Monday morning was busy for Erin. In addition to her normal chores, she had to pack to take the twins to the Akiyama & Akiyama law office. This involved packing two complete diaper bags, one for Francis and one for Thomas, packing a third bag with toys for the boys to play with in their play yard, locating the side-by-side umbrella stroller and prepping the play yard itself for loading in the car.
Just before noon, Erin was looking through the nursery closet trying to locate the stroller. She started to panic because it wasn't where she normally would keep it and she couldn't imagine what she would have done with it. “Think, Erin, think,” she said to herself out loud, “when did you use it last?” She suddenly remembered that the last time she had seen the stroller, it was in the trunk of her car. That meant...
“Why, that son of a...” Erin started, but she stopped suddenly. She didn't want to use foul language in front of her children, even though they couldn't understand what she was saying just yet. Her eyes grew wet with tears of frustration as she considered the possibility that the stroller was gone.
“Good morning, Erin! Where are you?” came her mother's voice from the living room.
“I'm in the nursery,” she replied with more than a bit of frustration.
“Erin, what's wrong?” Colleen asked as she waled through the nursery door and saw her daughter red faced and teary eyed.
“Mom, I can't find the stroller!” she exclaimed.
“Where did you have it last? Colleen asked.
“It was in the trunk of the car. The car that... He sold from under me!” Erin said, getting more upset by the minute.
“All right, dear, calm down and let's work this out,” Colleen said as she moved over to Erin and embraced her. Erin welcomed the hug... She had had so little human contact in the past few months she craved any she could get. Erin started crying softly, so as not to upset the boys.
“Now, now, what's with the tears?” her mother asked, cradling Erin's head against her chest. “Let's just think this through. Where was the car before Ron... He took it to the mechanic's?”
Erin took a deep breath and thought. Then it came to her. “It was in the garage,” she recalled.
“Did you check there yet?” Colleen asked.
“No, I didn't, Mom,” Erin admitted. “I didn't want to leave the boys alone.”
“OK, then,” Colleen said. “You go sit down with the boys and r-e-l-a-x. I'll check the garage for you.”
“Thanks, Mom,” Erin sighed. She went out to the living room and sat down on the floor next to the play yard as Francis and Thomas played quietly. After a few minutes, Colleen walked into the living room, stroller in hand.
“Ta-DA!” she announced as she held the stroller like a prize.
“Thanks, Mom!” Erin said, relieved. “Where did you find it?”
“Not only did He not put it where it should have been, he just left it on the floor behind where your car was last parked,” Colleen explained. “It looked like he opened the trunk, dumped it on the floor and closed the trunk.”
“Typical,” Erin commented, not daring to say any more.
Colleen took over watching the twins as Erin went into the kitchen to make lunch. “What would you like for lunch, Mom?” she called from the kitchen.
“Well, what do you have?” she answered.
Erin opened the refrigerator door. “Leftover lasagna, leftover pot roast and leftover oven-fried chicken,” she said.
“I'd like the pot roast, dear,” Colleen replied.
“Well, I'm glad a made a big batch,” Erin said, pulling the dish out, “because that is what I had my eye on, too!” She heated up the food in the microwave then dished out some for each of them. Setting them on the table with two glasses of iced tea, Erin announced, “Lunch is ready, Mom.”
Since there was a line of sight to the play yard from the dining room table, the two women could keep their eyes on the twins as they ate. Once lunch was over and the dishes stacked in the dishwasher, Erin and her mom began to load up the car. After securing the boys in their twin car seats, Erin and Colleen wrestled the play yard into the trunk and then headed off for the lawyer.
When they arrived at the office, Erin got out the stroller. She got Francis out of one car seat while Colleen took Thomas out of the other. Placing them side-by-side in the stroller, they entered the Akiyama & Akiyama law office.
A young woman was sitting at the receptionist's desk today. She looked up as she heard the door open and started, “Good afternoon! Welcome to the...” when she spied the twins. “OOOH! They are so adorable!” she squealed as she got up from the desk and rushed over to meet the twins.
Karen Akiyama poked her head out of her office door to see what was the commotion. She broke into a big grin as she said, “Hello, Erin and Colleen, how are you this afternoon?” she walked over to the women, standing next to Erin.
A man's head poked out of the copier/storeroom. “What's going on, Crystal?” he asked before spying the main attraction. He walked out of the room, dropping a file on Crystal's desk as he made it over to where she was holding Francis and cooing at him.
“Uh oh!” Karen said softly to Erin, “I forgot!”
“Forgot what?” Erin asked, puzzled.
“Crystal and Zach, my clerk, are dating,” Karen explained, “and I think he's about to propose to her. I hope he doesn't get cold feet seeing the babies.”
“Eww...” Erin said in sympathy.
Zach went straight for Thomas and, picking him up from the stroller, said, “Hello, big guy! How are you doing?” as he held up the baby. Then he casually put Thomas on his hip as he turned to Crystal and Francis. He noticed the other baby and said, “Twins? How cool!” as he compared Francis and Thomas. Looking over to Erin, he said, “What are their names?”
