Surviving Adversity

by SW MO Hermit

Copyright© 2012 by SW MO Hermit

Romantic Story: A man retires to lead the good life only to find a health problem and romance problem interfere. See how he overcomes adversity and resumes the good life.

Caution: This Romantic Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa   Consensual   Romantic   Heterosexual   Polygamy/Polyamory   .

Aaron moved from desk to desk through the office he had spent the last nineteen years in. Oh, he had not had the same job for that length of time but he had worked at the same address. He had risen from a claims adjuster to Assistant Manager during that time. Today was to be the last time he was in the office—at least as an employee—and it was not a full day. It was just short of ten a.m. and he was making the final rounds telling his employees goodbye before he went off to an early retirement. His company was downsizing and had offered early retirement to those who had a total score of years of service with the company and age that equaled at least 80. Aaron had just made the cut. He was just past age 51 and had 29 years with his current employer.

Thankfully savings and the sweetened retirement package had made it financially possible for him to retire. He had become so tired of the pressure he had been looking for other work when the early retirement opportunity was announced. He had been one of the first persons to apply. The thought of retiring early was frightening because it would be so long until he could collect his social security but he and his wife had decided he should make the move and retire for the sake of his mental and physical health as well as for the sake of their marriage.

The day of his retirement Aaron and his wife Bonnie left for a six week retirement trip. They had always wanted to travel and so they immediately began doing so. The first few years of Aaron's retirement they planned to drive all over North America. They intended to have an ultimate destination in mind for each trip but they would take their time getting there and getting back home. If they saw someplace they wanted to see they would stop and see or do whatever caught their interest. The first three trips were wonderful. During winter they were on the beach in south Florida, in the Keys. As the weather warmed they moved north. During the hot part of the year they were in Canada, Alaska and the northern part of the United States. Most of their trips were six to eight weeks long then they would return home to do necessary upkeep, touch base with family and friends and pick up clothes appropriate for the weather they would face on their next trip.

Aaron and Bonnie were not hypochondriacs by any stretch of the imagination but they were careful of their health. They had the recommended checkups for persons their age. They went to the dentist every six months for exams and cleanings as recommended. They took vitamins and exercised. They ate balanced meals and tried to eat healthy foods. In short they tried to live life right yet still eat and drink well. They intended to fully enjoy the time they had remaining.

When Aaron was 50 he had his first colonoscopy as is recommended. Polyps were found and removed. Then he was informed he needed to have another colonoscopy every two years because polyps had a history of turning malignant. With a history of polyps more care should be taken.

Aaron had his second colonoscopy at age 52 as recommended. He and Bonnie were upbeat and looking forward to another winter in Florida. They were scheduled to depart from Wilsons Mill a week after the procedure. The gastroenterologist came into the room shortly after Aaron was returned from recovery.

Dr. Johnson said, "Mr. Talkington we found two more polyps this time. I only removed one of them. The other polyp was very large. It has to come out but we need to know more about it. Before we remove it I want to see the biopsy as it looks suspicious. I need to know how deep it goes before we attempt removal."

Bonnie looked shocked and Aaron felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. He was already thinking of the "C" word and felt like the bottom fell out of his life. Bonnie said, "Doctor we're supposed to go to Florida for six weeks beginning next Thursday. Am I going to know about this before we leave?"

"I should have the biopsy back next Monday. I will be out of the office most of the day Tuesday. If I have not called you by Wednesday afternoon you can check with my office for the results."

Bonnie set her lips then asked, "What about our trip? When will he have to do something about this?"

"If the trip was for a week or so there would be no problem but if the growth is malignant we will want to move to remove it as soon as possible. Even if it is not malignant it should come out very soon to be safe. I recommend surgery immediately in either case but obviously if it is cancer the surgery should be sooner rather than later."

