About The Divorcer
Post 290: The Divorcer
Episode 2: Chapter 2 Begins
Chapter 1: A Mutt and a Sphinx
“I’m thinking about your happiness.” He flashes a practiced smile, places a warm hand on the listener’s shoulder. “I’ve seen this a thousand times. All will be well.”
It only takes a moment for Cole Cavanaugh to reanimate a dribbling despondent into something resolute. And so it goes again. The resolute, Cole’s client, walks away with firm and free steps. Like a prisoner unshackled for the first time in years, ready to really witness a sunrise, to really breathe.
Selling futures. People futures. That was Cole’s job. The essence of it, anyway.
“Send the next one in, Clara.” One in, one out. All different and all the same. All that crap. People at the supposed nadir of their lives, whatever that life was or was meant to be.
“But maybe he’ll take me back,” the next one pleads.
“Oh, he’ll take you back, but the other girls, he’ll keep them. You deserve better. You’ve earned better.”
“My church frowns on divorce,” cries the following. Pedestrian. Always a workaround.
“Look, I’m not a member of the Cloth, but God doesn’t want you unhappy.”
He has become an institution of his own to the denizens of Fort Worth, Texas. Not that he pays a great deal of mind to their opinions. He’s been called a necessary evil, plain evil, an emotional war profiteer. Whatever.
“Isn’t it a valuable institution? Worth preserving?” asks another. The invocation of the word institution snaps him back. He’s been drifting. It can be monotonous at times.
One in, one out.
He watches another striding out of his office, scribbles a few notes, sits back in his chair. A look at the clock. It’s one of the only items on his desk. He doesn’t want people wasting time, getting distracted by a picture of him holding a fish or a keepsake from a dearly departed ancestor. Time is the regulating principle, the baseline for his business. He looks again. Almost five. A few minutes until the last consultation of the day. A moment to think. He tries not to. Overrated.
It was not always so. Fifteen years ago, Cavanaugh was fresh out of Harvard Law, wide-eyed, a champion of the downtrodden. He had a small criminal law practice, defending the innocent, protecting the rights of the proletariat from whatever overweening hand held sway. Bright, attractive, chest pushed out at the ills of society. Why not?
A woman. That’s why not.
The woman. Her name was Elise Bennett. Gorgeous, erudite, fun at parties, good with his friends. She walks down the street and guys stumble into oncoming traffic staring at her.
They date. Never an argument, never a disagreement on how many kids, where they’ll live, how big the ring should be. Nada. They get set for the big day. A marriage for the ages, to have and to hold a woman of his own.
Then it comes. He’s feeling proud. All his college buddies are patting him on the back, saying what a lucky boy he is, whispering not quite out of earshot how much they’d like to so on and so forth with her. He doesn’t mind. His thoughts are toward the altar, the launch pad into the perfect life. They walk out, a line of fresh-faced men, wait with nervous anticipation in front of eight hundred well-dressed attendees. Cole’s big brother Craig holds the ring in his sweaty hand, the trumpets blast out their march, and here she comes.
The dress is majestic. The veil is lifted. Beautiful as ever. She always will be. They come together, the preacher says whatever the preacher says: The Gospel of this, the Book of that. He can’t hear it. Then the perfect moment slows down. He says I do. Did she say I do? It’s starting to get weird. The gears of fate are grinding. She seems scared. Something stonier than mere nerves. A pall gathers over everything, from his shoulders to the balconies and right up into the vaulted ceiling. He clears his throat as moments becomes morass. To react or say anything at all would be an admission of defeat. Doesn’t matter. She never gives him the time.
Full sprint. Don’t know how much the dress cost but it’s ruined by the time she hits the door. He’s standing there, a frozen figure of fun. The consummate fool. Embarrassed isn’t the word. There is nothing in the lexicon for the utter disaster that is now his life.
Elise Bennett. The greatest thing to ever happen to him, turned Great Destroyer.
“Your last appointment is here, Mr. Cavanaugh.”
“Show him right in, Clara.”
He stands up, flattens his tie, makes the walk to the ten-foot teak double doors specially ordered from Costa Rica. Appearances. They greet. A particularly beleaguered man drags himself in. He’s short and sloppy, more than a bit off the mark. They’re always a shambles, but this guy’s raising the bar. Cole prides himself on his ability to read people from the jump. It’s a superfluous skill in this instance. The little mutt before him is in a world of pain and it doesn’t take a mind reader to figure it.
His suit is expensive, looks maybe like a Huntsman, but it’s as poorly maintained as the face sticking out the top. He’s probably not a horrible-looking fella, but he’s looking horrible right now. Older than his years. Cavanaugh almost wants to say something nice right off, but decides to stall. The guy’s not a client yet, after all.
“Why don’t we have a seat and you tell me what brought you here?”
“I’m getting divorced, that’s what. They say you’re the best. The people that know things. That’s how I heard.”
He’s been drinking. Ok. It happens.
“So you’ve talked to her about it? No going back? Because when I take a client it’s—”
“That’s the point. We can’t talk about it. Figure if the woman gave a damn, she might react when I mention splitting up. I’ve tried everything. She’s not there. A sphinx. Talking to a brick wall.”
“Sir, I’ve heard it all before. If you sign these documents we can make our relationship official and—”
“Just give me the damn papers.”
“Of course.” While the little man struggles to find the tabs, Cole takes a look at his planner. Finds the name. “Mr. Will Carson. Can I ask what line of work you’re in?”
