An odd little story about pride and prejudice. Please don't take it too serious. Sorry not much sex, but some violence. You have Vickie to thank once again for fixing my mistakes.
My wife Shantel was at the bar, perusing what was on offer in the way of male companionship. We were in La Pera, a fairly upscale dance club in the county center. Ours is an odd mix of urban and suburban community two steps away from the city. The town is now congested with office parks and shopping malls. La Pera was the trendy new place where the young and not so young gathered to dance and pick up the opposite sex.
I was surprised that my wife picked La Pera for our first night out without children. So much of our marriage had been about the kids. Now we were reaching a point where we would not need to think of the children before deciding on a night out.
Shantel continued to scope out the bar area. If a man smiled at Shantel, she would smile back. She was obviously flirting and on the make. What was holding the men back was that I was seated close to her with my arm firmly around her shoulder.
I'm not a small guy at six foot three and two hundred plus. I have always had a formidable presence. My looks in my younger days were pretty decent, I believe, but time has not been good to me. A lab explosion a few years back left me with an ugly horizontal scar across my right cheek bone. I'm of Irish descent technically, but my ancestors came to Ireland with the Norman Conquest. My blue eyes have the cold, forbidding look of my Norman ancestors. In short, I look like those big mean white guys you see in the movies and on TV who play the villains.
Shantel is my exact opposite. Her mother is in fact a Norwegian immigrant, with lily white skin and platinum blond, arrow-straight hair. The looks she passed to her daughter have an unusual appeal. But my wife's father was part African American. Her skin is a golden shade darker than a Caucasian woman with a deep tan. Shantel's skin tone gives off a warm, friendly, tropical vibe. She is a handsome rather than a pretty woman, her soft African features mixing beautifully with her sharp Norwegian bone structure. She naturally has a black woman's hair, the kind they sell all those straighten-your-hair products to, long black hair with a charmingly loose curl to it. She's a big woman, over six feet tall like her mother.
Ours is a second marriage for both of us. We came to this union with plenty of baggage. We each had a child. My daughter Margaret, or Maggie, was four and Shantel's son Eddy, or Edward, was eight. Eddy's skin coloring is like his very black natural father. It would have been difficult to blend us together if it were just the race issue, but we had the additional problem that Shantel was six months pregnant when we wed.
Neither of us was ready for marriage. Both our divorces were barely finished. Both marriages had terminated in deep bitterness. Mine still hurts even after more than twelve years. I had married the love of my life while still in University. At twenty-two, I was a Ph.D. candidate in biochemistry. My first wife Susan was an MBA working for a large pharmaceutical company as some kind of executive. I never understood what she did other than go to work and look pretty.
Five years into my marriage with Susan, I was served with a restraining order. I was forbidden to go to my own home. I could not see the daughter I loved. Susan was divorcing me and I never found out why. She had been unhappy for a full year preceding the divorce, although all my attempts to find out why proved futile.
Homeless, I moved in with an old friend from the Brooklyn neighborhood where I grew up. Tony McGlen was the head of security for a Fortune five hundred company. Tony was the kid every bully had to try at least once. He was the toughest guy anyone ever knew, but was only average height and always a little overweight. We became friends because I could not keep myself from jumping in when the self-styled tough guys would gang up on Tony in groups of two and three.
Tony welcomed me to his modest Condo and we reminisced about our childhood. I desperately wanted the restraining order lifted. The first hearing was a week after the temporary order was signed, but nothing happened or changed. They hit me with child support for a daughter I was not allowed to see. This went on for two months. I was frustrated with my attorney. He had submitted lots of affidavits proving I was a good parent, better than my wife by far in fact, but there were no signs that anyone had read them.
"Look be reasonable. The situation is simple. Your wife is lying, but no judge will call her on it. If they lift the restraint and something happens, the judge's ass gets burned. However, if they do nothing, there is not a thing you can do about it. Be patient and let the case workers at Social Services report and the physiologists have their say. Then and only then will this judge act," Tony said.
My friend was right. His work around the edges of law enforcement had taught him well about the limitations of the judicial system. I would have been screwed if two events had not hit together. My wife Susan decided to take a promotion. Her new job was in California. She and her man-hating attorney marched right into court sure that the female judge, who had been so good to them so far, would see everything their way. But God must have decided to take a hand. The old bitch that had sat on the bench was a County Court judge sitting by a temporary appointment. We walked into the courtroom to find a new judge sitting.
I thought nothing of it. She was still a female if quite a bit younger, maybe mid-thirties. Susan's attorney did a good job of presenting her as the poor abused wife seeking to relocate to start a new life away from the uncaring husband. When she finished my attorney was up and ready but the judge waved her off and I was ready to kill someone until the judge ordered my wife to the witness stand.
It was the first time in this proceeding that anyone had actually been called to testify about anything. The Judge asked the questions. She deftly demolished by wife's ludicrous charges of abuse and then asked the question that stunted me.
"Mrs. Fitzmaurice, your daughter, is four years old -- what inoculations has she had?" the judge asked in a sweet innocent tone.
Susan had no idea and had to admit that she left such things to me. The judge didn't bother to put me on the stand -- she just asked me to rise and answer her question. I had no trouble telling her that we had every immunization that could be given to a child age four, running through the litany from whooping cough to measles. Which was everything until just before puberty.
"Yes, that's just as I thought," the judge said.
The Judge left and came back in about thirty minutes. She read a brief handwritten decision that changed custody to me and lifted the restraining order. Then added,
"In conclusion, I will admit that my decision is based in part on my view that women have no naturally superior child-rearing skills. My husband and I have four little girls -- the youngest is only two. He is with her right now, providing child care while he pursues his work as an artist. Many view him with derision because he is the caregiver, but I see him as a man who provides for his daughters.
"Like you Mrs. Fitzmaurice I am a career woman who leaves trivial child care duties to her spouse. The problem is they are not trivial to the child. You choose to go to California to pursue your career. By all means go, but leave the child in the care of the parent who would never make that choice," the Judge said.
After that, I don't know what I expected. Maybe I thought that Susan would be very upset, but I was wrong, She went off to California without any further fight. In retrospect I think she was relieved. She didn't want the burden of her daughter and the Judge's decision gave her the excuse to walk away. I have to admire that Judge, she looked at my wife and I guess she just knew what the true situation was. For whatever reason, Susan wished to leave us.
Shantel was a totally different matter. She was the broker who sold the house Susan and I owned together. Susan's lawyer insisted we put it on the multiple listing. Shantel came by with a couple of prospective home buyers. We got to talking. I discovered she was also coming out of a difficult divorce. Her ex was walking away as well leaving her with an eight-year-old boy.
We began casually dating. It was nothing serious. She self-identified as a black woman with a black child. Our relationship was a rest stop on the road of life. We didn't need to be serious. The sex between us was the comfortable kind you have with someone you like and trust. Ours was the sort of easy going relationship that you need coming from a bad marriage.
Maggie and Eddy did not see it that way. My daughter desperately needed a mother. Eddy never actually had a father. Shantel's former husband had trouble parenting and when the marital problem started, he was gone quickly. She always spoke of him as a good man who was, unfortunately, unable to relate well to others. From what I learned he was a handsome man and well educated. He was a history professor at the State University.
The few times Eddy had a visitation with his father, he came back upset. The professor had unreasonable expectations for the behavior of an eight-year-old. Then when dad took up with a young co-ed, it pretty much finished the father-son relationship. It was natural I guess that the boy should turn to the man his mother was dating. On my side, I could not turn away from the boy even knowing that the woman did not see me as husband material.
.... There is more of this story ...