Thicker Than Blood-PART THREEThicker Than Blood-PART THREE

Ass

CHAPTER TWELVE 2001 I had a mission now: to talk to my daughter. The woman had said she wouldn’t stop me from seeing her, but would she not? Or, allowing me to see her, would she make it problematical in any event: maybe insist on being there while I was trying to make my case to my child. Well, I guess we’d soon know. But, first things first. I had to get me a lawyer.I knew that my ex-brother, and he sure as hell was already ex to me, would use his money to hire some big legal gun to get his way, and hers. But, I had a possible counter move I could make. The son of my boss was a lawyer, a criminal lawyer, but maybe he could help me with my situation in any case.******I sat in the outer office waiting for his current meeting with a potential customer to end, so I could be ushered in to see him, Milton Ferguson, CEO of Ferguson Bros. It was Saturday, but a workaholic like Milton Ferguson was virtually always on the job.Milton and I had been friends for a long time. He’d been to our house, Stacey’s and mine, a number of times for barbecues and other events. He’d even been to the baptism of Jenna so many years before. He was in fact her godfather. I was hoping that his son, Nathan, would help me. I couldn’t afford him, but I had a plan. The plan was but embryonic at the moment, but if I were lucky it might blossom into something more concrete after I talked to him. At any rate, that was the hope.The office door opened and my boss and his new customer were shaking hands. Good, Milt would be in a good mood. I watched quietly while the customer turned and went out.“David, come in come in,” he said.Milton and his brother Gerald, the company CFO, had founded the company thirty years earlier. Milton and I had become friends in spite of our totally different place on the social register. Milt was a people person. Gerald, on the other hand, was taciturn and friends with few; well, he was a money man and a money man only. The good news for me was that I never had to deal with Gerald, well, there’s an upside to everything.“Thanks, boss,” I said. I entered his office and waited for him to enthrone himself behind his desk before taking the seat in front of it.“So what’s happening, young man,” he said. I spread my hands in an ‘it’s a monster deal’ gesture; he picked up on it. Well, Milton was nothing if not good at reading people.“Dave? What’s wrong?” he said. I decided to get right to the point.“Stacey is leaving me and, at the least, wants to minimize my position with my daughter,” I said. Yes, I know that was maybe an exaggeration taking into consideration what she’d actually said, but I had gotten a very bad feeling from her tone and look when she laid it all on me.“Excuse me! You and Stacey! I mean you’re quits?” he said.“Seems so, yes. She laid it on me this morning. There’s more, but that’s the bottom line,” I said. “Boss, I need a couple of favors if that would be all right.”“Okay, tell me,” he said.“I’m going to need some time off until I can get things a bit more straightened out than they are at the moment. And . . .” I said.“And?” he said.“And, I wondered if your son, Nathan, might be willing to take my case on a contingency basis,” I said. “I figure to sue the sonovabitch ex-brother of mine, he’s the other man in the picture, for alienation of affection.” My boss nodded gravely.“I see. Well, as for the time off, sure. How much time do you think you’ll be needing?” he said.“I figure a couple of weeks if that would be all right,” I said.“Okay, I can set that up for you. But as for Nathan, he doesn’t do domestic stuff. He’s pretty much committed to criminal law,” he said. “I’m pretty sure he could recommend someone for you though. In fact I’m sure of it,” said Milton Ferguson.“Okay,” I said.“You say it would be on contingency? Meaning if you won the alienation case the lawyer, whoever it turned out to be, would get his then?” said Milton.“Yes, my brother’s a millionaire; I can’t compete with him on any level when it comes to money. He’s sure to be going to use his cash to pay for the best he can find out there, lawyer-wise,” I said.“Your bother, then is the other man as you say. You mean Ronald?” he said.“Yes,” I said. He whistled.“That’s a big-assed wow,” he said.“Worse, I found out this morning that he was the sperm donor for Jenna,” I said. The look on the older man’s face was nothing if not one of pure shock.