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We all struggle at some point with family, love, or identity issues.

Experience Unfamiliar Withdrawals on Kindle

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About the Book
"With a good pace, really compelling dialog and a myriad of unique characters, Whittenberger shows us that families not only come in different shapes and sizes, but they also come with a unique set of circumstances."
A famous and wealthy lawyer is found murdered in his driveway by his wife Barbara, turning her life upside down. Barbara then discovers that her husband had lost their entire fortune. With nothing but her kids in tow, Barbara will have to learn how to survive for her children and move forward for her own sanity. She begins adapting to her new reality and adjusting her lifestyle and economics to match. With the help of her best friend Myriam, the support of her grown stepson, Alan, and the comfort from her new boss, Stacy, Barbara finds the inner strengths that had always been there. As she builds new relationships based on solid foundations, Barbara will have to decide what kind of woman she wants to be while redefining the norms.
Genres:
Women's Romance Fiction
Women's Empowerment Fiction
Lesbian Romance
Read Time:
119 pages
Format:
Kindle & Kindle Unlimited
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What Readers
Are Saying
"Interesting mix of characters and stories."
-Kathleen M Burke
"This book is a reminder that we really don’t know what’s happening in people’s mind and even the friends that we have do not share everything. Interesting read."
-Flormina
"Thoughtful novella from a promising new writer."
-WhiteZen
" I really enjoyed these very relatable characters and appreciated the tension that the author keeps up all the way through the book."
-Helen Reynolds
"...the story grabs my attention. Can't wait to read more."
-Surprising Read
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About the Author
Susie Whittenberger
Revolutionary and philosopher Jose Marti once said "to find peace and serenity, every man should have a child, plant a tree and write a book." 
Two items down, one book to go.
 My husband has this to say about me: Susie Whittenberger is a full time dreamer, part time obsesser and a couple a times a week, she's a writer. Besides (daydreaming about) writing fiction, her other passions include seamstressing, woodworking, enjoying a nice glass of wine (whilst ignoring her daughter) or a cup of coffee.
 She lives in Fort Lauderdale with her husband, daughter, dog and a few chickens.

            Chapter 1

            Barbara picked up the last box on the floor of what used to be her bedroom. It fit neatly under her arm. She looked around the empty room. The vaulted ceiling, the panoramic windows framing the door to the balcony. Barbara remembered the first time David showed her the house. She remember him tall and wide. But in reality he was barely five feet ten inches. Not her room anymore, she thought, just a room.

            She walked downstairs holding on to the rails of the wrapping mahogany staircase. The air changed with every step she took. By the time she reached the bottom, Barbara was having to take deep breaths, just to keep her balance. Her heart beating was the only thing she could hear as her daughter looked up at her. It took everything Barbara had to keep it together and not start crying again. She didn’t want to start crying again.

            Her daughter, Caitie, was waiting at the bottom in the grand hall. Her son, Jr,  had been sitting on the front steps.

            Are you guys done?” Barbara asked making sure her voice didn’t crack.

Barbara knew they had been done for a while, but she needed to hear them say it. She needed some noise in the big room, if only for it to echo. They both nodded yes. But neither of them verbalized it.

            Good” she said as the three of them just stood there. Clearly she had forgotten that, regardless of anything else, she was talking to teenagers. Even now Barbara wasn’t going to get more than an nod. The emptiness of the room accentuated the sheer size of it. It had never looked as big as right now. A three floor modern structure, with twelve foot ceilings, hard wood floors, exposed bricks, and a pool. David had bought it right before they had Caitie, as a gift. David and Barbara wanted a new place for their new family.

            Alan walked in from the kitchen with another small box and placed it on the mantel. The inside sounded like small metals running into each other, because there wasnt enough room in the box.

            This is the last of it.” Alan said. His eyes locked on Barbara. Alan Tacher was David’s first son, from his first marriage. In his thirties, he had never been married, he liked his younger siblings well enough, but his relationship with his stepmother was strained at best. Barbara and Alan had never had an argument, but after all these years, he had never said more than six words in a row to her.

            Ok. Lets go.” Barbara said.

            The kids walked out first, Alan held the door open for Barbara. Hes brow was frowning, but Barbara wouldnt look at him. The knot on her throat had muted her. This was it. The last of it. Where had the last twenty years gone? How was she walking away with nothing? How would she finish raising them by herself?

            They all got in into Alans SUV, with Jr in the front seat. The silence was too much to take before they had even left the driveway, so Jr turned on the radio and left the dial on whatever news radio station was talking. 

            Is the rest of our stuff at the new house?” Caitie asked in the car to no one in particular.

            What’s left of it, the movers are there now with the stuff.” Barbara said.

            Unloading it. You have to unpack it.” Alan interjected. 

            Barbara had gotten used to referring to their possessions as stuff. She found that it was helping them detach from their belongings, in the event that they lost the rest of them. Just as they had lost most of their lives until now. Caitie and Jr where glad that they had a place of their own again. They had been eager to have a place to call their own, where they could be themselves. Caitie more than anybody. For the last month and some, they had been staying with Myriam, Barbara’s best friend. Myriam’s husband had been nice and their son Wilson was Jr’s best friend. Barbara and the kid’s house, along with everything in it,  had been seized by the Government. 

            Myriam was Barbaras closest friend. They had met while the boys were still infants at some local Mommy and Me Class. Caitie had never really care for her, and always thought that Myriam had too many opinions of Barbaras life, even before anything had come to light.

            Originally, when Myriam offered her house, Barbara accepted the offer, just so the kids wouldnt have to change schools. At first, Barbara didn’t have any answers for most of the questions being thrown at her, but Myriam was the only offer she had on the table, besides having to pay for a hotel with money they didn’t have or move back to her parents house, about eight hours north. A few weeks of the families living together had proven to be the best idea for the moment but not really workable for the long term. The boys barely got any homework done, because of all the gaming. Both Barbara and Myriam allowed it, to keep Jr’s mind occupy, and not let him get too depressed. Caitie had to share a room with her mom and they both didn’t like it. Barbara could hear Caitie sobbing in the middle of the night and Barbara hadn’t been able to be alone with her own thoughts in weeks. Her head spun every time she got in the shower. They were all ready to have their own space back. The last two months had been a storm of nothing but bad news, interrogations, Federal Agents watching them and no cash on hand.

