Long Time Coming
Unedited excerpt for WIP tentatively scheduled for Fall 2017 release.
“If you grip that pen any tighter, it’ll break.” Quinn looked up at her attorney, not missing the concerned look in his eyes.
“I guess I am a bit keyed up, huh?” She exhaled heavily. “This day has seemed out of my reach for far too long. You have no idea what it means to me to sign these documents.”
Morris Dabney chuckled easily. “Did you forget who you’re talking to?” The young woman bit her lip, heat flooding her face.
“Sorry, Morris. I forgot… you’ve been through this too.”
“Been through it? My dear, four divorces is not “been through it”, it makes me an expert at divorce, my profession notwithstanding.” Quinn signed her name one last time with a marked flourish.
“Done!” She slid the papers across the table. “And you’re just too easily distracted by a pretty face, Morris. You can’t marry all the pretty women.”
“Yes, they were all attractive, but they were all able to make me believe they truly cared about me, loved me.” Quinn’s heart broke a little at the sadness in his eyes. Morris smacked the conference table and grabbed the signed documents. “Fortunately for you, and all my other clients, I’m a far better litigator than I am a judge of women allegedly interested in me.” He stood and walked to his desk, adding the documents to a file folder.
“I know you’re relieved to finally sign dissolution documents for the filing, Quinn. But you know at this point, it still isn’t a done deal, right? Oscar can still contest the divorce and drag this out for some time.” Quinn Smirked.
“He can try.” Morris considered her remark, eyebrow raised. He retook his seat across from her.
“This is the third time we’ve been here, Quinn. The first two times, you seemed more fragile, more broken. Your emotions were all over the place.”
“The first time was so hard for me. Finding out that the man you love with all your heart and soul is cheating on you is a real confidence killer. Then to have him get on his knees and beg for forgiveness and another chance… well, it’s the stuff romance novels are full of. I believed him because I wanted to believe IN him.” She shook her head slowly. “Things were okay for a while… a short while. I began to have female problems, and it only took a visit to my doctor to find out I had a serious STD… courtesy of my husband.”
“And yet, you didn’t go through with the divorce proceedings either time, Quinn.” Nodding her head, this time it was Quinn who stood. She walked over to the large office window overlooking the river.
“I know, I know. I was so confused. I knew I had the right to divorce Oscar. But our families, especially our parents, they just… kept at me. All their “marriage is for a lifetime”, “it’s sanctioned by God”, and my personal favorite, “for better or for worse.”
“I’m sorry, Quinn. I didn’t know of your religious beliefs.”
“Religious beliefs? Please. Religion has nothing to do with it. During one of my mother’s pseudo-religious rants, I interrupted to remind her that committing adultery was breaking one of the Ten Commandments… and she called me JUDGMENTAL!” Folding her arms across her chest, Quinn began to pace. “You know what the Clark/Butler family prides itself in, Morris? Longevity. And not just longevity of life… but of marriages. Do you know my mother has photos of her parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents hanging in her family room? And the common denominator is not that they’re family, it’s that the photos were taken after each couple had been married for at least fifty years.” Morris’ eyes widened. Quinn waved away his surprise. “Dad’s family was the same way. His grandparents were married for seventy-four years before my great-grandmother died of respiratory failure.”
“I don’t know what to say…”
“There’s nothing to say, Morris. I’m sorry I didn’t share all of this with you before. I was just too ashamed and embarrassed to admit I’d allowed myself to be bullied and too terrified to stand up for myself. I didn’t want to go against our families.”
“I’m your attorney, Quinn. I look out for your best interests.”
“Yes, you do, Morris, and I’m more grateful than you know. Not many attorneys would be bothered with a crazy lady who kept changing her mind about getting a divorce.”
“Getting a divorce is a major decision. Everyone second guesses themselves at some point. It’s normal. But tell me. You changed your mind twice, yet here we are a few months later with signed papers. Care to share?” Quinn’s smirk returned, with an eerily malevolent tinge.
“This time, Morris, only what I want matters. Everyone has shared their opinions… trust me. I’ve heard all about what a disappointment I am to the family, and how I’m not fulfilling my OBLIGATION to Oscar and our marriage. My mother-in-law insisted that had I gotten pregnant, my marriage would be fine. What the hell ever! No way a child should be involved in this drama… well, at least not my child.” Her remark made Morris Dabney sit up straight in his chair.
“Quinn?” The attorney’s usual easy-going demeanor morphed into a hard glare, his jaws rigidly set. “Please, explain what that last bit means.”
Not able to meet his stare, Quinn resolutely reached for her handbag. “I wasn’t going to keep it from you, Morris.” She pulled a legal-size white envelope from the side of her bag and held it out to the attorney. “This is why Oscar is not going to contest the divorce. There will be no more stall tactics from him and his legal team.” Morris stared at the envelope.
“Before I look inside that envelope, are we talking about anything illegal?”
“I have to ask, Quinn. For both our sake.” She outstretched her arm more.
“I’m not perfect, Mr. Dabney, but I’m also not a criminal. Go ahead… open it.” Without breaking his glare at her, the attorney took the envelope and removed the document inside. After opening the document, his eyes fell to the paper.
“Son of a bitch! Is this real? Are you sure? Where did you get this? Why are you just telling me about this? What the hell, Quinn? I’m your attorney!” Holding up her hands in front of her, Quinn tried to calm the upset man.
“I’m sorry, Morris. I didn’t plan to keep it from you. I had to be sure myself before I figured out how to use it. And I had to also make sure Oscar and his family didn’t find out I knew.”
“Details… NOW!” Quinn re-took her seat, folding her hands in front of her on the table.
“I received a notice by mail from the IRS in early June that Oscar and I had been randomly chosen for a standard audit. The appointment date was only a week away, and Oscar was away at some school board retreat. I decided to start getting the files together. The letter stated I had to bring my own returns and supporting documentation for the last three years. I only found the most current return in the file, so I went to the storage closet. It took a while, but I finally found the file box in the back of the closet. Made no sense for it to be buried. Digging through the box, I found that shoved down in a random file. I was stunned at first, but I wasn’t that surprised. And it explained why the boxes were all so out of order and in the back of the closet. Oscar didn’t want me to find it.”
Morris couldn’t stop reading the document over and over. “You said you had to be sure?”
“I… I hired a private investigator.”
“Quinn, why didn’t you come to me? That’s what we have investigators for.” Placing the document on the table, Morris squeezed the bridge of his nose, exhaling loudly. “Okay. Who did you hire? How did you find them?” She ducked her head sheepishly.
“I remembered overhearing a co-worker talking about hiring a private investigator to check out her daughter’s new boyfriend. The name stuck in my head — William Williams.” A look of relief seem to wash over the attorney.
“Willie’s good… and ethical. He wouldn’t break the law to gather information. If he verified this,” he motioned to the document, “it’s true. So, care to share with your attorney how you plan to use this?”
“That’s where you come in.” Morris Dabney’s eyes widened. “I’m ready for this all to end. We have that mediation meeting next week. If Oscar won’t sign, and throws out another stall tactic, you’ll present him with that.”
“You’re that convinced this is the deal-breaker?” She nodded knowingly.
“Most definitely. This would endanger his job, and there’s no way he’ll let that happen.” Scrubbing his hand over his face, Morris couldn’t help but agree.
“I still wish you’d share this with me sooner. We could have avoided a few of Oscar’s rants.”
“I know, Morris. But it wasn’t the right time. Now, I have made more than enough effort in mediation to satisfy our families. And if it doesn’t, it’s just too bad. I fully intend to be done with this man and this marriage after next week.”