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If I were a Carpenter

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“What? No ‘congratulations’?” she asked her sister as she flaunted the huge diamond ring on her hand.

“I’d feel a lot better if I knew you really loved him,” her older sister said respectfully in reply.

“I love him,” her younger sibling said in a way that sounded like she was trying to convince herself it was true.

“Can you tell me why?”

Her sister sat there staring at her as she tried to think of how to respond.

Monroe Hastings had turned 36 a month ago and three weeks later had gotten engaged to one of the most prominent trial lawyers in the Seattle area, and had the three-carat ‘Hearts on Fire’ diamond ring on her hand to prove it. Her fiancé, 44-year old Peter Bentley, had given her the rare diamond ring known for its perfect symmetry, perfect proportions, perfect polish, and perfect alignment as more as a statement of who he was than a symbol of his love. Monroe didn’t know diamonds, she only knew it was big. Very big. Her sister, Bacall, had a pretty good idea, and assumed it had to be well over $10,000. In reality, it was worth a lot more than that, but it was indeed very big.

Both she and her sister, along with their younger brother, Dean, were the children of parents more enamored with old music and movies than either work or money. All of them had been given the last name of an actor or actress from the past as in Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe, and James Dean, respectively.

As such, the three siblings grew up poor, having very little in the way of nicer things. What they did have, however, were looks. All three of them, from 38-year old Bacall to 33-year old Dean, were very attractive people, and that had given them a leg up in a world that required them to scrap for everything they had.

Monroe knew her sister was onto something, but she had no interest in facing up to it let alone admitting Bacall was right. She ‘loved’ Peter enough to marry him, although she knew she was nowhere near to being truly in love with him. And so far at least, she’d done a very credible job convincing herself that didn’t matter.

After all, she’d married once for love, and those two years had been the happiest of her life only to have it all come to an abrupt end leaving her close to being financially destitute.

So as she thought about it, Monroe was willing to admit that perhaps her love for him wasn’t as… her new diamond, but it was close enough to ‘good enough’ for her, and at this stage of her life, that seemed more than reasonable.

She’d ‘sown her wild oats’ until she was 27 when she met someone who turned her entire world upside down. David Hastings was unlike any man she’d ever met before or since. He was not only her equal in terms of physical attraction, he was her ‘superior’ in virtually everything else from education to athletic ability his ability to make money to, well, pretty much everything. He’d been enough to cause her to give up her endless search for happiness when she realized she’d found it, and more, in loving him.

She’d literally been swept off her feet in a matter of weeks and six months later said ‘I do’ then willingly settled into a life she’d always dreaded before meeting this amazing man. Monroe found herself loving staying home and waiting for her handsome husband to return to her and the dinner she’d prepared for him each night. Never in a million years could she have imagined loving being so thoroughly domesticated after being the antithesis of domestication for as long as she could remember.

Three weeks after celebrating their second anniversary, Monroe learned she was pregnant, and both she and her husband were thrilled beyond words to know they would be having a child. Money wasn’t exactly tight, but they also weren’t exactly rolling it. The again, money was the last thing on their minds as they started planning for the birth of the baby.

And then, two months later and without warning, he was gone; taken in an instant in a massive collision of cars on I-95 during one of the foggiest mornings anyone could ever remember. Four other people were killed that morning with another dozen being injured in varying degrees after a tractor-trailer plowed into the long line of parked cars invisible in the heavy fog until it was too late.

The fog began abruptly, and was immediately heavy and thick giving drivers little time to react. Although the semi had slowed considerably, it still hit the first car doing 60 miles per hour. David had been in the car just ahead of it. Like the three passengers in the car behind him, he died instantly as the sudden, unexpected force of the impact broke his neck.

By the end of that day, Monroe found herself single again, pregnant, alone, and barely able to get by, even with whatever help her parents could offer. She and David had had more than enough money to live on comfortably, but they had virtually nothing in savings, and neither of them had even considered a life insurance policy. And why would they? They were both in their 20s and were porno indir invulnerable and knew they’d live forever.