            The morning the officers came storming in, before anybody was awake, was something Barbara would never forget. The day before, Alan had gone with her to recoup all the left over possessions from David’s body, so Barbara had taken a sleeping pill to help her relax. It seem like she had barely closed her eyes when she heard,

            “Ma’am, I need you to wake up.” The voice of a woman said as she shook the bed with her foot. At the second ma’am, Barbara stood straight up and asked in a panic,            

            “Where are my kids?

            Maam, we need you to get up and get dressed. You need to come with us.” the same woman said, flashing some badge.

 With her head in a fog, Barbara got dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, and ran to the hallway where she found the kids also in a panic state standing there. Waiting for her.       “What’s going on?” Jr asked, an officer holding his arm.

            “Mom?” Caitie interjected.

            “Let them go. They’re both underage.” Alan managed to say with his teeth clenched. He was also standing in the hall. The officers let go of the kids as Barbara walked towards them. Caitie and Jr, both clenched to their mother.

            “Can anybody tell me what’s going on? Please.” Barbara said.

            “Ma’am, you’re being taken in for questioning. Nobody is being arrested. All three of you are persons of interest.  You’re welcome to call a lawyer whenever you want.” The officer said. Then look around the hall “I’m assuming you already have a lawyer.”he said.

            Everyone was then taken downstairs. As they walked out of the house, Barbara saw a few flashing cameras pointed their way. The three of them and Alan had to shield their eyes from the lights. It was morning, but the sun hadn’t come up. It all seem very surreal. Was she still dreaming?

Barbara, the kids and Alan were put in an un marked van and taken to a building downtown.

            “Where are you taking us?” Barbara asked in the car.

            “We need to question you about your husbands business dealings”, the female officer said.

            “I don’t know anything about David’s deals,” Barbara responded immediately.

            “Great.” The officer chuckled “then, I’ll just turn this car around and let you folks go about your day. Sorry for any inconvenience.” The officer finished. The driver laughed shaking his head at his comments. Barbara thought it would be better to stay quiet. She called the only lawyer that she knew, Myriam.

            Once they arrived, they were taken to a room with a table and some chairs, but nothing else, where Myriam was already waiting for them. Alan was taken to a separate room. The kids where questioned with their mother there, but when it was Barbara’s turn, they took the kids away. Barbara had hated that. Later she learned that they just took them to a room full of toys for little kids. What had seem like an eternity for her, it had only been two hours, before the officers realized that she really didnt know anything. Barbara felt like an idiot, when she had to answer that,

            “I know where David’s office was. That’s it.”

            It dawned on her, that she really hadn’t know the man she had been married to for the better part of the last two decades.

            At first, the house would be locked down until the feds were able to asses the value of certain items, but not before Barbara could grab some clothes for her and the kids while officers watched that she didnt take any paperwork, jewelry or anything of value. So for the first few weeks, Barbara and the kids stayed with Myriam, while Alan stayed at a hotel.

            Myriam and Barbara had known each other for almost fifteen years and they where good friends. Myriam drove them back to her home, and told them to stay there and make themselves at home. The first night Myriam explained to them that David had been embezzling money, and now they would probably be loosing everything.

            “How much money?” Barbara asked

            “Well, I can’t tell for sure, but it looks like he spent all the money,” Myriam answered as she went through some of the charges filed against Barbara’s late husband.

            “Kids could you give us a minute?” James asked them. Jr and Caitie looked at Barbara. She nodded.

            “Barbara, this is serious.” James said still reading some of the charges. “I’m a business lawyer, and Myriam is a family attorney, we can help, but we should look for a criminal attorney as well. How much did you know?” Myriam asked. Barbara started crying, not having an answer.

            “I’m an idiot. I didn’t know a thing.” She managed to say in between sobs. 

The first night Barbara, Caitie and Jr laid down on the same bed, not being able to sleep.

            “How long before we get to go home?” Caitie asked.

            I dont know, sweetheart... lets just be glad we have a place to stay.” Barbara managed to say. And they all started to cry in silence.

In the next few days Barbara didnt know how to be more thankful to Myriam and James while also being embarrassed of the handout.

            Jr had begged her not to make him change schools or go anywhere, so staying with Myriam wasn’t all bad. Caitie hadnt asked about her college fund. They all knew it was gone. It was the last of the summer vacation. It would be another two weeks before the kids would have to go back. Barbara was counting on that time for the news to die down. Maybe the kids wouldn’t have such hard time at school with all the other kids. It was Caitie’s senior year, too. Barbara wondered how she would pay for everything that came with that. In the mean time, Myriam had plenty of room, and would be fine to have them around until further notice.

            After finding David dead, and the consequent downfall, Barbara had very little energy to argue about anything and just went with the flow. The service of Davids funeral had had no viewing and no reception. Barbara hadnt made an announcement and it was just the four of them, Barbara and the three offspring picking up the ashes. Newspapers had been flooded with the news that multi millionaire David Tacher had been an embezzler and Barbara didnt want his name in the paper anymore. After the service, they all went to a local, cheap diner for some pancakes.

            “How long do you think the investigation will take?” Alan asked Barbara. Everyone had been pretty quiet, barely mentioning what they were going to order.

            “I have no idea.” Barbara answered.

            “Ok, well, I can’t live in a hotel for much longer. I was looking at a property to rent short term, in the neighborhood.” Alan said

            I can work from here until everything gets sorted out and you guys are ok.” He said. Everyone looked at him. Alan hadn’t lived in the same town since he went to college twelve years ago. He wasn’t a big family man, but he did call for the holidays and that had been the extent of their communication.

            Why would you do that?” Barbara asked

            “Because the house is big enough for all of us. You’ve been living at Myriam’s for two weeks, maybe you would want to have your own space again, “ Alan said.

            “Yes, please,” Caitie said, pretty much all in one word.

            “Do we have to change schools?” Jr chimed in right away.

            “Why are you doing this?” Barbara asked, shocked and taken a back.

