She sits at the long table in the lawyer's office and tries to focus on anything other than the fact that he is late. Again. He doesn't want to do this, she knows, but he has left her with no other option. She left him already, she hasn't lived with him for over a year now, it's better this way. She thinks it is at least, her brain pushes forward the memory of his body pressed to hers only a few weeks prior and she begins to think maybe it isn't. Then she remembers.
The ticking of the clock grows louder. Tik Tok.
She remembers finding him in someone else's arms.
Seeing limbs tangled with limbs.
He looked so shocked when she came in. She remembers running until her lungs hurt that day.
Sometimes it still feels like that.
Someone sits in the chair next to her and she shifts as her mind is brought back to the present.
"How nice of you to join us," Mary says, keeping her voice flat and emotionless, he shifts next to her.
"Yeah." Is all Francis says before leaning back in his chair. "We need to talk later." He whispers as their lawyer walks in. Mary is beginning to think that she was too early and they weren't actually late, but…
"No." The last time he said that they met up and he had her in his bed within a few minutes, she won't be making that mistake again. The outright no must shock him because he looks at her like he's hurt but still confused and he doesn't say anything else before the man in the suit takes over.
The process is long, they've met like this a million times now. She barely listens as the man talks about what happens after this. Their signatures merely mean they're consenting to have their marriage ended, the documents will go forward once they're signed to a courthouse where a divorce judge will look at them. After that, once he signs them, they'll get a confirmation letter in the mail that their marriage has been dissolved.
"Has a judge ever...not signed?" Mary asks softly and Francis straightens.
"It's very rare."
"What happens if they don't?" They can't just be forced to remain married. That's how people end up on a Murder Mysteries podcast.
"You have to go to the courthouse the judge presides over and plead your case in person."
"Or we could just stay married," Francis says a little exasperated, he's only giving her this because he feels terrible about what happened. He still loves her; apparently. She still loves him too, deep down somewhere under the pain and humiliation, somewhere under all the hate, she still loves him.
"I'd rather be drawn and quartered." She mutters instead of agreeing, she doesn't even look at him anymore.
Once the papers have been signed, she doesn't speak to Francis as she leaves and heads over to her car. The long stretch of pavement feels as though it gets longer with each step.
"Mary!" Francis calls and she halts but doesn't turn around. She swallows hard as she hears him walk up to her but he stops short of reaching her. "Can we please talk?" She turns around with a heavy sigh.
"What, Francis?" She doesn't have time for whatever this is, he doesn't say anything, which is when she starts to pull her keys out of her bag.
"I want to start over." He says quickly, on a rush of air, like he's been sitting on the suggestion for such a long time, "Now that...that we aren't-"
"Yes." He says, "After we...I wanted to ask you then, I wanted to tell you that I missed you but I knew you didn't want to hear it and...I was hoping after some time had passed that you would be open to-"
"To being friends?" She asks with an arch of her brow and a scoff on her lips, "Are you kidding me?"
"Francis, this isn't some...stupid, childish, argument. I didn't divorce you in hopes of new beginnings. I...I don't want to be with you." She snaps, "You slept with someone else."
"You slept with someone else." She says again, "And not just...anyone, someone I worked with." She shakes her head, "I had to quit because everyone kept...whispering about it, watching me and waiting for me to break. I walked in on you with someone in our bed, naked, all tangled up like a sweaty jig-saw puzzle and you want to be friends? Are you fucking kidding me?" She pauses before she says it, but then it's falling out of her mouth like a broken song.
"I hate you." She says, "I never want to see you again. I hope that the rest of your life is enthralled by misery and loneliness and I hope that no one is ever stupid enough to fall in love with you. Look what happened to me. You broke me."
Francis doesn't say anything else, he just looks at her and then he looks at the pavement, he watches her car pull away and out of the lot and that is the last time she sees him.
A week later she gets the letter in the mail that her marriage had successfully ended. Greer helps her with the last of her boxes.
"I don't understand why you have to move so far away."
"I don't want to be here," Mary tells her, she can't risk running into Francis again, the off chance that he does catch her alone. He's so good with words, so good at making her feel less angry than she is. She'll be back to considering another try at being with him, forgiving him.
Greer hums over the popping of a quark and Mary finds her in the kitchen pouring two glasses.
