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Jim and Monica's Home
Monica was lucky to have slept at all last night. It was exactly the same as it had been all week. She had made the attempt, lying next to her husband Jim, but all she could think of was today's trip to court. She rubbed her tired, swollen eyes, like some women do when they get out of bed. Her husband, to whom she had been married for sixteen years, was already up, chipper and shaving in their large master bathroom. He looked around the corner, his face half-covered with shaving cream, and spoke to her.
"Oh, good. You're up."
His prematurely gray hair was already in place perfectly for the day even though he was not through with his shave. Monica looked into the dresser mirror and saw her black hair looking more like a haystack or an old wig. How does he do it, she wondered? She asked aloud, "How can you sleep like that, knowing what's going on?"
Obviously finished with his shave, Jim walked out with a towel around his neck, drying his face. He had put on weight during their marriage, but not a lot, just enough to make him appear married and comfortable. He sat down on the bed next to his wife, kissed her on the cheek, and answered her question, "Things are going to be the same whether I get a good night's sleep or not. You need to realize that."
Jim got up and looked at himself in the mirror.
"I think that I've lost some weight since this happened. It must be the stress," he announced.
Monica said nothing because, if anything, he had put on weight recently. But looking at her tired face in the mirror combined with the crazy hairdo, she figured if he loved her the way she looked, she could love him the way he was. After a long silence, she answered, "I think maybe you have. What time is this stupid thing?"
"It's at noon."
"Have you checked on our little angel?" Monica sneered, filling the Jacuzzi tub.
"I would think that she would be responsible enough to not make us late for her own trial."
Monica slipped out of her nightgown and sank into the soothing water. After a long, "Ah," she quipped, "Why do you have to keep calling it a trial? It was just a group of high school girls getting into a little trouble."
While buttoning his bright white Oxford shirt, Jim replied, "Because it is a trial. That's the way our system works. You break the law, you are presumed innocent, and then you have a trial to determine whether you're guilty and, if you are, to find out your punishment."
If it weren't for her husband's mini-lecture, Monica might have actually fallen asleep, enjoying the jets of warm water cascading over her tired body. Without any additional provocation, Jim became irritated and turned up the volume.
"They were destroying a boy's car! How the hell do you just shake that off like a harmless prank?"
"The police in Apple Lake have always had it in for people with money," Monica replied. "Maybe she didn't even do most of the damage. Maybe she was just a bystander?"
"She was there," Jim said angrily. "That should be enough! She should know better, for Christ's sake! Everyone in town knows who we are; they're going to be watching her."
"I told you that she should not be going out with trash like that," Monica argued while washing her face.
"I'm not blaming that boy. It's time that things change around here!"
Each time that their daughter Heather got into trouble, it was the same lecture, Monica thought as she submerged herself completely into the soapy water, holding her breath long enough to chase her husband away momentarily. She didn't want the argument to get to the point where she had to admit that he was right. She knew that the recent mistake her daughter made was not because of the boy she was dating. She had been through three other boys in the last six months and had been caught cheating in school, skipping class, drinking, and now this.
It's no wonder I look like hell.
Jim had obviously left the room, either to finish getting dressed or to go wake up their daughter. She finished her bath and began getting ready. Unlike her husband, Monica's hair was coal black, no gray streaks anywhere. She started the lengthy process of drying her substantial locks, but could not get away from the gaze of the woman in the mirror. Unlike her husband, her body was still slim and taut. It was just her tired eyes that made her look twice her age. She finished with her hair and sat down to the daunting task of doing her makeup.
Jim started his walk down the long hardwood hallway towards Heather's room. As he passed by the occasional tables loaded with silk flower-filled vases and family portraits hanging on the walls, he thought, like most fathers do, of his daughter's being ten years old and her world revolving around him and Monica, not her disrespectful friends. As he got closer, he could hear more clearly the thumping bass and shrill heavy metal voices pouring from inside Heather's door. He promised himself that no matter what he was not going to get angry, no arguments about her boyfriend, her outfit, or anything. As he pounded on the door repeatedly, his promise melted away.
Heather finally opened the door. She stood inside her room throwing the look that only sixteen-year-olds know how to cast towards their fathers. It was that, "Why are you bothering me?" look. Just one look, and her father knew what some of the problem was. She was too pretty, and she knew it. Heather had long black hair, like her mother, dark eyes, and a slim, attractive figure.
That's what gets her in trouble, Jim thought, as he looked away from her.
"I think it's best if you wear something conservative today," he yelled over the music.
Heather had already picked an outfit, which she felt was fine. Her father looked at the clothes hanging on the outside of her walk-in closet, a tight-fitting, short black skirt along with a snug turtleneck, an outfit designed more for clubbing than court.
