Cry Me a River PG-13 Edition (4 page)

BOOK: Cry Me a River PG-13 Edition
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A quick knock on my door and I hear the handle turn.  Becky’s the only one not intimidated by a closed door.
  “Caide, there’s a guy here to see you.  He won’t tell me who he’s with or why he’s here, only said it was important.” 

“Send him in,” I say just as the make-up lady
was about to powder my face with her giant make-up brush.    

A big burly guy who would fit in with the guys from Duck Dynasty, with his long beard and messy long hair walks in the room.  If he has a facial expression, it is hidden behind his face full of hair.
  As he walks over to me, the make-up lady hurries to the door. “Are you Caide Palmer?”  Big Burly asks.

“Yes, I am.  Can I help you with something?”  Did someone send a hit-man after me?  This guy could very well be a murderer.  Wouldn’t that be
something?

Big Burly has dark brown
eyes; they seem to be studying my face before he kills me.  He takes the large manila envelope he’s holding and holds it out to me.  I instinctively take it from him.  “Mr. Caide Palmer, you’ve been served.  Have a nice day,” he turns towards the door and starts walking.

“Hey, hold on.  What’s this about?  I’m being sued for something?  You can’t just walk in here and walk away.”  I hurry to catch up with him and get between him and the door.

“Look, I’m only doing my job.  I have no idea what’s in the envelope.  I wish I could be more help.  Have a good day.”  He says and I step out of his way, allowing him to walk out the door.

Served papers?  Who is suing me?  I turn the deadbolt and walk over to my desk
.  I set the envelope down and rock back and forth in my chair before I open it.  Nothing is good that’s served by a burly man.  My desk phone intercom buzzes, shit I forgot to put it on
do not disturb.

“Caide, we’re ready to film,” Becky says.

“I’ll be out in a few minutes, give everyone a cookie to try for our dessert section.”

“Okay, but you know the network gets antsy about being on time.”

“We’re not live, so the network can kiss my ass.  I’m not pissed at you Beck, but I need a few minutes.  I’ll make it up to the audience.”

I guess I can’t put it off any longer.  I take a pair of scissors and cut it open. 

 

CARTERET COUNTY COURT

North Carolina Division of Youth

And Family Services
,

Alan J. Jones

Darla A. Jones

Plaintiff - Respondents

V

Caide Joseph Palmer

Defendant - Appellants

IN THE MATTER OF
CUSTODY - Lucy Marie Palmer - A Minor

______________________________________________

 

TEMPORARY CUSTODY ORDER

1.  An action has been stated in the above court objecting to the intended relocation of MINOR and requesting the custody decree plan be properly administered.

2.  Emergency custody has been issued to the maternal grandparents PLANTIFF until all orders of the court are honored.  The DEFENDANT must appear in court on the designated date to respond to this ORDER.

3.  It is presumed that the court will permit the paternal father of MINOR child to have full custody after court orders are fulfilled.  The court may restrain the relocation and modify the paternal parent’s custody to be shared with maternal grandparents as joint custody.

4.  Supervised visitation
will be granted to DEFENDANT at hearing on designated date. 

5.  Paternity tests to be administered by court appointed provider.

Temporary order restraining the relocation of MINOR child from Plaintiff’s custody until courts approval.

 

I toss the paper across my desk, too mad to look at it anymore. 

____________________________________________

 

My attorney
’s office is nothing like the fancy offices on television; it’s a small house that was converted into offices.  The creaky wood floors remind me of visits to my grandma’s house when I was a kid.  The administrative assistant is a girl I went to high school with, she pretends she doesn’t know me.  She was always quiet and shy but now she’s assertive and arrogant. 

“Caide, Alex is ready to see you.” She announces.

Alex’s office is still decorated in her father’s décor.  They were going to partner the practice together but her dad died a week after she passed the bar.  The only things she changed were she hung up a few family pictures as well as her diploma.

