Here’s another scene from the original version of The Cold Wife. I’ll discuss this one in tomorrow’s post.
This actually comes in two parts:
Justin decided to try something else. “Carrie, you’re right about me putting work before you. That’s going to change.”
She didn’t respond.
He realized she needed proof in order to believe him, so he would offer something tangible she could hold onto. “Give me a place to be and a time to be there and I’ll show up.”
Her eyebrows furrowed.
“I can’t show you that you are first in my life unless you let me.”
“It won’t change my mind. I’m not going to go through yesterday again.”
“You won’t. I promise.”
She looked like she was ready to protest when she suddenly smiled. It wasn’t a happy smile. It was a smile of someone who was up to something sneaky. “Alright. I’m going to my book club meeting Wednesday at ten o’clock. Care to join me?”
“Yes. I will.”
“Maybe you should ask me what the book we’ll be discussing is called before you commit yourself to it.”
He shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. The important thing is that I’ll be with you.”
“The book is called An End to Male Oppression by Natalie Greenwood. I chose the book when I learned of our engagement.”
“You’ll have to read the book if you plan to attend.”
“Can I read your copy?”
“No. You’ll have to either go to the library or go to the bookstore for your own book. I made some unflattering comments in the margins of the book that reflect my current predicament.”
“Are you sure you won’t let me read your copy? I’m sure it’ll be more entertaining than a clean copy.”
“Believe me. You wouldn’t like to read what I wrote.”
“Why spare me the misery? It might get me to agree to the annulment if I knew just how terrible you think I am.”
“I want you to pick it up so the salesman or librarian knows you’re going to read it.”
“Alright. I’ll even tell the salesman why I’m picking it up.”
She appeared apprehensive.
“Is that a problem?” he innocently wondered. He knew the rumors that were going on around her. People referred to her as The Cold Wife, and this would only add fuel to the fire.
She took a deep breath. “No. There’s no problem at all.”
He could tell that she was lying. She didn’t like the gossip anymore than he did. “Great. I’ll pick up a copy bright and early tomorrow morning.”
Here’s Part 2
Justin arrived at Mary’s house for the book club meeting. After the butler showed him to the parlor which was decorated to her father’s liking, he sat on one of the couches. He hoped that Carrie would sit next to him.
Mary walked into the parlor with the book in her hands. She laughed. “Carrie said you were coming but I didn’t believe it. This is a horrible book.”
He grinned as he stood up. “At least I know someone will agree with me today.”
“I am surprised you came. You certainly have a lot of courage. Carrie made sure to invite a couple of women who don’t think very well of men. You’re going to need to remember that when they give you a hard time.”
“I expected that to be the case.” He appreciated Mary’s warning. He could understand why his uncle found her appealing. “It was nice of you to bring my uncle lunch on Sunday. Sometimes he gets so caught up in work, he doesn’t remember to eat.”
“It was nothing. I know that you and your uncle are under a lot of pressure with the Grants doing everything they can to wipe out their competitors. You’ll have to forgive Carrie for not understanding how things are in your line of work. She grew up with a father who had a nine to five job and stayed home every night. He attended dinner parties, but clients didn’t dictate how he did things. I explained to her that your work is a lot like my father’s. I’ve gone to a couple of meetings with him and I saw how demanding some of the men were. It’s hard to please everyone.”
The doorbell chimed.
“Are you ready for a rough hour?” she asked.
“I’ve been to worse things than this.”
She nodded and went to greet the women as they arrived. He didn’t recognize Amelia and Patricia Crawford or Amy Rose. Carrie was the last to arrive and he welcomed her with a big hug and a smile.
“I can’t believe you came,” she said.
“Of course, I came,” he replied. He sat down and patted the seat next to him. “I saved a place for you.”
“Trying to butter her up so she won’t tell us how you men really are?” Amelia folded her arms and glared at him from her chair.
“Now, let’s be civil,” Mary stated as she sat in her own chair. “It certainly is commendable for him to come here in the middle of a work day.”
Patricia and Amy sat on the other couch.
“Did you actually read the book?” Patricia asked him.
“I did,” he replied. “The author condemns women for staying home, having children and loving their husbands.”
Carrie spoke up. “I guess that’s one way of looking at it, but what I got out of it is that she’s telling women that they have the freedom to choose what course of action they should take in life.”
Amelia nodded. “Exactly. That was well said, Carrie.”
“I suppose you think it’s wrong for a woman to actually have a choice,” Amy huffed at him.
The maid brought in two trays of food. Mary looked relieved by the distraction. “I had the chef prepare shrimp cocktail, a fruit pastry and finger sandwiches for this occasion. Please help yourself to some cider too.”
“Wow,” Justin began, “I had no idea a book club meeting would involve food. This is nice. Thank you, Mary.”
“Hmm…” Amy seemed to consider her words before she spoke. “Is that why you came? To eat the goodies?”
He already didn’t like the atmosphere in the room, but considering the book they were discussing, he realized it was par for the course. “No. I came here because my wife asked me to be here.”
