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The divorce club, p.4
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       The Divorce Club, p.4

           Jayde Scott
 
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  "I did," Mindy says. "I cancelled my Botox appointments."

  I smile and nod. "Good for you, Mindy. Why go through with something that you don't even need. Look at you, there's not a single line on that smooth forehead of yours."

  "That's because we're not really talking about my forehead here."

  The boss again. I wonder whether she'll ever be bothered to attend this meeting herself instead of sending the poor personal assistant. "Do you actually get paid for all the extra hours you put in?" I ask, then shake my head because it's not really my problem. "Never mind."

  "I don't," Mindy says. "But I'm grateful for the experience. Judging from the statistics, I'll probably need the knowledge in a few years."

  I crane my neck to the site, only then noticing Jamie through the open door. He's standing in the hall, leaning against the wall, as he stares at his smartphone like it's about to start speaking. Maybe he's shy, or intimidated, with so many women around. We probably are an intimidating bunch.

  "Excuse me, everyone. I'll be right back." Clearing my throat, I stand and walk out.

  Jamie raises his gaze and squeezes his phone inside his pocket. "Oh, hello. Didn't see you coming."

  "Yeah, you were probably busy saving the world." I smile and reach out a hand, praying he won't grab it. He does, sending a pleasant jolt through my body. His palm feels surprisingly coarse for a man who spends his days sitting in an office. I pull back a little too quickly, but Jamie doesn't seem to notice. I continue, "Are you scared? Come on in. No one's going to bite off your head."

  He leans into me and whispers, "You sure? The meaty one looks quite menacing."

  "That's Lucy," I say. "She might come across like a dragon, but once you've warmed up to her she'll be like the mother you never had." Or the sex agony aunt, but I keep that part to myself. "They're just a bunch of women, not a species from space. I'm sure you've met a few in your life."

  Jamie cocks his head to the side and stares at the ceiling as though thinking. "Yeah, I might have met one or two. Don't think we got along that well. Nah, I'll wait here until you finish your class or employee meeting or whatever that is."

  Laughing, I grab his hand again and pull him toward the door. "Don't be shy. It'll be fun, trust me. Just sit down and listen until you start to feel comfortable. Your presence's broadening everyone's horizon."

  "Is that the therapy room?"

  "I'd rather call it our meeting room. It sounds less intrusive, don't you think?" I say. "Come on now."

  I push Jamie in and smile at the various emotions written on the ladies' faces. Lucy moistens her lips, almost leering as though she hasn't seen a man in twenty years. Simone's staring at the floor and I can't help but think that for such a sexy woman she's rather self-conscious. Shannon's face is blank as usual. And Mindy's mouth hangs wide open; her eyes sparkle with shock. Persuading her might prove to be a harder task than climbing Mount Everest.

  Chapter 5

  "Good evening, ladies," Jamie says.

  "He smells so delicious I want to take a bite," Lucy whispers, but in such a quiet room I wouldn't be surprised if I could hear her dirty thoughts with a bit of concentration.

  "This is Jamie. He's joining us." I point at the empty chair. "Please take a seat and help yourself to some coffee and a muffin. They're homemade." I did stir the contents of the packet and bake them in my oven, so it's not a complete lie.

  Mindy squints at me. "What's he doing here?"

  "I'm waiting for my class to start," Jamie says.

  "Join the club, mister. The only thing holding us up is you. Let's get back to work." I sit between Jamie and Lucy and start flicking through my papers to resume the session as I continue, "Now, I know it's hard having the enemy among us when we're still sore and vulnerable from their betrayal. But Jamie needs my help too, probably more so because he's a man and, let's face it, opening up doesn't come naturally to him."

  Jamie's still standing near the door, hesitation written on his face. "I'm sorry if you think I'm the enemy because I took one of your lady's spots. I don't mind giving you my place in line." He smiles at me. "See? Opening up my schedule does come naturally to me."

  Huh? I stare at him because I've no idea what he's talking about.

  "I don't know about this," Mindy says. "It doesn't seem right."

  "You should be thanking me for being such a wonderful person," Jamie says.

