Annie settled into seat 47A on the 767, fastened her seatbelt, and stared out the small glass portal. “Oh Jake,” she muttered, “How could you have done this to us?”
As she waited for the other passengers to take their seats, she thought back over her five- year marriage, tears stinging her eyes. As angry as she was with her husband for his betrayal of her trust, she was just as angry with herself for allowing him to derail her dream of becoming a writer.
It had started as an assignment for a creative writing class in her senior year as an Education major at the University of Maryland. She had written a children’s story about a magical flying horse named Arthur, and his owner and companion, a young boy named Conrad. For extra credit, she asked her roommate and best friend, Carolyn, an art major, to illustrate it. She received an A+ and a note from her instructor telling her she had talent and should think about pursuing a career in writing.
“That’s ridiculous,” her fiancé, Jacob, said when she told him of her idea to stay in school and take additional classes. “If you want to write, fine, but stick with education. You can always write in your spare time.”
Originally studying to be a grade school teacher, she had now discovered a penchant and a passion for another career path. But with graduation approaching, and an impending wedding to prepare for, what he said made sense. After all, their plans included buying a house, traveling, and then starting a family.
“And we’ll need two incomes for that,” he told her. “So stick with teaching. At least it pays. Remember our dreams. Visualize them. Always keep them first and foremost in sight and we’ll get there.”
As the plane taxied down the runway, she remembered when they first met at a 'Welcome Back' party at the beginning of her sophomore year. He was a plain looking, slightly overweight, bespectacled accounting major. Not the most handsome man the five-foot-five inch, blond-haired, blue-eyed beauty had ever dated, but Annie loved his tenderness, thoughtfulness, and his level headedness.
Nor was he the most adventuresome man she had ever met. This was the first party he had ever attended and it was only at the cajoling of his good friend, Drew, that he accepted the invitation.
Not wanting to brave the crowds at the weekly rock concerts held in the school’s indoor auditorium, (“Too much trouble,” he told her. “I don’t want to fight for a parking space and then be deafened by the loud noise. Besides, I prefer classical music,”) he had never been to those either.
He was stoic, logical and unemotional, a marked contrast to her outgoing, bubbly personality, but he was also kind and loving and she believed he would make a good husband and father. To Annie, that was far more important than looks.
When the stress of the wedding plans overwhelmed her, he brought her purple irises, her favorite flower. And when her tears flowed from frustration over misprinted invitations, a double-booked musician, and a bankrupt florist, he held her in his arms, comforting her.
Adding to her stress was the fact that Annie would miss Carolyn terribly. Her roommate was returning to San Francisco to manage the art gallery her parents had owned prior to their death in a small plane crash while island hopping in the Caribbean.
The two women had forged a strong and enduring bond after Annie’s parents and younger siblings were killed in a car accident shortly after the start of her freshman year. It was with Carolyn’s compassion and empathy that she was able to cope.
But now it was time to move on; so following Jake’s advice, she put her writing on hold and accepted a teaching position.
Five years later, they were firmly established in their careers – he with the Government Accounting Office; she as a fifth grade teacher in a school near the modest one story, three-bedroom home they had purchased in anticipation of starting a family. But they still had not traveled, nor even discussed getting pregnant. Instead, they were consumed by work.
She tried to write at night, after dinner. But either Jake was using the computer, or he wanted her next to him on the couch while he watched television.
“Come sit by me,” he whined. “Isn’t that why we got married? To be together?” And raised to be a dutiful housewife by her stay-at-home mom, she had relented. But still, she dreamed of being a writer.
After signing up for an extension course in creative writing, she faced more complaining when came home: “I don’t know why you have to do this. Take a correspondence course or something.” And, “I don’t like eating dinner by myself.” Three weeks later, she quit the class to ease the growing tension between them.
One night, as the end of the school year approached, she decided to discuss her concerns. They were sitting on the living room couch, her feet curled up next to her. This had always been her favorite room in the house, and although the furnishings were not expensive, they emanated comfort, warmth, and intimacy.