Mary smiled. “Well, it’s nice that you did.” Turning to the other women, she asked, “You’re familiar with Mr. Monroe of the Monroe Investing Firm?”
“Yes,” Amy responded. “We’re also aware of how he conspired with Mr. Allen and the other Mr. Monroe to force Carrie into a marriage she desperately wished to avoid.”
Carrie cleared her throat. “To be fair, Justin wasn’t a part of that arrangement. He was told I wished for the marriage. It wasn’t until after we were married that he learned the truth. But anyway, we’re not here to discuss that. We’re here to discuss this book. So, what did everyone think of it?”
Justin wondered why she felt the need to clarify how they got married to the other women. He assumed that she wanted them to believe the worst about him. Whatever her reason was, he thought it was nice of her to do that.
When no one said anything, she continued, “I confess that I haven’t read this type of book before, so I can’t compare it to similar literature. I think it was well written. The author certainly took the time to provide examples from her life to back up her claim that women should be given more choices.”
“Well, it’s only reinforced what I’ve been thinking all along,” Amelia said as she helped herself to the fruit pastry. “The author, Natalie Greenwood, did an excellent job of explaining why men feel the need to force women to stay home. Lord forbid they should actually let women into the workplace. A woman can do a job as well as a man can.”
“God gave us intelligence too,” Amy agreed. “It seems that society is opposed to a woman displaying that intelligence.”
“Don’t Mrs. Parker, Mrs. Henderson and Mrs. Wilcox have their own businesses?” Justin asked.
“Dress making and catering,” Patricia responded. “Those are chores a woman is already familiar with. What about the more challenging jobs?”
“Like jobs that require mental acuity,” Amy added.
“Well, my father lets me do his bookkeeping and paperwork when the demand gets to be too much,” Mary replied.
“But do you get paid?”
“Why should I? He’s already been generous with what he’s given me. He does provide for me though I am an adult.”
“If you were to do those tasks for someone else, you would be paid. You deserve to be compensated for your work.”
“I am. My father takes good care of me.”
“Wouldn’t you be happier on your own?”
“No. I would be lonely.”
“You’re almost twenty-five. Do you plan to live with your father forever?” Patricia wondered.
“Of course not,” Mary answered. “I hope to get married.”
“And spend your life chained to yet another man?” Amy pressed.
Mary looked as if she wanted to bolt from the room.
“I believe the book is about the freedom for a woman to choose her own path in life,” Carrie quickly spoke up. “If a woman wants to marry, then that’s her right. If she chooses to stay single, that’s her right too. Natalie was trying to express how important that fundamental right to choose is for a woman.”
“Exactly,” Amelia agreed. “That is an excellent point, Carrie. We can all respect your desire to get an annulment when the month is up. At least then, you’ll get to make your own choices again.”
Patricia looked at him. “If you were a real gentleman, you would let her out of the marriage now instead of making her suffer for the next week and a half.”
“Well, I’m not suffering,” Carrie softly remarked. In a louder voice, she said, “Anyway, we are here to talk about the book. What did everyone think?”
“I liked it,” Amelia said.
“Me too,” Patricia and Amy agreed.
“Well, I didn’t like it,” Mary stated. “I mean, I do feel sorry for Natalie, but she does men a disservice by saying they’re all bad.”
Amelia turned to him. “Let’s get a male viewpoint of this book. What do you think of it?”
He shifted uncomfortably in his seat, aware that Carrie was sitting next to him. What was he thinking when he agreed to come here? “I admit that I don’t think the author was fair, but since it was geared to turn other women against men, then she certainly did a good job of convincing women why they need to remain single. If I was a woman, I’d probably swear off men altogether, but in light of the fact that I’m a man, it’s a little difficult for me to do that.”
“Granted, that would be the case,” Patricia consented. “But do you understand why it’s difficult to be a woman?”
“Not really,” he honestly replied. “It’s stressful to be a man too.”
“But you get the freedom to work and make something of yourself. Meanwhile, Carrie has to fade into the background and suffer a life of monotony. She isn’t allowed to expand her horizons and pursue her goals.”
He was beginning to get upset. Fade into the background? Suffer a life of monotony? Is that what women thought of marriage? “So, none of you are married?” he asked, looking at the three women he hadn’t known until that morning.
“Goodness no,” Amelia said. “I wouldn’t want to be trapped in such a prison.”
“We want the freedom to work,” Patricia agreed. “As soon as I turn nineteen, I’m moving out of my parents’ home and finding my own place and my own job. Then I’ll know real liberation.”
“How old are you?” He examined them, realizing that their makeup made them appear older than they were. When he discovered that they were eighteen, nineteen and twenty-one, he asked, “Have any of you had a chance to work?”
“No,” Amy answered. “Our fathers want to marry us off, though we have stood our ground and refused any offers at courtship.”
“That’s a shame.”
“What do you mean?”
“Speaking as a man, it’s hard enough to find a good woman to marry. The last thing men need is a book encouraging wonderful women to stay single.”