"I thought that I would wear this."
"You thought wrong, little girl. This is not some sort of fashion show! It's a trial, a trial that could wreck your future," Jim explained.
"It's not a big deal, I mean, how I look."
"Yes, it is. I've been a lawyer in this town for twenty years, and I know how juries react. First impressions make all the difference. You're already going in there with a strike against you, being a rich girl."
Heather seemed disinterested in what her father was trying to tell her as she walked to the stereo and changed the CD.
"You and Mom are the only people that care, and the only reason you do is because you're both worried about your reputation," she fired at her father.
He had already broken the promise to himself about not getting upset so now it was easy to make the argument full-blown. He could feel that she wasn't listening and saw the look of the defiance on her face, which resembled the look that his wife gave him whenever she was upset.
"It's your reputation! Maybe I should not even be defending this case. Maybe one of those punk friends of yours should be doing it."
Escalating the fight, Heather shot back, "At least my friends love me and care about what happens to me. All you care about is your damn reputation around here and not being humiliated by me!" She mocked, "My little girl is such a hellion, look at the awful things she does. Oh please, jury, please, forgive her. She didn't know what she was doing. That's not true, Dad. I knew exactly what I was doing, and I would do it again!"
"Listen carefully, you didn't know what you were doing, understand? As a matter of fact, you were just there," instructed Jim.
More defiant than ever, Heather placed her hands on her hips and glared at her father.
"I wasn't just there, okay? It was my idea. That guy cheated on me, and no one cheats on Heather Stone! I'm a cheerleader, I get good grades, and I am pretty, and that boy, that boy ..."
Heather began to cry, and like always, Jim stopped the argument and went over to his sixteen-year-old girl to comfort her. Heather buried her face crying into her father's arms.
"It's okay, Princess. Daddy is here. There is no need to cry. I'll make it all right."
While looking up at him, tears rolling down her cheeks, she asked, "Do you promise, Daddy?"
"Yes, I do," Jim answered rubbing his hand through her hair. "I will make it all better."
He backed away under the false impression that he had comforted his little girl, like he used to when she would fall in the backyard.
"But first," he chuckled. "I'm going to have to change this shirt."
"I didn't mean to get anything on it," Heather said, realizing yet again that tears still worked with her old man.
"I know that you didn't, honey. Now why don't you pick out one of those nice suits your mother had tailored for you?"
Striking while the iron was still hot, Heather shook her head and whined, "They all make me look old. I'm still your little girl, and you're such a good lawyer, no matter what I wear, you'll get me off."
Jim did not realize how he was being played. It wasn't that he was dumb. He had defended some of Apple Lake's worst criminals brilliantly. But when it came to his own kid, he just couldn't see it. He walked past where she was sitting on the bed, looking at himself in the full-length mirror, and then opened her closet door to select an outfit. He pulled out a gray business suit and hung it over the clothes Heather had selected.
"This would look nice. Maybe with your hair up, it would make the right impression," he told his daughter.
Still sniffling, but no longer crying, Heather forced a smile, answering, "If you say so, Daddy."
"I say so, Princess. Trust me on this one."
"I'll be ready in an hour."
"That will be just fine. I still like being able to make everything right for my little girl," Jim announced before leaving the room.
"Oh, Daddy, now let me get ready."
No sooner had the door closed than the heavy metal music resumed. Jim had a little bounce in his step as he walked back down the hallway, feeling confident that he and his daughter had just experienced one of those special bonding moments. However, he couldn't have been more mistaken. Inside her spacious, well-equipped bedroom, Heather took the time to email and text each of her friends, while deciding to wear the original outfit she had picked out. Jim didn't know any better as he stopped on his way back to his bedroom to make some coffee. He snapped his fingers to the beat of the pulsing rock music and started the pot. He brought in the morning paper and laid it on the island in the center of the modern kitchen. It was another beautiful day in Apple Lake, and he could see the steam rising into the cool morning air from the water through the large weeping willow out front. He breathed deeply and looked around proudly at the spacious, custom-built home full of his toys.
Their kitchen had granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, a breakfast nook with a large bay window, and a two-sided fireplace, one side for the kitchen and the other for the large living area. The living area was furnished with leather couches, a home theater system, a large flat-screen TV, and a sound system that rivaled the one in his daughter's bedroom. The home was everything he and his wife had dreamed of when he went to law school. He glanced at the stunning four-season room that opened from the living room and recalled the first time that he and Monica had sat in their hot tub, windows open, drinking martinis, and deciding that they had finally "made it."
