NO EASY WAY by S.R. Claridge
Available Now in All Ebook Formats - Also in Print
Kate sat in the reception area with her stomach in knots. Tom was late. Again. After eighteen years of marriage, she should be used to it, but it still infuriated her. Tucking her shoulder length dark brown hair behind her ears, she pulled a small spiral notebook from her purse and began to jot down thoughts. She found it helped her stay calm and focused when dealing with emotional situations. Her therapist encouraged her to journal as often as needed. “Getting your thoughts on paper,” he told her, “makes them clearer to understand and assign emotion to.” She didn’t know if that was true, but it did pass the time. Fifteen minutes passed. Twenty. Thirty. Kate set the notebook on the chair next to her and began to fiddle with her wedding band. Another nervous tick she had, twisting her ring counterclockwise around her finger. It had been Tom’s grandmother, Madeline’s band. Kate grinned as she pictured Madeline, with her white hair tied tightly in a bun and her bright pink lipstick.
“Pulling my hair back real tight,” she would say, “is like getting a face lift for free.” Kate thought this was true, but it also made her big blue eyes sort of bulge out of her head like a Chihuahua.
Madeline gave Kate the wedding band the same year Tom’s grandfather, Lou, died in a tragic hit and run accident. The driver who killed him was never found and the case was labeled “unsolved.” Though rumors about Lou circulated around the small town of Stilwell, Kansas, Grandmother Madeline assured everyone she believed there was no foul play. “It was a terrible accident,” she told Tom and Kate, “but accidents happen and life goes on.” After the funeral, Madeline pulled Kate aside and gave her the wedding ring. “It is time,” she said, taking Kate’s hand in hers and patting it. Madeline’s eyes always had a discerning twinkle, but that day they beamed with kid-like excitement.
Kate often wondered why Madeline wanted her to have the ring instead of saving it for Tom’s brother Martin to give a future bride. After all, Martin was the older grandson. Madeline dismissed the question with a quick shrug of her boney shoulders and a roll of her bulging eyes. “This ring,” she said, “embodies a promise.” Kate was puzzled. “This ring,” she whispered, squeezing Kate’s hand, “covers a multitude of sins.” She said it as if it were something magical. Something that would ensure a marriage would last forever.
“What does that mean; it covers a multitude of sins?” Kate asked.
Madeline’s answer came swiftly, “forgiveness.” Kate studied her eyes as they sparkled with wisdom and truth she hoped would one day be hers. “God joins spouses in marriage. He created marriage. What He joins let no man,” Madeline paused and drew in a deep breath, “and no woman separate.” She pointed her long, skinny finger in the air for effect. Then placing Kate’s hand between hers she emphasized, “forgiveness is the key and you are strong enough to carry its burden.” Replaying more of the conversation in her mind, Kate felt she could almost hear Madeline’s voice telling her marriage was both a mountainous journey and a joyous adventure. “Never give up,” she said, patting Kate’s hand, “never give up.”
Now, staring at the band, Kate fought back tears as a feeling of guilt rushed through her. She knew Madeline would be ashamed of what she and Tom were about to do. They had given up and this was the last step to make it final. Kate kicked Tom out of their home six months ago, shortly after her fortieth birthday. She knew Tom blamed her behavior on mid-life crisis, but Kate knew it was more than that. Maybe she and Tom were both going through a change of life in some regard, but what tore their marriage apart was deeper than any physical change or hormonal imbalance. For ten years they tried to get pregnant and the four times they did ended in miscarriage. The cost of in vitro fertilization put financial strain on Tom, while the fertility drugs took their toll on Kate. Each time they lost a baby, a piece of Kate shut down. She couldn’t handle the guilt, knowing it was her fault they couldn’t conceive. Tom’s sperm was doing its job. He was perfect and she was not. She was failing. Kate’s depression became all encompassing and it drove Tom toward the one stable part of his world, work. He became a workaholic and Kate grew resentful of what she viewed as his inability to help her cope. Ten years later, they had not only grown distant, but had fallen apart.
“Mrs. Miller?” The young woman’s voice jolted Kate from her thoughts. “Your attorney has another hearing to go to now. Since Mr. Miller hasn’t arrived yet, we’re going to have to reschedule your appointment.”
Kate starred blankly. She felt disappointed, yet not completely deflated. Maybe this meant Tom had the same reservations she did about preceding down this path. Maybe it meant there was still some hope left in them, somewhere deep down. Maybe it merely meant he was too irresponsible to show up. She rescheduled the appointment and left. ...