David had changed her to the point where she no longer had any interest in ever returning to her former life of endless one-night-stands and the inevitable loneliness and emptiness that came with it. And yet the loneliness she now felt in her life without him often seemed even worse as all she wanted was to feel that kind of warmth and security again. And yes, while she still occasionally dreamed of being loved like that as well, she’d pretty much given up ever finding it. With Peter, she was getting all of the security she needed, and at least some small portion of the love she craved. It might not be romantic love, but it was love or at least it seemed like it was.

Their son, David, Junior, was now eight years old, and Monroe had scraped by, somehow managing to keep a roof over their heads and food on their table. Most of the time, however, they barely scraped by.

Had it not been for an advertisement Peter’s law firm was running on TV every hour of the day for weeks, she’d never have met him let alone become engaged to the multi-millionaire attorney. The firm was filing a class-action suit against the makers of the braking system used in the semi that had crashed into and killed her husband. They were seeking victims of any such crash, and Monroe called the office the first time she saw it. They were up against the statute of limitations, and Monroe was the last victim added to the lawsuit before filing it with the court just before the legal deadline.

After a junior partner did an ‘intake interview’ he introduced her to the senior partner who would be heading up the class-action suit. He’d been utterly taken with her beauty from the moment he saw her, and although he was nowhere close to being as attractive as she was, he offered a different kind of ‘attractiveness’ Monroe decided was something closer to an ‘appeal’; an appeal consisting of power and confidence rather than dashingly good looks or the kind of warmth David had offered.

It wasn’t what she’d dreamed of, but she consoled herself with the belief that physical attraction and the giddy kind of love she’d experienced with David was now much less important to her than the certainty of financial security she would have with Peter for herself and her son the rest of her life.

Somewhere along the line, she’d heard the saying, “The search for perfection is often the enemy of good enough”, and with the understanding that Peter was definitely much closer to ‘good enough’ than anything approaching perfection, she stopped looking and even hoping and agreed to marry him.

So she’d said ‘yes’ to a first date as soon as he asked, and she’d recently said ‘yes’ to his proposal. So no, she wasn’t head-over-heels in love with him the way she’d been with David, but Monroe was willing to forego some of that passion for the stability that came with marrying a powerful, wealthy man like Peter Bentley. And at 36, Monroe was acutely aware the only reason she could catch the attention of a man like that was her looks, and she knew they knew wouldn’t last forever.

That meant that at some level, at least, there was a tacit understanding that went back as far as human history wherein younger, attractive women and older, wealthy men often ended up together for reasons other than pure love. Then again, her marriage to David aside, she sometimes wondered if ‘pure love’ even existed or if it was something one found only in romance novels or Hallmark movies.

Bacall understood all of that without ever having asked her sister about it, and really wondered whether or not her younger sister did, too. And until just then, she’d never asked Monroe if she loved Peter. But now that she had, it stirred up feelings in Monroe she’d tried so very hard to stuff deep down inside her for months.

“Can we not talk about this right now?” Monroe finally said in response to her sister’s question.

“Oh, of course. I wasn’t trying to be nosy, Roe,” she said using her childhood nickname. “And it really is none of my business. It’s just that I dearly love you and my nephew, and I only want you to be happy. If Peter does that for you, then…I’m happy, too.”

Monroe knew if she were to respond truthfully, the answer would be ‘no’, because he didn’t make her happy. At least not in the way David had. Rather, he made her…comfortable. And secure. And again, that seemed to her to be ‘good enough’.

She’d had this discussion with herself many times before, and until Bacall stirred the pot, it had remained little more than a glowing ember somewhere in a place she chose not to visit. But now it was again causing her to think—and rethink her engagement—as well as her entire future along with what was really important to her. And that caused her to experience a whole raft of emotions that made her head hurt and her stomach turn.

So for now, she ‘stuffed’ it all again knowing rokettube she had all kinds of work to do on the home she and David had bought together before she could sell it. Because she barely had enough to make ends meet since David’s passing, she didn’t have the money to make the kinds of repairs needed to take care of the myriad of problems that had cropped up over the years.

