The car edged into the wax-zone and the two sat quietly.
“I know what you think,” she said slowly.
He scoffed. She doesn’t know him.
“You think I’m bluffing and I won’t follow through.”
He looked out the driver’s side window. Lucky guess.
“But I am serious. I have contacted a lawyer and started the process. I just thought I owed you the courtesy of letting you know.”
Fine, he thought, I will leave you with nothing. I will take the kids and you will be left with nothing. You have never beaten me and you will not start now. I will win this.
“This is not a war,” she said as if she had heard his thoughts. “I am hoping we can do this amicably for the kids. I stayed as long as I did for them.” Which was true.
But when their daughter brought home her prom date to meet them and she realized her daughter was dating someone just like her husband she knew she needed to make a change. She didn’t want her daughter to fall into this cycle. She wanted so much more for her.
He wasn’t listening to her. She knew he wasn’t listening to her. But she knew him well enough to know he would embrace the idea once he got his head around it. Neither one of them were bad people, they just weren’t good for each other. He would be happier pursuing his own interests. She would stay in town until their daughter graduated in a year. Both their kids would then be in college and away from home anyway. Then she would be free to move back to her home state if she wanted to. Or anywhere she wanted. She had already looked into taking some college classes and put in some job applications. True, she expected him to fight her on alimony and finances would be tight but her brother had offered to help her out for a bit. She just knew there was this great big world she had gotten a glimpse of all those summers ago and now she was anxious to see more of it. Life held promise and hope and for the first time in a long time she was excited.
The car gently edged out of the car wash and Chadwick put it in gear. He pulled over to let the workers dry off the car. He didn’t feel like golfing anymore. He didn’t feel like doing much of anything at the moment.
The two sat in silence again as the car was dried off.
“I can’t believe this is happening to me,” he said quietly in a humble tone. A tone she had only heard a couple of times before from him. “I don’t like to fail.”
“You didn’t fail,” she said reassuringly. “I didn’t fail. We just didn’t work together.” She thought about it. “You are a good person, we’re just not good together.” She truly believed that. He was the father of her children. They were married twenty years and together almost twenty-one years. That was a good chunk of life. She refused to believe it was a waste or a failure. That would be too depressing. It was a lesson. A long, hard-earned lesson.
She thought of their last counseling session. His words had caused her many restless nights. I am not the villain of your story, he had yelled at her. She never thought of him as the villain. But he definitely was not the hero of her story either. No, after many years she was slowly realizing she was the hero of her story. And from now on, she was going to make choices to support her hero.
He tapped the steering wheel with his finger. The person drying the car finished up and he cracked the window to slip him a tip. He pushed the button to roll the window back up. “Funny thing,” he said slowly, “I entered the car wash as a married man and exited single.”
She nodded. “Yeah,” she said. The last thing she wanted was to argue with him. He loved the challenge of an argument and refused to lose. So as usual, she didn’t say what she actually thought.
Sure, the future was a bit daunting and she truly didn’t know what to expect but for the first time in her life she also felt excited about the future. And there was something else she felt that she didn’t quite recognize but she suspected it was something along the lines of peace.
Her exact thought was, I entered the carwash as Chadwick’s wife and exited as Mary.
That alone made her feel hopeful she was on the right course.