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Authors: Dianne Venetta,Jaxadora Design

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BOOK: Condemn Me Not
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Logan
was a good-looking boy, but he had more ego than sense, which made for a bad
combination.  Confidence emboldened.  Ego blinded. 
Who would make the
decisions when it came to the business

Who would decide how to service
customers, how and when to expand operations

Did they even have the
first clue on how to proceed
?

Simone
pressed her eyes closed.  There was so much that went into starting a business. 
If they thought they could simply come up with an idea and slip it into
practice like a coin in the soda machine, they were sorely mistaken.  Simone breathed
in deeply and slowly released, forcing the building anxiety to vacate her
chest.  It was the making of a disaster.

 

 

 

 

 

CLAIRE
AND JIM

 

“So
much for the women’s movement,” Jim grumbled into the oval mirror above his
sink.  “Pitting woman against woman, choice against choice.”   He smacked his
razor to the marble vanity.  “Should have been called the career women’s
movement, the way they treat you stay-at-home mothers.”

“Jim!”

He
met her head-on.  “Well, you know it’s true.  They don’t support you.  You, who
work harder than anyone I know—twenty-four/seven—and still they have the gall
to say, ‘You don’t work, you stay home.’  As though you’re sitting around the
house all day twiddling your thumbs.”  Jim spewed a sigh of disgust.  “If they
only had a clue.  They think because they have a job and bring home a paycheck they’re
more equal with their husbands than you are—as if you and I aren’t equal
partners.”

Claire
knew he was right.  It was a sticky point between her and Simone and always had
been.  The minute she revealed her decision to quit her design job to stay home
with Rebecca, Simone had instantly questioned,
You’re not going to work
?

As
though caring for an infant wasn’t work, and twins weren’t twice as hard.  As
though she had no value outside of her career.  Claire opened a bottle of
perfume and spritzed her neck and shoulders.  As though keeping a house clean
and her family fed didn’t require effort, didn’t denote worth.  She replaced
the cap and returned it to the cosmetic caddy in the corner of her counter. 
Simone paid a nanny to care for her daughter—her one child.  She paid a
housekeeper to clean the house, do the laundry.  Dinner was taken care of by
Mitchell, and if that wasn’t help enough, Simone had a full-time assistant at
the office, one who Claire knew for a fact ran personal errands on her
employer’s behalf.

“Simone
couldn’t handle the demands of your life,” Jim said, dabbing his jaw with a
cream-colored hand towel.  “I doubt if she even knows where the vacuum is
kept.”  Depositing the towel onto the counter, he walked out of the bathroom.

Immersed
in the sweet fragrance of lilies and jasmine hanging in the air around her,
Claire folded the towel and draped it over the short bar to the left of his
mirror.  She suspected there might be some truth to that last statement, but
Jim was wrong about the debate in general.  While there were times her life
felt like it revolved around dishes and diapers, she knew it was the women’s
movement that gave her the opportunity to choose.  Noting a small smudge on her
medicine cabinet, Claire wiped at it with the pad of her thumb. 
Mission
accomplished
, she mused, and switched off the light, trailing Jim into
their bedroom.

Claire
originally chose a career in design, and then she chose to forego it for title
of mother and wife.  For her it was about prioritizing the components of life—the
one area of the women’s movement with which she disagreed.  Selling women on
the notion that they could have career
and
family was a myth.  To claim
they could be both top-notch mom and ace career woman was just plain wrong. 
There was only so much of you to go around, and whether it was your husband,
your kids, your employer or your career track, someone or something was getting
short-changed.  Trying to be a “Jane of all trades” was a losing proposition,
like Jane tumbling down the hill after Jack.

Hearing
Jim rustle around in the walk-in closet, Claire collected her reading glasses
from the nightstand and stowed them away in the drawer.  Jane probably fell
because the pail of water she was carrying was too full—like Simone’s pail of
obligations.  Without the money to hire a nanny, a housekeeper, and the fortune
of a husband with a flexible schedule like Mitchell’s, Simone wouldn’t be able
to manage her high-powered career.

