All I Ever Wanted
DISCLAIMER: If I own them, I'm certainly not reaping the financial rewards.
FEEDBACK: 'To coin a popular Sunnydale phrase - duh.'
I never thought it would come to this.
Opposite sides of a courtroom, sitting dutifully at the table and smiling prettily at the judge, letting the lawyers bicker it out, dividing the remnants of a life once together.
Angel's sitting over there. He's being careful not to look at me.
I'm trying to behave as the wronged wife. Actually, *he* filed on me. Which explains why he's sat, soberly dressed, every inch the calm, reasonable businessman who simply wants to cut his losses and move on.
It depends on the judge, really: does he go for blondes in short skirts, or approve of the cutthroat male-dominated business hierarchy, exemplifying the American Spirit?
He is a good enough man. The wrong was me, is me; thinking what he was, what he represented, would be enough for me. For happily ever after.
I was going through an uncharacteristically un-cynical phase at the time. Maybe because it was a double wedding with Dawn. She told me she wasn't sure how to behave, that she was copying a joy she wasn't totally feeling from me, so we both looked every inch the blushing, white-clad brides. As if I claimed innocence enough to wear white.
But now, while I'm duking it out with my one and only, she's happily ensconced in a suburban home, with a husband who supports her career fully, and stays at home without complaint to take care of their kids. One of each. I'm an auntie twice over, but in this situation I thank God I'm not a mother.
I thank God about my mother, for just a second, right now. She would have worried she'd damaged me with her divorce or something; possibly true, but probably more to do with Dad. I can at least envision myself having *informed* my mother that I was getting married; I had Giles give me away and Dad sent flowers. Late.
But that really has nothing to do with the two of us. He was a good husband, a good person, someday he'll make a good father; all I wanted. But when it came down to it, we just weren't suited enough to cohabit successfully with each other.
You never really think of that - that the adage 'familiarity breeds contempt' is oh so true. You go 'sure, there'll be arguments', but you assume you can get over it. Nothing prepared me for having to give up my own space after living alone for so long. I got used to not having to account for myself, and when I was living with him... he was *always* *there*. Obvious, yes, but not quite processed.
Maybe that was why I had to get away; I didn't realise life would become so stultifying so fast. Boredom, normality, banality; for a couple of years I welcomed them as a lovely respite, but even though I'm not the Slayer anymore, Slayer blood still flows in my veins, and still the years when I learned my patterns for the rest of my life were fraught with danger and unpredictability.
I thought he understood that about me; hell, I thought he *shared* that with me. But it turned out that while uncertainty, spontaneity, is the natural state I thrive in, his natural state is one of habit and lists and goddamn routine.
When he found out about my affair, he didn't get mad, or quiet, or upset, the reactions I'd guessed at and prepared for. He sat me down and said we'd gone through too much, he loved me too much and knew I loved him too much for him to let something like this destroy us. I got so frustrated; didn't he see that it wasn't so much that I'd had the affair that I'd even contemplated having it?
We did have something special. Of course, I loved him, once. We tried to reconcile, a couple of times, but it wasn't the same, and both times I went back to my lover after less than a month, with a smile and a sigh of relief and a delighted squeal as he tumbled me on the bed. Or in the shower, or on the kitchen table, or late at night, in the park. Excellent lovers, both of them, naturally; but variety I only got with one, and that's why I went to him.
And so finally, we admitted defeat, or I admitted defeat and forced him to go along with it. He filed against me on the grounds of adultery, and everything was going smoothly - not well, but smoothly - and then shortly after the decree nisi came through, he turned nasty and brought me to court to split our property.
I'm pretty sure there was someone else involved. Another woman whispering in his ear what I deserved (that is, nothing, and certainly not the house we picked and decorated together, with giggles and painty kisses, or either of the cars, including the one I paid for, or our gorgeous four-poster, or any of the pots and pans). The second time we tried to sort ourselves out, I suspected he was carrying on an affair too... an outrageously obvious affair that he flaunted to me with some kind of vicious triumph, and then was when I left. Putting himself right there in the wrong alongside me didn't help any (not even to make himself feel better, I shouldn't think, given his usual guilt), and the fact that he took vengeance at all dismayed me.