            Im pretty sure you guys need my help.” Alan had realized that he couldnt just leave them to their own devices. Barbara had just been focusing on one day at a time.

            I dont know about that Alan.” Barbara said

            You want to stay with Myriam?” he asked.

            Please mom, I would like to move out of there.” Caitie interjected.

            How come? Myriam has been nothing but helpful and understanding with us.” Barbara said

            I just want our own space. I would like to have my own room. Is that ok?” Caitie asked.

            “You don’t even know if you're getting your own room.” Jr said without looking up from his device. Caitie looked at Alan, who nodded rolling his eyes at Jr. Everybody turned to Barbara, trying to sip her coffee.

            “Sure. If that’s what everyone wants, I don’t see why not. Myriam will be sad. She likes it that we’re there for some reason.” Barbara said.

            “Yeah, she’s attached to you.” Said Caitie.

            In the next week, Barbara packed their few belongings and moved the kids for the second time, but now at least she wouldnt feel like a third wheel. As predicted, Myriam hadnt liked the idea.

            “Are you sure about this? Is it still in the same school district? You know, you guys don’t bother us at all and Wilson likes having a pseudo brother,” Myriam had argued. The last night at the house, after the kids had gotten to sleep, Barbara had to sit Myriam down with a glass of wine.

            “Myriam, I love you, and I’m so grateful for everything. We need to start moving forward,” Barbara said.

            “Moving to a rental isn’t necessarily forward, and you need a lot more support than what Alan might be able to give. All of you guys do,” Myriam said.

            “It is a move forward for us, right now,” Barbara said.

            “OK. But please know that you can always come back,” Myriam replied.

Myriam was almost in tears. In the short time that they had lived together, they had really connected and bonded. Every afternoon, Myriam got home and just talking to Barbara was like breath of fresh air.

            “I know. Thank you for... everything, and we’re still going to see each other every other day,” Barbara finished.

            I know... Im just going to miss you.” Myriam said.

            “Im only going down the street.... if you want during the week, when I’m not working, Ill come here when the boys are done with school, and ask you about your day” Barbara said as the ladies hugged good bye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2

            The house that Alan had rented was a Bungalow style home with three bedrooms, two bathroom and a loft. Nothing like the mansion they had lived in with a pool and a full time housekeeper. It was a few blocks away from Myriam, but still in the same school district, with a fenced in yard, nothing too glamorous, already furnished with cheap assembled yourself type furniture. For an entire weekend they had gone back and forth from Myriam’s house and their previous home, taking their stuff to the new house. Mostly clothes and stuff of no value that couldn’t be auctioned off.

            Alan would be sleeping in the loft, after offering the master bedroom to Barbara. There’s no need for me to have my own room, and youre paying the rent” she said.

            True, but you probably could use the privacy. I’m not bringing anybody home,” Alan answered.

            Alan and Barbara had never been close, and their conversations were simple statements of facts. A tactic that David had encourage and Barbara had never understood. She had alway tried to get closer to Alan, but David hadn’t helped, stating that he didn’t want Alan to think that she was replacing his mother.

            “I’m sure he knows that, but I would like to get to know him better,” Barbara had argued.

            “Let’s give him some time and space. This is probably to much for him anyways,” David had said.

            So for the time Alan had lived at home before going to college, they remained distant.

            As the four of them made their way around the house, Alan moved a small desk that was in the kitchen to the loft and set up shop there. Caitie picked the smaller of the two rooms specifically to avoid an argument with Jr.

            “The big room has a pink mirror. I’m sure that was meant for you.” Jr said.

            “All right, if you insist.” Caitie went in and closed the door behind her. Finally some solitude.

            When the news cycle started reporting the death of David Tacher, all four of them where scared of the backlash. Besides the loss of everything, now they had to answer for David’s thefts and affairs. The idea of being confronted petrified Caitie.

            Have you seen the news, Mom? Please. Let’s go far from here” Caitie said.

            “Ive spoken to your school, and they have you protected. They’ll be zero tolerance for any mention of the events...Caitie, we don’t have anywhere else to go.”

            “Mom, please withdraw me,” Caitie said.

            Caitie, I have a job, and I wouldn’t know where to begin to homeschool you,” Barbara said

            Ill get a job too, and I can probably pass the GED” Caitie argued.

            No. Youll finish high school with your friends that love you. And youll go to college just like planned.” Barbara had tried to comfort her. But Caitie just got really mad.

            “Really mom? How? With what money?” Caitie asked

            “I don’t know. We will figure it out. We have you’re entire senior year and right now, I can only worry about what’s happening now,” Barbara said, but before she could change the subject, she noticed Caitie’s stare.

            “How could you not known? What where you doing?” Caitie asked her mother that night. Barbara was in shock and left speechless.

            “I dont know. I was busy with my own life I guess,” Barbara said. “If you’re trying to hurt me, you’re doing a good job, I didn’t ignore the signs on purpose. Caitie, I didn’t want anything like this to happen, a Im sorry it did,” Barbara said and walked out of the room.

            For the rest of her senior year, Caitie decided to quit most of her extracurricular activities and get a job at a local daycare, during after school hours. Her friend recommended her for her baby sisters’ daycare. Barbara hadn’t loved the idea, but agreed anyways. That would give her a sense of helping and usefulness, not to mention, cash.

            Myriam had offered Barbara a job at her firm, but Barbara decline stating a multitude of reasons. Including that Barbara didn’t want to be gone all day, just while the kids where at school. But in reality, Barbara hadn’t worked in almost twenty years and she never had a real job to begin with. Some stuff she would be able to hack, but not most of it. Barbara knew that she needed something with no real responsibilities and very little stress.

            While staying with them, Barbara learned that James took really good care of his heath and diet. James practiced yoga and ran every day. Through out the years, Myriam had complained to Barbara on numerous occasions about how much hotter he looked than her.

                        “I just don’t get it. I rather sleep in, and he gets up to run. Just to run. Doesn’t he feel old?” Myriam said.

            “Maybe that’s it. He wants to feel younger.” Barbara played devil’s advocate on most of the occasions.

            “He wants to look younger, that’s for sure,” Myriam said

            “Then work out with him, or try to eat healthier,” Barbara had always suggested.

