Chapter 25 – Wild Kingdom: The Protective Mother

My butt is bruised but Zeke kisses it and makes it feel much better.  At least for the moment…so I keep asking him to kiss it until he refuses to continue lest I get delusions of grandeur from that much ass-kissing.

Paul calls us to say that Sara broke down completely in questioning and has confessed to making the chocolate cake.  Her lawyer apparently sat there looking angry as she refused to listen to him telling her to be quiet—but the authorities are considering the extenuating circumstances and have only charged her with intent to harm instead of attempted murder.  Because she is still under eighteen, they have taken her into protective custody and she is already beginning to be evaluated by psychologists.

I regret the loss of her faith in me, but I am glad to hear this since she desperately needs help and it’s time that she gets it.

I am not surprised to see Dorie Schmidt come into the store with a fierce expression on her face—and head right at me.

I can even hear her.

“Who the hell do you think you are, telling the cops that my daughter made a poisoned cake?  It’s none of your damned business!”

She stops well within my personal space and I back up.

“You nosy bitch, poking into things that are none of your concern…did you get your thrills by looking at my husband’s dead body?  Not happy until you have stirred everything up, are you?”

She takes a breath to continue the harangue and almost chokes when Zeke takes her arm from behind and turns her to face him.

“That’s enough, Dorie.  Mattie only did for Sara what you should have done years ago, since I find it very hard to believe that you had no idea that John Robert was molesting her.”  He gently but firmly leads her towards the door.  “And now you can leave.”

“I didn’t know!  I honest to god had no idea…”  She pulls out of his grasp and puts her hands over her face.  The ragged sound of sobbing begins and he and I stare at each other.

I shrug and point towards the conservatory.  I am going to have to do a major cleansing of that space if I want to be able to sit in there much more.  He nods and leads Dorie, still crying, back to the room where we take all the basket cases.

He leaves me long enough to flip the sign and lock the door.  I figure I won’t get lunch today and hope that I don’t lose too much business while we deal with John Robert’s widow.

I just sit and listen to her cry.  I do hand her the tissues and she uses them freely.  Zeke comes back and looks questioningly at me.  I shrug again and he sits in the other chair.

A handful of tissues and a long fifteen minutes later, Dorie finally gets herself calmed down and begins to talk.

“I met John Robert when I was seventeen.  My best friend’s brother was his roommate in college and I went with her to some parties at the dorm.  He was so good looking, so popular.  I was completely overwhelmed by him.

“I was…young and foolish.  I got so caught up in the glamour of being with ‘college men’ and doing such adult things…well I thought they were adult.  I was so eager to be accepted that I never said no to anything.  Booze, drugs, (she sighs) even sex…it didn’t matter what anyone suggested I try, I always said yes.  I thought that it was okay, it wasn’t bad if I didn’t go ‘all the way’ but I got a reputation for doing pretty much everything else.”

Dorie, a wild woman?  This opens up a whole new light on her.  Or explains why she is so subdued now.

She continues.  “After about a year of going up to the college every weekend and doing it all with everybody, I thought I was all grown up.  What is it the kids say…’Been there, done that’ could have been my motto.  I don’t know how I managed to hang onto my virginity through all that…craziness, but somehow, I did.  That was even a part of my reputation…they called me ‘Don’t Do It Dottie’.

“The guys began to take it as a challenge to see who would get to break my cherry.  It got harder to stop them and I began to be afraid of going to the parties because I didn’t want to go…all the way.  Somehow they always managed to talk me into coming back up to the college, coming to ‘just one more party’.  And each time, it was closer and closer to what they now call date rape before I could get out of some boy’s room.”

And they say that higher education pays off.  I can’t imagine being that needy, that desperate to belong but I can see that this has haunted Dorie and influenced her in every way since it occurred.

Zeke is looking more and more uncomfortable, and I must look about the same…this is way more information than I was expecting.

“Finally, John Robert told them to stop it, to lay off.  He stood up and championed me, like a knight in shining armor.  I was amazed at the depth of his anger at them.  He hadn’t ever really paid attention to me before.  He always had two or three beautiful girls with him and even then, he was … using spiritual words to get them into bed with him. “ She sits back in the chair, a sad and defeated woman with a miserable life.

