Secret Smiles and Three Little Words Pt. 33

byCJT©

"You're wrong," Livy said pulling her hand to her to inspect the ring more carefully. "I need this to remind me that I deserve better, and better is out there!" Alex tilted her head at the change in attitude Livy was displaying.

At Christmas she seemed a mess, a destroyed woman. Now her happy smile was back, her mood chipper.

"Are you getting laid?" Alex asked her dubiously.

"What?" Livy gasped.

"You seem pretty chipper!" Alex pointed out.

"No," Livy shook her head. "Men are totally off limits for a while, unless I find a man like your Gavin."

"Good luck with that," Alex groaned. "I think I got the last one! They don't make them like my Gavin anymore! I was single for a long time, so I know."

"Now you are killing my mood! Thanks!" Livy joked.

"You really ok?" Alex asked her. Livy shrugged.

"As good as I can be right now," Livy told her.

"How's my favorite niece?" Alex asked her.

"Totally not talking to me since I sent her to school today instead of letting her stay home to see you!" Livy growled. "That girl is more like you than I like!"

"You mean stunningly beautiful, with a personality to match?" Alex asked with a blush.

"No," Livy said with twisted lips. "A stubborn, strong willed little pain in the butt! With a temper to match!"

"So catch me up," Alex said rolling her hand to Livy to start the talking.

"Judith, my lawyer," Livy said getting up and pulling the coffee pot towards her and refilling Alex's cup. "Is the most amazing woman I have ever met! She is absolutely ruthless!"

"What do you mean?" Alex asked.

"Well," Livy looked to the ceiling. "The very first meeting, Don's lawyer tried to bully us." Alex lifted her eyes. "Yeah, that went over like a turd in the punch bowl! Judith just looks at him and shakes her head, all confident like, and starts putting her stuff back in the briefcase. She then lets out this deep exhale and says, 'let me catch you up on everything...your client is the one that cheated, multiple times. Your client is the one that impregnated another woman. Your client is the complete asshole here."

" 'My client is telling me that she wants nothing but child support...now if you want to play bully with me, I'm going to cut my client out of this completely and rip you to shreds. By that I mean, alimony, child support, the house, the cars, the savings account, half the 401k and then I'm going to sue that little whore of girlfriend of his for spousal alienation, which means she is also going to pay my client for spreading her little legs for your client!.'" Alex sat there slacked jawed.

"Judith got up, looked to me, and I got up and we left the room," Livy laughed. "I looked to her in the elevator and she just sat there with this little smug look." Livy shook her head.

"I finally had to ask her what was going on," Livy giggled. "She tells me 'I'm lawyering, this just let them know that what you want is less than what I can get'!"

"The next meeting went a lot smoother!" Livy said proudly. "Everything is figured out, today's court appearance is just to have the Judge ok everything. Judith says it's a formality."

"You act like you are ok with this," Alex agreed. "But, it may be a bit different later. So I hope you don't mind if I stick around?"

"Not at all! Nora is expecting you to pick her up in the Mercedes, with the top down!" Livy smiled, and reminded Alex that Nora wanted the top down at Christmas.

"How is she doing with all this?" Alex asked her.

"About as well as you can imagine," Livy shrugged. "Don still doesn't want her around the 'other woman', so he picks her up and takes her to McDonald's from time to time. She is trying to be so much like you...so strong, but I can see the pain."

"What are you going to do about that?" Alex asked, the anger tinting her words.

"He has a right to her," Livy pointed out.

"It looks like he doesn't want it," Alex countered.

"True," Livy frowned. "But I'm still hoping that the old Don wakes up and finds out that his little girlfriend is making him make mistakes he might not recover from."

"In the end," Livy said firmly. "I will protect Nora with everything I have. I will protect her like you would. I will become the bitch nobody thought I could be!"

***

Alex sat at the front of the courtroom, right behind Livy. Their dad showed up and hugged Alex warmly then hugged Livy. Alex wasn't surprised when the others didn't come. Livy seemed surprised, and a bit hurt when her mother and older sisters didn't come in. She looked to Alex who tried to give a reassuring smile.

Don showed up with his lawyer, and new girlfriend. She was already sporting a little engagement ring on her hand. Livy saw it and rolled her eyes at Alex who smiled.

"You should go over and show her what a real engagement ring looks like!" Livy teased.

"I go over there, she will be unconscious," Alex growled, staring at the little just out of her teens, homewrecker down.