“Honey,” she said, “All I do is work, fix dinner, work some more, and then go to sleep. And on weekends, I clean. I need some time to write. Can you understand that?”
“So, what do you want from me?” he asked, never looking up from the business section.
“I don’t know,” she answered, surprised by his nonchalant attitude. “Maybe you can help out some more around the house?”
Laughing, he replied, “That’s your responsibility, not mine.”
Frustrated, she responded, “Okay, then let’s hire someone.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he responded. “We need to save more money, not spend it.”
“I understand that. But this is my dream and I need to find some time to do it. My job occupies most of my waking moments. I don’t have time to write. So why can’t we get someone in…”
“Bad idea,” her husband interrupted. He lowered the paper and looked at her above the rim of his wired-frame glasses. “You’re finally making good money. It’s the only thing that’s letting us stay ahead of our bills. Taking on an additional expense means we’ll have to live on an even tighter budget. Is that what you really want?”
“No, of course not. But writing is important to me too, and something I want to pursue. It's just one course.”
“Look, Annie. Enough. Maybe someday, just not right now. Trust me; I know what I’m doing.”
Did he? She was beginning to wonder. As an accountant, he should be better able to handle their finances, so she had relinquished control of them.
But lately she was beginning to question his judgment. Something didn’t seem quite right. Their combined monthly take-home pay was almost $6,000. The house payment was about $1600, and adding in gas, electric, insurance, food, etc., they should still have plenty of money left over, providing them with a significant investment balance. So why were they still struggling?
“Well,” she continued, unwilling to let it go, “My teaching contract is up next month. How about if I take a year off and concentrate on writing?”
“You’re being ridiculous again,” he said with that same pompous attitude he used whenever she questioned his decisions.
He lowered the paper and stared at her. “What’s more important? Our future or your writing?”
“That’s not fair,” she replied, standing up. “They’re both important. I love you, Jake; you know that. But I also need to write. Why can’t you understand that?”
“Why can’t you understand that we’re building for our future? We have to save our money if we want to travel and have kids someday.”
“I do understand,” she said, trying to remain calm. “But we haven’t even finished furnishing the house; two bedrooms are still empty. We’re driving seven-year-old cars. Where’s all the money going?”
He shook his head. “I'm investing it. I’m the accountant, remember? The one who knows all about money. Are you questioning my ability to handle our finances?” he asked, raising his voice.
“No, of course not. It just seems that with our two incomes, we should be in a much better financial position than you claim we are.”
“I claim? Geez Annie, don’t you think I know what I’m doing? I mean, this is what I went to school for, remember?”
How did it end up like this? she asked herself. The plane's engines roared as the silver bird climbed higher into the clear blue sky, and the seat vibrated in response. When the plane banked, she realized the world below looked tilted, out of whack. Sort of like my life, she thought.
One minute we’re talking about me wanting to write, and the next, we’re arguing over money.
The more she tried to reason with him, the more heated the discussion grew until they were yelling at each other.
She took a deep breath, trying to rope in her emotions. “God, Jacob, what happened to you? You used to be so supportive of me. What happened to that man who used to bring me flowers when I was upset?”
“Life happened. Work happened. Responsibilities. Bills. Need I go on? If you want to write, do it at night, after I’m in bed.”
This is not the man I fell in love with, she thought. That man would have listened to me, would have tried to understand me. When did he change?
“I’ve tried writing at night, but it’s not working. I’m either too tired or too busy grading papers or preparing lesson plans to accomplish much. I need uninterrupted time so I can concentrate. What if I don’t teach summer school this year?” she asked, pacing back and forth, grasping at straws. “I wouldn’t be using any gas, need new clothes, or have to spend money on school supplies. Surely, that should be okay.”
“Annie, I just don’t see how. Inflation is killing us, and our investments declined with the downturn of the stock market. We’re just now getting back to where we were. I think it would be best if you teach through the summer so we can start building again,” he said, picking up the newspaper.
“But what about my writing?” She was withering inside. Teaching was fulfilling and she loved it, but writing was her passion. And not being able to do it was slowly killing her.
