Ava catches sight of the tan line caused by her wedding ring, where it once sat for six years until about two weeks ago. She finally threw in the towel after holding out for some sort of reconciliation, but she knew there was no hope of that ever happening; not after everything that happened since the summer. That fateful day when she walked through the door of their home in Notting Hill, to find the letter on the console table by the door. Something about the way it sat there so formally got her shackles up.
She recognised AJ’s chicken scratch.
The letter itself was uneventful, if one can say that about a letter informing her about a separation with intent to divorce from her husband. Plainly put; he was leaving her. He was having an affair with his sous chef Wendy; the hot piece of arse he could not stop gushing about since he hired her at the restaurant. Their restaurant. Ava let Wendy into their home, introduced her to her circle of friends, they went on vacations together, with her and her girlfriend… Ava gave her all access so of course Wendy was there to open her legs for her husband too and AJ was only too willing. He blamed some of it on her, talk about a parting shot; she worked too hard, travelled for work a lot, blah, blah bloody blah.
Ten minutes. She stood on the spot for ten minutes reading and re-reading that note. Tears streamed down her face, sure she’d stopped breathing.
‘Mummy!’ Ollie came bounding into her arms back from his play date.
‘Hey sweetheart.’ She hugged him so tight, she nearly snapped him in half.
‘Mummy why are you crying?’ Ollie asked when his mother let go.
‘I’m happy to see you.’
‘Me too. Where is daddy?’
‘Er… he had to go travelling so it’s just you and me for a few days buddy. Is that okay?’
‘Mm Hm.’ He smiled up at her, his soft brown eyes twinkled.
‘Come on let’s go wash up for dinner, we’re having pizza!’
She was not a cook, not even a little bit, her husband was the chef she was the fashion plate. Together they made a darling couple, “hashtag couple goals” they called them in some media quarters. What a farce.
For three months she didn’t tell her parents; it was easy to keep it secret at first, between her work schedule and AJ’s, it did not seem off to her parents and brother. But she finally told them at dinner one evening after Ollie announced his father was travelling in Antarctica.
Antarctica?! She wasn’t even a good liar…
“Why does Ollie think AJ is travelling in Antarctica?” Her mother asked when they were in the kitchen. Her mother was laying out the crockery in the dishwasher. Funny that; Miriam Sinclair, dubbed “the voice” in the entertainment industry, was home stuffing the dishwasher as if she did not just come off a sold-out summer tour in Italy. Her mother was an outstanding Soprano, some called her the best since Leontyne Price. Her loving, caring, supremely beautiful mother; the bedrock of their family, deeply in love with their father, Ali Sinclair, loved her children unconditionally, was always there whether via phone or in person. She once delayed a performance by three hours because Ava was having a crisis; said crisis being the wrong sock with her favourite pink dress. That is her mother, a woman so outstanding in everything, the one whose marriage she wanted to emulate. She’s been married to her father for thirty-four years.
‘What?’ Miriam raised her eyes to look at her daughter; she was in tears. ‘Oh my darling…’
That was the first time in months since her husband walked out on her that Ava allowed herself to fall apart, months of holding it all in, fearing that one day she would break under the weight of it all. Her family, mother, father, brother, cousins, rallied round her; dropped their lives to be there for her. No questions asked. Her people.
Yet, she doesn’t think she’ll ever recover from the shock of everything. They’d been together for ten years, their lives were intertwined in many ways, Oliver their son, their careers; she owns fifty-percent of the restaurant, he catered to her parties. Matter of fact, he was due to cater for the Cartier holiday collection soon for Huxley. She’d toyed with the idea of cancelling, but it’s the holidays, any chef worth their seasoning was booked up. Her mother offered her chef, but she knows how busy the holidays are; the Sinclair family holiday gatherings are legendary; breakfasts, brunches, luncheons, dinners, the works. She was stuck with him. Besides, River Huxley, her employer, would probably not look favourably on it, not one for bringing personal matters into business, he would probably fire her for even making this remotely personal.
