Authors: Bertrice Small
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Erotica, #Women's Fiction, #Friendship, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Romantic Erotica
When she had gone, Rick Johnson looked at his wife. "This isn't just going to be messy. It's going to be nasty. Jeff wants to put the house on the market so it can be sold before school starts next autumn. Seems there's a co-op in town he and his next wife want to buy outright, without a mortgage. I suspect that's where the kids' college money has gone to as well. And don't you tell Nora that. I'm trying to keep her calm and strong for what's going to come. When Raoul Kramer gets a wife like Nora on the stand, she suddenly becomes a gold digger who has been leeching off her husband's hard work for years. Judges don't like women like that."
"But Nora isn't like that at all!" Carla said.
"Raoul Kramer will make her seem that way. I've got to make her the victim of a husband who's discarding the wife who has been loyal and faithful, for a trophy wife," Rick said. "Funny thing is, Nora is really reasonable about this. She wants her house, Jill and J. J.'s education taken care of, and enough support to get her through until she can get some training and enter the job market. I'll bet she runs that house on a dime."
"Rick, honey, you have to get her what she wants," Carla said.
"Baby, I don't know if I can. Jeff has planned this very carefully, and Raoul Kramer is the best. I'm just a small-town lawyer. This is really out of my league," Rick told his wife.
"You'll do it," Carla said. "You may be small-town, but you're a fighter, honey. Nora is in good hands with you behind her."
"I'm going to try," he said. God! Carla's blind faith in him made it even harder. He dreaded going into the office tomorrow and calling Raoul Kramer. The guy's client list read like a who's who of the rich and famous. They loved him, but he had the reputation of being a snake who devoured his opponents whole. Poor Nora! Other than her fidelity and good reputation as a wife, Nora didn't have a leg to stand on. How could Jeff Buckley be so rotten? He couldn't be certain until he spoke to Kramer what he'd do, but he was going to fight like hell to get Nora Buckley an even break.
The following day he called her. "Hey, kiddo, it's Rick. Make me a sandwich. I'm coming by 'cause we gotta talk."
"Turkey or ham?" she asked.
"Turkey," he replied.
"About twelve thirty."
Nora was irritable. She hadn't been able to get back to The Channel since Friday night because J. J. was home in the evenings studying for his finals. She missed Kyle. She missed the raw animal sex she had enjoyed those two nights she had been with him. For the first time in her adult life she felt there was someone who cared about her. Really cared. And she wanted to be with him again. If only there were a television in her bedroom, but Jeff would never hear of it. She wondered how much it would cost to have the cable company put in another connection. But then, Jeff had exited her life but for the formalities.
Rick arrived exactly at twelve thirty. "Carla's out," he said to Nora as he came into the kitchen, and sat down. "I knew she would be. I didn't want her over here sticking in her two cents, and she would be."
"Tell me," Nora said quietly as she set the sandwich before him, and sat down with her fat-free yogurt.
"He wants to sell the house right away. He's got a bid in on a co-op in the city," Rick began.
"Let him get a mortgage," Nora said. Her heart was racing. If he took the house, where was she going to go? Where were the kids going to go when they came home?
"The lease on your car is up, and he's not renewing it. You can buy the car from the dealer for eighty-seven hundred dollars," Rick said. He bit into his sandwich, unable to meet her eye.
"With what?" Nora said.
"He's canceled the car insurance on your car, J. J.'s, and Jill's," Rick continued. The sandwich tasted like sawdust in his mouth. He gulped some iced tea.
"What else?" Her voice seemed to her to be coming from a very long way away.
"He's paid Jill's first year at Duke Law, but says that's it. She'll have to manage to get student loans for her other two years. He won't pay for J. J.'s college. He says his son is eighteen now, and he's not legally responsible."
"And?" Nora's face was emotionless.
"No alimony," Rick finished.
"What am I supposed to do, Rick?" Nora asked quietly.
"He says you've got a college degree, so get a job," Rick told her.
"What about the eight thousand dollars my dad gave him to buy the house? He told my father he'd put the house in my name."
"Jeff's lawyer says there is no proof of that, and that the money was a gift to Jeff. Unless your mother can help us prove otherwise, we're stuck. But listen, Nora, this is just the opening gambit in this game. Now we negotiate to try and get you and the kids better terms. Will your mother buy the car for you?"
"It's too much money right now," Nora said. "She's already given me ten thousand to tide me over. And she's sending you a check. Did you speak to her?"
