Edited by George5 Of course, I had to mess with it. Therefore all mistakes my fault.
She had been a successful artist. Then her muse left her. The problems ended when she found a new (old) muse.
Let’s begin with introductions. I am Chuck Thomas; I am 38 and married to Catherine Marie Thomas (nee Palmer), 34. We do not have children yet by her choice.
I met Catherine in college. It was the second week of the fall semester. We were in a comparative religion class. The lecturer was not very good, but the course was one I was interested in. It also fulfilled a humanities requirement for graduation.
I was older than most of the students, as I had served in the Army until I was medically discharged for making my commanding officer look like the jerk and asshole that he was. Rather than a court-martial, I and the Captain were both medically discharged to avoid the embarrassment of an officer having sexual relations with an enlisted man’s 14-year-old daughter. The girl was screaming and I ran to see what if she needed help. I found the Captain and the girl naked pounding away in the bushes and she was not complaining, but screaming out her orgasm.
I took pictures that showed both of them clearly. As I thought the guy was a complete waste of space, I showed the company chaplain and the girl’s father the pictures. The father seriously injured the Captain, and the chaplain turned me in as the instigator. (Don’t you love it how officers stick together).
I was given a 100% disability, a 2-grade promotion, and an honorable discharge just to get me out of the way. The Captain, who was a General’s son, was given a demotion, a general discharge, and a 25% disability. The Sergeant that beat the Captain was transferred to a different (nicer) post and promoted two grades to keep him quiet. The girl was sent to a convent school in Italy at the army’s expense. That was the Army’s solution to the problem.
I decided to go to college as I had the GI Bill and my disability payments that took care of tuition books and incidentals; you know things like rent, utilities, gas for my car, just the peripherals of life on a major campus.
I was lucky actually; as the campus was near my mother’s spinster sister’s house, and she invited me to stay with her. I got my housing taken care of for a lot less than the dorms or an apartment would cost. It turned out to also help down the road of life.
As I was a ‘non-traditional’ student, I was allowed to test out of several classes and my military experience was added to reduce some of my college requirements.
The day I met Catherine I was sitting in the lecture hall as the class had not started yet. I was sitting in a row all by myself towards the front and in the center going over notes from the book and other lectures. A female student, who I found out was Catherine, sat down next to me and asked if I had understood the previous lecture.
I looked up at her and said, “The lecturer sucks, but if you record, and then go over the lectures, you will find a couple of nuggets. If you are not brain dead, you can pass the class by using the textbook and the reading list.”
She laughed and said, “Good, because I am not getting anything from these lectures, and I need this class for my major. By the way, I am Catherine Marie Palmer.” She then extended her hand and I shook it.
She looked at me and said; “Aren’t you going to introduce yourself?”
“Look, Catherine Marie, I am not in college or this class to get dates. I did not ask you to sit here. I sit upfront because no one else will. I like it that way. I know who you are, and also that you are always on the dean’s list, so coming across as an airhead is stupid.” I picked up my books and moved to another row.
As the story goes, that was not the end of it. I was sitting in the student union when she ambushed me again. She walked up to the table I was sitting at and asked if she could sit there. I said sarcastically; “It looks like there are some empty seats at this table, so sit.”
I decided to just mess with her mind, I got up and moved to the chair next to where I was sitting and pulled it out for her. She looked like I had a booger hanging from my nose. She sat down.
She started talking by saying, “Look, Charles, I am sorry for the stupid pickup line, but I wanted to meet the ‘man of mystery’ that most of the coeds are talking about.” She continued, “Can we start again?”
I held out my hand and said; “Hi, my name is Chuck, not Charles, Thomas. Who might you be?”
She giggled a little and took my hand and said; “Hello ‘mystery man’, my name is Catherine Marie Palmer, but my friends call me Cathy, and my girlfriends call me CM. How are you this fine day?” We both laughed as it was pouring rain outside.
We then got serious Cathy asked if I would help her in the religion class. She said that she wasn’t sure if it was the dry subject, the lecturer, or the fact that she had a built-in prejudice against any religion.
