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Pleasant View

A Novel



Dianne Zimmermann





Copyright 2018 by Dianne Zimmermann.

All rights reserved.



No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means – electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, scanning, or other – except for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles, without the prior written permission of the author.



This is a work of fiction. All of the content, names, characters, places and incidents and comments are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locations is entirely coincidental.



Cover art by the author.



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Dedication

I dedicate this book to my friends whose never-ending encouragement drove me on when the going got tough.





Acknowledgements

I wish to thank my family of friends for their interest and encouragement in all my writing endeavors; Pleasant View is my fourth book. And I wish to express special thanks to LA Mott for her encouragement, proofreading and editing skills.





Chapter One

Oh, Robert, let’s get this red one,” squealed Judy grinning from ear to ear as she glided about and circled the shinning vehicle, like a hungry soaring hawk aiming to pounce on unsuspecting prey. The brand new 1988 Cadillac Deville convertible was proudly featured by the dealership. Its classic smooth lines and brilliant red paint and chrome trim brilliantly displayed under the main showroom spotlights. The convertible’s front grill appeared to smile invitingly with top down appeal, alluring Judy and calling to her material girl instincts.

She loved bright shining things, as was evident by her bright red hair, glittery green eye shadow, matching her green eyes, framed by long luscious thick eyelashes, that fluttered when she flirted with her husband. Robert smiled as he watched his twirling wife with adoring eyes, as she joyfully jumped into the driver’s seat and pretended to be driving the car and looking all around. He had to smile, she is a pleasant view, heaven to his eyes, and he was totally under her spell.

But, he had to admit, that Judy wanting such a fancy car, made him a bit nervous. This too will cost me a bundle, thought Robert as he smiled trying to share his wife’s enthusiasm. Judy had expensive tastes; he knew that when he met her on her first day at work as he watched her eyeball the top executives stroll by wearing expensive tailored suits.

Why she settled for him, he never fully understood, because she could have gotten anyone of them. Perhaps she felt he was someone she could groom and dress up in all the latest fashions. Whatever the reason, he was crazy about her and wanted her love.

He smiled as he watched her get out from behind the wheel and dance around as she flirted with him. She knew her flirting drove him wild with desire. Especially today, he thought, his wife looked exceptionally sexy as she wore black stretch stirrup pants with a pink turtle neck sweater. That accentuated her sparkling personality, as did her red hair stacked high in curls above her head. Earrings dangled, bangle bracelets jangled in holiday style, as she danced and slid in and out the fancy car.

Every day was Christmas for Judy when she had her heart set on something! She tugged on Robert’s arm and looked dreamily into his eyes, watching any resistance he may have had weaken and slip away with each touch, as she clung to him. Judy always got what she wanted, because she was Robert’s muse to success and riches, and he knew it. He was reluctant to spend large amounts of money before he met Judy, some even calling him a miser. But Judy changed all that and convinced him to let loose of his money once in a while. He knew her wishes for riches would inspire him and he would one day build an empire of wealth around her.

“You have to dress for success, must I remind you, time after time?“ Judy would sing the words, “Time after time” and she sounded just like her idol Cyndi Lauper. Looking good was very important to Judy. She loved the way people looked at them wherever they went. It took a bit of doing; but Judy finally convinced Robert to dress impeccably in Giorgio Armani fashion.

“You look so handsome,” Judy flirted as she danced up to him and straightened his tie and sang Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” and kissed him. Robert adored her not so unique look for she looked and dressed like Cyndi Lauper and spent money like Madonna’s “Material Girl.”

“Anything your little heart desires darling.” Robert smiled as the salesman approached them and introduced himself.

“Hi, the name’s George,” the salesman said as he extended his hand in a kind and gentle greeting to Judy. He then turned his attention to Robert and shook his hand with the firm vigor of an authoritarian man-to-man grip. He looked Robert in the eye and smiled as if to confirm that he knew that Robert was the man of the house.

George had seen it many times when husbands and wives came into the dealership. He knew that when the wife was along, it almost guaranteed sale. What men won’t do to keep their wives happy! thought George.

“Oh, it’s a beauty, isn’t it?” George smiled then went on to describe the car’s fancy features: This 1988 Cadillac Deville convertible is a real beauty all right! It has a high-tech General Motors touring suspension, a sweet 4.5 liter V-8 engine, 22 miles per gallon on the highway, hydro-super glide transmission, fifteen inch alloy wheels, special leather seats, rear sway bar and a special tighter steering ratio for enhanced handling,” announced George in one breath, proudly smiling as he looked at the car then at the promising faces of the couple standing before him, although they looked a little puzzled.