"Celebrating your new lease on life." She smiles as she hands Mary a glass of white wine. She clinks her glass against Greers but she doesn't drink it. The girl makes a face as she brings her own cup to her lips. "Celebration means drinking."
"Come on, it's not like you're pregnant." Greer giggles but it's Mary's sigh that does her in. She sets her glass down, eyes widening.
"Life's a bitch, isn't it?" Mary whispers.
She and Francis tried for a long time, so long that she thought they couldn't. She's been pregnant before, maybe that loss and the desperate attempts to just keep trying, maybe it strained their relationship a little bit. She wasn't Mary anymore, he wasn't Francis, it's like they were strangers living in the same house.
And now look at them.
Divorced and expecting.
Moving in with her mother had been the plan all along, she wanted to get away, her mother lived a considerable amount of time away. A four-hour plane ride and an explanation and her mom welcomed her with open arms.
Four Years Later
She jogs every morning, it's just something to keep herself busy and in shape.
"I'll be back in an hour!" She calls from downstairs, "Make sure you-"
"Give her the pink one, I know!" The male voice shouts back and she shakes her head as she starts to pull her headphones out of her pocket. The faint sound of feet hitting stairs makes her pause.
"We're still on for later?" Gideon asks as he pulls open the fridge.
"Of course." She smiles a small smile as she shoves one earbud in her ear and turns towards the door.
Running takes her mind off, well, everything. She doesn't have to think when she's jogging up the street, feet hitting the pavement at a steady pace; one foot after the other.
It's October, but the sun is still scorching despite the early morning, it would only get hotter as the day goes on. She misses the quiet town she used to live, the cold chill of early morning, the fog that accompanied the autumn season. The rain and how it would come down in buckets some days and a cool, quiet drizzle the next. She misses the changing of the leaves, the colors, how calm and serene it used to be. Here, it seems as though the seasons never change, just a constant and neverending summer. She even misses the snow.
She misses her friends, she's seen so little of them since she left. Kenna tries to keep her updated and Greer has written a letter or two. How medieval, she used to joke but Greer never really liked using her phone, she was an old soul and thought texting was too...modern or something. Her letters have become less frequent since she married a few months ago. It was a private wedding, just the bride and groom in attendance, so small and simple; so Greer. She sent pictures of the ceremony, the signed marriage contract framed on her fireplace mantle.
Lola seems to be the only one who seems to try and call once a week. She even flew to Mary to visit for a few days, if it wasn't for that, she would have thought the girls had just forgotten about Mary.
Her music is interrupted and she comes to an abrupt stop on the sidewalk when her phone rings from her pocket.
"What?" She asks when she presses it to her ear.
"Your mother is here and she's demanding to speak to you," Gideon tells her and he sounds irritated, or bored. She can never really tell what he's thinking; not the way she could always tell what Francis was thinking. Just the thought of him brings a sting to her chest.
She met Gideon at a conference nearly three years ago now, he was interested right away, Mary on the other hand. She found his interest annoying, irritating, it had only been a year since her divorce and she wasn't ready to move on. Thoughts of Francis still plagued every crevice of her mind, she wondered how he was doing, if he was with someone if he thought about her as much as she thought of him.
She gave Gideon so many chances to run and he never did and after two years, he finally convinced her to move in with him and his daughter. It's normal, simple, it's easier than she thought it would be to be with him.
He loves her and...she had learned to love him.
"What does she want?" Mary asks as she turns on the sidewalk and starts a slow trackback to her house.
"I have no idea."
"Did you ask her?"
"She didn't tell you?" She asks
"Would I have said I had no idea if she had told me?" He asks dryly but she can hear the amused smirk and Mary shakes her head.
"I'll be there in a minute." She tells him with a roll of her eyes. "Just pry what you can out of her."
Her mother sits at the kitchen table when Mary walks in, looking satisfied.
"This couldn't wait until later?" Mary asks with a quirk of her brow, watching her mother tuck a strand of her brown curls behind her ear with an amused little grin.
"Did I interrupt?"
"Did something happen?" Her chest tightens a bit at the thought. But she knows Anne is safe with Gideon, and if anything happened to Agatha-
"I just received something interesting in the mail today, do you want to know what it is?"