  "Exactly my point!" Mindy rolls her eyes. "Men want nothing but praise and glory. I'm here to spill out my guts and I have to thank you for listening because you're such a great guy?"

  "No appreciation," Jamie mutters, a flicker of amusement playing in his blue eyes.

  "I feel bad for your wife," Mindy says. "How does she deal with your inflated ego?"

  "Listen, I'm not here to get lectured," Jamie says. "I'm here for some rest, relaxation and reprieve from my problems. Guess I'll just roll with the punches, which I desperately wish were on my back."

  I open my mouth to speak, but Shannon beats me to it. "Look at him, the guy's shattered. You can tell from the dark circles under his eyes. I say we give him a chance."

  "Couldn't agree more." I peer at Jamie's confused face. "Now, our Mindy said after the last meeting she plucked up the courage to change something. Well done, Mindy. Did anyone else feel empowered?"

  Lucy and Shannon shake their heads. I stare at Simone who averts her gaze. The woman didn't mind calling me in the middle of the night, but give her daylight and any trace of courage's gone.

  "Simone, is there anything you'd like to share with us today?" I prompt.

  She regards me for a second, then shakes her head. "Nothing comes to mind."

  "She's hiding something." Lucy claps her hands. "Spill the beans, lassie."

  Simone lowers her gaze, a hint of a smile forms on her lips. "I think I did the exact opposite of empowerment."

  "You decided to give him another chance?" Mindy asks.

  "Nope, worse." Simone leans forward and whispers, "I had sex with Miles."

  "Why is that bad?" Jamie asks. "Unless he's a run-of-the-mill ax-wielding psycho." Everyone turns to face him. He shrugs. "Sorry, I seem to have missed the previous part, so I'm not up-to-date."

  "She's obviously trying to divorce him," I whisper.

  Jamie nods. "Right. Carry on, then."

  "But why would you do such a thing?" Shannon wails. "Do you have any idea what could've happened?"

  "A child, a STD," Shannon chimes in.

  "Or thinking everything's going to work out now and quitting the club," Lucy says. "You'd give Sarah a bad reputation. Not to mention, the guy might start thinking he can get away with anything because you're too weak to see your decisions through."

  Simone shakes her head. "He hasn't done anything, and I'm not that stupid. I know sex isn't the answer to our problems."

  "You'd be surprised," Jamie mutters, leaning toward me. "This is the club? The therapy you're offering?"

  "Yes. Now if you could just keep quiet. This is important," I hiss. "You'll get your time in the limelight, I promise."

  "Can we skip the talking? My neck's really sore." He is a disruptive and self-righteous, little boy. If it weren't for the money and the club's reputation I'd kick him out the door.

  "Talking can do wonders for a wounded soul," I hiss. "Now keep quiet."

  Jamie sighs. "I hope so because I hear this kind of therapy is one of the best antidotes for a stressed body and mind. I just hope I don't fall asleep."

  I feel bad for him. He must not be sleeping very much these days, what with always thinking of the ex, every minute of every hour.

  Jamie inches closer whispering, "Do you have a gentle touch?"

  "I do. I'll get you through this."

  "Finally somebody's talking my language. I don't think I can take the pain for another minute," Jamie says. "At work it's the worst."

  "Really?" I smile sympathetically. "Pain or not, you have to deal with life because hiding won't aid your natural healing
process. Be strong and fight by taking one day at a time."

  "Just be warned my feet are ticklish." Jamie winks. "That's a bit embarrassing actually, but at least I have no gross nail fungus or foot odour. You've probably seen your fair share of those."

  I can make no sense of his gibberish. He must be very confused inside. "Getting your feet wet is the first step to recovery. We'll get past that awkward tickle."

  He laughs. "This must be the hardest job you'll ever love."

  "Indeed. I don't just work on the outside, I listen." I turn toward the others. "Now, where—" But Jamie doesn't seem to get the message because he keeps talking.

  "I just want to feel my aches and stress melt away as I experience a new sense of freedom in my body. That's not too much to ask, is it?"

  "That's what we're here for," I say with a reassuring smile.

  He pats my hand. "You're a life saver worth every nickel. How about a little massage now?"

