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A Man Barely Breathing by Dark Whisper
Format: Short story
Chapter 3: A Man Barely Breathing
The next thing I knew the judge was offering me a seat in front of his huge English Oak desk.
Once I sat down, I asked for permission to speak, which was granted.
“Thank you for allowing this to be a private matter.”
“Oh, I had already decided that before your lawyer requested it. You two are much too well known and… there’s enough of your private life exposed to the vermin out there. I think you’ve been dragged through enough mud.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Now to the matter at hand. I found this divorce decree to be most interesting. They are a rare breed, especially given your earnings.”
I wasn’t sure what he meant by that.
“I must confess. I haven’t actually read it,” I admitted.
“Really? Hmm. And your lawyers didn’t tell you what she wanted? That would be a violation of their fiduciary duties not to properly inform you.”
“That would be completely my fault as every time they tried to speak of it, I wasn’t exactly in the mood for it, so I always waived them off or changed the subject. They gave it to me, but I didn’t have the heart to actually read it. I told them to give her whatever she wanted. You can double it if you want.”
“You would double the amount even though you don’t even know what that amount is?”
“If there is one thing that I’ve learned from this entire ordeal is how much money no longer matters to me, sir. I would give it all away for this to end and for her to come back to me.”
The judge stared at me as if to study my expression.
“So, you don’t want to be divorced?”
“No. I never wanted this.”
“Hmm...” he pondered, sitting back in his over-sized burgundy leather office chair. “It’s hard for me to double the amount, considering she doesn’t want anything.”
“What?” I asked in disbelief.
“Nothing… times two… equals nothing. She waived all dower rights. Meaning she waived her right to half of your earnings during the duration of your marriage. It is my understanding that you made a rather impressive amount of money outside the Malfoy Family Trust. I have your Bank Statements. She has every right to half of everything outside the Trust, but she waived it off and I needed to make sure that she knew what that meant.”
I took a hard swallow.
“It fits, doesn’t it? She is leaving me because of my money. She’s ashamed of it because some of my business dealings inadvertently caused people to lose their jobs. She’s ashamed of being a Malfoy. That’s why she wants a divorce. So it seems fitting that she would be ashamed to claim her rightful piece of Malfoy money, I suppose.”
If the judge was anything, he was stoic. He was reading my every word and my every action. He was a human lie detector without the need for magical devices to assist him.
After a few long moments and a few drawn out sighs, he finally spoke.
“Once in a rare blue moon, Mr. Malfoy, I get a hunch about certain couples. A hunch that they might not be quite ready for divorce. Yours is one of those rare situations.”
My face lit up.
“Does this mean you won’t be granting her a divorce from me?”
“Don’t get too excited. This day is not over. I will be calling Mrs. Malfoy in to speak with the both of you together.”
I coughed then, trying to get rid of the lump in my throat. He didn’t think we were ready for divorce just yet. That had to mean something, right?
When Hermione came in, I could tell she’d been crying. Her makeup was smeared every which way. And she avoided me as if I were invisible. She had developed quite the talent for it.
“Tissue?” the judge offered.
She nodded and took a few from the box sitting at the corner of the desk, and then sat down directly facing him.
She was so close to me, I could smell her perfume... the perfume I surprised her with when I got back from a short business trip to Paris.
“Mr. Malfoy, I am going to put a silencing charm on you so that you cannot speak or interrupt my conversation with her. I am also sending a spell to restrain you to your seat. This is for everyone’s security. I will remove them when I deem necessary. Do you understand?”
“Yes sir.” I would’ve agreed to anything at that point… anything so long as I could remain in the same room with her. I missed her terribly.
He sent the spells inaudibly with a flick of his wand and I felt them working instantaneously.
When he thought she had composed herself enough to be able to speak, he began.
“Mrs. Malfoy, tell me again why you began divorce proceedings. And speak directly to me, not your husband.”
She cleared her throat before beginning.
“It had become clear to me that my husband wanted me out of his life, sir.”
Her answer sent a shock wave through me that I cannot describe. Disbelief mixed with horror, but much more than that. How could she ever possibly think such a lie?
“What made you think this?”
“He… He stopped speaking to me,” she sniffed. “Then he stopped being intimate with me, so I thought that meant that he no longer wanted me in that way,” she voiced as she shrunk into her seat as if she felt small at the feeling of being unwanted.
It couldn’t have been further from the truth! I wanted to shout, but I couldn’t. I wanted to jump out of my seat and hold her, but I couldn’t because of the blasted restraints!
“It was too much for me to know he was so close, but so distant from me. It was then that I began sleeping in a guest room. Because I thought that was what he wanted. That he no longer wanted me in his bed.”
Her tears began to flow and I thought I was going to pass out not being able to scream my love for her.
“What happened then?” the judge asked with a look of caring concern.
“Only once he came to my room. I wanted him to tell me to come back to our bed, tell me that he missed me or wanted me. But the one time he did, he only asked me if I needed anything. Like some kind of butler or something. In reality, I only needed him. But he never once...”
She stopped, unable to finish her sentence as her body began to shake.
I wanted to yell at her and tell her how wrong she was! I went to her every night and watched her sleep! For the love of God in Heaven... this was torture!
“Take your time,” the judge told her.
She took another tissue and discreetly blew her nose with it before continuing.
