I spent every night that week at Jess’s condo, only going to the apartment for clothes and necessities. I was giddy with the excitement of being with someone who I felt honestly cared for me. However, I knew this was new and the newness would eventually wear off and reality of sharing a life together would set in. Sharing a life with another woman? It was a very strange concept for me to wrap my brain around. It didn’t seem right, it was against everything I was ever taught to believe. I felt it odd to even think about being with a woman, I never thought of myself as being gay. Maybe I wasn’t gay, maybe I was bisexual or something else or just needed to have relief from a dead marriage.
How was I attracted to her? Sexually? Yes! Emotionally? Yes! As a friend? Yes, yes, yes to everything! My brain was in a turmoil at the thought of all this. But, in truth, I hadn’t ever been this attracted to anyone, male of female. I was always too busy to ever allow myself that luxury.
The only person I could really talk to, was Jess, and when I told her my feelings, she said that all she wanted for me was to be happy and hoped she could be part of my life. She then went on to tell me that she had had several relationships over the years and was fully aware of the difficulties in any relationship, but simply wanted for me to be happy no matter what I decided about my sexuality . . . or her. Plus I was still married, sadly . . . still married to a man I had no feelings for.
Yes, there was Russell. Interestingly, he had texted me that he and several others were going to corporate headquarters in New York after the retreat in Atlanta for some new training. I was overjoyed that I would have another week of freedom to be with Jess. The thought of him coming home made me feel sick.
I told Jess and asked her if I could keep hanging out with her at her place.
“Of course you are welcome. I’m thrilled we can have another week. But then what?”
“Thanks. But, then what? Yeah, then what? I don’t know. Everything is so messed up. Every time I think of having to go back to that apartment, I feel sick to my stomach. Sometimes I just feel so tired, I don’t know if I can go on.”
Jess asked, “Then, why don’t you leave him, get a divorce, get free of this guy who you can’t stand to be around? Get free of him and get on with your life.”
“I don’t know if I could or how I could. It would be a major disaster and I don’t know if I deal with all the drama. He’s so programmed to never fail at anything, he’d see this as a monumental disaster in his life. I’m not sure what would happen and, if you get right down to it, I’m afraid he might react violently. I wouldn’t want to be around him when he found out.”
“One of my clients is a divorce attorney and he owes me a big favor for a rare print I found her for a song. Would you mind if I contacted her to see if he would met with you?”
I hesitated for a moment, my heart was pounding with this possibility I never wanted to consider. But now? Maybe I could leave him, be free from this marriage. I had often wanted to leave Russell, but never thought it could be a reality, had no idea how I’d ever do it, how to do it, what I’d do. And now, with Jess’s support, maybe it could happen. I thought about it for a moment.
“Yeah, I’d like that. Call her and see. I’d be happy to meet with her if she has time.”
“Good. I’ll call her tomorrow,” she said.
Jess called the lawyer on Monday and I got an appointment for one o’clock on Thursday of that week. I took that afternoon off from work and went to meet Cynthia Carpenter, Attorney at Law, Specializing in Divorce.
I was greeted by a receptionist in her tenth floor downtown office about seven blocks from the D.A.’s office. I waited in the elegantly appointed reception area and was offered coffee, tea, or water. I asked for tea.
A few moments later, before I had any chance to check messages and emails on my phone, Cynthia came out of her office, introduced herself, escorted me in to her office, and offered me a seat in a plush leather chair. She took a seat across a small coffee table, sat back and crossed her legs, making a tent with her fingers and looking at me with a warm smile.
I guessed her to be in her mid to late fifties. She was not tall but had a presence that filled the room and I immediately sensed she was not someone to mess with. She had bobbed dark hair and was neither attractive or not attractive, she just was. I immediately liked her. Then I caught myself wondering if she was a lesbian, but then I saw a huge diamond on the ring finger of her left hand.
The receptionist brought in a pot of tea, two cups with saucers, and a selection of sweeteners from stevia to white sugar. We chatted a bit about ourselves to get more comfortable and familiar, then we got down to business.
