Not a whole lot of sex in this one, but I hope that it is worth the reading.
My sister and I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. My dad was a moderately successful attorney, and my mother worked in commercial real estate. We weren't wealthy, but we never lacked for anything. It was in December of my sophomore year of college that I got the call from my older sister, Susan, who was in her final year of law school. Our folks had been going somewhere, we never did figure out where they were going, when their car was taken out by a semi, killing both of them.
Christmas that year was bleak. We spent most of our Christmas break dealing with the funeral, and then trying to get the estate settled. Fortunately, dad's partners did most of the work, talking to insurance companies, and evaluating the wills and insurance policies. Both mom and dad had had good life insurance policies, and they had also been smart enough to take out a policy that paid off the mortgage so my sister and I owned the house free and clear. By the time everything was all said and done we had more than enough to finish school, and would still have a substantial sum left over to either save, or start us in our own business.
I hadn't been to focused on school up to this point, but something had changed in me, and I dove back into my school work with a vengeance, working as hard as I could to get the best grades I could. I forgot about partying, and drinking beer with my friends. I guess I was trying to prove to myself that I was as good and mature as my parents wanted me to be, and I was more critical of myself than they had ever been. I did a little dating, but not much, primarily because all the girls I met seemed to be so shallow. I just wasn't interested in them.
By the start of my senior year I was on the honor roll, and had been for over a year. I wasn't in the running for graduating first in my class by any means, primarily because of my grades in the first year and a half, but I was well up there.
I was taking a second year of Spanish, because everyone was required to take two years of a foreign language to graduate. Spanish was not one of the recommended languages, but I had felt that with the heavy Spanish influence in California, Spanish was going to be much more useful than any of the other languages.
Languages were not my forte, and I had struggled through the first year of Spanish getting a 3.0 after many nights of studying into the wee hours of the morning.
In any event, I noticed this very pretty young woman in my Spanish class. Petite, with long auburn hair and what I initially thought was a good tan, but later found out was simply her natural skin tone.
After the first couple of weeks, I was still struggling. I could read and write Spanish relatively easily, as long as I had a dictionary available, but speaking Spanish was just very hard for me.
As I was walking out of class one Friday afternoon, the pretty woman came up to me, and introduced herself, asking if I would like some help with my Spanish. It turned out that Maria was Spanish, and had been speaking Spanish since she was old enough to talk. The only reason she was taking the class was to fulfill the graduation requirements.
We went out and sat under a tree in one of the commons areas, and I explained what my problem was with Spanish. When I finished, she laughed a little and told me that all I needed was to converse in the language as much as possible. She volunteered to coach me, and I was hooked.
For the next month or so, we met every day for at least an hour, more if we had the time, and by the middle of October my Spanish was vastly improved, and I asked her out on a date. She cocked her head a bit looking at me with a small smile, then told me that she had been wondering how long it was going to take before I would ask her out.
From that point on we spent as much time together as we possibly could. Neither of us let our studies suffer, but we spent a whole lot of time in my apartment studying, and we made a practice of speaking Spanish as much as possible.
Maria's dad was big in the import/export field, and he and her mother spent a lot of time in Spain, or other European countries. Although Maria didn't say anything much about it, I got the impression that her parents were very wealthy.
Thanksgiving rolled around and I found out that her parents were in Europe, and that she wasn't going to see them, she just didn't want to do the traveling. So instead we spent the Thanksgiving holidays moving her into my apartment.
Christmas came, and she went home to Atherton, California. For those of you who are not familiar with the Bay Area, Atherton is very definitely not a town that you can buy a shack in. I don't know, but I would be willing to bet that there isn't a single home in that town that is valued at less than $5,000,000, and those are for the fixer uppers.
Maria came back to school, and was a little subdued for the first day or two, but finally came out and told me that her mother was extremely upset with her, first because she was living with me, and second because I wasn't Hispanic. Actually, as things later turned out, I suspect that the fact that I wasn't Hispanic was really her primary problem.
I graduated, and like I thought I was going to be, I was in the top five percent of my class. Maria finished her junior year, and went back to the Bay Area for the summer, although we kept in contact through e-mail and daily phone calls.
I was admitted to the MBA program, and was planning on finishing it about the time that Maria graduated, so I spent the summer taking a couple of courses that would insure that I was able to finish in time.
When Maria got back to school, she was overjoyed to see me, and we planned on spending the entire weekend in bed. On that Sunday morning, I got up early, sneaking out of bed so as not awaken her, and fixed a big breakfast, put it on a tray, then put my mother's engagement ring at the top of the tray and brought it in.
Maria was awake, kind of, and when she saw me come in with the tray, she smiled and asked me to hold on as she scampered off to the bathroom, coming back in a few moments. I set the tray down in her lap, and kissed her, then went back to the kitchen to get my tray.
When I got back, Maria was sitting there with tears just pouring down her cheeks.
"Tom, are you sure? My parents, and particularly my mother, will have a complete come apart about this."
"I have never been more sure of anything in my life. I will just have to work extra hard with your folks to make sure that they know I love you, and would never do anything to hurt you."