“What about it? I thought we were finished with this conversation,” he responded, his head buried in the business section.
“Jacob, please put down that paper and talk to me.” She only called him by his full name when she was upset or angry with him. She returned to her seat on the couch.
Disgusted, he threw down the paper and looked at her. “What? What do you want? You know, I work hard all day. All I ask is for a little peace and quiet when I get home so I can read the paper. We've discussed this thing to death. How long are you going to keep this up?”
“I'll 'keep it up' until you hear me.” She was getting angrier by the second. “I have a full time job too, you know. But when I come home, I have to make dinner, clean up, and then take care of things for school for the next day. All you do is eat, sit on the couch, read the paper, and watch TV. So excuse me for taking up five minutes of your precious time.”
Annie got up to walk out of the room, but Jake reached out and grabbed her arm. “Okay honey. You want to talk, let’s talk.”
She sat down, took another deep breath, and tried to compose herself. She wanted to make a logical, unemotional argument. One Jake could not argue with. “All I’m asking is to take the summer off so I can write. I love teaching, you know that, but the kids get to me sometimes. And writing is a big relief. Surely, we can go one summer without my income. ”
But instead of listening, Jake turned the conversation into a lecture on economics and it soon deteriorated into the worst fight they ever had. “You’re not hearing me,” she finally yelled, getting up off the couch. “All I asked you was whether we could afford it if I took the summer off. I don’t care about the state of the world economy, the rate of inflation, or the topsy-turvy universe of the stock market. All I want to do is write.” Over Jake's objections, she grabbed her car keys and left the house.
“Would you like something to drink?” the flight attendant asked.
“Oh, yes, please. Gin and tonic.”
As Annie removed the money from her wallet, she noticed the picture of her and Jake taken on their Caribbean cruise honeymoon. She removed it from its protective sleeve and placed it on the tray table. She handed the bills to the fortyish woman, accepted her small bottle of gin and glass of tonic, poured it, and returned to her memories.
She had driven to Kitty’s, a little neighborhood bar. It was dimly lit, the dark wood paneling adding to its dull, dreary appearance. Barry Manilow's 'I Write the Songs' emanated from a hidden sound system. With the unusually warm June temperatures, rising humidity, and an air conditioning system that had seen better days, she felt as though she had stepped into the depths of hell.
The few patrons, engulfed in thick cigarette smoke, gave her the once over when she walked in, then lowered their heads, and continued their conversations. She chose a booth in the far left corner, away from the other customers, and ordered a Tanqueray gin martini from the lone cocktail waitress/barmaid. She was deep in thought, staring out the window into the waning light, when a man appeared at the side of her table.
“Hi. My name is Boyd. I saw you sitting here, looking like you could use someone to talk to. Mind if I join you?” He stood, waiting for her consent.
At first offended that someone would intrude on her thoughts and space, she reconsidered when she noticed his friendly smile. And who could resist that thick Scottish brogue?
“Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t feel much like talking.” She lifted her glass to take a sip, and lowered her eyes to avoid his boring into her, as though he could see into her soul.
But she really did want to talk, (no, needed to, she corrected herself.) Jacob wasn’t receptive, but maybe Boyd would be. At least he seemed to be. He was about six-feet tall with long, red, curly hair he wore in a ponytail. Normally, she didn’t like that look on a man, but on him, it looked good. His large, full face, strong jaw line, and thick neck were a sharp contrast to Jacob’s, which was rounded, soft, and plump. And he had breathtakingly beautiful hazel eyes that twinkled in the light cast by the fixture hanging over the table. The white oxford shirt he wore accented his broad shoulders, barrel chest, and well-muscled arms. The tight-fitting jeans called attention to his other manly attributes. The aroma of Irish Spring cologne wafted through the air, awakening a passion she hadn't felt in a very long time.
So unlike Jacob, she thought. Her husband was not an exciting lover and their sex life had become boring and routine –always on Fridays, always at eleven-thirty, after the evening news. And always the same thing. He would start by kissing her neck a couple of times, kiss her on the lips, briefly caress her nipples, and then enter her. No foreplay, no tender words, just the proverbial wham, bam, thank you ma’am. And God forbid she should take the initiative. He would totally freak out and look at her like she was crazy.
