Healing Hands of Time
Copyright© 2010 by Joe J
The three by five card read: Articles of Incorporation For The Fuller Group.
"Explain this please," I said.
Mitzi took the folder and summarized as she pointed out different potions of it.
"Because you own controlling interest in J&L, you can make unilateral decisions about how we are structured and organized. So what I'm proposing is within you authority. Basically, I propose we reincorporate in a manner that all of our assets are property of the corporation instead of property of the partnership that owns it now. In exchange for that direct ownership you would own fifty-one percent of the stock in the new corporation and Lindsey would own forty-nine.
"I further propose that you be chairman of the board of directors and that you appoint Frank and me to that board. The board of directors would be charged with declaring a dividend for each share of stock once a year. Doing things that way would insure that the needs of the company came before the distribution of profits. In essence, Lindsey would get exactly what we wanted her to get and not a penny more."
It was a clever solution to the problem and it passed my test as being ethical. I looked at Mitzi with even more respect than usual.
"You came up with this yourself?" I asked.
She blushed and nodded.
"I researched small business organization on the Internet. I took a portion of three plans I found and rolled them into one that I thought would work for us."
I chuckled and shook my head in wonder.
"No matter how many times I fall in, you keep pulling my butt out of the fire. Hang on to this, and we'll have it implemented if the divorce goes through and the agreement we signed about ownership is binding."
Listen, I know that my strangely obsessive love for Lindsey frustrates the hell out of some of you. I can almost hear you say, "Geez, get over the bitch already." Well let me tell you a little something, my brain tells me the same thing fifty times a day. I mean, think about it, I'm an engineer, a man who works in a world where actions produce equal and opposite reactions, a world in which the laws of the universe work the same every time they are applied. So how do you think it makes me feel to be totally and irrationally in love with a woman who couldn't give a shit less for me?
No matter what she did, I couldn't stay mad at Lindsey, I'd forgive her anything to have her back. But her pretty-boy boyfriend was another matter entirely. For him, my anger was a hard lump of blackness on my soul. It was like I told Judge Hawkins; Lindsey never had to worry about me doing anything bad to her. Blakemore, on the other hand, had an enemy for life.
At eleven in the morning, exactly six weeks after he'd last met with us, Judge Hawkins once again strode into his conference room and took his seat at the head of the table. I was on my side of the table and the usual suspects were arrayed across from me. All three were beautiful, but for some reason, on this day, I thought Amber looked exceptionally good. I must have been staring, because she sat up a little straighter and gave me a secret wink.
Hawkins didn't mess around rendering his ruling.
"I have the report from the psychologist here. He concludes that the marriage is irretrievably broken..."
Before he could go on, Sonia snorted and broke in.
"I told you that two months ago, Your Honor," she said snarkily.
Hawkins's eyes bored into Sonia like lasers. She blanched slightly and held up her hand defensively.
"Sorry, Your Honor," she back-pedaled.
Hawkins gaze never wavered, even though Sonia was studiously looking down at the table.
"So you did, Miss Peoples, so you did," he said with a mirthless, predatory smile. "And had I listened to you I'd have never had a chance to review the division of assets you concocted. A division so egregiously one-sided and full of errors, someone less trusting than me might suspect larcenous intent."
I leaned forward in my chair and looked from Hawkins to Sonia and Lindsey. Lindsey was simply looking at the judge with no expression whatsoever on her face, but Sonia was red and sputtering angrily. Amber's mouth was shaped into a small surprised 'O' as she quickly glanced at her boss then me. Once again, Hawkins cut Sonia off and continued.
"I know it was a simple error though, because I know Ben Chapman wouldn't stand for any chicanery, so I fixed it for you."
As he said the last, he slid a folder to each side of the table. Sonia flipped hers open and placed it between her and Lindsey. I didn't touch mine. Why bother, if it was better than what I agreed to? Hawkins must have felt the same way, because his focus never waivered from Sonia.
"The marital residence on Lemon Bluff Road is joint property, regardless of whose name is on the title. According to the property appraiser, it is worth twice what you valued it at, so I am ordering that ownership be held jointly until it is appraised at fair market value. Then you can either sell it and split the proceeds, or one of you can buy the other out. The person occupying the residence is responsible for the mortgage and upkeep.
