Small Change

Tim felt like his luck was changing.

It was in the small things, like using the last of his body wash, shampoo, conditioner and face wash simultaneously that morning. The double-yolked egg he greeted with a yelp when he cracked it into the frying pan. His favorite pair of striped socks right on the top of his sock drawer.

And then it was the slightly larger things – the breath of fresh air that greeted him when he opened his door, a check in the mail for a poster he had designed and forgotten about. It was a blue sky day where you cannot even fathom the appearance of a cloud, the bright blue would dazzle any white fluff into oblivion.

He passed Cara’s bicycle on his walk – the handles wrapped in deer leather, a bag of library books carelessly strapped to the seat rack, a bottle of champagne obviously forgotten in her custom-ordered wine bottle holder. Cara cared about books and alcohol more than most – she was obviously in a frazzled state if she was wandering to the lawyer’s office having forgotten these things.

Tim briefly considered taking the champagne for himself – although it would be pretty obvious, sticking out of his black leather messenger bag.

The residential street was empty. He took a careful look around at the row of flat-fronted 3-story apartment buildings and then grabbed the bottle of champagne and shoved it into a nearby bush, some sort of stunted ivy that served as decoration for the base of a mailbox.

He whistled to himself while he walked around the corner and up the stairs, under a tiny, carved, wooden sign that served as the only delineation between his lawyer’s office and the rest of the street. His heart was racing after liberating the champagne, he hoped some neighborhood kid wouldn’t find it before he did.

The office was homey – the lawyer, Brian, had pictures of his kids on the wall, a dog and a cat that co-existed peacefully in the sun-drenched receptionist area, a couch that wouldn’t let you go once you sunk into it. Some pleasant voiced woman sang over the speakers, insistent but not angry. The wild thing about the office was the laid-back atmosphere worked. Tim couldn’t hear his heart beating anymore, he could take a deep breath and feel the muscles in his shoulders relax. The receptionist smiled benignly at him while he gathered himself and gestured slightly towards Brian’s office. Tim could see Cara’s frizzy mane of hair through the open door, one bare shoulder. He took a deep breath.

“Tim is that you?” Brian’s disembodied voice asked. He appeared in the reception area and shook his hand. “Let’s get this over with, shall we?”

Brian wore cashmere sweaters and impeccably pressed grey wool slacks, he seemed like a less-relaxed looking Mr. Rogers. With a hand on Tim’s shoulder, he led him into the office.

“Hi Timothy,” Cara said.

“Cara.” She was wearing an outfit he had never seen before – some sort of tribal print halter top dress, a black 90s choker around her neck. She wasn’t wearing make-up, and her eyes were rimmed with red.

Two sets of identical papers with flagrantly over-bright post-it notes sat side-by-side on Brian’s desk. Without a word, they both signed their name and their initials in the small, designated boxes. Tim tried not to be melodramatic, but he couldn’t help it – Cara smelled like she always did, her bare shoulders had new freckles, freckles that he hadn’t kissed or counted. She didn’t look at him, but she must have felt his eyes traveling from his paper to her hands, to the tightness of her dress, to the outline of her bicycle shorts that her dress revealed. He thought that every line he signed was like snapping another happy memory of him and her in half – although those memories were already tainted with fights and apology-proof insults. He wondered if the champagne Cara had bought to cheer herself up after the divorce papers were signed was expensive.

Tim finished signing before Cara did. “Thanks, Brian, is that all?” he asked. Brian nodded. Tim left the office to a day that still smiled beautifully at him, and sat down on the steps. He wished he had a clove cigarette to smoke – it would be perfect for Cara to come outside and smell the apple-cider scent of the cigarette, reminding her of the first time they ever spoke, when she bummed a clove freshman year of college.

When he heard the door open and close, Cara came and sat down next to him.

“How do you feel?” she asked.

“Honestly?”

“Honestly.”

“Relieved.”

Cara stood up and brushed at her dress, which was probably two inches too short. She stuck out her hand. “It was a pleasure divorcing you,” she said. Her voice cracked, and her face contorted into a look of pure self-disappointment.

“Goodbye, Cara.” He took her outstretched hand, contemplated kissing it, decided against it.

She turned the corner and Tim listened for some sign that she would notice her champagne was gone.

“Shit,” he heard, quietly, whispered, like she was already in the library where he was sure she was headed.

He listened as she dismounted the curb, and the creak of her bad gear-changer signaled she was speeding away. He waited longer, watching the slow stutter of Noe Valley traffic – couples with their children in strollers, family cars kindly giving each other right of way at the four-way stop. Then he stood up and walked back the way he came.

The champagne was still there, and it was cool from having been in the shade for 20 minutes, further proof that Tim’s stock was on the upswing. He opened it, right there on the street, and started sipping at it while he walked home. It was expensive, Tim realized. Cara was never careful with her money.

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