"Jimmy, what's your mother's address?"
Jim frowned, looking at Carolyn. She was sitting at her desk, which she'd set up near the balcony windows in his loft. It was covered with the detritus of her current project: preparing for their wedding. Her head was bent over a paper, a pen in her hand. The afternoon light streaming in glinted off her red hair, haloing it with a gilded sheen. It was his favorite of her features; plunging his fingers through that silky mass when they kissed was a sensual delight. He thought back to that morning's love-making, and it quelled his annoyance at her question. "Why do you want it?"
Caro looked over at him and rolled her eyes. "To send her an invitation, why else? I've got William and Steven's addresses, but I don't have one for her."
"You're sending them invitations? They're not on my list."
"Well, they're family; you didn't need to put them on a list--"
"They're not on my list," Jim said again, more forcefully. "I don't want them there."
"But they're in the newspaper announcement of the banns. I'm sure they'll read about it."
"What?" he snapped, moving rapidly toward her. She sat back in her chair, involuntarily flinching at the speed of his advance; he reminded her of a stalking animal. She picked up the newspaper page and handed it to him. He looked at the two pictures, recognizing one as his official Cascade PD photo. Below the pictures was the declaration:
Paul Ira Plummer and Louise Mary Stutter are pleased to announce the betrothal of their daughter, Carolyn Alexis Plummer, to James Joseph Ellison, son of William Elliot Ellison and Margaret Mary McDonald. Their marriage will take place on July 9 at the Church of the Lady of Perpetual Sorrow.
Mr. Ellison, a Cascade native, is currently a Detective, First Class, with Cascade Police Department…
"Why did you do this?" Jim demanded.
Caro looked at him, confusion radiating from her blue eyes. "I didn't; Mom did. But you left the details to me. A newspaper announcement is just one of the details when people get married. I'm sorry." Although she wasn't sure what she was apologizing for, Caro knew she'd done something wrong. She put a hand on Jim's arm. "I didn't think it was a problem," she said, the film of tears in her eyes emphasizing her sincerity.
Jim's shoulders slumped. "It's okay, honey. You didn't know. I'm… estranged from my family. I haven't spoken to them in years." He patted her on the shoulder. "Just send the invites to the friends on my list, okay?"
She nodded, swallowing the lump in her throat and went back to her task. She wondered briefly whether the repeat of the bed sport she'd planned for this afternoon would even take place.
As Carolyn looked back, She realized that was the first meltdown and she should have taken it as a warning of things to come. She'd chalked it up to pre-wedding jitters on Jim's part; after all, he could have called it off at any time.
Although she called them meltdowns, in reality they were closer to freeze-outs. Every time they butted heads, they invariably ended up not talking, only later coming to a détente. What to do for holidays and vacations, who to socialize with, whether to join the country club, her father's loud, oft-repeated opinion that Jim should try for a captaincy, all taxed their fledgling marriage. By the end, they both chose to work long hours; their bed was relegated to sleeping.
Carolyn sighed as she signed the divorce papers, then watched as the notary public affixed her signature. She paid the notary fee, collected the papers and drove the short distance to her lawyer's office to drop them off. He would take care of getting Jim's signature on the final decree; she just wanted it done.
She stopped at a diner, one of the places she and Jim used to go to after seeing a movie, and ordered tea. As she listlessly stirred sugar in the cup, she thought about what would happen next. There was no doubt the news of their divorce would spread quickly throughout the precinct. Friends would choose sides and she wondered who she would keep; how awkward things would be. With a shake of her head and a stiffening of her shoulders, she decided she was just going to do her job and keep things professional between her and Jim. She'd worked hard to get to where she was, and she wasn't about to give that up. The lease on her apartment had another ten months to go. After that, she might put out feelers in other cities.
In the end, it wasn't the fear of gossip or whether Jim would be cordial or whether she could continue to do her job in the same police department that bothered her. She just wondered how things could have gone so badly, so quickly. They'd been happy once, hadn't they?