Lacey Martez Byrd
“Someone I loved once gave me a box of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.” —Mary Oliver
When I was a little girl, I would sit in my backyard and peel the petals off wildflowers one-by-one.
He loves me.
He loves me not.
Even as a child, I realized how dumb it was. Love doesn’t happen like that.
Surely it didn’t.
But it might… It might actually happen that way. It could very well be that dumb.
You might love someone one day and fully believe that they love you back with just as much intensity.
But the next day you find out that that’s not always how it works.
He loved me.
Until he didn’t.
It really was just that simple. And yet somehow, so unbelievably complicated.
Just as my world was crumbling around me and I was free-falling into God knows what, someone reached out and caught me.
And right or wrong, I clung to him.
“He can go to hell—I need more alimony than that.”
“Screw her. She’s only saying that because she wants to take my kids from me.”
I had pretty much heard it all in my little piece of Atlanta real-estate-turned-law office.
And honestly, those were the tamer ones.
Sometimes being a divorce attorney was downright depressing, other times it just served as a reminder as to why I never wanted to get married.
8:50 a.m. rolled around, and Macy’s voice came through my speaker.
“Mr. Scott, your client has arrived. Want me to send her in?” she asked.
“That’s fine,” I replied and released the button.
My door creaked open, which reminded me I needed to spray the hinges again.
This building had been over a hundred years old when I bought it. I couldn’t resist its charm when I was looking for somewhere to set down roots for my practice.
I looked up and met a pair of puffy, red-rimmed blue eyes. Emotion wasn’t uncommon in my office. Many people sat in the seat across from mine and either let it flow freely or held it back altogether.
Whether it was anger or sadness, it was always there.
But I wasn’t prepared for what I saw in her. This woman looked downright broken. The most beautiful version of it, but broken all the same.
She wore a yellow sundress that hit just above her knees. I wondered if she had picked the color so people would presume she was happy, when inside she was obviously anything but.
“Mr. Scott?” She tilted her head, probably wondering why I was just standing there.
Thanks to the barely two hours of sleep I got at night, I sometimes wasn’t sure how I functioned at all.
I cleared my throat. “Yes. And you’re Mrs. Miller, correct?”
She looked down, and I knew immediately it was the name. Her soon-to-be ex-husband’s name made her uncomfortable.
“Yes, but please, call me Ada.”
“Of course. Have a seat, Ada,” I told her as I gestured toward the chair in front of my desk.
“Obviously, the consideration of divorce is why you’re here. But what has driven you to that decision?”
I’d asked this question so many times, I should just get it tattooed across my forehead.
Ada took a deep breath.
“He doesn’t want to be with me anymore,” she said, her voice quivering.
“Do you know why?”
“He um… He wants to be with someone else, I think.” She chewed her bottom lip and picked at her fingernails. Her nerves were getting the best of her.
But still, I knew what she was getting at.
“And do you have proof of that?”
I could tell she did. She had the face of a woman who had seen betrayal with her own eyes.
She nodded. “Pictures. And messages.”
I wrote the information down.
“Do you have any specific questions before we go any further?”
“No, you came highly recommended. I just want to get this whole thing over with, honestly.”
“Okay, sounds good. Do the two of you have any children together?”
I watched as her chin quivered. She lowered her head so I wouldn’t see, but it was too late.
She shook her head. “No. No babies.”
“I know this is hard now, but that actually makes this whole process a lot easier and quicker. Next is the division of assets.”
“I don’t want anything.” Her voice was suddenly certain, almost loud.
“You’re entitled to your part—” I began, but she cut me off.
“Look. All that’s fine. The legality of it is understood. But I’m not going to fight him for anything. Whatever the bare minimum is of all this, I’ll take it and be fine.
“He comes from money, and I know he’s scared that I’m going to try and take him for all he’s worth. But where would that get me, really? I know for a fact that it wouldn’t make me happy.
“It probably should, but it wouldn’t. No alimony, either… So just do whatever the minimum is, but not an inch more.”
She somehow managed to give the whole speech while holding her tears in. The second she finished, however, two of them ran down her cheek. She wiped at her face angrily.
