Chapter 34, april

“The very act of looking for evil in others develops evil in those who look.”

John and I allowed a stranger into our home.  That was not a normal occurrence for us, but this visitor had something that we desired...information to help our custody case.  She declared that she knew the deepest, darkest secrets of the person that had been causing so much pain, anxiety, and torment in our lives for so long.  We were desperate, and desperate times call for desperate measures.

 As I sat there listening to all the dirty laundry she was airing on her ‘friend’, I could not help but feel a tiny pull at my heart strings.  I grew up with the most amazing group of girlfriends you could ask for.  I knew that if I needed them in my life, they would be there at any moment.  Loren was sitting across town, oblivious to the fact that her friend was giving the enemy some of her innermost secrets.

At the same time, I could not help but feel a little justified.  For so long I had questioned myself.  

“Was Loren being truthful about all the horrible things she said about John?”

“Why did she hate me so much?”

“Is she really as good of a person as she seems to be?”

For a moment, I felt like we were getting honest answers to some of the questions we had pondered. As outlandish as the accusations seemed, I could not imagine that any person – especially a friend – would fabricate such incriminating allegations.  

I began to question her integrity and urged her to explain why she would turn her back on such a good friend.  Her response was simple – these were things that she had been holding in for quite some time, and she was ready to expose the truth.  She said that she was loyal, but that loyalty ended when she felt that children were in harm’s way.

This stranger uttered what we had been advised by several others throughout this horrible custody battle, “The boys will be much better off with you and John.”  To reassure John and me that she was being truthful, this person agreed to go to court and testify on our behalf.  

 Fear of the unknown was not the only thing growing in our home…my daughter’s belly was expanding by the day.  I had gone through a pregnancy all alone, and I could tell that she was putting on a strong front.  Inside, she was hurting, she was scared.  I promised her that I would take care of everything, but I understood that it was just not the same.  The person that helped her create that life growing inside of her was who was supposed to be there for her.  

For the first time in my baby’s life, I could not fix what was broken.

Taylar kept busy by working and going to college.  She never let anyone see how isolated and lonely she felt, but a mother knows.  

Taylar and I were talking one day and she jokingly asked if I wanted to meet her new boyfriend.  I laughed it off to another one of her antics to get a rise out of me.  A few days passed, and I returned home from soccer to find another stranger in my home – only this time it was in the form of a very handsome young man.  

Taylar greeted me at the door and asked if I wanted to meet her boyfriend.  With eyes as wide as the Botox would allow, I grabbed her by the arm and pulled her into the laundry room.  

“Taylar, I thought you were kidding about having a boyfriend!  

Do you really think this is a good idea?  

Does he know that you are pregnant?  Oh, and does he know that he is NOT the father?”

With a perfect smile on her face, Taylar responded to all my inquiries.  She was in fact not joking about the boyfriend, he did know that she was pregnant, and he was aware that he was not the baby’s father.  I was not sure if God was preparing to call me home, or if this was just another one of His tests.  However, I was certain that I had reached the end of my proverbial rope.  I was once again reminded that God gives His toughest battles to His strongest soldiers…

 The day had arrived once again; off to the courthouse we went.  Only, this time we were: Kirk party, plus one.  Of all the times John and I had entered that courtroom, that day was by far the most terrifying.  The stranger took her place in the rear of the courtroom while I was instructed to sit beside my husband and his attorney.  

You know that feeling you get when you are being sent to the Principal’s office – I felt that times a thousand.

Once again, the hearing did not go as planned.  The stranger was never called to the stand and certain things were discussed in the judge’s chambers with only the attorneys present.  

Before the ‘members only meeting’ took place and after both councils presented their arguments, the judge gave a quick scolding to John and Loren.  As I sat waiting for the final verdict on the only aspect of the case he was willing to publicly discuss – child support – I could not seem to untie the knot in my stomach.  

As harsh as the judge had been with the John and Loren, I expected him to look over to me at any moment and scream, “You don’t even have a horse in this race so butt out little woman!”  He must have released all his frustration on the two of them, because I never received his wrath. We left that courtroom no better than we had entered.  I was angry and fed up with the continuation of the nightmare we were living.  

I stomped over to John’s attorney’s office and demanded answers.  I had done my best to let my new husband be the one primarily speaking to his attorney.  However, as a wife, I also knew when it was time to step up and have my voice heard.  The outcome of this court case had a tremendous effect on the rest of my life.  I was determined to have a say in my future.