"What engagement ring?" Al asked looking at his two daughters.

"Oh shoot!" Livy gasped. "Sorry!" Alex shook her head and smiled.

She showed her father the ring and he engulfed her into his arms and squeezed her tightly, so tightly she thought he was trying to squeeze the stuffing out of her.

"That's fantastic!" Al gushed looking at it. "Oh I am so proud of you!" Alex blushed at all the attention she was getting. She didn't want that, this was supposed to be support for Livy, not her engagement.

The judge came in and they all sat down, Al holding Alex's hand happily.

"Good morning," the black cloaked man said shuffling papers and putting his glasses on. "From what I understand, all the particulars have been agreed on?" The stately man asked looking over his glasses.

"They have Your Honor," Judith said handing the divorce papers to the bailiff to take to the Judge.

"We have a counter," Don's lawyer said handing a second set of papers to the bailiff.

"Counter?" Judith asked in a snarl. "Are you sure?" The look on Judith's face said it all. Daring them to proceed with their little surprise counter.

"Yes," the lawyer said with a nod. "My client has thought over everything and has changed his mind on a couple things."

"Mistake," was all Judith said as she sat down shaking her head.

"What is different?" the Judge asked.

"My client wants the house, as Ms. Lasko has abandoned it," the lawyer began. "Seeing how he still lives there, he feels that he should be able to keep it."

"Anything else?" the Judge asked writing something down.

"He wants half custody and therefore, no child support," the lawyer said looking to Judith who chuckled slightly in disbelief.

"What?" Livy barked out standing up and turning to face her soon to be ex-husband.

All the work they had done to keep this peaceable was flying out the window now.

"What is she supposed to do? Spend half the year with me in Averin, then change schools to spend the other half with you? How is that what's best for Nora?" Don didn't look at her instead he stared at the table as the judge tapped his gavel gently. A soft reminder of where Livy was barking.

"You said you just wanted what was best for Nora!" Livy reminded Don. He said nothing, nor did he look over at her. She shook her head when he wouldn't even look at her.

"Your Honor," the lawyer continued. "We wish to offer a compromise."

"I'm all ears," the Judge frowned.

Livy shook her head angrily but Judith patted her hand. Livy leaned into her.

"Whatever you want," Livy growled. "He wants it messy, make it messy! MY little girl doesn't deserve to be treated like a pawn!"

"If Ms. Lasko is willing to forgo her claim on half the house," the lawyer began looking at Livy. "Mr. Codeen is willing to drop the half custody."

"That's what this is all about?" Livy growled. Judith put her hand on her to keep her from standing up. "The house? Is that what your little girlfriend wants? A place for her little baby?"

"Ms. Lasko," the Judge reprimanded.

Alex looked to her father at Livy's outburst, the demure sister she grew up with was fulfilling her threat. She could be a bitch if need be. Al shrugged in surprise as well. This was a side of Livy neither had ever seen.

"I'm sorry Your Honor," Livy said sitting down, wiping the tear that escaped from her face.

"I understand," the Judge said sympathetically. "But please, let your lawyer do her job."

"Yes Sir," Livy shook her head in disbelief.

Judith looked to Livy and smiled. She then shrugged, she knew Livy didn't care about the house, her only concern was Nora, and this was a perfect way to make sure the one concern Livy had was taken care of.

"Your Honor," Judith said standing up. "My client is willing to agree to the house, but, she wants complete custody of the Nora. There is no way she would agree to half, and right now, I don't even want Mr. Codeen to have visitation rights!"

"So, he wants the house," Judith continued confidently, looking at Don. "Ms. Lasko wants Nora. Complete control. Mr. Codeen must relinquish his paternal rights to her."

"Mr. Codeen," the Judge frowned. "You will want to speak to your attorney."

Instead of looking at his attorney he looked to his pregnant girlfriend who intimated with her head bob to take the deal. Don frowned and looked to his lawyer and nodded his consent.

"We accept that," the lawyer said with a shake of his head. The Judge looked at both men at the table disapprovingly.

"You are going to regret that," the Judge warned as he shook his head. "Is there any more surprises?" He chastised the lawyer in open court.

"No Sir," the lawyer frowned. "We still hold to no child support."

"You have got to be out of your mind!" Judith laughed.

"I agree," the judge said firmly, pointing out that no child support wasn't going to happen unless Livy didn't want it.

