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The divorce club, p.11
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       The Divorce Club, p.11

           Jayde Scott
 
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  "You wanted an appointment to talk about your mortgage?" Jake glances from Shannon to me as though he's talking to neither of us specifically.

  "Yes, and this is my legal advisor." Shannon points at me and leans forward, her breasts almost spilling over the trimming of her tight top. "She's helping me out with my divorce."

  Jake can't resist a fleeting look at her cleavage before he starts skimming through his papers. "Will you be selling?"

  Shannon shakes her head. "No. I want to keep the house, but I'm scared I might not be able to because I'm not a British citizen."

  "There's no law that says a foreigner can't buy a house in the UK," I say. "However, she'll need a reference for the Home Office since she doesn't have indefinite leave to remain yet."

  "You're still a homemaker?" Jake frowns and looks up at her. "How will you repay the mortgage?"

  "I'm only unemployed because I'm still waiting for my work permit," Shannon says. "After I get it, I'll find a job."

  "Maybe you should stay married until you get the work permit," Jake says.

  Shannon snorts. "You mean, stay with the cheating jerk? I can't work it out with a lying sociopath who comes home at all hours of the night smelling of cheap perfume. Do you want to hear all the ugly details?"

  I nudge her. "He doesn't have all day."

  Jake's eyes widen. "He cheats on you? The guy must be blind."

  "All men cheat. It's biological," Shannon says. "Men are born to spread the seed. It's programmed in their DNA."

  Jake shakes his head. "No, not all men."

  "Let me tell you, they're all morons," Shannon continues. "Not you, of course, but—"

  Shannon's digging herself a deep hole. I need to intervene, so I lean forward until Jake peels his gaze off Shannon and say, "I sense you're a man of integrity. You'd never cheat."

  "My mum would flipping kill me if I brought home a different girl every month, and then who'd drive me to work? I hate the British public transport."

  Oh, goodness. He still lives with Mummy and doesn't own a car. Cut the cord, boy. Leave the nest. Spread your wings and fly. I wonder if I'd give this same advice to Sam if she lived with me at twenty-two.

  "Listen, Shannon, I'd advice staying with the jerk, just until the papers go through. Sleep in different bedrooms," Jake says.

  He's a clever guy, I can tell. But he's also weak in that he has the bank's benefits at heart. I sigh and start drumming my fingers on the table. "Jake." He pries his gaze from Shannon cleavage and faces me again as I continue, "I'm an immigration attorney with a City firm. It's my job to finalize her divorce just as much as it's my job to get her a work permit. I've never failed. In fact, I can't fail because I love my six-figure salary too much."

  He grimaces, probably wondering where I'm heading with my rant. Shannon shoots me an encouraging look, so I take a deep breath and go on. "You're a good employee, eager to move up the career ladder. The thing is, you won't because we're talking about a huge mortgage here. A mortgage that Shannon's nasty husband Miles will take to the competition."

  "He's never liked this bank. Always said it isn't posh enough and his friends at the golf club are laughing at him." Shannon shuffles in her seat and moistens her lips, the pink tip of her tongue leaving a moist trail. Jake leans back, pink spots spread across his cheeks.

  "How fast can you provide a reference?" I ask. "It doesn't have to be as long as a novel; just a few lines that you're willing to consider letting her keep the house in spite of being unemployed because she's such a valuable asset to the United Kingdom, that she's made the mortgage repayments on time and so forth. You know the drills."

  "Shannon's definitely an asset to our country." Jake seems less sure of himself; the lines on his forehead turn into visible furrows. "I'll have to talk to my supervisor first."

  "You don't have time, Jake." I shake my head. "We need this reference letter by tomorrow which is why I've taken the liberty to type it up for you. All you need to do is get out the stamp and sign the line. We're doing your career a favor here, and you know it. Do you have any idea how much money you're losing the bank if you let a half-million mortgage go? You'll end up either in the cashier's office or at Jobseeker's."

  "That'd be a shame because I always thought you did a great job," Shannon says. "Unfortunately, my husband never agreed."