Alex stands as I enter the room.  She’s what my mom calls a handsome woman.  She’s thirty or so, and strict looking.  I’ve never seen her with her hair down; it is always pulled tight in a bun on the back of her head.  My parents
started with this firm when they opened up their restaurant in 1993, so I’ve been coming here my entire life.  Alex’s dad was nice, he was quirky but nice.  He had a nervous tic; it would make him blink really fast in sets of three.  It always looked painful to me, but no one ever acted as though they noticed.  Funny, the things you remember from childhood.

“Good afternoon Caide,”
Alex says and sits back down.  It must be a special occasion, she’s forgone her usual pencil skirt and white blouse.  Today she is actually wearing a floral dress with pearls.

“Hi Alex, did you get my fax?”  I’d sent a copy of the paperwork over for her to look at before I arrived.  She agreed to see me late in the afternoon since I was working all day.

She sighs out loud and rattles the papers in front of her.  “What did you do to piss off the Jones family?”  She laughs, well a laugh for her.  “I called their attorney to get an idea of what’s going on.  Their daughter died last week and she was living with them with your daughter, is that correct?”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t explain why I have to do a paternity test.  I know I’m her father, what’s the point?  They must be grasping at straws. 
They have the right to forbid me from having Lucy move in with me?  What about my rights?”  Yeah, what about my rights!  I sit down in the leather seat across from her. 

She cl
icks open a pen and begins writing on a yellow legal pad.  Do they use legal pads to feel more legit?  “It’s a stall tactic Caide, they are trying to drag out the court dates to either find something on you or to be asses.  Knowing their attorney, they’re doing both.”

“So they can force me to fork over the money for a paternity test even though I’
m on her birth certificate?  Unbelievable.” 

“No problem, don’t worry about it.  Yes, they can do anything they want.  Their daughter was living in their home with Lucy, so it shows she felt comfortable with them in her life.  As far as money goes, when the test comes back positive, the Jones’ will
be ordered to reimburse you for the charges.  After talking to their attorney, it was mentioned that Heather was a drug user.  He is shooting to do a drug test, how do you feel about that?  If you’re using, I suggest you flush your system and refrain from using until this blows over.”

I sit there for a second to gather my thoughts before answering her. 
“So, it’s okay if I start using drugs after it’s over? I don’t do drugs, it isn’t my thing. I’ve smoked weed, but nothing else. I’ll never do drugs after what happened to Heather, just what Lucy needs, two dead parents.”

“Before Heather died, when was the last time you saw Lucy?”

I shift uncomfortably in my seat, knowing it’s going to sound bad.  “Heather brought her over the first week of July.”

“So, you haven’t seen your daughter in over a month and now you’re in a hurry?  Make this make sense to me.  A judge will ask this question, so you better think about it.”

“It’s been a busy month…I don’t have a good reason.  I paid my child support though; no one can say I didn’t help support her.”  I’m an idiot, my words don’t even sound normal to my own ears.

Alex sets her pen down and leans forward.  “Caide, did you listen to what you just said?  Money doesn’t make you a good dad.  Kids need their parents
and not just because you feel obligated.”
 

“I don’t feel
obligated; you don’t know anything about me.  I love Lucy, she’s my daughter, and there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think about her.”

“Good, now
you have to do some soul searching as to why a judge should award you custody.  Blood isn’t all that makes a parent.  Back to the drug test, do you have a problem with it?”

I bite the inside of my cheek as I think about it for a second.  “
Have them order the drug test, it doesn’t bother me, I have nothing to hide.  When can we get this done?  I’m planning on visiting Lucy tomorrow.”  I sit back for the first time since we sat down.

“You can’t
visit Lucy.  They’ve said they want to wait for you to see Lucy until the judge rules on visitations.  Don’t worry; we’ll get your daughter.  We have court on Monday at 9:00 am.  Wear long pants and a pressed shirt, and don’t do anything dumb this weekend.”  She checks the time on her cell phone and shuffles her papers together.

“There isn’t any chance they will get custody of Lucy is there?”  I lean forward with my elbows on my knees.

“I’ve seen crazier things happen…just stay out of trouble and don’t talk to anyone.  With your local fame, people are probably already talking about Heather’s death.  Keep your opinions to yourself, and trust no one.  Friends will sell your story to the gossip reporters in an instant, especially for money.”  She stuffs the papers in a soft-side designer briefcase.  “If you’ll excuse me, I’m late for dinner. I’ll see you Monday.”