Aaron lay on his bed and listened to his wife and Doctor discuss his problem. He understood what the doctor was saying but what bothered him was his wife. She seemed more worried about her winter in Florida than she did about his health. He was still not thinking clearly because of the anesthetic in his system but he had a strange feeling about the conversation. Bonnie's attitude worried him.

Six days later just after noon on Tuesday the phone rang. Aaron was sitting at his desk researching stocks and repositioning himself in his self directed Individual Retirement Account. He picked up the phone. Doctor Johnson said, "Mr. Talkington?" When Aaron acknowledged the doctor continued, "I got the results of your biopsy back yesterday as I said we would. It was a cancer sir. My office will be setting up further tests for you as soon as possible. Our first test will be a CT scan to determine the size and depth of the growth. After I receive that we will get back in touch to make further treatment arrangements."

Aaron sat somewhat in shock. He had been expecting this outcome but it is still a shock when you hear the words you have been dreading. He tried to ask questions but many of the things he wanted, needed desperately to know could not be determined this early in his treatment. Finally, still in shock, he said, "Thank you doctor," and hung up.

It was normal in the Talkington home for Aaron and his wife to put the phone on speaker when they answered. They were a couple and had been for 28 years. They neither one had secrets from the other. In fact, many of their friends would not call to visit because they did not like the fact each was privy to every phone call.

When Aaron hung up the phone Bonnie came into the office from the kitchen where she had been working. She stood in the door for a moment then walked to one of the chairs they used to read. "Well, that sure puts a crimp in our travel plans. Did he say when everything would go down?"

"No. You heard it. They'll call with the next appointment."

Later that afternoon Dr. Johnson's office nurse called with the next two appointment times for further tests. There was a blood work up scheduled for the next day then in four days the CT scan. It would be three days for the results to be read and the doctor to call back at the outside. As soon as he hung up Aaron began canceling reservations for their trip. He cancelled three weeks ahead and decided to wait before cancelling more. Depending on how the tests came out and how soon he had his surgery he had hopes of going to Florida for at least part of the time they had scheduled.

Bonnie walked into the office and saw the computer screen had a cancellation verification e-mail visible. "What are you doing," she asked. "You aren't cancelling all of our reservations are you?"

"NO, I only cancelled the first three weeks. I thought we might still be able to go for part of the winter. From here out I will only cancel as we get closer to the reservation beginning date. I plan to cancel each reservation just before it is no longer open to cancellation without penalty. That way if things work out for the better we can still go south part of the season."

Bonnie sighed and said, "Well I suppose that's the best you can do right now." She turned and walked from the room with no further conversation. For the next three days she was quiet, pensive. When she said anything to Aaron her voice was sharp. She seemed upset but when Aaron asked her what was wrong she always said "Nothing". Aaron chalked her attitude up to worry over his health problem. After all, he wasn't the most chipper person in the world either and he had to watch himself to keep from snapping at Bonnie. Aaron knew how he would feel if it was Bonnie with this hanging over her head.

A few days later Aaron and Bonnie went to the pre surgery check up. Bonnie seemed surly once again and just sat staring into space while they waited their turn to see the surgeon. Aaron was not much better. He looked around the room and saw all the sick people, people with hope shattered because their cancer came back, people like him that had not had surgery before and still hoped for the best, that they would beat the "big C".

During the consultation Aaron had trouble concentrating on the discussion. He remembered listening to and approving the plan but when the surgeon asked if he had any questions his mind came up blank. All he could do was shake his head no. Bonnie on the other hand had many questions and they all seemed to dwell on recovery times and what Aaron would be able to do after the surgery, if he could travel and if so how soon. Aaron thought many of the answers were positive but Bonnie seemed worried. Finally the exam ended and Bonnie and Aaron left for their home. The trip home was quiet, tense.