  "Please don't tell anyone I did this." Jake starts reading the sheet of paper I pushed toward him and gets out the bank's stamp. I hold my breath as he puts his signature on the last page, then pushes it back toward me. "The husband will still have to sign the house over to you."

  "He will." Either that or he'll have to fork out Shannon's money. The way he spends most of what he earns on partying and women, I don't see him being able to afford a settlement any time soon. I stand and wait for Shannon to do the same. "You've been a darling, Jake. Thank you for your time."

  "If you need anything, here's my number." Jake scribbles on the back of his business card. "You can call me any time."

  Smiling, Shannon drops the card inside her bag and we walk out slowly, my heart beating faster than before. I don't know why, but for some reason I feel as though I've just robbed the bank.

  "My parents would love him. I bet a guy like Jake would treat me like gold and never cheat on me. And I'd always know where he was," Shannon says.

  "On the computer." I laugh. "If he left to go to the store, he'd probably make sure to update you on Facebook."

  She laughs. "Or Twitter. Too bad he's too young for my blood."

  "Now, we talked about dating too quickly." I give her shoulder a squeeze. "You did good in there. I knew we'd convince him to assist us."

  "I'm just so thankful for your help. Still, I might not even get permanent residence status."

  I huff as I jump onto the passenger seat, then slam the door and wait for her to start the engine. "I know. But providing a reference that you own a house and invest into this country is the best way to go about things."

  "Apart from simply staying married," she whispers. Her voice is dripping with bitterness. I'd like to deny it, but I can't because she has a point.

  "Sometimes there's more than one solution to a problem. You'll just have to find out what works for you."

  Even though cars are waiting in line for the parking space, Shannon doesn't pull out just yet. She grabs my hands and turns to face me, a weak smile playing on her lips. "Thank you. I wouldn't have had the guts to go through with it without you."

  I smirk, embarrassed. "You needed the right kick to get things in motion. Don't thank me just yet. There's still a long way to go, and the hard nuts are yet to be cracked."

  She smiles, but I can see a glint in her eyes that wasn't there before. For the first time, I'm proud of what I'm doing because I feel as though I've contributed to something big.

  "I'll drive you back. You probably have a thousand other things to do," Shannon says.

  "Not really. If you don't mind I'd like to have that cake. I haven't had any since—" I tap a finger against my lips in mock concentration "—yesterday."

  "Yeah, at the meeting." Shannon laughs, and I join in. I might have had a hard time divorcing Greg, but it was nothing compared to what Shannon's going through. If there's anything I can do to help her feel less lonely and helpless in the process, I'll do it.

  Chapter 13

  Five clients, two individual meetings and three group meetings—I knew taking on this much work would prove a tough task. It's only Tuesday and I'm already knackered. Sam's home when I arrive back from my meeting with Shannon. Surprisingly, she's in a good mood, which is a real bonus in addition to not having to chase her around London's shopping centers. Thank God, I never see her with new things; otherwise I might be inclined to believe she shoplifts.

  I enter the kitchen and find her sitting at the table, frowning over a few sheets of paper. "Had a good day?" I ask as I bend over to kiss her forehead. She must be so frustrated with math that she doesn't even pull back. I have to admit
I'm enjoying her falling into little girl mode after all the snapping and shouting from the last few months.

  "Jamie called," she says without looking up.

  "He did?" My heart skips a beat. What's with this guy and his constant influence on my organs' functions? He's like a Shaman able to influence the weather; only, Jamie can probably give one a heart attack and then summon a pulse back to life. "What did he say?"

  "That he's not coming to tomorrow's session."

  "Why not?"

  Sam rolls her eyes. "Mum, how would I know? I'm not a mind reader. Give him a call and ask."

  A bell rings at the back of my head. Why didn't he call me on my mobile? Suspicion's crawling up on me again. One hears so many awful things nowadays so, naturally, as a parent one can't be too careful. "Did he say anything to you?" I try to keep my tone calm and nonchalant, like asking a friend about a piece of clothing that was supposed to go on sale last week.

