Page 4 of Burned (Ignite #1)

“So, I filed for legal separation today,” I tell her as she sips her drink.

She chokes on the liquid and I pat her on the back as she sputters and tries to cough away the shock of my news. When she finally regains control of herself, she sets her glass on top of the bar and looks at me with her mouth wide open.

“I think this is the first time in all the years I’ve known you that I’ve seen you at a loss for words,” I joke.

She immediately snaps her mouth closed and shakes her head. “Sorry, I’m just trying to process what you said. Are you okay? Fuck, that’s a stupid question, of course you’re not okay.”

I shrug and start peeling the label off of my bottle of beer. “The weird thing is, I am okay. At least, I think I am. I thought I would be upset, I thought I would feel something. Sadness, regret, anything. I just feel… numb. Like it’s happening to someone else. Like I’m looking down at some other woman ending her marriage without a second thought.”

Phina reaches out and puts her hand on top of mine, halting my label-peeling process. “Hon, you gave this more than a second thought. You’ve been agonizing over this for years. You just finally got the courage to do something about it. I’m proud of you. I’m proud of you for not giving in to his bullshit anymore. I’m proud of you for putting yourself first for once. God knows he never did that.”

I honestly wanted to feel bad about the fact that I went to the courthouse today and filed the separation paperwork without even talking to Jordan about it. I wanted to feel some sort of remorse that they would be serving him the paperwork within twenty-four hours and he had no idea it was coming. Even after kicking him out of the house and having no contact with him for a month, he still believes this will blow over, judging from the messages he’s been leaving me. He still thinks I’m going to forgive him and this is just a temporary setback.

I don’t really care that he’s probably going to be hurt and shocked, but I am concerned about how pissed he’s going to be that I’ve done something so drastic. My worry over his reaction is the only emotion strong enough to make it past my indifference. I can already imagine the messages he’s going to leave me when he receives those papers, and it forms a thick pool of dread in my stomach. I want this to end peacefully and just move on with my life, but I have a feeling he’s not going to make it easy. Jordan was a good husband for a lot of years. He was sweet and attentive and I know he loved me, but struggling with one addiction after another has turned him into a person I don’t even recognize anymore. He’s quick to anger and even quicker to pin the blame for his life falling apart on everyone but himself. I’m not looking forward to dealing with him when he realizes I won’t be his putting up with his roller coaster of emotions anymore.

“Can we change the subject? I don’t want to think about this right now. I just want to drown myself in cheap beer and hope I don’t run into anyone else I knew from my teenage years,” I tell Phina with a smile.

“Got it. No more talk about the king of the douchebags. How about we discuss how hot you’re looking tonight? Did you put extra effort into your appearance just for me?” Phina asks with a wag of her eyebrows.

I look down at myself and feel a twinge of embarrassment over the amount of time I spent making myself look good tonight. With a pair of tiny black shorts, killer black stilettos that bring my already tall five-foot seven frame up a few inches and a backless black and white tank top that ties around my neck, I feel good. My long, wavy chestnut hair is pulled up in a high ponytail, my bangs are swooped down over one eye and I added a little more make-up than normal, giving myself a smoky eye with black eye shadow and bold red lips. For the first time in a long time, I feel sexy. According to the courts, I’m officially separated, but I didn’t do this to attract male attention. I did this for me.

I’m not going to lie, though. Seeing a few men in the bar doing a double take when I walked in was great for the self-esteem.

“Come on, let’s head out to the patio and get some fresh air,” Phina tells me as she picks up both of our drinks from the bar and starts to head towards the front door that leads out to the wooden patio overlooking the parking lot.

When I told her that being here made me feel old, I wasn’t lying. We used to come to this place every Thursday night during college as soon as we were of drinking age. We live in a small town where everyone knows everyone else and you were guaranteed to run into a handful of people you knew every time you turned around. In college, it was wonderful. We got to see friends from high school who all went away to college and were home on break and people who moved to another state and came back for the holidays. I always came here with Jordan and it created a sense of pride to walk into this place with him and show everyone that we’d done it—we’d defied the odds and made a high school romance last. Now, walking through this bar that has the same green walls, the same old jukebox in the corner and the same rickety patio, I feel like a failure. Nothing here has changed and yet everything has changed for me. I’m embarrassed to run into someone we might recognize and have them look at me with that knowing look in their eyes that says ‘We knew it wouldn’t work. High school romances never do.’ The fact that I’m more worried about what people will think than I am about my marriage falling apart tells me that I did the right thing.

I follow Phina to the only table on the patio that isn’t currently occupied. The barstools have been taken by another table, so we make do with just standing next to it.