No. 
It was simply impossible.  A goal worth striving for, maybe, but physically
unattainable.

“And
what about the fathers?” Jim asked, not missing a beat as he swept back into the
room.  “These women act as though we don’t matter, like we’re dispensable.”

“Oh
honey, you’re not
dispensable
.”

“I
know that, and you know that, but some of these women...”  He glanced away, sparing
her the full brunt of his contempt.  “They act as though we’re nothing but
sperm donors.”

“No,
they don’t.”  She walked over to him and smoothed the material of his shirt
across his chest, feeling the round of his muscles beneath, those of a man ten
years his junior.  “They’re just focused on themselves and their part in the
equation.”  Claire moved her gaze across his, imploring him to listen.  “It
doesn’t mean they’re negating your contribution.”

“It
takes two parents to raise a family.”  Jim held up the number of fingers
between them.  “Two.  Yet some of these women purposefully cut the man out.” 
He bore the point home as he added, “Women walk around with a sense of
entitlement, as though the world owes them.  I blame the women’s movement for
that.”

She
sighed.  “That’s not entirely fair, you know.”

“Isn’t
it?  Then why are these women raising children on their own?  Why are they
traipsing about as though they don’t need men to have kids?  I’ve got news for
them—those little darlings of theirs didn’t come about by Immaculate Conception.”

“Some
women don’t have a choice,” Claire defended.  “Single mothers do their level
best to raise their children to become fine, upstanding adults and it’s through
no fault of their own that they’re left handling it alone.”

“Because
of divorce—I’ll give you.  But some of them start off without a father involved,
straight from the get go.”  Jim’s eyes darkened.  “Intentionally.  And they’re
cheating their kids when they do so.”

“You
can’t blame a woman for wanting a child.”

“I’m
blaming a society that accepts it so easily.  I’m blaming a movement that
encourages single-parent adoption.  I’m blaming those females too self-centered
to care about what others think, because they want what they want and that’s
the end of it.  They feel they should have it.  Well they’re
wrong
.  Kids
need two parents, plain and simple.”

Claire
agreed with Jim on that point, but blaming women for single parenthood wasn’t
fair.  Women had rights to their reproductive choices and parenting choices and
it was the women’s movement that enabled them to exercise those rights.  But it
was a double-edged liberty.  Children did need two parents.  They learned how
to become men and women by emulating their same sex parents but they also
learned how to treat and be treated by the opposite sex from their opposite sex
parent.

Claire
watched her husband walk out of the room, en route to the kitchen, no doubt. 
His routine was as steady as they come.  But it was precisely his steadfast
presence that meant so much to the family.  Rebecca wouldn’t be who she was
today without a man in her life, a man who loved her deeply, without
restraint.  It affected how she’d choose a man for herself one day.

The
same went for the twins.  They were maturing into strong, responsible men
because of their father.  They understood duty and commitment.  They treated
women with warm respect and high regard because of their parents’ relationship. 
The boys were loved, and they valued that love.  It formed the basis for how
they would love others in the future.

Glancing
at the framed portraits scattered across the top of her dresser, Claire
cherished the photos as a visual journal, testaments of love and joy.  One look
at the relationship between Simone and Mariah should underscore the point. 
There were consequences to spending so much time away.  Whether it was the man
or the woman, spending days and nights chasing corporate success parlayed into
turmoil and trouble on the home front.  Kids reacted to a parent’s absence. 
While the parent thought they were saying, “I’m working hard for you, ensuring
you have everything you need in life,” the child heard, “My job is more
important to me than you are, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to keep
it.”

