Jason Onlly Loved Me: For my money.
JASON ONLY LOVED ME … For my money! By: Dallas G. Releford, BS/MS Originally written for True Confessions / True Romance Magazine Speaking in her hushed, quiet tone of voice, my mother Bernice Whitley told me, “Lisa, never marry any man that’s just too smart. He’ll bring you suffering, hardship and immeasurable pain.” Being a teenage country-girl without any real experience in such things, my mother’s advice went in one ear and out the other like a sparrow flying aimlessly, sporadically through the leafless branches of a tree. Somehow, her slapdash statement just didn’t sink in. Irrelevant to anything that I was thinking or concerned with, her warning seemed out of place, ineffectual in my arsenal of useful knowledge. It most certainly didn’t involve anything we’d been discussing. Mom had inquired about Bobby Durham, a boy I’d been seeing for a few weeks. Bobby wasn’t a regular boyfriend and as far as I was concerned, our relationship was just casual. I’d only dated him a few times and Mom had already decided that she didn’t like him even though she’d only met him one time. Bobby was forward, pushy and brainy and I’d be the first one to admit that. However, he was also charming, nice, and inventive. Mom told me that Bobby was “too smart for his own good” and when I asked her what she meant, she just said that he would wind up in trouble because he wasn’t willing to listen to other people, people that could teach him the right way. He had his mind set, his goals defined and wasn’t willing to have an open mind about things. Mom said he smiled too much, and for some reason I didn’t understand, I agreed with her. Mom tried to explain about what she’d told me and when I didn’t seem to understand, her frustration had ended with a sudden outburst about not marrying the wrong man. Actually, I hadn’t even considered marriage because I still had my entire life before me. Not only that, but I hadn’t and wouldn’t plan on marrying anyone that I wasn’t happy with. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t even looking for anyone. My family wasn’t poor and we weren’t destitute, however, we weren’t what you’d call overly rich either. My father had deserted us several years ago and my mother was struggling to feed us and to keep me in school. That small country farming community we lived in didn’t offer much in the way of employment and not much of a future for someone like me, ambitious, intelligent and inquisitive. Choices were few when it came to a future. You either became a farmer or went on to college and got a job in some other state. My dream was to attend college, get a degree in medicine, and become a doctor. At that time, that possibility seemed remote, so one of the few other options a girl like me had was to marry a rich man or at least someone with a promising future. This was what my mother was really trying to tell me, that I should possibly consider marrying someone with a professional background, but not someone that would make my life miserable. My mother finally managed to get the point across to me by explaining that some men were just fakes, men with idle dreams of riches who would lead a girl on and without any intentions of providing for her. They talked, dreamed about doing something great, and rarely pursued anything useful that would help them accomplish their goals. Maybe Bobby Durham did fit that mold? Anyway, giving in to my mother’s intuition, I quit going out with him. Bobby was totally self-centered, without a doubt. He’d talk about himself and what he was going to accomplish after he’d gone to college. That didn’t quite add up for me. Bobby missed more school than anyone in class and his grades were just about as failing as they could get. Bobby didn’t study to improve his grades and merely placed the blame on his teachers. The son of a tenant farmer, he was less fortunate than I was. The difference was that I was working my butt off to get ahead so I could go to college, if we got the money, and he did absolutely nothing to improve his lot in life. I decided that my mom was right; there were people like she was talking about in this world and Bobby Durham was one of them. Ambition without dedication has little promise and I was sure that I was right about that. Bobby didn’t even seem concerned when I refused his offers to go out with him. He never cared enough to ask me why. I guess he just assumed that I’d change my mind, eventually, but I never did. When you’re sixteen, desperately seeking answers to many perplexing questions, you tend to seek out those answers as candidly as possible relying on your own instincts to guide you. You seem to have answers to many questions that later on in life, you find out weren’t the right answers in the first place. Mom and I were close, almost good friends even though she could be pushy, demanding and strict at times. I figured it was for my own good and let it go at that. In those days, I had many questions that I felt comfortable asking her and just as many, perhaps, that I didn’t feel like consulting her about. Like the sparrow, some of the answers to my questions were fleeting, elusive, and embarrassing for me to ask anyone, especially my mother. I figured I could find my own answers to life’s little mysteries. I still wanted to make sure that I understood what Mom was saying even though I wasn’t concerned about making the same kind of mistake she was talking about. So, I pressed her for more information. “Are you saying that I should be interested in a man who doesn’t have as much education as I do? Do you think that I should find someone who won’t be competitive and who won’t be a threat to me? It’s possible I’d wind up having to support someone like that. Is that what you’re saying, Mother?” Standing in the kitchen helping her wash dishes, I just couldn’t imagine her wanting that kind of life for me, her very own daughter. “Of course not, Lisa,” she’d said looking at me, surprised. “I only meant that some men are just too smart for their own good, or for that matter, for your good. They’ll trick you into thinking that you are the most wonderful person in the world and that they love you more than life itself. When they’re assured that you have fallen for their line, then they’ll take advantage of you, every time. It’s okay to have a good