Reasonable Doubt: Volume 3
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“We can’t have one nice moment before we end things for good?”
“You and I ended a long time ago, Ava.” I tried to keep my voice flat, monotonous. “When something is over, the final words—good or bad, don’t make much of a f**king difference.”
She sighed and I noticed how terrible she looked today. Her eyes were bloodshot, her hair was frizzy and tied into a loose ponytail, and even though the blue dress she was wearing fit perfectly, she hadn’t made an attempt to iron it.
“What’s this so called emergency you have, Mr. Hamilton?” The notary walked into the room, smiling. “Are you requesting that we purchase another thousand dollar coffee maker?” She stopped talking once she saw Ava.
“Miss Kannan, this is Ava Sanchez, my soon to be ex-wife. I need you to witness the signing of the divorce papers and make three copies—sealing one of them for mailing purposes.”
She nodded and pulled a stamper out of her pocket.
“Did you notice that I willingly gave up our condo on the West End to you?” Ava asked.
“The condo that I bought?” I signed my name. “How generous.”
“We made a lot of memories in that house.”
“Signing papers doesn’t require conversation,” I said.
She snatched the pen away from me and placed her signature above mine—taking extra time to add a double swirl to the last letter.
“I’ll be right back with your copies.” Miss Kannan avoided looking at either of us as she shuffled out of the room.
“So, that’s it, I guess,” Ava said. “I’m officially out of your life.”
“No.” I shook my head. “Unfortunately, you’re still in my sight.”
“Would it kill you to wish me the best? To at least tell me good luck?”
“Seeing as though you’re going back to prison, I guess that would be appropriate.” I shrugged. “Good luck. The authorities are outside waiting for you, so take all the time you need. There’s even a vending machine down the hall if you want to taste freedom one last time…Although, since you’ll be locked up with plenty of women, I’m sure eating pu**y after the lights go out will taste just as good.”
“You f**king snitched on me?” Her face went white as I held up my phone, showing her the text I sent the second I saw her in my office. “How could you do that to me?”
“How could I not?”
“Did I really hurt you that badly, Liam? Did I—”
“Don’t you ever f**king call me that.”
“Did I hurt you that badly?” She repeated, shaking her head.
I didn’t answer.
“This is…This is about Emma isn’t it?” She hissed. “Is that what this is? You’re still holding that shit over my head?”
“Get the f**k out. Now.”
“It’s been six years, Liam. Six. Fucking. Years. You need to let that go.” She opened the door and a sly smile spread across her face. “Things like that happen all the time...As unfortunate as it was, it helped make you the man you are today, didn’t it?”
It took everything in me to stay seated, to not lunge after her.
Seething, I waited for her to leave and walked over to my window—watching as she stepped into the parking lot, as she raised her hands in the air as the officers shouted at her.
Then, just like six years ago, she smiled through the handcuffing process, and laughed when they tossed her into the back of the car.
The black fleet slowly drove away, and a familiar pang hit my chest.
Grabbing my keys, I rushed to the parking lot and slipped into my car—subconsciously telling myself to go home, consciously driving toward the nearest beach.
I put my phone on silent as I hit the highway, and as the seconds dissolved into hours, the city disappeared in the rearview mirror. The buildings appeared farther and farther apart, and eventually the only thing outside my window were trees and sand.
When I finally reached a secluded bay, I parked my car in front of a rock. I opened my glove compartment and took out the red folder Aubrey once tried to open. Then I stepped out and sat on the closest bench.
Taking a deep breath, I pulled out the photos and promised myself that this would be the last time I looked at them: Me and my daughter walking along the shore of New Jersey’s beach as the sun set. Her smiling as I picked up a seashell and held it against her ear. Me carrying her on my shoulders and pointing to a starry night sky.
Even though I knew doing this would lead to cold sweats and an inevitable nightmare later, I continued flipping through the photos.
Even the ones without me: The ones of her looking sad and lonely at the park, the ones of her looking off into the distance for something—or someone, that wasn’t there.
My heart clenched at the final frame in the set. It was a shot of her fiddling with her umbrella, crying. She was upset because they were forcing her to go inside, because they didn’t understand that although she liked being at the park in broad sunlight, she preferred to play outside in the rain.
Emotional Distress (n.):
A negative emotional reaction—which may include fear, anger, anxiety, and suffering for which monetary damages may be awarded.
I looked terrible. Absolutely terrible.
Today was the first full costume rehearsal for Swan Lake and I didn’t look fit for the part at all. My eyes were swollen and puffy—ruined from randomly crying about Andrew, my lips were dry and cracked, and my skin was so pale that Mr. Petrova walked by and asked, “Are you playing a white swan or are you playing a white ghost?”
As much as I tried to force myself to smile through my heartache, I was crying every moment I was alone, eating an exorbitant amount of ice cream and chocolate each night, and I couldn’t sleep for shit.
I still couldn’t believe Andrew kicked me out of his condo so cruelly. One minute he was holding me against his chest and kissing me, and the next he was telling me that he and I had f**ked enough—that he didn’t want me anymore, and that he was going to f**k someone else.
What was worse, was that when we returned to work that following Monday, he’d been twice as rude to me. He reassigned me to a case that would take me months to sort, scolded me in front of everyone for being ten seconds late, and then he had the audacity to complain about me smiling as I brought him his daily coffee.
At least I spit in it…
“Are you crying right now?” The make-up assistant tilted my chin up. “Do you know how expensive this stage mascara is?”
“I’m sorry.” I froze my eyeballs to their sockets and held back tears.
“I didn’t see your parents’ names on the guest list for today. Are they coming to the second run through on Saturday?”
“I guess they just want to see the full on show with no stops then, huh?” She laughed. “My parents are the same way. I told them about the number of run-throughs we have to do and they said they’ll see it when it’s finished. They’re all about perfection.”
“Unfortunately, I can relate…”
She laughed and blabbered on and on, making me silently count the seconds until she was done.