“We would sit at dinner and breakfast… and he wouldn’t speak to me. He wouldn’t reach over and take my hand like he used to. He ignored me like I didn’t exist. But after sleeping alone for so many nights, I knew that he no longer wanted me to even do something so simple as to eat with him, so I gave him what I thought he wanted… my wedding ring back. So I left it for him one morning.”
“Go on,” he encouraged. “What happened then?”
“The worst thing of all… nothing. Nothing happened. He never tried to find me," she explained through sobs. “He never once owled me. He never once went to my work. I was crushed inside when I realized what I had to do then. Knowing that he couldn’t care less about me…. knowing he didn’t love me anymore. It practically killed me, but I made an appointment with a lawyer to file divorce papers. Because… I thought that’s what he wanted… free of me.”
I’m pretty sure I had nearly quit breathing at her saying, "he didn’t love me anymore."
This was insanely torturous. I couldn’t speak to my own wife about an enormous heart-wrenching misunderstanding?!
She was in full sobs now, no longer able to speak... fully turning her head away from the judge and from me.
I pulled out my necklace then, with her ring still attached. I took it off and held it up to the judge as I silently mouthed the words, “Please sir, let me speak.”
Permission was granted with a wave of his wand.
“Hermione, my love… I thought you were doing all of those things because you were ashamed of me. I think both of us stopped speaking because we were doing more arguing than we were making up. I was afraid of saying the wrong thing. I tried to touch you but you only pulled away. I was fearful to touch you after that because I was afraid of your rejection and when you moved out of our room, I visited you every night to watch you sleep. I was there. When you stopped eating with me, I thought you were so ashamed of me that you could no longer look at me. And I thought I was going to die when I saw you’d given back your wedding ring on that plate. When you left, I thought it was what you wanted… that you couldn’t stand being a Malfoy anymore and my worst fears happened when you filed for a divorce.”
She finally turned to look at me, finally acknowledging my presence in the room with her. She looked at me with confusion mixed with love and insecurity, as if she wasn’t sure of anything.
I wanted to touch her so badly. It had been so long.
I held out the wedding ring to her.
“Did you forget what this symbolized? A token of my undying love for you. Don’t ever think for a second that I don’t love you. Please, Hermione. Please... come back to me.”
And it was in that moment, loving her so much and being so close to her; waiting for her answer… that my wife had me breathless once again.
But she didn't answer. It seemed as if she were hesitating!
Just then I heard my mother’s gentle voice. I heard her as if she were in the room with us, helping me... giving me instructions.
“Reach out and touch her, my son. She needs to FEEL loved.”
Yes, of course. That is what I'd been wanting to do for what seemed like an eternity!
I slowly stood then. Taking my mother's advice, I gently took my wife's hands and pulled her into an embrace as a man in love, not ever wanting to let her go.
I wrapped my arms around her and gently pressed her head to my chest, hoping that she could feel how my heart beat for her. She was so precious to me.
As I felt her begin to respond; a split second in time, I felt that all that was wrong in my world, somehow became right. And all my gripping fears transformed into an indescribable hope.
She tenderly touched my face as she had done so many times before and just began kissing me… slowly at first, but then it built to a passion that I had missed so much.
She pulled from me for just a second to say five little words that meant so much.
“I want to go home.”
My heart soared in my chest as the heartache that had once lived there turned into the most wonderful feeling of elation... one that pulled my soul from the depths of where it was living and into new heights.
“Give me your hand,” I voiced quietly.
Taking her left hand, I slid her wedding ring back on, back to its rightful place... then brought it to my lips to give it a gentle kiss.
“Don’t you ever take it off again.”
“Never... never, never, never. I'll never take it off again! I’m so sorry,” she spoke through remorseful tears as we began kissing each other again.
“Eh hem.” The judge reminded us of his presence. “There is a matter of the Divorcement. Shall it be canceled then?”
“Yes! Canceled!” she pleaded, practically jumping back into my arms.
“Very well then.” The judge magically levitated the Divorce Decree into the air and with the flick of his wand it burned in the air until there was nothing left, not even ashes.
“I’ll take care of the courtroom. You two can apparate home from the adjoining room.” He pointed the way. “Oh… and here. I suspect you’ll be wanting these,” he commented, handing us our confiscated wands.
“How can we thank you for listening to us and bringing us back together?” I asked.
“Yes. Is there anything?” Hermione added.
“I cannot accept gifts. But I am allowed a photo. Do you think you could send a snapshot for a small album of mine? I like to look upon it every now and then and know that I’ve done some good in the world.”
“Of course,” I agreed, shaking his hand.
“And you two need to keep up the communication so I never have to see you again. You’d be surprised how many marriages I’ve seen come to a sad end because couples had stopped talking.”
Hermione started crying again.
“Get out of here before I start getting teary. I cannot have anyone thinking I’m a softy. I have a professional reputation to uphold,” the judge smiled.
With that, we walked to the adjoining room where I picked up my pretty wife and apparated us straight home.
She clung to me, kissing at my neck. And I didn’t put her down until we were in our bedroom, where I placed her tenderly in the spot that she never should’ve left.
My apologies if anyone out there was expecting something more exciting... a plot twist of some type, but I wanted to keep this a little more real, as this is an Eminem Quote Challenge, after all. ;)
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Until next time...