"An invitation." Marie De'Guise smiles as she rises from the chair and crosses the small kitchen. She pulls a card out of her pocket and Mary takes it with a confused look.
The Unveiling Of Catherine De Medici's Art Gallery.
A black-tie affair, as it should be, Catherine wasn't anything but luxurious. Mary quirks a brow as she hands it back. Good for Catherine, art was something she was passionate about and she finally did it.
"Lovely," Mary says simply as she walks over to the fridge and grabs a water bottle.
"Yes." Her mother says, "Especially since you're going." The fridge door slams.
"Ha!" She should laugh at the absurdity of that suggestion, it's ridiculous, to say the least. Mary hasn't been back since she left the first time, why on earth-
"Mary, come on." Her mother makes a face like she's annoyed with her daughter for being outright against the idea, "It's addressed to both of us." She taps the card with one long red nail as though she expects it to change her mind.
"And you will give Catherine my best when you go."
"You will give Catherine your best when we go."
"You're always complaining about how much you miss your friends and this is your chance to see them." She says that's not the point. The last thing Mary wants to do is engage in awkward small talk with her ex-husbands family at her ex-mother-in-laws gallery opening.
Especially considering the very large secret she's been keeping from them all.
"Stop," Mary says quickly, something she always stops when she mentions him. Her mother had gotten better at avoiding the topic, but sometimes…
Her mother liked Francis, she liked him more than Gideon, he always treated her with respect, he was kind when he didn't need to be. She was so hopeful for a reconciliation, she even tried to get Mary to tell him…
"A talk with him may do some good."
"It's a little late for that-"
"Yes, about four years too late." Her mother says dryly with a dismissive wave of her hand. "Doesn't mean it can't happen."
"I don't want it to happen."
"Mary." Her mother is serious now, "You're going."
The hospital lights flicker as she walks down the long hall towards the room the girl practically lives in. She was okay for a few months, even came home, and then a few weeks ago, the cancer grew and started to attack her lungs and now…
"Mary." Agatha smiles a small smile when Mary walks in, Gideon helps her sit up, her tiny body is too weak to do it on its own.
"Hey," Mary smiles too as she crosses the room, "How are you feeling today?" She asks softly.
"Better." She whispers as she moves over on the bed, allowing Mary to climb in too. She lays her head on her chest and she combs her fingers through the young girls' dark hair. She's paler today than she was yesterday and she'll ask Gideon when she's asleep if she's eaten anything today.
"Well, I hope this will make you feel even better," Mary says with a little more enthusiasm as she reaches for the gift bag she brought and pulls out a heavy book.
A book of Jane Austen's finest. Agatha loves to read, not the normal material most ten-year-olds go for. No, she likes the classics. Romance. Adventure.
Agatha smiles as she runs her fingers over the cover, "Can you read it to me later?"
"Okay." She whispers as she curls into Mary's body, seeking out the warmth. The medicine makes her cold, that's what she told them, her body lacks the necessary energy to regulate her own body temperature.
The chemotherapy worked for a while, but the doctors aren't sure if it will again. Agatha is fast asleep soon after that.
"They said her uh...tests were better today," Gideon whispers as he watches the heart monitor.
"That's good, right?" They speak in hushed voices, soft whispers, "She's getting better."
"That's all we can do." All they can do is hold onto any scrap of hope there is; any semblance of a light at the end of this long tunnel.
"She asked about her mother today," Gideon says that so softly Mary barely hears it. He never talked about his first wife, she died so soon after Agatha was born, to the same cancer.
The universe is often cruel, she thinks.
"She wanted to know if she would see her in heaven." Gideon sighs heavily at that as he starts to pace and Mary's heart sinks. This isn't fair. This is so unfair, so cold.
"Gideon…" she doesn't know what to say or do, how to even begin to explain to him how sorry she is that this is happening. She reaches her hand out, weaving her fingers through the spaces between his. She hopes it offers him some semblance of comfort but she can't tell. It's quiet for a long time and then he sighs.
"When is your little gallery thing?" He asks.
"Saturday." Just four days away, she's leaving a few days early so that she and her mother can find a hotel to stay in, use the free time to catch up with some people. She hopes that she won't run into Francis, but that seems too likely to do, she just has to grit her teeth and bear it.