None of what the salesman described about the car meant anything to Judy, or Robert for that matter. They just smiled and nodded their heads as neither was very mechanically inclined. George addressed Robert when he spoke about the mechanical features of the car. He showed the little lady the power seats, cassette drive and push button radio features.

Judy smiled and immediately reached in her big hot pink purse and pulled out a cassette tape and smiled as she listened to high tech speakers: “living in a material world, and I am a material girl...” So, fitting,” Judy thought. She was lost in a daydream, fantasizing about turning admiring heads, as she drove around town in a brand new shinning red Cadillac Deville convertible. She was oblivious to George’s awarding winning sales spiel; that is, until he got to talking about executives and dignitaries.

George was the highest volume-selling salesman in the dealership. His egotistical personally was further enhanced when he won an award for his savvy salesman techniques. He dedicated his accomplishments to his talented imagination, for he could spread a line of bull a mile long. He knew these two potential customers, especially the wife, were all about the importance of impressing people. So, he gave them a bonus of his best sales pitch spiel ever.

“Oh yes, she’s a real beauty all right,” bragged George, “a real one of a kind, beauty.” George couldn’t help but grin; he had their full attention, so he then threw out his self-proclaimed game winning fast pitch curve ball: “Folks you are in for a treat!”

George smiled showing his newly capped pearly-whites. He was excited about this potential sale. Yet, he was a bit nervous; there was always a chance of losing a sale. He ran his hand threw his thick curly heavily-dyed black hair that was so dull and damaged from over coloring that it had the look of suede. He was so proud because he dyed it himself, even smeared a little dab on his eyebrows.

He knew the man’s wife was staring at him because he looked so handsome. He wore his best white short sleeve shirt, the one with the least frayed collar. He sported a brown and pink paisley necktie and wore his favorite brown and pink plaid trousers that day. His luckiest pair of pants, that made his butt look good. He always made a sale when he wore them.

George knew he was a hit! He stuck to his award winning perfectly memorized spiel just as he practiced it. He saw that Judy and Robert were intrigued and so continued, giving them the long version.

“This particular model is one of a limited-edition production models that was specifically designed and produced for selected General Motors executives, top shareholders, and a short list of dignitaries.” George smiled as their eyes lit up. He knew he had them. Going in for the kill, he added what he knew would clinch the deal.

“The manufacturer only released a handful of these gorgeous beauties for sale to the public,” George boasted. He watched their pretentious smiles grow ever larger. “This particular car is the last one for sale in a hundred-mile radius.”

“Oh my!” Judy could barely contain herself at the thought of owning a rare one-of-a-kind Cadillac.

“This is your lucky day,” George said. He knew he had them in his clutches when he saw their eyes light up at the thought of owning something bright red and showy that no one else had.

Having a special limited edition Cadillac was music to Judy and Robert’s flamboyant ears. They smiled, looked at each other, nodded, then turned to George and in unison announced, “We’ll take it!”

The words lingered in the air for a moment, but even longer in Robert’s brain. What was he doing? For a brief moment, Robert’s brain went into a frantic tailspin as he rapidly calculated numbers in his head trying to figure out how he was going to actually pay for such an expensive automobile. A sharp tightness gripped his gut for a moment; that is, until he reminded himself that he was soon to become a very wealthy man. He had no worries.

Robert, enabled and encouraged by his muse, Judy, had just built a huge retirement community called Pleasant View. It was named that, not only for the beautiful oasis in the desert view that surrounded the building, but because Judy was Robert’s most pleasant view. Wealth was assured as residents came pouring in and bringing with them their retirement savings accounts for him to manage.

Demographically, as America was aging, he felt that he was creating a much-needed service for aging seniors. The senior living center provided not only housing, but also portfolio investment management, complete medical care and rehab units, and an upscale restaurant.

So, yes, he convinced himself that he could easily afford an expensive automobile. Besides, as Judy reminded him, an aspiring businessman needs to advertise his success in order to attract more investors. Robert was on his way to becoming as successful as his father had been.

If only his dad could see him now, he thought.





Chapter Two

Robert’s father had been strict with him while Robert was growing up. He was very business minded and pushed Robert to succeed at all cost, in whatever endeavor he pursued. Failure was not an option.