Maria's folks were in Spain, having caught a flight out the same day that Maria came back to school.
We called, and Maria spoke with her father first, a lengthy conversation, and then an even longer one with her mother. Although I could now understand conversational Spanish, the one sided conversation, and the speed with which they were talking, left a few gaps for me. The upshot of it all was that her father was upset that I hadn't asked him first, but he would get over it -- he did really understand that different cultures were involved. Her mother was absolutely against her marrying anyone who was not Hispanic, and high class Hispanic at that.
There were a few more phone calls over the next week or so, and finally Maria told her mother that either she got on board with our plans, or we would just have a very quiet wedding here in town, and she could kiss off any thoughts of a wedding like she had always talked about.
To cut a long, somewhat uninteresting story short, we got married that December during the Christmas break. It was a big affair, with lots of her father's business acquaintances invited, and a few of our friends, including, of course, my sister.
I was able to bring her dad, Pedro, around. I made a point of speaking Spanish to him, and asked him to correct me if I said anything incorrectly. I also apologized for not asking his permission earlier, but told him the thought had just not crossed my mind. I was so concerned about Maria's response that I just hadn't considered asking his permission. I am sure that I made points when I told him that we had every intention of having our children grow up bi-lingual, which brought a large smile to his face.
Maria's mother, Estella, was an entirely different proposition. She simply was against the whole thing to start with, but she wasn't going to be denied having her only child's wedding in the manner that she wanted it. Anything I suggested was almost automatically rejected, and Maria finally had to put her foot down. Actually she had to put her foot down a number of times, but we finally got the wedding to be something we wanted, not what her mother wanted.
We graduated in June, and moved back to the Bay Area, where I had landed a job as a junior project manager with a construction company. The first year or so, I was really in training, but by the time the twins, Robert and Stella were two, I had learned enough that I was promoted to senior project manager. (Robert was named after my dad, and Stella was an attempt at placating Maria's mother.)
During all this time, there simply was no pleasing my mother-in-law. If I didn't get a raise or promotion as fast as she thought I should, I wasn't working hard enough to provide for my family. If I got a good raise or a promotion, it was because I was just kissing ass, and not because I deserved it. If I was working extra hours, I wasn't paying enough attention to my family. Estella absolutely refused to call Robert either Robert or Robby, but instead always called him Roberto. Stella was likewise referred to mostly as Estella, as Maria's mother thought that Stella was an undignified shortening of her name.
Maria was working in real estate. Because of the extensive Hispanic community in the Bay Area, she was a real whiz, and was making almost as much as I was, and sometimes she was making significantly more. We had a nanny -- Spanish speaking of course, but we both spent as much time with the kids as we possibly could. By the time they were six, they spoke both English and Spanish equally fluently, well as fluently as any six year old does, and had been to Mexico and Spain. Every year Pedro and Estella would take Maria and the twins to Spain for a month or so to their villa outside Madrid.
Which brings me to the latest in my tale.
I had been given the company's latest project to run, which was in the coastal hills not too far from Atherton. It wasn't that large a project, but expected to last over a year. It essentially was building a conference center with hotel rooms out in the middle of nowhere. The problem for me was that there was no cell phone coverage out there. Now I live and die by my cell phone, having to be in almost constant contact with suppliers, trucking companies and so on. So what I wound up doing was going to the site very early in the morning, leaving about 11:00 or 11:30am, driving into town where I could get a cell connection, having lunch and talking to suppliers etc, until I had everything done I could, then going back out to the site to see what Murphy had screwed up this time. Evenings I was spending more and more time with my boss going over what had happened during the day, but I always made sure that I was home at least 30 minutes before the kids had to go to bed. We would have a late dinner, which didn't bother Maria particularly because that was what she was raised with. In fact she had had to adjust to American dinner hours, when we first got together. She was used to eating dinner at 9 or 10pm, then catching a nap during the afternoon. College had started changing that, but when we started living together I made an effort to adjust myself to her idea of a normal life.
Things were going along fairly reasonably, but it was a real pain not being able to talk to Maria during the day.
Then Pablo and Estella took Maria and the kids off for the annual trip to the villa. I kissed Maria and the kids goodbye that morning, reminding Maria to make sure she took her cell phone with her so we could keep in contact.
I got home that night about 8:00pm -- no need to rush home as nobody was there, and the first thing I saw, other than the flashing light on the answering machine was Maria's cell phone sitting on the counter by the phone.
I listened to the messages, most of which were just nothing calls, and then Maria was talking, telling me she had apparently left her cell phone somewhere, and giving me her mother's cell phone number so I could call her. I thought that was strange because I had made somewhat of an issue of it, and Maria had made a big production out of putting her cell phone in her purse before I left, but I finally decided that she had gotten a call, and just put her phone down on the counter and never gotten it back in her purse.
I didn't try to call that night, given the time difference, and decided that calling when I went into town for my midday calls would be the perfect time to reach her.
So for the next few days I tried calling when I got into town. Either I got no answer, it just would roll over to voice mail, or I would get Estella. When I did get Estella, she would tell me that Maria and the kids were out and she would give her the message that I called. I also left messages every single time I called that Estella didn't answer. By Friday I was getting a bit frustrated and concerned, but nothing really changed.
