If you think you’ve experienced a mid-life crisis, Cheryl Chandler will prove you wrong. Ditched by a philandering husband, rearing three weird teens (and a toddler—her failed attempt to save her marriage), she knows only one thing will redeem her life: a man—any man so long as he’s hot.
But how does a forty-something divorcé do that?
The kids have the answer. Go online.
After meeting a string of weirdoes, Tarrant LeClerc befriends her. But he’s too religious, and will only chat with him as a friend.
Then, when she knows this online dating is doomed, she meets the man of her dreams. Smart, witty and enchanting, Carleton Seymour sweeps her off her feet, but he’s got to meet the kids. Cheryl refuses to hide them—although the thought is tempting.
First there’s New Age Andi who changes college majors more frequently than a yogi changes poses. Bobbie’s OCD could drive Mother Teresa nuts. Taylor, once an adolescent drug mule and now born again teen, fears all will forget they’re sinners. And of course, Marina, the toddler, will make her presence known.
In DWF: Divorced White Female, an inspiration woman’s fiction, you will laugh and love with the characters and come away transformed and transported by Cheryl’s antics.
I slumped onto my bathroom floor, closed my eyes, and imagined myself in Versace sunglasses with a .357 Magnum. I'd hunt down Martin, blow the heat from my gun, stash it in my charcoal grey, Burberry trench coat, and ride off with a Clint Eastwood look alike. After the deed was done, I'd celebrate with a magnum of champagne. Or a Magnum ice cream.
Yep. That would be one solution.
Not the answer to this one.
With new resolve, I picked up the stick and squinted.
Blue lines. They didn't change color. My bluster slipped away like smoke from the snub nosed .357.
I didn't use those exact words. I didn't actually bless any Ohio city or anything else. My language that morning was as blue as the lines on the EPT stick.
I thought I had passed the pregnancy phase and blissfully entered menopause -- my golden years of bridge games and cruises and cocktail parties. The kids could care for themselves. Sort of.
At last, Taylor had abandoned his dreadlock-headed punk phase and would start high school this fall. My daughter Bobbie still proved labor intensive, but at least Andi had completed her first year at North Country Community College.
Correction. In college, but not settled. What was she studying? Massage therapy. As a high school senior, she applied for the music therapy program, then switched into art therapy last year. Now this. All this time, I had thought massage was a euphemism for prostitution. Weren't TV cops always apprehending sexy, skinny, beautiful 'masseuses' -- girls not unlike Andi, despite her purple, spiky hair? I learned to deal with her vegetarianism, her Indian Ying/Yang whatever, but a career rubbing bodies? Would a cop one day come knocking at my door and arrest my daughter for massaging pervs?
Despite his obsession with religion, I still feared the cops with Taylor. With McIntyre out of the picture and Jesus in it, maybe we cleared that hurdle. Despite Taylor's religious kick, he acted normal again. He went to school, did his homework, visited friends, wanted to be a forensic computer specialist. Insisted we say grace.
Or as normal as a fourteen-year-old boy with an obsession for Jesus could be.
My whole family was obsessed. Or possessed.
With worries about my children, tears flooded once more. I leaned against the wall and cried. I didn't bother to break the toilet paper off the roll, just pulled the thin, cottony sheets like one of those old towel rollers in public restrooms my mother told me about. You'd pull the cloth towel, which would go around and around in circles, recycling the same two feet of yucky material. If luck found you, a semi-clean, semi-dry bit of cloth would materialize, and you could dry your hands.
If my youngest daughter Bobbie encountered a recycled towel, she'd bathe in Betadine for a week.
At any rate, I pulled the toilet paper, blew my nose, felt the damp seep through. I tugged to find a dry spot, let the tissue rip, wiped my eyes and repeated the process.
Then I really let it rip. I shredded Martin, tore down Nora, then bawled my eyes out, not bothering to stifle my choking sobs. I guess I wasn't finished with tears.
When this last round abated, I leaned against the smooth tiles and let their coolness soothe my flushed face.
Why, why, why? I clenched my fists and banged the wall behind me. Why did I think if I got him interested in sex again things would be better?