Rick nodded. "Yeah. And you're right. She's a cool lady."
"We can turn J. J.'s car into the family car. He won't be happy, but I told him he couldn't take it to State in his freshman year anyway. But how much is the insurance going to cost me?"
"We can handle that for you," Rick said. "We'll put J. J.'s car in your name 'cause it will give us a better rate. Jill is working for her pocket money, so she'll be okay. J. J. got a summer job yet?"
"At Handlemann's Nursery," Nora said. "He's already working weekends, but it's too late to get him any student aid for this year. How could Jeff do this to his own son? And because he wants to buy a co-op for his girlfriend! Rick, what am I going to do about J. J.'s college? The scholarship covers tuition, but he's got room and board."
"We'll work that one out," Rick told her. "State is cheap for in-state kids. The big problem is the house. We can't let him sell it out from under you, Nora. I'm going to go into court tomorrow and get a restraining order. His lawyer can get it lifted, but we can tie them up long enough to get through the summer. And at that point we will have come up with something, or maybe he will be more reasonable."
"Don't bank on it," Nora said grimly. "When Jeff wants something badly enough, he will move heaven and hell to get it. You don't know what he's like."
"Well," Rick said, "we'll just have to move heaven and hell to keep him at bay."
Nora gave a small laugh. "I never realized you were a knight in shining armor, Rick," she said.
"I'm second-string, honey, and I'm up against the first string, but I'm not going to let Jeff leave you homeless and penniless, Nora." He stood up. "Thanks for lunch," he said.
"You only ate half your sandwich," she admonished him.
"I'm not hungry, except for a victory over Jeff Buckley," Rick told her, and then he was gone out her kitchen door.
The telephone rang. It was her daughter. "Ma, you okay with all of this?" Jill asked. "It must have been one heck of a shock."
"It's bad, baby, but Rick is going to do his best," Nora said.
"I wish we had the best to handle this," Jill said. "This kind of thing is really over poor Uncle Rick's head."
"He's all I can afford," Nora answered, "or rather, Grandma can afford. She sent him a retainer. Your tuition has been paid at Duke for the coming year, but you'll have to get student aid for the other two years. Daddy says he won't pay. And I don't know where we're going to get the money for J. J."
"He's not paying for J. J.? Ma, that is so unfair! Why not?"
"I think he's taken your college funds for the co-op he wants to buy. He's trying to sell the house out from under us too," Nora told her daughter.
Jill shrieked, "Ma! This is terrible. It's like he's trying to punish you, but you didn't do anything. Are you sure I shouldn't come home this summer?"
"You've got another course to complete if you're going to Duke this fall, Jill. You were accepted on the proviso you finished. I don't want you deferring law school. There is nothing you can do to help, and we don't want to give your father an excuse to not pay that first year. Rick says this hardball is just a negotiating tactic."
"Ma, this is really gross of Daddy," Jill said.
"There is more, sweetie. Your car insurance is going to be changed, but don't worry," Nora said. "But I did want you to know when you get the paperwork. Okay?"
"Why is the car insurance changing?" Jill demanded.
"Because I'm going to be paying for it," Nora told her. "Now, Jill, I don't want to discuss it any further."
"You aren't telling me everything, Ma," Jill Buckley said.
"Jill, the divorce between Daddy and me isn't your problem. It's my problem, and I'm going to solve it. Your brother understands that, and is studying his brains out for his finals. I want you to understand it, and finish up so you're ready for law school in the fall. Now, do we have a deal?"
"Have you met her?" Jill asked.
"Who?" Nora was puzzled.
"Daddy's little bimbo," Jill replied.
"No, I haven't, and to be honest I don't know anything about her. I assume she works with your father in some capacity," Nora said.
"I hate her!" Jill said. "I never even want to meet her! I don't have to, do I?"
"You are of age, Jill. That decision is yours, but you might want to meet her at least once for Daddy's sake. If you don't, he'll say I'm turning you against him. I really don't need that right now."
"I can't believe how good you're being about this," Jill remarked. "What are you going to do now? I mean after the divorce. Both J. J. and I will be away. You'll be all alone. I hate to even think of it."
"Well, don't, then, honey," Nora said. "I'm going to learn how to operate a computer, and then I'm going to check over at the community college to see if they have a course or a seminar about getting into the work force for the first time for old broads."
