[For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Kirsten Piccini gave me this prompt: "Your power over me is diminishing because while you hate, I love." --Please use this sentence in your piece..I gave kgwaite this prompt: "I am not at all concerned with appearing to be consistent. In my search after Truth I have discarded many ideas and learnt many new things." --Mahatma Gandhi]
The table was long and flat and black, an imposing reminder of the important decisions made in this room. Contracts were negotiated here, corporate empires formed and shattered, high level crimes covered up or exposed. Big things happen here, the room said, and you wanted to fall into a hush, in awe of your surroundings. A pretty woman in a dark green skirt set a glistening pitcher of ice water onto a tray in the center of the table, where glass tumblers were already waiting.
"Mr. Hanigan will be right with you," she said officiously, before turning to leave the room.
"I'll wait outside," my attorney, Alison Wainwright, said. I watched the two women leave the room, Alison's tiny strides behind the secretary's long legs. She looked like the other woman's baby sister.
The glass door closed silently behind them. It was impossibly clean, looking somehow thin yet soundproof.
"Are you banging her yet?," Darlene said, her lip curled with contempt. My soon to be ex wife was already sitting in one of the soft chairs, looking up at me. We were in her attorney's office, so she probably felt invulnerable. She had a cruel streak that came out when she felt like she was on solid ground. It was one of the many things that had emerged over the course of our relationship.
"I'm not sure why you would care."
"You don't think I care about you, Stephen?"
"We're here, aren't we? Why do you think we're here?"
"I told you I want another chance."
"I know. But I've seen that movie before. Remember the last time you asked for another chance? And the time before that? Three strikes and you're out. You know the rules."
Her face fell when I said that. It was mean, needlessly so.
"That's not fair, Stephen. Not fair at all." She was looking down, her voice soft. I could see her cleavage down the neck of her flowery summer dress. "Why do you do that to me?"
"Do what, Darl? Bring up what you did?"
"Yes, Stephen. Why do you do that? I said I was sorry."
"Yes, Darl. Twice."
"I hate you, Stephen. I hate you when you're like this. So mean."
"I'm sure you do. It can't be easy to be reminded. See, that's the part that drives you crazy about this, Darlene. Your power over me is diminishing because while you hate, I love. I love you, Darlene. I've never stopped loving you. We have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that we can't live together as a married couple. I've made my peace with that. You can't stay faithful. That's insulting, but I have made my peace with that, too. But fundamentally, I still care about you. I want you to be happy, even if it isn't with me. You say you hate me, and that's not nice for me to hear, but I'm a big boy. I can take it."
Darlene's eyes were wide. "Please," she said mockingly. "please tell me more about what I think."
"You can do that all you like," I said. "It doesn't make it untrue. You say you hate me, but fundamentally, you're angry with me because you can't play the victim. All your life, you've waited for men to hurt you. And they have. And when they have, you've been able to play your favorite role, the wounded martyr, the delicate flower, wounded by faithless, treacherous man. And your friends rush in to console you, poor Darlene, why can't she find a good man? And then you found me, and I wouldn't hurt you. So that wouldn't feed into the negative self image you spend so much time maintaining, would it?"
Darlene smirked up at me. "You tell me. You're the one who understands so much about me."
"It doesn't. So you started acting out. First in small ways, then in bigger and bigger ones. Then, finally, the ultimate betrayal. Why? Why were you determined to sabotage our marriage? Deep down, Darlene, you can't stand the fact that I love you. It makes you question the way you have lived your life. So you hate, Darlene. And I love. And that, fundamentally, is why we're here."
The door glided open silently, Alison being followed by Darlene's attorney, a tall, trim man with an iron jaw named Ryan Hanigan. He looked at me, a man sizing up another man, primal instincts coming to the fore.
"Are we interrupting?," he said jovially.
"No," Darlene said firmly. "No, you are not."