Sunday, May 20, 2018
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From This Day: Wary divorce lawyer takes the plunge

TAMPA

That scene in the movie The War of the Roses, when the crazed divorcing couple hang from a loose chandelier, didn't strike Caroline Black as all that farfetched.

The dark comedy about a desperate dissolution was made the year the Stetson law school grad left the state prosecutor's office to become a divorce attorney. Lovebirds turning into vultures were part of the daily office drama.

She'd share some of the horror stories, "but my clients might recognize themselves," said Black.

After her own divorce in 2008, she grew wiser about marriage, yet warier.

Meanwhile, South Tampa mortgage broker Jeff Sikorske, 45, never doubted for a minute he'd remarry. He just didn't think he'd fall so hard, so fast.

Sikorske had been single about four months when a friend of his sister's helped him find a date to take to a Broadway play touring in Tampa in October 2010.

That she was an avid tennis player like him upped the ante. Then Googling the well-respected lawyer before picking her up for dinner lowered his expectations.

"Way out of my league,'' he recalls thinking after reading about Black. "I was swinging for the fences."

To her recollection, says Black, 51, a night of lighthearted theater was just the diversion she needed. She would be catching a flight to Washington, D.C., the next day to run the Marine Corps marathon. She said yes to take her mind off the race.

Both were surprised at how much they enjoyed the evening.

The play was silly, but their discussion of single-parent challenges was serious. Black has two young sons; Sikorske helps his widowed sister raise his twin nephews, now 18.

The second date, a doubles match at Tampa Yacht and Country Club, went even better. They lost, but found they were a formidable team on the tennis court.

Within a few weeks, Black's father and her three brothers, all lawyers, were interrogating the new man in her life.

Not the least bit intimidated, Sikorske quickly won them over. Case closed.

Still, Black counseled a slowdown.

"I told him what I tell all my clients,'' she said, "You shouldn't get serious with anyone for a year. Divorcees need that time to recover from such a traumatic event."

With that in mind, Black left for Italy with a girlfriend for a long-planned walking tour in spring 2011. By day two, Sikorske was texting about diamonds.

In July, the couple and her two sons flew to California for a family reunion. Two weeks of traveling together erased any lingering doubts about staying single.

Sikorske's wedding proposal was pretty low key. Arriving at home after a charity auction in late August 2011, he simply took out a jewelry box and grinned.

Earlier that night, said Black, some girlfriends had teased her about her naked ring finger.

With a resounding yes, she grabbed her cell phone, snapped a photo and sent off the sparkling image.

Planning for a March 2012 wedding and househunting began simultaneously. Sikorske's mother, Realtor Carol Schindler, showed them 84 houses in seven months. They made offers on three of those.

The third one was the charm.

But at Thanksgiving dinner, Sikorske told everyone he was getting impatient. He polled family members to see who would be in town between Christmas and New Year's.

Turns out, all 16 wedding attendants, as well as the photographer, florist, pastry chef and officiant, Judge Susan Bucklew, were available Dec. 30.

The timetable accelerated. Black booked the Tampa yacht club. The bridal shop put a rush order on her wedding gown.

On Dec. 28, the moving van arrived at their new home off Bayshore Boulevard. The next day, amid the boxes, the couple hosted the rehearsal dinner. The day after that, they married.

"It all came together beautifully,'' said the bride.

No warfare, just red roses.

Amy Scherzer can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3332.

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