"That leaves Mister Fuller's business, J&L Engineering and Construction. Relinquishing forty-nine percent of the company is a form of alimony to which Missus Fuller is not entitled. Instead, she is entitled to fifty to percent of the present value of the company. The rest of the proposal I am letting stand as written."
Hawkins finally turned to me.
"Mister Fuller, you will provide your wife's attorney a certified valuation for your business within thirty days of the final decree, along with a plan of how you propose to pay her for her fair share. Any disputes over the valuation or repayment scheme will be resolved by binding arbitration.
"If this settlement is objectionable to either of you, tell me now."
"I'm okay with it," I said immediately.
Lindsey just waved her hand and nodded as Sonia fumed. Hawkins signed a paper in front of him with a flourish.
He closed the file and handed it to his assistant, then looked up at us.
"Geoff will show you where to sign. Then, Ms Peoples, if you want to wait, he will have everything ready for you to file with the clerk of the court in about ten minutes. It is the clerk's responsibility to process the paperwork and issue the degree of dissolution. That normally takes about thirty days."
Hawkins stood up and wished us well before walking through the door to his chambers. Lindsey and her entourage hustled out the entry door without a backwards glance.
I shambled out of the court house, feeling like a whipped dog. My only solace was the amended settlement. I was pleased with Hawkins' ruling, because it would make the reorganization of my company easier. Although I didn't technically need to reorganize my company, Mitzi plan was so good that I'd be a fool not to execute it. What had changed was that now, with full ownership in my hands, I could reward Mitzi and Frank for their loyalty and commitment by giving them an ownership stake.
It might not have been very Christian of me, but I was also vindictively pleased about the house. I was not emotionally invested in the house; I built it for Lindsey and if I wanted, I could build another even nicer one. However, I was now certain that Blakemore was bankrolling Lindsey on the house deal, and the thought of squeezing more money out of that maggot was a happy one.
When I reached the front door of the court house, I was surprised to see Dakota Morrison standing in the shade of the portico. She was wearing a cute and colorful sleeveless sundress, her tanned slender legs were bare and strapped woven straw sandals with two-inch heels adorned her feet. Her thick brown hair was swept back over her shoulders and a pair of Ray Bans was perched on top of her head. She looked so wholesomely all-American-girl-next-door, I had to smile in spite of myself. It was the first time I'd seen her in anything other than jeans or shorts.
She saw me at the same time I spotted her. She returned my smile, walked up to me and gave me a firm and lingering hug.
"You Okay?" she asked.
I shrugged; it was a tough question.
"What brings you down here? Don't tell me you got another ticket!"
Dakota's traffic violation fines probably paid the salary of one of our city's police officers.
"No Josh, I came down to make sure you had someone here that was on your side. I didn't know you met with the judge in secret, so I waited out here for you."
That earned her a hug from me and a kiss on the cheek.
"You are a great friend, Dakota," I said sincerely.
She blushed at the compliment, then blushed even redder when her stomach rumbled. I laughed and looked at my watch.
"Since we are both dressed up ... you look gorgeous by the way ... and obviously haven't eaten, can I buy you lunch?"
"You bet, I missed breakfast and I could eat a horse. Will you take me to Mario's?"
Mario's was an upscale Italian place within a block of the court house. Mario's was upscale, but it wasn't pretentious like Chez Henri. People went to Mario's for the food, not for the chance to be seen.
I held out my arm and she looped hers through it.
"Mario's it is," I said gallantly.
It was impossible to be glum while Dakota was around; she was just too full of life. Her hot topic that day was college, which started for her in a couple of weeks. She and her sister Dallas had both talked to Shelby Jane about the university's information technology program. Dallas was leaning towards declaring IT as her major, but Dakota was taking a hard look at electrical engineering. Dakota was the only person I'd ever met who thought math was exciting. When I pointed that out, she cracked up.
"What can I say, I'm a nerdette," she said, crossing her eyes.
I laughed and pointed out the obvious.
"A very pretty nerdette."
She blushed and said, "Nah, I'm nothing special."
Then she inclined her head towards the door.