I said I would be glad to help. I asked what was her best time to study. I said that if we could agree on a time, we could do an hour or two every week. I told her I already had study groups for most of my other classes, but I did not know if I needed it for the religion class.
Cathy then asked why and how I got the religion class so easily.
I told her that I grew up next door to an eccentric old guy who took me under his wing. He taught me to learn and to not accept anything without checking it out myself. He also exposed me to every religion and religious group from African Methodist Episcopal to Wiccan that was in our area. He also taught me to ask the pertinent questions.
We formed our own little study group, which by the end of the semester, expanded to 7 students, Cathy, me, 1 other guy and 4 other girls. As the class was only required reading, a couple of papers, the lectures, and the exam, the study group sort of went far afield, when we exhausted the subject matter we were dealing with at the time, we got into discussions on religious philosophy, and dogma. As a group, we did very well in class.
I found myself attracted to Cathy. Toward the end of the semester, I asked her for a date and she accepted. I took her to a local amateur theatre group’s play. We had a great time and dated occasionally for the rest of the year. When summer break came Cathy went back to her home and I took some summer classes. That year one of the classes was on equity management and investing. I found my major.
As we had not mentioned exclusivity before, we had not kept in touch during the summer. When the fall semester came, I did not have Cathy in any of my classes and had not seen her on the campus.
I finally decided to call her. I called the cell number she had used the previous year. I got a message that that number was no longer valid. I called her mother’s house and they told me she had gotten married to her long-time boyfriend and was not coming back to school.
I was surprised, but not devastated, surprised because when we were dating she never mentioned a long time boyfriend.
Life, school and the youth mating dance went on for the next two years. I graduated with honors in Financial Planning and got a position with a national firm and they let me choose where I wanted to work. I chose Portland Oregon.
I had visited the area while in the military, and I found that I liked the diverse landscape, and the varied city activities. It did not hurt that there were a lot of Microsoft millionaires in the area either. I became a respected and very successful financial planner. I managed many personal accounts and also some small business accounts. My social life was a nonstarter. Gold diggers or women with excess baggage were constantly looking my way, but I managed to dodge them. I had never been good at making friends, and when the married ladies in the office formed a ‘get Chuck married’ committee; I finally had to ask the office manager to call a staff meeting.
At that meeting, I made it clear that while I appreciated what they were trying to do, I did not appreciate the looks I was getting when the latest project failed to snare me. I asked them to stop. I also told them that if necessary, I would transfer out of the office as they were making me very uncomfortable. The boss came to my defense and reminded everyone that because of my work their bonuses had been considerably larger the last two quarters, and if I transferred out of the office, the accounts might leave also.
Thus ended the committee. There were still a couple of diehards and they were finally given written reprimands for using company time to promote personal agendas. That is exactly how my boss wrote the letters.
Then a series of unrelated events led to my being piled on with bad and good fortune. The first thing that happened was unfortunate and sad. My wonderful aunt was killed in a car accident. She had been sitting at a stoplight when a tractor-trailer rig took the corner too fast and flipped onto her car. The lawyers for her estate got a very large settlement from the trucking company as the driver did not have the proper license or required safety training. They did not even have to go to court, the lawyers and the company settled out of court. After the smoke cleared, I was informed that after all of her favorite charities were given some money, the bulk of the estate came to me.
I now had all of the ‘Go to Hell’ money that any person could want. I was fortunate that I had good bosses and loyal clients, so I stayed with the company. After I sold my aunt’s house, I did buy two pieces of real estate. I bought a house in the western suburbs and a cottage on the pacific coast near Tillamook.
The next thing happened a month or so later. I read an article about Catherine. She was a widowed, up and coming, west coast artist who had moved into the area and was having a showing at a local gallery.
Our company had received a lot of tickets for the show, and as I handled that gallery’s account, I got a personal VIP pre-opening preview invitation. I decided to go, and as I had not found anyone to share my good fortune with. I had a faint hope of reconnecting with her. I still remembered some of my feelings.
The show was a hit and was well attended. The preview was a small gathering of critics, well known local artists, and friends of Catherine, my direct boss, the office manager, and I. There were a total of maybe 25 people there. Catherine was as lovely as she always had been.