"Ma! You are not an old broad," Jill said, but she was laughing. "Does this mean Daddy isn't paying you alimony? I can't believe it!"
"Jill, we haven't settled anything yet, but I don't want to take money from your father any longer than I have to take it. I want to be useful in another capacity from the one in which I have been. I married your father right out of college. I'm a dinosaur in this day and age. A woman who never worked. It's past time, and I'm kind of excited thinking about it."
"And you might meet another man," Jill said slyly.
"I don't think so," Nora replied.
"Oh, Ma, do you still love Daddy that much?" Jill asked.
"I'm afraid I don't love your father at all, honey," Nora responded. "I probably haven't for some time. I just didn't realize it. I went about doing the same things year after year. I wasn't unhappy, but neither was I happy. I want an opportunity to live on my own now, but I'll always be here for you and J. J. to come home to, Jill."
"I gotta go now, Ma," Jill said. "I've got a class. I love you!"
"And I love you, Jill. I'll see you for your brother's graduation, okay?"
"Yeah. Bye, Ma!"
"Bye, sweetie!" And the phone clicked off. Nora set it down. She looked out the kitchen windows into her backyard. The pool was open. The bright scarlet rhododendrons were in full bloom, as were the pink azaleas. The lawn was a deep green, but it needed mowing. She'd have J. J. do it before the weekend. The lawn always grew so quickly in the spring.
And then suddenly Nora began to consider if this was the last spring she would sit here and look out at her backyard. She had designed the layout of the garden herself. Worked with Mr. Handlemann to oversee the plantings all those years ago. It was so perfect, and she wasn't ready yet to give this all up to strangers. Whatever happens, she thought grimly, I am going to keep this house. Jeff is not going to sell it so he can buy his damned co-op for some other woman! Let him take a mortgage. If he wants to play, he's got to pay. I deserve my home. All he did was pay a mortgage. He never told me, but his mother did. He didn't save the money for the down payment. His father gave him the ten percent, and my father gave him the other ten percent. I made this house what it is. It's mine! I won't let him take it from me! And then she began to cry. She wept herself into a small headache before her tears finally subsided. Nora got up and, walking into the powder room, grabbed a handful of tissues and blew her nose. Then she washed her face. J. J. would be home from school soon, and she didn't want him to catch her crying.
I need Kyle, she thought again. How am I going to access The Channel if my son is upstairs doing his homework? But if someone walked into the den while I was in The Channel, what would they see? She had absolutely no idea. She had to take the chance, and it had to be tonight. Then she laughed softly. The Channel was like some sort of drug, and she was hooked. She went back into the kitchen, called Suburban Cable, and ordered The Channel for this evening. She could go on it anytime. She'd wait until J. J. was fast asleep, and she'd keep the sound on mute. And having made that decision, she felt better. A whole lot better. She let herself think about Kyle's hard young body. His big tireless dick. The mouth that kissed so well, sucking on her lips, her nipples, and her clit. She could almost taste him in her mouth, and felt herself suddenly wet with need. The sound of J. J.'s car screeching into the driveway drew her swiftly from her reverie.
She got up, and with a familiarity borne of habit, she opened the fridge and pulled out a soda, setting it on the table. Then, going to a pantry cabinet, she got out a bag of his favorite cheese crunchies. She smiled, remembering that as kids, her children had had to eat those damned cheese things in the kitchen, and then wash their hands before going anywhere else in the house. She had learned that after finding yellow cheesy fingerprints on the living room couch.
"Hey!" J. J. came into the kitchen, his eyes lighting up at the sight of the cheese crunchies and soda. Pulling the bag open, he stuffed some in his mouth, then opened the can, drinking some of it down immediately.
"Hey," Nora said back at him. "Sit down. We have to talk."
"What's up, Ma?" he asked her.
"Rick came by earlier. I gave him a sandwich, and we talked. Daddy's lawyer is a tough guy, and it looks pretty bad right now, but Rick says it's just negotiating tactics."
"How bad? And Ma, remember I'm eighteen now. You don't have to soften it for me like you do with Jill," J. J. told his mother.
"You may not be able to go to college this year," Nora began. "Dad says he's through paying. He paid Jill's first year at Duke Law, but after that, she's got to get aid. He says he won't pay for your first year at State, and it's too late for us to go for aid. Grandma's already shelled out fifteen thousand dollars to help us. I just don't know if I can ask her for more, and you can't pitch a tent on campus."