The rest of the year continued like this. Me going to court every month, occasionally the constable dropping by to serve eviction papers until Tucker bullshitted the landlord into taking yet another partial payment, me feeling sick all day every day wondering how to get the fuck out.
November reared its ugly head and something miraculous happened. Tucker somehow managed to come up with $10,000 and pay the court and all my charges were dismissed. I couldn’t fucking believe he’d done it. Where did he get $10,000? I don’t know and what’s more I didn’t give a shit. He did it. I was free. Now I just had to make my escape and I was figuring that I’d be able to do it by the first of the year if I was lucky. If I was strong. I had since given up on god but they say there are no atheists in foxholes and I was fighting a war within that left me ragged and shadowy.
Christmas time came and Tucker gave me a Kindle. Of course, I’d given him money from another stipend payment. That’s what he bought my gift with but whatever, he bought me something I wanted with my own money so I didn’t have to feel guilty about spending it on myself I suppose. I was a little irritated by the act but I showed only gratitude and smiles when it came.
Christmas came and went. The New Year came and things were the same. He was solicitous, kind and constantly giving me attention and almost doting on me. I couldn’t understand it really. I have a recollection of lying in my bed playing on the Kindle and him lying across the bed fists balled under his chin staring at me asking me if I loved him and if I was happy. With a bit of dismissiveness, I told him that yes, of course I loved him. The revulsion inside me was barely contained though and I think he sensed it. Hell I know he sensed it. He suddenly had money to give me for my account. We didn’t have to worry about the landlord either; he said he’d taken care of it. Things were still tight but not so bad and he said he’d have to buy cattle to cover the order advance money he’d taken. That sort of explained things but then I began to worry how he was going to pay for cattle if he was giving up the money he had taken in advance but then I thought fuck it. I’m not worrying about his shenanigans as long as I wasn’t involved. Things were smoothing out somewhat and I thought I could start to hide money soon.
I was continuing to go to work every day and so it was that I went to work on January 13, 2012. I had been dropped off by Tucker at the HQ building so I could attend a professional development class. My car had blown up the week before and I had a loaner from the dealership and Tucker was happily tooling about in it all day every day. I just knew that work was my escape and I relished it. I was about an hour into training when my phone began to display missed call after missed call from Tucker. When we got a break I went into the hallway to call him back and it was ringing again.
Tucker’s desperate voice came over the speaker, “Come get me! Come get me! I’m in the next town and they’re arresting me!”
I was dumbfounded and asked what he was talking about. “They’re taking me to county, just come get me!!!” The line went dead and I stood in the hallway still stupefied. I know I looked an idiot standing there staring at my phone. What was I going to do? He had my car and I was stuck more than an hour away from where he said he was. Tucker, Jr. happened to be at the house and his call was the next one I got.
“Dad’s been arrested in the next town and I got no way to get to him. He’s supposed to taking me to the airport in a few hours.”
I sighed, heavy and deep. “Call someone and make arrangements because it doesn’t look like either of us is going to get you. He’s got my car and I have to figure out what’s going on.”
Tucker, Jr. said he’d work on it and for me to just get his dad out and he’d find a way to get where he needed. I sat there and really all I was worried about was the fact that I had no money on me and I needed that car. I called the only person I knew that could come and get me and that was my boss. He was my friend as well as my boss, he knew almost everything that had gone on and he would come and get me. He did and I told him everything I knew then I wracked my brain further for what to do.
I called my brother’s girlfriend. My brother is a sheriff’s deputy in the county where they’d taken him and though he was out of the country in Iraq, I knew she’d be able to help me. I hesitated as I dialed. What was I going to say? Hey Helena, it’s me and um I need you to help me with my fucking criminal husband…? I didn’t know but I knew I needed a plan when I did get there.
“Hello????” She answered cheerfully but cautiously.
“Helena, it’s me. Tucker apparently has been arrested in town there and I have no clue what’s going on. My boss is bringing me because Tucker had my car and I’m not even sure if it’s been impounded or parked somewhere.”
“Wow…okay. Let me call the jail and see what I can find out and I’ll call you right back. Meet me at the jail, okay? We’ll get this all figured out.” She was calm and self-assured and put my mind at ease.
