The Divorce “Draft”

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“Okay, so we just have to divvy up the personal property, and then we’re done,” Linda’s lawyer, Marjorie, said to her client, as she looked through the latest draft of Linda’s divorce papers.

”That part is going to be tough,” Linda said, running a hand through her thick brown hair. “We’ve been together since college. You can accumulate a lot of stuff over twenty-five years, and it gets hard figuring out what belongs to whom.”

”Well, I think it’s safe to say we’ll only be looking at the big-ticket items—cars, furniture, artwork, appliances, that sort of thing. Sometimes people get really possessive over things like their kitchen knives or their bath towels, but this usually goes smoothly.”

”I don’t know, Marjorie. Bill gets weirdly sentimental about the strangest things. I can’t help but feel that there’s going to be something he should have no business needing but that he’s going to want it because of some emotional attachment.”

Linda pulled her hair over her shoulder and began to pet it, like a security blanket. She continued: “I remember this one time when I tried to give away an old dress that I’d gotten from one of those cheap boardwalk stores because I’d left my bathing suit coverup at home. I just picked out the first one that I saw that wasn’t hideously ugly, and Bill paid for it because he was also buying some dumb t-shirt. Bill saw that I had put the dress on the ‘donate’ pile when we were doing spring cleaning a few years later, and he got so upset. ‘But I bought you that. It was a gift, from me! You wore it to the beach every day of that vacation. And it was such a special vacation. It’s when you told me we were having Charlie!’ Anyway, I told him I wasn’t going to wear it again and it was useless just hanging in my closet, and he insisted that he’d keep it, for sentimental reasons. That wasn’t the first or last time he did something like that. I have no idea where he kept all of the crap he saved over the years.”

”Well, the good news is, the more he takes, the less you have to worry about moving to the next place, right?” Marjorie joked.

“Yes, but I’m worried that now that we’re splitting up, some of those sentimental things will be stuff that actually has value to me, but he doesn’t want to be separated from. Or that he just doesn’t want me to have.”

Marjorie had known Linda for more than a decade, and while she’d only met Bill a handful of times at parties, she had no idea he was so sentimental…or that he seemed willing to weaponize his sentimentality in order to get what he wanted. “I’m sure it will be fine,” she told Linda. She hoped she was right.

It hadn’t been easy for Linda to decide to ask Bill for a divorce. They had been together for so long—their lives were so intertwined. But she couldn’t ignore the feelings she was developing for Martha, the former colleague who had texted out of the blue one day to suggest getting together for cocktails. They stayed at the bar for hours, well past when Linda had told Bill she’d be home. She just couldn’t tear herself away. When they did finally part, Linda thought she felt something in the way Martha hugged her, like her old friend had held on for just a second too long. She replayed the evening in her head several times over the next few days before texting Martha to see if she’d like to get together again, and from that point on they saw each other at least weekly, maybe more.

One night, about three months after that first outing, Martha and Linda were sitting on the floor of Linda’s living room, talking about some friends they had in common from their old company. Charlie was out at a party and Bill was away for business. Linda was half a bottle of wine in and couldn’t take her eyes off of Martha, who was telling a story about how their former boss had accidentally locked himself inside a bathroom while visiting a client in Tokyo and later swore her to secrecy. Linda loved the way Martha threw her head back, her platinum-colored bob swinging back with her, revealing a beautiful neck and cute little ears. She began to laugh along with her friend, hoping that by doing so she’d get Martha to keep laughing, just so Linda could keep watching her laugh.

But then suddenly Martha was not laughing. She was looking at Linda quietly, almost studying her.

”You okay?” Linda asked, feeling self-conscious.

”Fine,” Martha said. “Maybe better than fine.”


”I…I hope I’m not reading too much into this. And if I am, I’ll never say another word about it and we can keep hanging out or if you never want to see me again I’d understand, but…”

”I think I’m falling in love with you,” Linda blurted out. She hadn’t even really realized it until the words were already coming out of her mouth, but she knew in that moment she meant them.

Martha seemed to be caught off guard, but quickly recovered. “So I’m not reading too much into this. Us.”

”No.” And then suddenly it was Linda who was turning serious. “But it’s not like I can do anything about it. I’m married. I’m not going to just cheat on Bill. And what about Charlie?”