            “I’m too tired to workout, and I have too much work to do to learn how to eat better, I like pasta!” Myriam had said and they both chuckled.

            While staying with them, James had invited Barbara to come to a yoga class with him. Just to get her out of the house. Myriam had also insisted that she go.

            “It will help clear your mind.” Myriam said

            “Have you ever been?” Barbara asked

            “No. But that’s what James keeps saying,” Myriam said.

            Barbara consented, having nothing better to do, since Myriam and James were the only friends she had left. Some of her old friends called to offer condolences, but the majority of them just stayed away. 

            Even the few friends that Barbara had in common with Myriam, didnt ask about her. To a certain degree, people were blaming Barbara for David having an illicit affair and her not knowing. After all, Barbara had been the trophy wife. How did she not keep her husband satisfied? By the time she moved with Alan, Myriam was her only friend left.

            So one time, Barbara went with James to the yoga studio. After the class, James treated her to a cleansing juice with too much ginger for her taste, but still. It was the gesture that counted. It was nice and it gave her a few minutes of peace. The yoga instructor came by and James motioned to her to sit with them.

            “You’re the instructor, that was a great class,” Barbara said.

            “This is Stacey. She owns the place,” James introduced her, “And this is our friend Barbara,” James finished.

            “Is nice to meet you, I’ve heard a little bit and I’m sorry for what you’re going through,” Said Stacey. Barbara smiled and nodded, “Thanks,”

            Stacey Wyatt was a forty year old woman, with long black hair, slim but curved,  very fit and pretty. Stacey smiled at lot, looked at you in the eyes, talked with her hands and didn’t have much of a filter.

            “I noticed your help wanted sign. May I ask, what are you looking for?” Barbara asked, at first, just to change the topic.

            “Oh, Emily, my assistant, is going to school in a few weeks and I need a replacement. She’s been my right hand for so long. I wouldn’t know what to do just myself.” Stacey said.

            “What are the hours like?” Barbara asked

            “Pretty flexible actually, I mostly need someone to watch the store and the juice bar while the classes are in session, a little stocking the shelves and a little juicing,” Stacey said, and Emily interrupted,

            “The position is mostly so Stacey has someone to talk to!” She said out loud from the bar, making every one laugh.

            “Why, do you know someone?” Stacey asked

            “Yes. Me. I need a job.” Barbara said out of nowhere.

            “I don’t know how much James has mentioned me-“ Barbara was saying when Stacey put a hand up.

            “I understand you’re going trough some stuff. Some serious stuff. You don’t have to explain, Don’t worry about it.” Stacey said. “Do you have any experience in a yoga studio?” Stacey asked

            “Other than attending them, I don’t have any experience... with anything really,” Barbara said. Stacey nodded.

            “OK. It really isn’t hard to learn. But I can’t pay you a lot. Pocket cash mostly, but if that’s ok, sure. At least I’ll know that you’re reliable, when can you start?” Stacey said.

            “Really? You’re hiring me? Great! One thing down about a million and a half to go.” Barbara said. And with that she was hired.

            “Can you come tomorrow? Emily and I will show you the store and the classes. Again, it really isn’t that hard. We make a living mostly from the classes but the juice bar is what gets people in the door.” Stacey said.

            “I’ll be here tomorrow bright and early, what should I wear?.” Barbara asked.

            “Workout comfortable clothes. If we get a chance, you can do the classes with me so you can learn the routine” Stacey answered.

            “Congratulations!” James said and all three of them lifted their drinks and clinked their cups. “I wish all my job interviews had been this easy,” James added.

            They chatted for a few more minutes, but James had to work so they left. Once back at Myriam’s house, Barbara began to think about what had just happened. Pride. That was what Barbara felt, for the first time in a long time. And the only happy felling she had had since David’s death. Never had it occurred to her to do that before. She put herself out there, without fear or knowledge of the outcome and it had paid off.

That night, she told Myriam what she had done.

            “Really? Good for you.” Myriam said, “Tell me about this woman, Stacey,” Myriam said

            “Well, she seems nice. She’s very welcoming, and outgoing,” Barbara answered and Myriam thought about it for a minute.

            “Can I ask you for a favor?” Myriam continued.

            “Myriam, I’m living in your house with my two kids, while you represent me because my dead husband committed federal crimes. You can ask me for anything,” Barbara answered.

            “I don’t know how to ask, and I’m probably overreacting, but could you keep me in the loop as to how friendly James is to Stacey?” Myriam said. Barbara didn’t have to ask for anything more. She knew exactly what Myriam meant.

            “Do you think something is off?” Barbara asked

            “It’s probably in my head, but he goes to yoga four and five days a week. And really, how much healthier does he need to be?” Myriam said

            “Al right. I’ll keep my eyes opened.” Barbara said.

            The next morning, Barbara got up bright and early, and for the first time since she had the kids, she was going to work. The kids liked the idea, so she wouldn’t be at home all day worrying about what the government might say or do.

            Stacey seemed nice. A big ball of energy walking around. Barbara didn’t know if she was always this high energy or if she was just playing a part because it was Barbara’s first day. Emily was very sweet and went through all the juicing information while Stacey taught the first few classes.

            “Does she always have this amount of energy?” Barbara asked Emily.

            “Yes. She does.” Emily said with her eyes wide open. “and if you don’t feel like chatting then don’t worry, either let her tire herself out, or just tell her. Stacey knows that she can be a bit high energy sometimes for us mere mortals.” Emily said and they both laughed.

            “Can I say something?” Emily said. Barbara nodded. “I’m sorry your husband did that to you. That was shitty.” Emily said

            “Yes. It was.” Barbara said and smiled.

            They continued on. The next few weeks were easy and Barbara didn’t even have to go in every day. Stacey began trusting Barbara with more responsibilities and the two ladies began sharing more personal details. Mostly Stacey. Stacey was a chatterer. She talked to all the customers, trying to relate in some way or another, plus she tried to remember every one’s first name. When there was no one in the shop or the studio, Stacey would continue telling Barbara all about herself and the shop.

