tagLoving WivesPeople Can Change Ch. 02

People Can Change Ch. 02


Having thrown my wife naked into the street in the mistaken belief that she had starred in a gang bang movie, I found myself divorced, with a criminal record for assault and now knowing that my business is only viable because my wife had been subsidising it to the tune of a thousand pounds a month. Access to my children was restricted to a couple of hours a week and even that would be supervised.

The one good thing about being down, the only way is up and I was determined to get up. I needed to cut a thousand pounds a month from the running costs of the company and in the short term there was only one way of doing that. One of the tyre fitters would have to go. Eric was with the company when I took it over. He was forty five and had a wife and two children to support. Tom was twenty two and had only been with me for three years. He was young, free and single. I had taken him on because Julie didn't like me coming home black from the tyres and smelling of rubber. It seemed like no contest, but I still didn't like doing it. I got in early that Monday and was doing my calculations when the boys turned up. It was just at that point that I had a brainwave. I called them both into the office and l put my cards on the table. I had to make savings and their salaries were the only things I could cut. I told Eric he was safe and outlined my reasons. Then I turned to Tom.

"You understand why it has to be you, don't you Tom?" I asked him.

"Yeah, Eric's got more years than me and more commitments. It don't make it any easier though, does it?"

"No, Tom, it doesn't, but I might be able to sweeten it a bit. I have to check my calculations, but I think that I could probably afford to keep you on for sixteen hours a week. It would be a big drop in income for you, but it would still be better than benefits. In addition to that you could go to college and study to be a mechanic. The company will pay your course fees."

He brightened up a bit. I knew that college would appeal to him; he had often said how he wished he had taken the opportunity when it was there.

"Talk to me again at the end of the day," I said. "I'll know for sure whether that will give me enough of a saving and you'll know whether you want to take me up on it."

Neither of them were particularly happy about our conversation, but I hoped I'd convinced them. It really was the only way to stop us all being out of work. My next action was to ring Clare and ask her to check the rules on part time employment and my figures on employers National Insurance contributions. I needed to ensure that my idea was actually feasible. Clare agreed to check and get back to me. Then I phoned the social services to arrange to see my children. I hadn't seen them since this whole sorry mess kicked off and I wanted to get something sorted out as soon as possible.

The girl at the social services office outlined the procedure for supervised access. It seemed that the kids had to be taken to their offices where I would be allowed to be in the same room with them. A social worker would be present at all times. I felt my anger rising as she told me all this. They were my kids and I had never harmed a hair of their heads, yet I was being treated like some child molester. Before I exploded I heard Clare's voice in my head.

"Just remember, Greg baby, they hold all the cards. Get angry with them and it'll only put back the day when you get proper access."

I regained a semblance of calm and made an appointment for 3pm on Wednesday.

Just after lunch Clare called and congratulated me on finding a workable solution. Now, if Tom was OK with it, I had the chance to get out with minimum casualties. He came into the office just before we shut up shop.

"If I can't manage and find another full time job, do I have to pay back the course fees?" he asked.

"No," I said, "I'm hoping you'll want to come back as soon as I have enough work for you, but if you need the money and find another job, then you go and owe me nothing."

"If I don't take this then I'm out of work, aren't I? Sounds like I can't lose." We shook hands on the deal and he agreed to start on reduced hours from the beginning of the following week.

On Wednesday afternoon I arrived at 2.30pm and was shown to a waiting room. A number of people came and went while I sat there. One of them, a rather severe looking woman in her early forties, looked at me each time she passed. On the third pass she stopped.

"Mr Maitland," she said, "it is absolutely pointless you turning up so early. You will not see your wife. She'll be brought in through a different entrance."

"I'm not waiting to see my ex-wife," I corrected her. "I was hoping to talk to one of you folks for a while."

"I'm sorry, Mr Maitland, we cannot discuss your case. Any changes in the access rules will be dealt with in accordance with strict criteria already laid down."

I got up, and noticed that she stepped backwards.

"Any attempt at intimidation will only count against you," she said.