Judy had the same adventurous spirit Robert’s father had, and comfortably filled his father’s shoes as Robert’s mentor and muse. She was just the extra push he needed, just as his father had pushed him; right up to the moment he died. Doctors had said his father’s failed heart was a result of his over-worked hyperactive type-A personality. Robert was not afraid that a bad heart would cause his death. Anyway, he would risk it, he thought. He wanted to be just as successful as his father wanted him to be and as Judy wanted him to be.

***

Robert just knew that his dad was looking down and smiling on him, as he drove out of the dealership and headed down the busiest street in Tucson, for everyone to see them. The top was down, and Robert proudly held Judy’s hand as they drove. The sun was shining as they cruised along, slithering in and out of traffic, meandering amongst the bustling crowds of shoppers, and business people going about their day.

Robert smiled and nodded to the people who stared at them. He felt as if they actually were dignitaries in a highfalutin’ parade. Judy grinned as she saw their reflection in the storefront windows as they passed by. She had to admit, they were a beautiful couple.

Looking beyond their lovely reflections, she spotted a classic outfit on a mannequin in one of the storefront windows. She decided she needed a new outfit — something classic to match their classy limited-edition brand-new Cadillac. She noted the name of the dress shop and vowed that she would return for that sharp white wool suit with padded shoulders. Of course then she would need new shoes and handbag to go with the new suit. Buying this car had set her off and her mind was in a spending frenzy. In her crazy mind, Judy had to make up for lost time, for when she had felt poor.

Judy had come from a very humble background. Her mother went to work as a waitress, cleaned houses, and even became a seamstress, after her loving husband died in a foundry accident where he worked. Judy was ten years old. Judy was her mother’s only child and very precious and spoiled. Her mother worked long hours in order to buy Judy the most expensive clothes and all the Barbie dolls that she wanted. As Judy grew older and hung out with the rich kids at school her tastes grew even more expensive.

Judy had always felt deprived as a kid by her loving father’s untimely passing. She grew up with an ache in her heart and a vow to marry a rich man. To Judy, men were the way to all the material things she wanted. She worked in the financial sector to meet young aspiring businessmen.

Judy met Robert when she began work as a financial secretary at the investment firm. It was pretend love at first sight for her. Robert was tall dark and handsome and made lot of money. She giggled and flirted with him. He was flattered beyond belief that such a spunky cute girl would even be interested in him. Robert was shy and charming and talk around the office water cooler was that he was the most aspiring agent in the investment pool, so Judy set her sights on him. With a little sexual persuasion on her part, shy conservative Robert was as good as hers.

It was a speedy courtship and Judy and Robert married within one year after they met. They had a small but expensive wedding with only a few friends invited from work. Judy was an only child as was Robert, so no family to speak of for either of them. Judy’s mother, who had worked so hard to give Judy everything she wanted, died from cancer, several years earlier. Robert’s only family member, his mother, Marie, attended the reception. His grandmother was in the nursing home and unable to be there.

Marie enjoyed herself immensely as she danced with Robert, some of his co-workers, and with Ann, her best friend, visiting from Sedona. They all enjoyed the elaborate country club setting, a lovely dinner and danced the evening away.





Chapter Three

Robert and Judy’s wedding celebration was a delight for them as well as everyone who attended the joyous occasion. And it had been the first time in a long time that Marie got a chance to kick up her heels a bit. She didn’t get a chance to socialize much the two years that Frank, Robert’s father, was ill, so she was having the time of her life at the reception.

Marie was a devoted wife and never left her husband’s side for more than an hour or two, to run errands, and only while the visiting nurse was there. She loved her husband but felt imprisoned by duty, and then she felt guilty for feeling that way. It was a tough couple of years.

After Frank died, she felt like a free bird that needed to fly away. So she would frequently visit her longtime friend, Ann, in Sedona, a mere four-hour drive from Tucson. Ann had always been a dear friend whom she kept in touch with through the years — through thick and thin. Marie was there for Ann through her divorce and Ann was there for Marie through Frank’s illness. They supported each other when both of their sets of parents suffered fading health and when they passed. Neither could believe it had been so many years.

Ann tried to convince Marie that she would love living in Sedona with the wonderful vortex energy of the red rock mountains that surrounded the city. Ann had moved to Sedona after she retired from a government job in Washington D.C. with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

She had always loved Sedona ever since she had vacationed at a spiritual health resort there after her troublesome divorce. The moment she arrived and saw the surrounding beauty, she fell in love with the red rocks and the wonderful vortex energy she felt there. And so she fulfilled her promise to herself to move there after she retired.

Sedona felt just right for a new beginning and a fresh start. Ann lived in a condominium community surrounded by huge red rocks that Sedona is famously known for. She had a pleasant view of Coffee Pot Rock from her patio.