education and some smarts, so don’t get me wrong about that. However, some men aren’t anything but swindlers who prey on helpless women. I just wanted you to be aware of such people; that’s all.” Mom was beautiful with dark hair, soft brown eyes, and a shapely figure that did not seem to belong to someone in her early forties. I looked something like her, only younger. Hard work, eating in moderation the way most folks in our part of the country did and country living had made her look ten years younger than she really was. Adoring my mother as I did, I only wanted to make sure that I fully understood what she was trying to tell me. Then it hit me, suddenly and with a great deal of pain, like a bolt of lightning from out of the blue. I finally understood what she was saying. If anyone understood what it was like to marry a swindler, a heart-breaking, money-stealing thief, then my mother should know because my father was such a person. She’d lived with him for twenty-four years before finally learning the truth about him; the hard way. I knew the story and should have realized immediately what she was attempting to tell me. They had been married after they both graduated from high school and for a while, they were happy. My father, Joseph had gone to college on money my mother had earned from the flower shop her parents had left her when they died. When my father graduated from college with a chemical engineering degree in his hand, they were jubilant. My mother thought that he’d get a job and put his earnings in the bank. Using money from her flower shop to pay the bills, she’d hoped that they could grow a nice little nest egg and buy a house someday. He did put some of his earnings from his job at the Fulton Oil Company in a savings account; his savings account. My mother hadn’t thought too much about that because she knew that he loved her as much as she loved him. Things seemed fine until she asked him to see his savings account book and he ignored her. Realizing that something was awry, she began to worry that she’d made a serious mistake. Before she had time to consider her suspicions, he’d withdrawn their money from the savings account and left town. On a hot July afternoon, my mother found a note he’d left on the kitchen table. He wasn’t coming back. My father had taken our car, his clothes and other possessions, and we never saw him again. That was never going to happen to me because my mother had warned me to be aware of such people. Actually, I never had time to date much while I was in high school because working at the flower shop after school and on Saturdays to help my mother keep the business going took most of my time. What little time I had left was devoted to studying and preparing for a better life. As bad as things had been, it was still a good life because I had my mother, my job and my hopes for a brighter future. Even though I had always wanted to be a doctor, I couldn’t see how I was going to pay for my education on grants and the meager income I earned from helping my mother. The flower shop was a prosperous business except for the fact that we weren’t getting rich doing it. Then everything changed. Mom got a contract with several nursing homes, hospitals and funeral homes in the area to supply them with flower arrangements. Investing in a green house, we were able to supply live plants to many of those institutions as well. Encouraged by our success, we began putting money away in a special savings account for my education. We were content, satisfied, and happy, until he walked into my life. During my last year of high school, I worked full-time at the flower shop as I had in previous years. My mother worked arranging flowers, getting orders ready and taking care of business while I worked the counter. As the business increased so did our workload. Mom hired Mary Ann Laker to help us. Mary Ann, a friend of ours, had long blond hair, dazzling blue eyes, creamy white skin and a charming personality. Her glamorous presence was exactly what we needed. She was everywhere helping customers, handling stock and even helping Mom with the accounting. Mary Ann was good with computers. She planned on going to college in the fall and getting a degree in computer science. Even though I was busy during that last year before I graduated, I could tell that my feminine needs were pushing me toward finding someone to satisfy my desires, wishes and wants. Lonely for male companionship even when I was with my mother and friends, I studied harder, worked aggressively, and put in longer hours. None of those activities helped to stifle my loneliness. Mary Ann and I talked a lot when we could, but even the closeness of our relationship didn’t serve to end my misery. I guess that my father leaving us as he did had left me with a feeling that I’d been deserted, rejected by the most important male in my life and I was desperately reaching out for someone to replace him. Just when I needed him the most, he’d left us. That took a lot of effort on my part to understand why he had done what he’d done, and I still don’t think I have it all figured out. Regardless of his reasons, I attempted to shut his memories out of my mind and go on with my life. However, the effort was futile because he was always coming home to us in my dreams. Gradually, as I slowly crept toward my eighteenth birthday, his memories faded away leaving a great void in my young life that was difficult to fill. During that time, I think I got the idea in my head that I was not going to get married and that I was going to die as an old maid, alone and without children to keep me company in my final days. Worst of all, I wasn’t going to have a husband to share my feelings, concerns and bed with. Stumped, frustrated and miserable because I didn’t have time to date anyone, didn’t have time to think about my future, I worked in that flower shop day after day trying to hold myself together, trying not to lose my mind and attempted to assure myself that everything would turn out better than I expected. My mother didn’t seem to be worried, concerned or upset after my father died. Unemotional, she rarely mentioned his name and I just thought that she was being tough, restrained and that she was determined that his actions weren’t going to bother her. However, I could hear her sobbing late into the