The night I seduced him, I wore this tacky teddy with an awful little thongy thing -- a contemporary torture chamber which supposedly made me sexy. Did it? I don't think so, unless rope burn and wedgies that had to be surgically removed have sex appeal. What did I get out of it? Twenty-two years of devotion now flushed down the toilet with the hormones coloring the EPT.
Martin left with a farewell. Its evidence lay in the wastepaper basket: two blue lines. Left me with baby number four.
I stood to wash my face and barely recognized my reflection. My wild hair resembled a poodle's with a perm. My eyelids puffed, so I couldn't see my eyes.
I pinched my thigh, dug in my nails, imagined purple welts rising. It didn't obliterate Martin's announcement the previous evening. I closed my eyes and relived the whole awful night.
...Last night Martin had come home and entered the kitchen. He leaned against the breakfast bar, and watched as I busied myself with my new carrot cake recipe. The kitchen smelled of nutmeg, cinnamon, and fresh cake. It should have made me hungry; instead my stomach churned.
"Cheryl, Nora's pregnant," he said.
"Really? Didn't she and her husband split up?" I didn't know why he interrupted me with this trivia. He knew I wanted to enter this cake in a contest, and I had to finish my prototype. The brusqueness of his statement didn't register as I focused on not barfing into the cake. That would have marred the results -- more than a mite.
"Poor thing. What will she do?" I tried to sound sympathetic toward the snippy receptionist at Martin's accounting agency, but even to me my voice sounded a mite triumphant. How could I sympathize with a woman who wore her underwear as outerwear? Her little camisoles revealed so much cleavage. I only got cleavage when I lay on my side, with my arm strategically placed. I wished the fat from my belly would migrate upwards.
Anyway, those camisoles didn't stay connected with the tops of her tiny skirts, or the pants she painted on.
"I can't abandon her now."
"Why would you abandon her? She's a good worker isn't she?" I used my grown-up voice, so I sounded concerned. "Do you think I should top the cake with fake carrots, or should I use something less cliché?"
A wave of nausea distracted me. Should I tell him my suspicions of the past two months? We, too, would have a baby. Then I thought I'd better wait until morning -- be certain, not get ahead of the facts. Scare him away with maybes.
I bit my lip. Would this baby keep us together or be the leaven bursting our marriage?
"We're going to get married."
"We?" My hand slipped. Icing smeared it.
"We." He said it so accountantly. So matter-of-factly. So Martinly.
"We?" I sounded like an agreeable Frenchwoman. I pushed back my hair, smearing it with cream cheese frosting.
"She's my soul mate."
"Soul mate?" I hyperventilated, stared at my hand holding the spatula. Soon a droning penetrated my mind, and I became aware of Martin's pontifications.
"As you well know, I tried to make our marriage work, but..."
I wouldn't listen. I refused to listen. Told myself to shut my ears.
"Cheryl, I love her."
Those words focused me. I saw him dreamy-eyed, staring at the ceiling with the dopey expression Bobbie wore with every crush she had. "What about us?"
I ground my teeth. My arteries in my forehead were ready to burst and spray my cake. I didn't know if I should cry or scream.
"For that amber-eyed chippie?" I settled on yelling as I waved the cake spatula like a sword in front of his face. "For a wanton tart?. An anorexic, size zero--"
"Don't say another word, Cheryl. It's over."
With those words, Martin looked at me, his dreamy-eyed expression once again impassive. Uncaring.
"You know our marriage failed a long time ago." He turned condescending. "Once you settle down, you'll see I'm right."
"Don't patronize me. I'm done with you telling me how to live my life. How to think. What to feel."
"Isn't that what I just said?" He took my shoulder in one hand, raised my face to his with the other. "You said it yourself." His voice turned kind. "We don't think alike anymore. Don't make it harder than it is, Cheryl." He ruined his moment of tenderness by stomping out of the kitchen.
Left before he heard me sob. Left as I slid onto a kitchen chair, doubled over with my face in my arms, and wept. He never heard me say, "We're having a baby too."
He gave me no prior hint about him and Nora. I thought we just had the normal mid-life, twenty-two-year problems. I assumed tax season kept him away.
