More Than Meets the Eye
In my upcoming book, Soul Tie, the protagonist, Tamara Castellan, desperately wants a divorce from her controlling, influential husband.
However, after a year of marriage, wealthy Blaine Castellan still needs to incorporate her into his finances, and as a graduate student, Tamara cannot even afford a lawyer.
In the following scene, Tamara discusses her predicament with her best friend, Alicia.
After my last class that windy autumn afternoon, I stopped by graduate student housing to visit Alicia. As I rode the long elevator up to the tenth floor of my former residence, I reflected on how uncomplicated my life had been only a year earlier. Padding along the dingy hall leading to the apartment I’d once considered a dump, it now struck me as a virtual haven compared to the dreadful home life I currently withstood.
I knocked, and Alicia opened the door, all smiles. “Come in, girl.”
“I can’t stay long,” I warned her. “The ball and chain’s return home is imminent.”
Alicia laughed. “Do you want a soda?”
“Yeah.” I used to avoid sodas because of the sugar content, but I’d lost ten pounds since marrying Blaine and could now use the calories.
“What in the world is that?” Alicia asked, leaning over the couch to examine my wrist while handing me my drink.
“It’s a ganglion.”
“Oh, yeah. I’ve heard of those. That’s a big one.”
I self-consciously slid my shirt sleeve over the bump and reached for my soda. “I’m going to have it removed if it doesn’t go away.”
“How about I smash it with a book?” she offered. “I heard that works sometimes.” Alicia’s dark hair fell across her face, and she tossed it back before taking another long sip from her glass of wine.
I laughed. “If only life were that easy, and we could just smash everything away.”
“By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask, why don’t you drink wine any longer?” she asked, sitting beside me.
“I gave up alcohol because I was using it to mitigate my problems,” I replied, wishing I could join her in a glass. But my desire for the drink sprang from desperation to blot out the unease that accompanied me everywhere I went and had little to do with sharing a happy moment with my best friend.
Alicia blew air out of her cheeks and laughed. “You psyche majors!”
I shook my head. “No, I’m not kidding, Alicia. I could easily become a drunk the way my life is going.”
“You mean because of Blaine?”
I nodded. “Yes.”
“You’ve got to leave and get a divorce,” she counseled for the umpteenth time. “And take him to the cleaners.”
“That will be the day.”
“You’ll need to get an attorney, you know. They’re not cheap.”
“Yeah.” I sipped my soda. “I know.”
“Why not play like everything’s okay for a while and then suggest he get the finances in order? Tamara, what difference could a few more months make?”
“You mean act like we’re one big happy family?” I stared at her in alarm.
“Yes, exactly. Then, draw out all the money on the sly. Or at least as much as you can. He probably has a lot of it all tied up somewhere. Rich people always do. But get enough for a good lawyer, at least.”
“How am I supposed to act like everything is hunky-dory?”
“Throw dinner parties for all his bigshot friends. Iron his shirts. You know, stuff like that.”
The thought of entertaining Blaine’s cohorts appalled me. Betty had been the consummate hostess and entertainer. But I’d be sure to choose an improper menu and order the wrong wine to go along with it. I turned to study Alicia. “How about you come over for dinner instead?” I asked.
A shadow fell across her face. “No, I don’t think so.”
“Why not?” I sensed something amiss.
“Because I don’t like Blaine,” she admitted. “I never have.”
“But you were my maid of honor,” I reminded her. I knew she wasn’t thrilled over my choice of a husband, but I didn’t think it extended to her refusing to come to the house. Mulling it over, I realized she hadn’t been by in a long while. We’d usually meet for coffee someplace, or I would visit Alicia at her apartment.
“Yes, after that clash over Jansey. Remember?”
“Oh, yeah.” One upon another, the marriage had built so many negative memories in the past year that I’d forgotten Blaine’s subtle pressure to make his sister my maid of honor. Unfortunately, he’d backed down, or I might have reconsidered marrying him.
“He doesn’t like me,” Alicia stated emphatically. “He thinks I’m a bad influence on you.”
It was true, but I had never told her of Blaine’s criticisms. “Well, it would look more normal if you came by occasionally. How about on Saturday for a cup of coffee?”
“No thanks,” Alicia shook her head.
“Not even for half an hour?” I podded.
“No way.” She crossed her arms in a defensive pose across her chest.
“Not even to help me fake normalcy so I can access his money?”
“I can’t, Tamara. Truthfully, he scares me.”
“Scares you?” I asked, puzzled. “Has he ever said or done anything mean to you?”
“No.” She shook her head again.
“I’d rather not say.”
“Alicia, just tell me.”
“You’ll think I’ve lost it,” she said.
I studied her closely. “No, believe me, I won’t.”
Alicia sighed and closed her eyes. “All right, I’ll tell you. You’d been married to him about a month, and I stopped by to see you. He answered the door and told me you weren’t home.”
I listened, spellbound.
“He kept staring right into my eyes, and, for just a second, one of his eyes turned black.”
I laughed. “For heaven’s sake, Alicia.” At times, my friend favored superstition over simple logic.
“It’s not funny, Tamara. It terrified me.”
“I admit he’s a narcissist. But there’s all this overgrown shrubbery by the front walkway, and the wind gusts through there. It was probably just a shadow.”
“It happened really fast,” she explained.
“You watch too many horror movies.”
“I know what I saw,” she insisted. “And I don’t care how rich Blaine is or how many people respect him. You’ve got to get away from him and never look back.”
It was my turn to sigh. As long as I departed penniless, getting away from Blaine should not be a problem. But there remained the complex difficulty of Kateryna. A few months of counseling would hardly assuage the dreadfulness of growing up under Blaine and Jansey’s shadow.
But I was stuck in a vortex and saw no solution except to cut my losses, Kateryna included, and run.