night after she closed her bedroom door. I felt sorry for her and wondered what I could do to help her. Then, I realized that my father had hurt both of us. He’d hurt us seriously. I’d never find it in my heart to forgive the man so I blocked him out of my mind, out of my heart and out of my life the best that I could. I don’t think my mom has forgotten him to this day. I guess she still loves him no matter what he did to us. That was hard for an eighteen-year old girl to understand. I guess that I still don’t really understand it. After the excitement of having Mary Ann working with us drained into a mundane, routine day-to-day existence, I had time to take notice of things around me. Before that, the shop was so busy that I hardly had time to run the cash register and help with other small chores that needed my attention. We got plenty of customers, women buying flowers for their homes, men and boys shopping for flowers for their wives or girlfriends and even business people purchasing flower arrangements for their employees for some special occasion. On a Friday morning when my mom, Mary Ann and me were looking forward to our weekly dinner and get together that night at Arnold’s Restaurant on Hamilton Avenue, I was standing at the counter checking some purchase orders when I noticed a young man that I was sure I’d seen in the store several times before. Something about him attracted my attention and held it. As he walked around the various flower displays and as he stood looking intently at the roses in a cooler near the entrance, I watched him hoping that he wouldn’t turn around and see me staring at him. Even though I could remember him, I couldn’t remember him buying anything. Maybe I had just been busy and didn’t recall him making a purchase, however, it just didn’t register in my mind. He did turn around and then I got a real good look at him. Tall, broad shouldered, dark hair, deep brown eyes and a radiant smile that escalated me into a heavenly stupor, made my heart flutter and peaked my interest is the best way that I can describe him. Wondering where he’d been all my life, I braced myself as my mind raced and my heart fluttered like butterflies in a green meadow on a warm summer afternoon. Mesmerized by his boyish charm, his manly demeanor and his captivating appearance, I attempted to appear as if I hadn’t noticed him. As he approached the counter, the butterflies seemed to fly around in my stomach, too. “Morning,” he said smiling. “How’s business?” “Great,” I said, almost telling him that it was better now that he was here. Of course, I didn’t really say that because for the first few minutes, I didn’t say anything. I just sat with my chin hanging, my tongue numb, and my lower lip quivering not knowing what to say. Finally, regaining my composure, managing a slight smile, I replied, “Is there something I can do for you?” That seemed like a stupid question to me even though I’d said it because I could imagine many things that I could do for him and most of them were legal. Feeling that I was being irrational, thinking with my heart, I tried to put such foolish thoughts out of my mind and act like I had a little sense. I didn’t even know the man and already, I was fantasizing about him. As I sheepishly stared at him, the gap in my life became just a little less frightening. I was almost sure that it’d take someone like him to fill that gap and make me whole again. I asked myself that age-old question that seems to appear in such situations like a ghost on Halloween night; was he the one that would take me places that I wanted to go, make my dreams come true and fulfill my deepest fantasies? “Yeah, my name is Jason Randall. What’s your name?” Aghast, a little unsure about his direct approach, I felt uncomfortable about telling him my name even though I couldn’t see any harm in it. I never was too comfortable or appreciative of people who answered my question with another question. It sort of interrupted the natural order of things. “Lisa Whitley,” I answered figuring that I could at least answer his question properly. Before he could answer, I set the record straight by asking again, “What can I do for you, sir?” After all, I didn’t want to seem too interested in him even though my heart knew that I was. Smiling, he said, “Glad to meet you, Lisa. How about two dozen roses for the most beautiful woman in the world.” I wondered what it would be like to receive two dozen roses from a good-looking man. Since I’d never had a steady boyfriend, I really didn’t know, and I wanted to know what it was like. “How do you want those, sir?” I asked the question while entering the data on the computer terminal. I wasn’t looking at him even though I could see him clearly in my mind. I’m sure he was smiling because he’d been smiling since I first met him. Even though I had a vague image of him fixed firmly in my mind, I wanted to look at him, explore his tall, rock-hard frame, stare into those deep brown eyes and see what I could see there. As candid as any movie star I’d ever seen on television or in the movies, he was remarkably pleasant with a serene, laid back personality that reached out for me. I was afraid to reach back, afraid that my first impression of him was wrong and that his pleasant disposition might be bogus, a charade to attract a partner and to put her off guard. Determined that I wasn’t going to become a victim that easily, I continued to study that image I had of him in my mind as I continued playing the part of a dedicated businesswoman. Taking an envelope and a card from under the counter, I put them on the counter. “You can write the receiver’s name on this card if you like,” I told him. “One dozen red and the other dozen yellow,” he replied while writing on the card and signing it. “They’re to go to the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met. I’ll deliver them myself so you won’t have to worry about that.” “No bother,” I told him. “We’d be more than happy to deliver them for you.” “Just send them to the person’s name on that card,” he said pointing toward the card on the counter. “I want to be sure she receives it. Maybe she’ll go out with me.” “I’m sure she will,” I told him wishing I was the one that would go out with him. As I reached for the card, he pushed it toward me and I was sure that he was going to grab