Unreasonable and hypocritical? Maybe. But I wasn't going to stay in a relationship where I'd have to spend the rest of my life making up for less than a year's worth of mistakes.
It has only been a year. A year ago, we were happy, coming up to our fourth wedding anniversary. It's amazing how quickly a marriage can fall apart, and how quickly your opinion of the other party changes while it's doing so.
You always think you're different, but in the courtroom every couple is the same; grabby, petty, and disliking each other.
The judge bangs his gavel and calls another couple of names forward, and it's done. I'm footloose and fancy-free.
I'm a divorcee at thirty-two, but then that's not so unusual.
I got everything I wanted in the settlement - I didn't actually ask for that much, what with having done the dirty on him - so I thank my lawyer absently while discreetly searching the room for Angel. My lawyer mentions her fees (da-da-duuuummm) and congratulates me on my success.
Should I be congratulated for failing my marriage and my husband - for breaking the heart of a man who loved me?
I walk over to him, tentative, smoothing my skirt. Despite the highly non-amicable nature of our divorce I'm hoping that now, the last time we'll see each other for a while (if not forever) he'll find it in himself to be civil to me, to acknowledge that we had a number of good years together.
"Well," I say lamely.
"Well," he agrees, and if there's no longer warmth for me in his eyes, if that adoring, you-are-the-only-being-in-the-universe look isn't there, I wasn't expecting it to be, and at least he's talking to me.
"I'm sorry," I say. I am. I didn't want to do this to him. He deserves happiness. Perfect happiness, even.
"I'm sorry too," he says, "but it doesn't mean a lot now, you know?"
I bite my lip. "I know." I look down to where I'm twisting my sweaty hands together nervously, and the golden glint catches my eye. Slowly, I remove my wedding band - antique, due to his passion for all that is old and his assertion that I, as an unconventional woman, would not be right for a conventional ring - and I look up into his face. There are tears in his eyes as he looks at what I'm doing. I press the ring into his hand, curl his fingers around it gently.
"Take care," I murmur, and reach up to caress his rough, familiar cheek with my lips one last time.
He doesn't respond to my kiss, just nods, picks up his case and walks out, moving quickly and stiffly down the aisle. Old war wounds. I don't know what he intends to do now; I feel a rush of freedom at the realisation that not only do I not care, no longer do I have to care, am I supposed to care. We're finally, finally 'ex'.
I watch after him without really seeing anything; just waiting until I feel the presence behind me. I lean back, and Angel's arms wrap comfortingly around my middle as I rest against his chest.
"Are you okay?" he says softly. As well he might; he's been here, not so much beside me as behind me, for the look of it, for all of it. Actually, he's pretty much been the cause of all of it. Would John and I have made it if Angel, human Angel, hadn't reappeared in my life? It doesn't matter; I'm glad he did, and so I tell him:
"Yeah, I'm fine. This is what I want."
"Are you sure?" he asks, and I almost get mad because even if I'm not isn't this a little late to decide that? I am happy with my choices and surely all this should be enough to tell him - but then, Angel has never been much reassured by things I tell him, because in our early years I told him such differing messages. 'I want to be with you', 'I can't be with you', 'I want to be with you but I need a break'. He is only soothed by what I show him.
I turn in his loose embrace and drape my arms securely about his neck, looking into his eyes.
"I'm sure," I say firmly, and then my lips curve into a mischievous smile and I add, "this is *almost* everything I've ever longed for."
Angel stands for a moment, and then he grins back at me, slyly, and removes an arm from my waist, holding me closer with the other one as he digs in his pocket.
He steps back, and before my sluggish mind can process his graceful movement he's down on one knee before me, holding out a small velvet jewellery box like a sacred offering (and it's Tiffany's, no less). God knows it's not the most romantic setting, and certainly not the most tasteful or appropriate; but as he dutifully, emotionally repeats the time-honoured words with a half-cocky half-terrified grin, and then slides the beautiful diamond onto my finger and kisses me softly, I'm happier than I've ever been before in my life.
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