Claire
blew the breath from her lungs.  Which was a shame.  The only thing kids really
needed was quality time with their parent.  They needed it to bond, to
love...to live.  While Simone was busy setting the example as independent
working woman, her daughter was crying out for emotional support and
encouragement.  Three hours at the end of the day wasn’t nearly enough time to
develop a deep and abiding relationship.  The child needed more.  The parent
needed more.

Falling
back to their previous conversation, it was no wonder Simone didn’t understand Claire’s
distress over Rebecca’s leaving.  For Simone, it was the next logical step—but
only in part.  The goal of raising a child was to create an independent adult, Claire
would agree.  It was her job to instill in them an internal compass that would
guide them through the maze of life, but it was also to create a loving bond
that would flourish for generations to come.  Without a close connection to
Mariah, distance meant nothing.  In Simone’s eyes the child was moving on to
her next stage in life, all according to plan.  There’d be time enough for visits
and relating on the new level as adults.

Claire
rubbed the tiny red dot at the crux of her elbow. 
But life doesn’t always
unfold according to plan

Sometimes it dumps direction-altering obstacles
in your path
.

Jim
returned to the room, coffee in hand and kissed her lightly on the lips.  “I’ll
pick you up around nine, okay?”

She
nodded.  Simone was supposed to take her to the lab today, but under the
circumstances, Claire didn’t feel like suffering through any more of her
lectures on what she
should
have done.  She only wanted to focus on what
she needed to do next.

 

# # #

 

That
afternoon, alone in her living room, a pillow tucked beneath her arm, Claire
held the framed portrait of Sarah in her lap.  Smiling up at her from beneath
the glass, the familiar face invoked a pain of longing, one that burned as
sharp as ever, transporting her back to the day she watched her sister leave
for the last time.  It had been the hardest thing she’d dealt with at that
point in her life.  Fifteen years ago, without warning, without regret, Sarah
had kissed her sister goodbye and announced she was moving to Scotland.  After
following Claire’s path to Brown University, Sarah opted to spend her last year
of college abroad—in London, home to William Earlthrop the Third and his
esteemed family, four steps removed from royalty.  The two were married within
the year and Sarah never looked back.

Now,
two sisters lived oceans apart, worlds away; a phone line insufficient to keep
their hearts tied as one.  Claire didn’t blame Sarah.  Not really.  The two had
once shared similar dreams for their future.  But only Sarah had materialized
hers, traveling the world as a professional photographer, capturing the essence
of life, the romance of natural wonders, from amazing sunsets to mysterious encased
valleys.  Landscapes were Sarah’s specialty.  Flowers and color in particular,
but what she could do with a coastal shot would blow people away.  More than
talented, she had the incredible ability to capture the human spirit with the
press of a button.  If she wanted you to cry, you would.  If she wanted to
elevate your heart, you’d end up in heaven.  If she wanted to sink you in the
depths of contemplation, you’d crave for days of solitude.  Why, if she wanted
you to jump off a jagged cliff, you’d think about it.  Claire traced the line
of cheekbone in the image she held.  It’s what drew Sarah to England in the
first place.  From the high country of Scotland to the emerald island of
Ireland, Sarah was in her element, living her passion.  Claire’s face crumpled
in tears.

But
a man will do that to you.  They’ll change the entire course of your life, if
you let them.  Jim had turned her dreams into a family.  Will had turned
Sarah’s into a cosmopolitan adventure.  Claire moved her fingertip around the
full face, the lazy tendrils of golden brown hair.  Sarah’s work was
well-known.  Overseas, she was a superstar, with only a select few galleries authorized
to handle her collection here in the States.  While Claire was happy for her
sister, she was depressed for herself.  Before Jim, Sarah was her other half.  Claire’s
tears blurred her vision.

It
was a connection she missed.  Simone was a good friend, their relationship as
thorny as it was beautiful, but Sarah was family.  They came from the same
stock, shared the same blood.  Family streamed through the hearts and souls of
generations.  It was the same with Rebecca.  And now she was leaving, too.

BOOK: Condemn Me Not
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