Authors: Pamela S Wetterman
The Artist’s Paradise
Copyright © 2013
No one writes a novel alone. Without the precious time and effort of others, this story could have never been shared. My deepest thanks go to each player in this patchwork-quilt of talented friends and influencers.
First, I must thank my beta readers, Susan Ullum-Gle
ason, Larryen Newsom, and Jeannie Reed. These longtime friends provided the final feedback prior to publication.
I am impressed with the talent and help I received from Susan Mary Malone, of Malone Editorial Services. With the tact of a coach, and the skill of a surgeon, Susan sharpened my pace, strengthened my story, and demonstrated the
show verses tel
l required to bring the story to life.
I dedicate this book to two very special people.
First, to my husband, Bill, thank you. Your experience as an award winning novelist has been tremendous assistance. Thanks for your faith in me, Thanks in your intense and needed critique. You never pulled any punches and you never lost faith in my ability to produce this novel. Your help has been invaluable.
Second, in memoriam, I offer a special acknowledgement to my dear friend Ella Richter. Ella provided moral support for this project. She spent her precious time providing copy edit for each of the multiple
versions I produced. She never tired of doing just one more review. She offered one hundred percent of her time and talent, even as she approached her untimely death. I miss you Ella.
“I hate you, Jonathan
. I really hate you.” Angie Rhodes flung another drawer of clothing onto her king-sized bed. With a first suitcase overflowing, she jerked a second and re-focused on emptying her mirrored dresser. “How
do this to me?”
Tubbs’ tall bat ears turned like a periscope toward her as she spoke. Her beloved pet, a twelve-pound Toy Fox Terrier, peered at the clothes piled in a heap. As she stomped from dresser to bed and back again, Mister Tubbs’ stub of a tail stood straight up. He raced after her, attempting to join in this new game she played, but she would not sway from her task.
“It’s time to get serious.” Angie dragged a large trunk out from her walk-in closet and stuffed dresses, shirts, and slacks into the trunk, hangers and all.
“It won’t all fit.” She collapsed onto the bedroom floor. “Why doesn’t Jonathan love me? What’s wrong with me?”
Tubbs hopped down from the bed and wiggled over to her. He tapped her knee. His slightly rounded body, white with one rogue black spot on his left hip, waddled as he pranced. Angie pulled him close. He crawled up into her arms and nuzzled her cheek, licking her tears.
She’d thought she would spend the rest of her life with this
amazing man. Eight years older than she was, he proclaimed his love from the first day they met. She swirled in his lavish attention and said
in three short months. Had she made the right choice?
Precious memories of their
wedding day at the Hawthorn Woods Country Club overwhelmed her. The club had presented an unforgettable outdoor gala. As she marched toward her about-to-be husband, she warmed. This sensuous man, with his lean-muscular frame and Nordic facial structure, was about to be hers. As the afternoon sun touched Jonathan, they exchanged wedding vows. How had their lives come to this?
After spending an hour putting away her wedding-china, a puffy-eyed and exhausted Angie poured herself a third cup of French Vanilla coffee. Deeply inhaling, she drank in the refreshing aroma. Her bedroom tantrum finished, she surveyed her kitchen. She’d sadly tucked away her romantic plans for her anniversary dinner. At least now, her kitchen and dining room wouldn’t remind her of the evening spent alone.
nable to face the mess upstairs, her bedroom remained a disaster. She debated her options. Stay? Go? If she decided to leave, she was packed and ready.
furrowed her brow. Why had she been surprised? She’d watched the warning signs grow over the past three years. Jonathan’s career success was undeniable, reaching junior partnership in his law firm ahead of schedule. As their cash cow, his reputation grew with each large settlement. Her isolation increased as his career at Jackson, Jackson, and Long flourished.
’d craftily designed his career path. His next step—equity partner in the law firm. Then, he would pursue a political career, and run for mayor of Chicago. She wrapped her arms around her chest and shuttered. He’d planned her future, too. She’d be his trophy-wife.
She glanced around her commercial-grade gourmet kitchen.
Black-marbleized granite countertops, wood floors matching her custom-cherry cabinets, and top-grade cookware adorned the soft aquamarine space. They enjoyed the best of everything—purchased to keep her happy. The material abundance turned into a cold reminder of her empty marriage.
frequently spent nights in downtown Chicago at a hotel—work demands, or so he claimed. Her trust level faltered with each lonely night. She sighed as she paced from the kitchen to the living room and back again. The hands on the grandfather clock advanced as it played the
chimes. Where was he? Who was he with?
She grabbed her cell phone and called his private number. If he were in the office, he’d pick up. No answer. She called his cell phone—still no answer.
burned against her cheeks—impossible to stop. The cramping in her stomach strengthened with every passing hour.
Oh God. Not on our anniversary.
Awakened by the ringing of her cell phone, Angie pulled herself up into a sitting position on the living room sofa. She covered her eyes with the back of her open hand as the morning sun beamed through the east window.