Marie would come and visit; she enjoyed visiting Ann and feeling the magical vortex of the red rocks. They enjoyed coffee and breakfast on the patio before they went hiking in the morning, and sipping gin and tonics before dinner. Ann had warned Marie that Sedona would call her back if she came to visit, and it did. The magical majestic red mountains did indeed call her back after her fist visit and so she visited several times a year. Marie was fond of Ann. They had discovered common interest when they met in a special one-time investigative journalism class, presented by the English department in their teenage high school many years earlier.

Marie had been a little jealous and sad that her life path took a turn from a career in journalism to a stay-at-home mom. So, Marie enjoyed living vicariously through Ann’s exciting career and listening to the investigative stories she shared. Wife and mother were supposed to be the major life course for every woman, Marie’s mother always said. But Marie wanted a professional career.

Marie thought that she could work and pursue her career when Robert got old enough to go to school but when the time came, Frank wouldn’t hear of her going to work. She knew she could have done both, take care of things at home, and still go to work every day, many women did. Frank had been encouraging about her pursuing her career before they married, but after they married, and Robert came along, Frank said he didn’t want her to go to work.

She was disappointed but felt she thought maybe he was right and decided to honor his wishes. She would discuss it with Ann. Ann was always there for her and very understanding and listened intently while Marie unleashed her thoughts and pent up anxiety.

“You are so understanding,” said Marie filled with gratitude, “what would I ever do without you?”

“Well, Marie,” admitted Ann, “you have also always been there for me through my tough times with my career and my troubles with Joe, before we divorced. So, we are kind of even.”

Marie loved spending time with Ann who was as vibrant and active as Marie, now in her early seventies. They hiked the many trails near Sedona around Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, and Boynton Canyon. They enjoyed each other’s company and hiked well together, taking on challenging trails that involved climbing on and over huge rock formations at the base of the mountains.

Everyone they met thought Ann and Marie were sisters. They looked a lot alike; both were tall and thin with silver hair, and lovely smiles. Ann wanted Marie to move to Sedona and tried her best to persuade her to move there every time she visited.

“You need to move to Sedona,” insisted Ann and invited her to move in with her. Marie thought about taking Ann up on her offer every time she visited her; but, just as if it were clockwork, she would then get a call from her son Robert.

“How are you, Mother?” asked Robert. “Are you ready to come home?”

“Soon son, soon,” Marie would respond. She didn’t really want to go home, but then the guilt would set in. As it was, Marie never stayed for more than a week because Robert, without fail, would call wanting her to come back home. Marie could count on his calls if she wasn’t back home after one week. He insisted he missed her.

Robert became over protective of his mother after his father died and wanted his mother close by so he could keep an eye on her. Marie was torn between doing what she wanted to do and honoring Robert’s wishes. To keep peace with her son, Marie would remain living in Tucson under the watchful eye of her doting son, who seemed to grow more like his father each day. Marie actually thought she would be able to enjoy so much more freedom after Frank had died, but she knew she was somehow repeating a pattern with her son.

“You would think I was some old, decrepit woman, or something,” Marie would complain to Ann. Ann encouraged Marie to ignore her possessive son’s wishes, but Marie remained true to her promise to Robert and only made short visits to Sedona throughout the year.





Chapter Four

In her youth, freedom-loving Marie had her heart set on a professional career. She had not planned to marry at all. But circumstances forced her into marriage and motherhood. Of course, she loved her son, Robert. And she had to admit she loved her husband. Frank started out being a very loving husband and father, but later something changed, and he became very possessive and demanding, always wanting to know her whereabouts. He wanted her at his beck and call every minute of the day.

Marie still dreamed of having an investigative journalist career. When Robert was old enough to go to school she wanted to go work and thought that Frank would support her decision and be proud of her. But to her disappointment, he took quite the opposite stance to her wishes and insisted she be at home for Robert.

Frank called Marie several times a day wanting to know what she was doing. One would think that this constant supervision would give Marie the sense of being greatly loved, but rather it made her feel trapped and owned. To Marie, Frank’s possessiveness felt more like a watch dog dogging her, a border collie nipping at her heels to keep her in her space that he allowed her to be in.

He expected her to run errands for him and have dinner on the table when he got home. He controlled her social life, or lack of one, and limited her friends to his associate friends.

Frank had what doctors called a type-A personality that contributed to his heart disease. He was high-strung and worked twelve hours a day. He could never make enough money to suit himself. Marie used to worry about his health and would suggest that he slow down. Of course, he would not listen to her. Marie decided that he was just a typical patriarch authoritarian just as his father and her father had been, which probably led to their early deaths.