  I lean toward him and whisper in his ear, "Listen, mate. Just because I'm helping you get a divorce doesn't mean I'll take care of your other needs too."

  "A divorce?" He laughs. "Now that certainly explains what happened to the burning candles and the soft music in the background."

  "You were expecting candles?" Now it's my turn to laugh. "What do you think we're doing here? Holding a séance?"

  He shrugs. "No I thought I was meeting with a therapist who uses a 'hands-on' treatment to deal with my pain and aches."

  Anger's bubbling up inside me. "Find someone else to scratch those itches."

  "What?" Jamie laughs. "You might be my type but that's not what I'm looking for."

  "Good." I smile sweetly even though I'm embarrassed for thinking he actually expected sex. The ladies are staring at their papers, but I know they've tuned in to our little discourse.

  Jamie leans into me again as he whispers in my ear a little too loud, "So, how long will it take until you've sorted me out?"

  I sigh. "Patience is a virtue."

  "Lucky I have plenty of it or I'd be hitting the pavement. I guess good things are worth waiting for, right?" He grins, flashing all whites. "But still, it might affect your tip."

  "Sarah's therapy will change your life," Simone says.

  "So I hear and I can't wait."

  "She does wonders for me," Lucy says. "The pain's started to fade away a little at a time. I know soon I'll wake up in the morning and see a brighter future for the first time. Not least because the hubby's moving out this week."

  "Wow—" Jamie nods impressed. "You're that good, huh? I knew coming here was a great idea, but I never expected it to change my life."

  I clap my hands before he resumes his rambling. "Okay, ladies. Let's get back to work, shall we? As you may remember, last week's session was all about taking the blame—" I press my hands against my chest, then thrust them away in a half-circle "—and pushing it all away."

  From the corner of my eye, I notice Jamie whipping out the Evening Standard and flicking through the pages. The guy's unbelievable. "Sorry if my talking is interrupting your reading," I hiss.

  He doesn't even look at me. "Nah, I'll just entertain myself while you finish up your speech about the birds and the bees."

  "How can I help you if you throw yourself into a newspaper?" I shake my head.

  "You're not wearing your wedding band, but you're here." Mindy eyes Jamie suspiciously. I must admit that's an interesting question. If he has the power to pull off a wedding ring he shouldn't have a hard time initiating the separation.

  "Why would I wear a ring?" Jamie shrugs. "But I took off my watch because I thought it best to wear no jewelry so I could get the very best experience."

  "He's too hurt to deal with the agony," Simone says.

  Lucy inches forward to pat his knee. "If you're still in pain see me afterwards. We can dull it together over a few cosmos."

  "Lucy!" I hiss.

  "What?" she mouths, a leer spreading across her lips.

  The conversation moves back to Simone and her reasons for sleeping with the soon-to-be-ex, but I'm having trouble focusing as Jamie keeps glancing at me. He doesn't say another word until the session's over and the ladies say goodbye.

  "See you at your individual appointments," I call after them, but I doubt Mindy and Shannon can hear me as they walk away laughing, heading for the nearest pub.

  I turn away from the door and twitch as I notice Jamie standing mere inches away from me, too close for comfort. A grin's playing on his lips and his eyes sparkle with humor. "What's so funny?" I ask because it irritates me. "This isn't going to help you if you're not taking it seriously."

  "The Divorce Club—nice name." Bobbing his head, he hands me another cup of cold coffee and points at an empty chair. "How did you come up with this idea of helping others get a divorce?"

  "What's so bad about it? Just be grateful I did because otherwise you'd be on your own out there." I sit beside him and look away. He always makes me so defensive and I can't help it. I need to get a grip before I lose a client.

  "I never said it's bad. It's just—" he hesitates "—strange."

  "Well, thanks for finding me strange when you're here because you need help to break up with someone." I shouldn't have said that. For a moment, we just stare at one another, his mouth pressed into a tight line. Then he smiles.

  "You're right. I'm sorry. Friends?" He holds out his hand and I grab it.

  "Friends," I say, smiling. "Let's set up your timetable."

  Confusion crosses his features. He shrugs. "Sure."

