The Divorce Club, p.24Jayde Scott
I groan. "Go away."
"How could you drag our daughter's happiness into that business of yours?" He takes a menacing step forward, poking a finger into my chest. "Taking your clients on business trips with your daughter sleeping nearby is bad enough. But meeting guys in a bar, what sort of mother would do that? I don't know who you are any more."
Huh? I shake my head, all happiness from finding out Jamie meant well with some of his lies evaporating into thin air.
"I called the police and they told me everything," Greg yells. "What were you thinking?"
"No. They told you what they think happened because some moron, like you, couldn't keep it in his pants." I narrow my eyes, scanning him up and down so he feels my disdain. "You should be the last person to judge me, Greg, but I won't go into detail here because I'm sick of playing the blame game."
I continue, "I knew about you and your mistress long before you told me. Yet, I remained quiet for Sam's sake. The only reason why I'd like to keep you in my life is that she needs a father, even if it's a crappy one like you." I pause for effect. He doesn't seem too affected by what I have to say though. "You don't seem to realize that's a privilege. Please leave now."
"Sarah." He grabs my arm. "If I leave now, I'll never come back."
Yanking my arm free, I open my mouth to speak when I realize Sam's standing in the doorway, staring at us. No child should witness a scene thick with so much acrimony and hostility. For Sam's sake, I curl my lips into a smile. "Why don't you stay for dinner?"
Greg follows my line of vision. The sudden grin on his face looks probably just as fake as mine. "But only if you promise to behave. I think this is yours." He reaches into his pocket and retrieves what looks like a check. I stare at the amount. It doesn't cover the past few months, but it's a start.
As he walks past I whisper, "Nothing's changed between us. I'd still kick you out if I could."
He smiles and grabs Sam in a hug, lifting her off the ground and spinning her in an awkward circle. I laugh with her because I know if I don't, I might just burst into tears.
"Mum?" Sam turns to face me, her eyes shining with seriousness. That instant, I realize my baby's slowly turning into a woman.
She grabs my hand and gives it a squeeze. "You should call Jamie. What he did wasn't so bad, you know?"
"He lied," I whisper, my chest constricting.
"He wanted to tell you in France." She winks. "It's not his fault you didn't listen."
My jaw drops. "You knew?" How come he confided in my daughter, but not in me?
She nods. "He made me promise I wouldn't tell you before he got a chance."
I don't know what to say except that I should be angry with her for keeping his secret, but I can't.
"You can date him. I won't be angry," Sam continues.
Pulling her close, I wrap my arms around her and cuddle her head against my chest as I whisper, "Thank you."
She shrugs and pulls away, a soft smile playing on her lips. She may slowly be turning into a woman, but to me she still looks like a little angel and I hope that won't change any time soon.
I want to call Jamie so badly that it hurts, so I prepare dinner and decide to skip it, heading for the privacy of my bedroom. My fingers hover over the receiver as my mind comes up with countless excuses why making a move isn't such a good idea after all. Granted, I might've overreacted a little and it is my fault we aren't on speaking terms, but I can't bring myself to initiate contact. What am I supposed to say? That I turned into a bitter, man-hating witch and that he was right all this time? I know I have become wary of anything male coming my way, and yet I can't seem able to admit it just yet.
Sighing, I switch on the computer and start working on the next meeting's lessons. I've barely managed to put down a few words and my mind's drifting away already.
The next morning, Keith Andrews calls to inform me Patrick McDonaghue has dropped all charges because of a 'misunderstanding'. Keith doesn't fail to mention that Jamie's firm is a business partner of McDonaghue's. I hang up the phone with mixed feelings. Am I supposed to send chocolates and a thank-you note now? I decide to leave a message for Mel and then go about the household chores: doing the laundry, cleaning after Sam and Greg, and finally preparing lunch and dinner so I won't have to do it before I leave for the club. Frankly, it's all turned up like it was before with the exception of a job. I can't say I'm happy.
For the first time since opening the club, I'm late. As I pull the car in the parking space, the lights are already switched on. Mel must've opened shop for me tonight. Then I realize I gave Shannon a key since she's my new employee, which leaves me with exactly two clients: Lucy and Mindy. After the McDonaghue disaster who knows how things stand with the latter.
"Sorry I couldn't get here faster. The traffic was crowded." I hang up my coat and peer in.
"Don't worry," Shannon says, handing me a cup of coffee. "I hope you don't mind I didn't wait for you."
"Not at all." I smile and grab my coffee, warming up my freezing hands.
"Can I talk to you for a moment?" Mindy asks. I nod and lead her to the kitchen, dread settling in the pit of my stomach because I sense what she has to say.
Smiling, she takes a breath. "I didn't get the chance to tell you I'm sorry for what happened."
