A Short Story
Desiree worked as a lifeguard every weekend at the Blackhawk Country Club since she was fifteen. The lavish club was the best place to work in town. The pay was good, and the tips were plentiful if you treated the members well. The golf course was the main attraction — as many lucrative business deals closed at the clubhouse.
She was lucky to have inherited her Italian parent’s olive complexion, protecting her from a blotchy sunburn that the other lifeguards always got at the beginning of the summer. Most of her friends from her high school also worked at the club. The members of the exclusive club owned homes that were worth more than her father could make in a lifetime. All the kids in the town went to the same schools, but the kids emulated their families, segregating themselves into cliques of “haves and have-nots.”
The first time she saw Charles at the club, it was love at first sight. Charles’ smile and the feel of his skin against hers as he grazed her body sent shivers through her body. Desiree could not concentrate or keep her eyes off the tall, dark-haired football captain and straight-A senior from her high school. He was an excellent swimmer, with strong arms and broad shoulders.
Desiree’s girlfriends warned her, telling her she was out of his league. And besides, they said, he will wind up dumping you very quickly. Charles changed his choice of arm candy like he changed socks — a new one every day.
At the end of the summer, Charles left for a prestigious Ivy League University three thousand miles away. Desiree spotted Charles a few times at the club when he came home for breaks. She had tried her best to forget him, but her passion ignited every time she saw him.
Four years after that first summer, Charles’ parents threw him a graduation party at the club. By this time, Desiree worked at the club full-time as a waitress. Her manager assigned her to wait on the table where Charles sat with his parents. She was nervous, and sure to be fired after spilling the white truffle cream sauce from the butternut squash ravioli all over Charles’ white Armani suit when she served him.
“I’m sorry, sir,” Desiree said to Charles as he stood up and tried to wipe off the mess with his napkin.
“Charles. Go to the bathroom and have the attendant help you wash that off,” his mother said to Charles while glaring at Desiree.
His dad waved down the manager and said, “I don’t want to see that girl here ever again.”
Desiree berated herself for being so clumsy. Not only did she lose her job but embarrassed herself in front of almost every member of the club. She prayed for the earth to open up and swallow her.
“Hey,” she heard as she walked out of the gates of the Blackhawk Country Club. Her heart stopped as Charles pulled up in his hybrid Ferrari. She wondered if he was going to make her pay for the damage to his jacket?
“Can I give you a ride home?” he said, flashing one of his charming smiles at her. I remember you from when you were a lifeguard. Now that you’re old enough, it’s time for us to get to know each other better.
Those words began a whirlwind romance that ended, against his parent’s wishes, in her becoming Mrs. Charles Duran.
They honeymooned for a month in the Maldives. When they returned, Charles joined his father’s investment firm. He worked hard, made some shrewd investments and brought in business from his wealthy classmates and his friends from the club. Now that she was Mrs. Duran, Desiree’s social status elevated and the women at the club had to accept her into their circle.
They moved into a beautiful nine-bedroom house. Desiree loved entertaining in their large living area and media center that opened onto a deck with a million dollar view. She filled her closet with the latest fashions of shoes, clothes, and accessories. After lunch with the “girls” at the club, she enjoyed relaxing and being pampered with massages and cucumber facials at the spa.
Desiree’s handsome, wealthy husband loved and adored her. He showered her with gifts, often jewelry made of the finest gems. Sometimes she protested at the amount of money he spent on these treasures, but he said they were good investments and he loved the way they looked on her. She had everything any woman could want. Everything except for children. Desiree had gotten pregnant a few times, but they all resulted in miscarriages.
They went to doctors and fertility specialists. No one could find anything medically wrong with either Desiree or Charles. One doctor put Desiree on fertility drugs. They caused hot flashes and mood swings, resulting in Charles accusing Desiree of being possessed by the devil.
Another doctor suggested in vitro fertilization. After a few months, Desiree came down with an infection. The pain was unbearable. The doctor hospitalized her so they could pump her with antibiotics.
Charles had a client who had successfully used a surrogate. They tried that, too, but with no success. After they had done everything possible to have a child, Desiree suggested they adopt. Charles refused, saying he wanted a child that was biologically his.
Ten years into their marriage, the stress, and disappointment of trying to have kids weighed on both of them. Charles worked late hours and took more business trips. Sometimes he walked out of the room when he got a text. There were evenings when we ate dinner together in silence.
Desiree stopped going to the club. She couldn’t bear to hear the other women talk about their children. They bragged about how their son got into the best private school in the area, or their daughter made the gymnastic team.