“So, tell me about your marriage,” she said.
I went on to tell her everything from day one to present time, leaving nothing out. Cynthia stopped me every so often to ask a question to clarify some area. She was writing notes as wee went and had also asked permission to record the conversation as well.
Maybe an hour later, I had finished my saga and the tea.
“Want to take a minute to stretch? Do you need the restroom? More tea?” she asked.
I did have to use the restroom and it felt good to move. I realized I made it through the whole time without crying. I returned and sat to a fresh pot of tea, a small assortment of cookies, and a glass of water with ice and lemon. It hit me we had not yet discussed fees and with this sort of treatment, I didn’t think she would be inexpensive. My question was answered when she rejoined me.
“Okay,” she began, “I’ll be happy to take your case. You certainly need to be done with this marriage and have a life. Now, my normal fee is $500.00 per hour and I normally spend anywhere from ten to twenty or more hours depending on how difficult the other party decides to be. However, I owe a big favor to your friend, Jess, and she is calling it in so I’ll take you on pro-bono.”
I was stunned and responded vehemently, “I can’t let you do that, maybe lower your hourly for me or something, but I want to be fair with you.”
“I appreciate your offer, but I’m happy to do it, as I said, pro-bono.”
We haggled for a few more minutes, finally settling for a flat $2500.00 for everything.
I explained again how afraid I was of Russell so Cynthia told me to set up a time to move out, take what was mine and she’d have the divorce papers served the next day. In the meantime, she’d draw up a restraining order and have it ready if there were any problems. Also, he would be told in the filing that he would not have any direct contact with me, that any contact would be only through his attorney and only through his attorney, if he decided to retain one. It would take her about two weeks to get all the paperwork ready to be filed.
“So, what do you want for a settlement? From what you have told me, Russell has earned a goodly sum and his future earning potential looks to be very good. How much do you think he is presently worth?”
I thought for bit and replied, “He likes to brag about it and the last time he did was a few months ago and he mentioned the sum of over six or seven million.”
“Wow, you could be entitled to a lot of money. Any major debts?”
“No. None I am aware of. He’s very frugal.”
“Hmm, no children? You’re an associate in the D.A.’s office? I’m aware of what associate’s salaries are over there so I know he pulls in way more than you do. Did either of you bring more than the other into the marriage?”
“Russell got a nice signing bonus with Americo. I was unemployed for close to six months, but before I graduated, I had good offers from law firms in other cities than Chicago which I turned down to move here with him.”
“Okay, so you gave up a more lucrative career somewhere else to move here?”
“Yes, that’s correct. I had some really great offers from some good law firms to enter as a junior partner in family law which is where I wanted to practice. I made the law review when I graduated law school and was in demand.”
“Okay then, in that case, I can see probably going for several mill, even though he had the signing bonus to begin with, maybe two point five or three million? What do you think?”
“I think he’d fight that much. I don’t want a fight or have to go to court. I really want to avoid a court battle. Maybe $500,000?”
“I understand your concern, but don’t sell yourself short. So how about one and a half million? Somehow, I doubt if he will contest that. It’s more than equitable and any attorney would advise him to settle instead of going to court as any judge would most likely give you a larger amount, maybe even alimony, given his wealth and your lower salary. You’d be foolish to ask for any less.”
I considered this while having a cookie and some more tea. “You think we can do this then, without any hassle? I couldn’t handle his drama, having to see him in court. Once I move out, I just want it done and never have to see him ever again.”
“Of course there are no guarantees, but chances are he’ll sign off without having to go to court. He’d be stupid to do so and any decent attorney would advise him so.”
“Then let’s do it, the sooner the better. I can certainly live with one and a half million.”
Cynthia asked me to specifically itemize anything I wanted to take with me. All I wanted were some things my parents had given us that were important to me along with my clothes and personal items. I wanted nothing to do with any of the rest of it. I just wanted to be free. I signed some papers and it was put into motion. I only had to decide when to have him served.