She did not recognize me at first. Then when the gallery owner introduced me, I got a rib breaking hug and a surprisingly erotic kiss. I was overwhelmed.
As the evening went on Cathy stayed close to me as we both mingled. I received some very pointed stares and many raised eyebrows. Cathy was gracious and introduced me as a comparative religions hero. When asked she explained how I had gathered together a bunch of students to dissect the course when we were both in college.
As I said the show was a success, the local critics raved, and somewhere along the way, I got mentioned. My business picked up and I received a lot more artsy-fartsy invitations. I did not follow through on most of the non-performance stuff, but plays, musical performances, and art exhibits I devoured. I ran into Cathy at most of these shindigs and eventually asked her to go out for coffee and conversation.
I picked her up on a Saturday afternoon and we went to a local brewhouse that had the best French roast Arabica bean coffee I had found. Over coffee, Cathy explained her life after she left college. As I mentioned earlier, she went home and got married. It was a rekindled romance, they had met and dated in High School, and he went on to the police academy and became a sheriff’s deputy. He was killed trying to talk down a deranged man while he was trying to shield the man’s kids. Cathy said she had to move because of the memories. She decided on the Portland area because of how I had raved about it in college. She had used the proceeds from the sale of their house and her husband’s life insurance to facilitate the move.
She went on to explain she also rediscovered her love of art, particularly painting and drawing. She knew she was good, but Harriet, the gallery owner, and a neighbor saw some of her work and insisted on a show. She sold everything at the show, and because she did not do commissions, she had a backlog of ‘right of first refusals’. She then asked about me.
I explained that I had called that fall when she did not return to campus. She asked why, and I told her of my desire to continue dating as I had developed some feelings for her. I went on to say that I was surprised when her mother told me about the wedding, so I just moved on. I also told her that there was no one in my life right now and had not been for years. Then came the question; I asked Cathy if she would like to start over with me.
I was surprised when she said she would like that. I explained how I was always getting opportunities to go to various functions and events, and that they always included an invite for a spouse or guest; that I would run a few of them by her and we could go to one of them as a safe restarting point.
She thought that that was a good idea. Then came the bombshell, after her husband had been killed and she had decided to move on she tried to look me up.
I was amazed. I did not think that our casual dating had made any great impression.
Cathy explained that because I had always acted like a gentleman, (ME???) that she had wanted to reconnect. When she saw me at her show she was stunned and pleased.
After that afternoon coffee, Cathy and I dated for about four months and then it happened; she asked me to stay the night with her. I said no. I explained that I had fallen in love with her, but until we mutually decided to be exclusive, there would not be any sexual intimacy. I said, “I want you, but I don’t feel comfortable with being one of...”
Cathy got a look on her face like the roof had caved in on her. Then she said the words I had wanted to hear since she had come back into my life. “Chuck, I didn’t say it because I thought you understood, I have not dated anyone since I moved here. I love you. I want you so much it hurts when you’re not with me. I am, and will be exclusive.”
I apologized for being a clueless man, and I walked in with her and closed the door.
We became engaged a couple of weeks after that. As Catherine Marie Palmer-Woodson was a well known and very successful artist, she wanted to protect her assets, and at the same time, I wanted to protect mine. We jointly went to an attorney and drew up a pre-nuptial agreement to lock in what was brought into the marriage and if we divorced only the post-wedding assets would be part of the divorce. I insisted on an adultery and abuse clause because my dad had cheated and abused my mother right up until he was killed by the husband of one of his lovers.
We were married in the summer in the back yard of my cottage. It was a relatively small wedding as it was her second and I had only close friends and immediate family to invite.
By the end of the third year, after we were married, I was promoted to head the entire financial planning department. It meant that besides a raise in salary, I received a small commission on every account. I also got to keep my personal accounts. We sold both houses and bought a different one in her neighborhood. We kept the cottage.
Cathy (at home, Catherine Marie at her gallery shows) was still successful. She had bought half interest in Harriet’s gallery and they had opened a second, more trendy and avant-garde gallery near the first one.
I had started cutting back on my hours and asked to be placed as a consultant at the office. I continued to manage all of my non-commercial accounts. I guess I was burned out.