He looked to the original papers and turned them until he found the amount agreed upon before the hearing. Before this little bombshell.

"The original amount agreed upon seems to be low as well. My suggestion, agree to that." This surprised everyone in the courtroom. The Judge not being so neutral.

Don nodded that he agreed and the lawyer said so verbally.

"Mr. Codeen," the Judge began slowly signing off on the agreement. "I hope this doesn't come back to haunt you later." With that he cracked his gavel and left the courtroom.

***

Livy sat on a bench outside the courthouse as Alex rubbed her back sympathetically. She could feel the mixture of anger and sadness. Anger at what Don had tried to do. Sadness at the fact, her marriage was officially over. She was now a divorcee.

"Alex," Livy said after a few minutes of silence. "You need to go if you are going to pick up Nora. She is expecting you."

"Are you sure?" Alex asked her. "We could pick her up together...run into Pittsburg from some retail therapy?"

"No," Livy said firmly. "I need some time before Nora sees me. So, if you would, take her out and entertain her a bit. Give me a couple hours to gather myself?"

"Of course," Alex agreed. "Dad, will you give her a ride?"

"Absolutely," Al agreed. "Why don't you bring Nora to dinner tonight at the house, I'll grill out and the family will all be there. It doesn't happen very often and it seems you might want to let everyone else know about your little surprise!"

"I think that should happen later," Alex said looking at Livy.

"No," Livy disagreed. "You need to brag on your man, you need to show everybody what a healthy relationship looks like." Alex shook her head.

"C'mon Dad," Livy said standing up. "Take me to lunch, I need it."

"Let's go baby girl," Al said putting his arm around Livy and guiding her towards his pick-up truck. "See you later Alex, say about five?"

"Ok," Alex agreed as she watched them walk away. Livy's head on her father's outer arm.

She pulled up her cell after Livy and her father were out of sight. She started walking towards her car.

"Hey beautiful," Gavin's voice came across strong.

"Hello, Sir," Alex smiled.

It was comforting to hear his voice. It reminded her of all the good in her life. She was wallowing in the sadness Livy was having to endure, despite the façade Livy was putting on for Alex.

"How did it go?" Gavin asked her.

"The man is a complete asshole!" Alex barked. "He tried some bullshit move to take custody away from Livy!"

"What did Judith do?" Gavin asked.

"Less than she could have, I'm sure!" Alex said shaking her head climbing into her car. Al honked his horn as he drove by.

"Tell Gavin hello and congratulations!" Livy called out from the window.

"Did you hear Livy?" Alex smiled.

"I did," Gavin told her. "I thought we were going to wait to tell them?"

"I forgot to take the ring off...she saw it," Alex said with a huff. "She is really happy, so was Dad."

"Well," Gavin said with a half laugh. "It sounds like the cat is out of the bag."

"It is, if not, it will be. Dad wants me to come over and have dinner with the family," Alex told him as she pulled away from the curb. "Right now I'm headed to pick up Nora, she wants a ride with the top down!"

"You girls have fun," Gavin laughed. "Be careful, it's supposed to be chilly there this evening."

"What did you do? Check the weather?" Alex asked.

"Yes," he said with an incredulous chuckle. "Just because you aren't here, doesn't mean I don't think about you."

"Yes Sir," Alex felt the love across the phone. "I'll see you in a couple of days."

"Love you," Gavin said.

"Love you more," Alex said back.

***

"AUNT ALEX!" Nora screamed as she ran from the school doors.

Alex was leaning against the car, she had already dropped the top on the convertible. Nora leapt into her arms and Alex blew into the side of her neck lovingly. She then put her in the seat and buckled her in.

Pulling away carefully she looked over at Nora as she held her hand up and over the top of the windshield as the wind whipped over the car. The smile couldn't be contained on the little girl. After a few minutes Nora pulled her hand down and looked to Alex.

"How did court go today?" she asked knocking the air out of Alex.

"Wha...what?" Alex regrouped.

"I know mom is supposed to be in court today," Nora told her firmly. "I've been letting her lie to me...that's why you are here, right?"

"No, I'm here to see you," Alex tried.

"Please Aunt Alex," Nora begged closing her eyes. "Don't be like everybody else and lie to me. Not you!"

Alex pulled the car into a store parking lot and put the car in park. She looked to Nora and let out a slow breath.

"Court went as expected," Alex told her taking her small hand in hers. "Your dad tried some stupid things, but the judge didn't go for it."

