As soon as my ex-wife took the witness stand, I knew I was going to lose.

She took the oath and sat down, and I think her lawyer waited an extra few moments so that everyone could look at her—and, I’ll admit, she was stunning. Her hair was gypsy black and as dark as her eyes, which now swept the faces of everyone present but never paused as they swept past me. Confident and sophisticated, she gave the impression there was nowhere else she would rather be on a late-September afternoon than here in a Pennsylvania courtroom.

Her lawyer, a non-descript little man in a gray suit, stepped forward, head slightly bowed as if in deference, and asked how she wished to be addressed.

“Laura Borago. I’ve remarried.”

Judge Jeffrey Randall, who had yawned three times during my testimony, was now paying full attention.

“Mrs. Borago,” her lawyer began, “would you please tell us how you met your ex-husband, Robert Gardiner?” As he spoke, her lawyer did not turn toward me or even suggest that I might be in the room. Inconsiderate, I thought, considering that I was probably going to end up paying his $300-an-hour attorney’s fee.

“We met five years ago, while we were both working at Mirabelli’s. It’s a small auction house that does country auctions in the counties outside Philadelphia. It was my first job out of college. Robert had already been there for two years.”

“And what was your job at Mirabelli’s?”

“When I first started, I did everything,” she replied. “I didn’t know the business, and I had a lot to learn. Before each auction, I helped with the publicity, cleaned and polished old furniture, washed mirrors, put tag numbers on the sale lots—I did everything. During auctions, I took telephone bids and made sure that all of the lots were brought up in the right order, at the right time. Between auctions, I drove around eastern and central Pennsylvania, looking at estates and different items we might sell.”

“Do you have any particular field of expertise? Furniture? Porcelain? Paintings?”

“Tapestries,” she answered. “I studied them while I was in school.”

“Please tell us about your background in the field,” her lawyer said.

“In my sophomore year of college, during an art-history class, I was intrigued that, during European wars, when a family or country had to pay a ransom, the price was often a tapestry. I did extensive research on tapestries; then I spent a summer in Bruges, Ghent, and Ypres, where the greatest tapestries were made.”

“Were you Mirabelli’s expert on tapestries?”

“Yes. We had at least half a dozen at every auction. Nothing too expensive, though. The good ones were sold in Philadelphia, New York, or Boston, where they got higher bids.”

“And, I understand that you eventually became one of Mirabelli’s auctioneers?”

“Anthony Mirabelli, the owner, was the regular auctioneer, but we sold between 300 and 400 lots at an auction. He liked to take a break in the middle, so that’s when he scheduled the tapestries, and I sold them. We got good prices when I ran the sales, so eventually I handled some of the furniture lots, too.”

The truth is that my ex-wife’s the best auctioneer I’ve ever seen. Absolutely calm and sure of herself, she always takes the extra half-second to look each bidder in the eye. And, when the bidders dwindle to just two or three, she knows how to coax higher bids in a way that no male auctioneer could get away with, using a look of hope, or expectation, or sometimes just a raised eyebrow. After all, it’s just a few dollars more, and no man wants to disappoint a beautiful woman.

(End of excerpt)