“That’s easy for you to say since you enjoy a life outside the home. You have your independence. I notice that Carrie doesn’t have a job outside the home.”
“She hasn’t mentioned that she’s wanted one. As far as I can tell, she’s happiest when she’s visiting friends and going to the nursing home and orphanage.”
“Where are you going with this?” Carrie asked him.
He was too upset to answer her, so he continued talking to the other women instead. “I believe the author referred to work as ‘that liberating place where men are free to pursue their dreams while their wives are forced into bondage at home, degraded to caring for his noisy, messy and snotty kids because men think women can do nothing of importance.’ Not that I believe that kind of thing but I’m just quoting the author, so you can be assured that I actually did read the book. Yes, I think it’s a shame that Natalie endured cruel treatment from her husband who beat her, but most men aren’t like that. How many of you had fathers who beat your mothers?”
No one said anything, which only proved his point.
He continued, “You think that taking care of the elderly or orphans aren’t important because it doesn’t require book smarts? Granted, Carrie doesn’t get paid for doing those things, but I’ve seen her in action, and she does a better job than some men do at work they are paid for. As for thinking that men experience total freedom in the workplace, I’ll let you in on a secret. My life is dictated for me by clients who can make unreasonable demands, and I can lose money if I fail to go along with them or lose the love of my life because I do go along with them. Most of the time, it’s stressful, but the hope of being with Carrie at the end of the day is what gets me through the rough times. Do you realize that one of the reasons I work as hard as I do is to provide a good home for my wife? Men work to support their families because they love their wife and children. Work isn’t simply a place for men to be ‘kings of their own world,’ as the author puts it. It’s a way of providing for others.”
“Then work isn’t fun?” Amy wondered.
“Parts of my job are fun. I do enjoy dinner parties and working with investments, but none of it means anything unless there is someone to share my life with.”
Amelia studied him. “So what is your view on having children?”
“I want them. I don’t think the author is correct when she says that children trap a woman to the home. I understand she said that because she stayed in the abusive relationship with her husband because she couldn’t take her children with her if she left him. But she can’t apply that same reasoning to a woman who’s with a man who takes good care of her and their children. My parents died when I was two and my uncle wasn’t married, so I didn’t have a mother figure around when I was growing up. My uncle did an excellent job of raising me, but there are fundamental differences between men and women and one of those differences is that women are more caring and nurturing than men are. When a child is sick or hurting, he wants a mother to take care of him. Men can’t do everything. They need women.”
“Is that why you are forcing Carrie into staying with you for a month until she can get the annulment?”
“Or is it because you’re being selfish?” Amelia inserted.
He sighed. “Fine. I’m being selfish. I love her. I’ve been in love with her since I first saw her. She was pretty back then and as the years have gone by, she’s gotten more beautiful. I’m friends with her brother and I learned about her from him. I was too shy to act on my feelings, and my lack of experience with women didn’t help. I assumed that she would marry someone who had the courage to speak to her. I thought I was going to end up like my uncle. So when I found out that the marriage had been arranged between us, I jumped at the chance to marry her. I mean, look at her. What man wouldn’t be thrilled to marry her?”
Carrie’s face turned bright red.
He thought over his next words. “She did tell me that she wanted out of the marriage after the wedding.” He shrugged. “I thought if she got a chance to know me that she might want to stay with me. I couldn’t just give her up without trying to win her love.”
To his surprise, Amelia put her hand to her heart and smiled at him. “I have misjudged you, Mr. Monroe. You do honestly love Carrie.”
“Why do you want an annulment?” Amy asked her. “You have the real thing.”
“Hold onto him,” Patricia agreed. “Mr. Monroe, I apologize for my harsh words. You’re right. This is a horrible book. Shame on you, Carrie, for making him and us read it.”
Carrie looked startled.
“Helen Ritter is right. You need to consummate your marriage,” Amelia agreed. “The poor man has been very patient with you.” She looked at Patricia and Amy. “I don’t know about you, but I’m going to find my beloved Samuel and tell him I’ll marry him!”
“We should find John and Kenneth and make things right with them,” Amy told Patricia.
“Thank you for showing us that men can be good,” Amy told Justin.
Patricia shook her head at Carrie before she followed her two friends out of the house.
Carrie frowned at Justin. “You just turned them against me.”
He didn’t understand what the problem was. “I just told them what I thought about the book.”’
“No. You humiliated me!”
“Now they’re going to tell everyone that I’m being unreasonable. Everyone is going to feel sorry for you.”
“Carrie, I think you’re blowing this out of proportion,” Mary cautiously inserted. “All he did was profess his love for you.”
“And you don’t see how that makes me look?” Carrie asked her.
“It makes you look like you’re lucky to have him.”
“My whole life has been falling apart ever since my father went bankrupt and this just adds insult to injury.”
“I don’t understand you at all. Anyone else would have been touched by what he said.”
“You know what? I’m in the room,” he interrupted them. “I believe this meeting is over. I have to get back to work where I can experience great freedom and pursue all my dreams.” He angrily walked out of the house.