“He invited me to be his date the next weekend for the graduation celebrations for the seniors and the last bash before everyone split for the summer.  I was thrilled and of course agreed.  I talked my mother into buying me a new dress.  It was blue, the same color as my eyes.  John Robert told me so when I got to the dorm.  He made me feel so…pretty, so…special.

“We went to the frat house that was holding the party.  John Robert brought me a drink, a special cocktail that he told me he had invented just for me.  It tasted…sweet and fruity.  I drank it and then… then…I just don’t remember what happened.  I know now that he had put some sort of drug—like the date rape drugs everyone is warned about now—in it.”

Tears trickle down her face and she stops talking to use more tissues.  We wait in horrified silence, dreading the rest of this tale.

“When I woke up, I was in the back seat of my friend’s car and she was driving us home.  I was sore between my legs, and when I touched…down there, I felt a sanitary pad.  I sat up and when she realized that I was awake, she said that she would pull over at the next gas station.

“She parked the car and I went into the bathroom.  I was bleeding, like my period had come early, so I changed the pad and then I went back out to where she was waiting.  She looked at me like I had grown two heads.

‘So how does it feel, Dottie?’

‘How does what feel?  What happened?’

‘You fucked every guy that was at the party, that’s what happened.  You did some of them twice.  You kept coming out into the living room, begging someone to come into the bedroom, to get into you…’

“I fainted.  To her credit, my friend got me back into the car and took me home.  She never told my parents what had happened… she blamed my appearance and behavior on food poisoning and my period coming early.”

Dear gods.  Definitely one of those life-altering events.  I understand Dorie a little better but I still don’t know how this pertains to Sara.

Zeke is angry and I can feel it.  Useless anger, but worthy.

“That summer was horrid.  I stopped bleeding after a day or two but I was terrified that I was pregnant.  I was ashamed, confused…I tried to call John Robert but I only had the phone number at the dorm and he had gone home for summer vacation.  My friend tried to talk to me about it, but I didn’t want to hear the things she said I had done.  I couldn’t remember any of it, it just didn’t seem real.

“After about six weeks with no further bleeding, I had to admit that I was actually pregnant…and I had no idea who the father was.  I began to have morning sickness…except that it was all day long.  My parents picked up on it rather quickly.  My father tried talking to me and when I refused to tell him what happened, he hit me.  Mother stopped him, but then she called my friend…who told her all.”

Poor, poor Dorie.  Zeke is actually clenching his fists.  I have to agree with him.  John Robert’s karmic debt is beginning to make the national debt pale by comparison.

“When Dad found out that my date had been John Robert, he began to make calls around.  Somehow, he tracked him down and told him in no uncertain terms that he held JR responsible and that he had better by god do his duty or he would ruin him.  He had to marry me and give this bastard child a name or else his own name would mean nothing.

“I don’t know what threats he used, what he said to John Robert…but the date was set and we were married by the justice of the peace within three weeks.  For all I know, he bribed JR as well as threatened since the real estate business that you know as Schmidt and Tisdale was originally my father’s.

“It was for nothing…I was six months pregnant when I miscarried.  It was a boy, perfectly shaped, nothing wrong with him…except that the cord had twisted around his neck and choked him.  I had a breakdown and was in a convalescent home for almost a year.”

We sit, stunned into not only silence but immobility.  I have no idea what to say to this woman, no way of even beginning to understand what she has gone through.   There are no words that I can offer that would comfort.

She dries her eyes again and takes a deep, shuddering breath.

“John Robert never let me forget that he had been forced to marry me.  He told me flat out that he was glad that the ‘bastard child’ had died since he could never have loved it.

“He had to force himself on me when –when—he wanted to have sex.  He took great pleasure in essentially…ahhh,  raping me each time he decided to exercise his ‘husbandly duties’.  There was never any tenderness, never any love.”  She takes another breath, working her throat as she swallows convulsively.

“I tried to divorce him, but he had been running the business almost two years the first time I asked for it.  He decided that being married to me was worth the income and the prestige he had with the company.  And so he would not let me go, even after my father died and the whole thing was his and Barry’s.”

Dare I ask?  I glance at Zeke and I can tell that he’s thinking more or less the same thing.  We both end up letting it slide as Dorie continues.

