In this scene, Carrie makes another attempt to get Justin to insist on an annulment by spending a lot of his money. Along the way, she runs into Mr. Mitchell (Jake Mitchell who is the hero in An Inconvenient Marriage–before he meets Sue Lewis). The scene ends with Justin walking in on Helen giving Carrie and Mary a very private conversation.
Also, the Clarks I refer to does involve Joanna Clark who was engaged to Jake Mitchell. At this point in time, Joanna Clark was still married to the man she loved instead of Jake. That marriage, of course, didn’t last (as you find out in An Inconvenient Marriage). The Clarks were planning to adopt Ryan until he had the accident and became slightly crippled. In An Inconvenient Marriage, you see Ryan in the Christmas play that Jake Mitchell attended (and he sat next to Justin and Carrie who had adopted Ryan).
This scene also takes place after the book club discussion, so you get a slight reference to that.
(And yes, I’m aware of the errors in this passage, but since it’s the original version, I’m keeping it in. If nothing else, it shows how far I’ve come as I strive to keep improving.) 😀
On the way to the library, a thought occurred to Carrie. One of the things her father and brother praised her on was her ability to be wise with money. Well, Justin probably liked that too since being rich was important to him because it impressed his clients. What man wanted a wife who would foolishly spend a large chunk of his money at one time? Her decision made, she went to the bank.
When she went up to the teller, the young man looked at her as if she was crazy when she requested the amount she wanted to withdraw. “Mrs. Monroe, I can’t give you that much money without your husband’s permission.”
“Why not?” she demanded. If they were married, then that money was as much hers as it was Justin’s.
“Because we have to make sure Mr. Monroe is alright with you taking that money out. Now, if you wish to withdraw a lesser amount, then we can do that for you without asking him about it first.”
She crossed her arms. “What good is being married to him if I can’t take out the amount I want?”
“We are bound by rules and regulations.”
“I don’t care much for your rules and regulations. If I was Mr. Monroe, you would hand me the money without any questions but since I am a woman, you forbid me my rights.”
He sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. “You have to understand that your husband is the primary account holder. If anyone but him withdraws more than a certain amount at one time, we have to have his permission, even if your name is listed on his account.”
“What if I was the primary account holder? What if I opened my own account and had this same amount of money in it? Would I be able to withdraw the amount I want to?”
“Yes but we need your husband’s signature to open an account for you.”
“What?” She couldn’t believe her ears. “What if I wasn’t married?”
“Then we would have your father or brother sign up for the account on your behalf.”
She was getting angrier by the second. “I don’t care very much for that rule.”
He shrugged. “I didn’t make it up. I’m just following it.”
“Fine.” Now she was more determined to spend Justin’s money than she was before. She turned on her heel to leave the bank when Mr. Mitchell stopped her.
“May I have a word with you in my office?” he asked.
“Did I do something wrong?” She wondered why the vice president wished to speak with her. It wasn’t like she created a scene. She merely had a conversation with the teller. Fine. So it was an argument, but she had kept her voice low so no one else noticed.
“No. What I have to discuss with you isn’t related to the teller.”
She debated whether or not she wanted to find out what Mr. Mitchell wanted but decided that she would hear him out since he was one of the few people who actually believed her about Harrison Grant Sr. taking Mr. Parker’s wallet out of his pocket. She nodded and followed him to his office. She sat in the chair across from his.
He left the door open and sat in his seat. “I looked into the situation with Mr. Parker and discovered that Mr. Grant took the wallet as you said. I was wondering if you would be willing to go to the Friday night dance this week? Mr. Grant and his son go there, and I’d like you to keep an eye on both Grants for me. I will be watching them as well but since I missed the pickpocket incident on Monday, I realize I can’t catch everything that they do. I will pay you this amount for your assistance. Of course, Mr. Monroe will be your escort since he’s your husband.”
She looked at the amount that he wrote down. It was a considerable amount in light of the fact that the dance would only be three hours.
