"Pete, it's me."
Peter put down the dish towel in his hand at the sound of his friend's voice and took a seat at his kitchen table. He'd been trying to keep himself busy while he awaited word from Will.
"Hey, Will. How's it going?" It felt silly to ask that after what had happened the night before.
"You talked to Talia?"
"I told her I wanted a divorce."
Peter let out a slow breath and could feel his heart pounding faster in his chest. "You did?"
"Yes. I told her I can't be married to someone who's such an obvious bigot."
For some reason, that disappointed Peter a little. "Oh, you didn't tell her about us?"
There was a pause, then Will spoke again, his voice sounding smaller. "It didn't occur to me that I should," he fibbed. "I just wanted her to know that I'm not happy being married to her and I hate the way she thinks."
"That's fair enough," Peter said, swallowing around the lump in his throat. "So, what did she say?"
"She said no."
Peter felt as if he'd been punched in the gut. "Why would she say no?"
"I don't know. I thought it was because she was drunk, so I waited and talked to her about it again this morning."
"And she still said no? Connecticut has no-fault divorce, so does it even matter if--"
"She won't divorce me, Pete. She says she likes the life she's made and doesn't want her friends to think her husband wants to leave her. She told me that if I tried to push it, she'd bring up claims of physical and emotional abuse and that could affect how our property and finances would be split."
"She's fucking psychotic," Peter said, incredulous. "But you've never hurt her. She couldn't prove it."
"No, but aren't accusations enough nowadays? It could cost me my job, Pete. Hamilton-Fairhaven is all about the family and traditional values and they wouldn't want some wife beater on the payroll."
"But your dad beat the shit out of you and your mom all the time," Peter snapped. "They loved him there and didn't have a problem with it."
"Because no one knew," Will sighed.
"Oh, trust me, I'm sure they knew," Peter said, trying not to sound as bitter as he felt but failing.
"Well, be that as it may, I'm not my father. He was a legend there. I'm just working in his shadow."
"Surely they've met Talia, though," Peter pushed. "You can't tell me that they like her more than they like you."
"Peter," Will sighed, "Talia is one of those people everyone else thinks is entertaining and charming but is really an insufferable bitch behind the mask. If you try to point it out, you look crazy, and even when she does reveal what kind of person she is, all's forgiven because she's just so fucking good at turning things around to her advantage. They like me here just fine, but whenever there's a party or official function, they tell me to be sure to bring Talia along."
"There's never any accounting for taste, is there?"
"Clearly not," Will said, trying to find the amusement in this but unable to. "But, the bottom line is that if she made accusations, people here would be inclined to believe her without any proof whatsoever."
"God, I hate that bitch," Peter whispered, his brow furrowed. "Look, just tell her about me. Tell her you want to be with me. It's still a free country, right? A man can leave a marriage because he's fallen in love with someone else, can't he?"
"I can't do that."
"Because that would be even worse than being accused of beating her up! She'll take me to the cleaners," Will said honestly. "She'll find some way to convince a judge that I'd been seeing you all along and use that as grounds to fleece me. I can't let that happen. She works for a law firm, for god's sake. I have no doubt she could find a way to really stick it to me if she was pissed off enough."
"She's only a paralegal," Peter said. "She's not an attorney."
"No, but for all I know she's got the guy she works with wrapped around her little finger." A thought suddenly occurred to him. "Or maybe they're having an affair, which would make things worse."
"Do you think she'd cheat on you?" Peter couldn't believe someone that frigid could be getting laid on a regular basis. But it had been his experience that straight men didn't seem to mind a bitchy woman if she was attractive. "Maybe you should hire a private investigator and get some dirt on her to help you in a divorce."
"Maybe I should," Will sighed, "but I don't want to wait that long to be with you. Why the hell can't she just give me what I want and let me go so I don't have to fight to keep my life?"
"Will, you know you wouldn't need anything if you were with me," Peter said softly. "I could take care of you. You could work for me and live with me. There is nothing you have now that I couldn't give to you."
There was a pause, then Will slowly said, "I don't want her dragging my name through the mud. I don't want it coming out in court that I'm gay. That would ruin me, and not just professionally. I'm not like you, Pete. I do give a damn what people say about me behind my back. If I divorce her, it has to be because she wants it, too."
That same feeling of being hit in the gut returned, tenfold. "Oh..."
"Listen, Peter, I don't want to hurt you--"
"No, it's fine. Do what you think best."
