Welcome to this week’s installment of Cut to the Chase. Thank you for taking this journey with me! If you missed last week’s excerpt, please click here:
Cut to the Chase: Home is Where the Heart Is
I hope you enjoy 🙂
Although I should’ve seen it coming, the end of my marriage caught me off guard.
Our relationship quickly deteriorated after Renny asked me to choose between my family and my career. I was unwilling to give up my dream job, and he was unwilling to have an absentee wife and mother. Professionally, I was riding high as Arenas Holding grew by leaps and bounds. Javier was an excellent teacher and mentor, and I learned a great deal working with him. I was high off the thrill of success.
Personally, I was a wreck. Renny and I were polite strangers, communicating primarily through our children. The two of us rarely ever talked, and we avoided any topics not related to Courtney Junior and Cameron. My trips to the Springs were few and far between. Now that my mother’s health had improved, I didn’t feel obligated to return home as often. As my best friend and the boys’ godmother, Bianca would often travel with the boys to visit me. Occasionally, my sister and nieces would join us, even convincing Mom and Danny to tag along. Renny never objected to the arrangement.
When I wasn’t traveling, I spent a great deal of time in Fort Lauderdale, location of the Arenas Holdings headquarters. In addition to my generous salary and bonuses, the company also provided a condo and car in Fort Lauderdale.
I was sitting in my office when I got a call from the receptionist stating that I had a visitor with a special delivery that required my signature. I took the elevator down to the lobby. After signing for my package, I returned to my office, placing it on my desk as I headed to a meeting. It was the end of the day before I remembered it. I took a seat and opened the package. My heart stopped. Renny wanted a divorce.
A couple of hours later, I was on a private jet headed to Georgia. Javier stopped by my office and saw the papers on my desk as I sat there in shock. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I know I didn’t want my marriage to end. I planned to drive home, but Javier offered the use of the charter and I happily accepted. I needed to talk to Renny.
I arrived in Atlanta just before midnight, where Javier had a private car waiting for me at the airport. I gave the driver directions to Bianca’s house. I called her shortly before my flight left. She was just as shocked as I was.
“So now what?”
“I’m going to talk to Renny in the morning.”
“Have you called him yet?”
“So you just plan to show up unannounced?”
“He didn’t warn me about this,” I replied bitterly in reference to the divorce papers.
“He did, Lainey. He told you he wanted you home. You refused.”
I considered her words. “I don’t want a divorce, Bianca.”
“Then you need to talk to your husband, Lainey. Tell him that.” Bianca admonished. “And mean it.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“It means you have to make some tough decisions, Lainey. Renny wants you here. Are you prepared to do that?” I wasn’t, and I didn’t have to. I just needed to convince my husband.
I called Renny early the next morning, and he agreed to meet me at Bianca’s house that afternoon.
“I can’t stay long, Elaine. I have to get back to practice by 6:00.” His tone was cold. Sterile. That’s who we were now.
“I, umm, I understand. Thanks for coming.” I took a deep breath and swallowed before adding, “we need to talk.”
“The divorce, Renny.”
“What’s there to talk about, Elaine? Our marriage is already over; this just makes it official.”
“What do you mean our marriage is over? I didn’t ask for this.”
“Yes, you did, Elaine. I told you I couldn’t live like this, that I wouldn’t live like this.” Renny accused. “I asked you to choose, and you did.”
“Renny, I love you. I don’t want this.” I choked back my tears, shaking my head. “Please.”
He exhaled, and for the first time since he arrived, I saw my husband. “I love you too, Lainey. But we want different things. It’s time to move on, babe.” He was right; we did want different things, neither of us willing to give. My eyes started to water as the reality of the situation set in.
“What about CJ and Cam?”
“My attorney suggested joint custody, and I am cool with that. Talk to your own attorney, and we’ll work it out.”
I nodded, afraid to speak because I didn’t want to cry in front of Renny.
He stood and prepared to leave. “Walk me to the door?” I nodded again, desperately trying to hold it together. Renny opened the door before turning to me. He hugged me and placed a kiss on my forehead. “Goodbye, Elaine.” I closed the door and engaged the locks. The tears I fought so valiantly finally won.
I decided to fly back to Fort Lauderdale that same evening after my meeting with the attorney Bianca secured. Clearly, my marriage was over, and Renny wanted out. I had no fight left and apparently no leg to stand on according to my attorney.
“In light of the circumstances, Mrs. Reynolds, Mr. Reynolds is being more than generous.”
