A "Jewel" of a Wife Ch. 02byimhapless©
A Jewel of a Wife – The Unintended Sequel
I got so many questions about what Traylor and Arlene were going to say to Austen that he refused to listen to that I felt that a sequel was necessary. What they had to say was not the normal bullshit (no comment on if it was at all justified). If you liked the way that the original story ended then DON'T read this.
Although I was pleased that I had punished my ex-wife Arlene and her paramour Jack Traylor by getting both sent to prison, and had avoided losing my daughters Justine and Cybil, now 10 and 8, in a custody battle, I had three problems.
The first problem was that both Justine and Cybil really missed their Mom. While I took them to see her for three hours every other Sunday at the minimum security prison she was serving her four year sentence, that wasn't enough for them to get the type of attention that apparently only a mother can give to her daughters. Justine, in particular, was showing real signs of stress, including dropping grades and interest in other activities.
The second problem was that I missed Arlene too. Despite how her adultery had hurt me, and how she had killed my love for her when she all of lied about her affair, refused not to meet with Traylor, and threatened to take the kids away from me with little visitation, all on the same day, I was used to having her around. I also missed our love-making sessions. Even though she was apparently doing it just to manipulate me, the last four Thursday night fucks we had before the night that killed our marriage were all time; and unforgettable!
Third, things were not as rosy economically as I had thought. While I made good money as a Vice President of a small public company, considering the mortgage on a house that we used to have two salaries to pay, and expenses associated with arranging for care for the girls when I was working, and bills that Arlene normally handled with her salary alone, my life style had changed. I still had jewelry and artwork I could sell, and certainly could downsize if necessary; but that would make things even worse for my daughters. I certainly didn't have any disposable income to put in a college fund for my daughters, something that really bothered me.
I had not even seen Arlene since the criminal trial. Whenever I brought the kids I just dropped them off with a cell phone at the guard's station if they needed me to be there before the three hour limit. I never saw Arlene.
Even though I had hired a nanny to be there when the kids got home from school, and to help out other times, she was no substitute for Arlene in the kids' minds. I had hoped to be dating within a month or two of the divorce, but even though the nanny was on call for that the opportunities were few and far between.
After Arlene had been in the slammer about six months Justine brought me a letter she had gotten in the mail from Arlene. The letter to Justine simply said "Justine, honey. Please give this letter to Daddy and make him read it in front of you. Tell him that there can be no more visits if he doesn't. Much Love, Mom."
Justine was fragile at that point of time and already had tears in her eyes when she handed me the letter to her, and a sealed smaller envelope addressed to me. I had no option but to open it and read it since Justine stood there the whole time with a soulful look, and she clapped when I read it. My letter was simple too.
"Austen: I know that there is no chance of reconciliation, and to be honest after what you did to me I wouldn't take you back if you begged – so we're done. However, there is something I need to talk to you about face-to-face that involves the girls' futures. Therefore, you need to plan an hour of face time with me next Sunday; bring the nanny to sit with the girls while we talk. If you don't come this Sunday, don't bring the girls ever again, and I'll be sure that they know why I won't see them again."
WOW! She was playing hardball. I didn't really have a choice because I knew that she was stubborn enough to follow through on her threat even though it would kill her; it would kill the girls too. So I made arrangements.
The next Sunday the nanny, a sixty year old grandmotherly type named Grace, Justine, Cybil and I went to the prison. It was the most excited I had seen the girls since Arlene was incarcerated. Arlene talked to the girls for a little less than two hours, and then called for me.
Both Arlene and I had good reason to be apprehensive. She had killed my love with her affair with Traylor, and I had ruined her life by framing her for the burglary. When I saw her, except for the ugly orange prison jumpsuit – she never looked good in orange anything – she looked as good as the Friday she made her decision to go to Traylor despite my begging her not to. Maybe she lost five pounds, which she didn't really have to lose, but she still looked good to me.
"Hello, Austen. I guess my threat worked," she said without emotion.