We had been living under a microscope for far too long, I begged the attorney that had received tens of thousands of our hard-earned dollars to just give me some light at the end of the dark tunnel.  I began to get emotional, tears streaming down my mascara stained face, pleading for some instruction on how to handle this unknown territory I was thrown into.  John’s attorney provided me with calming words that offered a sense of reassurance that I was doing the right thing.  

She reminded me that being a stepparent was an extremely difficult job, with little reward and absolutely no recognition. The best advice she gave to John and me that day was to leave her office and purchase a prepaid flip phone.  Since one of our biggest complaints had been the ridiculous behavior over whose phone could be used for the boys to call their mother, she suggested this would clear up the issue.   

How wrong she was.  

Little did we know that one tiny flip phone would start an all-out war!

The new phone number, in addition to the child support ruling made Loren furious.  To be completely honest, I never understood the concept of her paying child support to John.  We did not need nor want her money.  All three payments we received went to the boys.  We purchased new clothing, socks, underwear, books, and planned a surprise trip for them.  John and I booked a weekend at the beach filled with fun, family outings.  The boys were given fifty dollars each to purchase trinkets and memorabilia, and each child got to choose an activity for the family.  This included a dinosaur museum, a waterpark, and mini golf.  

Ultimately, John and I communicated to Loren that we did not think she should pay child support because we were perfectly capable of providing for the boys. 

She was hesitant to comply because of the court order.  We assured her that we would stand behind our word if it were brought up in the next hearing.  That would be the first of our ‘out of court’ negotiations.

Less than two months passed, and I received a call from Taylar saying that she wanted to sit down and talk.  Those are the absolute scariest words in the English language to both mothers and husbands.  I sat across the table from Taylar and her new beau, while they confessed their undying love for one another.  They closed with, “We want to get married.”

I’m sorry, what?  Marriage!  Do they not see what I am going through?

I have never been the type of mother to hold back my feelings from my children.  They know exactly where I stand on just about anything you can imagine.  That day was no exception.  I tried to remain as calm as possible while telling Taylar and her new love, Daylan, that marriage was a huge commitment and not for the faint of heart.  

I went on to explain that while marriage is beautiful, it is also extremely difficult at times.  It is hard enough adjusting to married life, but they would shortly become a ready-made family. Like most teenagers, they assured me that they had weighed the options, and everything would be fine.  

I was not trying to convince them to reconsider marriage to one another, I merely wanted them to wait a few months and get to know each other a little better.

I will never forget listening to the intelligent words that were coming from my soon-to-be son-in-law.  He assured me that his intentions were as pure as the driven snow.  Daylan guaranteed me that he was aware of the road ahead and that he was not only going to be the best husband to my daughter, he would also be the most amazing father to my grandson.

In that moment, I learned something from the young man sitting across from me.  No situation is ever perfect, just as no relationship will always be utopic.  

The key is to find the person’s heart that drags you in like a magnet, the person you are willing to accept – faults and all, the one that you are willing to go through the darkest times with and support them undoubtedly, and the one your soul loves.

I knew in that moment, my daughter would be safe in the arms of her new-found prince charming. The conversation ended with the two of them giving me a shred of false hope that they would at least consider my feelings.

My feelings were considered for exactly 3 days…before they eloped.

The past year had been one of the most difficult years of my life, emotionally.  I found the man of my dreams, yet I could not stop questioning our relationship.  As I pondered our situation, I shortly realized that our bond was unlike anything either of us had experienced in previous relationships.  

The love we had between us was magical and solid.  

Sure, it was not pure bliss every single day, but we were meant to be.  God sent me the man that was perfect for me.  John loved me like I had never been loved before.  He was everything I had ever hoped and prayed for.  

In that moment, I knew that no matter what we went through, we would do it together – forever, for always, no matter what.

During that time of soul searching and my quest for a peaceful and happy existence, I realized there was only one other aspect of my life that needed reinforcement – our relationship with John’s ex-wife.  

I pleaded with John to agree to allow me to reach out one final time.  I promised him that if this did not work that I would never try again.  

I made a call to Loren requesting that the four of us – John, me, Loren, and her beau – meet for dinner.  My hope was that we could come to a mutual agreement and create a positive co-parenting relationship.

I prayed that Loren was finally in a place of happiness and the past was where it should be. 

I prayed that we would close the door to the hurt and pain that we had all caused for one another.

Most importantly, I prayed that no one would leave that dinner in handcuffs…

Stranger in My House