  I retrieve a folder with the butterfly emblem from my desk and hand it to him. "Save your notes in here. I can lock them inside a drawer if you don't feel comfortable taking them home, in case she pries."

  Jamie nods. "Yeah, that might be a good idea."

  "What is it that keeps you from telling her the truth?" I start scribbling on the paper.

  "Sorry?"

  I look up, realizing my blunder. "Sorry, I assumed she was female. I—"

  Jamie cocks an eyebrow. "I like women. You assumed correctly."

  "Good guess." I laugh uncomfortably because he's giving me an odd look. I've no idea why he's regarding me like he's watching a comedy. "Well, I'm glad she's female because that's less complicated. I always thought a man would never have trouble breaking up with his partner, but your being here's just proof that men have feelings too."

  "Couldn't agree more on that one," Jamie says. "He hurt you, didn't he? That's why you came up with this idea."

  "And to pay the mortgage and for the kid's education." I nod. "Even though it might look like it, I'm not trying to take revenge on the male population. I just thought my experience may help others who find themselves in similar circumstances."

  "So you turned your experience into a business venture." His gaze is so…interested, I've no idea what to make of it because men don't usually listen.

  "Yes." I laugh because I still can't quite place him. "But we're not here to talk about myself. I want to hear all about her. I need to know everything to help you figure out the best approach."

  "Sure. Where do I start?" Jamie runs a hand through his hair and takes a deep breath, hesitating. "We've known each other for a long time."

  I nod, encouragingly. "You were childhood sweethearts?"

  "Sort of," Jamie says. He doesn't seem comfortable as he shuffles in his chair. So I write 'inexperienced' on my notebook as he continues, "Anyway, we got on well at times, but recently things have started to get a bit frosty."

  "Does she—what did you say her name was?"

  "Chloe."

  I jot down 'uncomfortable around her'. "Does Chloe ever want to get intimate?"

  Jamie laughs and shakes his head. I tell myself there's nothing unusual discussing his private life with a guy.

  "Do you think that lack of intimacy's what makes you want to get a divorce?" I ask, avoiding eye contact.

  "We don't love each other the way partners do," Jamie says.

&n
bsp; I close my notepad and turn to face him because I've heard enough. "You're a nice guy, I can tell." Jamie grins and opens his mouth to speak when I hold up a hand to stop him. "Wait, let me finish. The fact that you've known Chloe for such a long time might work against you because you weren't just lovers; a friendship developed and you still care for her wellbeing."

  Jamie bobs his head in agreement. "You're right about that. I don't want to see her hurt."

  "For that reason I suggest you move out as soon as possible to give you both the space to gain a new perspective. If you keep living together you'll just end up suffering even more."

  "We don't live together," Jamie says.

  Oh? Why does he need my help then? "That's a good start then. Does she live nearby?"

  Jamie hesitates again as though fighting with himself whether to lie or not. "We're neighbors. Moving away is out of the question."

  "You'll have to stay away from her." I lean forward, reaching out for his hand, then pull back as I realize what I was about to do. "Don't let her pop over or call until you've sorted out your mind and heart."

  "There's nothing to sort out. I'm ready for someone new." Jamie sets his jaw, avoiding my gaze. "But I'm not strong enough to do it on my own."

  "We'll be there for you," I say. "It seems like you have a hard time disconnecting emotionally, so I suggest we meet up next week and sort out your house to help you draw a mental line."

  "What do you mean?"

  I open my diary and skim through the pages as I search for a free slot. There isn't much on there, but he doesn't need to know. "What about Monday? I could squeeze you in before the next group session."

  "Not good. I have this regular meeting that takes forever," Jamie says. "I can do tomorrow."

  "On Saturday?"

  "Why not?" Jamie regards me amused. "You don't work Saturdays? Or do you have other plans already?"

  I shake my head. "Nope. Tomorrow sounds good."

  We agree to meet in front of his house at five so I can be home by seven to feed my daughter, then I accompany him to the door. For a moment we stand in the doorway, peering at each other awkwardly. The air's charged with something I haven't felt in a long time. I should move away and show him I've no intention in getting tangled up in whatever he's interested in but my head's not giving the signal. I'm single so what's the harm in a bit of flirting?

 
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