Marie’s father had been a pillar of the community. He served on the school board; he was an active member of their church and an investment broker for the congregation and neighboring communities. Of course, her father approved of Frank the moment he met him, because Frank was just like him. When Marie had doubts about marrying Frank, her father egged her on, because he thought that Frank would be the perfect husband for her.

Men always know best, her mother would say. Marie was a silent partner just as her mother had been a silent partner to her father always agreeing and holding all emotions inside.

Her mother took care of Marie’s dad until he died. Marie thought that was why her mother got sick. Her mother suffered through several surgeries. Marie knew first hand her mother’s suffering, because when she could no longer live alone, Marie moved her in with her and Frank.

Frank couldn’t bear to listen to her constant complaining, and worked even longer hours, never relieving Marie, who was a constant fixture at her mother’s bedside. When her mother became too ill for Marie to take care of her, Marie had to put her in a nursing home, which Marie hated doing. Her mother hated it even more and did not go easily, and fought it every step of the way.

Marie was suffocating between her dealings with her cantankerous mother, and her difficult marriage that she too thought she would die of an illness brought on by stifled emotions. She longed for some independence. Again, Marie wanted to get out and go to work. But Frank worried about his status in the community. What would people think if his wife had to go to work? If Marie went to work it would appear that he was not successful enough to support his wife and their upper middle-class lifestyle.

Appearances were everything to Frank. He had to appear successful even if it meant cooking the books from time to time, when times were tough, and he needed to show a profit in a slow month. Frank had to win; there was no such thing as losing. It was the way his father did business and the way he taught his son to do business.

As time went on, the stress of his competitive lifestyle wore on his health. He pushed himself until one day, two years to the day after Marie’s mother passed, he suffered a massive heart attack and Marie was confined to his bedside, to take care of him. Frank was put on a multitude of drugs. Gradually his strength grew a little better, and his daily routine consisted of slow walks around the house. He pressed on always demanding his doctor do more.

So one day his doctor put him on a new experimental drug. It seemed to help for a while, but then only hastened the path to Frank’s demise. Frank suddenly lost consciousness after taking the medicine only a short while. He was rushed to the hospital where doctors took him off the drug and monitored his progress. He recovered enough to go home, but total bed rest was required. Several weeks later he died in his sleep.

Frank’s death was a relief to Marie. She had been his constant caregiver for over two years, a tough demanding job take took every minute of her day to answer his constant demands. Once again, as with her mother, she had felt like a prisoner in her own home. Of course, she was ashamed to admit that to herself or anyone else.

She found herself lost. She didn’t know how to act on her own and didn’t know what she wanted to do next. It took her a while to adjust, to her new-found freedom, because the walls still seemed to echo his constant demands.

“Bring me some fresh water,” he would order in a strong voice. So strong that Marie thought he could get up out of bed and get it himself. Of course, then she would feel guilty that the sound of his voice made her cringe. He wouldn’t ask for things in a polite way; but rather, he would order her. And while she was getting fresh water for him, before she got back with it, he had thought of something else he wanted her to run and get for him. Marie ran back and forth like that all day.

She could see that he enjoyed seeing her wait on him hand and foot. He preferred she sit on a chair next to his bed day and night, much like her mother did, to keep him company and answer his every whim. He had suffocated the life right out of her. Frank’s main concern was himself and his reputation. The past haunted her and although she tried not to think of it, old memories cluttered her mind, especially on Robert’s birthday. Robert had just turned fifty years old, a milestone for him as well as for Marie.

It was fifty years ago when Marie went to the doctors feeling nausea. She was seventeen when Frank and she had sex. She was worried about being pregnant. A girlfriend told her that she couldn’t get pregnant just doing it one time; anyway she had never gotten pregnant after she and her boyfriend did it, but Marie did. Marie was stunned to learn the news, when she went to the doctor complaining with daily upset stomach. Her mother never told her ahead of time about periods or about the birds and bees, or anything of that nature. What little she learned she learned from the other girls at school. After she left the doctor’s office, the doctor called the house and spoke to her mother. So, when Marie got home from school she was confronted with the shock of her life.

“You are pregnant! You have two options,” her mother briskly commanded, “either marry Frank or we will send you away for nine months to the nun’s convent where all young unwedded girls go to have their babies and give them up for adoption.

“He’s a good man,” her father said, “so if he is willing to marry you, you must get married.” There was a term for a wedding in this type of situation — a shotgun wedding.

