Little Miss Perfect
By M.E. Carter
Six months later
“The court calls to order the Dickson case.”
I stand and smooth my hands down my skirt then follow my attorney through the small
swinging door and stand in front of the judge.
“Are you ready?” Kendall asks quietly as the judge reads through her paperwork. I assume she’s refreshing herself of the details of our mediated settlement.
We signed off on everything a month ago. Thanks to Kendall’s hard work, I found out we had many more assets than I realized. With the generous amount of child support I’ll be getting and my portion of the other accounts, I’ll be okay. Plus, Aputi is really good at keeping a balanced budget and helped me figure one out.
Yes, I have to work a bit, but being an on-line fashion consultant for a subscription clothing box has turned out to be a lot of fun and not very time consuming at all. Plus, I’m good at it. My customer satisfaction rate is well above the consultant average which means getting more jobs.
I work them into my schedule, which hasn’t changed all that much.
I’m really enjoying the job. And best of all, it means Trevor doesn’t have to go to daycare.
Peeking a glance over at Rick, I don’t think I’ve ever been so ready to move on with my life than I am right now. He looks terrible. He’s gained more than a few pounds and the blemishes on his skin indicate he’s reverted back to eating foods chock-full of additives and preservatives. Old college habits don’t look good on him.
“I’ve been ready for months,” I say with a wide grin. I can’t help it. I’m really excited for today. Nothing will really change, except I’ll be free from the stress of lawyers and retainer fees and trying to find parking downtown. Who in the world thought not having an elevator in an eight-story parking garage was a good idea? Thank goodness for Steve Madden and his obsession with making a comfortable heel.
The judge finally looks up, giving each of us the once-over. I know it’s irrelevant that I wore my best Vera Wang blouse today, but I can’t help hoping she’s a fashionista and appreciates the effort I put into dressing respectfully for this occasion.
“Mr. Dickson. Mrs. Dickson. I’m glad to see you both here. Shall we begin?”
She makes quick work of swearing us in and asks a few basic questions about why I’m opting to keep my current last name, which I answer honestly—it’s Trevor’s last name too. In a matter of minutes, she declares us divorced and sends us on our way.
A few quick words from my attorney about calling me next week when she has certified copies of all the paperwork, and back through the swinging door I go. Unable to contain my smile, I grab my purse from Aputi just as he rises from the bench and follows me out the door to the hall.
“How do you feel?” he finally asks when we’re safely beyond the quiet zone of the courtroom.
Aputi is always asking me that question. At first, it unnerved me a bit. I didn’t understand why he was asking. Was I going to give him the wrong answer? Would he eventually get tired of me expressing my emotions? The more it happened, though, the more I realized he was genuinely interested in my thoughts. He didn’t want me to hold anything in. He wanted to help me through the hard things.
Very quickly, I began reciprocating the question. Now, it’s not even something I think about
anymore. We ask each other how we feel. We listen to each other’s answer. We talk through the hard stuff. We move on. And we’ve become best friends because of it.
“Like I’m free,” I say with a smile. “Like a new chapter is finally starting, and I’m so excited to see where the story is going to take me. And like I really don’t want to walk up eight flights of stairs to the car.”
“That’s exactly how you should feel. About your divorce and the stairs.” He chuckles. I love the sound of his laugh. It always makes this warmth spread through my whole body, like a favorite blanket you just want to snuggle with. Or maybe I’m just very aware of the fact that I’m officially single. Looking down at his watch, he adds, “How long until we have to be back for Trevor? Do we have time to grab a bite to eat?”
“Um…” I glance at my own wrist and begin calculating. “Elena is on stand-by just in case, but we should be fine. We have three hours and forty-two minutes—”
Those are the only words I get out before I hear my name being called by a familiar voice.
There it is again. I’d know that voice anywhere.
Lowering my hand, I turn slowly to see Rick approaching. He looks disheveled and out of breath.