Just like that, Peter was convinced that what he had been wanting for so long was over. Will had made his choice and it wasn't him because, once again, he was too afraid to have what he wanted.
"Peter, please, don't--"
"Listen, I have to go. I'll talk to you later."
"Pete, listen to me. I'm only saying--"
He hung up before he could hear anything else Will had to say.
Peter had hung up on Will before he could tell him that he would keep trying to get the divorce so he could be with him.
"Who's on the phone?" Talia asked, walking into the living room as Will replaced the handset on its base.
"I called work to see if a loan I was working on went through all right." The lie slipped so easily off his tongue, Will knew that something had irreversibly changed between him and Talia.
Will looked at Talia and found himself shaking his head. "I might have to go in and fix some of the paperwork so we can try again on Monday." He needed to see Peter face to face and sort this out.
"That's fine," she said dismissively. "I've got some gardening I need to get done."
"So you don't mind me going into the office on a Saturday?"
"I think some time apart would be good for us, don't you?" she asked, a pained smile on her face. "It's not every day a woman finds out her husband wants a divorce because he thinks she's such a horrible person."
"Don't pretend you haven't thought the same thing about me," Will said, narrowing his eyes at her.
"I don't want to rehash this, William," she frowned. "You ruined breakfast. Do you want to ruin the rest of the morning, now?"
"Oh, so I ruined breakfast by being honest with you?"
"Is that what you call it?" Talia plucked some imaginary lint from the cuff of the sweater she was wearing, clearly irritated. "I call it being unreasonable and, honestly, a bit pathetic."
Will clenched his jaw, wishing to god he could call Peter back and explain himself instead of standing here arguing with his wife. "Pathetic? How so?"
"It's so obvious," Talia said with a smirk. "You have a single friend now and you suddenly don't want to be married anymore? Sorry, Will, but I can see right through your ridiculous attempt to reclaim your glory days."
This time Will clenched his fists and could feel himself shaking with annoyance at his wife's stupidity. "Oh my god, Talia, you have absolutely no foundation in reality, do you? We are miserable being married to one another. It's been this way for years and the only reason neither of us has done anything about it is because we're too lazy."
"You might be too lazy," Talia sniffed, offended, "but I simply don't see a reason to ruin a nice, neat arrangement."
"Arrangement?" Will asked in disbelief. "You agree it's not a real marriage but you want to hold onto it?"
"Of course I do," Talia smiled. "And once you're over your desire to be a happy bachelor like your little friend, you'll remember what's best."
Will squeezed his eyes shut and felt himself about to explode. "Damn it, Talia, just give me a fucking divorce!" He hadn't meant to shout, but not only was he incredibly frustrated and angry with Talia, he was concerned about the way Peter had taken the news and desperately wanted to set things right.
Talia had gasped at the outburst, but quickly recovered. "Don't you speak to me that way," she said through clenched teeth. "You treat me with some respect, you bastard."
Will stepped closer to her, eyes glaring. "Earn it, you bitch."
The slap was hard enough to make Will wince, but he didn't react otherwise. "Get the hell away from me," she whispered, pushing against his chest. He didn't move. "I said get away from me!" she screamed, hitting him in the chest now.
Will turned his head to avoid more blows and finally said, "Talia, I'm gay."
Her eyes widened as her fists stopped. "What?"
"That's why I want a divorce. I'm gay."
She stared at him for a minute, then softly said, "You're gay."
Will swallowed hard and nodded, suddenly very nervous. "I am. And I'm in love with Peter. I want a divorce so I can be with him."
He didn't care anymore about what kind of price he'd have to pay for being completely honest with her. He knew that he had hurt Peter by saying the things he did, and the only way he could make it up to him was to do this now. No matter what happened, the price would be worth it if he could prove to Peter that he really did want to be with him consequences be damned.
As he looked at her after making his confession, he expected her to be outraged or to get hysterical at the very least. What he hadn't expected was for her to reach down, grab his crotch and laugh.
"You're not gay, Will," she said, giggling softly as she began to slowly move her hand against him.
Will scowled as he grabbed her wrist and pushed her away. "Don't be disgusting."
"You've never thought it was disgusting before," she said, still looking rather amused. "In fact, I seem to remember you wanting to screw everything that moved when we were at school. Everything female that is. Why do you think I worried so much that you would cheat on me? Just because I managed to get your ring on my finger, it didn't mean you'd actually be faithful to me. No," she continued with a shake of her head, "Will, you are most definitely not gay. But I do give you points for creativity."
