Pieces of Us - Carrie Elks
“One more signature,” Meg Ryker said, sliding yet another slip of paper full of tiny black print across the table. “Don’t look so worried. It’s your last one as Autumn Garner.”
Autumn took the paper from her lawyer and scrawled her name – her soon to be old name – across it. How many times had she practiced this signature until it was exactly how she wanted it? With just the right amount of swirl and loops without looking too forced. And she’d never need it again.
She was Autumn Paxton now. Back to the name she thought she’d given up for good. It felt strange, like putting on a sweater you’d grown out of. The arms were too short, the knit too tight against her bust.
She glanced again at the piece of paper, with Non-Disclosure Agreement printed across the top. It was the final piece of the settlement, and it had taken her and Josh almost twelve months to negotiate.
Twelve months of feeling in limbo. Of wanting to be done with the marriage she never should have agreed to in the first place.
Now she was free, and she had no idea what to do.
“So that’s it?” she asked, passing the agreement back to Meg.
“That’s it.” Meg laid it on top of all the other papers Autumn had to sign since Judge Benedict had given the go-ahead to dissolve the marriage. “I just need to exchange these with your husband—” she laughed, correcting herself, “I mean your ex-husband’s lawyer and then it’s all complete. You’re a free woman.”
“Without a home or a job.” Autumn chewed her lip.
“Ah, but with more than enough money to buy both. This is a good thing, Autumn. You got almost everything you wanted. Now you get to decide what to do with the rest of your life.”
“You’re right.” Autumn smiled at her. She’d spent enough time mourning her failed marriage. “And at least I got to keep the shoe collection.”
Meg laughed. “I noticed the ones you’re wearing today. They’re beautiful.”
Autumn lifted her foot to admire the yellow patent pumps she was wearing, with sky-high heels and a familiar red sole. Pretty shoes were her one weakness. Ever since her mom bought her first pair of sparkly pink glitter shoes when she could barely walk five steps.
“I guess these are my divorce shoes,” she said, twirling her ankles.
Her sister, Lydia had put it a little more crudely, squealing loudly and clapping with glee when she saw them. “They’re screw-you-Josh shoes. I love them!” she’d said. “Promise me you’ll wear them to court.”
And so she had, teaming them with a sober grey skirt suit with yellow piping, and hoping to heck the Judge didn’t have something against bright yellow shoes.
“So what are you and your shoes planning to do next?” Meg asked, pressing the intercom button on her desk.
“I’ve no idea.” And it felt weird. In spite of the crazy shoes, her life had always been regimented. Studying hard at school, then at college before finally getting her MBA. Then she’d done it all again in business, working for a huge Manhattan real estate firm before starting her own with her husband, building it until they were one of the movers and shakers in the Manhattan office space business.
And now that firm was her ex-husband’s, thanks to the sheaves of paper she’d just signed. She’d been generously compensated for letting him buy her out, but it still felt strange. For the first time in her adult life she was unemployed.
Like her change in name, it didn’t seem to fit.
“Well while you’re thinking about it, let’s drink to your future.” Meg beckoned her assistant in. He was carrying a tray with two glasses of champagne, which he handed to Meg and Autumn before quietly walking away. “To new horizons,” Meg said, lifting the glass up. “Good luck with wherever life takes you.”
Autumn clinked her glass against her lawyer’s and took the smallest of sips. It was delicious. If Lydia were here, she’d say it should be, thanks to the small fortune Autumn had paid for Meg’s services. But it was worth it. That much she knew.
“New horizons,” Autumn said, taking another, longer, sip. “Whatever they might be.”
“This calls for tequila,” Lydia said later that night, beckoning the bartender over to the table where she and Autumn were sitting. “Four shots,” she said, her voice slurring ever-so-slightly. “And another bowl of those nuts. They’re delicious.”
“Where the heck do you put all that food?” Autumn asked her sister, looking up and down her