Send project to printer?
June uncrossed her legs, rose from the office chair, and stood by the printer as it whirred and clacked in preparation to print. Then it sucked up a blank white sheet from the input tray, and spit it back out.
But it was not the report that Mr. Harkey had requested on his desk by noon.
June’s dark eyebrows puckered as she glanced over the printed email.
Well, it’s final. Yesterday was the last court date, and I’m free. It feels like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Part of me still feels very vulnerable and afraid, but I know this is for the best. It was no good for the kids to watch us fighting all the time. It’s better for everyone if we can just move on and find some peace. Some things just weren’t meant to be. Thanks for being so understanding, Bri. You’ve always been a good listener. Maybe we can get coffee together some afternoon, okay?
June sank into her chair, her mouth dry, and her hands trembling. Was this someone’s idea of a joke? If so, it was in very poor taste. She had not told anyone of her doubts, even Brianna, her best friend since college.
June’s eyes flickered toward the email address on the page. No, it was her address. But… That was odd. The sending date was October 12, 2015. Today’s date was March 2, 2015.
It had to be some quirk of the computer. Technology was finicky like that. Even so, she couldn’t bring herself to throw it into the recycle bin. She opened a drawer in her desk and shoved it into a folder.
The printer spat out another paper. June’s heart leapt into her throat before she recognized Mr. Harkey’s report. June Dashno, get a hold of yourself. She rubbed both hands up and down her arms briskly, to erase the prickling sensation on her skin. Then she rose to deliver the report. Throughout the rest of the day, the printer only printed her usual projects. If it were not for the paper in the “Miscellaneous” file, she would not have believed that it had done anything unusual.
The next day, when June printed the draft letter that Mr. Harkey requested, the printer spit out two pages. One was the letter. The other… June swallowed.
Things are going well so far. Steve and I have a good arrangement for sharing the kids. I wish I could spend more time with them, but I can’t afford to work as a part-time administrative assistant anymore. Even with the child support from Steve, the budget is tight, because I’m paying all the bills on my own. I expected to work full-time, but it’s still sad for me. Sarah asked me the other day why Daddy and I don’t love each other anymore. I had prepared for this kind of question, but it still felt awkward to answer.
“Well, honey,” I said. “Daddy and Mommy realized that we get along better if we have our own space. We still both love you and Dillon very much. And now you get to have two houses to live in!”
Sarah looked out the car window. “I miss Daddy. He’s sad to live by himself.”
“Did he say that?”
It made me angry. Even when he’s not here, he’s still competing with me for the kids’ affections. Why can’t he accept the way things are? Does he think I wanted to get the divorce?
June slapped the paper on her desk as feelings boiled within her. That would be just like Steve. That competitiveness that had seemed so masculine during college sports, and that persistence that had seemed so sweet in his pursuit of her, were now the same traits that she despised in him. Why did he have to one-up her all the time, especially in front of the kids or guests? Why did things always have to be done his way? Where was the romantic she once thought he was?
Maybe divorce was the better option. She glanced at the date: December 2015. Perhaps it was a sign. Maybe by next Christmas, she would be free of his put-downs and expectations.
June placed the paper by the last mysterious email, and tried not to look as much like a thundercloud as she felt.
When June returned on Monday, disgruntled by the iciness that was cementing between herself and Steve, she found a paper with a yellow sticky note attached to it, on her desk.
This printed on the network printer on Friday. I thought it might be yours. Is everything all right? – Claudia
June snatched up the paper, horrified, and read.
Bri, sorry I was so emotional on the phone last week. You were great, and you’ll be glad to know that I did talk to my doctor and I’m taking some meds now that make me feel better. I guess I’m still transitioning.
It’s hard to be single again. Even though I don’t want to be back with Steve, I do miss having someone’s arm around me, or being kissed on my forehead, or being able to snuggle before bed, or hearing someone ask how my day has been. I don’t regret the divorce. I know it was the best thing for the kids, who seem to be settled in school and doing well. Steve took them to an indoor water park last weekend, which they enjoyed, and it gave me some much-needed time by myself.
I’m okay. Really. I guess I just need time to process the fact that I’m no longer married. The other day, I overheard a woman complaining to her friend that her husband never changed the baby’s diaper or fed her. This poor mother has to do EVERYTHING, and her husband doesn’t lift a finger. It made me think of Steve. He drove me nuts, but he was always willing to take the baby after a long day, and didn’t mind dealing with a blow-out.
