Standing at the window, I can see on the street below a small wad of paper being pushed along by the wind. During the drive over, I hadn’t even noticed there was a wind. Guess my mind was on other things.
Robert, who’s been my lawyer of choice over the years, and a woman hauling a small black case walk through the door. “Excellent, you’re here,” he says. “Your wife and Mr. Bartelo are on their way up. Why don’t you have a seat by me.” He moves to the far side of the conference table. “Ms Katherine, you sit wherever is good for you.”
I do as I’m told, and the next thing you know, my wife, Elena, and her lawyer come through the door. They don’t look directly at me, but soon enough the lawyers are busy pumping each others’ hands. They went to undergraduate school together, and both of them apparently root for the old blue and gold. Go, team.
Elena sits down at the table on the other side, as far away from me as she can get. Soon enough she gives her attention to a large picture across the room. She is pretty. I know for a fact, she can still wear the clothes she wore in her late teens. She makes them look good. Always has.
Robert sits down and leans over to whisper in my ear. “Josh, stay calm and let me do my job.”
I nod my head. I don’t say anything, just nod my head.
He glances across the table. “We’re all settled in, so let’s start. Ms Katherine, sitting there at the end of this table, is a court stenographer. She’ll be taking down everything we say. For the record, I’m Robert Cobb, attorney for Mr. Joshua Banner LeSage, who’s sitting beside me. Across from me is Mr. Nathaniel Bartelo, attorney for Mrs. Elena Garrison LeSage, who is sitting next to him. We’re here to go over certain matters pertaining to the proposed divorce of my client and Mrs. LeSage.” He prattles on, the other guy chimes in, and I’m sitting there not listening to anything they’re saying. They go on and on. Words.
They’re getting to the business at hand. “Disposition of assets, shall we begin?” There’s a clearing of throats, which must be some kind of lawyerly ritual, since they’ve already been talking for several minutes. For me, time slows to a crawl.
Elena takes her eyes off the picture and looks down at her hands. She’s wearing a ring, but not her wedding band. No reason why she should. I have my wedding band tucked away in my jacket pocket, and there’s no reason for that either. “All I want is what I brought into this marriage,” she says.
Her lawyer doesn’t change expression, he simply says, “Ms LeSage. It’d be better, if I do the talking.”
“I understand,” she replies.
I don’t normally care or even notice what other people are wearing, but I’m aware of her in ways I’d never have thought possible. She has on a gray jacket and skirt, white blouse, and she’s wearing a silver pendant I don’t recall seeing before. Her nails are nicely done, and looks like her makeup was applied by a pro. Not that I’d know anything about makeup, of course.
The lawyers are talking to each other again, and we’re moving along much faster than I thought we would. Which is a good thing. Except when we get up to leave, that’ll be about the last time I’ll see Elena. She may show up for the court proceedings, but it’s not required. I wonder if she will. So far this morning, she’s never looked at me. And it’s not that I’m staring at her, I certainly don’t want her to feel uncomfortable, but when I happen to look down the table, she is there for me to see. Did I mention, she’s easy on the eyes.
Smart, too. Always has her nose in a book. I once asked her an off-the-wall question about a minor character in Winnie the Pooh, and she knew the answer. That’s what I call smart.
“Josh?” Someone has said my name. Oh, it’s my lawyer, and he’s looking a little concerned. “Are you okay?”
“Oh, he’s fine. He’s okay.” That’s Elena, and she actually looked at me as she said it. Now she’s back to staring in the direction of the picture on the wall. I turn to look at the picture, and it appears to have been done by Remington. It’s a print of a cowboy on a horse being chased by a group of irate Native Americans.
“I’m alright,” I say.
“He speaks!” Elena exclaims.
Now her lawyer looks pained. “Ms LeSage, please.”
“No, he’s always like that. You never know where you stand with him. You never know.” She’s getting mad now. Or maybe she was mad before she walked in here. Just between you and me, I didn’t know until recently she had a temper.
But she may have a point, I’ve heard that before about me. I’m a cool customer, though cool not in a good way. At the time, when we were living together, I would’ve said I was affectionate towards her, if not passionate on occasion. Goes to show, we don’t always know how we’re coming across to that other person.
The lawyers begin talking again, and this may go on a while. Elena leans back in her chair, peers into her purse and hauls out a small notebook. I’d have said that would’ve been the first thing she did on sitting down, but now she’s doing it. Her timing is off. She catches me looking at her, and flashes what ordinarily would have passed for a smile. Did she mean to smile, or did her expression have more to do with stress? First time I kissed her, and this was on our third date in as many weeks, she smiled like that. It was a good-night kiss, and she was surprised. Not necessarily pleased, but certainly surprised.
At some point I must have done something right, because when I asked her to marry me, she said yes. Now I’ve been informed we have irreconcilable differences. This wasn’t something I saw coming.
I hear Robert let out a theatrical sigh. “Mr. LeSage, what say we call it a day. There wasn’t really much ground to cover, which we all knew coming in here, but we needed to get it said and recorded. Mr. Bartelo, thanks for showing up on such short notice. We’ll be talking over the next few days, agreed?” Mr. B agrees.
We all get up. I’m pushing my chair under the table, feeling the weight of the moment, when I realize Elena has stood up and is looking at me. I cannot read her expression. The seconds pass.
But that’s neither here nor there, because soon enough she picks up her purse and scoots out the door. Elena’s moment with me has not escaped the attention of our lawyers, who don’t say anything. Perhaps they don’t say anything because there’s nothing to say. They turn and follow her, with Ms Katherine close behind.
I take my time. I have no place to be, nothing to do for the rest of the afternoon. I move over to the window.
Far off in the distance, the wind is whipping through the trees along the highway. Below, there’s Elena, walking out of the building. She turns right, with the wind at her back. I lean into the window, watching her.
As she walks, the wind presses her skirt tightly against her, the way it did one morning years ago, before I even knew her name.