Chapter 1: Madison
I stiffly passed the paperwork over to Luke, watching with a heavy heart as his signature marked the end of our ten-year marriage. My throat tightened and my eyes began to sting as it finally sunk in that this was it. Even though we’d gotten married when I was 19 and he was 20, I’d always believed we’d be together forever. I took a deep breath and let it out, willing myself not to start crying all over again. I thought I’d cried all my tears out by this point, but the finality of the signed papers was trying to prove me wrong.
“Madison…” Luke’s voice was filled with sorrow that matched the feelings in my heart and I couldn’t stop the tears that welled in my eyes as I turned to face him. Our lawyers were in the corner double checking the separation papers before we were free to go, so Luke and I had a moment to ourselves.
Luke stood and pulled me to my feet with him, enveloping me in an all too familiar hug. His embrace only encouraged my tears, and few of them slipped down my cheeks as I buried my face in his chest. After a minute or two I pulled back and wiped my face with my sleeve before looking up at him with a sniffle.
“You know I’ll always love you, right Mads? I know we weren’t able to work it out, but that will never change.” His dark eyes searched my face, the strain of our situation evident on his own.
“I know. I’ll always love you too, Luke.” It was true; even though we’d come up against some trials that drove a wedge between us, he’d always be my first everything. I hadn’t wanted anyone else the second I saw him in high school our freshman year.
Luke swallowed hard and cleared his throat, trying to hold his own tears in. When we’d realized we just couldn’t work it out as we were, we knew we had to take some time apart. He'd taken on a four-month project that took him out of town, and we'd hoped that spending that time apart would be enough. We'd even done a few counseling sessions together via Skype, and while that helped us separately it didn't benefit us as a couple.
The week together after his return had made it clear that there was too much to wade through to be happy together. We'd still tried to stay together for a couple years, but each day my heart had hurt more and more. We'd grown distant, living more as roommates than lovers. So now, we had made the decision to officially divorce.
Neither of us knew exactly whether this was the end of "us", but it was for the best for both of us. Thankfully, it had been a mutual decision and there wasn’t much that we fought over in general, so it was an easy process that we were able to settle out of court.
“Everything looks good here.” My lawyer’s voice broke the silence and Luke and I turned to face them.
Luke cleared his throat and nodded as his lawyer walked over and handed him his copy of the papers. I took my own with a heavy heart and shook my lawyer Sarah’s hand.
“I must say, this has been one of the most amicable splits I’ve seen,” Sarah said quietly to me. “I’m still a bit surprised that you couldn’t work it out between you two.”
I swallowed tears and reached for my purse. “Yeah. Some things just can’t be fixed, no matter how much love there is.”
I glanced up to see Luke staring at me, his broken heart written all over his face. A tired smile tried to break across my face, and I turned around quickly to leave the office with Sarah. Somehow we’d become comfortable with each other through the process of my divorce, and I thought of her as a friend of sorts. She’d been really supportive of me and had promised that she’d fight for me if necessary.
Sarah walked me to my car and gave me a big hug. I relished the embrace, knowing that I was going home to a cold, sterile house where I’d only feel more alone than I did now.
“Keep your chin up Madison. It won’t feel like this forever.” She gave me a soft smile before walking away.
I dumped my stuff into the passenger seat and got in my car to start home. I’m not sure how I made it but sooner than I expected I was parking in my driveway. I grabbed my stuff and trudged up the stairs to my front door, not even realizing that the lights were already on when I walked in. I shut the door, dropping everything without caring where it fell, and leaned back against the door with my eyes shut tight, willing the tears to stay away.
“Went that well, huh?” My eyes shot open at the soft voice of my best friend Celeste.
“Holy shit, you scared me girl.” A nervous chuckle left me as I took in her form sitting on my couch.
She motioned for me to come sit by her, and as soon as I plopped myself down her arms came around my shoulders to hold me.
To my frustration and dismay, an ugly sob ripped itself from my chest as the tears I’d been holding in started to pour down my face. I turned into my friend’s embrace and let out all the emotion that had been building the last few years. All the heartbreak and lost happiness from my marriage with someone I still loved with every fiber of my being was wrenched from me in that moment, and it took me some time to realize that I wasn’t the only one sitting on my couch, shaking with tears.
Eventually, the flood dried enough for me to pull back and look into Celeste’s aqua eyes that were now as swollen and red as mine.
“Aren’t we a pair?” Her rough voice was tinged with wry humor, breaking the tension just enough for me to finally relax.
“Indeed we are my friend.” I worried my lip with my teeth for a moment before letting out the question that had popped into my mind. “Are Liam and Anthony…” My throat closed before I could finish.
“Yeah, they’re probably with Luke right now.”
“Good. He needs them.” We sat in silence for several moments before I let out a deep breath. “Thanks for being here, Celeste. I didn’t realize how much I’d need the company.”
“Of course, Madison. You think I’d let my best friend suffer alone? Now way in hell. I’m here to drink our sorrows away together, get shit faced on ice cream and scary movies because romantic ones suck.”
A grin filled my face for the first time in a while, and my heart felt like it would burst with love for my friend.
“Yeah, they do, don’t they?”
“Yeah they fucking do!” Her enthusiasm was infectious, and I let out a laugh as I headed to the kitchen to grab supplies that I already knew she’d brought. Eventually I’d deal with this like an adult, but for now I was going to relish in the fact that I was blessed with a friend who knew what I needed before I did.
I walked back into the living room where Celeste was setting up a movie, my arms full of ice cream and liquor. “Time to fucking rage, my friend!”