“All I need you to do is tell me what you see the Grants doing,” he continued. “I will take care of things as discretely as possible.”
“So you suspect that the Grants are trying to create a monopoly in this town?”
“Yes. Mr. Leroy gave me the job of proving it.”
She would like to see justice done for what happened to her father and the other men who had recently gone bankrupt because of the Grants, so she agreed. “Do I need my husband’s permission to receive the payment?” She motioned to the paper in her hand.
“No. I’m not hiring your husband. I’m hiring you,” he replied with a grin.
At least there was one person on this planet who was treating her as an equal in all of this mess. “Then I will be glad to help.”
When she left the bank, she felt better, but she was still determined to spend Justin’s money, so she went to the furniture store and asked to speak with the manager.
“How may I help you, Mrs. Monroe?” Mr. Evans asked.
“May I purchase some new furniture? I tried to take cash out of my husband’s account at the bank, but I wasn’t able to do that, and I’m tired of looking at my husband’s old furniture.” There was very little appeal in the stuff he had collected and the house would look brighter and warmer if she had her choice in how to decorate it.
“I can put the amount due on his account and bill him,” the man replied.
She sighed with relief. Finally, she was getting somewhere. “Great! I’m ready to redecorate my home.” And she picked out everything that caught her fancy with little regard to the price tag. She even bought a new rocker for Helen since her old one was ready to break, and she bought a bedroom set and high chair for the Clarks on Ryan’s behalf.
Her next stop was to buy sheets for the new beds she had purchased. She also ordered new sheets, blankets, and pillows for the orphanage and the nursing home. Her purchases there, too, were put on Justin’s account. When she was done there, she went to the tailor shop and presented the man there with Justin’s measurements and ordered a complete new wardrobe for him. She knew he preferred dark gray, dark blue and black suits, so she stuck with those colors. Justin obviously didn’t take the time to shop for himself. As an afterthought, she added undergarments to that list. She went to the toy store and bought toys for the orphans. She bought new pots, pans and dishes for Justin’s kitchen since Jim had broken several things when Louis made him nervous. She bought two new horses for Franklin, her stagecoach driver, since the two he had were getting too old to be comfortable pulling stagecoaches anymore. She went to the handyman in town and ordered some minor repairs and improvements to the house to be done. All of the running around she did took up her afternoon, so she wasn’t able to get to the library. She decided she would have to go by and check out the books on Oregon the next day.
Satisfied that she made a good dent in Justin’s bank account from her day of spontaneous spending, she walked back to her home. To her surprise, she saw Mary and Helen walking down the sidewalk.
“Are you feeling better than you did this morning?” Mary asked her once they caught up with her.
“That depends. Is my reputation further tarnished?” she replied.
“Oh, don’t pay people any mind,” Helen told her. “Life’s too short to worry about what others are thinking. It’s what you and Justin think that’s important.”
“Don’t worry about Amy, Amelia and Patricia,” Mary said. “They are going to be too concerned with their own love lives to worry about this morning.”
Carrie sighed. “I suppose you’re right.” She could only hope the talk of her being The Cold Wife would start to die down. If people would get their own lives, it would happen that much sooner.
“We were just on our way to see you since you haven’t been by the nursing home lately,” Helen commented. “You’ve been avoiding me.”
“I’m sorry, Helen.” She was right, so Carrie didn’t deny it.
“I understand why. I’ve been embarrassing you. I won’t do that anymore.”
“I know you didn’t mean any harm in it.” The woman had been a great source of strength for her and Mary after they lost their mothers. Unlike Carrie, Mary had lost her mother when she was sixteen. Carrie considered the fact that she was fortunate to have had the extra years with her parent. “Do you want to come to my house? Neither one of you has seen what I did with the parlor.”
“You fixed up the parlor?” Mary asked, not hiding her surprise.
“It was horrible before. I don’t know why Justin bothered entertaining in there. The whole house needs redecorating.”
“Are you going to do that?” Helen wondered.
“I thought I’d do him a favor,” Carrie softly admitted.