“Oil. Like everybody else around here.”
Oil. Good. Carson, Carson. Are you related to Grant Carson?”
“He’s my father. I’m the heir to the throne. A little prince. Yay.”
Yay indeed, Cole is thinking. Carson means serious cash. Big in crude. Now natural gas. Crumbling marriage or not, get a grip, buddy. Or don’t. Just sign right there.
“Ok, Mr. Carson. I’m going to get started on this immediately. You came to the right place. Couple more questions, then we can get you out of here. I know this can be uncomfortable at first—my thought is to get the preliminaries done and dusted.”
“Let’s start with your family.”
“My dad, you’ve obviously heard of. Mom’s Amelia, they still live up in OKC.”
“Of course. I know it’s burdensome, but—”
“No. I just figured you knew who my sister was. Alice Carson-Petit. She’s on TV, magazines.”
“So—she’s an actress?”
“No. Alice is one of those people who’s famous for being famous. She gets married, people make a show, she gets divorced, she gets a new product line. Her husband recently died. European. It’s all quite disgusting.”
“Sounds as if it’s a pretty unique situation. She around these parts?”
“No. Overseas. Hope you’re better at law than pop culture.”
“I’m a good lawyer because I don’t pay attention to inanities. But let’s move on. Children?”
It takes Mr. Carson a moment. The reality of what he’s doing seems to sink in. “One. A daughter. She’s eleven. Almost twelve.”
“How pissed is your wife?”
“I don’t know. Who knows anything about her anymore?”
Cole’s just doing a little poking, trying to gauge how contentious the situation might be, maybe divine any escalations that could be coming down the road. It’s a money thing. Contentious means more money, escalation means even more. He’ll get back to that later. “I’m sorry to bring this up, but it seems you’re a man that cuts to it. How’s your relationship with your daughter?”
It’s the first time Mr. Carson bends another way. Cole notices a well of moisture in the eyes, a slight slumping of the shoulders. Classic heart-on-sleeve syndrome.
“Rosie. Rose.” He says the name like he’s speaking it in prayer, soft and with reverence. His eyes are looking through Cole and out into the clouds, like he half expects to see God out there giving him a thumbs-up sign past the rest of Fort Worth’s small time downtown high-rises.
The lawyer writes down the girl’s name and attempts to be unaffected. It’s not that hard. People gushing over children isn’t exactly headline news. But it does surprise Cole, maybe catches him off guard. Carson’s gruff nature and surly countenance don’t signal Dad of the Year, but people are never quite what you expect. Not quite.
Before it can get too sappy, the attorney stands up and snaps his fingers, a light clap of the hands. Tries to say we’re about done here without really saying it.
Carson notices, looks up at the handsome form of his new legal representative. The lawyer’s almost too perfect. Brown slicked back hair, somehow not oily. Lively, emerald eyes. Brawny through the shoulders but somehow lithe. Defined jawline, but not imposing. Slightly dimpled chin, semi-obscured by a layer of stubble that says I’d like to shave every day but I can’t be bothered to shave. You know, like your average lawyer. Carson can’t help but think he’s meeting with the floor model—the real guy should be cartoonish and spent, wearing suspenders, kept in the back with the hamsters and their wheels. Carson feels another light hand on his shoulder, much like the one when they met. He’s not sure if it’s a perfunctory act of comfort or one of genuine decency. The coming divorce has left him trusting nothing and no one. Including himself.
“One more thing,” Cole says. “Her name?”
“Call her what you will. But yes.”
“Elise,” Carson says. His mouth can barely form the shape of it; almost like he’s swallowed poison and he’s doing his best to soldier on. “Elise Bennett-Carson.”
Cole Cavanaugh sits back down. Did he just say Elise Bennett-Whatever? That’s most of the Great Destroyer’s name. Can’t be her. Has to be a coincidence.
It is not a coincidence.
Chapter 2: Dying of Cancer Grateful
There’s a time for everything. True enough. At the moment, it’s time to drink. As soon as the meeting with Carson is over, Cole loosens his tie, walks past inquisitive looks from Clara and the rest of his associates without so much as a wave or word.
Down the elevator, thirty-five flights to the lobby. A few stops, one person gets on, one gets off; he tries for stoicism but inside he’s a hurricane. He can’t help but feel the symbolism. The rotation of humanity entering his little space, different from before, same as before, all going down.
The doors open to the lobby, finally. He can’t hear his wingtips striking the shiny marble, can’t hear the cluttered conversations of the herd as they struggle for the doors. It’s Friday. Late afternoon. Young professionals, old professionals, all vying for the title of who can forget about work first. Cole Cavanaugh won’t be forgetting. He texts his brother, the one with the sweaty hands.
Meet me at THE BAR. Emergency.
He arrives and has a quick hello with the bartender. Her name is Jade and she’s a little too young for him, but he’s a good tipper and a better bullshitter, so there was that time or two. Not recently. She’s professional enough to be distantly polite. Pours him a double of opulent single-malt and offers a furtive smile.
It’s a dark scene. A place for people like him, a refuge of a place, down a rod-iron flight of stairs hidden away in an alley amongst the bustle of downtown Fort Worth. A few quiet conversations are underway when Craig walks in.
Craig sees his little brother and prepares for the worst. Normally he wouldn’t come, not with all the usual crap going on at home, but it must be bad. Cole isn’t exactly the reaching out type.
Craig plops down on the stool to Cole’s left, orders something less expensive, and listens to the facts....