“Crisis averted,” Karen chuckled to Erin. She then cleared her voice and said, “Erin, Colleen, this is Crystal, my receptionist and secretary; and Zachery, my law clerk.” Turning to her staff, she said, “Crystal, Zach, this is Erin Donnelly and her mother, Colleen McDermott. Erin is our newest client, and those are her sons Francis and Thomas.”
“But which is which?” Crystal asked, confused.
“Crystal, you have Francis,” Erin explained, “and you, Zach, have Thomas.”
They all stood there for a few minutes, chatting and admiring the twins, who enjoyed the attention. Karen then spoke up. “Zach, why don't you give Thomas to Erin and help Colleen get everything out of her car?”
Colleen and Zach moved the play yard and bags into the waiting room and set the play yard up there. Zach dumped the bag of toys into the yard and came over to Erin. “I'll be happy to put him in his playpen,” he said.
Crystal looked up at her boyfriend and said, “They call it a play yard now, dear.”
“I've got so much to learn,” Zach said as he took Thomas from Erin.
“Let's go in my office,” Karen said, “and I'll get you started looking at the petition. Then its my turn to hold the darlings!” The three women laughed as they went in Karen's office.
Karen let the two women over to a small round table in a corner of her office. There were four chairs around the table and a file folder sitting on the tabletop. “You do not have to sign anything right now, I just want to give you a chance to see what the divorce petition says so you'll be familiar with it should anyone ask you about it.”
Erin and Colleen sat down at the table. Karen opened the file to show Erin where to start. “I've asked the court to waive community property and award you the house since you would be severely impacted by having to move, even if you had the money from the division of assets. I've also asked the court to award you sole custody, with your husband getting reasonable visitation privileges.”
Erin nodded as Karen indicated the major points of the petition. “OK, I'll if I can understand it. If I have any questions, I'll ask you.”
“Fine,” Karen said with a smile. “I'll be right out here with the twins.” She walked out of the office, leaving the door open.
For the next forty-five minutes, Erin and Colleen poured over the divorce petition. Erin asked her mother about some of the terms she didn't understand and they had to consult with Karen a few times on unclear passages but for the most part, they were able to get through the petition unassisted.
While they did so, all other work has ceased in the office, as Karen, Crystal and Zach spent the time spoiling Francis and Thomas rotten. When Erin came out one time to ask Karen a question, she found the boys were crawling around on the carpet, with Crystal and Zach keeping them out of harm's way. They were all giggling and cooing and having a grand old time.
Karen stuck her head in the door of her office. “Are you finished reviewing the petition?” she asked.
“We're good, Karen,” Erin answered. “So what happens next?”
“We'll file it at the county courthouse tomorrow morning,” Karen explained. “once it's been processed through the clerk's office a copy will be delivered to your husband. You'll probably know when he gets it. Most of my clients get an angry phone call about that time.”
“I'll get myself ready,” Erin commented.
“If he wants to get his clothes out of the house, have somebody with you when he's there,” Karen advised. “your mother would be a logical choice.”
“I could also bring Peggy as a non-related witness,” Colleen offered.
“That sounds like a good idea,” Karen said.
“So I should be on the lookout after, say, Wednesday?” Erin asked.
“At least,” Karen replied.
“OK, I'll remember,” Erin promised. “I guess we should pack up and go home so you guys can get back to work.”
“You don't have to hurry on my account,” Crystal said as she was playing with Thomas.
“Yeah, stay a while longer!” Zach chimed in. He was making funny faces at Francis, who was giggling.
“I wish they could,” Karen said, “but we do have to get some more work done before closing up tonight. Zach, help the ladies with their things while Crystal and I hold the twins.”
With Zach's help, the car was packed in a few minutes. With a chorus of “Good byes” the Akiyama & Akiyama office staff watched Erin, Colleen and the twins depart for home.
Erin acted as if nothing had happened when Ronald was around for the next few days. It wasn't hard to do as he timed his comings and goings to avoid her as much as possible. As Wednesday approached, she began to get nervous. Karen sent a courier to deliver her copy of the petition, so Erin knew that Ronnie should be getting his served to him soon.
That night, when Erin got up for the 2:00 AM feeding, she saw that her husband was not home yet. She got worried...would he get so mad that he might do something? She could hardly sleep the rest of the night, getting little rest amid nightmares of Ronnie attacking her in their bed. When she woke up for the 6:00 AM feeding, he was still missing. She was able to get some sleep after that.
The alarm clock sounded like a baby's cry to Erin. She opened one eye to look at the time. The clock read 9:00 AM. She hit the snooze button but the alarm continued. No, wait, it sounded more like a baby now, she thought. As the realization hit her, she sat upright. She had overslept and one of the twins was crying!
Rushing into the nursery, she saw Francis lying there quietly while Thomas was fussing. A quick check revealed a diaper overdue for changing. Babytalking apologies to her son, Erin quickly changed him and put some cream on his bottom to sooth the hurt. With Thomas quieted down, Francis was changed and then Erin dressed the boys for the morning.
Since she was running late, Erin threw together a simple breakfast for herself and ate it quickly. By the time she was finished it was time for the 10:00 AM feeding. She put her dishes in the dishwasher but she didn't see any evidence that Ronnie had eaten breakfast at home. That meant that he most likely hadn't come home at all.