“Barry joined the business about ten years ago.  John Robert actually bought out his real estate business and they combined into Schmidt and Tisdale.  His wife had just died and he wanted to be able to travel or do other things while still having some income and the ability to come and go to the office as he pleased.

“JR was very happy to have this arrangement.  So Barry showed up when he felt like, sold a couple of houses each week, and pretty much left the day to day operations to him.  Barry was not happy with John Robert’s ummm well, his ahhh sexual escapades.  He complained that it cost the company more to keep hiring new women to work than if John Robert would just keep his marriage vows.”

She raises reddened eyes up to look at me.  “I didn’t care.  I didn’t want him to keep those vows.  But I couldn’t tell that to Barry when he stopped by to talk to me about it.  He took his religious views very seriously and I just couldn’t bring myself to tell him that so did John Robert.”

I refrain from snickering but have to admit that the image this statement brings to mind is amusing.

“I think he could tell that I was not happy.  He began to stop by and we talked about his wife, their life together.  It sounded like heaven to me.  The idea of actually liking the person who was sharing your bed, being happy to see them at the end of the day…I had no idea what that was like.”  She sniffs.  “We were only friends for a long time.  I had no desire to act like my so-called husband.”

Oh boy, here it comes.  I’m not sure that I want to hear this.

“I’m not even sure when we crossed the line from friends to lovers.  It was so gradual, so … sweet.  He was always concerned about me, always treated me like a queen.  I felt no guilt.  I was not taking anything from John Robert that he wanted, I wasn’t doing anything that he hadn’t been doing all along.”

They do say that confession is good for the soul…but mine is heavy and depressed with each word that Dorie tells me.  I know that I am going to have to repeat this for the police, and even telling it to Paul will not lessen the weight it makes.

Zeke also looks very uncomfortable.

Dorie sighs, a sound that comes from the depths of her heart.  She is looking at the floor again.

“Barry wanted me to leave John Robert.  I wanted to leave.  I asked for a divorce again and he just laughed.  He told me that he didn’t care how many men I fucked, since I had a history of doing just that, but that he was not going to give up the perks of having a family and a wife.  That’s when I thought if I let Barry know that JR was a Pagan, he would have the power to make him let me go.”

I have to ask.  “So you put the note on Barry’s desk?”

She nods.  “Barry was furious.  He screamed at John Robert and then he came to the house.  He asked me if I was a Pagan too and I told him that I had been, but that I didn’t want to be any more.  He prayed with me and I told him that I wanted to be a Christian.  He said that we would find a way to get the divorce so that we could marry, and I would be truly and really married in the eyes of God.”

I had been married in the Christian church…and while many people would consider my current living arrangements to be a one way ticket to Hell, I considered myself more “truly and really married” to Zeke than I ever felt for my ex.  Oh well, to each her own.

“JR didn’t even ask me if I had written the note.  He was so busy trying to do ‘damage control’ with the press to save his precious company.  Hell, my father’s precious company.”  Dorie’s expression is not nice.  Bitterness runs deep and ruins a woman’s face easily.

I have never seen so much expression or been able to hear so much of Dorie’s conversation before and I’m not sure I appreciate it now.  I also wonder why she is spilling her guts to us.

Zeke finally ends the monologue.  “Dorie, tell us about Sara and the chocolate cake.”

She blinks.  Her eyes dart back and forth and I can tell that she has just realized how much she has just told us.  It’s very apparent that she regrets it already…and she’d like to leave.

Zeke tilts his head and raises his eyebrows.  “Dorie?”

“Ummm, yes….well.  Ahhh, I didn’t know she had put mistletoe oil in it.  I came into the kitchen just as she was pulling it out of the oven.  She jumped like I had shot her and then stammered through some explanation of ‘making it for Dad since he likes chocolate’.  I didn’t really think anything of it.  They have…had, I should say, an unusual relationship.  She seemed to hate him sometimes and then other times, she did all sorts of special things for him, like he was her only parent.”

She shakes her head and sighs.  “I guess that it is all part of being…ummm….you know.”

“Molested?”  Zeke says the dreaded word and she flinches.

“Ahhh, ummm…errr.  Uh, yeah, I guess.”  She won’t meet our eyes.  “I swear to you, I had no idea that he was…doing…that to her.  I figured that since John Junior and I had a, well a special relationship, that JR and Sara….you know.”