  "Just that he's looking forward to France."

  "That he's looking forward going with us, or going with you?"

  Sam peers up from her papers; her forehead creases into a frown. "I don't know."

  Why doesn't she know? How can she not remember a few words? I wish I could pester her a little more, but she regards me intently, so I decide to change the subject before she starts asking questions. "How's math going?"

  Her expression changes from bad to worse. I wish I had considered talking about the weather or, even better, just disappear from the surface of earth.

  "It's all right," Sam says.

  "Really?"

  She glares at me. "No, Mum. Not really. I can't read minds and perform miracles, all at the same time."

  "I just thought—" I think of Jamie's advice: don't show them you're scared, but Sam's already jumped up from her seat and disappeared out the door.

  For the first time, I'm wondering why I didn't stay married for the sake of my sanity. Greg and I could've ended up in an endless loop of silent treatment, but at least my daughter wouldn't hate me now. I spend the rest of the evening on the sofa, too exhausted to bemoan my fate.

  It's midnight when I finally manage to drag my wearied body out of the comfy depth of the cushions and amble to the kitchen for a glass of water to soothe my dry throat. The stack of dirty dishes piles high in the sink. I feel bad for being such an irresponsible role model, but I try to convince myself that I will get up early in the morning and take care of the mess before my daughter has a chance to spy it.

  Even though I haven't heard from my stalker in forty-eight hours, I check the doors and windows one last time before retreating to bed. I've barely closed my eyes when the door opens and the shadow of a thin figure walks in. A shriek escapes my throat; my hand clasps around the lamp on my bedside table, not to switch on the light, but to use it as a potential weapon.

  The figure doesn't seem to notice as she jumps on the bed and snuggles under my blanket.

  "Why are you shaking, Mum?" Sam whispers. Her voice is thick with sleep.

  "What's the matter? Can't you sleep?" I rub a hand over her back to distract myself from the tingling sensation in my left arm.

  "I dreamed of Dad and you. He's probably busy having another baby now."

  "Shush." I draw her closer to my chest and bury my face in her soft hair, hoping she won't feel the moisture on my cheeks. Sam must be psychic because no one else knows Greg's mistress was pregnant by the time the divorce went through. Knowing he fathered her child gave me the strength to stay strong and see my decisions to the end.

  "Do you think she's smarter than me?" Sam's voice jolts me out of my contemplation. I thought she was asleep.

  "Who, sweetie?"

  "The baby," she says softly. "I bet she wouldn't fail math like me."

  "You didn't fail."

  She snorts. "Yet."

  "Look at me." I spin to regard her even though it's too dark to see more than a blurry shape. "What's happening right now is not your fault. Failing math isn't your fault either. Do you hear me?" She nods, her whole body trembling slightly. I continue, "All you have is a few concentration issues because your world was turned upside down. In no way is this a reflection of your intelligence, Sam. I don't ever want to hear you talking like this again."

  "But he still loves them more than us." Sam turns her back on me and cuddles under the covers. I snuggle next to her and keep silent because I can't argue with that. He must've loved them more, otherwise he wouldn't have found it so easy to betray us.

  ***

  Like Sam said, Jamie doesn't turn up for the meeting. He doesn't call either, which makes me nervous because I'm not sure what's going on. Granted, I could've phoned him, but that's not what my generation would do, and so I just wait, hoping, praying and hating him more and more the longer I hear nothing.

  He's just entered my life and already I'm finding it hard to think of anything else but him. It's called infatuation, having a crush on someone, wanting to possess—all the things that have nothing to do with love, and yet I still can't bear to think of anything else but him. Even though I'm exhausted and wish for the quiet life I led before, I'm also grateful that the club keeps me occupied so I don't go bonkers.

  I glance around the room in the hope Jamie might materialize miraculously. Of course, he doesn't. My heart pounds. How can he desert me like this?

  "Looking for Mister Tall, Dark, and Handsome?" Lucy asks.