Marie was stunned! She didn’t mention a word to anyone. She knew that her friends were all talking about her — how she got-in-trouble! How she got caught! The “loose” girl was always stuck with the blame, it seemed. Boys will be boys of course, and were never blamed. It was never shameful for boys, as if everyone knew that boys had no control over their impulses and desires.

Marie felt the shame and disappointment. She wasn’t sure if she even was in love with Frank; much less, ready to marry him. She felt that she wasn’t ready for marriage and the responsibility that came with being a wife and mother. Personally, she thought that she would have preferred nine months at the convent and then adoption. But she knew that Frank, and her mother and father would never hear of it.

“What would people think?” her mother said. She was so worried about what people would think and not how Marie felt or what she thought. Marie was disappointed in herself and mad at Frank for putting her in this position. She wondered, did Frank actually want to get her pregnant, to trap her into marriage? It sure would have been one way to keep her for himself, and from pursuing her career in journalism.

Marie was also afraid her whole world would never be the same again. She knew that telling Frank would be the beginning that would change her life forever. Just as she figured, Frank seemed to know she was pregnant even before she broke the news to him. Frank was actually excited and insisted they get married right away. Marie was dubious about marriage at this point in her life. She thought that maybe someday she would be ready, but not now. It didn’t help her situation that her parents liked Frank and were excited that he wanted to get married right away. They said lots of girls get married at a young age and babies do come early sometimes.

It was 1938, she was pregnant and not real thrilled about it. She liked Frank well enough, even thought she loved him. Frank was also concerned, he was an up and coming promising business man in the community and did not take kindly to idle gossip, especially concerning his reputation, so she and Frank married as soon as possible.

Marie knew that Frank would be a good financial provider for her and their baby. He liked his accountant job at the bank, and it paid well. He picked out a house and put a down payment on it and then surprised her with it. She was disappointed that she had no hand in the decision. He did the same when he bought the family car, he picked it out. Again she was disappointed and thought that she should have had a say in the decision.

When she complained about it, her mother told her that men know better about those things. Frank knew what it took to keep up with the Jones; appearances were everything when you were a promising junior accountant at one of the largest banks in the community. He would raise their son to be just like him.





Chapter Five

Their beautiful son was born nine months to the day after they got married. They named him Robert, after Frank’s dad. They were proud parents. Frank adored him, as did Marie. Motherhood changes everything and Marie loved being a mother and wondered how she ever had thoughts of giving him up for adoption.

Robert was her happiness and Marie soon settled in to caring and being happy with her little family. She participated in school and church activities and became secretary of both organizations. Frank was okay with this, because volunteer work at the school and the church, is what professional men’s wives were expected to do. So Marie too became concerned, just as her mother was, about what people thought.

Marie, Frank and Robert, lived in a lovely stucco ranch house complete with several mesquite trees, cacti, with a pleasant view of the Santa Rita Mountains. The rising foothills could be seen just outside their subdivision that was situated in an impressive up-and-coming affluent neighborhood. The house was perfect for the three of them. They lived close to the bank where Frank worked, which was located near Robert’s school. Every morning Frank walked Robert to school. They passed the bank on the way, sometimes they would stop in and Robert would visit with Frank’s co-workers, then they would continue to walk one block further to Robert’s school. Robert would hug his dad good-bye, and then Frank walked back to go to work at the bank.

Robert enjoyed their walks to school and the bank visits. He was proud of his father and wanted to be just like him. Their morning walks were bonding moments as Frank told Robert all about the banking business and persuaded Robert to study math and finance and to learn it well, so he too one day could be an accountant and a financial executive.

Marie’s days became quite mundane. She spent her days taking care of matters around the house. She did the washing, cooking, cleaning and tending to her small garden. The garden alone kept her busy enough with weeding, picking and canning and preparing meals for Frank and Robert, so busy she did not have much time to think about her dream job of being a journalist. Marie loved her husband and son. Frank was domineering of course, but a good provider. Most importantly, Frank was a very supportive and loving father to Robert.

***

Robert was as smart as a whip, so school came easy for him. He was an excellent student. After college he became a Certified Public Accountant and worked as an investment banker much like his father. At work, Robert was ambitious and easily learned his job. He became fast friends with his co-workers, especially one, named Judy.

“You are such a pleasant view,” Robert smiled and told Judy, each morning when he came into work and passed her desk. He loved the way she smiled, her red hair, and the bright happy colors she always wore.

“Why thank you Mr. Dems,” she would flirt back.

