Beta'd by: AzureEnding

Disclaimer: I own nothing

Chapter Five

It was Thursday before Tenten and Temari got through to Hinata. They had been trying all week and were having lunch together when they called her on Tenten's cell phone. Moreover, for the first time in days, Hinata answered. She sounded hoarse and groggy. The last Tenten had heard from her was on Monday night when she told her about the divorce. She was in bed with her husband at the time, Neji, and to say he was angry when he told her would have been an understatement. It took Tenten almost all night to convince him not to do anything to Sasuke. Ever since they were kids Neji has always been overprotective of Hinata, even more so after Hinata's mother's death. Now he felt as if he had failed her but Tenten kept trying to convince him otherwise.

Temari heard the news the same night except it was her husband, Shikamaru that told her. Sasuke had told him discreetly that he and Hinata had separated over the weekend and were divorcing. Sasuke wanted to get the word out as quickly as he could, so that within reasonable amount of time, he could be seen openly with Sakura. Shikamaru had also told her about the affair. However, she shared that information with Tenten over lunch, before they called Hinata.

Within days, Hinata had become what she most feared. An object of concern and pity, both of her friends were horrified to realize what had happened. It was a reminder to each of them that no one was exempt from lightning striking when you least expected. No one could ever know what would happen. Just when you thought you could coast forever and were safe, you discovered that you weren't.

"Hi, hun," Tenten said, sounding sympathetic. All she wanted to do was put her arms around her and hold her.

"How're you feeling?" she asked and Hinata could tell she knew about the affair. She hadn't had the guts to tell her when she had called. She just couldn't. It was too awful. Instead, she sought refuge in her bed. Only coming out when Itachi came home from school and cooked dinner. She had done nothing since Sasuke left Saturday morning. She kept telling Itachi she'd be fine soon, but he was beginning to doubt that.

"Let me guess Shikamaru told Temari and Temari told you?" Hinata asked, as she rolled over in bed and stared at the ceiling.

"Yes, he did and she did," said Tenten she knew what Hinata was talking about. "Can we come over; Temari and I are just sitting here worrying about you."

"I don't want to see anyone," she said honestly although she had finally showered on Monday and again that morning. "I look awful."

"We don't care how you look. How are you feeling?"

"Like my life ended last Friday night. Life as I know it anyway. I wish he had just killed me. It would have been so much simpler."

"I'm glad he didn't. Have you told Hanabi yet?"

"The kids have been great. Poor Itachi, he must feel like he's running a psych ward. I keep promising him I'll get up and I mean to, but it's just too much trouble."

"We're coming over," Tenten said in a determined voice, frowning meaningfully at Temari across the table, and shaking her head trying to give her a clue as to how Hinata was doing. She wasn't.

"Don't. I need some time to myself to catch my breath before I see anyone."

She felt humiliated and broken. In addition, even her best friends couldn't fix it. No one could. She had gotten a message on the answering machine from the lawyer Sasuke had retained for her on Tuesday. Moreover, when she called him back, she had thrown up after their brief conversation. It didn't bode well for the future. He told her that Sasuke wanted to file the papers soon, and get the show on the road quickly and as he said it, she had been overwhelmed by a wave of panic. It was like free falling out of a plane without a parachute. The only way she could explain the feeling was terror.

"I'll call you when I feel better."

In the end, they left a bouquet of flowers, a note and some magazines on her doorstep. They didn't want to intrude but they were worried about her. They have never known a marriage as seemingly strong as the Uchiha's to come apart at the seams so quickly. They all agreed that it was rotten of Sasuke to do and they weren't anxious to meet Sakura. It was going to exclude him from the group that had been his friends for years but Shikamaru assured his wife it didn't seem to matter to him. He had a beautiful young woman on his arm and a new life. He suspected that Sasuke wouldn't look back or think twice about what he was doing. All Sasuke wanted now was Sakura. However, all their friends could think about was Hinata.

It was a month before Hinata came out of seclusion finally, in time for Itachi's graduation. Tenten saw her there and noted how thin and pale she looked while impeccably dressed as always. She was in a white linen dress and coat, her hair worn down and her bangs had grown out to where it was half way down her eyes. She wore pearl earrings and matching pearls around her neck and dark glasses to conceal dark circles and ravages of the past month.