  "Not really." I frown, eager to find out whether the others know more. "But since you're mentioning him, where is he?"

  Mindy laughs. "I bet Lucy scared him off last week with all that talk about dating an older woman."

  "He's running for the hills," Shannon says.

  "Let's face it," Lucy says. "Older women have more experience. I can teach that kid a few tricks that'd make him scream like he never screamed—"

  "Lucy!" I say. "Please, spare us the details."

  "What?" She shrugs. "I'm telling you that Jamie was giving me bedroom eyes."

  "And you wonder why he's not here," Simone says. "I'm actually glad because now I can talk more freely. This place is for women, not men. Besides, he's probably out with his new girlfriend, that lucky duck. Can you blame him?"

  Shannon smiles. "I'd love to be the girl he can't stop thinking about. I wonder who she is."

  "She's too young for him," Lucy says. "She can't satisfy him like I could."

  "Hey, Lucy, if you need to teach a few tricks to a kid, I know this loan consultant. He's blond, young and looking for some experience. His name is Jack." Shannon winks at me.

  "It's Jake," I say, smiling. "Don't even go there. He could never handle Lucy, and his mum would kick him to the curb."

  I try to pretend I don't care that Jamie isn't here, but inside I'm fuming. What's more important than the club? I'm turning into a sad, infatuated teenager.

  "Are you okay, Sarah?" Mindy asks. "You look flushed."

  "I'm fine. Thanks for asking."

  "Well, drink plenty of fluids and don't get sick on me. It's essential we keep you healthy."

  "You're right." I nod, determined. "Jamie's not here and that's his loss. Now, back to business. Let's talk about this week's lesson."

  In Jamie's absence, the meeting continues smoothly. Before I know it, it's over and I'm about to meet Mindy for her individual appointment. For the first time, I've no idea what to expect because, let's face it, pretending to be married with the boss's husband to help the boss divorce him is crazy even for me. Funnily enough, she's giving me a tour of the boss's house and then I'm supposed to take it from there. I've no idea why we're doing this, but apparently it's important.

  "Should we get started straight away, or do you want a drink first?" Mindy asks as soon as she's hung up my coat and slipped some plastic bags under my heels.

  "You know where the hubby keeps the key to the liquor cabinet?"

  She smiles. "I just might, but let's go upstairs first."

  I can't believe what I'm doing. "I'm going to need a stiff
one after this."

  She giggles. "It's not that bad."

  "Where are they anyway?"

  "Eating out," Mindy says.

  "Playing house when the folks aren't home isn't my cup of tea. I know your boss wants us to frame him, but I'm not keen on any fancy accessories. Especially not after I drain the liquor cabinet from all the stress of leaving no evidence behind."

  She laughs. "What?"

  Rolling my eyes, I hold up my hands. "Jangling sterling silver bracelets fitted tightly around my wrists."

  "Stop it. We're not going to get arrested." Mindy leads me upstairs to the bedrooms and opens the first door. "Now, this is where he sleeps."

  I nod. "The place where all the magic happens. Why would I actually need to see this?" I'm hesitant to step into a stranger's bedroom, but Mindy doesn't seem to mind invading another's privacy and starts opening one drawer after another.

  "Last time I checked he had a huge box of condoms in here," she says. "Maybe he found out that I know and moved them."

  I shrug. "Maybe the happy couple uses protection."

  Mindy shakes her head. "No. Trust me, when this guy invests in a box and doesn't tell his wife, something's seriously wrong."

  At least the man has the dignity to stay safe. Greg didn't care for anyone's health. I know because if he did his mistress wouldn't be knocked up now.

  "They've only been here for a few weeks." Mindy stops and stares at me expectantly. I'm supposed to say something, but what? Mindy digs her fingernails into my upper arms. "Come on, just tell me. Knowing the truth will help a lot."

  "I—" What does she want to hear?

  "It's no longer just strippers, is it?" Mindy slams the drawer shut and stomps down the stairs. I hurry after her, flabbergasted. And then the meaning of her words slowly dawns on me.

 
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