Confused, I asked, “what circumstances?”
“I won’t sugar coat this for you: he could file for divorce on grounds that you abandoned both your marriage and your children. If he were my client, I would actually insist on it.”
“Adandoned? I did not abandon my husband or my children. I am working! And my position requires that I travel.”
“Quite extensively, Mrs. Reynolds.”
“Is that a crime?”
“Not a crime but definitely grounds for divorce.”
“I didn’t abandon my family, Miss Ortiz.” I placed emphasis on the Miss, a subtle reminder of her single status.
She just smiled. “Duly noted, Mrs. Reynolds. Bianca is a colleague and friend. I know you two are best friends, and she is godmother to both Courtney, Jr and Cameron. She considers you the sister she never had which is why she asked me to represent you because I am good at what I do. I am not trying to upset you or make you feel bad, but facts are facts.”
I nodded, waiting for her to continue.
“If I were representing Mr. Reynolds, I would build a case based on the following facts: in the past twelve months, how many consecutive days have you resided in the state of Georgia?”
That was a question I couldn’t readily answer. At most, I spent no more than three consecutive days at home, usually on my way to or from Florida.
Miss Ortiz continued. “During your absence, who provides primary care for your minor children?”
That was a no brainer. Renny filled this role.
“Finally, what is the primary location of your employer?” I sighed. This did not look good for me. Not at all.
“And this is only the beginning, Mrs. Reynolds. I would subpoena your travel records – hotel receipts, expense statements, cell phone bills – all of which would support my claims that you physically reside elsewhere. Your husband, on the other hand, is essentially the sole caregiver of Courtney Junior and Cameron. Mr. Reynolds is an established member of the community with both his primary residence and employer physically located in Mabrary Springs. Facts are facts.
“Divorce is an ugly business, even more so when there are children involved. Emotions run extremely high on both sides. To be an effective counsel and to represent my clients’ best interests, I must be able to objectively see both sides. And a clear case can be made for abandonment, and if successful, your husband could be granted sole custody of your sons along with all marital assets.”
She paused as I considered everything presented before me. I was at loss, unsure of how I got here in the first place. Whenever I tried to leave the Springs, there was always something unpleasant that pulled me back. My parents’ accident. Now a potentially ugly divorce.
“What are my options?” I swallowed before asking my second question. “Do I quit my job and move back?”
“Depends on what you want, Mrs. Reynolds. As your attorney, I can only provide counsel, but the decision is ultimately yours.”
“At this time, Mr. Reynolds is requesting joint custody of the boys with a liberal visitation schedule. Now this is big because he could go for primary or sole custody. And if that were the case, I would definitely recommend that you move back and re-establish permanent residency.”
Miss Ortiz grabbed her reading glasses from the top on head and pulled them on as she leafed through the paper work. “Also, he is not requesting any type of spousal or child support. He is willing to sell off any marital assets and you retain the profits. You all purchased a home together, correct?”
“Yes.” A home Renny didn’t really want, but I insisted we buy. Before then, we lived in the home his parents deeded to him. Pop had built the house, and it was his pride and joy. Renny wanted to stay there, but after Cameron was born, I decided that we needed something larger with more space for our family. He was willing to renovate and even additional square footage to the house, but I wanted more, something bigger and better. The story of my life.
It came as no surprise that Renny wanted to sell. According to Bianca, he and boys had moved back to his parent’s house months ago.
Oblivious to my inner turmoil, my attorney continued. “Aside from custody, the house is the only other major provision included since Mr. Reynolds is not requesting any support of any kind or making any claim to your assets, both of which he’d be entitled to.” She removed the glasses and placed them on her desk. “I recommend that you accept the terms. He is being generous and more than fair, all things considered.”
I accepted her advice, giving Renny everything he asked for since I hadn’t done it before. I didn’t want to complicate his life and spend money on a lengthy court battle that I would ultimately lose. I owed that to Renny, CJ and Cam.
I called Bianca once the meeting ended enroute to the airport. Of course, she wanted me to stay for a few days. I declined, needing to return to work. Right now, it was the only thing that made sense. My feelings were all over the place. I never had had any intentions of ever returning to Mabrary Springs, but circumstances always dictated otherwise. A fatal car accident. An accidental pregnancy.
