The Divorce Party(3)

By: Jennifer Hayward

She forced herself to grasp Tony’s hand. But her legs didn’t seem to recognize the need to function as she stepped out of the car on trembling limbs that wanted to cave beneath her. The long, snakelike line of limousines made her suck in a breath. The memory of Riccardo sweeping her out of this car the night of their first anniversary and carrying her upstairs made it catch in her throat. He had made love to her with an intensity that night that had promised he would love her forever.

The images of the beginning and the end collided together in an almost blinding reminder of how quickly things could turn bad.

How hearts could be shattered.

“We can still turn around,” her sister said quietly, coming to stand by her side. “If Riccardo really wants this divorce he’ll come to you.”

No, he wouldn’t. Lilly shook her head. “I need to do this.”

Do this and you won’t ever have to live in a world you don’t belong in again.

She walked woodenly up the front path alongside Alex. A dark-haired young man in a catering uniform opened the door and ushered them inside.

“How weird to have someone invite you into your own home,” Alex whispered.

“It’s not my home anymore.”

But everything about it was. She couldn’t help but stare up at the one-of-a-kind Italian cut-glass chandelier that was the centerpiece of the entryway. She and Riccardo had chosen it together on their honeymoon in the little town of Murano, famous for its glass. They had hand-picked a crystal to have their initials carved into, which had been placed on the bottom row. Riccardo had insisted on adding two entwined hearts beside their initials.

“It symbolizes us,” he’d said. “We’re no longer two separate people—we are one.”

She lurched on her high heels, feeling whatever composure she’d had disintegrate. The urge to run far away from here as fast as she could was so overwhelming she could barely keep her feet planted on the floor.

“Lilly...” Alex murmured worriedly, her gaze on her face.

“I’m okay.” She forced herself to smile at the young man offering to show them up the staircase to the ballroom. “We know the way.”

She climbed the gleaming wooden staircase alongside Alex, her heartbeat accelerating with every step she took. By the time they’d reached the top of the stairs and turned toward the glimmering ballroom it was in her mouth.

You can do this. You’ve done this hundreds of times before.

Except Riccardo had been by her side then. A rock in a world that had never been hers. And tonight was the beginning of LAR—Life After Riccardo.

She paused at the entrance, taking in the glittering colors and jewels of the beautifully dressed crowd, set off by the muted glow of a dozen priceless antique chandeliers that dated back to the English Regency period. A jazz band played in the corner of the room, but the buzz of a hundred conversations rose above it.

Her back stiffened. She hated jazz. Was Riccardo trying to make a statement? To illustrate to her how he’d moved on?

Alex grabbed her arm and propelled her forward. “You need a drink.”

Or ten, Lilly thought grimly as dozens of curious gazes turned on them and a buzz ran through the crowd. She switched herself on to autopilot—the only way she knew how to function in a situation like this—and started walking.

She lifted her chin when she saw Jay Kaiken and kept walking. As they moved toward the bar at the back of the room the strangest thing happened. Like the parting of the Red Sea, the crowd moved aside, dividing down the center of the room. On her left she recognized friends and acquaintances who had chosen to keep in touch with her rather than Riccardo after their separation. On her right she saw Riccardo’s business associates, his brother, cousins and political contacts.

“It’s like our wedding all over again,” she breathed, remembering how she’d walked into that beautiful old Catholic cathedral on the Upper East Side to find her family and friends on one side—the neatly dressed, less-than-glamorous Iowa farm contingent alongside her girlfriends and schoolmates—and Riccardo’s much larger, understatedly elegant clan on the other—all ancient bloodlines and aristocratic heritage.