The hardest of all for Hinata was seeing Sasuke there. She hadn't seen him since the morning he left her. He had had her served with papers three weeks before and she just stood there and sobbed in her nightgown when she looked at them. However, there was no sign of her distress when she saw him. She stood tall and proud and poised, said hello to him and walked away to stand with Tenten and left him to congratulate his son. Sasuke seemed to be in surprisingly good spirits. The only one not surprised by this was Hinata. She had fully understood in the past month that she had been totally and completely defeated. Moreover, all she wanted now was for no one to see it. Her friends were solicitous and she managed to get through a dinner with Itachi at a restaurant. He had invited eight other friends. They called themselves Akatsuki. In addition, Hanabi had come from Los Angeles. Sasuke had the grace not to come to Itachi's dinner. Moreover, by the time she got in that night Hinata was exhausted.

Hanabi watched her mother from the doorway. Itachi had stayed out with his friends and she had come home to keep an eye on her mother. She was incredibly thin these days and seemed frailer than Hanabi had ever seen her. The word Temari had used that day was brittle as though Hinata would break in half any moment.

"You okay, mom?" Hanabi asked softly and came to sit down on the bed next to her looking worried.

"I'm fine sweetheart, just tired."

It was just like recovering from an accident or a major illness. She had had to dredge up every ounce of courage she had just to be there. She couldn't even enjoy it. The strain of seeing Sasuke, so estranged from her was almost too much for her. He had been civil but distant. This whole ordeal had her feeling as if she was no longer the person she had been. Even to herself now she felt like a stranger. She wasn't even married anymore, or not for long anyways. Her marriage had been a major part of her identity. She had given up everything she was to be Mrs. Sasuke Uchiha and now she was like no one. Hinata felt like a faceless, unloved, unwanted, abandoned single woman. It was her worst nightmare. He was sending her a constant flood of papers to sign. Settlement offers, which included the house as he promised however, just seeing the papers depressed her. She hated to read them and sometimes didn't.

Hanabi was shocked at how thin her mother was. She decided that since she was there she would look after their mother. Allowing Itachi to celebrate without worrying over their mother he was leaving that weekend to go to Europe with his friends. Hinata had insisted he stick to his plans. She had to get used to being alone at some point.

"Hanabi don't you want to go out and see your friends?"

"Are you sure you don't mind if I go out?" Hanabi hated to leave her.

However, by Sunday Hinata would be truly alone. Itachi was leaving the Saturday to tour Europe with his friends and Sunday Hanabi was going back to her life in LA. These were her last days with them under one roof. Their life of living together as they had once known it was over.

It was Sunday after Hanabi had left and Itachi had already left the day before, Hinata was wandering around the house like a ghost and nearly jumped a foot in the air when the doorbell rang. It was Tenten, whose son had left with Itachi the previous morning.

"I figured you would be as nervous as I am about them leaving. Have you heard from Itachi?"

"No," Hinata said with a smile. She was dressed, hair; was combed and she put on makeup for Hanabi's benefit this morning.

"I don't think they'll call us for a few days. I told Itachi to get a cell phone."

"I told my son the same thing." Tenten laughed as Hinata went to make coffee. "Where's Hanabi?"

"She left half an hour ago. She couldn't wait to get back to her new boyfriend. She says he's an actor. He's been in two horror pictures and half a dozen commercials."

"At least he's working," Tenten said glad to see her dressed up, but the toll of last month and Sasuke's perfidy was all too visible. It was the look of despair in her eyes that was so haunting, as though she no longer believed in anything or anyone and had lost hope. The faith in everything she had once believed in was gone. It was brutal.

They chatted over coffee for a while and Tenten finally looked at her fumbled in her bag and pushed a piece of paper at her. It had a name and phone number on it and an address in New York City.

"What's that?" Hinata looked startled as she read it. She didn't recognize the name. It just said Ino Yamanaka.

"My shrink's phone number. I couldn't survive without her."

Hinata knew that she and Neji had had their difficulties too. He was a difficult man; he had suffered from chronic depression since he was a teen after his father's death. However, he had improved immensely with medication and now they were having a new child so it seems they were fine now. However, the dark years he'd spent before that had been hard on Tenten and their marriage. Hinata knew she saw someone but had never thought much about it, nor asked her.

"Do you think I've gone crazy?" Hinata asked sadly, as she folded the piece of paper and slipped it into her pocket. "Sometimes I think so." It was a relief to say it aloud and admit it.