"Hello, Arlene," I replied, also without much emotion, although my palms were sweating. "I figured it must be important if you resorted to that threat since you've always been a very good mother. Do you really have something to say that is important for the future, because I don't see much point in rehashing the past."
"You're right. I got greedy and hurt you badly. Your nuclear response was not what I expected because I really thought we loved each other, and your resolve to destroy rather than listen ultimately killed my love for you," she continued, with so little emotion that it really surprised me.
"Your infidelity was why I..." I started to say, trying hard to keep my emotions in check since the pain of her betrayal was bubbling up again, when she cut me off.
"Like you said, Austen, the past is done. Done, that is, except that you have to know that it was greed on my part, not lack of love for you, that led me to do what I did. And, according to the clock on the wall I have one hour and four minutes to tell you what you wouldn't listen to before, and what has happened to make that relevant for the future, otherwise I would never explain it to you," she replied, this time with a little edge in her voice but still surprisingly emotionless.
"You've got my attention for one hour, four minutes," I replied with a half-smile. "I'll stick it out no matter what you say; I just might not respond."
"You'll respond," she confidently said, then started in on her story as I sat with my hands folded in front of me.
"You know how much I love art, and how I've always wanted to own some masterpiece; you have to remember that," she said with her own half-smile.
"Yeah, I sure can't deny that. I know that you wanted to turn our house into competition for the Smithsonian National Gallery of Art," I replied with another half-smile.
"Well Jack Traylor was someone you met once before, but probably didn't remember. He is an art appraiser, and we met him briefly at a show about four years ago. He had a shady reputation, although no one disputed his credentials as an evaluator. Anyway, he and I stayed in touch after that meeting."
Seeing the look on my face her smile disappeared and she sternly said "There was absolutely no sexual relationship whatsoever. I just discussed with him what my art goals were, and he promised to help me achieve them – for a finders' fee, of course. In fact he was the one that put me on to the O'Keefe Adirondack sketch that you like so much, and helped me get it undervalue, even considering his commission."
She was right – the Georgia O'Keefe sketch that we had was one of my favorites of the art that we owned.
"The two artists, which you also clearly will remember, whose works that I most wanted to own and that we realistically had a chance – no matter how small – to acquire in the future were Camille Pissarro and Alfred Sisley," she said.
"I know that you always loved their French impressionist paintings, but I didn't think that you coveted owning one," I replied, slightly surprised.
"Well I did. That brings me back to Traylor," she quickly replied, now with a stoic expression. "About a year before your divorce filing he came across a widower, with no children and no family that ever paid any attention to him, that had an art collection he wanted Traylor to evaluate. When he was younger this guy – I'll call him 'Pete' just to have a way to easily refer to him – travelled the world on business. His hobby was to pick up a painting or two in various odd places, including the French countryside."
"Hmm," I thought to myself, "this is not going the way I expected.
"Well," Arlene continued, without hesitation for what she was saying to sink in, "it turns out that of Pete's thirty paintings several were originals by unknown artists, worth maybe a couple hundred bucks each, several were decent forgeries or knock-offs, depending upon what you want to call them, five were worthless, and two were – life-changing."
"What does that mean?" I asked, honestly perplexed.
"One was an unknown original early work of Pissarro, and the other was an original sketch by Sisley that he obviously used as a guide to make one of his most famous paintings, 'Chemin-de-las Machine Louveciennes.' I know what you're thinking, Traylor had to be wrong, but he wasn't," she continued, her excitement rising.
"How do you know he wasn't wrong?" I asked, now even more perplexed about where this was going.
"Because I gave him $20,000 to have the works scientifically evaluated at a laboratory using infrared reflectography, a stereoscopic microscope, Wood's light, and IR spectroscopy," she replied with her first real smile.
"Bullshit," I shot back. "How could you have gotten that much money together to give him while we were still happily married?"
"I took it from my 401(k), paying the penalty for early withdrawal. Since 401(k)'s are not normally part of what is divvied up in divorces in our fair state, you wouldn't have seen it during the divorce proceedings either. Anyway, Traylor had a problem, and he had what he knew to be a greedy accomplice in me," Arlene replied.
