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The divorce club, p.2
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       The Divorce Club, p.2

           Jayde Scott
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  "You sure you want me to do this?" Shannon flicks her black hair back and points at bullet point number two on her list.

  For a moment I feel tempted to ask whether she has a better idea, but then I remind myself I'm supposed to be the professional one here, hence, no snapping, bitching, moaning or otherwise expressing my own self-consciousness in the way I interact with my clients.

  So I smile and grab her hand as I say, "Shannon, dear, trust me when I say once you're done with him, the idiot will wish he'd never messed with you in the first place."

  Shannon nods enthusiastically, blue eyes sparkling. "Yes, you're right. Sorry I got weak there for a moment. Won't happen again."

  I pat her hand and turn away, hoping I'm doing the right thing by reverting to such a cheap trick to get Shannon's visa and a one-way ticket to a cheap hotel for her straying soon-to-be-ex.

  "I'm off," Mel whispers in my ear, "you know, big launch party tonight. I can't miss it."

  "All right, thanks for stopping by," I say, feeling guilty for wishing Mel would've forgotten. After all, Sony at al. make gazillions a year already. One PR manager not showing up shouldn't make a difference to their bank account, but it could decide over whether I meet the mortgage payment this month.

  Mel smiles, hesitation written on her unnaturally smooth face, courtesy to lots of money spent in beauty parlors.

  "Off you go. Chop, chop, and don't forget to get loads of samples." I wave her out the door with an enthusiasm I don't feel.

  "Love you," she mouths and then disappears.

  I heave a big sigh and turn to face the room. My clients are still reading their papers, chattering as they compare their to-do lists.

  "Shall we get started, everyone?" The room falls silent and four pairs of eyes peer up at me. I wipe my damp hands on my oversized pencil skirt and sit on my chair in the circle. "Today we'll be working on Lesson One in our wonderful six-month program to get you where you want to be in life. I want you all to start thinking of yourselves as individuals rather than as part of someone else. To be able to do so, you'll have to work on your individuality and build self-confidence." I speak the words slowly as though they're Chinese. For a woman in the process of breaking free from the ego-killing bond of marriage I might as well be speaking a different language.

  "You want us to get all dolled up to land a guy, eh?" Lucy chuckles. "Well, fancy that. I'm in."

  I shake my head. "No, it's not about finding a man but finding contentment within yourselves. Getting a guy in the process is just a bonus."

  "So you're teaching us to start thinking like a lad, you know, being liberal and all," Lucy says.

  I cringe inwardly, sensing that I'm wasting my time with explanations here. The poor woman was married to a man who turned out to like men. How could I blame her for wanting to get laid to feel wanted again?

  "I think Sarah means we need to find our self-worth again after we let some guy treat us like crap," Mindy says.

  I stare at her, open-mouthed. For someone who's not even married Mindy knows a lot. She might just prove a natural when it comes to understanding the laws of attraction and why marriages are actually doomed to fail. "Well done, Mindy. That's exactly my point. In the coming weeks we will be talking about ways to achieve just that, but for now we'll start with a little blaming―and not ourselves, for a change."

  I stand and hand out blank sheets of paper and pencils, then sit again. "While I'm grabbing us all some coffee, you girls can jot down your husbands' flaws and actions that you think contributed to the breakup of your marriage. And no cheating because this is supposed to be an enlightening experience for everyone."

  As soon as I'm in the kitchen, I lean against the yellow wall and take a moment to smell my armpits and apply some more deodorant, then pop a chocolate praline―the Tesco's Value kind―into my mouth. A degree in psychology may have endowed me with knowledge about the human psyche, but it didn't turn me into a public speaker. A week ago, I was literally shaking at the thought of people staring at me, so I'm making progress here. Who knows, maybe by the end of the six months I'll have miraculously transformed into a conversation goddess that can enthrall a venue with a charming smile and small talk about the fairness of the new taxation system. But to actually know that I'd have to buy The Times. Spending unnecessary money on a newspaper doesn't rank high on my shopping list at the moment.