She was grateful for Peter’s willingness to pay for any and all such work in order to put the house on the market in a condition that would bring in a very nice return, and yet she somehow felt guilty for taking it. It was a seller’s market in the extreme, and once it was ready for sale, Monroe knew there would be a bidding war for it, and its sale would provide her with more than enough money to live on comfortably were she not to marry Peter, even after paying him back. But then she wouldn’t have a home to live in making ‘living comfortably’ a very difficult challenge, in turn making that a moot point. And yet she couldn’t help but think it more than a few times.

So, once again, the cold reality of necessity forced her to conclude that love was overrated when put up against living paycheck to paycheck to the point she could only rarely buy anything nice for her son and almost never for herself.

The worst had been the year she could only afford a couple of children’s books for him on his birthday. Yes, it was a very practical and useful gift, and he’d been too young to be hurt, but it had hurt her, and even now just thinking about it made her sad. Then later that same year she’d given him a pair of jeans, a new shirt, and some tennis shoes for Christmas—things he desperately needed for school—as his only gifts. She’d done the best she could, but not being able to buy David a single toy had broken her heart. Now, thanks to Peter, she’d never have to deal with that again. But after Bacall’s question, she knew there were other issues she would be dealing with yet again.

She tried putting the debate out of her mind for the second or third time in the last five minutes as she waited for the carpenter she’d asked to stop by and potentially take care of a half-dozen issues inside the house. He’d come highly recommended by one of the wives of another senior partner who’d said, “Just between us, he is well, let’s just say…strikingly handsome.”

Monroe smiled but didn’t laugh when the woman said it for fear Peter might have overheard. Sensing her discomfort the other woman whispered, “Oh, come on. There’s nothing wrong with eating out as long as you come home for dinner, right?”

Again she only smiled before excusing herself and rejoining her fiancé as he droned on about the details of some case they’d recently won while showing off his beautiful, younger girlfriend who was wearing the designer dress he’d chosen for her along with the huge diamond ring he proudly pointed out to everyone with whom they spoke.

For Peter, the law was everything. For Monroe, it was the thing that made security possible so she dutifully stood next to him smiling and looking beautiful, the one thing he valued in her above all else, while not understanding anything he was talking about.

She’d gone to a Dunkin’ Donuts near her house before Bacall stopped by and picked up some bagels, coffee, and other snacks; something she couldn’t have even thought of doing without Peter’s help. Even though he was footing the bill, it felt so good to do something nice for someone, even if it was a total stranger. She’d also been able to do a lot of nice things for her son recently, and all in all, she was very grateful to her fiancé for his generosity. Well, with his money, anyway. His time was another issue altogether, and he had precious little to offer her as he still worked close to 70 hours a week. And, oh yes, his affection was also a precious commodity he doled out in small quantities whenever it suited him. He wasn’t a mean man by any stretch. He just lacked any real…warmth.

Even the clothes she was wearing that morning were due to the credit card he’d given her. He let her know it didn’t have a limit, but asked her to try not spend more than $5,000 without letting him know.

She’d been so stunned she told him, “Peter, I haven’t spent that much money in a month—ever. Not in my entire life.”

He’d only smiled politely before saying, “No, darling. Not per month. I meant spending more than that on any single purchase.”

Initially she’d used the card for necessities and some new clothes from her favorite store, JC Penney. Peter was kind enough not to criticize her choices too harshly, but did let her know that she would need—nicer things. Nicer as in at least Neiman Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue or other higher-end stores.

Showing up to a social event in off-the-rack clothing was acceptable as long as it wasn’t ‘low end’ and the stores Monroe had learned to love were all considered very low end. For more formal occasions, there were other boutiques that sold porno designer clothing, and several of them now had Monroe’s measurements on file and they were busy making a number of new designer dresses for her at that very moment.

As she looked at the goodies she’d laid out while wearing a very nice outfit she’d picked up at Saks a few days ago, Monroe was asking herself why she wasn’t happier than she felt. Yes, doing nice things made her happy, but wearing a $300 blouse and a $500 pair of shoes didn’t.

Bacall helped herself to half a bagel and some cream cheese then said, “I didn’t mean to upset you, Roe. I hope everything goes well with the repairs, but I should probably get back home. And if I did upset you, I’m very sorry.”