Martha nodded. “I understand this is a delicate situation. But I truly believe we can have a happy life together. Charlie heads off to college in a few months, right? And then it will just be you and Bill while Charlie’s away. Can you imagine yourself happy empty-nesting with Bill?”

Linda shook her head. “I think it’s been a while since I was happy with Bill.” This, too, was something she hadn’t entirely realized it until she spoke the words out loud.

”You deserve happiness, Linda.”

“I know. Still, I’m not a cheater. And I don’t want to ruin Charlie’s last summer at home.”

Martha looked crestfallen. “I see.”

”It isn’t a no, Martha. It’s a ‘not yet.’ Think maybe you can wait for me until September?”

Martha’s eyes were suddenly bright once more. “For you, I’d even wait till October,” she teased.

The weekend after they dropped Charlie off at college, Linda and Bill were sitting in their living room discussing some home improvement projects they needed to do. Linda tried to care about Bill’s musings regarding whether they should have the deck redone with wood, so the house would still feel like it did when they bought it, or with composite, which would be more durable but also, as Bill put it, “Not like what we’re used to.”

”Bill,” she finally interrupted, grabbing the hair at her temples and pulling it slightly up and out, as she often did when she was feeling exasperated. “Bill, I don’t care about the deck.” She let go of her hair, which fell back into place, glossy and dark and hanging halfway down her back.

Bill looked at her, clearly annoyed by the outburst, but he didn’t say anything.

”I…I want a divorce.”

That got Bill talking again. For the next two hours, he talked—more at Linda than to her—about all the reasons she couldn’t possibly be serious. His logic ran from the pragmatic (“But you’re on my insurance plan!) to the absolutely absurd (“How do we decide who gets to keep our friends?”) but mostly drifted toward the sentimental. He kept reminding Linda of all the good times, like early in their relationship when they had gone on a weekend camping trip with their friends and it was the first time they said I love you to each other, or when they went to Italy and for some reason decided it would be fun to convince everyone they were related to the prime minister of Canada, or when they got married and his dad gave that beautiful speech about how they’d be together forever, and then his dad died less than a year later and their wedding was one of his last memories of his father. It was clear Bill was grasping at straws, trying to find anything that would work, but Linda had never been as sentimental as he was. Besides, she was ready to start making new memories—with Martha. She was not swayed.

”But what about Charlie?” he finally croaked, slumping to a chair, his head resting in his hands.

”Charlie is eighteen now,” Linda said. “This isn’t about Charlie. It’s about me. My mind is made up.”

She headed for the bedroom and packed an overnight bag for herself, then returned to the living room, where Bill was same positioned as she left him. “I’m going to stay somewhere else tonight. Give you some space. I’ll come back tomorrow while you’re at work and grab more stuff, and maybe we can find some time in the next few days to start figuring out where we go from here.”

And with another word or look at Bill, she walked out the front door, got in her car, and headed straight to Martha’s. It would be the first time they kissed. The first time they made love. Lying there in the afterglow, her head resting on Martha’s chest as Martha wove her fingers through Linda’s thick, long hair, Linda knew she’d done the right thing.

The next few months were tough. Telling Charlie about the divorce had gone smoothly enough, but Bill was now insufferable. Or, Linda wondered, had he always been like this? At least once a day, he’d call or send a text because something made him think of Linda. A new song he’d just heard. A funny video his sister had forwarded him. He’d occasionally send her gifts—mostly small trinkets, but occasionally something more significant. One day a wrapped box landed on Linda’s desk at work. It was delivered to her by the receptionist, who had just been handed the box by a courier. Linda waited until the receptionist walked away and then opened the gift. A small note was taped to the lid, in Bill’s unmistakeable scrawl: “Saw these and thought of you. Always and forever, B.”

Inside was a pair of diamond earrings, similar in style to the ones Bill had given her after Charlie was born but significantly bigger. She turned Bill’s note over, and wrote one word on it: “STOP.” She then put the note and the earrings, still in their box, into a padded envelope she found in the copy room, scrawled Bill’s office address on it, and brought the package back to the receptionist. “Can you please get this couriered to my husband?” She had not yet told all of her colleagues about her impending divorce.