"He couldn't very well buy the Pissarro and Sisley works himself and then later sell them for a small fortune. He needed an intermediary, and one that he could trust. He felt me out for that role," she continued.
"And felt you up, too," I deadpanned.
"That came much later," she replied without any real reaction. "Anyway, he and I devised a plan. He would convince Pete – who was having a few money troubles – to sell me his entire collection for $50,000. We would include photos with the bill of sale so that there was no mistake what art was being sold, and the only names on the sale documents would be Pete's and mine. Then we could display the real Pissarro and Sisley works in our house, and four years later I would sell the Pissarro and give Traylor half the proceeds."
"Isn't that fraudulent?" I asked.
"Like I said, I was greedy," Arlene responded," and my greed overtook my morals. Plus, Traylor is a good salesman and convinced me that Pete would be dead soon, and that there was no reason to have such valuable stuff go to the State, or some uncaring distant relative of his."
"How much did you expect to make on this little transaction?" I inquired.
"Well, Traylor felt that the Pissarro would – after the auction house took their cut – sell for at least $1,000,000, so minus my $70,000 in expenses we would split at least $930,000. Plus, and this was a big plus for me, I could keep the Sisley sketch and display it as long as I wanted to. If we ever decided to sell it, it would likely bring $100,000 or more in present day dollars."
"So this deal was worth over $550,000 net for you," I rhetorically asked.
"Yes," she replied.
"So how did sex with Traylor start?" I asked, the real question in my mind.
"Well, obviously this was something that we couldn't do a valid contract for, and he had a 'trust' issue, or at least he said that he did. He had to trust that I would split the auction house proceeds with him four years from now. I proposed a number of different alternatives, none of which satisfied him. Then he came up with a sexual affair with him," she replied, for the first time with emotion in her voice.
"What!" I exclaimed in a voice loud enough so that others looked at us. I quickly lowered my voice and continued "How in the fuck was that supposed to get him to trust you?"
"Because he knew that I was in love with you and wouldn't want to do anything to ruin our marriage; so he could give you photos if I didn't come through," she said with a wince.
My mind was in turmoil. I didn't know if I should believe her, and certainly it was a stupid backasswards thing to do. But it was just wacky enough to be true, especially since now there was no reason to lie since her life had already been knocked off kilter, and there was no way either of us wanted to get back with the other. I sat thinking for at least a couple of minutes, while she just stared at me with a pathetic look on her face.
"Arlene, why didn't you just tell me about the deal, and you could have avoided the affair?"
"I couldn't tell you for two reasons. First, you might try and talk me out of it but I was dead set on going through with it, Austen. Second, that wouldn't solve Traylor's problem. He would have even less reason to trust me," she replied, again with a wince.
"So you were willing to pimp yourself out for $550,000, is that it?" I asked sharply.
"That and getting a Pissarro for four years, and a Sisley for as long as I wanted; although at the time I didn't think of it as 'pimping myself out,' although that is a legitimate outlook," she replied with her brow furrowed.
"Arlene, why did you outdo yourself in fucking me the nights before you saw Traylor?"
"Several reasons, and they could all stand on their own as 'the' reason. One, it was really fun. I've always enjoyed sex with you more than any other man before I met you, or than with Traylor. Two, because I felt guilty about what I was about to do, or was doing. Three, because I hoped that it would throw you off about what I was doing; I guess the last one didn't work," she responded, for the first time her voice really cracking with emotion.
My mind was spinning even more. I found myself believing every fucked-up thing she was saying, but it brought back some of the hurt of her betrayal. "So you got no pleasure at all from fucking Traylor?" I sarcastically asked.
"I didn't say that; and there's no reason to get sarcastic, we're done," she shot back, her emotion changing from chagrin to anger. "Yes, I enjoyed – at least physically, with no emotional involvement – the sex with him the first three nights. And since you're going to ask, I fucked him twice each of the first three nights, with condoms, but with him taking photos. The fourth night I wasn't in the mood but the deal with him was for four times, and he seemed to be enjoying the sex with me more than I thought that he would. That night he got me drunk and then fucked me when I was powerless to stop him. The reason I got home so late was because I fell asleep in a drunken stupor, and didn't wake up until quarter to three, and then immediately left while he was snoring away. That time I didn't get any enjoyment," she retorted, now displaying all of anger, hurt, chagrin, and guilt.