“No. Not at all,” Monroe told her. “I know you’re only looking out for me—and for David, Junior. And you know I love you for that, right?”

“Well, I love you right back, little sis,” she told her as she gave her a goodbye hug being careful to keep the creamy topping away from the expensive silk blouse.

She was walking Bacall to the foyer just as the doorbell rang.

“Oh, looks I’m going to get to meet him after all,” she said. “I’m dying to find out if he’s really as cute as what’s her name said he is.”

“Bacall! Stop!” Monroe said as she smoothed her long, dark, smoothly-styled hair and put on her best smile before opening the door.

“Miss…Hastings?” the younger man asked when he saw her. His eyes darted from Monroe to her sister who was also in the foyer smiling at him.

“Yes. That’s me,” she told him. “Please come in.”

He stepped inside then waited for her to close the door.

“I’m Axl. Axl Kibler,” he told her.

“Oh. Like Axl Rose?” Bacall asked before introducing herself as Monroe’s ‘older-but-more-beautiful sister.

Axl laughed then said, “Hi. It’s nice to meet you. Both of you. Um, yes. Exactly like that. My dad’s been a Guns N’ Roses fan since they started playing music back in the mid-80s. He still listens to them today along with The Doors, The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, and a bunch of other groups from days gone by.”

Monroe laughed and said, “Our parents are anachronisms, too. They absolutely love old music and movies, and that’s how all three of us kids got our names. So I get it.”

“Oh, okay. So are you…Marilyn Monroe?” he said, smiling at her for the first time.

When he did, she understood what the partner’s wife meant by attractive. Axl wasn’t just cute. He was downright ‘hunky’. He wore his thick, black hair short, and had a 2-3-day growth of stubble on his male-model-like face. His blue eyes stood out in stark contrast to the very dark eyebrows above them, and like most very attractive people, he had classically high cheekbones, and a very symmetrical face. And he was obviously very well put together from the neck down, too.

Monroe realized she’d been asked a question, but it took her brain a few seconds to catch up before she said, “Oh, right. Yes. That’s where I got my name.”

“And I’m guessing you would be Bogie’s wife?” he said to Bacall.

“Guilty as charged!” she said with a very big smile. She then explained how her brother got his and Axl smiled again.

Bacall sighed then smiled and said, “Unfortunately, I was on my way out, but it was um…very nice meeting you, Axl.”

“You, too…Bacall,” he told her with a smile back at her. He wanted to say, “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid,” but rightly assumed she’d heard it more than enough for two lifetimes already.

After she left, he said to Monroe, “Your sister is a very beautiful woman, and I hope I’m not out of line saying this, but you’re even prettier than her, and you’re much better looking than Marilyn Monroe ever hoped to be, and that’s no disrespect to the late Miss Norma Jeane Mortenson.”

Monroe laughed openly at the use of the late actress’s real name.

“She probably wouldn’t have gone quite so far with that moniker, huh?” Monroe said before inviting him inside. “And no, that wasn’t out of line. It was very kind of you to say. Both of us are getting there up in years, so anytime anyone—especially someone as young and handsome as you—says something that nice, it’s very nice to hear.”

“Up in years?” he asked with a genuine look of surprise. “Are you even 30 yet?”

Monroe laughed immediately then said, “Okay, flattery isn’t going to get you the job, but again, that was very sweet of you to say.”

“Oh. Well, I didn’t mean it as flattery. I honestly thought it was true,” he said rather sheepishly.

Monroe gave him a funny look he wasn’t sure how to take then led him into the kitchen.

“Anyway, there’s coffee and snacks if you get hungry, otherwise, let’s take a look around and I’ll go over the problem areas with you,” she told him.

“Great. I could use a cup of coffee while we look, if that’s okay,” he said.

She grabbed one, too, then took him to the garage and pointed out the problem with the pull-down stairs before showing him through each room that needed work, which was pretty much every room in the house.

“Okay. It’s all standard stuff, but there’s a lot of rot and damage in several places. I should be able to knock this out for you in a few days,” he told her.

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