  Five minutes later and carrying a serving tray with five lukewarm mugs and some more value chocolates, I return to my clients. Shannon starts sipping, leaving sticky layers of glittery pink lip-gloss on the mug, while Lucy turns bright red, avoiding my gaze. Blaming isn't as easy as it seems.

  "Who's confident enough to start?" I fix my eyes on Simone, but it's Mindy who raises her hand. I point at her. "Please, feel free to speak whenever you want, Mindy."

  Mindy clears her throat and reads from her notes. "During my five-year marriage to Patrick―"

  "Wait," I interrupt. "I thought your employer sent you here."

  Mindy nods. "Yes, but she wants me to pretend I'm she so the research feels authentic."

  That's one messed up employer. She can't even be married without the personal assistant joining in. I smile. "Oh, I see. Sounds plausible. Please continue."

  "Well, Patrick's never given me an orgasm. Whenever I complained he said there must be something wrong with the way I'm built."

  "Oh, my god, that's awful. There's absolutely nothing wrong with you." I peer around the room, waiting for the others to join in, but there's complete silence.

  Eventually, Lucy laughs and pats Mindy's knee. "You held onto that hope for five years? I gave up after six months when I realized the guy had no intention to ever venture south, if you know what I mean."

  I gasp, unbelieving. "So you just did the deed without expecting anything in return?"

  "What was I supposed to do? He brought home the bacon." Lucy looks at me defensively and the others nod.

  "I had mind-numbing orgasms―with the help of my Rampant Rabbit," Shannon says.

  Heat's slowly crawling up my neck. "Shall we get back to the topic at hand?" I ask, trying to change the subject. "So, Patrick didn't care about your personal needs. What else about him did you find damaging to your relationship?"

  "He never tried to get along with my mother. He always made me feel stupid because he had a postgraduate degree and I didn't." I open my mouth to speak when Mindy holds up a hand as she continues, "And he favors strippers because I'm apparently not attractive enough―even after getting a boob job and Botox."

  The others gasp. Lucy places a hand on her large bosom and exclaims, "No!"

  Mindy shrugs. "I even got extensions and a bikini wax."

  Ouch. I hope Mindy's boss didn't actually force her to do that for research purposes. Smiling sympathetically, I hold out the tray to Mindy. She grabs a praline and starts nibbling, mouthing, "I didn't. The boss did. My hair's real."

  Huh? I peer at her, confused who got what now.

  "Actually, I tried the bikini waxing at home." Simone cringes. "So I sealed my private parts with hot wax. The pain was excruciating. I ended up walking like a penguin for a week."

  "No woman should be forced to go through that torture," Lucy says. "In my time, au natural was all the rage. I had lads queuing outside to get a look at my bush."

  Mindy almost chokes on her chocolate. I pat her back as I ask Lucy, "What do you think your husband did wrong?"

  Lucy scoffs. "You mean apart from making me dress up like Arnold Schwarzenegger and groan in a deep voice so he could perform?"

  I nod, wide-eyed, hoping she's not getting more explicit than that. Frankly, I've never been the inhibited type, but Lucy's starting to push my boundaries.

  "Let's see," Lucy continues, "he advertised his new-found sexual preferences on a dating site and expected me to help him sort through the phonies. And when he found a guy he asked me to sleep in a hotel so he could spend the night with the lad. Top that."

  Peering at her, I nod
some more. "What an awful man. What about you, Simone? Is there anything you'd like to blame your hubby for?"

  Simone shakes her head as she stares at a point behind me. "I don't think there is. We both made mistakes."

  "But there must be something that makes you boil inside," I insist.


  I tap a finger on my chin, thinking. "Let me see that list."

  She hesitates, but then hands over the paper. I peer down at the white space. There's nothing there.

  "There must be a reason why you want to divorce him," Mindy says.

  Simone laughs nervously. "It's not really that big a deal."

  I feel like telling her to just spit it out, but contain myself. What's the point in distressing her even more? "It's okay. Maybe another time."

  "No, it's not," Lucy says. "We gals have to trust each other. You've got to open up eventually, lassie."