Just when I thought I’d be stuck there, Javier Arenas offered an opportunity to escape, and I readily accepted it. The only remaining tie to the Springs were my husband and children. After the divorce, that would no longer be the case. I would be free. I could see my children whenever and wherever I wanted, no longer legally bound to Renny, nor the guilt that I carried. Instead, I felt unmoored, adrift. Now that that part of my life was quickly coming to an end, nothing left to do but chart a new course.
I flew commercial on my return trip instead of using the private service Javier chartered for my impromptu departure. The hustle and bustle of the airport was a welcome distraction. I took a cab to my condo where I was greeted by the doorman, Raoul.
“Good evening, Mrs. Reynolds. Safe travels?” Accustomed to my frequent comings and goings, he made small talk as he helped me with my small carry-on.
I carefully considered my response. The trip was anything but safe, but it was necessary for everyone. Courtney and Elaine Reynolds were officially history. In a few weeks, I would be Ms. Elaine Winters. Again.
“Ma’am?” Raoul eyed me curiously as we waited for the elevator, awaiting a response.
“My apologies, Raoul. I am just a bit exhausted. It was a productive trip.”
“I understand, ma’am. Would you like for me to order room service for you or will you be joining Mr. Arenas in the dining room?”
Aside from a quick text, I hadn’t spoken with Javier since he interrupted the meltdown precipitated by the divorce papers. I knew I owed him some sort of explanation for my behavior as well as a thank you for his kindness and generosity.
“I am a bit hungry so I think I will join Mr. Arenas.” Raoul nodded and escorted me to the restaurant located in the atrium of the luxury hotel. Thankfully, Javier was dining alone in his favorite booth near the rear of the restaurant, working as usual. His laptop was perched on the table amid various spreadsheets. He stood as we approached the table.
“Welcome back, Elaine.” He grabbed my hand in both of his in warm handshake before inviting me to sit. He turned to Raoul as I slid into the opposite side of the booth. “Raoul, my good man.” Javier grabbed my carryover, placing it next to his briefcase. He reached into his pocket and extracted a bill, exchanging it along with a handshake. Raoul expressed his thanks before leaving.
Javier resumed his seat just as the waiter appeared. I ordered an appetizer and a glass of wine while Javier packed up his laptop and spreadsheets.
“My apologies. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“No apologies needed, Elaine. I’m glad you are here. How are you?” Javier stared at me intently, awaiting my response. For some strange reason, I felt compelled to respond, to tell him everything. Aside from my boss, Javier had become a trusted friend and confidante over the past couple of years. He never judged me, always willing and able to assist whenever I was in a bind. At that moment, I needed a friend, someone to be on my side.
I started talking after the waiter delivered my glass of wine. “Well, apparently, I abandoned my family in the eyes of the law.” I admitted after I took a healthy gulp of my wine.
“How so?” I detailed the events of the past twenty- four hours, including my conversation with Renny and my attorney’s advice. I finished my glass of wine and signaled for another; the waiter returned, leaving the entire bottle.
Javier refilled my glass. “Is that what you want?”
I took another sip, desperately trying to drown my sorrows. Cliché I know, but I didn’t know what else to do. “I don’t have much of a choice.” I traced my glass with my index finger.
Javier reached across the table, enveloping my free hand in both of his. “That’s not what I asked you, Elaine. Is that what you want?”
“It’s for the best, Javier. I don’t want to make this any harder by dragging this into court. Renny doesn’t deserve that and neither do CJ and Cam. At best, the result would be the same; even worst, Renny could be granted sole custody. The only people who would be benefit would be the lawyers. I made my bed now I’ve got to lie in it.”
I pulled back my hand to refill my glass, instantly missing his touch. Since I’ve known him, Javier has always been a perfect gentleman, and we’ve never crossed the line. He respected my marriage even though there was this underlying attraction between us.
“When will the divorce be final?”
“A few weeks. Miss Ortiz says since I’m not contesting, it shouldn’t take long.” I took another healthy gulp of my wine.
Javier eyed me suspiciously. He knew I wasn’t much of drinker. “Maybe you should slow down, Elaine.”
I shook my head as I refilled my glass. “Nope.”
“At least eat something.”
“That, I can do.” Javier smiled and summoned the waiter. He ordered pasta entrees for both of us, and I requested another bottle of wine. The waiter looked over to Javier who nodded his head. I laughed at the absurdity of it all, like I needed his permission to get drunk. I no longer needed permission to do anything. I was a free woman.
Fueled by two bottles of wine and a broken heart, I returned to my condo. This time, I did not wake up alone.
Copyright 2016 Kay Morris Writes