But there was so much good during those months, too. She had more or less moved into Martha’s condo, and the two women were free to explore their feelings for each other in the way that they had both so wanted to in the months before Linda left Bill. They were keeping their romantic relationship on the down-low until the divorce was final; until then, nobody who knew about the split batted an eye at the idea that Linda would be staying with an old friend for a few months while she figured out what was coming next. Still, both women knew it was about way more than staying with a “friend,” and Linda was so grateful to have Martha there on the days Bill would pull another ridiculous stunt in order to win her back. In spite of everything she couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt this happy.

It was Saturday. Later that afternoon, per the agreement reached by Marjorie and Bill’s attorney, Jeff, Linda and both lawyers would meet Bill at the old house, and the soon-to-be ex-spouses would take turns laying claim to items in the house they could both plausibly claim as theirs. Martha would join for “moral support.”

Getting ready to leave the condo, Martha came up behind Linda, throwing her arms around her lover’s waist and nuzzling into her hair, inhaling the scent of her shampoo. “Mmmm. I can’t wait till I can do this in public.”

“What, sniff my head?” Linda tried to sound casual, but it was clear she was anxious. The night before, Bill had sent her a text saying he couldn’t wait to see her and it had put her on her guard.

“No, silly. I mean be affectionate with you. Openly. But now that you mention it, do you want me to brush your hair before we go?” Linda nodded and sat on the edge of Martha’s bed—their bed—while Martha knelt on the mattress behind her and began to gently brush through Linda’s chestnut-colored tresses until they shone, occasionally moving a lock this way or that to kiss Linda’s neck, or behind her ear. This had become a ritual for them, the hair brushing: something Martha would do because she knew it relaxed Linda, and something Linda would let Martha do because she knew it excited Martha.

All too soon, it was time to leave.

Linda had tried to spend as little time as possible at the old house since she had walked out on Bill that day. She went back about once a week, always when she could be sure Bill wouldn’t be home, to get some more of her stuff—mostly clothes and books and a few other small items she hoped Bill could not claim an attachment to. Martha’s second bedroom was now piled with Linda’s belongings. They had begun to talk about finding a bigger house. Lying in bed, with Martha running her fingers through Linda’s long hair, they would make plans for the rest of their lives together.

The divorce could be finalized as soon as Monday, and then Linda could get on with her new life with Martha, openly loving her instead of keeping her feelings private. They still had not told anyone of their relationship—Linda was worried Bill might try to use it against her in the divorce proceedings. Not that there was much reason for him to make her look bad: she had asked for very little from him in the settlement. Still, given his antics over the last few months she wouldn’t have put it past him to use any excuse he could if it meant he was still, technically, married to Linda.

Both Linda and Bill had been asked to make a list of items from the home they knew they’d each want, and to share it with each other through their lawyers. Anything that only one person wanted would go to that person; anything they both wanted would be pulled aside for them to take turns picking, as if they were choosing kickball teams rather than personal belongings, except that either of them could object to the claim and, if necessary, the lawyers could step in to negotiate. Anything still unclaimed in the house after that—the things neither of them had thought to put on their initial lists—would be subject to a rapid-fire version of the same exercise: one person could claim an item, the other could agree or object, and if they couldn’t compromise the lawyers would step in.

Linda looked over at Martha as the lawyers re-explained the rules, absent-mindedly stroking her long hair. Martha shot her a quick thumbs-up and mouthed the words “you’ve got this.”

And then it was time to begin dividing up the last of Linda and Bill’s marital property. Several items on both of their original lists were uncontested and divvied up easily enough. But, as Linda had feared, on the items they both claimed, Bill had lengthy sentimental reasons for his claims. Rather than fighting him or forcing the lawyers to intervene, she mostly let him get what he wanted. Anything to speed the process along and leave this house once and for all. It was mostly just “stuff” anyway.

That was, at least, until the subject of Charlie’s baby blanket came up. Linda had spent hours during her pregnancy crocheting the yellow and grey wool every night after dinner. If anything, the blanket belonged to Charlie, but he understandably had chosen to leave it at home when he went to college. Linda believed that, as the blanket’s maker maker and also the person who carried Charlie inside her body while she was making it, she should at least get to hang onto the blanket until Charlie decided he wanted it back, if he ever did.