Neither Aaron nor Bonnie slept well the last few days before his surgery was scheduled. Finally the day of his surgery arrived. The doctor had recommended and Aaron agreed that a portion of his large colon be removed. The day of his surgery Aaron was frightened and somewhat angry at the same time. Bonnie took him to the hospital as a worried spouse would do but she seemed withdrawn, almost surly. Her attitude radiated resentment rather than concern. She seemed angry she had to make the trip and care for Aaron.

Like most people when they come out from under anesthetic Aaron was confused and had trouble focusing on what the doctor said. To his surprise, unlike most people with families he became aware Bonnie was not in his room when he was returned. She had not even arrived by the time the doctor came into the room to discuss what he found during the surgery.

The doctor was almost finished telling Aaron the results when Bonnie came wandering into the room carrying a starbucks coffee and sweet roll. She sat in the chair and had her snack as she listened to the remainder of the doctor's conversation. The part she heard was, "There is a good chance we got the entire tumor. It had not grown past the intestinal wall as far as we could determine. With a history of colon cancer however, you will need more frequent tests and will need to be more careful about identifying possible symptoms of recurrence. Unless there are complications I expect you will be able to resume normal activities in six to eight weeks. We will know more when we get the pathology report. That usually takes about three days."

Bonnie asked, "How soon can he travel. We are supposed to be in Florida right now. When can we leave?"

"He should not drive for at least two weeks, preferably four. I would not recommend he ride in a car for more than an hour at a time until that period has elapsed. After he returns home he can do most things as tolerable."

Bonnie scowled and glared at Aaron as the doctor said, "Unless there are other questions I have to go to my next procedure. I'll stop by later this evening."

Before the evening meal was served Bonnie rose from her chair and walked up beside Aaron's bed. She said, "I am leaving now. I have a lot of things at home that need doing. I'll be back tomorrow." Bonnie turned and left while Aaron lay there in surprise. Of course, with the residuals from the anesthetic he had been drifting in and out of sleep all afternoon but he felt he had missed something in the conversation. Bonnie did not kiss him good bye, she did not touch him or even tell him she loved him when she left. Had he just zoned out and missed that?

It was after noon the next day before Bonnie arrived. She just walked into the room and sat in the chair. Aaron looked over at her and said, "Hi. I was beginning to worry about you. Is everything OK?"

"Of course. I just had a lot to do this morning. Has the doctor been here yet?"

"Yeah. He seemed happy. He said if everything goes well I can go home Thursday or Friday."

Bonnie came to the hospital daily but she did not spend much time with Aaron. She seemed withdrawn and surly when she was there. It was late Friday before Bonnie showed up at the hospital to take Aaron home. She didn't have much to say during the trip. After they arrived home she helped him into the house and to his chair in the office. She said, "Sit here while I finish dinner. I've made up the guest room for you so you don't have to climb the stairs to our bedroom until you can walk better."

"Honey it's only four steps to the upper level. I know I can make that OK and I really want to sleep in my own bed."

Bonnie's face tightened and she scowled before she said, "I don't care Aaron. The doctor said not to overdo things and only do limited walking to be increased daily. He said no strenuous exercise and that's what I intend to see you do. You'll sleep on the lower level until the doctor says you can do more."

Bonnie cared for Aaron the entire weekend and until Wednesday of the following week. She helped him to the bathroom and brought his meals to the chair for him to eat. She seemed surly to him. Aaron decided she was not sleeping any better than he was. Her eyes were bloodshot and had deep circles under them. Her face was puffy as if she had been crying. He felt good and at the same time sad because she seemed to be worrying so much about him.

Thursday morning Bonnie took Aaron back to the Doctor's office for his one week check up. Once again her attitude was poor. When she spoke to Aaron her voice was sharp and she had no patience with him. Aaron still walked slowly because of the pain from his incision. Bonnie would walk at a normal fast pace then stop several feet ahead of him, turn and huff because he could not keep up. She was apparently angry he was so slow and Aaron was becoming angry because Bonnie was so impatient with him. Once again sharp words were exchanged.