For a while now she realized she was no longer attracted to her husband, believing that part of her life was over. But her fascination for this man? That was another story.
“Oh, come on, lassie,” he said, sliding into the seat across from her. “Let me buy you another of those and you can unload your burden.”
Annie’s hand played with the empty liquor bottle standing on her fold down tray, and she smiled as she remembered the encounter.
Unlike with her husband, she found him easy to talk to; his accent was charming and his smile was inviting. So she told him about her frustration at not being able to pursue her dream.
He listened attentively, and then told her something that would remain with her for the rest of her life: “If you don’t act on your desires now, you may always regret it. And, to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘It is not the length of life, but the depth of life.’ Don’t let your life be long, but shallow, Annie, for you’ll soon run out of tomorrows, and have only regrets remaining.”
How true, the young woman thought. Life was way too short as it was. And, as if to prove her point, when she looked at her watch, she saw that almost three hours had passed. “Oh, I really must get going. Jake will be worried. And it is Friday night” she added, her brow furrowed in anticipation of what awaited her.
“I beg your pardon,” Boyd said.
“Oh, nothing,” she replied, rising. “Thank you for the drink and for listening to me. I’ll take what you said to heart. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight, princess,” he said, also rising. “May we meet again someday.”
“Maybe we will. Thanks again.” She left the bar, her resolve to write strengthened, her spirits uplifted.
Arriving home, she found her husband sitting on the couch, his feet perched on the black slate coffee table. He was dressed in his worn University of Maryland sweat pants and favorite ragged, holey tee shirt; the TV was tuned to a PBS documentary on the Constitution. “Where have you been?” he asked her, muting the sound. “I’ve been worried sick.”
She sat down in the easy chair and decided to try talking to him once more. "Look, Jake. I don't know how else to say it, but I need, no, I take that back. I want time to myself so I can write. I would appreciate it if you would give me that time on Saturday mornings. You could go to the library or the mall, or have breakfast with Dave. Just give me that alone time. ”
He laughed. “You want me to leave my own house just so you can write? Why should I? This is my house too.”
Jake, please. I'm begging you to support me on this. Please.”
“Yeah, well, you know what?” he said, rising, “It’s late; let’s go to bed. We’ll discuss it in the morning.”
“No,” she replied, defying him for the first time in their marriage. “I want to discuss it now.”
“I said later. Now come on.” Then, changing his tone, he continued seductively. “You know, it is Friday night. And Johnny Boy needs some attention,” he said, rubbing his penis through his pants.
Finding courage she didn’t know she had, she replied, “I said no.”
“What?” Jacob's eyes opened wide in response to her defiance.
“You don’t take care of me. Why should I take care of you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Jacob, I’ve asked you nicely. But if you can’t do that one little thing for me, why should I do anything for you?”
He stood in the archway that connected the living room to the bedroom and stared at her. Wordlessly, he stomped off to bed.
Waiting for him to fall asleep, she mulled over their relationship. It seemed like everything was fine up until two years ago. That was when he became very short-tempered and secretive.
What could have happened, she wondered. Could it be another woman? Somehow, she doubted that since sex had never been a priority for Jake. But whatever it was, she knew she would have to discuss this with him further.
The next morning when Annie entered the living room, Jacob was sitting at the desk in front of the computer.
“Are you going out?” she asked, hopefully.
“I still don’t see why I have to leave my own house. Why can’t I sit just here and watch the news?” he said.
“Jacob,” she pleaded. “Please. I can’t concentrate with the TV on. Please give me these couple of hours.”
Finally, he relented. “Fine. I’ll go to the mall. Do whatever you need to, but be done in three hours, because that’s when I’ll be back, and then I expect you to spend the rest of the day with me at my parent’s house. They’ve invited us for dinner.”
“But that’s not until later,” she responded. “It’s only 9:00 now.”