Bill saw things differently. He was the one who’d run back to the house to get the blanket while Linda was in labor, when she realized she hadn’t packed it to come to the hospital with them. He was the one who spent hours using the blanket for peekaboo with Charlie while Linda, freshly back to work after her maternity leave, took late-evening phone calls with overseas clients. He might not have made the blanket, he explained, but for him it was an essential part of his life. It helped define him as a father.

Marjorie and Jeff, the attorneys, looked knowingly at each other. This was not their first time they had faced off as adversaries in a divorce case, and almost every time, something like this would come up, threatening to derail the whole process. After listening to Linda and Bill squabble for a few moments longer, Marjorie stepped forward. “One of you is going to have to compromise here, or else Jeff and I will have to adjudicate this. And I’ll remind you both that you pay us by the hour.”

Linda and Bill stared at each other, each wondering whether the other would break first. “Okay, fine,” Bill finally said. “You can have the blanket under two conditions. One is that if Charlie ever asks for it back, you return it to him immediately, no questions asked. The other is that I get to pull my first ‘draft’ pick from the stuff neither of us initially claimed right now—even though we’re not technically into that part of the proceedings yet. And if you fight me on this, not only do you not get the blanket but we put an immediate stop to these proceedings and send our lawyers back to the drawing board.”

”Yeah, okay, sure,” Linda said. “What were you gonna pick? The wedding china? The teak bench we bought in Thailand?”

Bill looked Linda dead in the eye. “Your hair.”

Linda blinked. She wasn’t sure she’d heard him correctly. “My what?”

”Your hair.” He was grinning now. It was clear he’d planned this and had been waiting for his chance to strike. “Remember how when you were in grad school and we’d just gotten engaged, you would go to that the cosmetology school to get your hair done because you didn’t want to spend a lot of money on it? And then one time they talked you into a perm and you came home in tears, looking like Slash? And I told you I’d pay to have it fixed at a real salon, and I’d continue to pay for your hair at long as you wanted, if it meant you’d never go to the beauty school again? And how all these years later, even after you finished school and had a good job and could easily have afforded the hair appointments out of your own money, I just kept paying for your salon visits? Yeah. I know you remember that perm. I know you know you never had to pull your wallet out at a salon again. Even after you started going to that posh, expensive place downtown a few years ago, I kept paying. I did it gladly. I just loved when you’d come home, looking all fresh, showing your hair off to me. And then we’d fuck and you would wrap your hair around my…”

”Bill!” Jeff cut him off, looking extremely uncomfortable. It was clear his client had not let him in on his intentions.

“I’ve been investing in your hair for more than twenty years, and I’ll be damned if I let someone else enjoy my dividends.”

“This is absurd,” Marjorie interrupted. She had been concerned Bill might try to pull something, but never in a million years would she have come up with this. “Hair isn’t personal property. It’s literally attached to her head.”

Shocked and angry as she was, Linda was grateful for Bill’s heel turn. Knowing he was capable of such selfishness further reinforced her conviction that she was doing the right thing in divorcing him. This marriage needed to be officially over, stat, and she was willing to do whatever it would take to remove Bill from her daily life. She did not break eye contact with Bill. “How much hair?”

”All of it.”

Beside her, Linda heard a stifled gasp coming from Martha, who Bill now acknowledged for the first time. He leveled his gaze at the blonde. “What’s the matter, Martha? You should thank me. Now it will be clearer to everyone which of you is the man in your relationship.”

Now it was Linda who gasped, in anger at the words he chose and in surprise at what he had revealed. They’d been so careful—how did he know? Bill turned to his imminently-to-be ex-wife. “Remember my friend Carmen from work? She saw you two getting mighty cozy at a girl bar last month. I hired a private detective to follow you around and he confirmed you’re not just temporarily staying at Martha’s place. Are you?”

”Okay first of all, you didn’t have to get that homophobic dig in there. That was below the belt. But also I never meant to hurt you, Bill. We didn’t do anything until after I left. I promise.”

