Monica Kenny awakened and without opening her eyes reached across the bed to feel for her husband. He was not there.
She rolled over, barely opening her eyes to glance at the clock. The glowing red numbers flashed 4:37 A.M.
Monica sighed, peeled off the blankets, and threw her legs over the bed. She sat on the edge of it, wondering, should she really pursue this with him? But something had to be done. It had been almost every night for a week that she had woken up and found her husband gone.
She stood up from the bed, grabbed her robe, and ventured out to find him.
She walked slowly through the huge downtown penthouse, pulling her robe on and tying the belt around her waist. She took the stairs down from the upper level, not bothering to turn on the lights.
When she made it halfway down the flight, she could see a great deal of the first floor, the huge open living room and dining room, and the entrance to the kitchen.
It was all dark down there, but light from the towering skyscrapers just outside their balcony doors, on the sixty-fifth floor, made it possible for Monica to see her husband, Nate. He was sitting amazingly still in one of the dining room chairs he had pulled away and set facing the windows.
His back was to her as he stared out at the illuminated buildings.
He did not turn around, even though Monica was certain that he heard her come down the stairs, was certain that he could feel her as she walked up and stopped just fifteen feet behind him.
"Nate," Monica breathed, almost afraid to say another word. "Why are you doing this?"
There was no reply, nor any movement from Monica's husband.
"Go to bed, Monica," he finally said, his voice low.
"But every night you get up and you come down here. I just want to know -- "
"Monica, please. Go to bed," he said again, without turning in his chair. "Just leave me alone."
Monica opened her mouth to say something, but thought better of it, and stopped herself. She turned and headed back for the stairs, grabbing the rail, pulling herself up four or five of them; then she stopped.
"Don't stay down here too long, okay, Nate? You'll be tired in the morning." Monica stood there at the banister waiting for a response, but when one didn't come, she continued climbing the stairs.
It took forever for Monica to fall back to sleep, but when she finally did, she felt as though she had been out for only five minutes when her alarm clock started screaming beside her head.
It was 7:30 A.M., and still Nate wasn't beside her. She doubted if he ever came back.
Monica showered, dressed, and figured she would make her and her husband breakfast, considering she didn't have to be at the store until 9 A.M.
She walked down the stairs, hoping that what was so heavy on Nate's mind had been resolved. She needed to talk to him, work on getting things back to the way they used to be. But when Monica got halfway down the stairs, she heard the front door quickly open, and then close again.
She hurried to the front door, threw it open, and stepped out into the hallway, only to hear a "ding" from the elevator and the doors slide to a close.
She stood there, unable to believe that her husband, it seemed, not only could no longer sleep an entire night with her in bed but now couldn't stand the sight of her in the morning.
Monica skipped breakfast, for she had no appetite, and headed on to work. She walked, as she did every morning, because where she worked, an exclusive Italian men's clothing store on Michigan Avenue, was just minutes from where they lived on Chestnut Avenue.
She was the first to arrive every morning, because she was the manager, one of the rewards she received for attaining her M.B.A. She could've quit long ago. It wasn't like she was hurting for money, considering her husband was a millionaire. But she liked the independence, having something more to do than just have spa treatments and shop all day. Besides, she enjoyed what she did, and didn't have to run to her husband every time she needed spending money.
Monica unlocked the store, made her way in across the hardwood floors, and disabled the alarm. The store was made up like a very wealthy man's town home. Exposed brick enclosed the area; the second floor was an overlooking loft. Sofas and chairs were placed about, very expensive clothing intricately strewn over their backs as though someone actually lived there and had just left after hurriedly dressing.
Racks and racks of other ridiculously priced suits, shirts, slacks, and jackets stood all about the store. And in the back, shelves of shoes costing up to a thousand dollars a pair were neatly stacked.
Monica had worked in retail clothing all her life, but made the jump from working in the lower-paying South Side stores to downtown when a girlfriend who also worked in retail suggested it.
"You never know. A girl looking like you might snag herself a rich man," Monica's friend said.
She was twenty-seven years old at the time, and it seemed as though all her girlfriends were either getting married or engaged. Monica was nowhere near that point, was stuck dating clowns who approached her on the street.
She was ready to throw in the towel -- considered buying house cats for those lonely Friday nights -- when a man walked into her store.
"Girl, do you see what I see?" Tabatha, Monica's associate and best friend, said, pulling on Monica's arm as though she were alerting the girl to a fire in the next room.
"I see him," Monica said, yanking away from Tabatha. "I'm looking right at him."
They were both in one corner of the store, admiring the tall, broad-shouldered, brown-skinned, wavy-haired man.
"So, what you gonna do?" Tabatha said.
"I'm not doing nothing."
"What! Why not? The man is fine. Obviously, he got money, or he wouldn't be here, buying this overpriced stuff. And there is the fact that you ain't got a man, and ain't had one in, like, eons."
"Shut up, girl. Who asked you? Just go over there and ask him if he needs any help."
"I'm not asking him," Tabatha said. "I have a man, and I'm afraid something like that over there could tempt me into leaving his behind tomorrow."
"Just go over there," Monica said, pushing Tabatha in the back. Tabatha stumbled forward, shooting Monica an evil glance, after making sure the man didn't see her trip. "Fine, but don't say I didn't try to give him to you first."
Monica watched as Tabatha walked over, feeling that maybe her girl was right. Maybe she should've gone over there herself, because, like Tabatha said, Monica was terminally single. And then, the man was gorgeous. But looking like that, he had to be married, Monica told herself.