Because of boredom, I started trying my hand at writing fiction. I found that I enjoyed it, but I did not think I was very good so they were mostly for me. What I really enjoyed were American versions of the bodice rippers of English romantic fiction. My stories were set in the post-civil war west. I shamelessly stole story ideas from some of the best of the published stories. For kicks I had a friend make a sample bound book of one of my stories and put it on my desk at work. My assistant took it home to read and passed it around to several of her friends. They were all enthusiastically positive and one of them asked if she could send it to a publisher of that genre of stories. I ended up with a book deal for 3 books. As I had already written more than that, I sent the next book in with instructions to release it when the time was right.
A month or so after that surprise, I got a different, rude surprise was when Cathy informed me that she was not going to become pregnant as she had no desire for children. She did not give me any chance to respond, she just said that she had made the appointment to have her tubes tied.
I was not a happy camper, first and foremost because she did not discuss it, and then because of the way she just shoved the decision in my face. I moved to the cottage for a month without telling her I was leaving.
I returned to collect the rest of my stuff, and Cathy was there. She was not happy. When I told her why I left, she broke down and asked me to forgive her ‘bitchiness’. I said the damage had been done so she could keep the appointment, and that I was only here to collect the things that I did not get when I left.
She looked devastated; then she told me that Harriet told her she had made a very bad mistake. Harriet told her that it was not necessarily the decision, but that she had thrown it in my face. Harriet told her that that kind of decision was too important to just throw out like that. Because of Harriet’s words, and my leaving she had canceled the appointment.
I said; “Fine, if you want to do it, it is up to you; but if you go through it without discussing it with me we are done.”
I moved back in, but the atmosphere was chilly for several weeks. Finally, I told Cathy that if we did not start talking, I would get my stuff and go back to the cottage. She did not say anything, just gave a small sob and went into the bedroom. I left, but I only went to a local hotel. I just stayed for one night.
I called Cathy the next morning. I asked if she wanted to discuss the issue yet. She said yes. We met at the same brewhouse that we had our first meeting after the show.
Cathy looked like she had not had any sleep. I did not help when I told her to start. I was a ‘liittlle’ abrupt.
Cathy looked down at the table for a second and then started. “I don’t want to have any children. I don’t think I would be a good mom. I saw and was the recipient of some poor parenting, and I would not want any kid to go through what I did. My mother was a bitch; she drove everyone including my father away, and then took it out on me and my sister. You never knew I had a sister; she committed suicide when she was 12 and mother took that out on me too. I was only 15 and mother acted as if I gave her the razor blades and mother’s sleeping pills. I ran away from home 4 times before I finally went to college. I went home that summer and mother started right back in again. When John asked me to marry him I saw it as a chance to escape. I loved him, but not as a lifetime commitment. I told my mother I did not even want her at the wedding. She kicked me out.”
I said, “I think you are wrong, I think you would be a wonderful mother. It is your body; so I really don’t feel that I have a right to say you can’t. I am just angry that you didn’t want to talk about it, you didn’t ask my opinion. You just told me you were going to do it. So do it. I have lost a lot of respect for you because of your lack of respect for me. Did you even think about talking to me?
She sobbed and said; “No I didn’t, and for that I am sorry. It was a selfish decision that made sense to me at the time.”
“Cathy, or maybe I should say Ms. Palmer-Woodson; if I am not important enough to talk to about having yourself cut open for an operation; how important am I in your life. With that statement, you have just told me it is time for me to move out permanently. I am obviously no longer your partner in life. I will rent a truck and get my stuff out of the house ASAP. Is there any other stupid, self-serving, asinine decisions you made that you want to let me in on?”
I continued; “Cathy, you are more important to me than my own life, but I can not and will not live with someone who does not respect me. You have shown me less respect then the laziest asshole I have in my department at work.”
“I am not looking for a divorce, and I am not giving up. I told you what I thought about your decision. Go ahead and do it. We have now talked about it. I just won’t be there with you because of your attitude. I can’t take the hurt. If you want a divorce, I won’t fight it except for the day you say you do, I will no longer split money or other assets I earn after that statement.”