my hand and kiss it. He was that sort of man, debonair, intuitive and bold like a knight in shining armor. Quickly stealing a glance at him, my mind raced, my heart pounded against my ribs like a thousand drums, and it was all I could do to keep from staring at him. I’m sure that my face was flushed. Hoping that he wouldn’t notice my discomfort, I hastily pulled the card toward me before his hand reached over and touched mine. Without noticing what was on the card, I left it in easy reach near the computer keyboard. All I could remember were those two soft, brown eyes looking intently at me as if he couldn’t take them off me. Before I began entering the information into the Point of Sale computer program, I happened to glance at the card because I thought I might know the name of the lucky woman who would receive the flowers. At first, I thought maybe I was still fantasizing when I saw my name on the card and it took me several moments to convince myself that it was true. It was my name printed clearly in neat block letters. He had signed my name on the card and I was the most beautiful woman in the world that he was talking about. Somehow, I always thought that meeting him, Jason Randall, the perfect man, the ideal companion and the one man that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with would be something romantic, enthralling and exciting, however, I never thought that it would be shocking, sudden and unexpected. To say that I was shocked was putting it mildly. With my mouth open, my eyes glazed and my knees shaking, I didn’t know what to say or what to do. Everything was happening too fast. I didn’t have time to think, to study him closely, to understand him or to figure out what his motivation was. Sure, I wanted to go out with him and there wasn’t any doubt about that except that I didn’t appreciate the way he’d made his approach. Everything had happened too fast for me. I needed time to get to know him better, time to find out what he was really like and to find out if we were compatible. Just from what I knew about him, which wasn’t much, I knew that he wasn’t the type of man that had to beg for a date. With that knowledge bothering me, that he might not ask me again, that he might already have a steady girlfriend and that I might not ever see him again, I desperately wanted to get to know him better. I really did want to go out with Jason, at least once. I thought that his technique was just a little sneaky, tricky, and pushy. So what? All I could think of saying was, “You’re kidding? Right?” “I’m serious,” he replied, still smiling. His eyes never drifted from mine and my eyes were frozen on his. “Look at the bill. That’s proof that I’m serious. Do you think we can go out to dinner, or something?” I didn’t know what to say. One of the most handsome men that I’d ever known stood in front of me and I knew I might not meet anyone like him ever again. Maybe I’d better not take a chance on losing him, I thought, so I said the one thing that I wanted to say, “Sure, I think I’d like that.” Okay, things looked good for me and Jason. While we were talking, my mother entered the room and I introduced Jason to her. They talked for a long time and I could hardly get a word in. My mom liked him and I liked him. We went out to dinner on a Saturday night after I’d worked all day. I enjoyed the meal and we talked for a long time. Jason seemed to be everything that I had thought he was, charming, pleasant to be with and responsive to my needs. After the waiter had brought our meal, we talked about our pasts, things we’d done, people we knew and things like that, a casual conversation, you might say, as we ate. Jason told me about minor things leaving out where he’d gone to school, where he worked and other personal information that I wanted to know. Unwilling to dive into his personal history on a first date, I figured that he’d tell me more about himself later, so I didn’t ask him. Enchanted with Jason’s pleasant personality, his unbending kindness to me, I allowed him to kiss me on the front steps of our house on a first date, something that I always denied most of my suitors. I suppose I did that because I wanted another date and because I really did like him. Something inside me didn’t want me to deny Jason that pleasure because I wanted his kiss, wanted to be close to him and wanted to know more about him. My mother wanted to know more about him, too. Wasn’t that a natural trait of most mothers? After three dates, I learned that Jason Randall had graduated the previous year from the same high school that I attended. He worked a part-time job as a janitor at a local retirement home and had strong aspirations about becoming a lawyer. He had disclosed that his parents weren’t rich and that he was trying to save his money so he could go to college. He hadn’t started school yet because he spent most of his time working at the nursing home. He had explained that he might be able to go to school next year if he could keep his job. Somehow, I had the idea that his job at the nursing home wasn’t too secure or that something else was bothering him. I suppose I understood his predicament. Jobs were scares in our community as I mention before and the fact that Jason had any job was remarkable. I was impressed that he managed to support himself and save money. Jason had told me that he had a small apartment down on Hamilton Avenue. Mary Ann had told me that janitors didn’t make very much money. I wasn’t worried about that because I just knew that Jason was the type of person that would do what he said he was going to do. Jason was going to continue working, saving his money and then he’d go to college. He’d graduate and I’d graduate, we’d get married and have a happy life together. Those were my plans, not his, so I didn’t mention them to him. He seemed to have things under control and he was doing the best that he could do, under the circumstances. Jason drove a new Corvette and I wondered how someone who worked as a janitor could afford such an expensive car. My mother expressed her concerns about that fact, too and I wondered if I should be concerned. Haphazardly, I struggled with asking him about it and then decided that he’d tell me eventually about everything that I wanted to know. “He has expensive tastes,” my mother had commented one day when