In a matter of twenty-five minutes I’m out three-hundred-a
nd-fifty bucks in attorney fees and mad as hell at Heather.  It always comes back to Heather. 

 

 

____________________________________________

 

Chapter Three

“Words have no power to impress the mind

Without the exquisite horror of their reality.”

~ Edgar Allan Poe

“Explain what just happened!  What. The.
HELL. Happened in there?”  I seethe at Alex.

She smiles and says between her gritted teeth.  “Caide, get your temper under control.  You can yell, scream and cuss on the way to my office.  Right now, be calm.”

My dad is on the other side of me, he’s shorter by a couple of inches, which makes me feel really strange when I can see the top of his head.  “Son, she’s right,” he places his hand on my shoulder.  My mom is glaring straight ahead, and I can tell she wants to scream as much as I do.  I look across the corridor of the courthouse and see the Jones’ being escorted out by their lawyer.   Enemy lines have been drawn, me against them in the fight for my daughter. 
My daughter!
 

I climb into Alex’s Mercedes and wait until we’re on the road before I say anything.  Thankfully, my parents drove separately and
can’t hear me flip out.  “Parenting classes?  I have to take
parenting classes?
  The parents of a girl strung out on drugs want ME to take parenting classes?  A six weeks course?  I can’t see my daughter for six weeks?  What the hell is Al Anon?  I have to take alcohol support group stuff?  Did you know this was going to happen?  Answer me, Alex!”

“Caide, I realize you’re upset, but yelling at me isn’t going to solve anything.”

“Sorry, I don’t mean to yell AT you, but damnit, I just found out I won’t be going back to court until the end of October.  Why does Lucy have to be punished because her grandparents are idiots?”  I lean my head against the passenger side door’s window and stare at the road racing by.  Alex blathers on about being good and staying out of trouble and blah blah blah.  

Somehow the rude assistant knows we’re a group of pissed off humans.  She doesn’t bother telling Alex about calls or anything at all as we walk through the office. 
My mom’s eyes are rimmed in red, she’s never been able to hide the fact she’s been crying.  Both of my parents talk to Alex and I sit and stare out of the window.  Main Street runs in front of her office and I get lost watching everyone drive past. 

“Look, give me the address to the place for the meeting.  You said something about a meeting being tonight, I’ll go.  Is that for Al Anon or Parenting
? Since both are totally things I’m lacking in?  Actually, just text me the time and address, I need to get out of here,” I stand up abruptly and start for the door.

My mom crosses the office and puts her arm around my back.  “Caide, we’ll get her back.  Where are you going?”

“To the bar,” I answer honestly.

“Son, you can’t afford to get a D.U.I. right now,” Mom says.

I nod my head, “Don’t worry, I won’t drive.”

“Hon, why don’t you come to the
house?”

“Mom, I’m fine.  I’m going to the bar and drinking a few cocktails, and then I’m going to a
n AA meeting for family members of drunks.”

“Could you not show up to the meeting three sheets to the wind?”  Alex says.

“Oh okay, yeah, I’ll do that.  Everyone!  Off my ass!  I’m out of here.  If you get my daughter back, call me.  Mom…Dad…I’m fine.  In about twenty minutes, I’ll be even better.  Talk to you when I talk to you.” 

I stand up
and storm through the doors to leave.

 

____________________________________________

 

I pull up to 17 Oceans Way, home of Three Sheets Club, and I plan to be that way in about forty five minutes.  I check my phone before going in, a text from Alex.

Meeting starts at 8:00  700 Palm Leaf St
- Parking in the back. 

Bite me!

Three Sheets is in the only “high-rise” in Emerald Isle.  It’s on the top floor, a whole five stories high.  As a member only club, tourists aren’t allowed.  Every once in a while, someone with deep pockets and celebrity notoriety is allowed in, but it isn’t often.  I take a barstool at the elaborate mahogany bar.  I’m probably the only person here under thirty, with the exception of the barmaid and bartender.

