“Is he … dead?”
I knew the answer, but I needed to be certain.
The cop placed his hand on top of mine. My hospital room was frigid, but his hand was as warm as the summer sun.
His eyes answered before his words confirmed. “Yes.”
He clasped my hand; it was more professionally acceptable than a hug.
I didn’t know how to digest it then, and I still don’t. He’s dead, and it’s my fault.
A rap on my window startles me from my thoughts. It’s Todd. He frowns and taps on his watch. His expression says, “Typical Janelle, late again.”
I turn off the engine and exit the car. Then I follow my soon-to-be ex-husband into a brick building labeled “Schumer & Reed, PA.” He scurries down a hallway to Conference Room C, and never bothers to check if I’m still with him.
I join Todd at a long table inappropriately proportioned given there’s only three of us.
Mr. Schumer offers me a cup of coffee and I politely accept. The pot is almost empty. They’ve been waiting for me longer than I realized. He replaces the carafe and returns to the table, then hands me a packet of papers. I notice his Rolex, and then his suit which is much nicer than any of Todd’s. The self-proclaimed “best divorce attorney in the tri-county area” clearly isn’t starving for work.
He sails off on a dissertation regarding the divorce papers that sit in front of us. I’ve heard it all; we’ve been hashing out these details for months. His voice fades into white noise, as my mind once again enters the dangerous territory of my memories.
Images flash like slides in a projector, as I return to the horrors of that day.
There was so much blood. It pooled in the grass and dripped down my clothes. I had never seen anything like it.
I killed him.
“Janelle, are you listening?” Todd returns me to reality.
“Yes, of course,” I lie. I have no interest in being here. My life is unraveling and my divorce from Todd Holcomb has little to do with it.
I take a sip of the stale coffee in a maroon Harvard Law School mug. I’m not sure if Mr. Schumer attended, or if he’s just a fan.
He shuffles the papers in front of me. “Now, Mrs. Holcomb…”
“Ms. Dixon,” I correct him.
“Fine, Ms. Dixon,” he continues. He thinks I don’t notice his eyes roll. “If you’ll sign here, and here, and initial here, and here, then your divorce from Mr. Holcomb will be final.”
He hands me an elegant silver pen from his shirt pocket. Across the table, Todd takes a drink from his mug with a loud slurp like he always does. It’s annoying, but at this moment I feel I may miss it. His coffee slurps have been with me for the better part of a decade.
The pen hovers over the signature line as I reminisce about how Todd and I met. We attended the same college. I was in a sorority and he was in a fraternity. During the annual fall mixer in my junior year, he approached me and told me I was the most beautiful girl in the room. Sheesh, what a line. We finished out our college days and wed with an extravagant affair. My signature on these papers was the period at the end of that chapter.
I sign my married name, not yet legally able to use my maiden name, and then stare at the blank spot next to the word “date.” Oh, I know what day it is, how could I forget?
My hand holding the pen begins to tremble. I’m not afraid to end my marriage to Todd. I wanted this as much as him. My fear stems from the horrific images of this day 14 years ago as they flash through my head once again.
Todd clears his throat and shoots a glance at his watch. “Janelle, if we could wrap this up, that’d be great. I have a meeting in a half hour.”
Another meeting. No surprise there. Todd Holcomb’s whole life consisted of meetings. That I knew I wouldn’t miss. No more cold dinners and embarrassing no-shows at restaurants. Even though meetings are a necessity for someone with senatorial aspirations, Todd had more than normal. I’m pretty sure he’s just been fucking the new girl at his office. I peek over at him and I swear I can see the faint hint of lipstick on his collar, but maybe it’s only my paranoia.
I scribble today’s date in the provided space and shudder. How is it that my divorce would be finalized on this date as well? Coincidence? I think not. Bad things in life have a way of stacking up on one another. I’m not superstitious, but there is nothing about April 12th that brings me joy.
I sign the divorce settlement and scoot the pages across the table to the well-to-do lawyer. “Are we done here?”
“Yes, Mrs. Holco — I mean, Ms. Dixon. That is all we need for now.”
Todd shakes my hand as if we just closed a business deal that would make him a lot of money. He wore the shit-eating grin to match. “I wish you the best of luck, Janelle, I really do.”
I tip my head. There’s nothing left to say. Then I retract my hand from his politician’s grip. I take one last gaze at Todd Holcomb, knowing I will probably never see him again, other than in his campaign ads.
The divorce was relatively straightforward. His wealth acquired much of our belongings and nabbed him a better attorney, so he ended up with most of it. I kept my clothes, some dishes, and my car. I also insisted on keeping the crystal punch bowl set his Aunt Gerty gave us at our wedding. I’m sure I will never use it, but god damn is it gorgeous.
We don’t have any kids. That was Todd’s choice. He insisted they would derail his career. I just don’t think he likes children. My sister asked him to hold her 5-month-old daughter once while she located a pack of wipes. Todd held the baby out like a sack of trash. Granted, she had filled her pants moments before, so I don’t blame him. And that’s the closest we ever got to having kids. It makes the divorce easier though.
Mr. Fancy Suit hands me my copy of the settlement, and without another word, I step out of Conference Room C. The door closes behind me and I take a deep breath. As I linger by the doorway, I overhear my ex and his lawyer talking. It’s faint but distinguishable.
“Boy Todd, it’s a good thing you got this settled before you run for Senate. That girl is a total nut job,” Mr. Schumer remarks.
Todd chuckles. “She hasn’t been in her right mind for a while now. I’m ready to move on with my life and focus on my campaign.”
I wonder what he means by that. I felt fine until today. My brain is scattered. It’s the first time I’ve been alone for the anniversary of the horrible events of 14 years ago. Right after high school, I went on to college where my sorority sisters would throw me an extravagant party to help me forget. Then I met Todd, and he found a way to make this day bearable. This time, I’m all alone. That’s why I can’t stop thinking about it.
So much blood.
As the exchange between Todd and his lawyer falls into irrelevant banter, I shuffle down the hall and out of the building. I climb into the driver’s seat of my fuel-efficient Ford Focus. My purse and the divorce papers land in the passenger seat on top of a pile of junk mail I’ve been neglecting.
I stare at the steering wheel. Where do I go from here?