we were on our way to work. I wondered, and waited for him to reveal his deepest secrets to me. The summer days turned into hot days and cool nights as fall approached. My summer vacation slowly waned away. When I wasn’t too tired from working at the flower shop, Jason and I went out on most weekends. Looking forward to graduating the next fall, I excitedly discussed my plans with Jason. Somehow, he seemed distant when I talked about our future. Sensing that he was jealous because I was planning to go to college, I tried to encourage him to look for another job where he could make more money and enhance his chances of getting into college when I did. Jason usually ignored me or complained about the lack of work in our town. I mentioned that he might be able to get grants and work his way through college, but he seemed offended that he would have to do such a thing. Dropping the subject like a hot potato, I decided that I’d have to leave it up to him and hope for the best. My mother continued to question Jason’s intentions and I simmered each time she asked me when he was going to college. With relentless determination, we continued to save every penny we could for my college education. Sweating, apprehensive, we watched my savings account slowly grow toward our goal and wondered if I’d have enough money to get into college. Jason didn’t seem worried about going to college. He finally told me that his father was going to pay for it and that reminded me that I only met his parents once. From what I could determine from their property, I couldn’t see how his father could afford to send him to college. That was the first indication that I had that Jason was not being entirely truthful with me. My love for him clouded my thinking and I tried to trust him because I had faith in him. We continued to date and he continued to avoid some of my most important questions. What were his plans after I finished high school? Where was he going to college? Did he intend to date me after I was out of high school? Would we be going to college in the same city? Plagued by these and other concerns, I wanted answers because I didn’t want to lose him. By that time, I was in love with Jason. I couldn’t lose him without losing part of myself, maybe forever. With time growing short, I tried courteously to get Jason to answer my questions and always came away from the conversation feeling like I’d been denied something that I deserved to know. I’d worked all summer and saved as much of my paycheck as I could. I was due to graduate in the fall and then I’d have to make the ultimate decision, whether to go to college near him or go where I had originally intended, a small town in Indiana that had an excellent medical college. Purchasing a computer, I crammed, studied hard for my college admission exams, and prepared for what I hoped was a future that would include Jason Randall. I still didn’t know what his plans were. I didn’t know if Jason had plans or not. That lack of knowledge plagued me, day and night. Sometimes, I wanted to tell him that he either commit himself to going to college and that he tell me where he was going, or I was going to drop him, but I never did. I loved him too much and wondered if I really knew anything at all about Jason Randall. I wanted to cry. On a date on a Friday night, in a restaurant where we were having dinner, Jason told me that he had decided to go to work for his uncle at an insurance company in Cincinnati where we lived. He’d be in Cincinnati and I’d be in Indiana, not very far apart, and yet, too far away to see each other every day. My opinion about his decision was that he really didn’t want to be with me. What was his motivation? I wondered what he was thinking. Why hadn’t he accepted his father’s offer to send him to college? Why had he chosen to work for his uncle? Why didn’t he want to be with me? Those questions pounded my mind like Thor, the God of Thunder pounding on drums as humongous as a football stadium. It got a little worse, for me anyway. Jason and I went out on a cold, dreary November night to a restaurant in Blue Ash where we occasionally dined. Bluntly, I asked him why he wasn’t going to college and what his intentions were. Defiantly, he told me that he wasn’t going to college because he felt that he could make more money working for his uncle in the insurance industry. I wondered about that. He’d seemed so enthused about becoming a lawyer and I wondered why he’d changed his mind. Suspicious, I asked him if he was concerned because I was going away to college and if he would miss me. “Sure, sweetheart,” Jason said taking a bite of food with his fork. “I’ll miss you. I reckon I can drive over and see you on the weekends, if that is all right with you.” “Of course,” I answered, “that’s perfectly fine with me. I guess I’m just wondering about our future. You gave me an engagement ring three months ago and I love it, but you haven’t mentioned anything about marriage or our future. Perhaps you lost your focus or something and just forgot about that, however, I need to know what we’re going to do. I have four years of college before I can make any real plans. It would be nice to know what to expect, though.” Jason was a person who seemed to do things impulsively, casually and at random. It was as if he just thought of something, and then did it. Personally, I think that was one of the few things that I didn’t like about him. Jason didn’t take time to think about the consequences of his actions and what affect such decisions would have on other people. That was how we became engaged; he’d just handed me a ring and asked me to be his steady girlfriend. He never even kissed me, and I thought that was strange. I was beginning to wonder if he even knew he loved me or if he really did love me. Did he have something else on his mind that overshadowed his love for me? “Jason, did you hear me?” I was staring at him and he was staring at his food like maybe filling his stomach was more important than our future. “What? Oh, yeah … well, I almost forgot, sorry.” Reaching into his coat pocket that he’d hung over the back of his chair, he pulled out a black, velvet box. Opening it, he placed it on the table in front of me, right near my plate. I hadn’t eaten very much since I didn’t feel too hungry because of the intense situation and the