"Are you taking Anne?" She hadn't thought about it, it probably wouldn't be a very good idea, but she can't expect Gideon to be able to watch her, with everything going on with his daughter. So, she shrugs.
"I can...watch her while you're away." He says, "If that's okay."
"Gideon, you've known her since she was barely two, you're practically her-" she stops herself, he isn't her father. That's part of his reservation, he knows one day Anne will want to know who is.
"She adores you," Mary says instead with a small smile. "Are you okay with me going?"
"I'm not pleased that you'll be gone for four days, that you'll be spending an evening with your exes family...but, I can't tell you not to go that's your call."
"My mother is not allowing me to say no." She says softly on a sigh, "Believe me I'd rather stay here."
Packing proves to be difficult with a toddler who just keeps pulling the clothes she puts in her bag, back out.
"Anne." Mary scolds with a smile as she pulls a sweater out of the little girl's fingers. "I have to leave tomorrow," she explains.
"Just somewhere with Grammy," Mary says softly as she folds her sweater again and sets it in her suitcase. She sits on the edge of the bed with a sigh and combs her fingers through the small girl's hair.
She was so worried she was going to have his blonde hair, but she has Mary's dark brown and his soft curls. She looks more like Francis than Mary, and she supposes that's her punishment for never telling him. She has to see him when she looks at Anne, she has to see his smile and his light blue eyes and his nose.
She's only three and Mary's pretty sure she got his brain too, the little thing is too smart for her own good.
"Can I go?" Anne looks at her with hopeful eyes and as much as she wants to say yes, she shakes her head reluctantly. She's never left her this long before and knowing that puts an ache in her chest.
"I wish you could, love." Mary smiles a small smile, "But I'll call every day, it'll be like I'm still here."
She thinks about taking Anne with her when she goes into her room early the morning they're supposed to leave. She's sleeping deeply and the kiss Mary presses to her forehead makes her stir but not enough to wake. She almost wishes she does wake, knowing when she does she'll probably look for her.
She looks like Francis the most when she sleeps.
"Mary!" Her mother calls for her from the living room where she stands with Gideon.
"I'm coming," Mary says softly as she closes Anne's bedroom door with a click and takes her bags from Gideons waiting fingers.
"Call me when you land." He tells her as he kisses her cheek.
"I should wake her and say bye-"
"If you wake her, you won't leave." Gideon smiles fondly, "She'll be fine."
"Yes, Mary, she'll be fine." Her mother tries a reassuring tone but it just comes out impatient, "Let's get going before we miss our flight."
She doubts they will, they don't have to be there for a few hours at least, but she allows herself to be hurried out the door nonetheless.
The sun is barely in the sky when she clicks her seatbelt in place and looks out the small window of the plane. It's been a while since she's flown, but she doesn't believe that's why her stomach is tying in knots right now. She gives her mother a strange look as she watches the woman fix her makeup with a small compact mirror in her hand on a plane.
"What are you doing?" She asks with a tilt of her head.
"I want to look good when we land." She hums and then she snaps it shut as she turns towards Mary, she makes a face now too but it's mostly sympathetic and pitiful as she turns Mary's head back in her direction.
"We need to do something about those dark circles."
"You look sickly, dear." She says, "You're too pretty to look ten seconds away from the grave."
"I'm tired," Mary mutters as she jerks her head away from her mother's prying fingers with a scowl. "I just want to get this weekend over with and go home to my daughter."
"And Gideon." It's said in a dry tone and she shakes her head, "I don't know what you see in him."
"He's old enough to be-"
"He isn't." Mary rolls her eyes, "he's only seven years older."
"It's really not-"
"Fine." Her mother concedes, "How is his daughter?"
"Still sick." She says softly, "She probably doesn't have much longer." Her mother may not like Gideon that much but she's not a monster, she wouldn't wish what he's going through on her worst enemy. She likes Agatha, she treats her like she's her granddaughter, loves her enough to put up with Mary being with a man she doesn't approve of.
"Well, I hope it turns around."
"Me too." She's quiet after that and they get the announcement that the plane will be leaving soon. Every movement of the plane makes her stomach turn more and more but she tries to swallow it down and focus on the objective.
Just don't run into Francis and everything should be fine.