When they left the doctor's office they had shopping to do. They were nearly out of groceries. Aaron slowly got out of the car and followed Bonnie half way to the store. Finally he gave out and said, "Honey I just can't make it. I have to go back to the car. Sorry."

Bonnie looked back at him and scowled then turned and stomped into the store. Almost 45 minutes later she came back with the groceries. The cart was almost half full of bags. She stood behind the car glaring at Aaron while she rummaged for her keys in her purse. Finally she opened the trunk and unloaded the groceries. Bonnie didn't even return the cart to the proper location. She just pushed it out of the way and got into the car. She never even looked at Aaron before she started and drove out of the lot. Neither spoke during the nearly 45 minute drive back to their home.

When they arrived home Aaron picked up one light bag and Bonnie's purse then walked slowly into the house. Bonnie followed him carrying four large bags. When she entered the kitchen she glared at Aaron who was sitting in a kitchen chair resting. He said, "I'm sorry Honey. I'm bushed. I just can't help carry even the light bags. Just your purse and the one bag I brought in hurt my incision. I think I'm going to my chair for a short nap while you prepare supper."

Aaron never even woke up to eat his supper. The next thing he knew was at one a.m. when he had to get up to use the bathroom. After he finished he staggered into his bedroom and collapsed once more. The next morning just after 0630 he heard Bonnie clanging around in the kitchen. Shortly thereafter he smelled bacon cooking and coffee perking. He dressed and slowly made his way into the kitchen.

Aaron looked at Bonnie, pulled out his chair and sat. He smiled and said, "Good morning Honey. I was really bushed. I only woke up once last night. You doing OK this morning?"

Bonnie grunted "Yeah" and continued cooking. She placed a cup of coffee and his breakfast in front of Aaron. She returned to the stove for her food and coffee then sat at her usual place across from him. When they were nearly finished with their breakfast Bonnie looked over the breakfast table at Aaron and said, "I have to go into town this morning. I need to run some errands and pick up some things we didn't get yesterday. After I finish my errands I am going to stop by and visit Marlene. I'll be late getting home. There is some left over's in the refrigerator for your lunch and supper."

"OK. Would you stop somewhere and get more Pepsi please? I only have six bottles left. We should have bought more yesterday. I've really been enjoying it the last several days."

As the day wore on Aaron became worried. Bonnie had been gone all day and he had not heard a peep from her. Beginning mid afternoon Aaron had made repeated attempts to reach her on her cell phone. Finally at 1830 that evening, his worry intensifying, he called the highway patrol to see if she had an accident. They told him there was no record of his vehicle or wife being involved in an accident.

Aaron sat in his chair and worried more and more. He continued to call her occasionally until he fell asleep in his chair. He woke about five a.m. After he hobbled to the downstairs bathroom he made his way to the garage door that opened off the kitchen. His truck was in the garage but not Bonnie's SUV. Aaron became even more worried and he felt his stomach muscles clench. He slowly, painfully, made his way up the stairs to the master bedroom. The bed had not been slept in.

Aaron stood in shock as he surveyed the room. Bonnie's closet doors were hanging open and most of her clothes were gone. Her dresser drawers were open and mostly empty. He saw a piece of paper taped to the closet door where he could see it from the bedroom door.

Aaron slowly walked to the closet and pulled the paper from the door. Aaron read the note and felt sorrow, loss, then almost immediately a deep surge of anger. Bonnie had written, "Aaron I don't know when you will find this note. For my sake, I really hope it is quite a long time but perhaps it won't be. I know this is a dirty thing to do to you but I just can't face the future with you now. We scrimped and saved so we would have a pleasant retirement, so we could travel and enjoy life after you retired. Now, almost before the good times begin you become ill and they are ended.