I nod even though I'd like to point out that she could've squeezed in an apology after we left the police station. A phone call wouldn't have hurt either. "The guy dropped the charges. Jamie sorted it all out." Even saying his name is painful.
"That stunt yesterday got me thinking. Remember what you said at McDonald's?" Mindy's gaze meets mine. I try to look as though I know what she's talking about. She laughs uncomfortably. "You said this situation isn't healthy for me, and you were right."
"She fired you. I'm so sorry." I grab her hands because I feel awful. Without a proper reference Mindy might not find the kind of job she wants.
"No." She shakes her head. "I quit."
My jaw drops. "Why would you do such a thing? I thought you needed the experience."
Mindy shrugs. "I'm way too good for that old witch. I found out she's just as cheating and manipulative as Patrick. She wanted to have pictures of him because he has some of her and her lovers, and she feared he'd go public if she didn't agree to his divorce terms."
"She dragged you into her dirty laundry without telling you the truth. That's mean."
"Anyway, I've ripped the pictures to shreds and then told her to look for someone else to help her with her schemes," Mindy says. "If it wasn't for you to open my eyes, I wouldn't have realized my job duties had nothing to do with those of a real personal assistant."
"What are you doing to do now?"
Mindy smiles. For a moment her eyes light up. "I'll follow your example and set up my own agency."
"Good for you." I don't want to point out that my own agency might close soon if I don't find new clients.
For a moment, we just smile at each other. Mindy seems to be mentally preparing for breaking the big news. I feel bad for myself, but I feel even worse for her. She might've tried to manipulate me into doing some stupid things, yet holding a grudge against a friend's the last thing on my mind.
"I guess you won't need my services any more, huh?" I nudge. She nods as though a heavy burden has just been lifted off her shoulders. I wink. "Come on. You've got to say goodbye to the others. I bet they'll miss you."
We've barely reached the living room when the doorbell rings. I hurry to open, stunned to see a middle-aged guy clad in a cheap business suit.
"Can I help you?" I ask.
"I'm Prishan Patel from your local council. You were reported for running a counseling business for which you don't have a license."
I stare at him, dumbfounded. I'm sure I didn't forget to get a license. Or did I? "If you could just wait a minute."
Slamming the door in his face, I run back to the meeting roo
"Hey, it's me," I say. "Listen, I've just heard the wildest story about the club not having a license." I laugh because the insinuation is ridiculous. There must be a misunderstanding, and in a minute it'll all be sorted out.
"Oh?" Mel's tone is high-pitched. My heart's fluttering in my chest. "Wasn't it that brown envelope you asked me to post a few weeks ago?"
"Yes, the one with the hundreds of forms, references and all the certified copies of my diplomas." I start rubbing my temples. First I'm losing my clients and now I realize I can't even have any because anything related to counseling and psychology is a highly regulated business that involves proving one is qualified to do this kind of job.
Silence, then, "What would you say if I told you I left it on my desk?"
"For weeks? Mel!"
"It wasn't forgetting as much as dropping it off and then losing it." Her voice trails off. I wish she were here so I could strangle her.
"Do you have any idea how long it took me to get all that stuff together?" The room's fallen silent and everyone's looking at me. The doorbell rings again. Who could blame the guy for doing his job? I wish Mel could've taken hers just as seriously.
"I looked for it," Mel says.
Yeah, right. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"See, after looking, I forgot. You're mad, aren't you?"
I shake my head. "Just don't expect brunch in the near future. I've got to go and sort out this mess you caused."
"Sarah," Mel says, "I'm—"
I hang up because I can't take another apology tonight.
The guy's still standing outside. I smile, but don't invite him in. "Looks like I forgot to post the application package and it got lost in the process."
"Then you'll have to close shop until you get your license," he says.
"But I talked to an advisor who assured me there's no way I wouldn't get my license with my qualifications. Can't you just give me a few days?" I bat my lashes. "Please, I can't afford the financial loss. Things are looking really bleak right now."
"We know you're a registered psychologist, however, regulations are regulations," he says. "We still need to see all documents. Until you provide everything we need, there's nothing we can do. I'm sorry about that."
"Yeah," I mutter as I close the door behind him. It's all my fault. I should've checked with the council instead of relying on an unofficial confirmation that's useless. I just assumed it took them longer to get the formal letter to me.
The room's still quiet as I return. "Ladies, can I have your attention please." I peer from one face to the other. "I'm sorry to say the club's closed until further notice. You'll receive a refund for the rest of the month as soon as I get to the bank."
Lucy inches closer and pulls me in a tight hug, whispering soothing words in my ear, but I'm too numb to hear or feel a thing.
The Divorce Club's closed. I can't wrap my head around it. Even though it's been in business for a few weeks only, I feel as though my heart, or what's left of it after the Jamie disaster, has just been torn to shreds.