“They want to spend some time with us before dinner, okay?”
“Fine. Just give me a few hours and then we’ll go.”
“Yeah, whatever,” he shot back. “But if you think I’m going to spend every Saturday at the mall or the library, think again. Just be finished and ready to go in three hours.” He got up, grabbed his car keys, and stormed out of the house, slamming the door.
As soon as he drove away, Annie sat down at the computer, prepared to start writing. Instead, what she saw shocked her.
Their desktop system was set up for two users, and Jake always returned it to the login screen when he was finished. But in his haste this morning, he had left it open, and suddenly everything made sense.
Bodog, an online gambling site, was still running. In the middle of the screen a sign was flashing,
“Welcome Back, Jacob Silverman. Our records indicate your credit card has reached its maximum allowed limit. Click here to enter new payment information for full access to this site.”
What? she thought. She knew the credit card they shared had a $50,000 limit. How could it possibly be maxed out? Wait a minute, she thought. Is this where all of our money has been going? She clicked the big red ‘PLAY’ button and another screen started flashing. “WARNING!!!” it read. “Access denied. Submit new credit card information now.”
Her hands shaking in anger, her head exploding in pain, she closed the window and returned to the main screen. She clicked on a folder labeled “Finances” and opened up a spreadsheet marked “Credit Cards.” There were three accounts listed, two of which she knew nothing about. Their shared card showed a balance owed of $50,322. The other two carried lower balances, but were still over $25,000 each. Why didn’t I see these? she wondered. How did he keep them from me?
She then opened another spreadsheet marked “Assets,” which listed all of their investments, each with a balance below $1,000. As she stared at the screen, she felt the blood drain from her body, leaving her light-headed. Her stomach ached as though someone had kicked her.
It all made sense now. This was why he had become so testy and had refused to discuss money with her. He had gambled it all away.
The spreadsheet marked “Net Worth” told the full extent of the horror. Originally over $100,000, their total net worth had dwindled over the last two years to less than $5,000. Not only was all their money gone, but if what she saw was true, they now owed a fortune.
How could he have let this happen? she asked herself. He’s an accountant! He knows the odds against winning at gambling. Once, when she had mentioned wanting to attend a teachers’ conference in Las Vegas, saying how much fun it might be to play the slot machines, he had laughed. “It doesn’t matter what kind of gambling it is -- craps, slots, blackjack, it’s all the same,” he had said. “The house always wins. How do you think they built all those large buildings? They sure didn’t use their own money.”
He was supposed to be so logical, how could he have fallen into that trap? All that talk about saving money, and meanwhile, he’s been doing this? And he made me feel guilty for wanting to write?
Shock gave way to anger. He had betrayed her trust. But the worst thing was that not only had he lied to her for the last two years, but he had hampered her dream.
“You son of a bitch!” she said aloud, pounding her fist on the table. She realized then that her marriage was over, and she had to leave him. If she didn’t, not only would she be sucked into the financial disaster her husband had created, but her spirit and imagination would soon be drained from her, leaving her empty and dried up.
When Jake arrived home a couple of hours later, Annie was still sitting in front of the computer, staring at the “Net Worth” screen.
“How could you?” she screamed when he walked into the living room. “How could you do this to us?”
For the first time since they met, Jacob was speechless. When he finally did talk, he was contrite, something she had never heard from him before. “I’m sorry. I didn’t want to tell you, but we took some bad hits in the stock market. I made some foolish investments,” he said in a soft voice, his eyes averted. “I kept hoping things would turn around.”
“Stop lying to me, Jacob,” she yelled. “I saw the gambling site. Thanks to you, we’re now deep in debt. How could you let this happen?”
Not waiting for an answer, she stood and walked into the bedroom. From the closet, she retrieved a suitcase, and started packing.
“Can I get you another drink?” Annie checked her watch. They were four hours into the five-hour flight, and the attractive attendant was beginning to look tired and haggard.
“Yes, please,” she responded and again reached for her wallet. She saw the photo lying on the tray, and felt the knot still in her stomach. She took a deep breath, trying to control the anger inside her.
