Martha Chadwick sashayed into the library of her grand home on 3rd Street in Old City as if she were the Queen of England. The three-story brick colonial with large airy rooms complete with fireplaces, exposed brick and a plethora of amenities to make life comfortable for her and her husband, acted as her sanctuary. Many of the rooms, unused even when the house sheltered her children, had been updated every few years whether they needed it or not.
“The house has a personality,” she’d say to her husband who gave in to her desires when it came to decorating, “and when you change one room, the others need to change, too.”
Outside, the plaque hung on the brick front stating that the home, more than 250 years old, predated the Revolutionary War. Tourists and locals alike walked by in awe and Martha relished in their admiration.
Research proved that the home once belonged to a wealthy British American clan until about 100 years ago when they sold it to a group who turned it into an American Legion Hall. In the late 1970s, new owners converted it back to a residential structure with apartments, and then a few years later, they put it for sale on the market at a grand price, which Martha and her husband willingly paid. They were starting out back then, and she was pregnant with their second child. Too bad the real estate market crashed in recent years, and the home was valued less than they paid for it. She had no plans to sell the grand home, so it didn’t matter.
Martha loved everything about her handsome home, from the antiques that furnished it, to the large windows that let in the light in the daytime and provided a picturesque view of the city at nighttime, especially from the upper floors. Yet, as much as she loved it, it felt lonely at times, now that their two children, a perfect boy and girl, a rich man’s family as it was also known, were grown and gone. Their portraits, painted by one of the city’s finest artists hung above the fireplace in the grand living room, and it was hard to walk by without smiling no matter what her mood. Her son and daughter both lived in California now, Bobby, a movie producer, and Melanie, an artist, enjoying the laid-back Southern California lifestyle. Bobby did well financially, but Melanie would call a few times a year and ask for money. Proud of both her children, Martha kept Melanie’s money situation hushed, even from her husband. That was OK. Her children deserved anything they wanted. After all, they gave her no trouble growing up, achieved excellent grades from the finest area schools, and aside from their distance in miles, stayed close to her and her husband. What more could a parent ask for?
The home felt lonelier still now that her husband became accustomed to working round the clock. Their law firm was not doing as much business as they once did in this chilling economy. The layoffs of much of the staff created more work for those who remained. Life was not fair sometimes, Martha thought. This should be the golden time of their life when they get to enjoy each other and their fortune. However, her husband would never consider retirement. His work, an alluring mistress, had become a bigger problem for her than if he had another woman on the side like most men of his stature. Martha believed another woman would be easier to fight.
The end of the week arrived, and they had a glorious weekend planned. A visit to their country house on the Chesapeake Bay would be what they both needed. She had the bags packed by the door, and they would be on their way as soon as he came home from the office.
While flipping through the mail, her cell phone rang, and she knew it was her husband and he had a situation. Most likely he would be late again, and they would not get on the road as early as she had hoped.
“Tell me you’ll be coming home soon,” she said without even saying hello. After all the years of marriage, those little niceties were gone from both of them.
“I’m afraid the situation is worse than that, Martha,” he said. “I have to prepare for a hearing on Tuesday morning, a last minute case, and I won’t be able to go at all.”
“No,” Martha said, feeling disappointed once again. “Can’t you bring your paperwork with you and work there?”
“We’re preparing witnesses all weekend. I think you should still go, though. Grab one of those DIH friends of yours and have a ladies weekend.”
Martha sighed. No chance that would happen without plenty of advanced notice, and although she hated missing another weekend on the bay, she would have to accept it. She hung up angry, as she did plenty these days, and sat at her desk as her eyes filled at tears. An entire weekend with nothing to do might please many women, but she was not one of them. How would she fill the endless hours ahead?
She knew what she wanted to do, but fought off the temptation. The last time she engaged in her guilty pleasure, she swore it would be the last. It would be too difficult to explain the missing funds if she caved in once more. As she glanced in the mirror above her desk, her seventy-something year old face looked tired, and she knew what she had to do. There were new lines that needed care and she would act now, deal with the problem directly, and fix them. That would make her feel better, and she deserved it.
She dialed the phone and secured her suite at the Ritz Carlton knowing her doctor would make an emergency house call if she required. Then the icing on the cake was she would not be spotted going into the doctor’s office, and she could continue to be very vague about plastic surgery and other procedures. It would be an expensive weekend but she would worry about that on Sunday, when she would also decide how she could hide the costs of her extravagance since the doctor would likely charge double for a last minute appointment. Then there would be the cost of other spa treatments she’d need during the weekend, all in the privacy of her suite at the Ritz Carlton. Her husband would not be happy about it, but she would find a lie that would work or at least make him feel guilty for abandoning her. It became harder to explain spending that much cash, but she needed more when she felt ignored. She managed to work it out in the end leaving him none the wiser.
Then she spotted the DIH checkbook in her handbag. She could get away with this just once, as she did last year. She could explain the missing money to them much easier than she could to her husband. He would just say the hurtful words he’d said before, that she was addicted to plastic surgery. That wasn’t true. Still, it was not right to use the club’s money, but if anyone deserved a little reward like this, she did, after the endless hours she volunteered to the DIH, taking care of the littlest details to please everyone. Besides, she would pay it back down the road. She had before. This was the way to keep her sanity, she reasoned. There was no need to leave a note for her husband about her staying at a hotel in the city. He would assume she went to the Chesapeake house, and he would think it was frivolous and unnecessary to sleep away from home in the same city in which she lived. Soon after finalizing her plans, and securing the doctor’s time, she found her smile again.