To fill her days, Desiree decided to volunteer at the local shelter, caring for children while their mothers worked or interviewed for a job. On her drive home one day, she saw Charles walking into a restaurant with a young woman.
“That’s not possible,” Desiree thought. “He’s supposed to be out of town until tonight.” She kept driving, but at the next light, she turned around, parked her car across the street from the restaurant and waited for the couple to come out. An hour and a half later, Charles came out with his arm around the woman. Desiree sat in the car and cried for the next fifteen minutes.
When Charles walked into the house close to ten that night, Desiree was in the living area waiting for him. She told him what she saw. He denied it, saying it wasn’t true. They had argued for an hour before he confessed.
“Do you want to know the truth?” he yelled, his face turning red. “Yes. I did have lunch with someone today. Her name is Tiffany. And you know what? I love her.”
Desiree picked up the vase with dead flowers and threw it at him.
“You’re crazy,” he screamed at her. “Not that I care anymore. I’m over you. I’m moving Tiffany into this house and you can either stay or go. It’s your choice.”
“What did I do to make you hate me so much,” Desiree said through her tears.
“I don’t hate you. I just don’t have any use for you. This isn’t the life I expected. I want to be able to play catch with my son, to see him graduate from my alma mater and follow in my footsteps. What we have is empty. I feel empty. It’s over.”
“And how do you know she can give you children?” Desiree asked.
“Because she’s pregnant with my baby,” Charles said. “In fact, we’re having twins.”
“What? I’m your wife,” Desiree looked around to throw something else. If you want me out, you’re going to have to divorce me.”
“What a good idea. I already thought about it. Sign these papers, and it’s a done deal. And don’t try to run off with my money. I’ve already removed you from all the bank accounts and added Tiffany.”
Desiree picked up an ashtray to throw, but before she could, Charles grabbed his left arm, his mouth contorted and dropped to the floor making grunting noises.
She instinctively called 9–1–1. The ambulance arrived within minutes. The doctor told her that her husband’s blood pressure was dangerously high and he might have had a stroke. He suggested surgery to contain the damage. She signed the paperwork given them permission to treat him. The operation lasted several hours. By 5 AM, the doctor came out and confirmed that Charles had a massive stroke caused by a broken blood vessel. They did their best to remove excess blood from his brain, but wouldn’t know the extent of the damage until they ran some tests.
Desiree watched her husband sleep. He looked frail. She was glad that his parents weren’t around anymore to see their son like this.
The sound of Charles’ phone ringing woke her up. She rummaged through his clothes. The Caller ID on the screen said ‘Tiffany.’ She turned off his cell. Maybe this stroke is a wake-up call, and he’ll change his mind about leaving her?
Desiree did not leave her husband’s side. He woke up that afternoon and tried to say something, but she didn’t understand him. Neurologists, physical, occupational, and speech therapists examined him over the next few days.
The doctor came by late one morning after he had reviewed the completed tests. He told Charles and Desiree the bad news.
“You’ve had a hemorrhagic stroke, causing paralysis to your left side. You’ll have problems speaking, walking and using your left arm. Physical, occupational and speech therapy might help, but the likelihood is that you’ll be wheelchair bound and unable to care for yourself for the rest of your life.”
A social worker came by to talk to her that afternoon. She explained the various options for caring someone in his condition and handed her a few brochures for nursing homes if they decided that home care was too difficult. A nurse came out of Charles’ room and waited until the social worker left to tell Desiree that Charles was asking for Tiffany.
Desiree was furious. Without returning to see Charles, she went home. In a rage, Desiree destroyed everything in the house, from his golf clubs to his Armani suits. She picked his laptop on the nightstand and threw it. It hit the jewelry box with all the tokens of his affection. The box emptied onto the floor. She stared at her so-called gifts from Charles. Minutes later they were in her large purse along with the divorce papers.
She pulled up in front of the jewelry store and sold back the jewelry. Desiree knew that diamonds were expensive but had no idea that rubies and sapphires were worth so much. She walked out of the store with a check for over a million dollars.
Desiree went back to the hospital and stopped in at the social worker’s office. She chose a nursing home that would be convenient for Tiffany and her twins to visit him. She signed and dated the admitting papers. It was the least that Desiree could do for Charles and his new family.
She walked outside and stopped at a mailbox. Desiree turned on Charles’ phone and dialed Tiffany.
“Hi, Tiffany. This is Desiree, Charles’ wife. I just left the hospital. He’s had a stroke and is asking for you.”
“What? His wife? I didn’t know he was married.”
“He is, but not for much longer,” Desiree said sliding the divorce papers down the chute. “Charles just divorced me.”