The License

             My wife cleared her throat as I slowed the car to make the turn. She took a deep
breath as I crossed over the lanes and pulled into the lot. As I stopped and shifted into
“Park,” her spine stiffened.

             “We’re still going to go on with it, right?” she asked, trepidation lacing her voice.

             I smiled faintly back at her. “Probably.”

             I could tell from her face it wasn’t the answer she needed to hear. She said
nothing more as her trembling hand reached for the door handle. I copied her actions on
my sides. As I closed the door, she stood on her side, watching me.

             “Why can’t you tell me before we get inside?”

             I blew out an irritated breath. “Don’t worry. I probably won’t change a thing.” I
gave her an encouraging smile. This must have eased some of her anxiety since she gave
me a smile back. I proffered my hand and she took it, grasping it in both of hers as we
walked across the hot pavement.

             The Courthouse was a huge, Neolithic structure with humble beginnings now
expanded to this monstrosity. The AC cooled us quickly as we entered. As we reached
the metal detectors, a grim-faced guard asked, “License, please.” I abided his request and
we were scanned and allowed to pass.

             Our walk slowed as we entered the Old Ballroom. Couples had formed three lines
leading to the large enclosed service windows. Some were hugging and chatting happily.
Others had a definite air of separation between them—no conversation, no contact. The
third discernible group…uncertainty. Clingy, quiet sniffles and resultant unencouraging
pats to the back.

             We had just stepped into line when an anguished wail rose from the front. “You
bitch! After all I’ve done for you! I can’t believe—” The rest of the sentence was lost as
the man was ushered out of the room.

             All talk has ceased now. The room quiet as a tomb.

             Time ticked by slowly as we watched the reaction of the couples as they reached the
front of the line—relief, sexual ogling…cries of distress. After each one, my wife asked
me the same question. “Are we?” And I gave her the same answer. “Probably.”

             As we neared the front of the line, I saw a stream of perspiration roll down her face.
A face I’d seen daily for ten years. But…did I want to see it for ten more? I honestly
couldn’t answer “yes.”

             Our life had become routine—the sex had plateued, our bickering about quirks
had increased, and we never went anywhere together anymore. Separate friends. Separate
lives. But the main question was, “Did I still love her?” I think on some level I still did.
But enough to carry on in the same rut for ten more years? I didn’t think so.

             My mind wandered to the older woman I’d met a few days ago—vivacious, bold
and…single. She’d made my heart thud and my dick jump. She had those wide hips and
sexy strut that promise a man heaven…plus some.

             My thoughts were interrupted as the Customer Rep called our names. We stepped

             “Your ten year marriage license is about to expire. Would you like to renew it for
ten more years or dissolve it and receive Single person’s licenses?”

             It was now or never. My mind was made up in a snap. I knew ten more years of a
boring existence wasn’t something I could live with.

             Despite knowing the pain it would cause, I took a deep breath and opened my
mouth to end this marriage. I wanted some “new blood” to wake me up.

             Before I could utter a single word, my wife’s voice rang out firmly, “I want to
dissolve the marriage and get a Single’s license, please.”

             What? My heart thudded in my chest. I looked at her dumbly. “What did you
say?” I asked in confusion.

             She turned hard, brown eyes towards me. “I said I want out of this marriage Mr-
probably-we’ll-stay-married-but-you’re-not-sure! Trying to keep me in limbo depending
on whether or not you get a bigger, better deal. Well, now you don’t have to worry!” she
spat and turned from me. “Give me a Single’s license!” she growled to the Customer
Service Rep.

             I couldn’t say a word as the pain burned into my chest. I watched numbly as the
clerk stamped two licenses—SINGLE across the top—and slid them towards us.

             My wife grabbed hers with a smile. My hands refused to claim mine.

             “But, honey—” I began pitifully.

             “It’s been good. Take care of yourself,” she finished. With that she was gone
through the side door while I stood there staring at the air she’d left behind.

             I don’t know how long I stood there—it felt like eons, but most likely only
seconds—before the Rep cleared her throat and said, “Could you please move to the
side? You’re holding up the line.”

             I tried to convey my anguish as I stared at her. I guess she’d seen it and heard it
before since she showed no emotion. With a resigned, ragged sob, I shuffled to the side
and turned towards the door, feet dragging.

             The last thing I heard was, “Next!”

Mississippi native, Sydney Molare, is the author of four novels, Somewhere In America,
Changing Faces, Changing Places, Small Packages and Grandmama’s Mojo Still Working.
A veterinarian by profession, writing has become her latest passion.

For more information or to contact the author, please visit her site,,
email her at, or reach her by phone at 601.384.0219.

© 2005 Underground Voices