”Well, technically, until we sign those papers, we’re still married. So whatever this is,” he waved his hands vaguely between Linda and Martha, “is still infidelity in my book.” He looked so proud of himself. Linda couldn’t believe she had never truly noticed this side of Bill before. He wasn’t sentimental—he just used sentimentality to mask his need for control. He was still talking. “I tried to be nice. I sent you beautiful presents, which you rejected. I’d text you a link to a song I thought you’d like, and you never even thanked me. I told you if you just came back to me, I’d forget the whole thing ever happened, and you ignored me. Now I understand why—and it’s payback time. So you choose. Your hair, now, or I refuse to sign any paperwork and I just extend this thing until I’ve completely bled you dry.”

”If you go forward with this, Bill, you’ll have to do it with another lawyer,” Jeff said from behind his client.

”Bye Jeff,” Bill responded without turning to look at him. But the attorney seemed frozen in place, as if he were obligated to see at least today’s proceedings through.

”Let’s go,” Marjorie said, taking her client by the arm. ”We’re done here”

”No,” Linda shook her off. “If this is what it’s going to take to move on with my life, I’ll do it.” She looked at Bill: “Please believe I will be telling our son exactly why his mother is bald when he comes home for fall break. And also I do not want to see your face again until his graduation—if he even wants you there, after I tell him about this. And then even if he does want you at graduation, I don’t want I see you again until his wedding. And after that, hopefully not until your funeral.” Bill stared back at Linda impassively, unwilling to accept her terms out loud but knowing it would be worth possibly never seeing her again to see her suffer through this now.

Then, Linda turned to Martha: “You’ll still love me at the end of this, right?”

With tears in her eyes, Martha approached Linda and smoothed her lover’s long brown hair, slowly, savoring it for the last time for who knows how long. “It’s you I love. Not your hair.”

Linda tousled Martha’s white-blonde bob, which settled immediately back into place just below her chin. “I guess you’ll be the long-haired one for a while now, huh?” She leaned in to kiss away one of Martha’s tears, and then straightened herself, turning back to the man who she had very lately come to despise. “So how are we doing this?”

”Funny you should ask.” Bill reached into the cabinet beside him and produced a hairbrush, a large set of electric clippers, and a few hair ties. “I will be your barber tonight. I’ve been watching a lot of videos in preparation for this.” He was positively giddy, and so, so proud of himself. ”Don’t worry: I’ve decided to be generous and leave you with some hair on your head. Depending on how you look at it.” He pulled a footstool in front of him, and Linda dutifully approached and sat down.

”Jeff, are you seriously not stopping your client?” Marjorie hissed at the other lawyer.

”I’m not his client anymore, Marjorie. Remember?” Bill sneered in her direction as he began to slowly brush Linda’s hair, occasionally sniffing it loudly so everyone in the room knew he was enjoying its scent. With each stroke of the hairbrush, he allowed himself another memory of their happier times. He had brushed her shiny brown hair so many times over the years and at so many different lengths, but this was his favorite: thick and long, longer than she’d worn it for many years. Bill knew this would be the last time he would ever brush Linda’s hair at this length or at any length at all—at least while the hair was still attached to her head. He wasn’t entirely sure what he’d be doing with Linda’s hair once it was officially his, but he knew for certain that he wouldn’t be throwing it away.

”Bill,” Linda snapped, pulling him out of his reverie. “Can you please get on with it? I’m letting you have my hair, but I still own my time.”

Bill sighed in obvious annoyance. “Fine. Just one last thing.” He darted briefly into the other room and re-emerged with a tripod and a ring light. “For posterity,” he sneered. After a few moments, his phone was mounted to the tripod and recording video, and the light was perfectly positioned to make Linda’s hair shine. Not just brown, but threads of copper and gold in this light. Across the room, Martha noticed how beautiful Linda looked and began to cry again.

Bill picked up his brush again and began to gather Linda’s hair in a single ponytail near the top of her head. He secured it loosely, in the hopes that he would be able to slide his clippers under and around it, pulling the whole thing off in one piece. After placing a few more elastic bands along the length of the ponytail, Bill picked up his clippers and held them in front of Linda as he placed a small guard on them—Linda would later learn it was the number one—saying ”this is what’s going to ensure you still have hair on your head when I’m done. Technically.” He turned the machine on with a loud pop. It seemed as if every corner of the room was filled with the buzzing sound that followed.