“Thank you so very much.” I answered in what was my smallest voice I’m sure but I was trying so hard not to crumble.
“No problem, girl. Just meet me at the jail.” She rang off and I again sat staring at my phone. I looked over to my boss who was staring at me with concern, “I need you to take me to the jail in the next town and Helena will help me then.”
He was solicitous and kind and I’m sure full of pity. Here we go again with jail and a criminal asshole husband. I sat rocking slightly and freaking out a lot. We pulled up to the jail and Helena was outside talking to an officer. I thanked my boss and assured him I’d be back on Tuesday after our long weekend and I’d call if I needed him. Helena walked over and hugged me and said, “Well, it was checks. He was writing hot checks and they set him up waiting for him to come and do it again.”
I just took out a cigarette and lit it and sat down on the curb. The officer came over and said, “Ma’am?” I stared up at him. I exhaled and blew the smoke out of my lungs long and hard and willed myself not to cry. I stood up and threw the butt down and stepped on it. I smiled brightly instead of bawling and said, “You’re not going to give me a ticket for that are you?”
He snickered, “No ma’am.”
“Good, what’s going on in there with him?”
“Well he was writing checks on an account for an F&H Ranch account to himself apparently but he signed your name to the account. Did your last name used to be Waltham?”
I nodded as he continued. The blood was draining from my head or swirling towards it, I’m not sure. I was getting dizzy and had to sit back down on the curb. The officer came back around in front of me as he talked. “Well he was saying they were payroll checks and he’s cashed about 10 of them in the last month.”
I sort of felt as if I were going to vomit at that point as I asked, “Um, you know I didn’t sign those checks don’t you? I mean, that’s my old DBA those checks were in a banker’s box in the back of my closet with tax records. That bank doesn’t even exist anymore. I mean…”
He interrupted my worried ramblings and said, “Look, he said you had nothing to do with it. If there were any doubt in my mind, you’d be sitting right there next to him.”
I slumped forward and held my head in my hands. I gathered myself and got back up. “What’s next?”
“Well it’s about $5,000 and he’s here until Tuesday at least to see the judge and be arraigned. He’s asked that you pick up his belongings.”
“I only want my debit card or anything he has with my name on it.”
The officer walked me inside and went to the back. He came back with Tucker’s wallet. The wallet my children had picked out for him the year before for his birthday. I opened it and got out my debit card and an old ID he had of mine. I handed him back the wallet and told him that I didn’t need it. I asked about the car and was told that it had been impounded and where it was. I walked out to meet Helena in the sun and told her where the car was.
“Oh shit, I thought I’d be able to talk them into letting you have it if another lot had picked it up but he won’t turn it loose without the full fee.”
I got in the car with her and checked my bank account on my phone. It was $3 overdrawn. I looked through my wallet and found $2. Helena told me not to worry that we’d figure it all out one way or the other. She took her car to get it serviced and we walked from the garage towards Dairy Queen. She bought me a hamburger and we sat down with our drinks.
It all began to sink in and let loose right then. The tears were silent but profuse and I could not stop them. Helena reached across the table and handed me napkins. I cried for my wasted life, for my son, for my daughter. I cried because he couldn't have loved me...not really if he'd gone right back out and put me in jeopardy again. I cried for all I'd given for no goddamned good reason. There I was, sitting in a Dairy Queen, crying noiselessly and unable to control myself. The waitress brought our food and I turned to look out the window but she began to try and console me.
I was humiliated and the nicer she tried to be, the less I was able to stop crying. I had nothing. Less than nothing and I would have to beg and borrow to make it better and I gave up my life in exchange for disgrace. It was horrible and Helena finally convinced her I was fine and to go away. I eventually stopped but I wasn’t hungry. I was desolate. I kept thinking that I didn’t know when the next time I would eat would be and I’d probably better load the hump anyway. Then I thought of Harlow and how when and where I’d fix any of this shit. I knew this was it. I could get gone right now. Somehow, some way I would erase him from our lives. I would fix the ragged edges and fill in the shadows and try to forget how much of myself I’d given up for someone who never really even valued who I was.