"Whoa, hold on there," I said. "What's all this talk of intimidation? I was just hoping for a little advice."

She seemed to soften and stopped backing away.

"Advice about what?" she asked. "You know I can't discuss your case."

"And I wouldn't want you to," I replied. "I'm sure you've been acquainted with the case. I was a right bastard to my wife and I know it. After my trial she told me I needed help. You know, proper professional help, to stop me flying off the handle like that. Well, I got to thinking that maybe she was right, but I don't know how to go about it. I was rather hoping that someone here could point me in the right direction."

She was suddenly a bit tongue tied. She blushed a bit and even gave me half a smile.

"I am sorry, Mr Maitland. I should have given you more chance. If you saw some of the people we get coming here for supervised visits you'd understand why we get a bit prickly."

"I read the papers," I said.

"You enjoy your visit, Mr Maitland, and when you come out just press the buzzer and ask for Janice. I'll let you know what I've found out."

Just as she was about to leave the room she stopped. "Mr Maitland," she said, "do I recall correctly? You were a soldier weren't you?"

"Royal Marine," I corrected her, "and please call me Greg."

"OK. I'll see what I can find for you, Greg." With that, she disappeared.

As the door opened, the children saw me. Annabel, now nearly five, came running across the room to me. Three year old Grace was a little more reluctant.

For anyone who hasn't experienced supervised visits, they must do as much to damage good parent relationships as they do to protect children. You're limited to the use of one room, and a social worker is present with you the whole time. They watch what you do and they listen to what you say. Nothing can be private. There's a panic button on the wall for them to summon assistance and some are fitted with a two way mirror so a team can actually observe you. To say that it's a pressurised environment would be understating the case.

Grace sat on the floor and I sat with her, playing with the toys. That's when I realised how little I knew about how to play with a three year old girl. Annabel was slightly easier but she asked awkward questions like, "Why don't you live in our house any more?"

The first hour flew by, but, as the children got bored with the toys provided, the second hour really dragged. I was ready when the social worker told me time was up. On the way out I did indeed ring for Janice and this time she came out all smiles.

"Ah, Mr Maitland, sorry - Greg. You'll be pleased to know that I've found you a place on a scheme run especially to cater for the needs of ex-service personnel."

"It seems," she went on, "that you are not the only one who has difficulty adjusting to civilian life."

"I coped fine till about four months ago."

"Apparently, that is quite common," she said. "I had a long chat to the man that runs the project. He said people can behave normally for years and appear to have made a perfect adjustment. Then some trauma occurs and they revert to battlefield mentality. He really was very interesting and I think he'll be able to help you. I've taken the liberty of making you an appointment for four pm on Friday. I hope that's all right."

"All right?" I said. "Janice, I could kiss you."

She blushed. "You'd better not. I don't think my husband would understand."

"In that case, tell him to give you an extra big one from me," I said as she blushed even more.

Not so long ago I would have laughed at the idea of seeing a shrink. Not so long ago I would never have believed that I could assault my wife. In spite of the unsatisfactory visit, I left the building with a light heart and made my way back to Clare's place.

Over dinner that night I told her about my visit and about my chats with Janice.

"You silver tongued devil," she laughed. "You couldn't have done your case any more good if you had planned it."

I must have looked puzzled.

"Don't you see?" she asked. "They would have suggested all of that at the case conference. Then they would have waited till the next conference, to judge whether you had complied. All that time you would have been on supervised visits. Now, at their first conference anyone who suggests anger management or behaviour modification will be shot down in flames because you're already doing it voluntarily. With any luck your new friend Janice will be on the team and you'll already have an ally."

"Well, that isn't the reason I did it," I told her. "I can't get over what I did to Julie. Even when she was outside, naked and bleeding, I could feel nothing for her. If I can do that to someone I love, I could end up killing someone just because they upset me."

Clare grabbed my arm and crushed her head against my shoulder. "You're not the sort to go killing people."

"I am and I have."

"Yeah, on the battlefield with a gun."

"On and off the battlefield, with guns, knives and even my bare hands. Do you know what? My country said I was a good guy and gave me medals for it."