“Annie, please. Where are you going?” he pleaded with her. “I’m sorry. I’ll find a way to pay it off, and we can start over.”
She stopped packing and stared at him. “You know, Jake, it’s not the fact that you gambled away all our money. It’s not even the fact that you lied about it and hid the truth from me. You want to know what the final straw is?”
He lowered his head in shame.
Not waiting for his reply, she said, “It’s that you made me feel guilty for wanting to stop working so I could write, even though I kept telling you how important it was to me. Why? Just so you could have more money to gamble with? Well, no more. I’m contacting a lawyer and filing for divorce. And somehow, I’m going to make sure this debt falls on you. You made this mess, you clean it up. As far as I’m concerned, we’re through.”
“Annie, please, listen to me.”
“No,” she yelled. “I’m done listening. I trusted you. ‘Remember our dreams. Visualize them,’ you said. Do you remember that? ‘Write in your spare time,’ you said.”
Trying to compose herself, she breathed deeply and continued. “Well, I listened; I visualized. And do you want to know what I visualized, Jake? I visualized becoming a writer. I visualized doing something I loved. But I put my dreams aside because you said we needed to save money. I even quit that night class because of you.”
She could no longer hold back the tears, and her body began convulsing with sobs. “I trusted you,” she squeaked. “But now I’m done.”
She finished packing her clothes, make-up and what little jewelry she possessed while Jake stood at the foot of the bed tearfully begging her not to leave. But she ignored him and from her bottom dresser drawer, she removed her family photograph album and laid it gingerly on top of her meager belongings. Everything else in the house she left for her soon-to-be-ex-husband, and walked out.
She checked into a Holiday Inn and called Carolyn, the only person who truly understood her need to write, and told her what had happened.
“Come stay with me and Debbie,” her college roommate said. “I told you about her, didn’t I?”
“Yes but I don’t want to be a burden.”
“Don’t be silly, sweetie. You won’t be. She’s really nice. You'll like her. And the best part is, she’s a lawyer, so she’ll be able to give you some good advice. Then, after everything settles down, you can start writing again.
“And you know, the gallery consumes so much of my day and energy, that I haven’t had any time for myself, so this will be an excuse to take some time off. I want you stay with us. Please? The three of us can hang out, go to dinner, and just relax. Whatever you want; whatever you need, I’m here for you.”
“Well, if you’re sure. I don’t want to impose.”
“I’m sure. And it won’t be an imposition, I promise you.”
“Okay. Thanks, Carolyn. I’ll call you back with my flight info.”
“Good. I’ll talk to you soon.”
After hanging up, she had one more phone call to place before making her plane reservations.
“Hello,” the pleasant voice said.
“Hi, Joan. It’s Annie. How are you?”
“Fine, Annie. What’s going on?”
“Joan, I’m sorry to do this to you, but I’m calling to let you know I’m leaving town tomorrow. I’m sorry to leave you in the lurch like this, but something's come up and I have to get out of here,” the distraught woman said, her emotions threatening to overwhelm her.
“Annie? What’s going on?” the school principal asked. “Talk to me; maybe I can help.”
She hesitated, debating whether to offer an explanation. Joan had been a good friend to her, both professionally and personally, giving her tips on preparing her lesson plans, and controlling two unruly kids in her class. Socially, she and Jacob often had dinner with Joan and her husband, Jerry, who were old enough to be their parents.
“I’m leaving Jake,” she told her friend and colleague. “He’s blown all our money on on-line gambling. While he’s lecturing me about the need to save, he’s been squandering our funds. Well, I’ve had it with him and his lies. He dug us into this hole, and he now can dig himself out.”
“Annie, listen to me, please.”
“No,” Annie interrupted. “I'm done listening. I have to get out of here now. There’s only one more week of school left, so hopefully it won’t be too much of a problem to find someone to fill in. I’m sorry, Joan, but I have to go.”
