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«GETTING RID OF BRADLEY», Jennifer Crusie

Dedication For Betsy Struckman, the perfect friend; And for Steve Struckman, the perfect man; And for Murph and Cassie, and Mollie, and Maggie, and Rose, and Bernie, and Lucy and Liz, and Annie, and Chuck, and Ed, and Jasper, and Max, and Mose, and Sam.

 

Chapter One

“I’ve never known anyone who was stood up for her own divorce before,” Tina Savage told her sister. “What’s it feel like?”

“Not good.” Lucy Savage Porter tried to smooth her flowered skirt with a damp hand. “Can we go? I’m not enjoying this.” She gave up on the skirt and clutched her lumpy tapestry bag to her as she glanced around the marble hallway of the Riverbend courthouse. “Bradley signed the divorce papers. We don’t even need to be here.”

Tina shook her head. “Psychologically, we need to be here. You had a ceremony when you got married, you need one when you get divorced. I want you to feel divorced. I want you to feel free. Now sit over there on that bench while I find Benton to tell me why this is taking so long.”

I’d feel a lot freer if you’d stop ordering me around, Lucy started to say, and then blinked instead. She’d been having rebellious moments like that a lot lately, but they were hard to hold on to, especially since the only time she’d actually followed through on one, it had been a disaster. Right now she was sitting under a brassy head of curls because she’d decided to go blonde as a symbol of her freedom. Some symbol. She looked like Golden Barbie with crow’s-feet.

Maybe the problem was that she wasn’t an independent kind of person. Other than the hair fiasco, every time she’d decided to be more independent, logic stopped her cold. After all, Tina was right. She did need the closure of hearing the divorce decree. And the bench was the best place to sit. It would be illogical to disagree just for the sake of disagreeing.

No matter how good it would have felt.

She went over and sat down on the bench.

Tina was gone already, trying to find her hapless attorney in the flood of suits that washed around her. Poor Benton. He’d gone beyond the call of lawyerhood in ramming Lucy’s divorce through the courts in two weeks, but that wasn’t enough for Tina. Tina wouldn’t be satisfied until Benton brought her Bradley’s head on a platter. Lucy had a momentary image of Tina, dark and svelte and dressed in her white linen suit, standing in front of a flustered Benton who was offering her Bradley’s handsome head on a turkey plate.

She liked it. Tina always did have the best ideas.

Tina suddenly appeared before her, parting the suits before her like the Red Sea. “There’s some kind of delay. It’ll be another hour, but then we’ll go have lunch.”

Another hour. “All right. At Harvey’s Diner?”

Tina shrugged. “Whatever you want.”

“Thank you.” Lucy dug her physics textbook out of her bag.

“What are you doing?”

“I have to teach Planck’s constant tomorrow.” Lucy paged through the book. “It’s a tough one to get across. I’m reviewing.”

“You know, the next thing I’m getting you is a new job,” Tina said, and disappeared back into the suits.

A new job?

“I like my job,” Lucy said, but Tina was already gone.

Okay, that’s the last straw.” Lucy closed her book with a thump. Nobody’s ordering me around anymore. From now on, I’m going to be independent even if it is illogical. I’m going to be a whole new me.

That’s it.

I’m changing.

 

“OKAY, THAT’S IT. I’m quitting,” Zack Warren said to his partner. His shaggy dark hair fell across his forehead, almost into his eyes, but he was too mad to brush it back.

“Don’t tell me, tell Jerry.” Tall, cool, and controlled, Anthony Taylor nodded toward the man who had just pulled a gun on them.

Zack turned back to the gun, wavering now in the hands of the balding, middle-aged embezzler who stood quivering in his bad suit behind his empty desk. Jerry watched them warily, as warily as a cautious man might regard two big guys he was holding a gun on.

“I’m quitting, Jerry,” Zack said. “You can let me go because I’m not going to be a cop anymore. You can have the badge.”

He started to reach into his worn black leather jacket, and Jerry squeaked, “No!”

Zack froze. “Okay. Fine. No problem.” He gauged the possibilities of taking Jerry there in his office. They weren’t good. Jerry was very nervous and the office was very small, leaving them no room to maneuver and nothing to take cover behind. It was furnished only with a metal desk, two plastic chairs, and Jerry. The furniture was marginally more interesting than Jerry, or had been until he’d reached into his desk drawer and pulled out the gun.


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