sight of that beautiful wedding ring right next to the steaming steak, baked potato and broccoli didn’t do it for me. I wanted to gag, felt faint and I wanted to throw up; all over his damn dinner. I didn’t want to receive a marriage proposal in a restaurant with dozens of people around. I wanted to be proposed to in a quiet place where he could pull me to him, hold me close and kiss me. It wasn’t that way, though. I learned something else that hadn’t even dawned on me until that night in that restaurant. Jason Randall wasn’t as considerate, sensitive and caring as I thought he was. The fact he’d handed me the ring and hadn’t proposed really irked me. Cupid had aimed his little arrow very accurately, though and I forgave his inadequate tendencies with fervent joy. I was finally getting married and going to college. Glaring at him maliciously with murder on my mind, I asked calmly, “Am I to consider this a wedding proposal, Jason.” “Uh, well yes. I thought you understood that, Lisa?” “You’re supposed to ask me, Jason,” I replied furiously. Jason seemed more like a drugged kid than he did a grown man. Were his true feeling showing? I didn’t know and thought that maybe he might just be nervous, unsure of himself. Recalling that day in the flower shop when I met him for the first time, I couldn’t convince myself that Jason Randall could be unsure of anything much less asking the woman he supposedly loved, to marry him. “Well, I’m sorry. Will you marry me, Lisa? That would make me the happiest man on earth. You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met.” “Of course, I will,” I said excited. Maybe he was just shy, I thought and decided to forgive him. “You will? That’s great. We’ll have to celebrate in a quiet place, later,” he said grinning nervously. “When are we getting married?” I asked wondering if I should try the ring on or wait for him to do the courteous thing and put it on my hand. Realizing that Jason might never think of it, I slipped the ring over my finger and held it up to the soft candlelight. The ring was beautiful and expensive. I wondered where Jason got the money for that ring, but that didn’t seem too important on that joyful and confusing evening. With mixed emotions, I accepted his offer, gave him my heart and hoped that I wouldn’t regret it. Thinking that he was just Jason, a person that loved me and had other things on his mind, I decided that he’d change for the better once we were married and he had responsibilities that he’d have to accept. He’d be a little more responsive once he’d solved whatever problem was bothering him. I was sure of it. “Getting married? Well, I suppose after you get out of college, don’t you think?” “I guess,” I said, disappointed. I was hoping we’d get married before I went to college. Jason didn’t seem too enthused about that possibility. He wanted to work, save money, buy a house and then get married. I felt like I was being pushed aside, hidden behind a rock like an old hag, or something.. Ignoring him, overwhelmed by the beauty of the ring, my very own wedding ring, I again forgave him and decided that I’d be able to change his mind before going away to college. His mind was hard to change. In November, just before graduation, I found out that I was pregnant. I was going to have a baby before I even got started in college. In fact, going to college now was completely out of the question. We’d only had sex one time and I guess that was enough. After that experience, I’d decided that it would be the first and the last time until we got married. Perplexed, confused, disoriented, I worried and wondered about what I was going to do. If I married Jason, then I wouldn’t be able to go to college. With the baby coming, I wouldn’t even be able to work for several months and after I had the baby I’d be tied town to a full-time job taking care of it until the baby was old enough for a babysitter to watch it so I could work. Furious, alone, and frightened, I turned to the one person that always seemed to have an answer to everything, my mother. Distraught, angry, and disappointed, my mother suggested that I force an early marriage and live on Jason’s paycheck until the baby was old enough for me to go to college. After the baby was old enough, I could go to college and leave the baby with a babysitter during the day while I was attending classes. I thought that I might be able to handle that. Jason would have to visit us on the weekends, if he wanted to see us. I wondered if he truly cared. I couldn’t wait to tell him that he was a father and wondered what his reaction would be. Well, Jason wasn’t too happy about the baby and wanted me to have an abortion and I wasn’t too happy with him for making that suggestion. Aware that I was angry with him, he finally compromised with me and we decided to get married in December, on Christmas Eve. So far, so good, or so I thought. After I graduated from high school, Jason presented the impression that he was going to be a loving, caring father to our baby and I was happy that he’d changed his mind about the abortion. As the wedding day approached, I became extremely nervous, anxious and to some extent, petrified that it was finally going to happen. The wedding was going to be a small one in our church with a few family and friends attending. Jason wanted to go to a minister and get married with only a couple of witnesses present. I wouldn’t hear of that. I had always wanted a large wedding and had even looked forward to it. Since we couldn’t afford what I wanted, I figured the least I could have was a church wedding, albeit it was a small one. Succumbing to my wishes, he started working for his uncle two weeks before Christmas. Christmas Eve finally came and we were married. Mother had bought four condominiums in Blue Ash last year. Jason and me moved into the lower floor apartments in one of our condominiums. Mom had bought the condominiums to generate extra income and she’d made a wise investment because they provided us with enough money for us to put over seventy five thousand dollars into my college savings account. We’d agreed that anything left over would be put into a fund for the baby’s education when it grew up. I thought that was one of the wisest decisions I ever made. Jason went to work every day and came home at night. I was surprised that he