Section 1

Phil Rios, Attorney at Law, stared at Toby and Laura Godwin from across his desk. The couple didn’t refuse to make eye contact, while speaking to each other in short, curt sentences like most divorce clients. Nor did it seem like they were putting on a public pretense of civility when all they really wanted to do was yell at each other and throw things across the room. The fact that they were seeing him together and seeking a quick agreed divorce was weird enough, but Phil had also been Toby’s best man at the wedding. Normally, he would have referred divorcing friends to a colleague, but he had agreed to see them today because he wanted to understand. He also hoped he could convince them to change their minds.

“This doesn’t make any sense. It’s insane,” Phil said.

“It’s something we have to do. It’s the only way we can both be happy,” Toby said, as his eyebrows furrowed.

“It’s my fault,” Laura said. “I’m to blame,” she said as her lip began to tremble.

“No one is to blame,” Toby whispered.

Laura covered her eyes to hide the tears.

Phil grabbed a box of tissues and held them out, Laura snapped several out, and dried her eyes.

Phil was about seven years older than Toby. He had gone to high school with Toby’s older sister, Jennie, and later reconnected with her when they both attended UT Law. Toby had been living with Jennie at the time, working full time to help pay her way through law school.

Phil and Toby had discovered that they both had a passion for writing, and the two men had started a fiction writer’s group. Phil had gotten a few things published in some of the second-tier science fiction magazines. Toby, on the other hand, had gone on to write a series of very successful mystery novels with a science fiction setting, in the vein of Isaac Asimov. Phil knew that Toby could safely call himself a “writer” when people asked him what he did at parties. When people asked Phil what he did, he said he was a lawyer. Writing only came up when Phil Rios talked about his hobbies.

“It’s a simple, but irreconcilable, conflict,” Toby said. “I want kids, and Laura doesn’t.”

“There isn’t a middle ground for something like that,” Laura said. “We’ve decided we just need to let each other go.”

“Didn’t you talk about this before you got married?” Phil asked.

“We did,” Laura said. “That’s why it’s my fault. At the time I thought I wanted kids, but ‘wanted’ wasn’t really the right word for it. I thought I ‘had’ to have kids. I was raised in a large Catholic family, and I just thought of it as a ‘should’ -something that I had to do. But, given the direction my career is taking me, I had to think long and hard about it. I realized I never really wanted kids at all. I know it’s important to Toby, and when I made the realization, I was honest with him. I expected him to hate me.”

“Never,” Toby said, looking at Laura.

Phil watched as their eyes locked for a moment. Phil had never been married himself. He had a series of failed relationships under his belt, making him confident he was a lifelong bachelor. For Phil, watching Toby and Laura’s relationship had been like a man without any legs watching a professional runner. It let him know that his condition wasn’t the normal state of affairs. Phil couldn’t let them split because he needed to know that “happily ever after” was possible for someone, even if not for him. His amateur science fiction writer’s mind kicked into overdrive, as his subconscious grasped for solutions like a drowning man grasping for a life preserver that is just out of reach…

“Are you sure this is irreconcilable?” Phil said. “This is the 21st Century, after all. I have a fairly radical solution, but just hear me out.”