            Stacey had opened the shop a couple of years ago, once her daughter, Renee, was old enough to go to school. Stacey told her about her husband, Oliver, who traveled a lot for work, and while hes home every weekend, it’s still hard on her and their daughter, Renee. Stacey forgot to mention, on purpose, that they had separated a while back.

            During the recession, Stacey and Oliver had invested in a commercial property. When the tenant didn’t want to renew his lease, Stacey decided to open the shop. Stacey had asked Oliver to change jobs so he wouldnt have to travel, or at the very least, not travel as much. At first Oliver resisted because he genuinely loved his job, but later said that he would start looking for something else. When a few months had passed, Stacey got restless. Stacey realized that Oliver hadn’t even began looking for a new job. One weekend, Stacey finally confronted him,

            “Tell me what’s going on.” Stacey had said “you hate traveling.” Oliver looked at Stacey with tears in his eyes.

            “I met someone.” he whispered.

Stacey looked at the wine glass in her hand, goose pumps began appearing out of nowhere, it was a beautiful night out on their porch.

            “What happened?” Stacey asked calmer than she thought she would ever be in this situation,

            “Nothing physical has ever happened,” Oliver immediately responded “and she left the company.”

            “Why did she leave?” Stacey asked

            “Because she asked me to leave you and I said no. She’s in love with me and she thought it would be emotionally healthier to leave.” Oliver said

            “She’s in love with you. How about you? You’re sitting there crying.” Stacey was now managing to feel how angry she was getting

            “I don’t want to loose you...” Oliver said.

Tears began running down Stacey’s cheeks, as she got up from her chair.

            “That doesn’t answer my questions, but please sleep in the guest room.” Stacey said as she walked away. Oliver tried calling after her but either she didn’t hear him or ignored him.

            A few days after, Stacey asked for a trial separation to which Oliver agreed, with the condition that he would still have Renee every weekend. So they basically had the same arrangement than before except that now, they weren’t having sex. While hard at first, having to fake it in front of Renee held them together longer than either one was expecting and force them to talk about what had happened. Oliver wanted to move forward, and not that Stacey had forgotten what had happened, but in order to start again Stacey wanted every single one of her questions answered with nothing but the truth.

            “First of all, it’s not that I doubt your love for me or this family. Is that she was worth you lying to me for.” Stacey had set up as a first boundary.

            “I will never see her again.” Oliver responded.

            “If she ever shows up in your life again, it would destroy any good will that we might have build.” Stacey said.

            That had been their first agreement, and for a while Stacey asked Oliver all kinds of questions who, in his defense, answered all of them to the best of his ability.

            “How long had it been going on?” Stacey asked.

            “Two months,” Oliver answered.

            “How come nothing physical happened?” Stacey asked

            “I couldn’t bring myself to do it. She wanted to, and we did have several opportunities,” Oliver answered.

            “Were you ever messaging her while at home with us?” Stacey asked .

            “Yes. But it had started as a work question.”

            “How did it start?”

            “How does any of this start? I don’t know, she thought I was funny and we became friends fast and then we just hung out with each other,”

            “And how did it get so deep?” Stacey asked

            “I don’t know. We talked about everything,” Oliver answered.

            “Is she very smart, or funny or simply amazing? Is she beautiful?”

            “No. She isn’t. She was just there.” Oliver tried reassuring Stacey.

            “There has to be something about her, you feel things for her,”

            “She’s nice and understanding, and I don’t feel the same way I feel about you,” he said and ask “how come you didn’t notice before?”

            “I don’t know. Maybe I was distracted with the store and the classes. We had agreed that now it would be my chance to build something. I trusted you while I focused on what I wanted to do” Stacey was raising her voice. “You want to keep going down this road? I didn’t noticed because I thought you were working,” Stacey said getting angrier. “That question is out of line and the only way you could find, to share the responsibility of your breach of trust.,” she said.

            While trying to stay civil with each other, some of their conversations ended in arguments, but most of them ended with a more consensual compromise.

            As time past, Stacey hadn’t agreed to him coming back, nor had she dismissed the separation, but after a few weeks, they begin sleeping in the same room again. Slowly, they began opening up, finding a new place for their relationship to move forward. And they were becoming more honest with each other than ever before. Of course Stacey hadn’t said any of this to Barbara.

            It was around the same time, that James had began attending Stacey’s classes more frequently. James presence at the shop and, how often he would stop by, was noticed. Their banter was friendly and funny. A few times after class, James would sit down with one of the smoothies. And soon Stacey began keeping him company. First asking for some criticism for the class and then his opinion on hypothetical questions. Their friendship kept growing. It grew enough that in order to keep in line with their new found line of communication, Stacey decided to tell Oliver all about James. Not as a crush, but as a new friend. Oliver listened, as Stacey related everything that she and James had talked about, including his wife, Myriam.

            As the weeks passed, Barbara realized that Stacey and James were close friends, and mostly confidants for each other. One morning, Barbara got to work and noticed that James was already there, but the next class didnt start for another twenty minutes. That night Barbara canceled a date with Myriam. They were meant to go for a glass of wine and instead Barbara decided to stay at home with the kids and Alan, cooking dinner.

            “Hey. I’m going to have to cancel tonight.” Barbara said.

            “Really? How come?” Myriam asked.

            “I’m exhausted and Caitie wants to have dinner.” Barbara said. She had lied about being that tired but Caitie did want her to stay at home with them. Also, besides just keeping an eye on James, Barbara was beginning to see that Myriam wanted a full on spy at the store. She felt obligated to Myriam because of everything she had done for them, but she was also starting to feel a bit of a loyalty toward Stacey. Barbara was pretty sure that Stacey wasn’t a marriage breaker. But then again, her judgement might have been off.

            That Thursday afternoon, Oliver got back in town, as usual. He stopped by the shop to pick up Renee, who was just hanging out. Of course being married to the owner came with benefits, so Oliver just walked to the back office.

            “Your husband is in your office.” Barbara said to Stacey who was coming back to the floor from the storage. Stacey smiled and looked back there. Barbara watched as Stacey greeted him with a smile and a peck on the lips. She read Stacey’s lips as she said you’re home. Oliver had responded with a I’m so happy to be home. Barbara just smiled to herself as she remembered that James had left pretty quickly that morning after class.