"Aaron I am so sorry but I just can't face caring for you, waiting on you hand and foot as your illness turns you into a helpless invalid before you die. If you haven't been served yet you soon will be. Aaron I am divorcing you so I can enjoy the rest of my life. Over the last several days while you have been sleeping I have taken all I want from our house. I have taken everything from the brokerage accounts and most of the amount in our bank accounts. That is all I want. I know I could get some of your retirement but that would mean I should give you some of the money and investments. I feel it is fair I get the investments since I am not asking for any of your monthly retirement. Our little house is not worth much so I have signed a quit claim deed on my half for you.

"Good bye Aaron."

Aaron walked slowly to the bed and sank down to sit on it. He had no idea how long he sat there before he slowly, carefully made his way down to the office. Just to check he logged onto the computer and accessed their brokerage and bank accounts. There was at most two month's normal living expenses left in the bank. None of the stocks and bonds remained in the brokerage. Aaron knew his share of his medical expenses would be in the neighborhood of $25000.00 to $40000. He had no idea how he would pay for them.

Late that afternoon Aaron heard the doorbell. When he answered the door he was served divorce papers. After the process server left Aaron walked slowly back to his office and sat to read the papers. At first he was just going to sign them then his anger surged once more. He decided he would be damn if he would just roll over for the bitch. How could she do this to someone she had promised to love for her entire life, to be married to 'for better or for worse, through sickness and health, forsaking all others until death do us part'?

Monday morning shortly after eight Aaron picked up the phone and called his old office. He asked for one of his old work companions, one of the staff attorneys. When he told him what he wanted his friend was horrified, he quickly became angry and said, "Dammit Aaron. I can't believe that bitch could do that to you. I'm not a divorce attorney but I took a lot of family law classes in law school. If you want me to I will represent you for free. I want to get that bitch almost as much as you do."

Aaron trusted Thomas and quickly agreed to his offer. He had been worrying how he would pay for an attorney and his medical care. Thomas agreed to come to Aaron's home that evening and look over the petition for divorce and proposed property settlement.

When Thomas arrived, he and Aaron visited, catching up with each other and office gossip before they began talking business. Thomas reviewed the paperwork then asked Aaron what he thought about it and what he wanted to see happen.

"I just don't know. I suppose I am still in shock. I knew she was upset because we had to cancel our plans this winter. She seemed to resent having to care for me when I got back from the hospital but this was just such a shock I can't seem to think. I didn't even see this coming. From the time the doctor gave me his diagnosis until this hit me I have just reacted. I almost quit doing the things I did to keep up the place. I did a little research on the cancer but otherwise I just ... Hell, I don't know what I did. I seemed to be living in a fog. I read a lot but many times I just found myself sitting, not even seeing what I was looking at. I paid attention to Bonnie, ya know but at the same time I just never noticed ... Oh, I knew she was upset and she was sharp to me but I thought it was from worry and tiredness. I guess now it was because she was upset over having to care for me and losing or thinking she was losing her pleasant retirement. I just can't believe she would do this to me, to us though. I thought I knew her better than that. I thought she was a better person than that."

Aaron laughed and continued, "Hell, even now I can't wrap my mind around this shit. I mean I have or had Cancer? Crap, it just doesn't seem real to me right now. I haven't reached the anger phase everyone seems to hit when they find out bad shit like this. I'm still in shock I guess. Hell, I don't know. I'm just now getting pissed at Bonnie for what she's done but even that doesn't seem real somehow ya know? I'm scared but at the same time I'm not terrified. I just seem to be floating down life's river letting the current take me wherever it will. I just need to get this shit out of the way so I can live what life I have left."

Tom sat for a moment after Aaron finished his spiel. He knew Aaron was shocked, was dealing with a lot but he was surprised in a way at how Aaron said he felt. Finally he shook himself slightly and said, "Well, I suppose we need to get back to the things I can help you with on the divorce first. I know you need to talk things out and I'm willing to listen and help if I can. We really need to address this divorce issue first though before she rapes you in the proceedings. Unless this house is worth a bundle I think she took way more than her share of the investments. Discounting the moral, the ethical issues here that is just a shitty thing to do to someone in your situation. Just a minute here." Thomas grabbed his notebook computer. "What is your monthly pension? Do you know how much she took from the investment accounts and bank?"