”Chin down,” Bill ordered. Then, holding tightly onto Linda’s ponytail with one hand and placing the clippers at her nape in the other, he moved the machine upward toward Linda’s occipital lobe. Already, he could feel the ponytail beginning to give. Linda could feel it, too, the slight release of tension where Bill was holding her ponytail.

He returned his clippers to her nape and made a second pass. With this pass, not only did he feel the ponytail give a bit more, but he also began to notice Linda’s scalp emerging, covered in the shortest fuzz as the hair being severed from her head was lifted away. By the time he finished running the clippers up the back of her head, a clear expanse of milky white skin was exposed to the world for the first time, just barely camouflaged by the grey-studded brown stubble he was leaving behind.

Bill began to work the area around Linda’s right ear next. It was obvious now to the three observers in the room just how much damage he was doing with the humming device in his hand. A few longer hairs that had clearly escaped from the ponytail were still attached to Linda’s head. Never mind, Bill told himself. He’d get them on his second pass. Or maybe he’d make Martha finish the job for him.

Linda sat serenely as years’ worth of care and growth were separated from her head in mere seconds. She should be upset, she knew. She loved her hair. Martha loved her hair. But then so did Bill, so perhaps this is what needed to happen. A complete purging of the past. Suddenly she felt a gust of air on the right side of her skull. She had never felt anything like it before. She looked to Martha and shot her a reassuring smile, Martha was staring, transfixed, her eyes still filled with tears, as the angry blades sliced through her lover’s strands like a hot knife through butter.

Bill paused for a moment as if to decide whether to attack Linda’s forehead first, or go for her other temple, ultimately deciding on the latter. Working from back to front, he peeled more and more of Linda’s long, thick strands away from her skull. She could now feel the breeze on this side of her scalp, too—it must have been coming from the air conditioner, she realized—and it seemed as though barely anything could still be attached to her head, what with so much flesh now exposed. Still, she could still feel tension at her forehead and crown, perhaps even more tension than she had felt before because the bulk of her hair was now weighing down what was left hanging from her head.

Once the left side of Linda’s head more or less matched the right, Bill came to stand in front of her, one hand still holding her ponytail aloft and the other holding the buzzing clippers, and stooped to look her in the eye. “Ready to say goodbye?” Though awkwardly positioned, he stayed here, looking Linda in the eye, as he brought the clippers to the center of her hairline and pushed them back toward what remained of the ponytail. Linda knew he was waiting for her to flinch; she did not give him the satisfaction, even though her stomach was doing backflips and across the room she could see Martha staring at her in not a little horror. Bill grunted and stood back up, taking a moment to admire the clean path of stubble running across the top of Linda’s head. He didn’t have much more left to do. He decided to slow down and enjoy it. He began to move the clippers along the top of Linda’s head in short strokes instead of long passes, in much the same rhythm one would use when sweeping their floor. Inch by inch, more and more of Linda’s scalp was exposed on the top of her head, until, finally, the only hair left attached to her head was right under the center of the ponytail. Bill slid the teeth of the clippers into this area and moved them forward and back, side to side, until at last, Linda’s ponytail came off in one piece. He held it triumphantly aloft and smiled into his camera. Then he looked back at Linda, or, more specifically, at her denuded head. He saw the few long hairs he had missed earlier and a couple of stragglers beyond those.

”Oh Martha?” He summoned her with mock sweetness. “It looks like I missed a few spots here. You can’t have your girlfriend going out in public like this. Want to come clean her up?”

Martha stood and approached Linda, then took the clippers out of Bill’s hands, looking at him with such contempt that he might have been a cockroach. She put one hand on top of Linda’s head, surprised by how soft her hair still was—what little of it remained, anyway. She wasn’t sure over the sound of the clippers but Martha thought she might have heard Linda let out a little moan at her touch.