  "I don't fancy him anymore," Simone whispers. I lean forward because I'm not sure I heard right. That's her big secret? For goodness sake, she wrote it down on the membership form.

  "You mean he doesn't take care of himself any more. Have you tried getting him a shower gel for his birthday?" Mindy asks.

  Simone shakes her head. "No, it's not that. He's very attractive―just not to me, and I've no clue why."

  "At least you're not finding that out after wasting your life on him," Lucy says.

  "Did you talk about divorce yet?" I ask.

  Simone shakes her head, wide-eyed. "I mentioned I might need some time alone, but he wants to wait things out. Maybe something's wrong with me."

  I smile and pat her knee because I know how she feels. "Don't worry about it. I have the perfect plan for you. You'll get him to fall out of love with you."

  She frowns. "How?"

  "Look at the five points on your individual plan."

  She starts searching through the papers in her folder, then reads out loud, "Put on weight and don't shave your legs, or armpits, or any part of your body for that matter. That's gross."

  I shrug. "But it'll get the job done. The next points will be more fun."

  "Don't wash his clothes and cook rotten meals, preferably ones that give him constant diarrhea. Wear a thong with a mini dress and bend over in front of his friends, preferably after you've gained weight." She laughs. "You can't be serious."

  "Okay, you don't have to pile on the pounds if you don't want to," I say. "Just focus on the last two points."

  "Treat him like a child and nag, nag, nag." Simone shakes her head. "I can't do that."

  "You want him to let you go, don't you?" Mindy says. Simone nods. "Then you'd better follow Sarah's advice and see what happens."

  "Exactly," I say. "If he's the one dumping you, you won't hurt his feelings which is something you seem to want to avoid at all costs." My phone beeps on the table, the first hour is up. I clap my hands. "Well done, everyone. I'm so proud of you. Let's meet in two days, same time, same place, and for those of you who have one, don't forget your individual appointments. If anyone needs to cancel or rearrange, give me a call."

  My clients stand and start stacking away their papers in oversized bags between makeup bottles, lipstick holders and powder brushes and, in Lucy's case, hundreds of chocolate wrappers. They air-kiss me, then flood out the door while I wave goodbye. I've barely managed to pick up the dirty mugs and carry them back to the kitchen when the bell rings.

  Assuming one of the ladies forgot something, I shout, "Come in. It's open."

  Heavy footsteps thud through the tiny hall. I wipe my hands on a kitchen towel and turn, almost bumping into a tall guy dressed in a suit, at least six feet, with cropped brown hair and piercing blue eyes. For a moment, I feel like I'm going to faint as hundreds of thoughts race through my mind. What if he's someone's husband and here to hurt me after finding out I'm helping the missus divorce him? Of course, he could be some psycho who's spied a lonely woman in a quiet residential area on a dark, cloudy evening. Why didn't I think of security or at least of locking the door?

  "Are you okay?" he asks, groomed brows furrowed. "You look like you're about to have a heart attack."

  I press my palm against my racing heart and smile nervously. "Maybe a tiny one."

  "I don't bite—" he smiles "—unless it's full moon."

  "What can I do for you?" Should I actually be so forthcoming? I remember reading somewhere that rapists take friendliness as some kind of sick invitation.

  The guy runs a hand through his hair as though it was longer until recently and he's still not used to its new length. His blue eyes scan the room, fixing on the floor. "I'm here to sign up."

  "You're here to do what?" I ask, unsure whether I've heard right.

  "Sign up," he repeats, this time a little louder.

  Why would he want to join my club―unless he's some sort of spy and only here to expose me? Then I remember, he can't expose me because I'm doing nothing illegal.

  "That's not possible." I walk past him to my office slash meeting room and start looking through the papers on my desk, hoping he'll get the hint and leave, but I can see I've no such luck.

  "Why not?" He slumps in the chair opposite from mine and puts his elbows on the scratched, wooden surface, his gaze connecting with mine. My heart skips a beat and my palms start to sweat as I search for excuses.

  "Because you're a man!"

  "What? You're kidding me."

