“You can’t be serious,” she said. Her hands were resting on her hips. She shook her head. “This is incredibly childish.”
Bob pulled a small selection of books from his shelf. A few were thrown into the box, the last he held in his palm. His fingers caressed the aged leather cover and left clean trails in the dust. He smiled, remembering the book. “I certainly am serious, and I’m offended you would consider this act a charade.” He wiped the book with a rag and set it in the box. “I told you, Susanne. I’ve had enough. I’ll stomach this nonsense no longer.” He picked up the small box and walked out of his office.
“What about the rest of your things?” she said, following close behind him.
“I don’t want them,” Bob said. “I never did. I was a fool to ever let you talk me into this.”
“You’re a fool to walk away,” she said. She hissed into his ear. “What’s wrong, Bob? Did you not receive enough praise? Did the world not fall on its knees and grovel before the might of your work?” The dark hallway, long and narrow, emptied into a small lobby. Sun shone through the windows. Small ferns leaned out of their pots towards the light of early spring.
Bob stopped at the glass door. He had the sudden desire to shatter the pane and permanently remove his name. “It’s not about praise, Susanne.” He gave a half-hearted laugh. “It never was.” He turned to face her for the last time. The anger in her eyes made him sad. “It’s about doing what I love.”
“So you’ll do what you love by never doing it again?” She tossed her hand forward as if she were throwing a stray cat into the street. “That’s your solution? Have it to yourself by throwing it all away?”
Bob gave her a quiet look. The lines on her face were deeper, longer. Her hair had grayed and chased away the rich browns of her youth. Only the fire in her blue eyes remained. But the fire was different now, something bitter and cold and lonesome. “Susanne, it’s all been lost. Can’t you see?” He did a slow turn in the empty room. There were no people there to fill the seats. “All of the business is gone. This building has stolen everything. It’s taken our love for each other and left us with divorce. It’s driven our children into ventures of their own, opportunities that have taken them far away.”
“It’s your fault,” she said. “You always had to be the brooding artist, the dramatic genius that no one understands. You brought this on us,” she said with a pointed finger.
“You can choose to blame me if you must, but I choose to walk away.” Bob opened the door and stepped to the edge of the street. Horse drawn carriages rolled down the cobblestone road. A father and son shared an afternoon pipe.
“You’ll pay for this,” Susanne said. Her face was full of rage. “You’ll pay.”
Bob put on his ascot cap and gave it a quick tip. “I’ve already paid, my dear. I’ll pay no more.” He took a long breath of the cool spring air. “My debts have been paid in full.”