spent more time on his computer in the study than he did with me. Sometimes, I’d come into the kitchen at four o’clock in the morning to get something to eat and he’d still be on the computer. Figuring that he was playing games or something, I’d peck on the door and ask him what time he’d be to bed. Usually, I only got a grunt or a quick answer that he’d be up shortly. Next morning, he’d get up after only getting a few hours sleep and go back to work. After two weeks of this, my curiosity got the best of me and I asked him what he was doing on the damn computer all night. Seeming offended that I’d asked him such a question, he told me abruptly that he was doing business on the Internet. After asking him what kind of business he was doing, he said that he was writing computer programs that would make us rich some day. Okay, so I was willing to accept that. Why would he lie to me, his wife? I wouldn’t mind being married to another Bill Gates. Six months pregnant, I spent a lot of time alone and wondered why Jason wasn’t taking more interest in me. Feeling alone, deserted and abandoned, I spent my days wandering around the house trying to take care of the chores that needed my attention. At night after Jason came home, I had dinner ready for him and looked forward to his company. After eating, he’d usually kiss me quickly on my cheek and then he rushed the den where our computer was located. I was alone again destined to spend another night with the television or reading a book. The same routine happened every day of my life during that time. Tears, loneliness and anger were constant companions of mine. On a Wednesday morning in February, I decided to go shopping. After shopping for groceries and a few other items, I was totally shocked, angry, and confused when my credit card was rejected because of insufficient funds. Handing the clerk my personal bankcard, I was confounded when it also showed insufficient funds. Digging into my purse, I was finally able, after many embarrassing moments, to come up with enough cash to pay the bill. Ignoring the crowd of curious shoppers behind me, I walked out of the store wanting to kill somebody. When I got home, the first thing I did was to get on my computer and check my bank account. Those zeroes froze my blood and sent cold chills dwindling down through my body like a cold rain. Someone had transferred all my money from my account to someone else’s account. Suspicious, terrified, and bewildered all at the same time, I checked my savings account and was amazed that my seventy-five thousand dollars was gone, too. I’d been cleaned out like a bulldozer had come through my life and left nothing behind but a bare, dirt surface. Appalled, not knowing what to do, I called Mary Ann. She’d know what to do, she was a computer guru. After explaining what had happened, Mary Ann seemed excited about it and told me she would be right over. Mary Ann only lived ten minutes away. I thought about calling my mother because I knew I’d have to tell her, eventually. I just didn’t want to do it right now. It could wait for a few hours, or maybe even a day. I had to find out who took the money and how they did it. I thought about calling the bank and decided to wait until Mary Ann had a chance to look at the accounts and see what she could find out. “It had to be someone that has your passwords and account numbers,” Mary Ann stated bluntly and that turned my blood cold, anesthetized my mind and sent shivers escalating through my body chilling the morrow in my bones. Mary Ann sat down in front of the computer on my desk in my bedroom and I stood behind her looking nervously over her shoulder as she worked her magic. “The only people who have that information is me and … and Jason. You don’t suppose he’s done something to my bank accounts do you? Is that possible?” “Could be,” Mary Ann surmised. “Somebody with the correct information transferred your funds into their account.” “Any way to tell who did it and what they did with the money?” “Well, not without the bank knowing who was in their computers. Their records are secure. I’d suggest that you call them and see if they can help you. I’d have to hack the main bank downtown and I don’t want to do that unless I really have to.” Suddenly finding myself believing her, I picked up the phone and reported the incident to my bank. They gave me a number of the fraud investigations division and I called them. All they could tell me was that someone using my account information had transferred the money from my accounts into an unknown account. Persuading them to give me the account number where my money had been transferred, I wrote it on a piece of paper and handed it to Mary Ann. We had the account name and number. Now all we needed was the password information and I had a good idea where I could find that. Jason worked alone in the study when he was home and I was sure that if he had set up the new account in another bank, then I’d be able to find that information in his desk drawer where he kept his personal notebook. The study door was locked and so was the right desk drawer, but I had keys to both of them. Within minutes, we were combing through his personal notebooks, papers and girlie pictures in the locked desk drawer. Then we found it, a black spiral notebook about the size of a regular paper back novel that contained more information than we expected to find. Jason had made calls to several companies with weird names in San Francisco and LA. The names took on a new meaning when we searched the rest of the desk. Locked in another deep drawer were several dozen DVD disks with disturbing titles on them. Jason was a pornography producer and distributor. Copies of several letters he’d written to the companies in Hollywood proved it. Everything was becoming clear to me about then and I understood why he didn’t want to go to college and why he didn’t want to move closer to the college. Encouraged by our discoveries, we searched the hard drive on his computer until we came up with his accounting records. Jason was more than a hundred and fifty thousand dollars in debt to the movie companies. Obviously, he’d produced adult movies that hadn’t returned a profit and they’d stuck him with the costs. What kind of man had I married? With my mother’s words ringing in my ears, I decided to call him at