Aaron told him the pension amount and showed him the most recent bank and brokerage statements. Thomas began entering data into his computer. He worked for several minutes then leaned back and said, "I have computed the present value of your pension based upon your new life expectancy considering your current health. Based on that, an estimated value for your house and the balances in your other accounts it looks like Bonnie has tried to make off with about two thirds to three fourths of your assets.

"I think we need to counter file and make a counter offer on the property distribution. Why don't we ask for you to keep your pension and you give up rights to her pension when she becomes eligible for it? We can then ask for all current bills to be paid before distributing investment and bank balances then a 50/50 split of all accounts and the value of the house."

Aaron looked around then replied, "That seems fairer to me but you know I really don't want this house. I either want her to take it or for us to sell it. I had been trying to get her to let me buy a small acreage on the river with a little cabin on it to move to. I think I will try to purchase that now. It's just downstream from the old mill a half mile or so. I guess it's no more than three quarters of a mile out of town. I could fish from my property and watch the stream flow past while I'm home if I owned it. It's set up on a bluff and very secluded and private. It's only about half the size of this house too. Let's fuck with her and ask for three fourths of the remaining value after bills are paid up to date."

Ok, I'll get on this tomorrow and as soon as I get the paperwork done I'll counter file. We need to know where she is so she can be served. Do you know where she went?"

"No and I haven't talked to the kids to see if they know. Wouldn't her attorney know that?"

"Yeah but I might have trouble getting the information from him." Aaron and Tom talked late into the night before Tom left. Aaron was tired enough he went to bed and slept well in spite of the pain he still had from his surgery.

The next morning Aaron couldn't make himself stay at home for his morning coffee. In spite of the fact he was not supposed to drive yet he went over to the Old Mill for his morning repast. After he walked into the room the door slammed closed with a tinkle from the cow bell hung on it. Cheryl Ross looked up from the range and smiled. She yelled, "Good morning Aaron. What'll it be today? Where's Bonnie?"

"Just coffee right now Cheryl. I just got sick of my own company and decided to come down here for coffee this morning." Cheryl looked at him strangely when he said that but didn't comment further. She knew Bonnie was retired and was surprised she was not with Aaron.

Aaron slowly walked up to one of the tables with a vacant chair and sat with the men already there. He grimaced from the small surge of pain as he moved. After greetings the group continued their conversation. Aaron sat and listened, making a comment occasionally. Finally Jim Ross, Cheryl's husband, asked from another table, "Aaron you seem upset today. You're not feeling bad again are you? I'm surprised Bonnie let you out alone."

"No, no I feel as well as I have in weeks. I'm getting stronger and the surgery hurts less every day." Aaron sighed and looked around the room. He continued, "Bonnie left me a couple of days ago. Guess I had just as well tell ya all. It'll be pretty obvious soon when she isn't seen around. She filed for divorce and I was served Saturday."

Cheryl almost screeched when she exclaimed, "WHAT? My God Aaron what brought that on? I thought you were very happy together?"

"Yeah, so did I. She told me she didn't want to be tied down to a potential cripple. She said we had always planned to travel and enjoy our retirement and just because she thought I would not be able to travel any longer was no reason why she couldn't. She left me to begin her travels I suppose. I have no idea where she is. I suspect the kids do but they are very careful to not let me know. Hell, she even changed her phone number so I can't call her—not that I really want to."

After appropriate comments of sorrow and shock the conversation moved on rapidly. No one wanted to make Aaron feel worse by harping on his bad luck. In a way though that morning's conversation was a good thing for Aaron. Word of his plight spread around the community like wildfire. As soon as his plight became known Aaron began to receive visits from his friends and neighbors. After it became common knowledge around the area that Bonnie had ran out on Aaron as soon as he became ill her reputation was ruined in the area.

