Coffee and donuts. Ethan is going straight for my heart. Not too long ago I had to bend to get a good view of the donuts in the case. Being in a wheelchair I have the perfect view.
“What are you going to get?” Ethan asks playfully.
“Hmm… there are too many to choose from.” My eyes trail over the mass selection of heavenly pastries.
“We could get them all and go back to my place and eat ourselves into a sugar coma.” I laugh at his suggestion, even though inside I’m humming—sounds like pure bliss.
“I’ll take a maple bar and a Grande caramel mocha, please.”
“Coming right up!” His easy going spirit makes me beam.
We find a table and he removes one of the chairs so that I don’t have to transfer to a seat. A table behind us is filled with attractive women, and it doesn’t go unnoticed how they are staring at Ethan. I take my place with my back to them. It doesn’t block them out. I can hear their giggles and vocal compliments in his direction. I can’t blame them. He is extremely sexy. I would be showing my appreciation too. “That is so sweet of him to take his mom for coffee and donuts.” I hear one of them say. I cringe inwardly. “You should slip him your number,” says another voice. I try to pretend I am not listening, but I look up and see Ethan’s face distorted into a grimace. I haven’t seen him ever show an ounce of anger, but I think he might be angry. He stands abruptly and comes over to me and plants a deep heavy kiss to my lips. I’m left breathless, and the girls are rendered speechless.
“How did you know that Dawn of the Donuts is one of my favorite places?” What I really want to ask is how he really feels about our age gap, but I don’t.
“I didn’t. It’s one of my favorites.”
“Well, at least that’s one thing I know about you now.”
He smirks, “What else would you like to know?”
“I’m sure we can arrange that.” My cheeks heat up. My mind always seems to be wandering to a very physical place whenever Ethan is around.
“Why do you have to see an Attorney, today?” I don’t think he realizes how personal of a question he just raised.
“I … uhh, have to talk to him about the car accident.” Ethan nods, the comprehension flashing in his eyes. I want to tell him more, but that takes me to such a dark part of me, and I don’t know if I want to open up about Sean yet or not. “It’s mostly formalities about that night. They are trying to get the insurance to pay for some of my therapy.” I try to say enough that he doesn’t feel like I’m blocking him out.
“The insurance company should pay.” He agrees.
“The hard part is finding out who was at fault. My friend had a lot to drink that night, and he probably shouldn’t have gotten behind the wheel.”
“Nikki!” he says my name loudly startling me. “What on earth would make you get into a vehicle with a drunk driver?” I feel his eyes boring in on me. Heaven knows he’s right. He has every right to question my state of mind, but he doesn’t know that I had to leave.
I take a long drink of my coffee looking over the rim of it, wondering how much I should say. I set my coffee down. Ethan is still staring me down waiting for an explanation. “I had to leave.” Ethan sits back in his chair crossing his arms over his chest. He looks planted down. He’s going nowhere until I explain. His blue shirt brings out his eyes making them more accusing. I sigh heavily. “I caught my husband in a room with another woman.”
“What?” Ethan sits straight up in his chair. “You caught your husband cheating?”
I nod, indicating yes. I am mortified. It’s one thing to hear or find out you’ve been cheated on, but to actually walk in on the two of them it’s—horrific. I shouldn’t feel embarrassed, but I am. Ethan’s stance changes from relaxed to rigid. I can see the tick in his jaw as he processes what I just told him. “What a fucking whacker.”
I shrug my shoulders, “What can you do?” I say.
“You left in a panic, and then got into an accident?”
“Yes,” I answer knowing now that he is picking up on my stupid, tragic story.
“Shit Nikki, I’m so sorry.”
“Me too.” I look down at my watch and realize we need to get moving, or I’m going to be late. “Can you take me back to the hospital? My sister is supposed to pick me up from there.”
“Sure, no problem.” I’m grateful he doesn’t offer to take me to the attorney’s office. I still don’t know what we are, and I don’t need another stressor trying to explain to my sister who he is.
Heather and I sit patiently waiting for Jim Schapp. The receptionist has her hair pulled back into the same chignon, but today she is wearing a red maxi dress, with a pair of brown knee-high boots. I’m still weighing if her smile is genuine. It could be the wage she probably gets paid in this posh office that keeps her smiling. “Mr. Schapp should be with you shortly,” she tells us.