“Caide, I haven’t seen you in a while,” the bartender says as he sets a napkin down with the assumption a cocktail will accompany it soon.  “Would you like your usual?”

He has the most amazing memory for what people drink.  Hell, I can’t even remember his name.  Whiskey Sour is my usual, when I come here.  “That would be great, make it a double if you don’t mind.”

“Yes sir, would you like me to reserve the car for you?”  He asks
discreetly.

I look him in the eyes, and shake my head yes.  The club has a couple of limos it reserves for guests who have had too much to drink.  Thankfully they don’t have a sign along the side that announces the bar name.  There’s a party limo in town
with magnetic signs announcing the club the people are going to.   

Across the b
ar, waiting on a table is Cheri, the one girl who realizes I’m a jerk but flirts anyway.  I’ve wanted that girl since junior year in high school when she called me a “douche-bag” in Mr. Grouper’s science class.  She moved away before senior year, she moved back sometime within the last six months.  She’s a tease like none I’ve come across.  She flirts her way to getting a $50.00 tip every time I come in here and start drinking.  If she’d go home with me, I’d be happy to double the tip.

“Would you like a menu
, Caide?” The bartender asks.

“Who’s cooking back there tonight?  If Chad is working, I want a
steak and some sugar snap peas.  If he isn’t working, I’ll take a burger and fries.”  I know Chad can cook a steak the way it should be cooked.  The other guys think everything’s a burger, and over cooks them every time.  

Twenty minutes later and three double Whiskey Sour
s, I’m close to my goal of drunkenness. 

“Hey Caaaaide, here’s your steak, Chad said come
see him in the kitchen before you leave.  What-cha been doing lately?  I’ve missed you at the beach,” Cheri coos.

“Have you?  Come back to my place, I’ll take you to the beach,” I flirt back.  I try to sound as sexy as I can.
  By the grin on her face, I’m not doing a very good job. Probably because she’s sober, I’m not, and she wants a big tip. 

She looks at me as though she’s trying to f
igure me out.  “Oh Caaaide, why don’t you come on over to the pool hall later?  A bunch of us are gettin’ together to shoot pool, you should come out, it’ll be fun.”  Her accent is deep Southern but sounds like sugar when she talks. 

Why does she not understand I don’t want to hang out with her, I want her naked in my bed.  I want her hair in my hands as I hold her head back and kiss that beautiful throat. 

“Yeah, we’ll see.  I have a thing tonight,” I say and start cutting my steak.  I take a mouthful and close my eyes as I figure out each spice used in the seasoning. 

“Okaaaaay, but if you change your mind
, Caide, we’ll be there.”

____________________________________________

 

I offer the limo driver three hundred dollars for the rest of the night, plus a tip.  Monday nights aren’t the typical clubbing night, so he agreed.  Good, that way no one can say I’m a bad parent. 

A portly man is at the back door having a smoke.  “You here for da meetin,” Portly asks
with a Cajun accent.

“Yeah, is this the place?”

“Da, down de-stairs in da basement, we have a few minutes before we start.”

I enter the quiet building and find the stairway pretty easily.  There’s nothing outstanding about the meeting room, it’s nothing more than tan walls and white tiled flooring.  A table with coffee and store bought cookies and muffins.  They didn’t bother to put them on a
plate; they left them in their clear plastic containers.

A few peopl
e gather around the coffee pot, on high alert if the carafe goes empty. 
The coffee guards
, that’s kind of funny.  Everyone is much older than I thought.  I expected to see everyone in their teens or twenties, it looks more like a wide range of attendees….maybe they’re patients….whatever they’re called.

A girl comes in with an armful of papers and goes over to the eight-foot table that has a semicircle of chairs in front of it.  She has on a pair of white slacks and a dark blue shirt with a butterfly across the front.  She’s obviously in a hurry of some sort, the way she drops the papers on the table and starts sorting them.  Of everyone in the room, she looks the closest to my age. 

“Excuse me, do you mind?  River’s made cookies, they go fast so I want to be close to the table,” a man in his mid-forties asks. 

Unintentionally, I’m
blocking the table. I’m sure the Coffee Guards are thinking they need a guard for the cookies.  “Oh sure, I didn’t mean to be in the way.”