She got a glance at his wedding finger, saw that it was bare, and wanted to kick herself. Really wanted to, after Tabatha threw her head back laughing, dropped a flirtatious hand on one of his broad shoulders, then shot a look back at Monica that said: Told you. Shoulda came over here yourself.
Oh well, Monica thought, disappointed. She'd been single forever, so what difference did it make?
Tabatha bounced her narrow behind back over to Monica, a huge giddy grin on her face.
"So what did he say?" Monica said, less than enthused to hear the answer.
"He wants to impregnate me...Naw, syke! He said he wants to talk to you."
"Yeah. He said he wants you to be the one to help him with his suits. Now you go over there," Tabatha said, shoving Monica forward, just as Monica had done to her. Monica stumbled as well, but when she looked up to see if the man had seen her trip, he had.
Monica blushed with embarrassment as she walked up to the man. "Yes sir. How may I help you?"
The man appeared slightly bewildered. "I don't know," he said. "Your associate said that you'd know what I'd need."
"Oh, oh, yes sir," Monica said, waiting for the man to turn and continue looking through the suit selection before she turned to see Tabatha in the corner of the store, her hand cupped to her mouth, laughing hysterically.
Monica helped that man for more than two hours, and when he left, he had walked out of the store with four suits and Monica's phone number.
He was a sweet man, attentive and very eager. "I'm going to call you tomorrow, is that okay?" he asked after she had written her home number on the back of a card and passed it to him.
"Yes, I'd like that," Monica said.
And that was the beginning.
Nate and Monica started dating, saw each other at least three times a week for dinner, drinks, movies, or the theater.
They slept together after two weeks, and after that, Nate seemed as though he couldn't be in Monica's presence without making love to her, for he was a very passionate man.
"So, dude got money?" Tabatha said one day while they were folding and reshelving some sweaters, a month after Monica and Nate got together.
"Yeah, he has a small condo down here on Wacker, and drives a Mercedes of some kind or other," Monica said, as though it was no big deal. "He's trading stocks for a firm downtown, but says he wants to break away and start his own company soon. And then he said something that kinda freaked me out."
"What, girl, what?" Tabatha said, leaning in close.
"We were laying in bed last night after -- " Monica paused, seeing Tabatha's eyes bulge some -- "well, you know...after. And he was telling me about his plans. Then he said he was going to start his own company, but he was just waiting for the right woman to come into his life so he could marry her, and they could pursue his dream together."
"What!" Tabatha said, screaming at the top of her lungs. "He said that!"
"Yeah," Monica said. "And I don't really know how to take it."
"Take it like he's trying to marry you, girl!"
"We've only been seeing each other for a month, though. Don't you think it's too soon to be talking like that?"
"The man is thirty-six. When do you expect him to talk about it -- when he's fifty? Maybe he wants kids or something."
"He does. That's all he seems to talk about," Monica said.
"So you're saying, he proposes to you a month from now, you're going to turn down a successful, handsome man that will probably just become more successful? A man that's about marriage, family, and is certain of that. So certain, that he wants to do it with you. You gonna turn that down?"
"I guess that would be pretty crazy, hunh?"
"Oh, yes. Crackhead crazy."
Six months later, Nate did propose, and Monica found herself happily accepting. The wedding took place six months after that, and Monica thought there wasn't a way that she could've ever been happier.
Nate was a beautiful, successful man that loved her like crazy and wanted nothing more in the world than to immediately start a family.
Unfortunately, that's when she and Nate had their first disagreement.
She had known how eager the man was to start a family, had known that from practically the first date they had, but she didn't inform him until the night of their wedding that she had no intention of rushing into having children.
"I'm only twenty-seven, baby. I want a few years just to enjoy us."
Nate was disappointed, probably more than she had ever let herself realize, but he seemed to accept it, and things once again were perfect between them.
Without the children to slow them down, for the first three years of their marriage Monica and Nate traveled all around the world. They spent nights out on the town, would come in at whatever time they chose, and then make love for as long and as loud as they wanted to, which happened quite often.
It all seemed like a dream back then, Monica thought now, four years later, standing in the same store she had met her husband in. Everything was perfect, until the day she gave her husband exactly what he had been begging for, and got pregnant.
Copyright © 2004 by R. Marcus Johnson
The Million Dollar Divorce
Successful business entrepreneur Nate Kenny is thrilled to marry the beautiful and intelligent Monica, chiefly because it means he can at last fulfill his lifelong dream of having a family. While he isn't happy about it, he agrees with Monica to wait three years before trying for pregnancy. Once those three years are up and the couple discovers that she is unable to bear children, any love he once felt for Monica is gone, and Nate wants out of the marriage. But he's worried about losing half of his sixty-million-dollar fortune in a divorce settlement. Desperate for an out, he searches for a way to exploit the infidelity clause in the couple's prenuptial agreement.
Enter Lewis Waters. With his baby's mother addicted to drugs, Lewis is already seriously down on his luck when he accidentally smashes his car into Nate's Bentley. Without auto insurance or any way to pay for the repairs, Lewis is at the end of his financial rope. But the scheming Nate sees another way for the attractive young man to repay his debt: as sexual bait for Monica. And so Nate sets up Lewis with all of the accessories he believes Lewis will need to earn Monica's love, or at the very least, her lust: a big house, a fancy car, expensive clothes, and a full bank account. But as is often the case when it comes to matters of the heart, things don't unfold according to plan. When Monica falls hard for Lewis, Nate panics -- was protecting his fortune more important than trying to save his marriage? As he finds himself overwhelmed by second thoughts, Nate is willing to do anything to get Monica back.
An inspired fusion of realism and romance, The Million Dollar Divorce is an unpredictable caper of lust, betrayal, and family ties.