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"As long as I can remember, both my parents always worked even though we never needed money. My mother has told me and reminded me even more often lately that for six months after I was born, she remained home to raise and nurture me. She always makes it sound like those six months were the ultimate sacrifice in her life. She says my father would never even think of taking a leave of absence to care for me even though he is essentially self-employed and doesn't have to answer to anyone but himself. That, she tells me, is a big difference between them and why I shouldn't even consider living with him.
"Now she tells me that new studies in women's magazines argue that the mother doesn't have to be at home during her child's formative years as much as was previously thought.
"Have you read that, too, Dr. Marlowe?" I asked.
"I've read similar arguments and data, but I haven't come to any definitive conclusions myself," she replied. "There are good arguments and data on the other side, too."
"Yes, well, I think she's been telling me that because Daddy says I would have had less emotional problems if my mother would have given me more tender loving care. I know for a fact that's part of my father's motion for custody."
I turned to the girls who looked lost. I hadn't heard Cat's story yet, but I knew neither Star nor Misty were really thrown into the lion's den of divorce courts. They were in for a real education listening to me.
"My father and his attorney claim my mother was insensitive to my needs. He says she was too self-centered and that was why they only had me. As soon as he realized what a poor mother she was going to be, he decided not to have any more children."
"In my case and especially Rodney's, we were lucky our momma didn't spend more time on our formative years," she said. "Otherwise, we might never have formed at all."
Dr. Marlowe surprised us with a small laugh.
"Of course, my mother says she decided not to have any more children because she knew what a poor father my father was and would continue to be. She said he couldn't blame his failings as a parent on her career. She claims it doesn't interfere with her responsibilities toward me."
"So your mother still works?" Misty asked.
"Are you kidding? Of course."
"What does your mother do?" Misty asked.
"She's a sales manager for a big cosmetics company -- if you want, I could probably get your mother some real discounts." I said, remembering how she described her mother's obsession with her looks.
"My mother never worries about discounts," she replied. "The more she spends, the more she can complain about the alimony being too little to provide her with the lifestyle she was accustomed to before the divorce," Misty declared with a dramatic air that brought a smile to my face.
"You probably don't realize it, but that's an important legal consideration," I told her.
The wife and the child or children enjoying the lifestyle they enjoyed before the divorce. It's one of the things the judge will consider to determine support payments should my mother win custody. My mother wants to be considered fully independent, but her attorney wants her to sue for some alimony so my father still bears his burden of expenses for her well-being as well as mine."
I paused and looked at them.
"Are you sufficiently fascinated yet? Does this compare to your favorite soap opera?"
Misty held her smile in check.
"What's your father do?" Star asked.
"My father is an architect. He's actually a very successful one who designed some of the buildings in Los Angeles and one of the big malls now being built. He has designed buildings outside of California, too, and even did one in Canada. My mother and her attorney have tried to make a big dung of his travel to point out that he would be away too much to provide proper parental care and supervision, especially for a young teenage girl.
"Daddy says my mother's grueling schedule is worse than his and she, too, often travels on behalf of her company, so she would be away too much to provide proper care and supervision. They have subpoenaed each other's travel receipts, business diaries and credit card records to support their arguments in court."
I thought for a moment and looked at Dr. Marlowe.
"I've been wondering what will happen if the judge believes they are both right. That would leave me with parents who are both incapable of being proper parents, right, Dr. Marlowe?"
"That situation has occurred, of course, but I doubt it will in your case, Jade."
"Really. That's a relief," I said. "Otherwise, I might have had to move in with Star and her granny."
"Like you could stand one day without maids and chauffeurs and such," Star shot back.
Misty laughed and Cat smiled.
"Maybe you're right," I said, "but I can tell you this...I'm not giving anything up to make their fives easier for them. They raised me to expect a luxurious life and that's what they have to provide. Enjoy the lifestyle to which I have been accustomed, remember?"
Everyone stopped smiling. I sat back.
"You all know I'm a Beverly. Star called me that just a few minutes ago," I said, looking at Misty who had told us about her boyfriend classifying spoiled rich girls as Beverlys because they came from Beverly Hills. "I'm not ashamed of being rich. I don't think of myself as being spoiled. I think of myself as being...protected."
"Against what?" Star asked. "Certainly not unhappiness."
"There are degrees of unhappiness and different things that make you unhappy. I don't have to worry about buying anything or going anywhere I want."
"Big deal," Star said.
"It is to me and no matter how you act here, I know it is to you, too," I said, recalling my mother's advice about people who had less.
"You don't know anything," Star fired back.
"Oh, and you do?"
She folded her arms and sat up straighter, putting herself in a defensive posture.
"Do you have a big house?" she asked me.
"Bigger than this, in fact." I answered, looking around the office, which was admittedly quite large. It had a desk and bookcases on one end and the soft chairs and tables on the other with large windows facing the back yard. "My father designed our house, of course. It's not a Tudor like this one. He thought there were just too many Tudors in Los Angeles.
"We have what's called a two-story Neoclassical. It has a full height, semicircular entry porch with Ionic columns. It has two side porches and all the windows are rectangular with double-hung sashes, nine panes to each sash. It's very unique and always gets a lot of attention. Cars actually slow down when they come up to it and people gape even though there are many other magnificent homes in the community.
"What is this house, Dr. Marlowe, four thousand square feet?" I asked her.
"Something like that," she said.
"Mine is closer to eight. Does that give you an idea?" I asked Star.
"So you have a big house. Do you have your own car?" Star questioned.
"I will have this year. I haven't decided what I want yet. My mother suggested I ask for a Jag convertible after my father had suggested a Ford Taurus. Now my father is thinking maybe a Mustang. They're both dangling carrots. Until I do decide, I have a limousine available whenever I need to go anywhere."
"Great. Glad you explained all that." Star quipped. "So you have transportation. I'll bet you also have lots of clothes."
"My walk-in is almost a third as long as this office and full of the latest trends." I glanced at Misty. "I know from what you told me you have nice things, but the difference is I wear mine. This gray sleeveless sheath I'm wearing today is a Donna Karan," I pointed out.
"I don't have anything that expensive," Misty said. "My mother does."