Quinn breezed into her office grateful her meeting with Morris had only run twenty minutes over her one hour lunch. Dropping her handbag under her desk, Quinn was about to listen to her voicemails when her assistant, Priscilla Cooper, entered her office at near running speed. The petite, perky dynamo stopped abruptly in front of Quinn’s desk. Fighting back the urge to grin, the assistant human resources director again reached for her phone.
“Really, Quinn? Really? You’re just going to act as if I’m not standing here dying to hear how your meeting with your DIVORCE attorney went?”
Looking surprised, Quinn relaxed into her chair.
“Good afternoon, Pris! How are you? Did you enjoy your lunch?”
“Quinn! C’mon, no fair! Did you sign the papers? Are you on the road to freedom?”
Deciding not to torment Priscilla any longer, Quinn chuckled and nodded.
“Yes, Mrs. Cooper, I signed my divorce papers less than an hour ago.” Quinn hadn’t finished her sentence before Priscilla was bouncing up and down, clapping.
“Well, alright! I’m so happy for you, and even happier you went through with it this time.”
Her assistant was one the very few people Quinn confided in. The group of women Quinn had known most of her life and considered friends, firmly sided with Oscar and their families. Quinn found this out the hard way five years ago when she shared her anger and resentment of both their families defending her adulterous husband, and her mother called her enraged, repeating what Quinn had said word for word.
“I signed the papers, Pris, but this isn’t over… yet. I still have a mediation meeting next week.”
“Do you believe he won’t sign and drag this out more, hun? What has he to gain? Why is he putting you through this?”
Sighing, Quinn leaned forward onto her desk. “Well, in no particular order, because he can; both our families are on his side; he believes he’s going to win this battle of wills, and it’s not a good look for a school district administrator.”
“But his ‘winning’ means the two of you stay married. Why? He’s put you through so much. If he wants to sleep around, why are you expected to just put up with it? Have you had the man’s mental competency checked?”
Both women laughed.
“If I start checking mental competency, I’d have to line up my parents, his parents, all our siblings, and nearly everyone who’s ever met us to be tested, because I am considered the spiteful, vindictive bitch-of-a-wife who’s ruining her own marriage.”
“I’m sorry, Quinn. You are a fantastic person. You do not deserve any of this. Whenever you want to talk, just find me… here or at home. You know you have an open invitation to the Cooper abode.”
“Thanks, Pris. I’m blessed to have you as an assistant AND a friend.”
Priscilla pulled a face and pointed at Quinn.
“Yes, you are! And we’ll go into more detail on the friendship when you take me to lunch sometime next week. And, we can discuss my next merit raise after we clear this week’s calendar!”
Shaking her head, Quinn simply laughed.
“I’ve created a monster, but you get away with it by being the best assistant and facilitator in the building, and for keeping me on point. So, yeah… we can discuss that raise later this week.”
Stretching her arms out at her sides, the Nia Long look-alike leaned her head back.
“I am awesome!”
“Alright, Your Awesomeness, how does our afternoon look? Did Bennie send the promo copy up?”
“He sure did, and it looks amazing! Your new layout looks tons better than what marketing threw together. Bennie said Fletcher was there while he was printing it out and seemed quite impressed with your work.”
“Pris, don’t start.”
Priscilla tried to fake a hurt expression but dissolved into giggles.
“I was just passing along information, ma’am… nothing more.”
“Whatever, Priscilla. Did we hear back from Martech?”
“Yeah…and it’s not good news. They’re raising their premiums across the board in eighteen months. Even if employees only have a twenty percent co-pay, it will cost entirely too much. Any of the staff with more than two dependents would be working solely to afford healthcare.”
“Damn. Okay, at least we saw it coming, and they were nice enough to confirm the increase. I’ll see what our remaining HMOs have to offer before I approach new firms. Anything else?”
When her assistant didn’t respond, Quinn looked up to see Priscilla standing with her arms folded across her chest and a sullen look on her face.
“No…just no. I know that look, Pris. It’s a non-subject, for several reasons.”
Returning her gaze to her computer monitor, Quinn continued. “I pulled seven resumes off jobs.com for the administrative assistants Accounting wants. We need to contact the applicants for convenient time frames, then we can-…”
Realizing again Priscilla remained silent, a quick glance in her direction showed she stood rigidly in front of Quinn’s desk, lips tightly pursed.
“You’re not going to be happy until you have your say, so go ahead.”
Sitting back in her chair, Quinn braced for the verbal reprimand she knew was coming.
“Sue me if I want to see you happy with a man who truly appreciates and adores you for the remarkable person you are.”
“And that man is Fletcher Morgan?”
Priscilla threw her hands up.
“I don’t know — it could be. Or Don Jarrell…or Leonard Parkes…or Brandon Reynolds…or a guy you haven’t met yet. But you won’t know until you make yourself available, will you?”
“No, Pris…I won’t, but the fact of the matter is I’m not available. No mat-…”
“But you’re ne-…”
Quinn held up her hand.