            Oliver and Stacey seemed like they actually got along very well, at least to Barbara. Plus, Stacey was just an open book and happy person. Genuinely interested in other’s well being and Barbara noticed how lovely Stacey and Oliver were with each other.

            “So, this weekend Oliver and I are taking Renee to beach.” Stacey said to Barbara as they were closing shop on Friday. “As you’ve probably already noticed, past Saturday noon, there really isn’t enough action during the weekends to keep the studio open. Some people come to get juices, but there’s no guarantee.”

            “Yeah, I noticed that,” Barbara responded.

            “So, I was thinking you can take the weekend for yourself. Have fun with the kids.” Stacey said locking the door.

             “Are you sure?” Barbara asked.

            “Yeah, I’ll come in for the classes on Saturday morning, but I’ll close before noon and head south,” Stacey said

            “Ok. Thanks. Have fun,” Barbara said. The two ladies hugged goodbye, and went about their plans. Barbara got into her car and immediately texted Myriam to hang out. Of course! Myriam texted back in a second. 

            Monday morning came around and sure enough James was back at the store.

            “How was your weekend?” He asked Stacey.

            “Great. We took the kid to the beach and camped out there until Sund-” but James interrupted her lifting his hand and closing his eyes. Stacey smiled .

            “What?” She asked.

            “I’m not sure I want to listened to your magical family weekend...” James answered.

            “Why? How was your weekend?” She asked.

            “it sucked.” James replied

            “How come?” Stacey asked and lowering his voice James answered

            “We fought the entire time. At one point I just grabbed Wilson and went to the movies, followed by dinner and some video game shopping... just to stay out of the house,” James said.

            “Ouch.” was all Stacey could offer.

            Barbara was restocking a shelf. She knew why James had lowered his voice. Myriam had called her the night before to tell her all about it. Apparently, James and Myriam went out on Friday for a date night, and it had completely back fired, and Saturday, Myriam wanted to work while James wanted to go out as a family with Wilson. Barbara remembered when she first started having an emotional connection with David. He would tell her all about how he got married so young and had a kid right away. David would tell her all about how all he did with his wife was argue. David had to work so hard just to keep them above water but hes wife didnt understand and just complained about him not spending any time at home. Barbara had never met David’s first wife. She had died of cancer. After everything came to light, Barbara wondered what David had told his new mistresses. Or if he had done it before and how many times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3

            David Tacher had been a big time business attorney following in his father, Joseph’s footsteps. Specializing in business acquisitions, David had started working at his father’s firm after graduating law school, but after a few short years, he got invited to interview for a bigger firm across country. Joseph and David talked about it, and Joseph decided that it would be good for David to venture out on his own. Joseph and his partners were getting older and wanted to wind down their practice, not expand it, so everyone was on the same page and happy for David. David was young and full of energy and new ideas.

            David interviewed and got the job. The new firm was in Portland, and David welcome the change of scenery. David was able to take one of the junior partners with him from his father’s firm, making it easier for his father to retire. Within no time, David had made a name for himself as an excellent negotiator because he was so charismatic and knowledgeable. David did have a great personality and he could talk to anybody with no reservations. David was also getting a reputation as a ladies player. Not wanting to get a reputation within his field of practice as irresponsible or unreliable, David began dating more seriously. He was somewhat in a rebound from his college girlfriend and one of the older partners set him up with his niece, Carol. Carol was a nice, smart and respectable young woman that everyone already knew and liked. Carol had been on the social circle for a little while. David knew, that as soon as he agreed to take her out, the relationship would have to be monogamous, serious and with a future in their sights. Wanting to focus on his work, David agreed and him and Carol began seeing each other on a regular basis. Following all the society rules, they dated for a year and a half, then they got engaged. A full year later they were married in a big beautiful wedding at Napa Valley. A quick honeymoon to Hawaii, gifted to them by his parents, was the icing on the cake for the happy couple. Their entire future planned and ready to be executed, like a playbook.

            Alan came about two years after, and life went pretty seamlessly for a long time.

In the mean time, David’s practice was growing at an exponential speed. As time passed, David gained a reputation of a master negotiator and the go-to guy for mergers and acquisitions. His work kept him busy and traveling. As far as Carol, she was raising Alan, and keeping a nice little social life for herself, and when ever he was available, for David. She wasn’t too demanding and always knew that David’s work came first. Carol was very proud of her over achieving husband and of her well behaved son.

            David was made a senior partner at his firm, which included a nice big office, in a very expensive building, with only the clients that he wanted to work with. Everything was looking great. David and Carol had a nice house, a good kid, two vacations a year, and life was settling down as they were getting older. That’s when Carol got her diagnosis. Terminal cancer. Alan had been with her when the doctor told her, but David was attending a gala in Seattle.

            As soon as David came back and found out about Carol, she began treatment. They both knew that it was mainly to extend her life, not to beat the cancer. but they tried anyways, and hoped all the same. They discussed Alan’s future and Carol express her concern for David’s future as well.

            “I want you to meet someone and get married fast. Don’t dwell on me too much,” Carol said.

            “Alan is not going to love that,” David said.

            “No, he will not. But he will be gone to college before you know it,” Carol said.

            “I’m sorry you’re going through this,” David said.

            “Did I make you happy?” She asked

            “Of course,” he said “why would you ask that?”

            “Because I know I wasn’t your first choice. But I loved you and I loved our son,” she said.

            It was true. Carol hadn’t been his first choice, but it had been the right choice. Having the background of a perfect family had afforded him the time and availability to go and kill it as a lawyer and climb the business latter. Carol had been a wonderful house wife who didn’t question his availability or his reasons, but supported all his decisions, giving him the room he needed. It was also true that, while David had grown to appreciate and love his wife, he had never been in love with her. David couldn’t bring himself to tell her that he had already met someone else, Barbara.

            David had had affairs through out his marriage but only short term and far away. It wasn’t until Barbara that the thought of starting over even entered his mind. Barbara was younger than him by about fifteen years. Light hearted and fun, Barbara was smart and beautiful, and had quickly fallen for David.