Slowly, plaintively, Martha ran her hand over Linda’s head, feeling for anything that seemed uneven and using the clippers to mow down whatever didn’t feel right. For the longer strands, mostly around Linda’s neck, Martha took extra care to make sure everything was buzzed down to a uniform length. She hated this, she hated it so much, but the damage was done. All she could do was make sure it was done well. Finally, for good measure, Martha ran the clippers all over Linda’s head one last time to reassure herself she hadn’t missed anything. Then she turned the clippers off and circled around to stand in front of her lover squatting slightly to look her in the eye. “You’re beautiful,” she said. She meant it. “Shall we go?” Offering her hand to Linda, Martha helped pull her off the footstool and, without a word to anyone, the two headed toward the front door. Marjorie trotted a few feet after them, picking up the box of items Linda had “drafted” that day, Charlie’s baby blanket carefully placed on top. Several items Linda might have once wanted still lay inside the house. She no longer cared.

Out in the front yard of the house she called home for nearly twenty of the twenty-five years she had spent with Bill, Linda turned her face to the sky and stretched her arms at her side. The sun was still high, and she felt it beating down on her face. For the first time all day, she was crying.

Martha rushed to her side. “Oh no, baby, don’t cry. You look beautiful. You really do. I wasn’t just saying that.”

Linda looked at her lover, her platinum hair shimmering in the sunlight. “I’m not crying about my hair, although I might when I finally look in a mirror. I’m crying because I feel liberated. I don’t have to see Bill again for a long, long time.”

Almost as if on cue, Jeff came running out of the front door, a stack of papers in his hand. “Bill signed the divorce papers. If you sign them, too, I’ll take them with me to be filed first thing Monday.”

Marjorie snatched the papers away from Jeff, along with the pen he held. “I thought you weren’t working for Bill anymore, Jeff?”

”I’m not. This was one last task to make sure your client never has to see that asshole again if she doesn’t want to.”

Marjorie did a quick read on the document, looking specifically for the sections she knew had been changed in earlier drafts. Finally satisfied, she handed the papers and pen to her client. “Sign and initial these, and you’re officially free.”

Linda took the papers to the roof of her car and made sure every single section she needed to complete was filled out, initialing as she went. On the last page, she signed and dated the document. She felt the sun shining down on the back of her newly nearly-bare head. It felt like an omen of good things to come.

8 responses to “The Divorce “Draft”

    1. Thanks. I am deeply uncomfortable with some of the “forced”/”punishment”/”revenge” stories I’ve read here over the years—especially the ones that take place outside of a consensual BDSM relationship in which those concepts are in play but can be terminated the moment someone gets uncomfortable. I wanted to see if I could spin the themes to be something that still came with a degree of choice (Linda wanting to do whatever it took to get Bill out of her life, even if he was extremely underhanded in the way it came about) and wound up having a positive outcome for the person in the chair (the sense of freedom that came from literally severing the tie between the former couple). If Bill had, instead, come into Martha’s condo in the middle of the night, tied them up, and made Martha watch while he shaved Linda’s head… that’s not a story I’m interested in. That’s an assault.

      1. I could definitely see you walking that tight rope, and I think you did it really well. I have the same anxieties in my writing, which is why I’ve slipped in mentions of safewords now and then. I think that’s also why I often praise the “willingly unwilling” type of cuts like this one and when models have to get their hair cut for work — part of me loves forced and unexpected cuts, but another part of me has issues with that.

        1. Thank you—and yes! As long as a there’s a safe word available, and as long as it’s not being ignored or the sub isn’t being kept from saying it (by gagging, because they’re unconscious, etc.) I’m 100% okay with that sort of thing. Consenting adults can do what consenting adults want to do. There’s something incredibly exciting about being pushed right up to the limit of your comfort zone when you’re with someone you know you can trust. And there’s something incredibly violating about being forced past your limit with someone you thought you could trust. I think there’s also a difference between being physically forced and being caught between a rock and a hard place. Linda was forced to decide, but she was not forced to submit. (And IRL once word of Bill’s antics got back to a judge it’s unlikely he would have been able to bleed her dry, as he threatened, if she declined the haircut.)

    1. Oh god, that must have been in my subconscious because the evening I wrote this my partner and I had definitely been talking about the Gates divorce with another friend over dinner. Yikes!

  1. This one hit me in a whole different way than these stories normally do.

    When I left my ex, he “accidentally” ruined the baby blanket I had crochet when I was pregnant with our oldest kid. It was classic baby blue with a teddy bear design in fuzzy tan yarn.

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