  I shake my head. "No, you see, this club's for women only. I don't think my members would feel comfortable with you around." I'm actually talking about myself because he's making my knees all jittery. I've never been the confident type anyway―hence the need to transform myself into a social goddess through this club―but this is beyond ridiculous. I feel as though I'm fourteen again, waiting for the bus, and the school hottie's talking to me for the first time.

  "That's a sexist thing to say." He laughs, but the glint in his eyes conveys another message.

  "It's my club. I make the rules."

  "So you'd rather lose a potential customer than discard your sexist ideas?" He snorts. "What a great way to run a business. You'll go bankrupt in no time."

  I cross my arms over my chest. "I'm not a sexist."

  He cocks an eyebrow. "Well, in that case, you'll let me sign up because I've heard you're really good and the only institution offering this kind of treatment in town."

  "No, sorry." I shake my head.

  "No?" he asks, incredulously.


  Smirking, he stands and leans over the desk. "Listen, I'm not usually such a jerk but you leave me no choice. I need this, okay? My life depends on it. My―" he takes a deep breath as he struggles for words "―my whole existence does because I can't take it any more. I can't sleep or focus on work, meaning I could lose my job soon."

  I stare at him, lost for words. Granted, I anticipated my club would make someone feel like that one day, but the guy isn't even a member yet.

  "I'm sorry, I can't help you," I whisper, uneasiness creeping over me as he nods.

  "I will sue you." He says it so composed I'm not sure I've heard right.

  "Pardon me?"

  "Sexism is a crime in our politically correct times. You know what'll happen to your reputation once the media get hold of this?" He grins like a child in a candy shop. The first pangs of anger bubble inside me.

  "You wouldn't," I hiss.

  He smirks. "Oh, I would. Believe me, I would. I'm desperate enough to do it."

  I grit my teeth, wishing I could tell him that the word desperate doesn't even do him justice. The phone rings, jerking me out of my thoughts. Still looking at him, I pick up the receiver.

  There's music playing in the background―a fast bass beat accompanies one of the Black Eyed Peas' rap. After listening for a second or two, I realize someone's shouting, anxious to be heard through the noise.

  "Babe, can you hear me?" Mel's voice seems to be coming from Alaska.

  I smile, thankful for the distraction. "How's t
he party? Got any doggy bags?"

  "She brings you food?" the guy asks.

  "I meant goody bags," I hiss.

  "What?" Mel yells into my ear.

  Shouting, I repeat myself as I glare at the guy still sitting opposite from me. Social etiquette doesn't seem to be his strong point because he can't even be bothered to turn away and pretend he's not listening.

  "It's fab," Mel shouts. "You should see the fit lads in here, and everyone's wearing Armani."

  The guy snorts. "Who in their right mind defines attractiveness by the suit one's wearing? No wonder once the suit's off, so is the relationship."

  "And you're the expert on that field." I roll my eyes like Sam always does.

  "Darling, I can smell Armani from a mile," Mel says.

  My visitor shuffles in his seat, an unnerving smirk planted on his lips. "If she smells the Armani it makes one wonder what the guy smells, doesn't it?"

  "Not really." I point at the receiver. "Sorry, do you mind? I have an important conversation here."

  He holds up his hands in mock awe. "Of course. I wouldn't want to keep you from saving the world." He turns, muttering under his breath, "Or the whales."

  I bite my lip, struggling to keep a snarky remark to myself and focus my attention on Mel who's shouting, "Hey, are you still there? I can't hear a darn thing."

  "Then turn down the salsa."

  "It's pop."

  "Whatever. About the goody bags―"

  "I didn't forget about my best friend," Mel says. "They'll be delivered to your door first thing in the morning."

  Cradling the receiver between my shoulder blade and my cheekbone, I clap my hands. "What's inside? I'd love some perfume because Sam's used it all up."

  Mel laughs. "I won't tell, but you'll love it."

  "How I wish I worked in PR."

  "So you can party day and night, and die of an enlarged liver from all the alcohol?" My visitor, completely forgotten to me for a brief moment, snorts. "Now there's a hefty goal."

  "Not everyone wants to be a surgeon," I hiss. "What did you say you do?"

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