It was a frigid day even by London’s standards, which was odd considering how warm the winter had been. Nonetheless, passersby shivered as women wrapped their shawls tightly around themselves, and their husbands held them close if only to provide themselves some warmth. Newsboys huddled together on street corners trying to scrape together a day’s wages to buy a meager bowl of soup for that evening. I shuddered as I wrapped my furs tightly around my body. Walking at a brisk pace to try to reduce my time spent in the bitter cold only made me colder.
My thoughts ran unkempt as I turned onto Tottenham Court. I knew that what I was doing was shunned by the upper class society. I knew that, as a lady, I had to hold my head up no matter how my husband treated me. How he ran my family name through the mud and how he nearly spent all of my life savings, would have if I hadn’t intervened and created my own bank account to transfer funds when I deemed necessary. I quickly changed my thoughts to a more exciting but still grim topic. How I was going to hide what I was really doing from him. “I have to pick up a fur from Dianne. I had told him.
And while almost true, I hadn’t a clue on how I was going to explain why I was so late returning. I arrived at my attorney’s office and quickly rang the bell. A plump woman, that appeared to be in her mid-thirties, appeared at the door. “Who’s calling? ” She croaked. “Mrs. Bisset,” I replied, trying to sound as chipper as the circumstances would allow, “I have an appointment with Mr. Reded. ” The women quickly ushered me in. The lobby was dimly lit but still held an air of elegance around it. A sweeping staircase lead up to a second floor balcony that held two doors.
I saw the woman enter the left one, Mr. Reded’s office. I sat down and smoothed the front of my dress. A short while later the woman returned. “Mr. Reded has no appointments today. ” I rose, stunned. “Yes, yes he does, with me. Are you absolutely certain? ” She sighed. “Yes I am. Mr. Reded told me himself. ” I stood there. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave. You can’t be in here without an appointment. ” She started to lead me back out into the cold. “I must see Mr. Reded today. ” I said, trying to maintain my composure.
“I’m sorry madam I’m afraid that can’t happen” It must” “I’m afraid-” “Let me in. Please, I’m desperate. I can’t go home if I do not see Mr. Reded. ” The woman stared at me for a while. Then sighed and muttered “I’ll see what I can do. ” I thanked her and she went back into Mr. Reded’s office. I returned to my seat and remained there for what seemed an eternity. Finally the woman reappeared, this time with Mr. Reded, a thin man with a bald head dressed sharply in a tweed suit. “Joanne. ” He said dryly. “Mr. Redid. ” “I trust you are doing well. ”
“If I were doing well I would not be here. “Of course. What is it I can help you with Mrs. Bisset? ” I wanted to smack him then and there. He knew why I had come. “I would like my divorce papers. ” He glared at me and then waved dismissively at the woman. “You may leave for the evening Trudy. ” “But sir.. ” she stammered. “I said you may leave. ” She curtsied slightly, grabbed a shabby coat off of the coat rack and hurried out the door. “We may speak privately in my office. ” He took my hand roughly, I shook it away. “I am perfectly capable of walking myself up a staircase ” I spat.
He glared in return, turned on his heel and seemed to jog up the staircase. I followed him into his office. “Please have a seat. ” I stood. He didn’t seem to care. “I would like my divorce papers. ” I repeated. “I can’t give them to you Joanne. It goes against everything our society deems reasonable. ” I raised my head. “Screw our society! ” I exclaimed “Why should I have to suffer at the hands of a drunk and not get to have any say in it? ” “It’s what you married into, I still find it hard to believe that my idiot cousin married such trash. ”
I slapped him. My family brought itself out of poverty-” “By marrying mine. ” I glared at him, then smiled. “James,” I said as gently as my emotions would allow “I will not leave here without my papers. ” I held out my hand. “Joanne, you have no power. The money is not yours. The money you spend comes from the Bisset safe. ” I slammed my hands down on his desk. “The money I spend! There hasn’t been a day in as long as I can remember where Grahame hasn’t come home with a new bottle of some alcoholic drink! ” I rubbed my shoulder still sore from the previous night’s argument.
James quickly glanced away. “Your husband,” he began “is merely a collector of fine drinks. He…” He trailed off. He knew the problems were as bad as I had said, if not worse. “The family…” I knew what he was going to say and I did not want to hear it so I finished his sentence “is not mine. ” He reached toward the desk drawer but hesitated. “You know this will not go over well, right? The tabloids will have a heyday. ” I knew, and I let him know that. Slowly he opened the desk drawer and pulled out my divorce papers.
They were already signed by myself so the only task I had remaining was to get Grahame to sign them, I shuddered at the thought. Grahame was known to start drinking early and anger easily while under its influence. Keeping this in mind, I thanked James as he led me outside. The sun had started to set and the temperature was dropping with it as I made my way back home. Again I wrapped my furs tightly and thought of what James had said to me. He told me this would not go over well but I found it hard to believe that the family could be so heartless to my situation.
Finally the cold got to me and I hailed a cab. As I stepped in the driver looked at me. “Where to miss? ” He asked. I replied “Belgravia. ” He did not move and stared intently at me. “What, pray tell, are you looking at? ” I asked. “Where to in Belgravia miss? ” “Elizabeth Street. ” “Yes miss” The ride was a relatively short one, around fifteen minutes but to me it seemed like hours. I stared out the window, wondering how I was going to break the news to Grahame. When the cab driver turned on to Elizabeth Street I paid and thanked him.
Are you sure that you wouldn’t like me to drop you off at your house miss. It is awfully cold tonight. ” I petted my furs. Dianne lived only a block away, well within walking distance. “No, thank you. This will be fine, just, fine. Thank you” I stepped out into the biting cold and walked the remainder of the way to my house. As I opened the door I called in a voice that seemed too sweet to me “Grahame, I’m back from Dianne’s. My furs are just lovely, would you like to see? ” As I turned into the parlor, I was shocked and frightened to see him sipping on a tonic whilst sharing a coffee with Dianne.