            They had met at a business function, where they danced and had a couple of drinks. Before the night was over, Barbara was crushing very hard and David was smitten. They had a nice time and exchanged numbers to meet for coffee before David had to return to Portland. It was at the coffee date that David told Barbara that he was married. Barbara was shocked but kept her cool.

            “I’m sorry to hear that, David, but I’m not a mistress,” Barbara said.

            “My wife and I... we were pretty much an arranged marriage,” he said.

            “As nice as it was to meet you, I’m not getting in the middle of anything,” Barbara said. But she did agree to see him again the next time he was in town on business. At the end of the coffee, as they were saying until next time with a hug, David graced her lips with his. But Barbara pushed back.

            “David, I like you. But not like this,” she said.

            “Can we stay in touch? Just emails,” he asked. To which Barbara agreed, on the condition that he understood that it was just as friends.

            “Ok. I’ll see you next time.” David said and he returned to Portland.

            Within a few weeks, Carol was in the hospital. But David and Barbara were corresponding, via email, every day. Their friendship grew a little deeper and a little stronger as they shared small intimate details of their daily lives with each email. They were no longer strangers and the age difference didn’t seem like an issue. Their communication increased with each day. As they got closer, if only emotionally, David finally told Barbara that Carol was dying. Barbara, got mad, at first.

            “Why hadn’t you told me?” Barbara questioned him.

            “I wanted you to know me for me and not feel sorry for me,” David said on their weekly pre planned phone call.

            “David, first of all, I’m sorry about your wife. I know you guys weren’t in love, but you did share a life together,” she said. “Your wife is on her death bed and you’re talking to me... I’m not ok with that David,” Barbara told him over the phone.

            “You’re right. I’m sorry. It’s just that you’re the only bright light at the end of this very dark tunnel...” David said with almost tears in his eyes. “Talking to you is what’s kept me going strong for Alan. I’m sorry.”

            “Please don’t say that... I should hang up.” Barbara said

            “Please don’t... Let’s change the subject. Tell me about your day. What did you do this week?” he asked, trying to keep her on the line. But Barbara wasn’t having it.

            “Please go take care of Alan... and I’ll call you later,” she said and with that, she hung up. Barbara felt terrible and guilty. She was crazy about David, but didn’t want to wish anybody any harm and now she knew that Carol would be gone soon. The mixture of emotions confused Barbara, and, even if only temporarily, she did considered walking away from David, but her feelings for him were too strong. Barbara wanted to see David.

            A few weeks later, Carol died. Not having received an email or a call from David in a while, Barbara decided to reach out. Barbara did like him, and was concerned for his wife and their child. David told Barbara what had happened, apologized for not calling and asked her to please come down to Portland.

            “I’m so sorry for your loss, David,” Barbara said over the phone.

            “I’m sorry I haven’t called. I’ve been trying to deal with everything down here,” David said.

            “Please. Don’t worry about that. Is there anything I can help you with?” Barbara asked.

            “I could use your company,” he said.

            “I don’t know, David, I don’t want to impose,” Barbara said.

            “You wouldn’t be imposing, and I just need someone to talk to,” David implored.

            “OK...ok. I’ll drive down this weekend...” she answered.

            “Please, come down now...” he said.

            “I don’t have the time off from work,” she answered.

            “I’ll help you out, just please come,” David said.

            Barbara agreed to come down and be his support at the funeral. The funeral and reception had been arranged for that weekend. During the funeral, Barbara introduced herself as an old friend of David’s, since nobody had met her before, but Barbara was so nice and sweet that nobody really thought anything of it. Except for Alan. Alan had overheard his father on the phone with Barbara. At the funeral, Alan saw them hugging and giving each other a very telling look.

            Without much of a mourning period, or without talking to Alan about it, David began seeing Barbara on a regular basis. Barbara began driving down from Olympia, pretty much every weekend and in less than a year after the funeral, she had moved to Portland. A few months after that, David married Barbara, in a small ceremony by the beach. Alan hadn’t said anything about it. Barbara tried to become his friend. She knew she couldn’t be a parent figure, because she was only ten years older. As much as she tried, Alan wouldn’t let her too much into his life.

            Things moved forward, smooth enough. It appeared that David had found someone after the death of his wife and Barbara seemed to be filling Carol’s shoes. David moved on from Carol, and within  a few years he and Barbara had two kids, Caitie and Jr. As soon as he could, Alan took off for college, out of state. He came back to visit during his freshmen year but that was the last time he came home. Alan decided not to return after graduation, having gotten a job oversees. David, Barbara and the kids, had their own lives and barely missed Alan.

            But their happy family life was interrupted. Soon after the first decade of marriage, Barbara began noticing small changes here and there in Davids attitude. David bought a different cologne, began working later and later, and on the weekends. While none of this would have been a problem individually, Barbara got very suspicious when David forgot one of her birthdays. She knew he had purchased a very nice black pearl necklace, but he never gave it to her. That morning, after the kids had left for school but before David had left for work, Barbara asked him to stay, because they needed to talk.

            “Ok, but make it quick, I have a long day,” David said.

            “My birthday was yesterday.” Barbara said

            “Oh honey! I’m so sorry! Between work and the clients, it must have slipped my mind,” David apologized profusely, but when he went to hug her, Barbara stopped him.

            “Then who did you buy this necklace for?” Barbara asked, holding a printed  receipt.

            David froze. He grabbed the receipt and Barbara watched as the blood from his face drained, his mouth opened and closed for the longest few seconds and then he sat back on his chair, with the paper still on his hands.

            “You’ve been having an affair, haven’t you?” She asked him

            “I’m sorry,” he said. David looked up at her, and began crying.

            “Please don’t leave me. I love you, you’re the love of my life. Please, Barbara, think of the kids,” David pleaded.

            “We need to talk to a counselor, then we’ll see,” replied Barbara.

            As mad as Barbara was, she wasn’t about to breakup her family for what she thought was a small indiscretion. Barbara loved her husband. David was the father of her children and the only man she had ever loved. In the last decade, they had built a nice life for themselves. Barbara discarded the incident as superficial and purely motivated out of boredom. They went to counseling for a year, and at first it seemed that they had worked out their troubles. They even went on a second honeymoon.