“Let me finish. No matter how many papers I signed until a judge bangs their gavel and declares my marriage over, I AM a married woman. No, there is no way I’ll reconcile with Oscar, but I cannot conduct myself as a single woman when I’m not. It’s not a good look, Pris, and it’s not who I am. I would love nothing better than to find ‘the one’… in my case, the REAL one this time, but I need to free myself of Oscar and learn how to deal with the disapproval of my family. Down the road, any man I bring into my life is going to have to deal with my family, and it would be wrong to subject any man to my family drama right now. He’d probably run from me screaming in the other direction.”
Quinn stopped her again.
“And those names you called out? No…just no. All nice guys, Pris, but never someone in the workplace. That never ends well. I love my job, and don’t want to lose it over a bad affair.”
“Quinnie…Fletcher is so delicious, though. He’s got that Keanu Reeves ‘John Wick’ thing going on, only not as stiff.”
Priscilla mimicked a wooden soldier’s walk in front of her boss’s desk.
Quinn couldn’t help but laugh.
“Of course, you’d push the one who’s not black.”
“Whatever, Miss United Nations! I know you dated interracially before you met Oscar. And this is 2016. You’re allowed to be with whoever makes you happy, and anyone who doesn’t like it should mind their own business and move along.”
“You should be up in the EEOC office, not here in Human Resources.”
“I’m far too radical for them!”
Quinn shook her head.
“How does Cameron handle you? That poor man probably doesn’t know if he’s coming or going.”
Priscilla’s face softened at the mention of her husband of twenty-two years.
“He handles me just fine.”
Quinn waved her hands in the air with a mock look of horror.
“No need to overshare, Pris. Especially to the lonely soon-to-be-divorcee. I want to be you when I grow up.”
“Trust me, you don’t. I’ve got three teenagers I’m desperate to unload. Is the circus coming to town anytime soon?”
“Oh, please. You’d go all mama bear on anyone that looked at your boys the wrong way.”
“True. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t considered boarding school every time I see piles of laundry or an empty fridge less than a week after I bought groceries.”
Quinn rose from her seat and walked around her desk. Bending down, she gave her assistant and friend a tight hug.
“I’m glad I have you in my life as a friend and a co-worker, Pris. But don’t worry so much. I’ll be fine. I’ve come through the worst part of this and I’m still standing. I haven’t even reached forty yet… still a lot of good years to find Mr. Right.”
“I know, Quinnie, and I’m sorry. I know I get pushy sometimes.”
Quinn raised an eyebrow.
“Alright, I’m pushy all the time, dang! But I have good intentions. Doesn’t that count for something?”
Before Quinn could answer, a cell phone began to ring. Quickly whipping it from her pocket, Priscilla answered, and Quinn knew immediately it was Cameron. Priscilla only got that moony, dreamy look when talking to her husband.
Mouthing and gesturing that she would work on contacting job applicants, Pris quickly backed out the office, closing the door behind her.
Feelings of loneliness and pangs of yearning assaulted Quinn. She stared at her office door, knowing Pris and Cameron were having their regular afternoon update call. He called every day after lunch, without fail. They would remind each other of after-school activities or games for their kids, or make plans to meet for dinner after work.
Another thing that was always the same was Priscilla smiled during the entire conversation. Quinn could just imagine Cameron smiling too. The successful ophthalmologist scheduled his day around his adoring wife, and Pris was constantly on the lookout for rare sports memorabilia to surprise him with.
Quinn loved their relationship, but if she dwelled on it too long, depression would set in.
Returning to her seat, Quinn tried to concentrate on the healthcare provider listing. Her hands tightened into fists as anger distracted her.
Why couldn’t she have what Pris and Cameron had? Why didn’t she have three active teenagers and an attentive husband?
Quinn had such high hopes for the future when she and Oscar first married. He’d been loving and attentive, and she thought he’d hung the moon. They did everything together — make dinner, laundry, shopping — mainly because they couldn’t keep their hands off each other and were very creative when it came to locations to make love.
Quinn and Oscar spent their first four wedding anniversaries in exotic locales soaking up sun… and each other.
Halfway to their fifth anniversary, Oscar changed, leaving home early in the morning and returning late at night with little or no contact with Quinn throughout the day. Quinn was looking forward to their fifth-anniversary trip — Paris, France. She’d dreamed of seeing the City of Lights since her early teens, but every time she brought up the subject with her husband, he’d promise to check the vacation calendar at work and get back to her.
Six weeks before their anniversary, Oscar told Quinn they couldn’t go. Two administrators accepted jobs with other districts, and one had been terminated. With the school year about to end, his workload was immense.
Quinn was devastated but knew how serious Oscar was about his job.
Oscar told Quinn not to toss out any of her notes for the trip, saying as soon as the school year was wrapped up, they would make the trip. He was sure they would get to Paris for Bastille Day in July.
Quinn never got that trip. By the time May fifth arrived, the only thing she got was confirmation that her husband of five years was an adulterer.