She had a lot of fire—I enjoyed watching her train of thought.
She was hurt, probably more than I could fathom, but she still wasn’t out for vengeance, or to make his life as miserable as hers was at the moment. And that spoke volumes.
“You got it. I’ll start the process. I’ll let you know when I learn the court date.” I stood up and rounded my desk.
“Thank you. I really appreciate it.” She nodded as she stood and walked to the door.
I don’t usually walk clients out further than my office door, but I was compelled to see her out to the lobby. We walked together until we were directly in front of the elevators.
“It was nice to meet you, Ada, I’ll be in touch,” I told her, sticking my hand out.
She slid her small hand into mine and sighed.
“Nice to meet you too, Mr. Scott.”
“Please, call me Sebastian.”
“Thanks again, Sebastian.” She tried to smile but couldn’t really commit.
I nodded once and went back to my office. I didn’t miss Macy’s raised eyebrow and slight smirk. That one is nosey—nothing slides past her. But I chose to ignore her observation.
“How about some coffee?” I asked as I passed her desk.
“Of course.” She hopped up from her chair and headed out the front door to the coffee shop down the street.
I peered out my office window, watching as Ada walked down the sidewalk and into a bakery. I found myself wondering what she would order. Would she go for a bagel? Or did she need something more?
I stood in a daze, considering the possibilities for too long, I suppose.
By the time I realized what I was doing, she was already back out on the sidewalk, an iced coffee in one hand and a chocolate-covered donut with sprinkles in the other.
“Bash!” A shrill voice came from my doorway, breaking me from my trance.
Eliza and I had dated a few months ago, and conveniently, she works just down the street, so she likes to pop her head into my office from time to time.
“Hi, Eliza.” I managed to force a smile out.
“Let’s go out tonight. And then, maybe…you could stay over.” She ran her slender finger up my forearm.
Her offer really was tempting. She was sweet, but I had a feeling she wanted more. And more was something I couldn’t do.
Besides, work always came first.
“I’d love to. But I have a ton of work to do this weekend.”
“You work too much,” she whined, and I nodded.
My life revolved around my work.
“Oh, I know! Let’s take a vacation. Have you ever been to St. Lucia? I’ve heard it’s beautiful,” she continued.
Going anywhere other than dinner with Eliza was a bad idea. It had taken a while to convince her that we needed to stop seeing each other. And anytime I gave an inch, she tried to take a mile.
“That’s not a good idea. Why don’t I call you next week?” I asked.
She huffed, but agreed. She walked out of my office, passing Macy on her way out. Macy rolled her eyes, making sure I saw it.
“I know, I know,” I told her, my hands up.
“You sure?” she asked as she placed my coffee on my desk. I laughed.
“Mrs. Miller sure is pretty, don’t you think?”
Macy the matchmaker was back. She had a bad habit of trying to fix me up. Never with clients though, so this was new territory.
“I agree. She’s very pretty.” It wasn’t a hard statement to agree with. Ada was gorgeous, even with swollen eyes and a sad smile.
“What do you want for lunch?” Macy asked.
“How about we leave after I finish this paperwork? Make it an early day. It is Friday, after all,” I suggest.
Macy’s eyes lit up. At twenty-three, she was still young enough to actually go out on Friday nights. Being a stuffy thirty-two-year-old myself, all I wanted to do tonight was sit on my back porch and sip my whiskey as I read over next week’s cases.
“You should really go out sometimes, Sebastian,” she said. She only used my first name when she was serious.
“I do go out.”
I was lying and we both knew it.
She only laughed. She left the room as I looked down at Ada’s paperwork on my desk.
Pictures and messages.
I wondered what the pictures were of and what the messages said. I would have to ask the next time I met with her, and just the thought made me uncomfortable.
Not because it was something I hadn’t seen or heard a thousand times before. But because I didn’t want to force her to relive it.
I didn’t want to see the sad look in her eyes that would undoubtedly come from it.
I wondered what it would take to make her laugh, to make the sweet sound echo in my office.
And that thought was enough to scare the hell out of me.