"Hey, babe," Greg greets me at the door.
I slam it shut and dash past him shouting, "Well done! You should be proud of yourself. Now we're both unemployed." I know it's not his fault, and yet I can't help feeling bitter toward him. If it weren't for his stalking and the consequent messing up with my sanity, I might've thought about calling the council to make sure they received my application.
"What's wrong with you?" he asks, but I can't be bothered to answer.
I spend the evening sulking in my bedroom, searching through my documents. Of course, I didn't keep copies. That would've made my life way too organized and easy. Greg knocks on my door a few times. I ignore him. The phone rings. Without looking at the caller ID, I switch it off and bury myself under my sheets, my tired mind surprisingly devoid of thoughts.
The next few days pass in a blur. I don't know how I survive filling out countless forms and photocopying everything related to my degree while taking care of Sam. Greg's surprisingly mellow as though he understands the seriousness of the situation, or maybe he's just concerned about the financial aspect of me losing the business. I know I won't be able to hide forever, but my club's reputation has taken a blow, which makes me self-conscious and unwilling to face the world.
I drive to the council to hand in the documents to an advisor rather than post them, lest something happen again and the club remain closed. I arrive home with a few hours to spare before cooking dinner when I notice the letter in the post. The writing seems familiar. I can't place it, so I tear open the envelope, frowning as I see the name at the bottom. Jamie.
Holding my breath, I skim the text, then slow down to read it once more since I can't believe my eyes. He couldn't possibly mean it. I'm fuming; my blood runs hot and cold. I always knew once I established my business idea people would copy it in a heartbeat if they realized its financial potential like it happened to match.com, Facebook et al. But I never figured Jamie would try to steal my customer base.
I enter the living room to inform my daughter I might need to spend the evening plotting someone else's downfall and find her sitting on the sofa, giggling with Jamie. For a moment, I'm left speechless and my heart drops. He looks so handsome in a pair of casual jeans and a shirt with his hair all in a mess. Then I remember he's my rival.
"The girls told me about the club." He inches closer, stopping a step away from me, hesitation written on his face. I could make a move now, ease the tension, and tell him everything's all right between us, but I won't because he's a traitor.
"Really? You must've been shaken up for all of five minutes, or as long as it took you to realize with the competition held up you could start your own business." I snort. "I bet you even employed someone to design something as fancy as this." I toss the invitation toward him.
He frowns. "What?"
"Don't quit your day job," I hiss. "You'll end up starving."
"And there I thought you might be interested in a new position since you have so much free time on your hands." He cocks a brow. I know he wants to say something, but my mind can't grasp the meaning of his words.
"He's offering you a job, Mum," Sam says. "I think his exact words were that he actually needs someone to run the place because he has no clue what it's like being divorced."
"You—" My voice trails off.
"It's more of a business partnership." Jamie grabs my arm and pulls me closer, his eyes twinkling. "Let's face it, Sarah, you're an awesome life coach. Heck, there was a time you had me convinced I was married and needed to get rid of the nagging wife. But you honestly suck in business matters. How could you forget to file a business license?"
I shake my head. "Mel—"
Jamie cuts me off, "You're lucky I'm good at that. Nothing against Mel, but you need a major advertising campaign, a proper PR manager who isn't blinded by Armani suits and, most importantly, a location that is on Google Maps and doesn't look like a drug lair."
"What's wrong with 21 Terrace Street?" I ask.
"Let me think." He taps a finger against his chin. "The scratched floors, the peeling plaster, the thin walls through which you can hear the flushing toilet in the adjacent building. Need I go on?"
I laugh. "Enough already."
"I'm a businessman, but I don't want to spend the rest of my life working in the city. What do you say I invest in your idea for let's say, a forty per cent share?"
"What?" I snort. "No way. You get fifteen, and it's my last offer."
"You're trying to rip me off." The corners of his lips twitch.
"Fifteen sounds like a fair deal to me," Sam says.
"Whose side are you on, Sam?" His gaze doesn't leave mine. My heart skips a beat as I realize what this could really mean. I might be jumping to conclusions here, but it s
"Fifteen," I whisper. "And dinner as often as you want."
"Only if breakfast's included." He winks.
I nod because I can't get another word out. Jamie's lips lower onto mine, hesitant at first. I open my mouth to welcome his and bury my fingers in his unruly hair, drawing him closer because this is one kiss I'm not going to run away from.
"Get a room," Sam says, but it could've also been, "Holy gloom." I don't know, since the only thing I can be certain of is Jamie's hot breath meeting mine and the consequent somersaults inside my stomach.
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Jayde Scott, The Divorce Club
The Divorce Club by Jayde Scott / Romance & Love / History & Fiction / Mystery & Detective have rating 3.6 out of 5 / Based on25 votes