"That woman, on the other hand, is."
I looked in the direction she indicated and blanched. The woman was beautiful ... she was also my soon to be ex-wife. And the well-dressed handsome man walking between her and the hostess was William R. Blakemore, Esquire.
Dakota saw my pained look and covered my hand with hers.
"What's the matter Josh, you look like you've seen a ghost," she said, her voice thick with concern.
"That's Lindsey," I croaked.
Dakota kept her hand on mine and took another look. Thankfully, our little table was in an out of the way corner, and they didn't see us.
"Who is the hunk with her?"
I had to take a sip of water before I could speak.
"That's her boss, William Blakemore. He's the reason she's divorcing me."
Dakota took one last look as Lindsey and Blakemore were being seated across the room near the entrance, before she looked back at me.
"Do you want to go some where else?" she asked with a squeeze of my hand.
Yes I did. I wanted to go to Maybelline's and pour a gallon of JD down my gullet. But I wasn't about to act like a coward in front of Dakota.
"Fuck them, we were here first and we've already ordered," I said.
I tried to give Dakota all my attention, but it was hard to get back into the easy conversation we had been sharing. I avoided looking at Lindsey until we had paid the check and were on the way out. As we neared their table, Blakemore and I made eye contact. He gave me an amused little smile and said something to Lindsey. My wife glanced up and gave me a guilty looking nod.
I started to slow down, plotting where I'd hit Blakemore first, but Dakota dug her fingers painfully into my arm.
"Not here," she warned as she propelled us towards the door.
I sighed and nodded. I had absolutely no doubts about my ability to kick Blakemore's ass, even if he was four inches taller and forty pounds heavier, but Dakota was right, this wasn't the time or place.
Once we were out on the street, I finally exhaled and drew a deep breath. When Dakota took my hand as we walked, I let her. My respect for this young woman went up another notch by what she'd said to get me to leave. Dakota didn't give me some lecture about 'violence never solves anything' or telling me to forget them. She had no problem with me tangling with Blakemore, but like a good Ranger Buddy, she was watching my back when she warned me to pick a better time and place.
Thanks (I suspect) to Crossman, Fielding and Blakemore's influence, I received my final decree in the mail at my office ten days after the hearing. Even though I knew it was eventually coming, the document was still like a knife in the gut. There it was; the official end to all my hopes and dreams for the future, neatly printed on three sheets of paper. Papers I couldn't read, even if I had wanted too, because my eyes were blurry with tears.
Mitzi walked into my office, stood by my chair and put a comforting hand on my shoulder.
"This is it, huh?" she said, as she picked the decree up off the desk.
I nodded and angrily wiped my eyes with the heels of my hands.
Mitzi put both arms around my head and pulled my face against her side. To her credit, Mitzi did not try to give me a pep talk or offer any platitudes.
"I'm so, so sorry, Josh. I know how much this is hurting you."
I nodded my head against the sweet smelling softness of her satin shirt and let her hold and comfort me. As she softly stroked my head, it struck me that the world would be a much better place with a few more Mitzi Morrisons in it.
I don't know how long Mitzi held me, but it was more than a few minutes. Finally, she let go of me and stepped back.
"It's three o'clock, Boss, and we aren't going to accomplish anything else to day, so shut off your computer and let's go home."
I agreed and fifteen minutes later, Mitzi was chauffeuring me home. Mitzi dropped me at my parents' front door and watched me go in before she split for her house. I guess she'd called my mother from the office, because mom gave me a big hug and sat me down at the kitchen table while she fussed with her secret lasagna recipe. It made me smile that she was going to the trouble it took to make that particular meal, because it was my favorite.
Mom didn't talk much while she cooked, but she did sit down at the table and hold my hand when she wasn't at the stove. Mom knew she didn't have to say anything for me to know she was there for me.
Thirty minutes after I arrived home, Shelby Jane bustled in the door, carrying a grocery bag and a bottle of wine. She put the bag and bottle on the counter, sat down on my other side and pulled me into a fierce hug.
"I know this hurts, Big Brother," she said softly, a little catch in her voice.
That's when it hit me. Yeah, it hurts, but my spreading my misery around my friends and family was flat-assed wrong.