Erin fed the twins, then put them in their play yard so she could quickly do the morning cleaning chores. As she finished vacuuming the living room, she heard the phone ring. Going over to it, she saw it was Ronnie's cell phone. “Oh buy, this must be it,” she thought to herself as she picked up the phone.
The moment she put the phone to her ear, she heard Ronnie screaming at her. “You bitch! You whore!” he yelled, “What do you think you're doing?”
“Ronnie, I know about the other women you're seeing,” Erin calmly replied. “One I might have forgiven, but three is just too much to forgive.”
“You know nothing, bitch, you hear me? Nothing!” Ronnie shot back. “Is this your queen bitch mother getting you to do this?
“Ronnie, you come home late every night, unless you don't even come home and even on the weekends you ignore me and do nothing but eat, sleep and watch TV!” Erin retorted, starting to get agitated.
“So what?” he replied. “You're a mother now. You don't have time...”
“Just what the he... what do you mean by that?” Erin exclaimed.
“You're too busy taking care of the babies.”
“That's because you never help!” Erin cried, frustration building up. “I can't take it any more! I feel like a single mom all the time now, so I might as well be one!”
“If you don't get rid of this silly notion of divorcing me, you won't even be that!” Ronnie threatened.
“And just what do you mean by that?” Erin demanded, completely upset by now.
“When the judge hears all about your kinky lifestyle and how you corrupted me, I'll end up with the babies and you'll be out in the cold with nothing.” Ronnie had suddenly gotten very calm and his voice sounded menacing.
“WHAT?” Erin screamed into the phone. “I CORRUPTED YOU? YOU WERE THE ONE WHO SUGGESTED THE BDSM FIRST!”
“That's not the way I remember it,” Ronnie said calmly. “And I'm sure I can make the judge believe me over you.”
Erin suddenly got a cold lump in her stomach. Would he really try and make her out to be a sex fiend that drug her 'innocent' husband down? Her hand started to shake and she sat down as her legs suddenly turned to rubber. “You wouldn't dare.” she gasped. “I have proof you're seeing at least three women!”
“Proof? What proof?” Ronnie challenged.
“I... I...” Erin remembered something Karen had told her on Monday. “Don't give away our secrets,” she had said. Erin realized she had almost slipped and told Ronnie about the photos.
“Did you have a detective follow me?” Ronnie snickered accusingly. “I thought I saw someone following me. How does he know what I did when I went in those places. I might have juts been helping a friend.”
“Oh, I'm sure you call them “friends”,” Erin said, but the conviction had gone out of her voice.
“If you want to call my bluff, then go ahead,” Ronnie said confidently. “But I'd advise you to take lots of pictures of your precious twins, for that's all you'll be left with!”
Erin suddenly felt sick to her stomach. She realized Ronnie could and would do anything... not to get the twins, but just to hurt her even more than she had been hurt. She also realized that this could blindside Karen and hers case. Why did she not think of that last week? And her Mom! How could she explain that he was lying when only some parts of his story would be lies?
“Erin, do you want me to do that to you?” Ronnie said triumphantly, sensing her capitulation.
Erin realized she needed to buy some time to think what to do or she would be saddled with a beast like Ronnie for the rest of her life. “No, I don't, Ronnie,” she finally said meekly.
“Good!” he exclaimed smugly. “Just go to the court and withdraw that petition today.”
She had to think fast to buy some time. Suddenly, Erin had an idea. “My... My lawyer said that if I went through with this, then changed my mind, that I had to wait to withdraw,” she stammered. “I... I think she said I'd have to go before the judge to get it thrown out. That will take a week or more.”
“I don't care how long it takes, just get it done... or you'll be branded as a sex-crazed slut who gets off on pain and degradation,” Ronnie growled. “You better get it done as quickly as you can!” Then the line went dead.
Erin sat there, shaking all over with her stomach tied up in knots. The tears were streaming down her face. She had no friends to turn to. Her mother... Erin was sure she'd disown her if Ronnie made good on his threat. She had nobody to turn to... if she only... if she could talk to David, he would fix it. David was a good guy.
Erin realized that she only knew his first name. She didn’t know how else to contact him. She didn’t have the phone number for the tech's office and she wouldn't even know what to say if she called. She got despondent as she felt more alone than she had ever felt in her life.
With tears streaming down her cheeks, Erin looked up and out the living room window just as a television service van pulled up to the house across the street from hers. “No, I couldn't give a note to a stranger,” she though. “What if there's more than one David working there?”
As she was trying to build up the nerve to ask a stranger to deliver a note to a man she had only met once before, and whose last name she didn't even know, the technician got out of the van. Erin saw a flash of red as the tech moved to the back and placed a traffic cone behind the van. The tech was facing away from Erin, but her heart started beating faster as she prayed it would be...
Then she saw the tech turn around to get something out of the front of the van. “Val will do it! She knows which David it was!” Erin said to herself as she watched Val pick up a clipboard and walk around to the other side of the van.
“Thank you!” she whispered to the heavens.