Excerpt: Out of the Clear Blue Sky
Six months ago, if you had asked me what I thought I’d be doing today, the answer would not have been transporting a drugged skunk to the house where my soon-to-be ex-husband lived with his much-younger fiancée.
Yet here I was.
And today, for the first time in a long time, I felt happy as I bounced down the dirt road in my father’s pickup truck, my cute little cargo snug and snoring in the back atop a pile of blankets, sleeping the sleep of Benadryl.
If you live in the wilds of Cape Cod, as I do, you know about skunks. They’re everywhere—on the beaches, on the pond shores, in the woods, especially at dusk, or waddling past the house in the middle of the night, heavy with funk. When we were little, my older sister, Hannah, and I would lie still in our room and catch a whiff of that smell and instantly start giggling into our pillows, trying not to laugh and startle it. Back before Hannah left, that is. From time to time, my dad, who had also grown up here, would have to trap one if it made its home under our shed, before it had babies. We always used the catch-and-release traps. And since I was his shadow, I learned to do the same.
This morning, my mission clear, I walked from my house, which is tucked into a hill overlooking Herring Pond, one of the chain of glacier-formed kettle ponds on the ocean side of Wellfleet. I went down the steep, winding path of stone stairs we’d put in fifteen years ago, down the little path past the dock we’d rebuilt when we first moved in, and over to the sandy shore, accessible only to those who knew where to find it.
There was the trap, and there was my sweet little skunk, sound asleep, its little sides rising and falling, a slight snore escaping its pointy little snout. Adorable. Flower, I’d call her. I felt a little guilty for what I was about to subject it to. It wouldn’t get hurt. Brad was so not the type to do anything other than jump on a chair and scream. I couldn’t see Melissa bashing in a skunk’s head and possibly getting her perfect clothes messy.
The daughter . . . she might like the chaos. She was practically a teenager, after all. And my sources told me she also hated Brad, and possibly Melissa.
Today, Bradley Thomas Fairchild, my husband of nineteen and a half years, was at my sister’s office, making wedding plans with his child bride, sixteen years younger than he is. My sister Hannah is a wedding planner. The bride, or that slut, as I call her, was closer in age to our son than to Brad. Harassment was warranted.
The court views divorce as the dissolution of a business arrangement. It is a bloodless legal process that refuses to consider fairness, or hurt, or responsibility. It ignores the blazing trash fire of your life, in other words, and doesn’t want to hear about what’s fair or just.
Enter the skunk.
Brad and Melissa deserved some chaos after ripping up my life, my son’s life, our family and our future. I pictured them coming home to their perfect, vast, expensive house, and discovering this cute little critter in their all-white home. The screams!
Flower would stamp her tiny front feet, then turn, twitch her tail upward, and spray, which, in this fantasy, would go directly onto one of their perfect white sofas, into the beautiful Persian carpets. Every rainy day, the smell would haunt them, no matter how hard they cleaned, or rather, how much they paid to someone to clean. Even Melissa’s $500 Jo Malone luxury candles wouldn’t cover skunk, and with every whiff, they’d think of yours truly. Because who else would do something like this? They could call the cops, but I had babysat half the force and gone to school with the other half. Plus I was leaving no clues.
It felt good to smile.
I wasn’t always a half-crazy harpy bent on revenge. A few months ago, I was just probably the nicest, most normal person you could find. A certified nurse-midwife, delivering babies, soothing worried moms-to-be, taking blood pressure and teaching childbirth classes. I was the adoring mother of a wonderful young man, and the loving wife to Bradley T. Fairchild, PhD, the devoted daughter-in-law to his parents.
Now, our son had just left for his freshman year in college (in Montana, the wretch), and Brad had dumped me for a thirty-year-old widow who loved money, herself and middle-aged men, and I was transporting a skunk to their six-thousand-square-foot architectural monstrosity on the other side of Wellfleet.
You’d have thought that at least they wouldn’t settle in my hometown. You would have been wrong.
Melissa. The name was a hissed curse in my mouth.
My sister had informed me that today was the first and lengthiest wedding consultation. Hannah, who owes me several decades of sisterly favors, is the most sought-after wedding planner on the Cape and islands. She was also my spy.
How would I get in the house with my furry black-and-white friend, you ask? Melissa’s house—Stella Maris, because of course it had a name—had both a hidden key and a code that may not have been changed since I showed Melissa the house last January. My in-laws were the Fairchilds of Fairchild Properties, and they’d been in Bali last winter. Vanessa had called—could I be an angel and show a house for them? Of course I could! Anything to help Vanessa, my beloved mother-in-law, more like a mom than my own mother. Seven months later, the new owner of that house would be marrying my husband. They’d gotten engaged three weeks after Brad moved out, which was also the day our son had left for the University of Montana.
You can’t make this stuff up, right?
When Brad and I had gotten married twenty years ago, I was just about to graduate from Emmanuel College, and he was a finishing his PhD at Boston University. We met on Boston Common when he ran past, sweaty, blond and gorgeous, and told me my ice cream cone looked amazing. (It was.) Eight months later, I found out I was pregnant—miraculous, given my medical history—and Brad and I were married in a hasty but tasteful wedding at the Hampshire House, tab picked up by my in-laws, who were utterly delighted that I was expecting.
This wedding—of my forty-six-year-old husband and his barely thirty-year-old bride—was another animal. The kind my sister specialized in—archways made of orchids, bands flown in from Austin, dinners that cost $500 a plate, wine shipped in from vineyards and, if rumor was true, Bruno Mars dropping in for a quick solo.
Let’s say it stung. Let’s say it ripped my broken heart out of my chest and ground it on the sharpest shells and let the seagulls pick at it. Maybe I should’ve caught two skunks. Or a wolf. A great white shark. Then again, there was Melissa’s kid to consider. Wouldn’t want her to be eaten. I’m not a monster.
Obviously, though, I stalked Melissa on social media. She was filthy rich and loved showing the world how the one percent lived. There was nothing she enjoyed more than photo shoots starring herself, occasionally her kid, but also the apartment she had lived in with Husband #1 in New York City. The vacations they’d taken—Thailand, London, Madrid, Kenya. Over the past six months, her feed was filled with shots of the mansion on the water here on the Cape. Melissa just adored furnishing with the work of local artists. She posted a walk-through tour, like she was Oprah. The BMW she’d just bought herself, played down in a humblebrag. Felt so strange, buying a $90K car, but want the highest safety rating for my Ophelia! Tried to make up for the guilt by giving money to the local food pantry. #RandomActsofKindness #BMW #Tweens #CapeCod #SmallTownLife #SafestCar #Donate #EndHunger
And now, she was thrilled to be working with Hannah Chapman Events to design her dream wedding! Would we like to see her vision board? Well, here it was!
Divorce is especially painful when you didn’t know your marriage was floundering. Splitting up is one thing, right? You grow apart, you’re perpetually dissatisfied with each other, you agree that you’d both be happier unmarried. Happened all the time.
That was not the case with Brad and me. A couple of days before Brad told me he’d found love elsewhere, we’d had sex. Really good sex—the kind you could have when your only child was out of the house. Five days later, I was informed that he needed to infuse joy into his life, which meant dumping me.
During the four months since I found out Brad was leaving me for someone else, I swear I’d been running a fever. I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep since May 12, which wasn’t helping my “woman on the verge” feeling.
But right now, I didn’t care. I was just so dang proud of catching a skunk.