I saw her expression change when I mentioned bare hands. Suddenly she realised how serious it could be.

That Friday I drove down to Aldershot to see the shrink, counsellor or whatever he called himself. I was somewhat surprised when I actually met him. He introduced himself as John. Around the office were a number of pictures of him in uniform, but with different groups of men. When I asked, he told me of seeing action in the Falklands and the first Gulf War. Back in Civvy Street he had studied psychology and as a final year project he had carried out a study on the effects of conflicts on returning soldiers. He told me how he had begun to see something that other people seemed to have missed. Everyone knew about things like Post Traumatic Stress disorder but he had noticed how many ex-servicemen ended up in prison for violent crimes. Although it was not a large proportion of prisoners, it was disproportionately large when compared to the number of ex-servicemen in the population. This had won him funding for further investigation and to set up his treatment centre.

After this introduction, he asked me to describe the situation that had led to my trial and ultimately to being in his office. I told him all about the video and how I had physically thrown Julie out, stark naked, into the street.

"When you had finished, did you feel sorry for her?" he asked.


"Why was that, Greg?"

"I don't know. I suppose I thought she had brought it on herself and didn't deserve my sympathy." I told him.

"If another man, maybe a friend of yours, had the same experience and tried to do the same thing to his wife, would you condone it?"

"Of course not," I said. "I would try to stop him."


"That's a stupid bloody question," I said "Because it's wrong. Because you can't treat a woman like that."

"But you did, Greg, and what's more, you had no sympathy for her afterwards. Why do you think that is?" he asked.

When I couldn't answer that question he moved on.

"Do you hate your wife, Greg?"

"Good god, no," I said. "I miss her so bad it hurts. I would take her back tomorrow if she'd have me."

"If she had done what you thought she'd done, would you hate her then?"

"Well, I wouldn't want her back, if that's what you're asking?"

"But would you hate her?" he asked. "Hate her enough to want to kill her?"

"No, not like that," I said.

"Yet, you hated Julie without even knowing that she had definitely done what you thought, didn't you?" he pressed "Hated her enough to kill her, if she'd fought back."

"That's why you could feel no sympathy. You hated her the same way as you hated the Taliban bastards who were blowing up your mates."

The interview progressed in a similar manner. He kept showing up the conflicts within me, making me confront them. It was not a comfortable hour. As our time came to an end he brought up the subject of anger.

"The way I see it, Greg, for you, anger is tied to hatred. When someone makes you angry, for a short time you really hate that person. Such a link can be very useful on the battlefield. It's what makes some men heroes and what earns them medals. In civilian life it gets you thrown in prison."

"What we have to do," he continued, "is break that link and then help you to channel your anger and aggression into something more productive."

When I left his office I just sat in my car with my head in my hands. My head had never been in such a state, not even when returning from our worst Afghan patrols. It wasn't a warm evening, but I still left the top down and aimed the Morgan homeward.

When I got back to Clare's place she looked at me and I saw her face drop.

"My God, what's happened to you?" she asked. "You look like shit."

I really couldn't face any more questions, so I went to my room and tried to read, and then to sleep.

Over the next couple of weeks the sessions did get a bit easier to take and my supervised visits got easier as I learned to take things like colouring books and crayons with me. My relationship with Janice became much more friendly. She asked me to sign a release form so they could contact John for information about my state of mind and whether I was a danger. On the sixth week of my visits she came out to see me with a big smile on her face.

"We had a case conference about you yesterday," she said. "You'll be pleased to know that we don't see any need to continue with the supervision. From now on it'll be up to you and your wife to work out visitation. I hope that's good news."

"It's the best," I said. "You tell that husband of yours that he'd better look after you or I might just get you to weaken."

"I've already told him I've been flirting with a handsome young soldier," she laughed.

"Marine," I corrected her.

"Whatever," she said. "Good luck with the visitation, and if you need any help you know where we are."