If only I could find a man who combined that thoughtfulness with being a sensitive listener.
I know I’m scattered, but thanks for listening, Bri. You’re the best.
June read the email twice. It was dated in February 2016. She remembered this morning’s outburst: “Steve, you are the most selfish man I ever met!” Somehow it had seemed so right at the moment, and yet it felt so cruel now. Was he selfish when he fed Dillon while trying to answer Sarah’s nonsensical questions? Hot tears stung in June’s eyes. Why couldn’t he be as gentle with her as he was with the children?
She crumpled up the paper and threw it in the recycle bin, and went to get herself some coffee at the Keurig machine. When she returned a few minutes later, she fished in the bin, unfolded the paper, and filed it in her desk.
When Claudia asked about the email, June denied that it was hers. After all, she hadn’t technically written it yet, had she? It still felt uncomfortably like a lie.
June watched the printer carefully the next day, and pounced on the familiar paper as it emerged.
Yesterday, I saw on Facebook that Steve is engaged to be married to Helen Arby’s coworker. I wasn’t ready to see that. It made me furious all over again, but I don’t know why. I cried myself to sleep last night, and this morning I feel angry with myself. He’s still manipulating me, even though he’s not part of my life. He’s not my husband anymore, so why do I feel like he still is?
June placed the email in her desk drawer, and sat for a long time in her office chair, her inward gaze absently tracking disturbed thoughts.
The printer did not print again. June hovered over it for weeks, willing it and wishing it to print some message from her future. But it simply clunked out reports and letters and routine paperwork. Of all the absurdities! It’s just a printer, June. Not a fortune-teller. Still, she hated it, and hated herself more for wishing it to be more than a printer.
Her angst did little to soothe the growing rift between herself and Steve.
One day, at the end of a long work day, she accessed the state website and printed out the divorce forms. When she pulled the paper from the printer, a familiar shiver traveled down her spine. It was date June 2018.
I wish I had the chance to go back to my former self and tell her what I know now. Steve has many faults, but he also has many strengths, and I miss them. I expected my new husband Greg to have faults, but I wasn’t prepared to be so frustrated by them too, or to wish he did this and that the way Steve used to.
I wonder now if somehow I could have made things work with Steve. What if I had made him my priority? What if I had placed him above my job, even above the kids, and tried to encourage him in the things he did well? If he had been gentler with me, I would have be a gentler woman. Perhaps, if I had been more positive with him, he would have been a more positive man.
I know I can’t change a man, even by changing my response to him, but I do know that I can change my attitude. And maybe, if I had done so, I would have seen that he was not the jerk I thought he was. Somehow, my recollection of him is so much kinder than it used to be. Am I romanticizing him, or was he truly a better man than I could see? I don’t know—and now I’ll never know. Somehow, that breaks my heart.
June wept on the way home, the glow of traffic lights smearing across her vision. What was her marriage to Steve worth? Was it already too late?
“Where are the kids?” June asked as she stepped in the door, hoping that her eyes didn’t look as puffy as they felt.
“Out back on the swing set,” Steve answered without looking up, absorbed in the midterm exams spread before him on the table.
For a moment, June stood on the doormat, fighting herself. It felt as if the world held its breath. She gazed at Steve, and he merely turned a page, tilted his head to the side, and scribbled something in the margin in red ink.
She glanced down at her hands, and saw the file that she had taken from her work desk. Which life was hers?
Suddenly, she crossed the room and tore the folder in half, savagely—the manila folder with the printed emails. She ripped every paper into tiny shreds. Then she depressed the kitchen wastebin foot-pedal and stuffed the pieces deep amongst the coffee grounds, banana peels, and eggshells.
“How was your day?” Steve asked absently, and glanced up as she crossed the room toward him.
Her kiss took him by surprise.
“What was that for?” he asked, blinking.
“Want to have a competition?” June asked. “I am competing for Best Spouse Ever.”
When Steve continued to stare at her, she added, with a daring grin: “Let’s see who wins.”
Steve scrutinized her face, as though attempting to uncover all that had led up to this baffling moment. Then he put down his pen with a sharp and decisive click.
“Challenge accepted. But I’m warning you”—he flashed her a quick grin—“I’m going to win.”