I’m not as edgy as I was the last time I was in here. The last time was torturous.
Reliving that night, in front of my sister … I’m just glad that I’m done with the interrogation. The rest should be a piece of cake.
I hum to myself while we wait. “Are you humming?”
“You were just humming.” Heather smirks, “Okay, what is going on with you?”
I laugh, “nothing.” I lie. Ethan has me caught in an updraft. I can’t hide my undertones of happiness. Memories of the softness of his lips against mine, and the way he makes me feel when I’m with him, flood my mind.
“Ladies.” Jim stands in the doorway to his office, interrupting my revelries. He looks all business in his gray slacks and matching suit jacket. I can’t put my finger on it, but he doesn’t seem to be eluding the warm personality that he did the other day. He slides the chair away for me to scoot in front of his desk. I can’t help but wonder what questions he might have for me today. “Nice to see you again,” he says while he takes his seat.
“Before we begin,” I catch his attention. “Are you going to be handling my divorce as well?”
Hem… hem, he clears his throat. “Typically, I only do personal injury cases, but maybe we can arrange your divorce too, but I have some questions first.” I definitely hear something in his undertones. I wonder what that’s all about.
“How about we get started with some basics, shall we?” I nod in agreement.
“First off, what is your full name?”
That’s an easy enough one, “Nicole Hazel Cooper.” I glance at my sister. It has always been an on-going joke about the middle names that our mother chose for us. At least I didn’t end up as Heather Doris.
“Is that your married name?”
“Yes, my maiden name was Larsen,” I add.
“Your birth date?”
“November 8th, 1976”
I see him jot all the answers down in his notebook. “Okay, I don’t know how to put this, but …” his eyes meet mine, and I realize he’s about to tell me why he has been so off with me today. “I always hire my own team of investigators when I take on a big case like this.” This news doesn’t come as too big of a shock to me. I figure they want to know their chances in court. They have to find out all of the details that they can. His eyes narrow in on me. “Why did you leave with Lance that evening?”
“Huh? I told you why.” I look at my sister wondering if I had maybe forgotten a detail on Wednesday.
“You say it was because you were distraught, but was it really because you were having an affair with Lance?” I’m speechless. I can’t believe what this asshole is accusing me of. I shake my head back and forth violently. “Your husband had a very different version of the story you gave us.”
“Sean,” his name slips from my tongue with an acrid taste.
“He painted a very vivid picture of you and his friend Lance having a sexual relationship.”
His words disappear in a haze. I can’t take any more of this. Every corner I turn is another cataclysmic catastrophe. How could Sean accuse me of this? “What … huh, I …” I’m speechless. The words are there, but I can’t get them to leave my mouth. I look pleadingly at my sister. I need to see behind her eyes—wondering if these lies have her questioning my faithfulness. Perplexed—that’s all I see. She’s just as perplexed as me. Thank heavens.
“That lying asshole!” she spits out, filling in the words I want to scream myself. “Is he trying to get out of alimony? Does he think flipping the table and blaming Nikki, he’ll get away with this shit?”
The lawyer sits back in his chair and assesses me. He shifts slightly when he sees I’m not about to repent for something that I never did. “It does look a little suspicious. It is your word versus his. We can’t go and ask Lance since you were the last one to see him alive.”
His words are a gut wrenching blow. Instinctively, I wrap my arm around my abdomen—needing to push back the pain that is forcing its way out. “How dare you.” I force out the words glowering at him. “Heather, we are leaving!” She pushes back on her chair and stands without any question.
The loud bang on the desk in front of us scares me half-to-death. “Nikki,--I needed to test you. I had to see how strong you are. I knew your husband was lying about the crazy accusations. I know that we have the injury case—in the bag. I do, however, think your soon-to-be ex is going to be more of a challenge.” He takes a deep breath, “his accusations are going to come hard. I need to see if you are strong enough to push back.”
Heather, still standing, looks down at me. Asking me with her eyes what I want to do. The choice is mine. I look to Jim, “I want that asshole to pay.” Jim’s eyes twinkle and his lips pull up into a devious smile.