “You don’t get to dictate how things go.”
“Why are you being so difficult?” he says.
Standing up for myself is being difficult. Typical Mike.
The script paper crinkles as Kira frantically waves the words I’m supposed to use. Grinding my molars together, I pinch my eyes closed and recite, “Anything you want to say needs to go through my attorney.”
“Look, things can get expensive quickly. The lawyer fees, the court dates.” He pauses, his voice lowering. “Neither of us can afford that.”
The immature urge to stick out my tongue and say, you started it, strikes me. Instead, I release a neutral grumble that could mean anything from “you’re right” to “I hope you lose all your hair and gain the weight back.”
“I know you’re starting a new business,” he continues. “And let’s be honest, you wouldn’t be able to afford it without my money to support you.”
His money? The measly amount he sends to help pay for food, clothes, school supplies, soccer, and everything else the boys need? The child support slaps a Band-Aid on the gaping wound of expenses. Not even close to financing my business, which I owe more to the bank than his measly monthly check.
Even Kira is aghast at his audacious statement, and she crumples the script paper into a ball.
“What do you want, Mike?” I ask, too tired to care anymore.
“Well…” He pauses, proceeding with caution. “I deserve a cut of your business, considering I helped you build it. With enough incentive, we can make the custody battle disappear.”
“You’d do that? Withdraw your petition?” I give my best you-strong-man, me-helpless-woman voice, afraid I’ve overdone it. But he responds.
“I’d do that for you.”
For the first time since he called, I find my smile. “That’s blackmail.”
“What? No. It’s just—”
“Extortion?” I suggest.
“No!” he shouts. “It’s just us talking and figuring things out.”
And I have it all recorded. For anyone’s listening pleasure, like my attorney. “Goodbye, Mike,” I say, disconnecting the call.
Kira laughs, throwing her arms around me. “You were fabulous. I almost died when he asked for money.”
“Mike’s nothing if not predictable.” I lean back on the couch and groan. “I’ve been so worried about this that I got behind schedule with Worth the Wait. The soft opening is supposed to be on Saturday.”
“You know today’s Thursday, right?”
Pressure builds behind my eyes, and I rub my temples. “I know.”
“How can I help? What’s left?” She stands, straightening the throw pillows.
“Help me by resting. There’s a strict no-woman-with-child-may-do-the-things policy. Especially like painting and hanging posters.” I think of my mile-long list, mentally sorting the tasks. “Maybe you could put up the ‘coming soon’ signs, but that’s about it. Baby Brussel Sprout needs a healthy mama.”
“Baby Brussel Sprout is fine and so am I. I’ve told you a million times that everything looks good.” She angles toward the door, waving me to follow. “Come on. Let’s go.”
“Anna,” she cuts me off with a laugh. “You might as well give in. For the baby.”
I stand and fluff the pillows left decimated from my body. “How often are you going to use that excuse?”
“As often as I can get away with it.” She grabs her purse and heads out the door. “I’m driving.”
On the way, I tell Kira what I need to do. And though she tries to stay positive, I watch her smile melt at the corners as the list grows longer. Especially considering many of the jobs need an extra hand. Or three.
“What’s your confidence level on hanging light fixtures by yourself?” she asks.
As a self-proclaimed disaster? “Let’s stick with low. But my determination and the ability to use YouTube are high.”
We arrive at the storefront, and I check the time, figuring I have a solid two hours before I need to pick up Josh and Devin from school. Then maybe they can help me this evening. Pulling out my key, I unlock the front door and step inside. The smell of paint fumes and cleaning supplies surprises me, and I gasp as I look around the shop.
“I thought you needed to finish painting.” Kira walks in behind me, glancing at the walls covered in Solitude Blue.
“Oh, Dylan.” How am I supposed to get over him when he does something like this? I try to tamp down the emotion pounding in my chest, but it beats in perfect rhythm with the words I love him echoing in my head.
Not only is the painting done, but the posters are all hung. Black and white images of classic male celebrities in formal attire. Cary Grant in a tux. Clark Gable in a suit and tie. James Stewart. Gene Kelly. Navy blue frames contrast against the smoky walls. The pendulum light fixtures I picked dangle from the ceilings. A navy shag rug breaks up the tile floor, and soft gray chairs complete the view.
He cleaned too, the store rivaling Kira’s sparkling living room. Gone are the paint cans and boxes of furniture. No more dusty countertops or dirty floors. In their place stands the immaculate and elegant concept I envisioned.
A large, A-frame wooden board leans against the counter, and I bend closer to read the words. Coming Soon, it says in black block letters, grand opening and special announcement.
“Dylan did all this?” Kira stretches her arms out, encompassing the all of her statement.
“Yes,” I whisper, and tears gather in my eyes. Because of the paint odor, obviously. No other reason.
Trailing my fingers along the wall, I walk the perimeter, taking it in. A sense of pride blooms, anticipation bubbling inside me. This is my store. My vision brought to life. And Dylan made it happen.
I can’t help comparing Mike and Dylan, the ex-hole declaring my inability to do this without him but unwilling to lift a finger. And Dylan believing in me and demonstrating what it means to be a true partner. I picture him, working tirelessly to finish. Despite me walking away, leaving one wall half-painted. He continued, somehow turning the dreamed-up space into reality. My chest swells, and I press a hand over my heart.
“This is amazing.” I circle back to Kira after finishing my circuit of the store.
“Do you know what this means?” she asks.
“I don’t have to spend the day watching YouTube tutorials?”
She lightly smacks the back of my head, like I’m a smart aleck teenager. “Dylan loves you. It couldn’t be more obvious.”
Hearing the words sends an ache straight to my heart. I ignore the love songs playing on repeat in my head. The way hope tries to weasel its way back into my life. Been there, done that. “He might love me, but it doesn’t change anything. He still let me go.”
“And what about this?” She hands me a yellow Post-it. “It was on the counter.”
Hope blossoms, bright and vivid, as I read his note.
The wait is over. See you Saturday. Love, Dylan.