work and find out what he thought he was doing. I wanted to know where my money was and what he had done with it. I already knew the answers to those questions. I just wanted to hear it from him. A telephone call to his uncle’s insurance company was revealing, disconcerting and mystifying. Jason wasn’t there, never had worked there and the receptionist hadn’t seen him for several months. I didn’t want to talk to his uncle even when the receptionist offered to transfer me to his office. I’d never met the man and didn’t want him to know any more about my business than necessary. I did want to talk to Jason though. Several questions plagued my mind like a boil on my butt. Where was he and what had he been doing if he wasn’t working for his uncle? “It’s as clear as day,” Mary Ann said, tossing papers on the table in the center of the room, “he’s been making pornographic movies, selling them to shady Hollywood companies and he got himself into debt. Desperate, he married you thinking you had a lot of money. You’re a victim, Kid and your mother could be in danger of losing her business if he’s managed to get her account numbers and other information.” “I don’t think he got that. I’ll check with Mom as soon as I can. I’m confused, Mary Ann. What has he been doing all day when he’s supposed to be working? Where is he?” “Making movies, dirty movies,” she said. “It’s as clear as day.” By mid-afternoon, the place was crawling with cops. An hour later, the FBI showed up with a warrant for Jason. The police confiscated his computer, all the documents and the DVDs in the desk drawer. I felt like a victim and I was angry. I wanted to divorce Jason in the most extraordinary way. Cutting off his private parts would go a long way toward rectifying the wrong he’d done to me. My mother always said that two wrongs don’t make a right. Maybe she was right about that. Who knows? Doing something to get even with him would have made me feel better, though. Dale Perkins, one of the FBI agents from the Cincinnati office was nice. Tall, blond, pale blue eyes and a manly build made him look a little like Eliot Ness except he didn’t have the gray hat and trench-coat. During lunch at a local restaurant, he told me that they knew where Jason was and were in the process of arresting him. Jason had violated several federal laws regarding trafficking in child pornography, illegally transferring funds from several bank accounts including mine and numerous other charges were being focused in his direction. He’d be in a federal prison for a long time, maybe forever. Every story should have a happy, successful conclusion and this one is no exception to the rule. However, the lesson I’d learned stung me like a bee. My mother had warned me and I hadn’t paid enough attention, or at least, I didn’t feel that I had listened. Maybe I wasn’t to blame and maybe there wasn’t anything I could do to prevent what happened from happening. After that sad event in my life, I just admitted I made a mistake and tried to live with it. The last time I saw Jason was when the judge sentenced him to forty years behind bars and that was one of the happiest days of my life. The FBI had managed to freeze his bank accounts, of which he had many, before he could transfer the funds out of them. Regardless, I got my money back and a divorce three months after the trial. Not too surprising was the disclosure during the trial that Jason had been married to several women. Somehow, I’d already known something like that so it wasn’t too much of a shock. He was just that sort of person, sneaky, conniving and convincing. Why hadn’t I seen those things in him before I married him? I guess that love is blind as people always told me. Mom got off easy and her business was safe. Jason had her bank account information and nobody seems to know how he got it. Luckily, he hadn’t had time to use that information. Maybe he managed to get into the business computers over the Internet or something. With Jason involved, who knows? Anyway, things happened after Jason was sentenced to prison that I’d call extraordinary, unexpected, and bizarre. Life takes you where it wants you to go sometimes, and all you can do is hold on with both hands, guard your heart and use your mind to steer yourself on a steady course to your destiny. I told you about the FBI agent, Dale Perkins. Well, even before the trial, he’d asked me out and I accepted. After all, I never had a real husband and didn’t feel like I was obligated to sit around the house worrying about him and what he’d done to me. I liked Dale and I could sense he liked me. His line of work wasn’t preferential to me although that didn’t really bother me much. He was really a nice person and treated me well. Dale was instrumental in getting a conviction, helping me recover my money and he supported me in every way during my long ordeal. By the time it was all over, we were great friends and enjoyed each other’s company. The baby was due in a few months by the time he asked me to marry him. I thought his action was too sudden and I questioned that, thought about it for days and finally accepted his offer. Dale had no qualms at all about marrying me even when he knew I was going to have Jason’s baby. My mother was elated, overjoyed, and happy that I’d found someone that had a true interest in me and was concerned about the baby. “He’ll make you a good husband,” my mother said. “Why?” I asked. “Because he has your interests at heart and I think he really loves you. He owns his own home, is financially secure and I just can’t see him being like Jason. All you can do is try, Lisa. All you can do is try and forget about that ordeal with Jason. It wasn’t your fault. I made the same mistake when I was young.” “Thanks, Mom,” I told her. I needed that, her reassurance, her confidence, and her opinion. Now, I’m happily married to a wonderful man, have a four-year old daughter, and the future looks bright. I don’t think about Jason much except on the anniversary of his trip to prison when I thank God that he never got away with ruining my life any worse than he did. I have that to be thankful for. The happiest news is that another baby is on the way and I hope this one is a boy and looks like Dale Perkins. Dale Perkins is now the main ingredient that makes my life the best piece of cake I ever ate. THE END