"No I don't," Tenten said honestly. "If I did I'd have the guys with butterfly nets and a straight jacket. Nevertheless, I think you will end up that way if you don't get out of this house and talk to someone about what happened. You've had one hell of a shock. What Sasuke did to you is about as traumatic as it gets. One minute you're married, think you're happy, have a husband and a life you've known and loved for twenty four years and the next minute he's gone and divorcing you and you don't know what hit you. In addition, to make matters worse he's living an hour away and dating someone fifteen years younger. If that doesn't kick your self esteem and psyche in the ass I don't know what will. Damn Hinata most people would be sitting in a corner drooling."

"Well I've thought about it," she said with a smile "but it's so messy."

"I'd be a basket case in your shoes," Tenten said, with profound respect for her.

Even Neji admitted it to her that he wouldn't have survived that blow with or without medication. In addition, her friends realized that there was a possibility that she could get suicidal over it. With the exception of the comfort of knowing her children were out in the world somewhere, she had very little to live for. She definitely needed someone to talk to and Tenten thought Ino Yamanaka might be just that person. She was warm, down to earth, and sensible and it just felt like she was able to enter your mind and know what's wrong with you to help. She had gotten Tenten back on her feet after Neji's depression. After he was fine again, Tenten had felt depressed and without purpose. She had been so used to centering all her attention on him that when he no longer needed her as much she started to feel useless.

"She saved my ass, and several of my friends whom I referred to her. I think she's terrific."

"I'm not so sure my ass is worth saving," Hinata said as Tenten shook her head.

"That's exactly what I mean. You think there's something wrong with you because he left you instead of seeing that this is about him not you. He should be feeling like shit about himself, for what he did to you, not you feeling like that because he left you."

All Tenten wished was that Hinata would get angry. Hopefully, even hate him more than she already did but she knew Hinata still held strong feelings for him. As devoted as she had been to him it would take a long time for her love for him to die than it would take for him to get the papers he wanted that would free him. The divorce could dissolve their marriage, but not her feelings.

"Will you call her?"

"Maybe," Hinata answered honestly.

"I'm not sure I want to talk about, particularly to a stranger or to anyone. I don't want to go out because I don't want to watch everyone feeling sorry for me, Christ, Tenten it's so pathetic."

"It's only pathetic if you let it be. You don't even know what life has in store for you. You might wind up with someone a hell of a lot better."

"I've never wanted anyone more than I wanted Sasuke. I never even looked at another man, or wanted to. I always thought he was the best of the breed and I was so damn lucky to be with him."

"Well, it turns out he isn't and you weren't, he did a rotten thing and he should be strung up for it but to hell with him. All I want is to see you happy." Hinata knew Tenten meant it.

"What if I'm never happy again?" Hinata asked looking worried. "What if I'm in love with him forever?"

"Then I'll shoot you," Tenten said with a grin. "Try Ino Yamanaka first. If that doesn't work, I'll find an exorcist. Nevertheless, you have to get this out of your system and get over it. If you don't, it will kill you. You don't want to be sick and miserable forever."

"No, I don't," Hinata said thoughtfully, "But I don't see how she can change that. No, matter what I say to her. Sasuke will still be gone, we'll be getting a divorce, the kids will be grown up and he will be with a woman fifteen years younger than I am. It isn't pretty."

"No, but other people survived did. I'm serious, you may wind up with a guy ten times nicer than he is. People lose their husbands, they die or walk out on them, they find other people, they remarry, and they have good lives. Your forty-five years old, you can't give up on your life now. That is just plain stupid, wrong and not fair to you or your kids or any of the people who love you. Don't give Sasuke that satisfaction. He has a new life. You deserve to have one too."

"I don't want one."

"Call Ino or I'm going to tie you up and drop you on her doorstep. Will you see her once? Just once? If you hate her, you don't have to go back. Just try it."

"Alright, I'll try it once. But that's not going to make a difference," Hinata insisted.

"Thank you for the vote of confidence," Tenten said and poured herself another cup of coffee. She stayed until nearly 4pm and by that time, she left Hinata looked tired, but better. Nevertheless, she had promised Tenten again before she left that she would call Ino Yamanaka in the morning. She couldn't imagine what difference it would make and was sure it would make none but if only to get Tenten off her back. She said she would call her.