I thought business kept his phone line ringing.
I thought stress sent him to his Bowflex instead of hot sex with me.
Maybe he had hinted, and I loved him too blindly to see.
Then I really needed to vomit.
He packed while I retched in our master bathroom, never asking what made me so sick. He let his car warm up in the garage while he packed one more suitcase. He refused to look at me as I cried and begged him to work it out with us.
He drove away. He never knew what I had suspected for the last six weeks. What I had hoped was menopause. He never guessed I'd be up half the night, sobbing until my dry heaves forced me out of my rocking chair and back onto the bathroom floor. He wouldn't hear me pray for his heart to change. Or for morning to prove I had the flu, not morning sickness.
...This morning had brought no change. Just a confirmation. Martin left, and I had a baby to consider. I could abort. Of course I couldn't tell anyone except maybe my friend, Janelle. Andi would accept my decision as the contemporary thing to do. I couldn't tell Taylor, as it probably violated his religion. I thought it violated mine -- I figured I'd have to ask Father Ploof.
No one needed to know, especially not my children, who first had to come to grips with their father's desertion. An absconded father was going to push Bobbie over the edge. I stopped thinking about myself and fretted about her. How can I keep her from freaking out?
Punctuating the last thought, I heard Bobbie start the shower. Again.
I didn't want to face Bobbie. If I confronted my daughter I'd tear her apart, not for her obsessions this time, but because I'd see her father in her sixteen-year-old face. Although her body flowed in softness, rounded like mine -- except, she had a bust -- Bobbie was his child. Her dogged pursuit of her needs consumed her and drove me crazy. Maybe we can start therapy? Martin always said her compulsions were an issue of mind over matter. Well this mattered too much to be just her mind.
I needed to address her second shower this morning. I had hidden all the towels, hoping to convince her she didn't need to wash so much. I figured I could dole them out like food stamps or her allowance, maybe even save on laundry and hot water and soap. I couldn't save Bobbie's raw, cracked skin though. It broke my heart to see it bleed. I wondered if Martin's child support would be enough to handle four kids and Bobbie's anti-bacterial lotion.
I thought of my .357 Magnum, again. Would that be an act of God? Double indemnity?
I shook my head. I was a coward, a meek, little June Cleaver. A lily-livered mouse. I wouldn't kill him, but I would make sure he gave me child support and alimony and...
Finances. What was I going to do? I hadn't worked since Andi was born. Martin had wanted me to stay home. He swore he'd provide more than enough. Swore he'd be enough. Now he swore he had enough.
I blew my nose one more time, squared my shoulders and, forgetting my eyeglasses, I headed to the kids' bathroom to deal with my daughter. The blurred hallway made me dizzy and intensified my overpowering nausea. The out of focus pictures lining the wall mocked me like spectators in the Coliseum.
"Bobbie." I rapped on the door.
She didn't reply.
"Bobbie Jo Chandler!" I still got no answer. I twisted the knob to discover she'd locked it. So back to my room I went, passed, once more, the pictures of us, dressed up in our finest, smiling for cameras catching our familiness. I rummaged through my bathroom drawers, found a bobby pin, grabbed my glasses, and headed back down the hall. I poked the pin through the hole, popped the lock, and walked into the steamy room.
"Bobbie!" With one step into the bathroom, my glasses fogged and blurred everything.
About the Author
Diverse. If one word can describe Carol McClain, it's diverse and had been long before diversity became such a pc buzz word. She's a novelist, essayist, and erstwhile poet (Be glad it’s erstwhile and no longer current). She hales from northern New York—so far north, she's almost Canadian. Eh?
She plays the bassoon, creates stained glass, cross-country skis, and is a former marathoner, and high ropes instructor. For more than thirty years, she taught English, and she now teaches Bible studies, and edits for fun.
In addition to this, she has served on the North Country Habitat for Humanity board for over ten years. In that capacity, she's held every position except those having to do with money. She may be able to tell you the definitions sesquipedalian, but simple addition baffles her.
She is course coordinator for ACFW. And of course, she writes.
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