Judy was the new girl in the office and proved to be business savvy and very ambitious. Judy was hired on as a teller, right after her bankrupted investment broker husband, Roger, was killed in a tragic auto accident. Judy said Roger was reckless and always drove too fast. One morning after an argument with Judy, he stormed out of the house, got in is car and raced down the mountainside even faster then what he normally drove.

He was upset, because Judy was upset that he had lost all of their money in bad investments. To police, it appeared that he took the winding mountain road down from their house much too fast and lost control of the car and crashed through the guardrail barrier and landed in the deep careen below.

Judy wasn’t a widow for long. She was a big flirt and soon she and Robert began dating. It wasn’t long before they were engaged, and within a few months’ time, Robert and Judy got married.





Chapter Six

Marie loved her son; but as hard as she tried, she could not manage to grow fond of her daughter-in-law. Fact was, Marie was not at all fond of Judy. Marie thought Judy was nothing more than a money hungry gold digger, after Robert for his money. Marie told herself it was only her imagination, and that most mothers feel there is no woman good enough for their son.

But, no matter what Marie thought, she kept it to herself because Robert was crazy about Judy. Theirs was a whirlwind romance; Judy swept Robert off his feet. Before he knew it, he was proposing and she was planning an extravagant wedding at the country club she made him join.

All highly successful professionals, Judy told Robert, belonged to the country club and that was where the wedding reception should be held. Judy insisted on the best of everything and she persuaded Robert that they should mingle amongst the elite of the community. They were up and coming affluent people; so, their wedding had to be very elegant. Of course, Judy had to have the most expensive Christian Dior wedding gown. Judy insisted she knew best what Marie should wear and frowned at the dress that Marie had picked out.

Judy picked out Marie’s dress for the wedding because it had to be just so. Judy picked a long flowing, depressingly bland gray dress for Marie. Marie was a very attractive woman and there was no way that she going to outshine Judy. Marie thought the dress was very unattractive, and of course, very expensive. But Judy insisted it had to be the one she wanted Marie to wear. Marie bought it but she thought that the color made her look ill and the style made her look dumpy. Marie was depressed because she thought that she had looked stunning in the dress she had chosen and told Judy she wanted. It was a beautiful light blue shade with smooth easy flowing lines that made her look slim, tan, and highlighted her blue eyes.

But, Marie had to let it go. After all it was Judy’s wedding, spoiled-rotten, brat, Judy’s wedding — and Robert’s too, of course. Robert adored Judy and she always got her way. Judy picked out the car, had a say in the house they lived in, and Judy always managed to get her way with Robert. Frank never allowed Marie to have a say in anything. And yes, Marie was jealous.

The house Robert had picked out wasn’t quite big enough for Judy’s taste. She had her eye on another one, a much bigger one. Robert, being madly in love with Judy, was determined to please her. With much discussion with the chief executive officer at the bank, he found a way to get an extended employee’s loan, and so Judy got her perfect house in the nicer neighborhood, in a newer upscale subdivision. Judy was delighted she got her house, but totally disappointed with the interior so everything had to be redone. So there were remodeling expenses to cover.

Robert sucked it up and managed to shell out more money for the interior designer guy that Judy thought she needed. The cost, of course ran higher, then Robert expected, when the designer, after several attempts, finally got the colors of the drapes and carpet right. And after he got the furniture, she had ultimately decided upon. Of course she had to rearrange it, he didn’t have it set up to her liking. In the end, even though she paid the designer to do it, she actually designed the whole house herself by telling the designer what to do and how to do it.

But the important thing was that she was pleased, and that was all that mattered. So what if anyone else thought the house was too colorful and bright. It only mattered that she and she alone, admired the beauty of her own artistic creations. To Judy, her house was a showcase, and she and Robert hosted many dinner parties to show it off.

Guests pretended to love the combination of bright colors of the rug and the drapes. The bright chartreuse and purple, the various shades of red, orange and yellows that were displayed proudly by Judy, and falsely admired by guests, who walked throughout the house a gasped, holding their hands over their mouths in disbelief. When asked, some would describe her taste as eclectic, bizarre, a little unusual, very unusual, and very busy and bright. Judy loved her unique decorative displays and thought they were brilliant. Robert was happy as long as Judy was happy and as long as he didn’t think about how much it all cost him.

Judy was as busy and brilliant as her taste and being so, of course, she thought that Robert should be more like her. So she pressed Robert to prepare for a promotion to become vice-president. She encouraged him to learn the ropes of the position so he could be ready when a prestigious position presented itself. He told Judy that he wanted to climb the ladder of success; but he was really doing it mostly to please her. Robert was tired. He was tired from trying to keep up with Judy. Instinctively, he wasn’t as ambitious as his father always wanted him to be, or as Judy wanted him to be.