Still feeling good, he left the center of the house and walked back down the hallway to the master suite. His wife was still seated at the vanity with piles of makeup surrounding her. Jim walked happily into the room and announced, "I put on some coffee."
"Did you wake up the angel?"
"Yeah, I had to do some pretty substantial fathering, but I think it's okay now."
"What was the crisis, other than the obvious court bullshit?"
"She wanted to wear some clothes that I felt were inappropriate for the trial," answered Jim, stretching out on the king-sized waterbed.
"Speaking of clothing, I don't have anything to wear. At least I don't think I do. What does the mother of a juvenile delinquent wear to court, especially if she knows her husband's mistress might be there?" Monica bristled.
Jim thought that they had been all through this and worked it out. He remembered his counseling sessions, anger management, and the embarrassment that he caused his wife, but obviously none of that really sunk in, and he fired back with, "She's not my mistress, damn it. It was a one-time thing!"
"I'm glad that it doesn't mean anything to you, but do you see all of the shit I have to go through just to make sure I look better than Miss Bleach Blonde Plastic Tits?"
"For the one millionth time, you do look better than she does, okay? I was drunk, I had a long week at the office, and she was just there. You were busy with all your social club functions anyway."
"Don't be a bigger prick than you already are," Monica cautioned, pointing to her husband." "This was not my fault, not my clubs, not my social commitments, nothing! It happened because you can't keep it in your pants! If you could, you'd be a state senator by now."
Jim had heard it all before, so he got comfortable on the bed, knowing that he was going to hear it again. Monica started off justifiably bitching about all of the sacrifices that she has made for her husband through the years. She helped put him through college and law school, gave him the daughter he had always wanted, and stayed at his beck and call sexually for nearly two decades. She worked hard keeping herself in shape and saying all of the right things to the media, when asked, wearing the perfect clothes for the situation. She always kept on smiling. That was the key, no matter how she felt, what the family was going through, or how much she had grown to despise her husband for what he did, she kept on smiling.
Jim wanted to cut in and tell his wife once again that it was just one indiscretion, but he knew that was not the wise move, so he let her continue on rehashing all of the facts. Finally, after about fifteen minutes, Jim stood up and walked over to his wife.
"All I can say is that I love you."
He kissed her cheek and felt some of her anger drifting away. He even noticed a small hint of a smile beginning to form on the corners of her mouth as she answered, "You'd better!"
Monica went back to preparing her face, and then she asked what Heather was planning to wear.
"I suggested the gray suit that you had tailored and wearing her hair up."
Now a full-fledged smile washed over Monica as she laughed aloud, saying, "And she's going to wear that? That will be the day."
"Of course," Jim answered. "We had a very long talk, and I'm sure that she understands what's at stake."
Monica finished her face and began getting dressed. The tears on Jim's shirt had dried, and he didn't change it, knowing that his jacket would cover any leftover markings. They looked at themselves in the full-length mirror, Jim wearing his white shirt, blue suit, and tie and Monica wearing her red form-fitting pantsuit. While fixing his cufflinks, Jim reached over and placed his hands on his wife's shoulders.
Still gazing in the mirror, he announced, "I think that we look pretty damn good for forty."
Monica smiled like she always did. "I think together we look like the flag."
"Well, I'm sure that there will be Americans on the jury, so that should help us. What do you say to some coffee?" Jim poured some cereal into a bowl, while Monica poured the coffee. They sat down at the breakfast nook, and while Jim dug into his cereal, Monica stared out of the bay window. She sighed deeply, thinking about how happy the two of them used to be together. Now she felt more like a stranger than his wife. She wondered silently if there had been others, and no matter how many times she heard people say, "You'll get over it," or
"You guys will make it through," the affair still haunted her every day.
She wasn't feeling much like a parent either. The only time their daughter seemed to talk with her is when she wanted something. Monica had been thrilled when she had Heather. She envisioned shopping sprees, manicures, and even girls' night out with what she had hoped would be her new best friend.
That had never happened. The two of them barely spoke. They lived together in this large house, and ever since Heather had gotten her driver's license she didn't keep Monica informed about her whereabouts, except via email when it was convenient for her.
During the last two years, Monica tried to become friends with her daughter. She invited friends over, but they were never the right ones. She tried being a disciplinarian, monitoring her boyfriends and enforcing curfew, but only for a short time because Jim was so easily manipulated by Heather. She stared deeply into her black, steaming mug of coffee, wondering what she had done wrong with her husband and her daughter.
Jim had been glancing at the paper between spoonfuls of Cheerios and noticed Monica's distant look. He made the mistake of asking the question that all men ask, "What are you thinking about, honey?"
Excerpted from Disorder in the Court by D. Eric Horner Copyright © 2012 by D. Eric Horner. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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