The first indication Aaron had that he had become a sought after commodity occurred two days after his visit to the café. He was sitting in his backyard enjoying the evening when Traci Douthitt came walking around his house. She was carrying a picnic basket. "Hello Aaron," she said. I heard Bonnie left you and I remember how painful it is to get around right after surgery. Since you have no one to cook and clean for you now I thought I would make you a little something so you don't have to be on your feet as long."

That was the beginning of his seduction by the older women. The next day Doris Smith came over. She had a fresh baked cake for him. She insisted on cleaning his house before she left that afternoon. Almost every day at least one older woman came to his house to either help or to bring him some food.

The women prepared meals for him and offered to clean or drive him until he could do so for himself. Aaron gratefully but grudgingly accepted their help. Three weeks after Bonnie left Aaron's health had improved enough he could do much of his own work and drive himself places once more. He began to try and wean the women away. When they accepted the fact he could now care for himself in most ways he began to receive invitations from the local widows to accompany them to the Senior Center dances or to come to their homes for meals. He resisted, insisting he still needed his solitude and he wanted to stay close to home because he still tired easily.

In all this time, his children were careful to not tell him where their mother was. He quit asking for her address and refused to listen to them when they tried to tell him anything about her. He did all he could to not drag them any deeper into his troubles. One day shortly after he was able to drive once more Aaron went to his son's home. He knew his son and wife would be at work.

Aaron used the key he had for emergencies and went into his son's home. He spent over an hour searching but he finally found a phone number and address for Bonnie. She had obtained a new cell phone and even had set up a different e-mail address in order to better hide from Aaron.

Aaron called Thomas that evening and gave him the information. Three days later Bonnie called Aaron and lit into him. She was beyond angry. She was livid, so angry she could hardly talk and was hyperventilating. "You fucking asshole," she said. "How could you even dare to think this counter proposal is fair? You either accept my proposal or I'll see your ass in court. I'm not going to give up my future for you or any other damn man."

As many divorces do this one drug on. Both Aaron and Bonnie became angrier at each other as things progressed. They could not agree on anything. Finally the case came before the judge. She heard both sides of the case and considered the evidence. You could see she was angry as she listened to testimony and questioned Aaron and Bonnie. Finally, about eleven a.m. she banged her gavel and said, "I am going to retire to chambers and think about this case. Court recessed until one p.m."

It was almost ten after one when the Judge returned to the courtroom. She sat and looked at first Aaron, then Bonnie. She said, "I thought I had seen everything in my career as an attorney and Judge but I was wrong. I have seen families fight over money. I have seen abuse and outright theft from one family member by another but I had never seen such cold callous disregard for one spouse by another until today. It is bad when a couple divorces for financial reasons when one goes into a nursing home. But for you Mrs. Talkington to just walk out on your husband before he is even able to care completely for himself after major surgery and then try to take almost all of the family savings is just too abhorrent to countenance. You made almost no effort to see he got back on his feet. You did not wait to see if he could resume a normal life with you. You only cut and ran to try and preserve your luxurious future.

"I have decided to grant the divorce to Mr. Talkington. I will not accept either version of the settlement agreement. I order all Mr. Talkington's health care costs be paid from joint assets through the end of the divorce waiting period. I further order you each keep all your individual pensions. Mrs. Talkington, since you thought the ¾ split of resources was fair, I so order that split."

Bonnie had been looking angry during the lecture and upon hearing they were going to have to pay medical bills from their joint account until the divorce became final. She began to smile when the Judge said she was accepting the ¾ property split.

The Judge began talking once more and continued, "I hereby order Mrs. Talkington to immediately transfer the entire investment account into court supervised trust until such time as the amount of medical bills can be determined. At that time said bills may be paid either from joint bank accounts or by liquidation of some of the investments. Any other bills incurred jointly through the date of separation are to be paid from the joint funds also. The remainder of the investments and the value of the bank accounts as of the day of separation are to be distributed in the ratio of ¾ to Mr. Talkington and ¼ to Mrs. Talkington."