“Oh my God,” he said. He picked up the phone and punched in a number. “I’m calling Nathan right now. I know he’s working today. You’ll have an appointment with him before lunch.”“Thank you, boss. I really need to get the ball rolling at the earliest possible moment,” I said.“Absolutely,” he said. The call went through and the older man swiveled in his chair away from me to talk to whoever was on the other end, likely Nathan Ferguson himself.Call completed, he swiveled back to face me. “I wasn’t able to get you in before lunch, but I was able to get you in ‘for’ lunch. The Holiday Inn on third at noon,” he said.“Thanks a million, boss. I won’t forget this. I won’t,” I said.“Not a problem, David, and good luck. I know how bad these sorts of things can be,” he said.We parted company and I headed out and across town to the Holiday Inn. I still had two hours to kill, but I didn’t have anywhere else to be. My wife was with her lover, and would be with my daughter by day’s end which bothered me; but, I was going to do my best to minimize the impact of that situation immediately if not sooner!******I finished my second manhattan and was watching the overhead TV monitor. The Red Sox were ahead of bahis siteleri the Yankees three to two, bottom of the sixth.The man slid onto the stool next to mine. “You’re David Carter if I’m not mistaken,” said the man.“Yes, sir, I am. You must be Nathan, Nathan Ferguson,” I said.“I am that,” he said. “My dad gave me but few particulars. A divorce action, right?”“Yes, but mainly a custody battle and an alienation of affection lawsuit. I think she intends to cut me out of my rights as a father. She thinks she can do it because I, as I found out this morning, was not the sperm donor; her lover was, fourteen years ago,” I said. My bar mate nodded gravely.“Let’s move this little confab over there,” he said. “It’ll be more comfortable and a deal more private.” We headed for the booth he indicated.Seated, I laid it out for him.“So, the other guy, your brother, was the sperm donor, but he never paid any child support. He’s just been Uncle Ron all of these years?” he said.“Yes,” I said.“And, you had no clue about any of this these past many years?”“No, nothing,” I said. He nodded.“Okay, I have someone I want you to talk to, and yes, I know this is on contingency. She’s my associate, and she is very good at what she does which is all family law. What can be done she will do. I have to tell you, that while what the two of them have done to you is shit, the only thing the judge will likely look at, as far as custody is concerned, is the welfare of the child. You’ll get visitation, but how much or under what conditions, well, that’s going to be up in the air until whatever judge you get finally rules. As for the alienation of affection suit, that’s usually a toughie, but in this case, well, I think you actually have a solid case. Anyway, Her name in Winifred Clark, and she is good,” said Nathan. “Call her. Tell her I sent you.”******I made the appointment with my new lawyer by phone for Monday; well, I was anxious to get it done. I definitely wanted a short court date as far as the matter of custody was concerned. I wasn’t going to give them a chance to undermine me with Jenna.But, lawyer or no lawyer, for the moment I was dependent on the two cheaters; and, I hated it. I gritted my teeth and made the call.“Yeah, I want to see my daughter if she’s there. Okay?” I said, that in answer to his hello. I figured the woman would have already picked her up from her sleepover.“Uh, David, okay,” said my ex-brother. “When you coming over?”“I’ll pick her up in half an hour,” I said.“Uh, just a minute, okay.” He evidently put down the phone because he didn’t react to my “I don’t have a minute.”“David?” said my wife, now the party on the other end of the line.“Yes, I’ll be over to pick up Jenna in half an hour unless you two are planning on blocking contact with her by me,” I said.“David, we had something going, but okay this time. Half an hour?” she said. “Can you give me an idea when you might be bringing her back?”She’d stopped me momentarily with that one. It occurred to me that she was already assuming that she would have physical custody of our baby. I decided to call her on it.“In a couple of hours, unless she opts to stay with me instead of you, that is until the court makes a decision in the matter of custody one way or the other,” I said.“David, you need to get over your anger. I promise, that if you help us out here, we, Ron and I, will do our best to make things good by you. Please! Okay?” I said. I was steaming.