We were working seven days a week at this point, because the Coastal Commission had held up approval of the project until the last possible minute, and we were in a real bind trying to get the project completed on time, or earlier if possible, as there were significant bonuses for an early completion, and significant penalties for being late.
By Friday, I was getting really bummed out, not having talked to Maria for a little over a week. I was walking into the hotel restaurant we used for the meetings with my boss and anyone else he thought appropriate, and was just leaving the parking lot, when I heard my name called. I turned around and this young woman came running up to me, threw her arms around my neck and kissed me, saying: "Oh God Tom, I am so looking forward to this afternoon."
I uncurled her arms and looked at her.
"Uh, I don't think that I am the Tom you are looking for. I'm happily married, and I am sure I would have remembered you if we had met before."
She looked a bit nonplussed, and might have turned a bit red, and immediately apologized, saying that from the back I looked just like her boyfriend. I told her no problem, and we walked into the hotel together, with me opening the door for her like I would have for any woman.
I didn't think anything more about it, although my boss had seen the entire thing and teased me about my apparent attraction for lovely young women. I told him that I was only interested in petite Spanish women about this high with a pair of twins that were called Robby and Stella. He laughed and we went on about our business.
When I got home on Monday, I found a message from Maria that was a bit disturbing. She sounded madder than hell, and wanted to know why I hadn't been calling her. I should mention that I had also gotten one or two messages on my cell phone from Maria, but she was just hoping that I was where I could get her calls.
I immediately decided to change to greeting on the home phone to include a portion that if Maria was calling to give me a number I could reach her, and that I had been trying to call her for days.
I should have said that I had left messages with her mother, but I just assumed that was understood.
I never heard another word from Maria, despite having left numerous messages, either on her mother's cell phone or actually talking to Estella.
I got to the airport to pick up Maria and the kids an hour early, having taken a couple of days of vacation time so we would have a chance to unwind, and I could figure out what the hell was going on with the phone calls.
Nothing. Maria and the kids were not on the flight. Neither were her folks. After spending a good two hours talking to the airline agents with absolutely no help, I finally gave up and went home. No messages, no nothing. By 10:00pm that night I was actively concerned, and called an old friend on the local police department.
Ed was sympathetic, but told me that their policy was that they really wouldn't do much about a missing person report until after they had been gone for three days. He did say that he would contact the airline, and see if he could get anything more.
The next day was pure hell. Estella wasn't answering her cell phone, and I didn't have anywhere else to call. I did spend several hours on the phone with the airline, but didn't get anything more than I already had. They simply had not had a seat on the flight from Boston.
About 7:30 that night, there was a knock on the door, and when I answered it, it was a sheriff's deputy. He asked if I was Tom Sullivan, and of course I told him I was. He then handed me a sheaf of papers and told me I had been served. When I asked him what the hell this was all about, he said he had no idea; he was just doing what he had been told to do.
I got back in the house, looked at the papers, and realized that it was divorce papers from Maria, giving irreconcilable differences as the basis for the divorce. I was staring at the papers trying to figure out what the hell was going on, when the phone rang.
It was Ed. He had at least been able to get more information that we had before. Apparently Pablo had changed the reservations from Spain, booking a flight from Madrid to Paris, then a direct flight from Paris that landed in San Francisco four hours before Maria's original flight was supposed to. As far as he could tell, they took the flight, landed in San Francisco, and went wherever they were headed. He had not tried to contact anyone at Pablo and Estella's home, as he didn't think that was really where he needed to go.
I immediately tried to call Pablo and Estella, but was told by whoever answered the phone that they would accept no calls from me.
Okay -- let's try for Susan. She had specialized in family law; maybe she could do something.
Susan came over immediately, bringing her husband Ralph, who also brought a bottle of very good, aged scotch.
After a whole lot of talking, and a fair amount of scotch on my part, Susan told me that there wasn't a whole hell of a lot that she could do to get me in contact with Maria, or the kids, at least immediately. There was a hearing scheduled for ten days down the road, and at that point she thought she could do something, but until then we were pretty much stuck. She would try the attorney, but doubted that it would do much good.
The next ten days were pure misery. When we finally got to court, Maria was there, but wouldn't even look at me. When there was finally a recess before our case was heard, I went up to Maria and asked what the hell was going on.
Maria's response was astounding, at least to me. "You don't call me for a month, and within a week of my leaving on vacation, you are with that damn blond puta, and you want to know what is going on? I'll tell you. I am getting rid of you, and I will see that you cannot infect my children with your slimy 'principles' as I best I can. I don't want to talk to you, and I want you to have as little contact with them as possible."
With that, she spun around and walked away, burying her head in her mother's shoulder.
Did I mention that Maria has one hell of a temper -- if I didn't, you should be aware that she does.
Temporary custody was given to Maria, and I was given visitation rights every other weekend. Additionally, I was not to contact Maria in any way -- phone, e-mail, in person, not at all. The twins were to be delivered to my door at 6:00pm on Friday, and picked up at 6:00pm on Sunday.