Mister Tubbs, who nestled in the crook of her bent legs, stirred. He shook his head and raised his two black-bat ears toward the intruding sound. His coal black eyes searched the room as if scanning for intruders.
A sharp stabbing pain returned to the depths of her stomach. Was he hurt? Dead? Unfaithful? “Where’s that damn cell phone?”
She jumped up, patting the sofa with her hands, sweeping pillows and Mister Tubbs onto the floor. Finally, lifting the cell phone from under the coffee table, she answered.
“Hi, it’s Mom. Sorry to call you so early. Were you sleeping?”
“No problem. What’s up? Angie pushed her chestnut bangs off her forehead. About to turn fifty, her mom had the figure of a twenty-five year old. With the help of several cosmetic surgeries, her beautiful face remained a magnet for men. Now, what? She rarely called unless she needed something.
“There’s no easy way to tell you this. I wanted you to hear it from me first.”
Angie shivered. What had her dad done now? “What?”
“Your dad was caught
by the press last night at a club with one if his lady
His secrets are finally out.”
Everyone would know. How could he be so stupid?
“The media splashed his picture all over the morning news
.” Her mother’s tone filled with bitterness, as she continued. “My friends at the club will have a good laugh at my expense.”
Why was it always about her mom?
Angie slumped lower on the sofa, gently gathered up Mister Tubbs into her arms and cradled him to her cheek. She was all too aware of her father’s indiscretions. She overheard her parents’ arguments night after night since her thirteenth birthday. How she hated the yelling. “I’m sorry.”
“I refuse to live with his womanizing any lon
ger. He’ll never be satisfied.”
“It must’ve been awful.
” Angie pressed her palms against her forehead. “What are you going to do?”
“I’m meeting with an attorney this morning to sort things out. He’s one of the best divorce lawyers in the state.”
Divorce? After all these years? Her mother’s words erupted into a bitter taste in Angie’s mouth. Why not just be married in name only? They’d lived like that for as long as she could remember. A divorce meant the end of their family. “Why divorce now?”
“I’m going to be fifty next year.
I want a life of my own. Don’t you think I deserve to be happy?”
She believed everyone deserved to be happy, even her mom. “Yes, of course. It’s just that you put up with his running around for thirty years. Now, suddenly you want out. Why?” Angie caught the loud breath
that escaped her mother. She’d hit a hot button, as usual. Was there another man in her life?
Let’s not get into my reasons now. Look, I’ll call you later and we can talk.”
Mom, I’ll be home all day. Thanks for the heads-up. Bye.”
Angie could never recall a time when her parents appeared happy. H
er mother put up with an unfaithful husband, and her dad dealt with a vengeful wife. Had they
loved each other?
Jonathan spent so much time away from home. Did she have more to be concerned about than one missed anniversary? She hung up the telephone and dropped onto the sofa.
Over half of all marriages failed. Would
marriage end in divorce, too?
Thirty minutes later the phone jarred her from her painful thoughts. Now what? Angie stared at the caller I.D—her dad? She glared at the phone. Her whole life she played referee. Her parents used her as their negotiator. Each one wanting something the other refused to give. Both demonstrated selfishness and mistrust with the other. She refused to step back into that impossible role. She cleared her throat and picked up the cell phone. “Yes?”
can see your mom has already called. Right?”
“What do you want, Dad?”
Angie recognized his pregnant pause. He oozed with charm. He was a gifted storyteller. He had been her
, her protector. As she grew up, he’d painted her mom as the wicked witch of the North. Fortunately, by the age of fifteen, she’d learned how to recognize his practice of spinning tales and hiding the truth.
“Don’t be mad, Pumpkin. We should have split years ago. We wanted to keep a roof over your head, a family of sorts.
Maybe, that was the wrong choice.”
“I’m not sure we were ever a family.”
“I tried, but you’re right. It didn’t work, did it?”
trembled. No, it had never worked. “What do you want?”
“To keep close to you. I love you
, Pumpkin. I can’t stand the thought of not having you in my life.”
Her father cuddled her as a child. He played nursemaid when she had the flu
—a natural nurturer. She desired to stay close, too. “I refuse to get into the middle of this divorce. But you are my dad and that, I hope, won’t change.” Angie stood and paced the living room. Her hands continued to shake. How had her family come to this?
“I understand. As far as I am concerned, our divorce will not be thrown in your face. If your mom starts to elicit your sympathy, remember she played a big role in our broken marriage.”
Those types of comments are out of bounds.”
I have a meeting. Is it okay for me to keep in touch?”
Her eyes moistened. “Yes,” she whispered. He was gone. How often had he swept in, loved on her, and then
. . .? And her mother, well, she rarely showed affection, but somehow, Angie understood they both loved her in their own way.
childhood relationships had always been complicated. Her life with Jonathan was becoming the same.