"Will I spend half my time here and half with him?" Nora asked her. "I don't want to spend half with that mean girl!"

"How do you know this stuff?" Alex asked her. Livy had told her she only talked about the divorce when Nora was in school.

"Dad," Nora shrugged. "I heard him and his girlfriend arguing one day. At least mom never argued in front of me!"

"I'm sorry baby," Alex said kissing her cheek and pulling her into her arms. "No, you will be spending you time with your mommy here in Averin. Your father thinks that is what's best for you."

"So he gets the house?" Nora said slamming what felt like a sucker punch into Alex.

"Oh honey!" Alex gasped. The things this little girl knew that she shouldn't have known! To know that your father was using you like a chess piece. How does an adult handle that let alone a seven year old?

"It's ok," Nora assured her. "They need a place for the baby."

"It's not ok!" Alex growled. "You deserve so much better than that!"

"I'm with Mommy, which is all I want," Nora said firmly. "Me and Mommy."

"Well," Alex smiled. "You won't have to worry about that at all!"

***

"How did court go today?" Father Wells asked as his favorite parishioner as she sat in her normal spot.

"The bastard tried to take Nora from me!" Livy barked.

The priest sat down next to her and put his arm around her.

"I'm sorry," Jack said as she turned into him and cried. "What happened?"

"The selfish little prick wanted the house," Livy raged. "He didn't give a damn about Nora! He just used her to get the house, threatened to take her from me, but then said if I would sign off on giving him the house, he would grant me full custody!"

"Well," Jack shrugged. "It sounds like you got what you wanted. The house is just a pile of wood and bricks. You have the gift of life, of love."

"I do," Livy smiled. She took the offered hanky.

"So?" Jack asked with his eyebrows.

"I don't feel any different," Livy shrugged, knowing what the priest was asking about. Her worry about how she would feel after the divorce. She worried she would feel less human, less like a person. Less of a Christian.

"Told you," Jack smiled. "All that worry that you would feel like shit...wasted time. All that worry that God would punish you for it...more wasted time."

"You know my mother believes that," Livy countered.

"And I have told you that I doubt your mother is within the fold of God's love," Jack countered.

"You have," Livy chuckled. "But why is she so sure?"

"Because those who believe they are closest to God, are usually the farthest," Jack said with a sigh. "And those the farthest from God are the ones that Satan tempts the most. Sometimes he impersonates the Heavenly Father to trick them into belief."

"How can I save them then?" Livy asked him.

"By living in the way God wants you to live," Jack told her. "To lead by example is what He expects. He doesn't want you to convert the world. He wants you to be a ray of light in the darkness. To show with God's love, all is possible, and that you are undefeatable regardless of what this shitty life throws at you!"

"So I'm not damned for this?" she asked again.

"Not in the least," Jack assured her. "Soon, you will know this as I do. God has spoken to me, He told me this is your path." Jack stood up and began to move away as another parishioner moved into the confessional.

"God has spoken to you?" Livy asked with a disbelieving smile.

"You don't think I speak to myself in the yard, like some sort of town idiot do you?" Jack laughed. "No, I speak to Him, He speaks to my heart. He loves you. That much is sure. When you thought you could go no further, He carried you to His doorstep...and invited you in." Jack said reminding her of their first meeting.

"You have been speaking to Him about me?" Livy asked surprised.

"Every night," Jack said firmly.

"Why?"

"Because you needed Him, more than anyone else," Jack told her. "And I know your faith is tarnished by all of this, but soon, you will turn to where you are supposed to be."

"And where is that?" Livy smiled.

"One more pew up," Jack laughed pointing to the first row. "Well within the arms of our Father's love." Livy nodded as he looked at her one last time at the confessional booth. He winked at her and entered.

"Thank you Heavenly Father," Livy prayed. "For your Angel of love, please bless Father Jack and forgive his language in Your house!" She snickered as she looked to the confessional. Father Jack Wells, not your typical priest. Then again, he warned her of that that first day they met.

***

Alex pulled Nora from the seat and turned her loose to run to her mother. The two hugged warmly and Nora went on a speed talk of all that Alex and she had done. From driving fast with the top down, to which Alex shook her head in denial, but Livy could tell by the guilty smile that Alex was lying despite her hand being raise to swear an oath. To the ice cream they had at Dairy Queen.

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byCJT© 13 comments/ 22965 views/ 21 favorites

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