I don’t feel as drunk as I should
, so I walk over to the chairs and take one at the end.  I hate shit like this.  I’d like to make Heather’s parents go to damn meetings.  The girl is still sorting her papers and puts a handful of pencils on the table.  Her tan sets off her bright eyes and full lips.  I can’t tell if her eyes are green or blue, but they’re light.  She looks serious the way she is concentrating on getting the papers just right.  I watch her long enough to figure out she’s a touch OCD. 

Without warning, she walks over to me.  “Hi, you’re Caide right?”
  Her long auburn hair is braided over her shoulder, it’s long enough to create a line down past her breast.  Her hazel eyes are large on her perfectly angled face.

“Yeah, that’s me.”  For reasons I don’t know, she looks stunned, like we’ve met before or something.  “How do you know my name?  I thought this was anonymous.”

She absently fingers her braid as we talk. 
“Right, it is…they won’t know your name unless you say anything.  I got a fax from Judge Grossman’s office; they said you were ordered to attend meetings.  All I have is your name and the sheet you’ll sign each time you come.”  She scoots one of the chairs over so she could sit face to face with me.

Awesome, I’ll sign and leave.  They’ll have my
signature to prove I came to the meeting, so this should be easy.

“Caide, I’m sure you’re thinking you can sign and leave, but it doesn’t work that way.  You’ll sign at the end of the meeting.  If you’re more than fifteen minutes late, it will be considered a half visit.
  Tonight you don’t have to share with anyone if you’re not up to it.  I’m sorry for whatever it is that brings you here.  I’m new to this too.  I was one of you, another face, another story, another broken heart.  When they asked me to be a group leader, I didn’t feel like I was ready.  Finally, about two months ago, I felt that I was ready to give back and become a leader.  I took over this timeslot about three weeks ago.  Do you have any questions before everyone comes over to sit down?”

I’ve had to have seen her somewhere before, her voice is familiar to me.  “Do I know you from somewhere?” She shakes her head no, but I’m not convinced.  “What’s your name?”

“I’m River Murphy, I have a little shop in the Plaza Shopping Center.  It’s a little boutique called…”

“Miss River, are we having cookies today?” The man who wanted to be the first getting the cookies says.

She smiles at me; she has a pretty smile with bright white teeth.  When I was a kid, I had to take an antibiotic that turned my teeth brown.  I was so glad when my final baby tooth fell out so I wouldn’t have brown teeth anymore.  My hygienist teases me about how white my teeth are now. 

“That’s John, he loves cookies,” River whispers to me.  “John, I will put them out in a minute.

“Okay Miss River, I hope they’re chocolate chip.”

River’s face goes stoic again and she tilts her head to the side as she looks at me.  “Caide, have you been drinking?”

Busted!
  I feel like high school all over again.  “I had a cocktail at dinner.”  She doesn’t need to know how many.

“I hope you didn’t drive here.  John lost his wife in a drunk driving accident, she was driving and he was a passenger.  He suffered a traumatic brain injury.”  Her bright hazel eyes glare into mine.

I put my hands up, “I didn’t drive, I have a driver tonight.”

“Of course you do, whatever, the meeting is about to start.”  She stands up and pushes the chair back where it was.

What does she mean ‘of course you do’, who is she to judge?  Why do I care anyway?

River stands up in front of everyone and explains how living with
an alcoholic or drug user takes its toll on family and friends.  As well as Alcoholics Anonymous there is a twelve steps program.  Rules and more rules. 

John sets his paper plate full of cookies on his metal folding chair.  He must really like her cookies.  Physically he looks
fine; you’d never know he’d suffered a brain injury. He’s dressed as though he came in after a day at the office.  He could be a salesperson or computer tech, he looks like everyone else.  Among the rest of us, he blends in…until he speaks. His speech is slurred and child like with his short and simple sentences.  His eyes told a different story, his eyes were dull and it was as though he didn’t blink.  That’s got to be impossible, if it isn’t, he didn’t blink.

BOOK: Cry Me a River PG-13 Edition
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