The old woman smiled. “Of course.”
It was obvious that Helen didn’t buy it, but Carrie wasn’t going to argue with her. Let the woman think whatever she wanted to. She couldn’t change people’s minds. They would discover the truth in a week and a half when she was on the train going to Oregon to be with her father.
“I’d like to see what you’ve done with the parlor,” Helen said.
Carrie walked with them to her house and let them in. She suddenly remembered her plan to fix Mary up with Jim. “You know, I believe Jim has finished making one of his pizzas. He usually makes them at this time in the day, and Mary, you missed out on tasting one of his creations at the dinner party on Friday.”
“Jim did make a tasty pizza,” Helen agreed. “You won’t be sorry if you try it.”
Mary nodded. “As long as he has already made it, I’ll be happy to do so. I don’t want him to go out of his way for me.”
“Oh, he loves any excuse to cook, but I can smell that he’s made one of his pizzas already,” Carrie remarked. “It smells like the pineapple and ham one.”
“Good afternoon, Mrs. Monroe,” Geoffrey greeted as he left the kitchen to welcome them. “I was just sampling another pizza. Jim’s quite the sensation around here. Even Louis is helping him today.”
“You’re kidding.” Carrie was shocked to hear this.
“No. Ever since two Fridays ago, they’ve been getting along beautifully. It’s no longer a war zone in the kitchen at dinner time.”
She laughed. “Imagine that. I never thought I’d see the day when they got along. You should have been here on Friday,” she told Mary as they walked to the kitchen. “Louis was ready to kill him.”
“I’m sure it was a sight to see,” Mary replied.
“It’s too bad that awful Mr. Tyndall forced you to go to his dinner party instead.”
“I didn’t mind. I had fun playing billiards.”
“Mary, would you like to get married?” Carrie asked before she opened the kitchen door.
“Yes. I said I did this morning.”
Helen grinned at Mary. “I thought there was more to that Friday than playing the game at Mr. Tyndall’s.”
Carrie didn’t understand what was going on but decided to ignore the exchange. She opened the kitchen door and led them into the room. “You won’t be sorry you came by to sample Jim’s cooking.” She turned to Constance, Louis, and Jim who were laughing as they ate some pizza at the breakfast bar. “Is there enough pizza for us?”
“There is always room for more,” Jim cheerfully said. “I also made a cherry pizza for dessert.”
“He has a wide variety of menu options,” Carrie told Mary. “He’s extremely creative and smart. He’s twenty-four and single too. He’s also fun to be with. He would make a wonderful husband.”
Constance and Louis gave her a startled look.
Jim glanced uneasily at her.
Carrie turned to Jim. “Are those plates for us?” She motioned to the three new plates on the breakfast bar.
“Yes, they are, Mrs. Monroe.” He slowly said her name, emphasizing the Mrs. part of it.
She thought it was odd that he did that but decided to ignore it. As she sat next to her two friends, she told Mary about Jim’s plan to open his own restaurant. “He’s going to be a big success. Once everyone tastes how good his pizzas are, they’ll be coming from all over the state to eat them. Of course, I do what I can to help.”
Jim cleared his throat. “I believe I need to go to the grocery store. Louis, do you have that list of ingredients we’ll need for tonight’s dinner?”
Louis closed his jaw and nodded. “It’s over here.”
Jim eagerly followed the older man to the other side of the kitchen.
“He’s modest,” Carrie told Mary.
Constance took a good look at Carrie. “If you don’t mind my saying so, Mrs. Monroe, you are taking an unusual interest in the cook.”
Carrie blinked in surprise. “Really? I thought everyone knew what I thought of his cooking.”
“Well, they know what you think of his cooking. They just weren’t aware of what you thought of him on a personal level.”
“I wonder why. I never hid the fact that I admire his talents, and he is a good man.”
“But what about Mr. Monroe?” Mary asked.
“What about him?” Carrie asked in return.
“Don’t you think well of him?”
She shrugged. “He’s nice too but I don’t see what that has to do with Jim.”