I wasn't about to let her off the hook, though. "You had to know by the fourth time that I knew about you, so his threat of showing me photos and ruining our marriage was moot. Why did you leave, even after I pleaded with you?"
After a long delay she replied. "That's the toughest question, isn't it? I almost came back in the house; but I didn't want to screw up the deal with Traylor after going three quarters through with it, and I didn't know for sure that you knew since I thought that we were very careful in where we went, and what we did."
"Including fucking in his pool?" I asked incredulously.
"He told me that there were no vantage points where people could see over his fence, and that the houses on either side were vacant – and they did have "For Sale" signs on them. Anyway, I went to see him the fourth time with the intention of telling him that I had to get home early that night, but I was so emotionally distraught that he took advantage of it by getting me plastered before he nailed me."
Arlene looked down and when I started to say something she held up her hand, a gesture indicating "Stop, I'm not done!" Indeed she wasn't. When she looked up the tears were visible. "Plus, I thought that you loved me enough that we could overcome it. I'm primarily to blame but what you did was a gross over-reaction if you really did love me the way that you said you did. Why do you think I convinced Traylor to come to our house to talk to you, to lay it all out to save our marriage, even when I knew the judge might get pissed at me, and even though I had to threaten him with blowing the entire deal unless he helped me out? You fucked up both our lives, and more importantly those of our daughters, you fucking asshole! They need me!"
I was stunned; she got up, walked around the table we were sitting at a few times, getting the hairy eyeball from the guards, and then returned.
In a much more conciliatory voice, since her rant was not totally uncalled for, I asked "So where are we now? Divorced, our kids without their mother, AND your deal out the window?"
"That's why you're here. I told you the rest just to get it off my chest and so that you'll believe what I tell you next," she responded, trying as hard as possible to be calm. "The deal is not dead. If you check the storage facility where you had all my stuff moved to you will see that all of my jewelry and some paintings are gone. I had your sister Jen..." at that she stopped when she saw the shocked expression on my face.
"Yeah, that's right, YOUR sister. She's a mother too, and the only one in your family that has a conscience; she sold the stuff for me, raised the $50,000 I needed, and completed the deal with Pete on my behalf. The Pissarro, Sisley, and Pete's other paintings are now in the storage facility, and Pete died a month after the sale was consummated."
"Holy shit!" I exclaimed.
"The transaction was completed after our divorce was final so you have no claim to any of Pete's properties, but what I'm telling you is that when I sell the Pissarro as soon as I get out of here I'll be completely funding Justine and Cybil's college education funds. In the meantime have Jen get the Pissarro and Sisley works out and display them in what used to be our house, and send me photos of them."
I must have repeated "Holy Shit" a dozen more times as I stared blankly into space. Arlene just sat with her arms crossed, leaning back in her chair, with her own blank stare.
"WOW!" I said. "What you say probably wouldn't have changed things at the time because I was so angry and resentful. It does change things going forward, though."
I got up to leave. "One last thing, Austen," she mildly stated. "From my perspective I screwed up the 'forsaking all others' part of our marriage vows, but you screwed up the 'for better or for worse' part."
I stood looking over her face, now returned to a neutral expression. "I have a lot to think about. I want to visit with you, again just the two of us after you see the girls, in two weeks. Are you OK with that?"
"Yes, I'm OK with that," she replied.
We both turned and simply walked away.
My mind was in such uproar that I got no sleep that Sunday night and stayed home from work the next two days. On Tuesday I asked Jen to show me the Pissarro and Sisley – and they sure looked legitimate to me. I had prepared myself mentally to not in any way pass judgment on Jen for anything – I treated her as the person – besides my daughters – who I loved most in the world, because I did.