This story is by Charrie LaFarr and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I will never forget how they looked. They looked plain, they looked normal. They looked like me.
I guessed he was medium height, middle aged, and moderately waisted in his flannel and dirty Carharrts, with some tractor business hat and rugged unkept dark facial hair. She, about the same age, small petite build, with beautiful red orange hair down her back, a black cardigan with a green knitted scarf and slim fitted jeans with knee high boots .
She is stoic and walking stiffly. He looks like he is in some kind of pain. They say few words. They do not touch or even sway near the other. They are walking to the very far corner of the lot, which coincidentally is very close to where I am parked. I sit in the car at my 10 year old son’s football practice everyday. Yeah, I’m that mom. My window is down 3/4 of the way so I can hear and see them well. He glances quickly in my direction and then looks away. He mostly doesn’t speak. I choose to ignore them and just when I have decided there is nothing notable to anything they are saying I hear him start yelling and saying how something was going to cost $70,000. She yells back but it is hard to hear her small voice.
‘Let’s just get this over with”, he mutters loud enough for me to hear, but with a hitch to his voice and his head down.
Now, I am interested. Now they have my attention.
My misguided conscience had me straining to listen and see it all go down. Not my proudest moment I’ll admit. Somehow I got a rush out of the intensity of the situation. I experienced no pleasure from their sadness. I was trying to piece together what was being said with their actions and where they were going.
They simultaneously reached a car parked near the edge of the lot. A forest green 90’s model Ford Taurus with an expressionless woman standing at the back of the car with some legal size manila folders under her arm. She has a long, tight dark black braid down her back and her business attire tells me she was an attorney type. She develops a forced smile as she greets them and immediately begins to share the contents of the file with them both. The gentleman seems moderately interested while the woman was engrossed immediately. The attorney speaks here and there and points to areas of the paperwork laid out before them. The couple each has a pen in hand now and beginning what I assume to be signing documents. Each time one of them writes, it is abrupt, and they wait to do they same to the next page. Looking through my side mirror makes it hard to see them, but I can make out her face. The stone cold look on her face leads me to believe the they are signing divorce papers.
The chemistry is there, their proximity to one another is a tad electric. He eyes her from under the bill of his hat during her turns to sign and initial, and looks away almost shyly from her when she looks to him for his signings.
October skies above and pre-winter winds make it chilly and unwelcoming to roll the window down more. I also feel like a total creep eaves dropping on them. Constant whistle blowing from over at the football field paired with coaches yelling instructions and encouragement keeps interfering with my ability to hear clearly the exchange between them. The sun dances low in the sky and shimmies down the horizon. Autumn colors dance around their feet from fallen leaves and pine tree needles. He just keeps looking at her. She tilts her face and body in a position that only gives her a peripheral vision of this man she had built a life with. She simply can not bear to look at him it seems.
My heart aches for the both of them and I wonder what and where their love went wrong. Was it money? Was there not an attraction between them? Was it one sided and the other was fighting it? Do they have children? Could one of them have had an affair? Was there someone else? So many questions, yet they would not be answered because I did not know these people. I assume because they are both at a youth football practice that they have a child, or children, between 7-13 years old. The mystery of it all was a tad exhilarating.
He leans in to see her better and flashes a small, boyish smile at her, she turns slightly away. She does not want to engage with him at all. He lowers his head and his smile slowly fades away to a look of sadness and defeat. He still loves her. He does not want this. I now have a lump in my throat and I am Team Him. I am Team Farmer Looking Hubby. I am Team he Wants To Save His Marriage.
She murmurs here and there to the lawyer type still yammering on, though neither one if them is listening to her. The lawyer has a court room voice that carries and I clearly hear her say, “Are you sure you both want to finish this?” The long pause and their body language speak wonders for their feelings. She gulps and blinks a few times fast to hold back tears ready to spill over. He slowly moves forward to her and his longing to hold her is clear as day. She finally lifts her head to look directly at him and it clearly steals the breath from his chest at the same time. His eyes soften and he smirks at her. She loves him too. I’m Team Her. I am Team Broken Wifey. I am Team You Guys Got This.
The lawyer gal, says nothing but sees what is happening and steps to the front of her car to give them a few minutes of privacy. I am welling up in tears and was likely hanging my head out the window to hear and see better. I most definitely look like an idiot. They are in their own world and the earth could be crumbling down around them and they wouldn’t notice.
He looks intently at her and you could see the years passing betweens their eyes. The good, the bad, and the indifferent. All the memories and promises made, now forgotten but still there. All the those moments catapulting them to this moment of doubt, fear and the unknown. I was hoping they had way more good than bad and they could save what they have together. I sit in my car and will their love to win and for him to pull her into his arms. The only thing she probably wants and the safest place in the world to her. He pleads with her with his soft eyes to return his loving smile. Looking through her tears she utters something to him that makes his chin start to slightly quiver and shake. I hold my breath and see him step closer to her as October sunset rays shimmer in her already radiant hair.
My rear passenger door swings open, “Hey mom, practice was great, I was breaking ankles”, my amped up son blurts out as he hops into the backseat and shuts the door. I jump nearly out of my own skin and turn to look at him with a horrified look on my face. I had been caught. He stopped and looked at me like I was crazy judging by the look on his face.
“What’s wrong Mom?”, he asks with a concerned look on his face.
“Oh nothing dude, you just startled me that’s all.” I smile and reassure him. He smiles back and starts to take off his football pads. He starts to tell me about his practice. He has no idea I am spying on complete strangers.
I whip my head around to see what is happening in the back corner of the parking lot. They are still staring at each other. Some words may have been exchanged, it was hard to make out with noises from my son in the backseat and they spoke quietly.
I reluctantly start the car, call out for a seatbelt, secured my own and pull away. I feel a huge heaviness as I roll out of my parking spot and make my way towards the exit from the lot. I glance back to find them still searching each others faces. A cool breeze lifts her hair into the sun even more and as I turn the corner I see the smallest smile from both of those conflicted souls. There is almost a burst of bright orange sunlight around them and then they disappear behind the trees as I continue driving away.