The Problem with Fire - M.E. Clayton


“I want a divorce.”

I stopped rummaging through my dresser drawer, as I had been searching for my favorite pajama pants. I turned to face my husband who was standing on the other side of the room, our queen size bed like a battle line between us.

He looked serious.


I watched as he straightened taller, his hazel eyes clear and determined. “I want a divorce,” he repeated, and I was still having trouble following.

My hand gripped the edge of the opened drawer as my stomach pitched. “Yo…you want a divorce?” We’d been married fourteen years, together for fifteen. We’d met our sophomore year in college, but our friendship hadn’t turned romantic until our junior year at Stanford. We had married as soon as we had graduated and had Leta two years later.

And now, fifteen years later, he was standing in our bedroom, telling me he wanted a divorce. My handsome husband with his sandy brown hair, beautiful hazel eyes, and impressive physique for a man edging towards forty, was standing in our bedroom, looking at me, ending our marriage.

“I haven’t been happy for a long while, Monroe,” he announced, as if I were supposed to have known this, even though he’s never said anything. “And life is too short to spend it unhappy.”

Normally, I’d agree, but…

“I don’t understand, Thomas,” I replied, confused and…in shock, I think. “If you’ve been unhappy, why didn’t you say anything before now? Couns-”

“It doesn’t matter,” he said, cutting me off. “I’m saying something now.” It had to be shock. For me to stand here, so calmly, listening to him say words he won’t ever be able to take back, it had to be shock. “And I’m not going to waste my time or yours with counseling that I know won’t work.” The tone of his voice wasn’t hard to miss. Thomas has already moved on both emotionally and mentally, if not physically, and he wasn’t suggesting divorce. No. He was telling me he was getting a divorce.

I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to feel right now. My marriage was supposed to last, and I didn’t have a Plan B. I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that I should be crying, or screaming, or pleading for…a chance? For his love?

I mean, I should be feeling something, right?

But then, like most mothers, my maternal instinct kicked in and reminded me that, even though my marriage was falling apart right now, there was still someone more important in all this that needed me to fight for her. “What about Leta? Have…have you thought about what this will do to Leta?”

“She’s young. She’ll get over it,” he replied stoically.

And that’s when I felt the first twinge of emotion. “She’s young? She’ll get over it?” I repeated. “Are you serious? How…she’s a twelve-year-old girl,” I said, feeling the need to remind him. “She’s going to be devastated.”

“And like most kids from divorced families, she’ll get over it, Monroe,” he said again.

I stared at this man in my bedroom, who I didn’t know, and wondered what in the hell was going on. Thomas was a good father. He always has been. He and Leta had a wonderful relationship. So, for him to dismiss her and her feelings so casually…well, that told me that, even if I did get on my knees and beg for a chance to make our marriage work, he wouldn’t.

He was done with me.

Too bad I’d been the last ones to know it.

I knew I was going to feel rage, betrayal, pain, and sadness further down the line, but, right now, I felt anger on Leta’s behalf. “Well, then, if you’re so sure that she’ll get over it, then you’re going to tell her you’re divorcing me,” I spat.

He nodded. “I’ll just explain-”

“No,” I snapped, stopping him. “You don’t get to dismiss how this will affect her and still try to come out of this mess squeaky clean. If you want an uncomplicated divorce, then you’re going to have to be completely honest with her. There won’t be any of this ‘me and your mother’ bullshit. You’re going to tell her the truth, Thomas. Which shouldn’t be too hard since she’ll eventually get over it, right?”

“I think it’s best if I stay in a hotel tonight,” he said, ignoring my conditions.

“I think you’re right,” I agreed, and wondered, again, what the hell was going on.

Chapter 1


What the hell was wrong with me?

I was a grown ass woman with a fifteen-year-old child, a marriage and a divorce