This was like some twisted nightmare. Even the truth wasn't enough to get her to give him what he wanted.
"Do I have to fuck him in front of you to make you believe me?" he asked, frustrated that he was actually trying to do the right thing, relatively speaking, and getting nowhere.
Talia wrinkled her nose. "When did you get such a gutter mouth? You're being disgusting now. I've told you, William, I don't believe you. We're at a rough patch in our marriage and you're panicking. That's all this is. You're lucky that I'm not as ready to give up on us as you apparently are."
Will stared at her, his jaw going slack as he stood there in complete disbelief. If he wasn't feeling frustrated enough to choke the life out of his wife, he would have found the situation to be rather amusing. "What if I started having an affair with another woman?"
"You wouldn't," Talia said, obviously thinking she'd won. "Like you said, you'd never cheat on me. I've learned that as much of a slut as you were in college--"
Will couldn't stop himself from laughing. "Sorry, but I was what the kids call a player."
"Whatever," she scowled. "What I was going to say was that over the years I've learned that you actually want to take your vows seriously. I think it's sweet and it gives me peace of mind. And," she continued, "if you ever do decide to do something stupid like cheat on me simply to get a divorce, I still won't go through with it. I won't sign anything and I won't go anywhere."
"I could go ahead without you, you know," he said.
"Yes, and as I said, if you do, I'll make sure you regret it. A court might be able to dissolve this marriage, but I could destroy your reputation with your job and your friends. Would that really be worth it?"
Will had to turn his head away so he wouldn't slap the smirk off her face. "So, that's it? You just want me to be miserable for the rest of my life? Is that why you're doing this?"
For a moment, the tone of Talia's voice softened and she shook her head. "No, Will. I'm doing this because I love you and I'm not ready to let you go."
It would have been a convincing performance for anyone else, but Will knew better. He knew his wife, and this little act she was putting on was meant to manipulate him and nothing more.
"Try again," he said with a shake of his head.
The warmth was gone in an instant. "Fine. I've already told you. I like my life and I can't be bothered to be inconvenienced by a divorce." Laughing coldly, she cupped the cheek she'd slapped. "Honestly, gay? You really thought I'd believe that? I mean, I know that Peter is obviously trying to influence you, but you would never in a million years be with a man."
Will started to protest again but knew it would be fruitless. She had made up her mind and was now forcing him to deal with her stubbornness. "It was pretty stupid to think you'd believe that," he said, forcing a grin even though for the first time in his life he found her touch revolting.
"Well, we both know you aren't renowned for your quick thinking," she said. "I might have been more inclined to believe you if you'd said you were having an affair with that attractive assistant of yours."
He knew she was being sarcastic. Deidre was pushing sixty, which made her practically a troll in Talia's eyes. The truth was, though, had Will been closer to her age, he could see himself making the moves on her if he were interested in doing that sort of thing. But he knew that Talia was taking a cheap shot at the both of them and he didn't appreciate it. Deidre was very dear to Will and she was one of the few people at Hamilton-Fairhaven who couldn't stand Talia.
"I know you think you're being funny," Will said, "but she's a very attractive and intelligent woman. If I had a few more years under my belt, I would--"
"Sure you would," she said, cutting him off, "and I would stop shaving and become one of those lesbians."
"You couldn't ever do that," he said.
"Well, of course not," she frowned. "I was being sarcastic."
"Oh, I know, but I was thinking you like to control men too much to ever focus on women. And you hate other women, anyway."
The look on her face darkened and she took a step back. "You were never this rude to me before your friend Peter came back into your life. I don't like it."
"Then give me a divorce."
"Stop saying that, Will," she snapped. "I am not giving up on this marriage. I have far too much invested in it. You'll simply have to work out your issues and get your head back in this."
Will took a deep breath and released it slowly. "Fine," he said, after a little while, "I'll just do what I can to make things work."
The seeming turnaround took Talia by surprise. "Really?"
Will meant what he said. What Talia wouldn't know, though, was that Will had been thinking he would make every effort to make things work with Peter. If Talia refused to divorce him, he would simply move onto the next chapter of his life without her knowledge.
Talia nodded, a triumphant smile on her face. "I knew you'd come to your senses." She nodded again, then turned to go out into the yard to tend her garden.
"Yeah," Will said to himself, watching her walk away. "You're right. I have."