Bea Smith parked her car in front of a quaint cottage. The front window displayed a wooden sign that said “Allie Novak, Esq.” “This must be it” she turned to her 16 year-old daughter, Debbie. Bea’s best friend, Franky, a lawyer for one of the law firms on Long Island said that Allie Novak was one of the best divorce attorneys in New York. Bea’s anxiety started to kick in and she must have looked pale because Debbie took Bea’s hands in hers. “You are doing the right thing mom.” Bea wasn’t sure about that. Sure, she wanted to get as far away from Harry as possible but what if he comes after her or worse, Debbie. Harry is not going to take kindly to his wife demanding a divorce. “I know it is Debbie, I am just so scared of what his reaction will be. Once he is served with divorce papers, there is no going back.” “Then it is a good thing we rented a place over here” Debbie says with a smile. She’s right and it doesn’t hurt that they are in beautiful South Hampton overlooking the beach. It will be good for her and Debbie to not only be safe but to have some time to decompress.
Bea and Debbie exit the car and walk up the porch steps. Bea opens the front door slowly. Inside to her left are 4 comfortable looking chairs and a glass coffee table between them. There is a shabby chic looking credenza against the wall behind the chairs. On the walls are color photos of beautiful seascapes and sunsets. The decor was beach themed. To the right is a large wood desk in the same shabby chic style as the credenza. A pleasant looking, middle-aged woman is sitting behind it smiling. “Good morning. Do you have an appointment?” Bea clears her throat which is dry from nerves. “Yes, we are here to see Ms. Novak. My name is Bea Smith. I was scheduled for a consultation at 10.” The woman smiled and asked Bea and Debbie to have a seat. “Would either of you care for a coffee or water?” Bea declines but Debbie accepts a bottle of water. As they are waiting, Bea’s anxiety increases. What is she doing? This can only end badly for her. As she starts to tell Debbie that she has changed her mind, a door opens.
“Hi, I am Allie Novak. You must be Bea Smith” Allie extends her hand out to Bea. Bea shakes her hand and then introduces Allie to Debbie. “This is my daughter, Debbie.” Allie smiles warmly and shakes Debbie’s hand. “It’s nice to meet you both. Please come into my office.”
As Bea steps into the office she notices that it has the same beach theme. There is a warmth to it. There are several book shelf units filled with books. Seashells and other nautical knick knacks are strewn along the shelves. On the wall above Allie’s desk are framed degrees. The other walls have photos like the ones in the waiting room. It’s like the office encapsulated what she thinks Allie’s personality might be. Judging by the warmth of Allie’s smile and the warmth of her office, Bea thinks she is right.
“Please have a seat. Can I get you anything?” Bea smiles shyly, “no we are good.” “I understand you are looking to divorce your husband.” Bea nods her head. She feels very vulnerable. She knows that she is going to be asked a lot of questions, personal questions. “Do you mind me asking why?” Allie asks. Bea feels defensive suddenly. It occurs to her that she will have to tell Allie about what she has endured during the past 16 years and she is embarrassed. Allie must sense her discomfort and explains to her that although New York is a no-fault divorce state, she will have to show that she is entitled to alimony. It will also depend on whether your husband contests the divorce or not. Also, if Bea wants custody of Debbie she must be able to prove that Debbie is better off living with Bea than her husband.
Bea didn’t even think about that. He will contest the divorce. Harry will not give up control easily. He certainly will not give up custody of Debbie. She hasn’t thought this through. She wants to bolt from the office . Maybe if there isn’t much traffic they can get home just in time to have dinner on the table waiting for Harry. He will be none the wiser that his wife is trying to leave him. Debbie seeing that Bea is ready to give up before getting started, grabs her mother’s hand. Bea turns and barely looks at Debbie. She is ashamed. She is a coward. She should be doing this for her daughter and not worrying about how Harry will react. “Mom, this is going to be hard but you will get through it. Think of the alternative.”
Allie sees that Bea is struggling and moves in front of her desk, leaning against it. “Mrs. Smith, I...” “It’s Bea,” Bea says not quite meeting Allie’s eyes. “Bea” she says softly. “I understand that you are scared. Clearly your husband has done something to make you so afraid. I can help you though.” Bea won’t look in Allie’s eyes. She knows that she will start sobbing and she wants to hold on to as much dignity as she can. “Ms. Novak...”Debbie starts. “Allie,” Allie interrupts. “Allie...my mom has been through a lot with my father. He has hurt her....badly. This was so hard for her to come to you and get help. What does she need to do to be done with him?”
Allie squats down in front of Bea putting her hand on Bea’s arm. Bea jumps a little but does not move away. Oddly, Allie’s warm hand and the tender look she is giving Bea calms her enough to listen to what Allie has to say. “Bea....we don’t have to discuss anything further today. You did the hard part. You asked for help and I am going to give it to you.” Allie looks at Bea with not only sympathy but detects an empathy that only someone who has had a similar experience can have. “Why don’t we talk tomorrow after you have had some time to process today? Do you and Debbie have a safe place to stay?” Bea nods, afraid to speak. At that moment Allie’s kindness has overwhelmed her and she feels like she is going to break down if she says anything. Debbie does the talking for her mother and Bea scolds herself for being so weak. “Yes, we are staying in a rental a few miles from here until everything is settled,” said Debbie. Looking back to Bea with her hand still on Bea’s arm, Allie says, “we will get you away from your husband. I will be with you every step of the way.” That was it, Bea’s dam broke. She starts to sob. Debbie immediately hugs her and eventually Bea finds comfort in her daughter’s arms enough to calm down. Bea rises out of her chair, “thank you Allie.” Allie smiles softly, “How about you and Debbie come by at 9am tomorrow?” Bea nods, “yes, we will be here.”Allie walks them to the door.
After the front door is closed Allie looks at Grace, the woman behind the desk and sighs. “This one is going to be a heart breaker.” The woman frowns and nods.