“Deborah, I’m so glad I caught you.”
An odd statement, considering he has my phone number and could have texted me.
“Can I help you with something, Rick? Wait, you’re not cancelling on Trevor, are you? He’ll be so sad if he doesn’t get to stay in the apartment this weekend. He loves the playground in your new complex.”
Yes, Rick has moved away from the beach. Practically the minute the ink was dry on the beach house lease and six-months rent was paid in advance, the new girlfriend kicked him out.
Decided she wasn’t meant to settle down at such a young age.
I was shocked when Rick told me, yet I couldn’t find it in me to sympathize with him. I did,
however, applaud the other woman’s skills in the art of the con. She swindled him into paying rent on a pretty fancy place.
He shakes his head vehemently. “Oh no. I’m not cancelling. I’m looking forward to my weekend with him. Actually,” his tone turns a bit sheepish and that puts me on guard immediately, “I was kind of hoping we could make it a family weekend.”
Behind me, Aputi half coughs, half chokes. Apparently, he wasn’t any more prepared for that than I was. His warm breath tickles my ear when he whispers, “I’m going to give you a little privacy.”
Quickly, I whip my head around to look him in the eyes. “You don’t have to do that.”
He smiles reassuringly. “I’m not leaving you. I’m going to be right here.”
I nod slowly and watch as Aputi walks to the wall a few feet away and leans against it. The
confidence he has is so opposite of the waves of nervousness practically flowing off Rick. As it should be. We were declared divorced less than five minutes ago, and he’s already pushing for reconciliation? There seems to be more in his processed foods than just dyes and coloring because somehow he appears a bit delusional.
“Rick, are you suggesting we take a weekend to see if we could be a family again?”
He shrugs nervously. “I mean, yeah. Why not?”
Cocking my head, I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Surely, I’m misinterpreting all of this. We just spent seven months and thousands of dollars on mediations and legal proceedings. Why in the world would he not have brought this up sooner?
And then I realize there is one thing I brought to court with me that I never brought to
mediation—Aputi. I want to be enraged over the fact that I wasn’t “good enough” for Rick until someone else found me worthy. Oddly, though, it never comes. I’m not angry over what Rick thinks because I just don’t care enough to feel anything at all. I’m well and truly indifferent to his thoughts and opinions beyond how it relates to our child.
Huh. I wasn’t expecting that at all.
I could say all that, but one thing I’m still not is vindictive. Instead, I revert back to logic. “I
appreciate the invitation, but I don’t want to confuse Trevor. I’ve read quite a few books about children of divorce, and they all agree that setting good boundaries is essential for a healthy transition.”
Rick’s shoulders slump and I can tell he doesn’t like my answer, but once again, I don’t have feelings one way or the other to have the slightest bit of guilt. What I do have, however, is a strong desire to get out of this building and go home.
“I’ll see you tomorrow night for pickup.”
I turn to find Aputi no longer against the wall but standing close enough that he can listen to our conversation without obviously eavesdropping. It delights me to know he’s protective enough over me to inch closer when I’m not looking.
“Are you ready to go, Aputi?”
He looks up, pretending to be startled that I’m finished with Rick already, but he’s not fooling anyone. “Uh, yeah. Where do you want to eat?”
“Actually, if it’s okay with you, I think I’d rather go home, scrub this makeup off my face, and watch a movie with you. Would that be okay?”
Rick gasps, and the tiniest bit of validation rolls through me that he has finally figured out Aputi knows me better than he ever did. His loss.
“Sure,” Aputi says with a shrug as we walk toward the elevators. “Last week, I brought over some of that all-natural air-popped popcorn you like. It’s in the pantry.”
“That sounds wonderful. But there’s one more thing.” He looks at me, eyebrows furrowed.
“About that date you promised me…”
The widest smile I’ve ever seen breaks across his face, and I know beautiful things are
happening here. And it’s perfect.