“Half an hour,” I said, and I hung up and that not too gently.******She was dressed very nicely as she came down the walkway from my ex-brother’s semi-mansion. Well, he was a millionaire. I’d not seen the clothes she was wearing before. Momma had undoubtedly already taken her shopping. She was only thirteen or I’m sure her new would-be daddy would have had her driving a new Vette for damn sure. Bribery would be his modus operandi; I was sure of it.“Hi baby,” I said, as she got in the car.“Hi dad,” she said. I smiled at that, her calling me dad. I wondered what she was calling him. Well, I guessed I would know the answer to that soon enough.We headed for the IHOP near our house, the house that used to be home to the three of us and now was home only to me unless Jenna opted to be with me.Seated and having ordered, we stared at our place mats.“How’s it going, honey girl,” I said.“Okay,” she said.“Jenna, I’m your daddy; you can talk to me tell me anything. Okay?” I said.“Okay,” she said.“So, can I ask you something?” I said.“Uh-huh,” she said.“You’re mom wants you to stay at your uncle’s house? Would you like to come home tonight and be with me?” I said. I was holding my breath.She was looking down. I had a bad feeling.“Jenna?” I said.“I only got there today, Daddy. I was at Marlene’s house until last night. Momma picked me up from there today, and we went shopping. We were gonna go to the zoo this afternoon, but momma said you wanted to talk to me,” she said.“Yes, yes I did. Well, you can imagine,” I said. “But tell me would you like to stay at our house, you know, until the courts say or do something?”“Momma says I will be staying at their house, hers and daddy Ron’s,” said Jenna.“Daddy Ron’s?” I said. I guess I had my answer as to what she was calling him.“Yes, daddy. Momma says he’s my real daddy. I know about that stuff, dad, sperm and a woman’s eggs and everything. I’m thirteen,” she said.“So you’re calling me daddy and him daddy too?” I said. I wasn’t sure how I was feeling about that. My soon to be ex had seemed to indicate that I was going to be cut out of the daddy category, but maybe canlı bahis siteleri so far, at least, not.“Yes, but . . .” she said.“But?” I said.“Momma says I’m supposed to call you uncle, but I can’t daddy. I mean, I know that daddy Ron is my real daddy, but so are you aren’t you?” she said. She was being so earnest that in any other situation it would have been comical.“Well, your momma is wrong. Your Uncle Ron, was the sperm donor, but we, you and I, have been daddy and daughter forever, and that’s not going to change. Okay?” I said.“Okay, daddy,” she said.“But again, where would you rather stay, until the court tells us what to do, our house or his?” I said.“I guess with momma, daddy. Is that all right?” she said. I was a little hurt, but at least, she wasn’t letting her mother’s dictates rob us of our father-daughter relationship, so far. I wonder if my wife really was duplicitous enough to try and force her to defrock me of my fatherhood.We ate and talked, and I made a concerted effort to try and make her feel good being with me. I took her back to the cheaters. I got a kiss from her as she exited my car. I watched as she headed up the walkway away from me. Oh, how I hated the two of them! CHAPTER THIRTEEN 2001 The meeting with Winifred Clark was anything but boring.“Nice to meet you she said. Nathan told me you’ve got a really, what, complicated situation,” said Miss Clark.“Oh yeah, I said. Really complicated and I didn’t know where to turn. Anyway, I explained my problem to my boss, Nathan’s dad, last Saturday, and he, well, here I am,” I said.“Yes, here you are. Why don’t we begin by you giving me an overview of your situation if that’s all right,” she said. “Then, I’ll ask you some questions and we can then look at what your options might be. Then, that done, we’ll put together a plan of action. Sound okay to you?”“Sure bet,” I said. Over the next half hour, I laid out a timeline of all of the events and happenings right up to and including my meeting with my daughter. My new lawyer raised an eyebrow at my description of that scene, but said nothing initially. But then she did.“To describe your situation as, well, a situation, is pretty much an understatement,” she said. “Heck, I’ve seen soap operas with less pathos.”“Yeah, really,” I said.