            But it wasn’t enough for David. Soon after he and Barbara stopped seeing a counselor, David began seeing his business partner’s wife. His partner had been more opened eyed that David expected, because it didn’t take long before his partner found out. David hadn’t been as careful, because the woman, Liz, had told him that her husband didn’t care. But he did cared. Once Davids partner found out, he began blackmailing David for large sums of money. First, in the form of donations to charities where his partner served on the board. But then it was cash. David hadn’t realized that, for years, his partner had a gambling problem, and owed a lot of money to very bad people.

            Having already dealt with one infidelity, Barbara didnt want to go through it again and ignored all the signs: the temperament, distractions and the attitude with the kids. After the first affair, Barbara slowly began falling out of love with her husband, not all at once, but gradually. Barbara was resigned to being betrayed, but she wanted to stay with David, at least until Jr left for college. She bugged him less and less to spend time with them, and stopped paying attention to his life, but the kids still needed a father figure around. Barbara didnt know how to support her children on her own nor did she realize everything David was up to. It didn’t take long.

            One afternoon, having lunch with her friends, Barbaras credit card got rejected, and embarrassed, she paid cash. The restaurant waiter even tried to make her feel better by telling her that the card probably got stolen. Her friends had been understanding enough that day, but after the scandal, Barbara hadn’t seen them or heard from them other than a condolence card.

            Barbara got in her car rushing out of the restaurant and began calling David, who wasn’t answering his phone. Barbara tried his office,

            “I’m sorry Barbara, we are dealing with some things here, so now it’s not a good time but I haven’t seen David in a few days,” his assistant told Barbara. 

            At this point there was no denying that David was back to his old habits. This time he seemed to have gotten out of control. Barbara was getting angrier and angrier as she got closer to the house. As she pulled up to the driveway, Barbara saw his car parked in front of the garages. Furious, she ran in calling his name.

            “David. David. David!” She ran in the house screaming. But there was no answer. The house was quiet. The kind of quiet that follows you around. A silence, that even if you could, you won’t hear anything. As she got closer to his office, the silence grew darker. The door had been closed, but not locked.

            He wasn’t in there. David wasn’t anywhere, so Barbara went back to his car. That’s when she saw it. The back windshield in his little sports car was shattered. The dark tint on the windows hid everything from the outside, but Barbara had seen the pattern plenty of times, with the whole in the center. Barbara walked towards the driver’s side. The outline of the inside of the car began becoming clearer as she got closer. Barbara opened the door. David’s head was leaning on the steering wheel, with blood oozing out of the back of his head.

            “David?” Barbara called out one last time, to no response.   

            Before she knew what was happening there were cop cars and ambulances surrounding her property. The lights were blinding her as the cops questioned her whereabouts. But it wasn’t until she saw her children running towards her that Barbara snapped out of the cloud her head had been in. That was when two federal agents approached her with some questions.

            “Is there a place we could talk in private?” The first Special Agent asked.

Barbara took them to the den inside the house.

            “When was the last time your husband talked to you about his practice?” was the first question, once inside.

Barbara was confused,

            “What do you mean? David hardly ever talked about his practice.”

            “Mr Tacher, along with his partner, had been under investigation for some time, ma’am,” The second officer explained.

            “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” She replied.

            “Your husband’s firm and practice are under investigation for possible fraud and embezzlement,” the officer informed Barbara.

            “Now, your husband has been shoot in the head, and his partner has disappeared. Any idea where he might be?” the officer asked her.

But Barbara just shook her head no. She had no idea what either of them had been up to. As far as she knew, David had just been having an affair.

            “What do you mean fraud? They’re business partners. ” Barbara asked confused.

            “Ms Tacher were you aware that your husband was having an affair?” the officer asked her. Barbara nodded yes.

            “What does that have to do with this? I don’t know who it was,” Barbara said, sounding irritated. Not only did the police know about the affair, but found it appropriate to tell her about it. 

            “Ms Tacher, we believe that your husband was being blackmailed by his partner. because your husband was having an affair with his wife,” the officers informed her.

            “The blackmail might have been because of the gambling problem his partner had,” the officer said.

            Barbara just shook her head, in disbelief. Soon her kids came in looking for her. And based on the circumstances, the officers decided to take a step back.

            “You have a lot on your hands right now. Please give us a call if you remember anything,” the first officer said.

            “Or if you find anything or hear from the partner,” the second officer said.

            “Of course,” Barbara said.

            After everyone left, Barbara ran to David’s office and pulled every drawer and file cabinet. Scanning documents Barbara was looking for anything telling her what David had been up to. She began reading everything and trying to find as much information as possible. After a few short minutes, Barbara finally found a safe inside the closet. Something she had never seen before, nor did she know how old it was. She tried to open it with her birthday and the childrens birthday for the combination to no avail. She then tried Davids birthday and the safe opened. Even in his secret life he had been an asshole.

            There she found bank statements stating that the accounts had been closed, receipts for money orders and cashiers checks, credit cards that she had never seen before, as she called the numbers on the back of the cards, she found that all of them had been maxed out. Barbara found the point of sale paperwork for all their investment properties. As the wave of bad news kept coming, Barbara sat at the desk for a quick breather and the computer came on. Barbara quickly went to her own bank account and the kids’ to just to find them all empty.

            The kids watched her at first, and for a while, before they gave up and left her inside the office while they sat in the hallway. The kids had no idea what to do next.

Barbara called his firm, just to find out that the firm had been taken over with a judges signature by the remaining lawyers, and they reiterate what the Special Agents had told her. 

            Barbara was devastated. Her world was crumbling around her. The last few hours had felt like an eternity of a nightmare, and now she needed to face her children. Barbara walked outside and sat on the floor next to her children. Without saying a word, Barbara began crying and apologizing. Caitie and Jr just listened as they learned that they had no money left whatsoever.

            “I’m sorry,” She cried.

            “We’ll think of something,” Caitie said

But before Caitie could continue, Barbara stood up and went to her room to lay on the bed. Her kids joined her and within seconds all three were crying. But they all fell asleep on her bed, together.

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