Robert pushed himself, remained diligent and worked hard so It didn’t take him long to climb the next promotional rung of the ladder. He moved up from loan officer to vice-president of the business real estate investment department. Judy was happy with his promotion, but Robert felt a little out of his element. He felt daunted with all the high ranked talent that surrounded him and it stressed him. Of course, Judy didn’t notice that Robert began to look drawn and tired and lacked energy. Judy didn’t notice or paid him no mind; however, his mother thought Robert looked ragged.

Marie noticed Robert’s lack of enthusiasm. It wasn’t long before she could see that Robert had dark circles under his eyes, was getting thin and losing his hair. Did she dare say something to Judy? She pondered the thought to keep quiet; but, then gave into it and said something to Judy about Robert’s health. Angered by the insinuation that she was not taking good care of her husband, but skilled in conniving and manipulating, and wanting to appear polite and cordial, Judy merely laughed a slight forced laugh and smiled.

“Oh, that’s Robert, all right, rugged,” she said.

“I’m just a little worried...” Marie said expressing concern, but before she could finish Judy cut her off.

“He’s just getting older,” snapped Judy, then remembered to control herself and added, “I think he looks distinguished, don’t you?”

She was wishing that annoying, nosy, Marie would just mind her own business. She told Marie that she had Robert on a healthy diet and that was why he was a little thinner. She contributed his graying and thinning hair to just getting older. She didn’t mention the dark circles.

“Well, I’m worried about him,” Marie repeated to death ears, because Judy had already shut her out. Marie convinced herself that Judy could have cared less about Robert; she did care about how much money he made, however.

“Well, I like the more distinguished look,” Judy said with a smile, and she meant it. To her, Robert looked like an experienced vice-president should look. Marie, on the other hand, thought that Robert looked and acted like he was about to have a nervous breakdown. He was sweaty, red faced and his hands had a slight tremor to them. But in order to keep peace, Marie kept any further thoughts and concerns about Robert to herself. She did not want to start any trouble with Judy, for Robert’s sake. She was more than aware that her son had a right to love and marry whomever he chose. Marie just had to get used to stepping aside and letting go, certainly through the years she only too well learned how to do just that.

When she was very young, Marie came to realize that letting go was a big part of life. She had to let go of the idea of having a warm loving mother, of having to let go of her dream career at a very young age when she got pregnant and married Frank; of letting go when her parents passed on; of having to let go when her son grew up and went off to college; of having to let go of the idea of returning to pursue her journalistic career. But the hardest lesson to learn, and to let go, was when her only son married a lunatic.





Chapter Seven

Judy was a lunatic all right, one that saw dollar signs when Robert had brought her along with him to the nursing home to visit his grandmother. She saw an opportunity to exploit senior citizens. She remembered how Marie took care of her mother in her home, saw how tough it was trying to deal with the endless demands.

The situation was difficult enough, but made worse, when Marie’s mother fell and broke her hip. After breaking her hip and a brief hospital stay, Marie’s mother went directly to a nursing home, much to her mother’s endless protest. Marie’s cantankerous mother was not at all happy caged in a depressing nursing home and pontificated that fact each day by protesting from morning to night.

Nothing there was right for her. The food was tasteless and didn’t sit well. And when she complained that the help was crabby and bossy that is, if and when they decided to show up to her room after she rang for them, over and over again. A daily litany of complaints about bad food, poor service, dirty rooms, was what Marie had to look forward to hearing about each day. Of course, young and cute Judy and Robert chimed right in with grandma whenever they visited her. Like grandma, they too were appalled at the sight of the ill equipped and shabby facility. Judy, always looking for a way to make money realized this might be another way to level up in the financial world; she and Robert could further their riches and investments by building a bigger and better senior living center.

“Robert, you know you could build a much better facility for your grandmother and others like her to enjoy,” Judy eagerly suggested. “And you know your grandmother would be proud and happy to live in her grandson’s wonderful facility.” She encouraged him. In fact, Judy had her own ideas, and told Robert it could be a senior living center equipped with an urgent care medical staff, rehab facility, memory care and a nursing care. Robert liked the idea.

“What shall we name it?” asked Robert.

“I think I’m going to leave that up to you,” Judy said, and laughed. She thought it was just like him to think of the name and not realize all the other elements that would go into a project like that.


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