Gabriel Rose strode into the house as though it were still his.
He pecked her on the forehead, a gesture void of love and
full of loss. She pulled back.
Jon ran to Gabe and wrapped his arms around his father’s
legs. “Daddy, I’m still hurting.”
“Tonight, I’ll change the bandages, and you’ll be fine.” Gabe
swooped his son up and kissed him.
Eric asked, “How come you didn’t honk for us?”
“I have to talk to your mother,” Gabe said. Then he leaned
over the entry table and sifted through the mail.
Daniel looked at Alex before going over and hugging Gabe. She
knew Daniel had always tried to spare her. At football games, if
he stood near Gabe for a while, he’d walk over and put his arm
around her for the same amount of time. He seemed to parcel
out his attention as though his parents were on a perfectly bal-
anced seesaw, and he didn’t want to upset either one.
Gabe said, “Boys, go upstairs. I said, ‘I need to talk to your
mother.’ It will only take five minutes. Then your mother and I
will be finished.”
The boys turned and scurried upstairs.
Alex stared at Gabe. Finished in five minutes? After twenty
years of marriage?
Sending her a sideways glance, he said, “You look good.”
“Thanks,” she said, hating him for complimenting her while
discounting their lives, the family they’d created, everything that
was important to her.
Without separating his lips, he smiled, took a document from
the breast pocket of his navy blazer, and handed it to her. “I
brought the original.”
She walked into the living room. Gabe followed and sat down
on the beige suede couch. Since he was now a guest, she didn’t
want him in the family room. The family room was where they’d
gathered as a family, and he no longer belonged. She watched
him survey the coffee table top, sanitized of all remnants of their
Leaving a gap between them, she sat down.
“See, I’ll take care of everything.” He pointed to a paragraph
that affirmed she’d get a sizeable monthly check for each child
living with her. He took out his Monte Blanc pen.
“I’m not signing it until my lawyer goes over it with yours,”
she said, hoping she’d be able to stall him long enough to find
Gabe seemed to be fighting to remain calm. “You’ve got to sign
it tonight so I can transfer the house to you.”
“Why so urgent?”
“It’s been four months since I moved out,” he said causti-
cally. Then he smiled at her. “Besides, I want to protect you
and the boys.”
“How’s signing this right now going to do anything for me and
“Remember Townsend, one of the partners in the practice?”
“Gabe, I haven’t forgotten everything about our life together.”
“Then you recall how Townsend’s divorce got ugly. His wife’s
attorney demanded financials from all the partners as well as all
of the records pertaining to the practice.”
“Gabe, I remember.”
“So you know the partners would sooner fire me than go
through another audit. I’m working so hard to become a partner,
and I don’t want to lose because of this.”
“You should have thought about that before you started ‘this.’”
“I’m trying to take care of you,” he said.
She was no longer concerned about his success and even
wished he’d experience the pain and agony he’d imparted on
her, but she did need him to be solvent enough to provide for
the boys. She felt a stab of fear—an investigation of his practice
could uncover things like the time he’d gone to the office on a
Saturday and returned home with the office mail. She recalled
when she’d asked him why he’d brought home the office mail,
he’d told her the partners would never find out if he cashed a
few checks. Besides, he’d explained, he was the most junior
associate, and he was working harder than the partners and
Alex looked at him and asked, “Are you worried about the
checks you took?”
“Shut up!” he yelled, then appeared to catch himself. “I did
not take checks from the partners. You are to remember that.”
“You cashed the checks.”
“That never happened. I went in on Saturdays to work extra
hours to impress the partners. There never—I repeat, never—
were any checks.”
“You bought the boat.”
“Babe, I worked extra hard to give you the things you deserve.
I promise I will continue to take care of you and the boys.” His
voice turned like a switch, from harsh to soft and caring.
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