he saw her hurt you
and she watched him leave
barely held together
but refusing to let tears fall
I imagined my father rising to his feet as the legs of a chair screeched noisily across the marble floor. He wasn’t angry, it wasn’t in his nature to care more than necessary for anything that didn’t make him money. He wouldn’t raise his voice during any of this because it didn’t really matter to him.
“If you do this, it would be breaching the contract.”
“Oh, screw your contact, Richard,” Mother said, her voice pitched high. “I’ve saved enough of your money to pay the fee two times over.”
“It is about money then?” Dad asked calmly, trying to get to the bottom of things. I could sense his confusion, it mirrored mine. There was no reason for my mother to remarry. She had millions in her account from just pretending to be a wife, what benefit was there be to being a real one?
“For the love of all that is holy, it isn’t about the money,” she said, voice already raised. “Trevor”—plates were pushed around and keys were slid across the glass table—“go warm the car. I’ll be right down.”
“Alright,” Trevor replied. I could almost see him eyeing Dad suspiciously but knew that he wouldn’t ask Mother if she was sure that she wanted to be alone with him. Anyone close enough to my mother knew that she could handle herself. She was in her element when things got violent so it was always best to stick to talking when dealing with her.
Dad knew this. Trevor didn’t know him well enough.
When the door to the apartment creaked open then slammed shut, the conversation in the kitchen burst to life again.
“Patricia, I hope you know what you are doing. This isn’t a game. Once you choose this route, there is no coming back,” Dad said, his voice cool and even. He wasn’t begging her yet at the same time he presented the situation clearly enough for anyone to understand. Once she did this, they would both be screwed over, that much was obvious.
How long would Mother’s savings support her when she hadn’t worked a day in his life? Would Dad be able to recover from the crippling effects a divorce would have on his company’s stocks?
“I thought you said I was a pest for using your money, I’m giving it back now.”
“You’re paying the fee for breaking the contract,” Dad said in correction. “You are wasting your money, not giving it back.”
“Whatever you call it, Richard. It’s going back into your pocket and severing me from you.”
"Why him? What do you mean by that? Do you have to approve of who I marry?”
“What is so special about Trevor McClain?” Dad asked, his tone filled with incredulity. I didn’t understand it either and my judgement hadn’t been clouded by bias. Trevor had nothing over Dad—except maybe superior cooking skills. “I have interacted with the McClains, they are a millionaire family.”
“Trevor is planning on starting his own company.”
“I am afraid that you’re getting scammed.”
“And why do you care, Richard?”
“I care because in the eyes of the public we are a loving couple who have stayed out of controversy for almost a decade. Once our separation is out in the open”—there was a long pause from Dad as though he was holding himself back from saying something—“people will dig to find the real story. And when they do—”
“I don’t care what happens. It’s your company not mine.”
“You are twenty years older than the boy, Patricia. What exactly are you looking for?”
“I’m looking for love and a family. He can give that to me,” Mother answered curtly. “And he is older than he looks.”
There was another long pause, making me wonder whether they had both somehow left the room without me realizing. I feel like this all means something more than what they are saying out loud. What am I missing?
“Yes,” Mother cut in, annoyance sharpening her words. “He’s the one. So don’t feel insecure about it. The one I finally left you for isn’t richer, smarter or better-looking, I just love him. And we both know that I have never ever loved you.”
“What about Olive? You’re doing this, haven’t you thought about him just once?”
On hearing my name, I inched forward slightly—as though that would improve my hearing. This was what I had been waiting for yet dread was starting to take over my enthusiasm. Finally, my fate was about to be laid bare in front of me. What sort of hand would I be dealt? A good one, bad one or an impossible-to-cope-with one?
Listening in suddenly didn’t feel so appealing.