Chapter 2: RANCHO BERNARDO, CALIFORNIA (Part 9)
Emily arrives and I fix her lunch. She eats and I phone Kathy. I ask if she would watch the girls while I run a few errands. When Samantha comes home and after she has her snack, I drop the girls at Kathy’s and drive over to Del Mar.
I find Korbrin’s office in the center of town in a building on the beach side of Pacific Coast Highway. He’s a one-woman assistant, one-man lawyer operation and judging by the paper towers on the credenza and his desk, stacked neatly around his desk and against the wall, he’s busy.
I’ve explained my situation to him, Richard’s betrayal, his cheating, desertion in favor of work, and my sense of insecurity.
“In California, Mrs. DeSantis, you don’t actually need a reason to divorce. Having one, or several, is good. At least you know more than boredom is involved.”
My countenance must telegraph something to him—surprise, shock, anger. I’m experienced in all those emotions.
“I don’t mean to come across flip or jaded, Mrs. DeSantis. I realize every case has its own pain, and you certainly sound to me like an aggrieved party.”
“Thank you,” I say.
“California is a no-fault state. Nobody’s ever at fault. Fortunately for you, it is also a community property state. So financially you’ll receive a fair settlement, and a livable one, too, as long as your husband and you have considerable shared assets to divide.”
“Richard is doing well,” I say. “But I don’t exactly how well.”
He waves a hand. “Not a problem, Mrs. DeSantis, as long the assets aren’t offshore somewhere, like Switzerland or the Caymans, somewhere along those lines.”
I shake my head. I’m tentative. “I don’t know. I don’t think so.” I’m embarrassed; I should know, but I don’t. I could tell him how much money is in our checking account. Beyond that, I don’t know. When Richard and I married, he insisted on a joint checking account. What is mine is yours and yours mine, he said. We share in everything, he said. We are a team, Babe, he said. I remember we had the conversation over dinner the second night of our honeymoon in Hawaii. Richard made a show of it. It was a matter of trust, he explained. Trust is the foundation of every solid, enduring relationship, business and personal. We share in everything and we trust each other, and you can always trust me to love you and take care of you, he said.
I know we have life insurance, even for me. It’s another thing Richard made a show of; how much I care about you; how important you are to me; worth a million to me, more than a million; you are irreplaceable. Sure, one of a kind, the only kind who could tolerate him, how he acts.
I know what is in our checking account to the penny. I know how the money gets in the account; Richard deposits a certain amount each month. But if he has his own checking account, or what might be in saving accounts or investments, or whether we even have these, I don’t know. Worse, I don’t know why our finances are such a mystery to me, and that only now is my ignorance troubling me.
I shake my head.
“What, Mrs. DeSantis?”
“Nothing. It’s just that I don’t know. I guess I don’t know much of anything.”
Korbrin is a man of sharp angles. He’s a bronzed and chiseled specimen, a carved granite variety of man. I could easily see him ducking into a restroom and emerging in a wetsuit, jogging across the beach behind his office with a board tucked under his arm, pedaling through the surf, catching a wave and riding it in on the board.
He smiles, but it seems difficult for him to turn his lips up, as if he does it infrequently, and when he does he has to remember the process anew.
“Not to worry. We’ll find out,” he reassures. “You’re not alone, Mrs. DeSantis.”
“I’m not entirely sure about leaving Richard, Mr. Korbrin.”
His smile melts. His eyes strike me as tired, but maybe they reflect tedium engendered by hearing my story hundreds of times. I’m feeling foolish under his gaze.
“You sound serious to me, Mrs. DeSantis. Your well-ordered presentation has me believing you’ve devoted considerable thought to leaving your husband. What I think is you’re frightened.”
“Richard really isn’t a bad man.”
“Most aren’t. I’m sure he isn’t. But it’s not Richard that terrifies you. It’s being on your own, being responsible for yourself and your daughters.”
I’m soggy inside, as if my body can secrete tears from every organ, not just my eyes. I don’t want to leak, and I will if I open my mouth. I nod in agreement.
“Besides,” he says, consulting a large round clock on the wall, “you’ve been talking for nearly an hour.”
I follow his eyes up to the clock. I want to say, you mean complaining, whining for an hour. I do say, “You’re right, Mr. Korbrin, I have thought about leaving for a long while. I have to do it. For myself and for Samantha and Emily. I don’t want them growing up thinking my marriage to Richard is how all marriages are, how theirs will be.”
He explains the procedure, his fees, how Richard would be required to pay, and other business details for another fifteen minutes.
Finally, he says, “We’re done.”
I hesitate getting up.
“Something else?” he asks.
“How does Richard find out?” I know, but I guess I don’t want to face up to what I have to do; I want him to direct me, to fortify me.
“We’ll serve separation papers. If you haven’t told him, well, it will be a surprise. Perhaps not a surprise, because he knows you’re discontented and making plans. Still, the papers will be unpleasant. While divorce is never easy, shocks just make it worse.”
I thank him and leave. As I climb into my car, I glance back at the building, expecting to see him dashing for the beach. He doesn’t, and I’m a little disappointed.