Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Short Story

The final week's assignment was to write a short story between 750 and 1,000 words. To my mind, that's barely enough words to set up a story and describe a character, but that was the requirement.

Here's my story. The first part bears a marked similarity to the character sketch found here because it's the same character, just better developed than in the earlier, shorter sketch.

***Warning: there are two strong curse words in the first part in the story.***

I started life all over again when I was forty-seven years old.

I know what you’re thinking—and you’re right. It is a strange thing for a responsible adult to do, but at the time, it seemed like the only thing to do.

The events leading to my rebirth were unexpected. I was relatively happily married, gainfully employed as a computer programmer, successful and respected. But after a seriously bad day at work, I came home and found my husband, an attorney, packing a suitcase. A large suitcase.

“Unexpected trip?” I asked.

“No. I’m leaving you, Charlotte.”

“Leaving me?”

“Yes. I’m leaving you and filing for divorce.”

My knees gave out and I sank onto the bed, staring at him. We’d made love just the night before—for the first time in a long time. “But…why?”

“Because I’ve fallen in love with someone else. Someone who makes me happy.”

“I thought we were happy, Jack.”  I thought I made him happy is what I meant.

“For a long time we were. And I haven’t been unhappy, Charlotte. But I want…something more.”

“You want to marry your mistress.” It was a shot in the dark—I wasn’t absolutely certain he had a mistress, but in the past year or so I’d begun to suspect he did. There had been a few too many “business dinners,” although seemingly no more overnight trips than usual. But what else could “something more” mean?

“Yes and no. I do plan to marry the woman I’ve fallen in love with, but technically, she isn’t my mistress.”

I didn’t care about technicalities. All I could think of was the previous night. “You sorry bastard! If you don’t love me anymore, what was last night? A farewell fuck?” I’d never said that word in my life, but nothing else fit.

To his credit, he seemed chagrined. “Of course not. I do care for you, Charlotte—”

“You have a strange way of showing it.” Anger suddenly deserted me. Tears quickly followed in its wake, but I was determined not to cry in front of him. “You also don’t have grounds for divorce.”

“Grounds haven’t been required for…” He waved a hand. Jack was a corporate defense attorney, not a divorce attorney. “For years. Now divorce is just a mutual decision to end a marriage.”

I could have pointed out that we hadn’t decided anything—he had—but I had no desire to be married to a man who didn’t want to be married to me.

“You can have the house, and I’ll be generous with the alimony. You’ll need an attorney to handle the divorce. Jim Shallcross, Charlie Becker, and Mo Solomon are all good. So are Maggie Crutcher and Liz Kielewski.”

I didn’t say anything—couldn’t say anything—and he resumed packing. Five minutes later, he closed his suitcase. “I’ll arrange to have the rest of my things moved later this week. Get a good attorney to handle the divorce for you.” He paused long enough to kiss the top of my head on his way out. “I’m sorry, Charlotte.”

And that marked the end of our marriage. Twenty-two years together, and the rotten man had ended it with five minutes of conversation and an apology.

Two months later, I was no longer Mrs. Jackson Alexander Morris, III. I’d been Charlotte Morris for twenty-two years, Charlotte Emily Pratt for twenty-five years before that, but now I wasn’t certain who I was. Now that Jack was gone, I didn’t feel like Charlotte Morris any more, but I no longer felt like Charlotte Pratt, either.

I thought about that at night, alone in the house we’d shared for the past fifteen years. Jack had chosen the house shortly after he’d made partner, and I’d decorated it. It was a big house, in a prestigious neighborhood surrounding a golf course. I’d liked it well enough when we’d been married, but now it didn’t feel right. Too many memories, perhaps. Or maybe the fact that it wasn’t the house I would have chosen, then or now.
Two weeks later, before I had decided who I was, or whether I should sell the house and buy another, the second event leading to my rebirth occurred. I was fired.

It was as much of a shock as Jack’s announcement had been. I’d had a glowing yearly evaluation only a month before, and my boss, Tim Chen, had hinted that a promotion was in the works. Now he informed me that the company was “downsizing” and my position as Manager of Development was being eliminated. Like Jack, Tim promised a generous severance package. And like my reprehensible ex-husband, Tim ended the interview with “I’m sorry, Charlotte.”

In the space of two and a half months, I’d gone from being married, employed, and successful to being an unemployed divorcĂ©e who, apparently, was not a success at anything.

That night, I sat in the house that didn’t feel like mine and thought about what to do with my life. About who I had been, who I wanted to be, and what I wanted to do. Thought about where I was, and where I wanted to go. I made a list of things I was good at and things I didn’t do well. I wasn’t sure where marriage belonged on the list. I’d been good at it for a number of years, but in the end, I hadn’t been good enough.

The result of all that thinking—it took the better part of a month—was my resurrection. Charlotte Emily Pratt Morris, a formerly married and employed computer game designer living in Kansas City, became Eleanor Elizabeth Newly, a divorced, self-employed website designer who lived in a pretty little cottage on Oval Lake near the town of Littleton, in Clinch County, Georgia.

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