She hung up and called the airlines. She purchased a one-way ticket from Baltimore to San Francisco, using the one credit card that Jacob knew nothing about. She had opened this account about a year ago when she first suspected something was going on. Her mother, despite being the dutiful wife, was also very savvy about money and advised her daughter to keep a separate, “just in case,” account. And as soon as she could, Annie took her mother's advice.
She paid the bills from a separate checking account that he also was unaware of. And because she got home from work earlier than he did, she had been able to intercept the state-ments before he saw them.
She then called her friend to give her the flight information.
“Okay,” Carolyn said. “We’ll meet you at baggage claim. I can’t wait to see you, although I’m sorry it’s under these circumstances.”
“Me too. And I want to thank you for doing this. I really appreciate it. I love you.”
“Love you back. See you tomorrow.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the melodic voice said over the speaker system. “The Captain has turned on the seat belt sign in preparation for landing.”
Annie looked at the photograph one more time, then ripped it into as many pieces as she could, and shoved them into what remained of her drink. She removed her wedding band and engagement ring and put them into her purse. She would sell them when she got to San Francisco. She’d need the money.
Finally, the long plane ride was over, and she disembarked with a small smile on her face and uplifted spirits. She was going to put her past behind her and start a new chapter in her life. She would finally be free to write. And as she hugged Carolyn, she knew everything would be all right.
She sold her wedding band set for $3,200, and used that money to buy a laptop computer for $525, and a used desk for $150, banking the remainder. She took her friend up on her offer to live with her and Debbie, and the three of them turned the basement into a studio apartment. She took a part-time job in a day care center, which left her plenty of time to write.
Six months later, the final divorce decree was signed. In exchange for releasing her from all financial obligations from the gambling debts, she happily signed off on her fifty percent ownership of the house.
Within three years of that plane ride to freedom, as she referred to it, Annie’s book about Arthur and Conrad’s adventures was published and became a best-seller, thanks to Carolyn’s illustrations. Two others were waiting to be edited, and she had ideas for three more.
She purchased a home of her own, not too far from her college friend. And as she sat in her kitchen drinking coffee on the morning following her interview with Matt Lauer from the “Today” show, she heard from Jacob.
“Hi, babe,” he said sweetly.
“Jacob!” she said surprised. “How did you get this number?”
“The internet, darling.”
“What do you want?” she asked warily.
“What makes you think I want anything? I saw you on TV and just wanted to call and congratulate you on your success.” Despite his friendly tone, she sensed something was wrong.
“Thanks. Now, what do you want?”
“Oh, all right,” he said resignedly. “You always could read me, you know that?”
“Yeah, right. Maybe if I had been able to read you better, I would have seen the warning signs. Now I’m only going to ask this one more time, and then I’m hanging up. What do you want?”
“Can you lend me some money? Normally, I wouldn’t have called, but you’re so rich and famous now.” His voice was sheepish and she could imagine him hanging his head in shame.
“You know, Jacob, you really are a piece of work. The answer is no.”
“But you don’t even know how much I want.” He was pleading now. How pathetic she thought.
“It doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t lend you a dollar. Do yourself a favor and go to Gamblers Anonymous.”
“Yeah, I will. I just need to get out from under this debt. All I'm asking for is $10,000. Please, for old time’s sake?”
Although a part of her felt sorry for him, another part wanted to laugh at him. But without a moment’s hesitation, she answered, “No. And don’t ever call me again.” She slammed down the receiver.
“Is everything all right?” the male voice said from the other room.
“Yes, everything is fine.” Annie walked into the study where her boyfriend sat in front of their computer. She came up behind him and wrapped her arms around his shoulders, leaned down and kissed his thick, tattooed neck. He reached up and guided her around the chair until she was sitting on his lap.
“You know, lassie,” he said, running his hands through her long blond hair, “The day you walked into Kitty’s was the best day of my life.”
"Who would have thought that two years later I would see you at my first book signing?”
“Well, when I passed by that bookstore and saw your picture, I knew I had to go back and see you again.”
“Well, I’m glad you did.”
“Me too,” he responded, kissing her. “Any regrets?”
“Not a one,” she said, and kissed him again.