“There’s good news and bad news, David. The good news is that the judge will guarantee your status as ‘a’ father of Jenna, but likely not her only father; there is really no doubt about that. You’ve been that to her forever, and that is going to be recognized by the court. The bad news is, your wife will likely get physical custody of Jenna year ‘round. You’ll likely get visitation, and I will fight to expand that, but overall they, the two of them will be in a position to influence your daughter, at least to some extent. You say her lover, your half-brother, has money?” she said.“Yes, he’s a millionaire, car dealerships, four of them,” I said. She nodded gravely.“From what you’ve told me about their attitude, they will likely use their money and other resources to influence how Jenna sees things and how she acts toward you. But, similarly, from all you’ve told me, I think it unlikely that they would try to actually vilify you. And . . .“I don’t see Jenna willingly writing you out of your position as her father, maybe even her main father; but, there may be things she accedes to over time that will rankle in your gut: shining you on at certain ceremonial events, the other guy walking her down the aisle if and when she marries, forgetting important dates: your birthday, Father’s day and the like. In her mind, she won’t be consciously shunting you aside, but the effect will be the same. If you take my advice, you will remain calm and aloof from such slights as they may occur, and I am fully aware of how hard that may be for you,” she said.I sagged back in my seat. “You said you might be able to expand my visitation rights from what is usually the case?” I said.“Maybe, that will be a main thrust of my efforts for sure. Can I ask, is there any way you might be able to get the two of them to lighten up and not get in the way of a joint and equal custody request by us?” she said.“Not according to my wife. She seemed adamant that I would be relegated to second class citizenship when it comes to my baby,” I said. “I can ask again, try again, but I doubt if they’ll budge.”“Okay, well make the effort anyway. We need to be able to tell the judge we tried. Okay?” she said.“Okay,” I said.We talked some more and settled a few things, including my alienation of affection suit. But, the most immediate thing for me, at least in one respect, was to go for a short court date. I did not want this thing, the divorce, and the custody battle tied up with it, to be dragged out any more than was absolutely necessary. And, then the meeting was over, and I was left to cry in my beer.As much as I hated my wife, at least, I was telling myself that I hated her; I still needed her. I still loved her too; there was no escaping that reality. Love, hate, confusion, desperation all of it was my lot. All of that added onto what the two of them were going to try to do, as I saw it, to come between my daughter and me. I did not deserve this, any of it!******I got the word less than a week later: we got our short date. It seems that my ex-wife was going to cooperate at least to that extent. And while it is what I wanted, her giving in to me on this particular point, and that so easily, worried me; it worried me a lot!Just thirty-days from the date of her filing for the divorce, canlı bahis we were in court for a hearing. We stared at each other from across the room. Well, I stared, she just smiled at me and seemed to be sending me the message that she was my friend. Well, we’d see about that.“The court will come to order, the honorable Preston Daniels presiding. You may all be seated.I watched as the two of them made their statements; I guess that’s what they were. The judge acknowledged them. Then, I was called. Winnifred had to encourage me to go up and tell my side of things. Odd, the lawyers didn’t do much or say much themselves, not in court at any rate. I made my statement; then, it was time for the judge to do all of the talking.He addressed himself mainly to the last two things, the last bones of contention between us, between me and Stacey and my ex-brother.As regards the divorce petition filed by Mrs. Carter, wife of David Carter. I hereby grant it since it is not contested by Mr. David Carter. The property settlement shall be as presented to me and is, again, not contested by Mr. David Carter. But now, as regards the two remaining issues.My primary concern is for the welfare of Jenna Carter age thirteen. I have talked to Jenna and she has held forth that she loves her father of thirteen years, David Carter very much. But, she has indicated that she would prefer to reside with her mother for purposes of physical custody and permanent residency . . .”I sank back in my seat. Winnie, Winnifred, had warned me that the mother usually got physical custody, but hearing that Jenna had okayed it hurt. It hurt a lot, an awful lot. I felt myself about to vomit, then, I did. The hullabaloo that ensued held up things for a quarter of an hour while I cleaned up and straightened myself out in an adjacent restroom. I don’t know who mopped up the mess I’d made on the floor and seat.