The knowledge that I'd no longer have someone watching me like a hawk whenever I went near my children was a big relief. It made it worth all the therapy sessions, which were still tearing me apart. I knew Julie wouldn't be difficult with me over visitation. We agreed that to start I would have them every other Sunday and that would extend to the whole weekend as soon as I had somewhere to live where they could stay over. She even offered to let me use the house so that I didn't feel I had to find somewhere to take them each time.

When I turned up at the house for my first visit, Julie was very friendly. We sat down and enjoyed a coffee together. She asked how things were going at work and said she had met Eric and his wife in the supermarket. Eric had told her I had cut Tom's hours. I told her I'd discovered she had been subsidising the company and now, without that subsidy, and with the demands of the CSA and half the mortgage, economies had to be made.

"I am sorry about hiding my cash injections from you. I couldn't think of a better way of putting cash in your pocket, but looking back it might have been better to let you work out your own solution."

I couldn't believe this. She was apologising for helping me out and trying to preserve my dignity.

"About the CSA payments," she said. "You do know that I don't get that money. I claim a single parent's tax allowance but that's all I get out of it. We can both try to appeal to reduce it if you like."

"Maybe," I said.

"Well, I just wanted you to know that it's not me that wants to cripple you financially."

"I have never thought that," I told her.

We finished our coffee and she told me that she was going to spend the day with her parents and left me with the girls. It was good to be back in the house and with my two daughters. I looked around and was surprised to see our wedding photograph still displayed in the usual place. Then I realised that Julie was also still wearing her rings.

Later that week I got a call from my solicitor. He told me that Julie was willing to give up her share of my business if I was willing to give up my share of the house.

"What do you mean, her share of the business?" I asked. "This is my business, always has been."

"Not any more, Mr Maitland. The court awarded your wife fifty percent of all of your joint assets. Your business is one of those assets and as such your wife is entitled to fifty percent."

I said nothing. I was still trying to take it in. At first I started to feel angry, but I reminded myself that it was anger got me into this.

"Your wife isn't trying to screw you," the solicitor said. "It is true that your house would be worth significantly more than your business, but your wife is offering to take over full responsibility for the mortgage. If you agree then we can wrap this up with the court."

"Yeah, what the hell," I said. "At least there'll be something that's mine."

"Very well," he said. "I'll send the documents to your business address. All you need to do is sign and return them."

I agreed to do just that. I did wonder whether Julie was trying to help me out by taking over responsibility for the mortgage and enabling me to support myself. I found myself confused. She was obviously trying to help me cope with the divorce, so she must still care, but she gave no indication that she wanted to get back together. When I received the papers I did sign and return them and yes, I was more able to cope without the mortgage.

When I tried to talk to Julie about it at the next access visit all she would say was, "It was never my intention to punish you, Greg. After all, you are my children's father."

Relations continued to improve and once or twice she even rang me and asked me to pick up the girls from nursery. This made it all the more difficult to accept when the decree absolute dropped through the door. That was it, my marriage was over and nothing I could do would bring it back.

Clare took me out to dinner that evening in an attempt to cheer me up. It didn't really work. In fact it sort of made things worse. I started to feel that she was acting like we were a couple rather than just two friends.

Following the decree absolute I got the accounts from both my own and Julie's solicitors. Along with that came a cheque for more than five thousand pounds. Apparently, that was my share of our joint assets after the lawyers had been paid. I knew they were not my assets, so the money must have come from Julie's accounts. I'd never been comfortable with Julie bringing home so much more than me and now to be taking her money seemed wrong. I sent the cheque back to her solicitors with a letter saying I was refusing to accept it.

Julie and I were getting on reasonably well and I decided that for now I would be happy with that. However, there were some things that had to change. Living with Clare was not working out. From my side it was always two friends sharing a house and sometimes a bed. From Clare's side of things I thought I saw a change. She started to ask me to accompany her to social engagements where I was introduced as her partner or her toy boy. Even when I slept in my own bed I frequently woke up to find her kneeling at the side of my bed with her head bobbing up and down on my morning glory. One evening we had a long chat about it

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byDeYaKen© 65 comments/ 76358 views/ 32 favorites

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