“And were you having sex with your son?”  He doesn’t pull any punches and she jumps like he has actually hit her.

“OH MY GOD!  NO!  NO!  How can you even say that, that’s disgusting, I would never-“ She glares at him.

He cuts her off.  “That’s my point, Dorie.  There is no excuse for what he did.”

“Of course not!  I would have killed him…”  Her voice trails off as she slows down enough to think about what she’s saying.  “I didn’t kill him.  I DID NOT KILL HIM!! I didn’t know he was…and I didn’t kill him!”

“Dorie, calm down.  It’s okay, it’s okay.  He didn’t say you had.  Frankly, I don’t care that John Robert is dead…death comes to all of us inevitably and it just seems like he got what he deserved.  I would like to think that Sara will get the help that she needs and will have family support while she is going through all of this.”

I have stunned her.  She sits there, gaping at us with her mouth hanging open.  She snaps her mouth shut and looks at each of us.

“You don’t care that he’s dead?  But I thought…”

“Thought what, Dorie?”

“That you were…I mean, he wanted…He talked about you to me, you know.”

No I didn’t, and I can’t imagine the discussion.  I don’t think I want to hear this at all, but she is relentless.

“John Robert told me that you were the perfect Pagan, the Goddess Herself here on earth…he thought you were quote exquisite unquote and he wanted very much to celebrate the Great Rite with you.  He told me more than once that he thought you were the perfect woman.”

The rage and pain in her voice is almost more than I can bear and it takes me a moment to understand what she is saying.

Once comprehension hits, I could vomit.

Zeke takes my hand and holds it tightly.  He looks over at John Robert’s widow, who is looking confused.

“Dorie, I guess he didn’t tell you that Mattie had absolutely NO interest in him.  We threw him out of here more than once and he was informed in no uncertain terms that his –ahem- advances were not welcome at all, ever.  There is no way Mattie would have even considered a relationship with him.”

She looks at me and I nod at her.  I am still trying to keep my breakfast down…I am flabbergasted that any man would torment his wife the way John Robert has apparently tortured Dorie…for years.  I thank the Goddess fervently that Zeke is a good man and that he is so good to me.  I resolve to find many ways to let him know how much I do appreciate him…

“Oh.  (she breathes heavily)  Oh.  I didn’t know…”  At least she has the grace to look embarrassed.  “I’m sorry.  I just…well, I just got so tired of hearing…sorry.”

Me too, but I can’t apologize for someone else’s behavior.

What a dreadful life.  No wonder she is so…insubstantial.   He has been eroding her, year by year…bastard.  Death was inevitable, since everything comes back at least threefold and he was overdue for some retribution.

“Anyway.”  She takes a very deep breath.  “I thought Sara was just making a cake for her father.  When I ate the last piece that morning, I had no idea…that she…”  She shrugs.  “She flipped out when she came home and found I had eaten it.  That’s when she took me to the hospital.  She admitted that she had … poisoned it…but that she had thrown it all out except the one piece and she had planned to eat it herself.

“I was appalled to think that she was trying to kill herself and I thought it had to do with Eric and wanting to be with him.  So I didn’t say anything.”

I imagine the police will not be happy with her choice…not that it would have helped with John Robert’s murder since he didn’t die of mistletoe poisoning.

Before I can ask her anything more about Sara, the cake…or Barry Tisdale, Dorie’s cell phone goes off.

She answers it and as she is speaking, she stands up and walks over to the windows, obviously trying to be as alone as she can without walking out.  Zeke and I pretend that we aren’t listening, but it’s quite apparent that it is Mr. Tisdale.

She finally hangs up with a hurried “Ok, I’m on my way.”

“I have to leave.  I need to go home.”  She gathers up her purse and puts the phone in it.  “I’m sorry…about everything.  Please don’t think badly of me…and I understand now why you told the police about Sara.  Thank you.”

She pauses in the doorway.  “Good bye.  And…sorry.”

She flees.  There is no other word for it, she’s moving fast enough it is almost running and she scurries through the door before Zeke or I can stop her.

We watch her go down the walk and climb into a car that is sitting at the curb…driven by John Robert’s business partner.  It pulls away and we stand there, looking down the now empty road.

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