“Are you okay now, Mr. Carter?” said the judge. I nodded. I didn’t trust my voice, his honor didn’t push it. My now ex-wife had a very concerned look on her face, my ex-brother too if it came to that.“Mister Carter, you have been Jenna’s daddy for all of this time. I would like to say that visitation by you shall be unlimited and without restriction, but practicalities require that I structure things to be as fair as might be. This, bearing in mind the psychological and physical welfare of Jenna Carter. “Mister Carter, you shall be entitled to have Jenna with you one weekend a month, which weekend shall be as agreed to by you and your now ex-wife, Stacey Carter. Additionally, you and your ex-wife will alternate holiday custody, also as shall be agreed to between the two of you. Finally, Mr. Carter, You will be entitled to have Jenna reside with you for two weeks during her school’s summer vacation, which schedule shall also be agreed to by you and your ex-wife.“Now, as to the matter of Mr. Ronald Carter, the biological father’s rights. I have been appraised of the fact that he shall be marrying Stacey Carter; hence, his place in the scheme of things is not at issue. Should this proposed marriage not take place or should any of the main factors in this divorce change substantially, this court stands ready to revisit its decisions.“And lastly, the matter of alienation of affection on the part of Ronald Carter. It is clear to me, as would be the case per any reasonable person, that mister Ronald Carter did indeed alienate the affections of Stacey Carter from her husband David Carter. An award of $250,000 is hereby granted to Mr. David Carter in this regard.” I noticed that even my rich ex-brother winced at the judge’s ruling.“Court adjourned.”I sat stock still. I didn’t care a tinker’s damn about the award, only about the custody issue. Winnifred, sat with me saying things, but I really didn’t hear her, or, hearing, understand what she was about.I had expected it, her, Jenna, staying with them. Deep down I had expected it, but it was a shock nonetheless. I couldn’t process her choosing him over me, not over the long haul. No, I couldn’t.“You going to be all right, David?” she said, finally. I looked up at her and nodded. Truth told I didn’t even know what I was nodding about. She patted my arm and then I was alone. The courtroom was empty except for me.Finally, I rose to leave. It was after 5:00PM. Outside, the corridor was empty; well I thought it was, at first. Them I felt someone tug at my sleeve.“David, I’m sorry,” said Stacey. I looked around at her. I glanced left and right looking for him; he wasn’t there. I just stared at her.“She chose him,” I said. I started walking away, but slowly.“David, he’s her father, but she chose me, her mother, not him. David, we have to talk. The judge said we have to make decisions together, about visitation. David, I know what the judge said, but you won’t be limited to just what he said. We can work things out so that they are way more generous to you. Okay?” she said.“She chose him,” I said, repeating myself. “Please just leave me alone. I need to be alone.”“David this isn’t all bad. You got a quarter million in there. I’m giving you the house and the savings. For godssake, what else can I do!” she said.“I don’t care about your damn money. The lawyers might, but I don’t. Get that lady, get that! Now get away from me and leave me alone. She chose him!”“Oh, my. Okay, David, but we, you and I, need to talk. Okay?” she said.“She chose him.”******Outside of the courthouse I squinted in the sunlight that reflected harshly off the white stone of the buildings. I didn’t quite stumble down the steps but almost; I was still sick to my stomach.A blue Sentra pulled up to the curb where I was about to cross the street to hire a cab that I’d noticed stationed there. Winnie had driven me down, but I had opted to not have her drive me back.

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