River Huxley, CEO of the Huxley Group, luxury fashion and lifestyle online retailer. Ava is the Head of Buying at Huxley; one of the most powerful and influential in the industry. Theirs is a most cordial relationship, as it is with everyone who encounters him, bordering on cold.
Ava absentmindedly plays with her left third finger where the ring once sat, force of habit, encircling her thumb around her finger, she found it comforting; and for a long time after AJ left, she could not bring herself to take it off. She hoped he would come back; that common sense would prevail, and she was willing to take him back. She thought the affair was a blip, several nights of madness but two weeks ago he delivered the final blow; he was in love with Wendy the sous chef. She couldn’t fight with that. But that wasn’t even the worst…
‘Mrs Beckwith, good… good… afterno-’
‘Shut up. I’m here to see my husband. You know the one sleeping with the sous chef.’ Ava seized up the hostess. Of course, she was in on it, they were all in on it. Every time she came in here with Ollie, three of them looking like the picture-perfect family, they were all laughing behind her, in front of her.
‘Ava! What are you doing here?’ AJ was at his usual spot prepping for the evening rush, it would be a full house. It always was at Ava John. It even had her name on it and his middle name.
‘What do you think?’
Just then, Wendy walked into the kitchen, but stopped short upon seeing Ava; the woman whose husband she’d been sleeping with, and whom she will be going home with tonight. Well, this is awkward.
‘Are you mad? Don’t speak to me. Ever again. In your pathetic little life.’
Wendy turned tail and walked out through the door she just came in.
‘Do you want to go into my office?’ AJ asked his wife who looked about ready to maul a lion.
‘No, we might as well stay here and have it out in front of your staff since I am pretty sure they know you are sleeping your sous chef and have filed for divorce.’
No, the staff didn’t know that, though they knew about the affair.
AJ sighed and signalled to his staff to leave them. ‘Look I know you’re mad-’
‘You’re damn right I am.’
‘Is that why you have not signed the papers?’
‘Your son would like to know when you are coming home.’
‘You either tell him why or I will.’
‘And what will you tell him?’
‘The truth. His father doesn’t love him anymore because he’s busy sleeping with someone else.’ Ava folded her arms daringly, ‘in those exact words.’
‘You are sorry. Pathetic.’ She seized him up ever so condescendingly.
‘You want to know why I filed?’
‘There’s a reason other than sleeping with your sous chef?’
‘It has nothing to do with her.’
‘Oh go to hell! If you’re going to lie, at least make it a damn good lie. Stop hiding behind your misgivings for once in your life.’
‘I filed because everything I have is tied to you.’
‘What is that supposed to mean?’
‘It means everything I have achieved is tied to you. I cater to a function and it’s because of you, I opened this restaurant and it’s because of you. You introduced me to your friends, and I cater their parties and it’s because of you. Nothing I do is ever because of me.’
‘So you’re saying because I put you in strategic places and helped you make moves to set you up that makes me a bad person? I’m your wife you moron.’
‘That’s not the point-’
‘That is the point. You could never get your act together long enough to make something of your talents, so I helped because I saw potential and that makes me the bad guy. You cannot stand that I am an investor in this restaurant. That on the door is my name before yours. Let’s face it, every step you have taken is because I pushed you to take it. You were fine coasting along, just getting by but more fool me for believing in you and suddenly that makes me a witch?’
‘It’s not like that-’
‘It is like that. You are pathetic, and what’s sad is I was too in love with you to see it. Like a fool I was holding on for something, I don’t know what, but you’re right. I don’t need to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with me. I’ll tell your son tonight and no, I am not selling my stake in the restaurant, I’d rather burn it all down.’ She stuck a knife through a piece of steak on the table and it made him jump. ‘Goodbye AJ, from now on talk to my lawyers.’
That night she went home and signed the papers and mailed it out to him the next morning. She needed to move on.