Bonnie screamed and said, "You can't do that! I worked all my life for that money. We went without vacations and scrimped and saved so we could live well after we retired. I deserve more than a quarter of it."

The Judge banged the gavel and demanded quiet. She said, "Mrs. Talkington. If you cannot control yourself I'll hold you in contempt of court. You may have worked and saved during your marriage and done without some things you might have wanted but I cannot in good conscience let you walk over this man when he did nothing wrong. You, ma'am, have done something morally reprehensible and have tried to take advantage of a sick man, one who did nothing to you other than become ill. You deserve a penalty and this is it. Had you split in better circumstances and made a more reasonable proposal perhaps a different settlement would have been more reasonable. In my opinion that is not the case." The gavel banged down once more and the Judge continued, "Case Closed."

Aaron and Thomas were standing outside the courtroom visiting when Bonnie and her attorney exited. She glared at him and started past then stopped. Her attorney tried to pull her away but she shook him off and said, "You selfish bastard. I needed that money to have a good life. It could have made things better for me. All you're going to do with it is spend it on doctors. At least one of us could have still had a good retirement if you hadn't been such a selfish ass."

Aaron felt a surge of anger. He whirled toward Bonnie and started to respond when each attorney pulled their client farther apart. Thomas said, "Easy there hoss. You won. Just let it go and move on."

"Yeah, I know but..." Aaron shook his head and continued, "You know I thought I knew her. I would have trusted her with anything, hell; I did trust her with it all. I just wonder when she changed or if I just didn't really know her at all. Now I remember times in our marriage when she showed this selfish side and I would give in. Usually it was when she wanted to buy something I didn't want to spend the money on or when she would insist on a more extravagant vacation than we had initially planned. Looking back I can see where the seeds for her treachery had lain dormant for years. I just can't believe she would have done something like this though."

As soon as the divorce was granted Aaron purchased the small acreage and cabin by the old mill. He had moved from the house he shared with Bonnie after he purchased the small cabin and acreage. Aaron rented the house to a young newly married couple. He agreed to let their first six months rent count toward a down payment so they would have enough down to obtain the loan if they decided they wanted to purchase the house in the future.

Days passed and Aaron became stronger and stronger. He spent most of his days either landscaping or caring for the property, fishing, sitting in his back yard or laying in his hammock watching the stream flow past. His new home was secluded enough he took to wandering around the house and yard nude. He found he really loved the feeling of freedom that gave him. The summer sun felt wonderful on his body as the heat baked him and warmed his cold bones. He loved the way the cool breeze caressed his bare skin cooling him with the coolness it picked up from the river.

Almost every day he went either to the mill or Steelville for coffee in the morning. Many days he would also go out for a small lunch. He usually went to the Old Mill because it was only a half mile from his new home and he could walk. Since he needed exercise he would just walk there and back.

Evenings he either prepared a light supper or ate food one of the older women in the area brought him. He never wanted for companionship. In fact, many times he wished he could hide from the women so he could enjoy his privacy. Aaron found he was a very desirable commodity—he was a male with reasonable income, single and not too decrepit to do things with the women. They flocked to him like bees to honey. After he had lived in the cabin for several weeks he finally let the women and his friends Jim and Cheryl Ross talk him into going to the Senior Center dances in Steelville. Now that was an eye opening adventure for sure!

The first time he attended a dance he rode over with Jim and Cheryl. Just before they entered the building Jim said, "Aaron I don't know how much you know about these dances but I want to warn you about them. There are several couples like Cheryl and me but there are a whole lot more single people here. Single women outnumber the men about six or seven to one. Some of the single men who do come either don't dance or don't get around too well. That makes men like you who get around pretty well a very sought after commodity."

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