Jim quickly left the kitchen while Louis and Constance started cleaning the dishes.
“Why did he leave in such a hurry?” Carrie wondered.
“I want those groceries as soon as possible,” Louis explained.
Carrie sighed. She had hoped to tell Jim something about Mary or get a dialogue going between them. She decided she would have to wait for another day to do so. “Alright. I suppose I could show you two the parlor now,” she told Mary and Helen.
The two women nodded and walked with her to the room.
“Carrie, you did a splendid job!” Mary gushed. She turned to Helen. “I see she started her crystal figurine collection.”
“Yes,” Carrie replied. “Aren’t they wonderful? Justin gave me most of them.”
“He did? Wasn’t that thoughtful?” Helen commented.
“It was,” she admitted.
They remained silent for a moment.
Carrie spoke up. “You know, Mary, you might want to seriously consider marriage. If you find a man to your liking, you would make a wonderful wife.”
Mary’s face turned bright red. “I do have someone in mind.”
“I knew it!” Helen snapped her fingers. “I think he’s just as taken with you as you are with him.”
Carrie figured that they had to be talking about Jim. Maybe that was why Jim bolted out of the kitchen. He’s very shy around women he likes. It made perfect sense. It probably didn’t help that they were in a room full of people. Carrie was going to have to arrange it so that she would have Mary over when it was just Jim in the kitchen. Then they could get a chance to talk to each other.
“Do you want to have a seat?” Carrie offered.
They nodded. She sat on the couch. Mary sat next to her and Helen sat in the chair across from them.
“Helen, I’ve been meaning to ask you about a particular topic but didn’t want to discuss it at the nursing home,” Mary slowly began. “It’s a personal issue. Considering the fact that my mother and Carrie’s mother died before they could tell us about it, I thought Carrie might like to discuss it too.”
Carrie glanced at Mary out of curiosity. What was her friend talking about?
“Is it lovemaking?” Helen asked.
The way the old woman just went and blurted it out made Carrie want to jump out of the couch and flee from the room. She felt her cheeks grow hot. What was Mary thinking?
As if to answer her question, Mary turned to her and said, “I thought that if you knew about it, you wouldn’t be afraid to consummate your marriage.”
“That’s why you think I haven’t done it yet?” Carrie asked, bewildered and horrified.
“It’s an unknown. I know I’m nervous about it.”
“But you aren’t married.”
“No, but I hope to be someday, and I’d like to get an idea of what to expect. Wouldn’t you like to know more about it from an experienced woman’s point of view?”
“I don’t know if this is appropriate talk.”
Helen leaned back in her chair. “I don’t consider any topic to be inappropriate. When you get to be my age, you don’t have time for useless small talk. I don’t know how much longer God will grant me so I just come right out and speak my mind. You’ll learn to do the same when you are older. I’d be happy to tell you what I know.”
Carrie wanted the floor to open up and swallow her. Justin could come home at any moment and he’d find them talking about making love. Worse, one of the servants could walk by and overhear them. As Helen gave her answer, Carrie rushed to shut the parlor doors.
“You need to hear this too, Carrie,” Helen said. “This might be the thing you need to finally take that handsome husband of yours to bed with you. So, sit on down and let’s have a real heart to heart. This is interesting.”
Realizing the two women would just stare at her until she did as Helen said, she mutely obeyed the older woman and prayed that she would be done before Justin came home.
“You know, my first time wasn’t all that great,” Helen admitted. “People have a tendency to talk about it as if it’s a life altering event, but the truth is, it’s a natural part of life. It is what you make of it.”
This caught Carrie’s attention. “Well, Judy said that her husband enjoys it a lot more than she does.”
The woman smiled. “I think it’s easier for men to receive the immediate benefit of sexual relations. They’re built that way.”
“Why would God build men to enjoy it more than women? That’s not fair.” Was God on this whole ‘men being more important than women’ thing too?
“No, men don’t enjoy it more than women do. I think men and women enjoy it equally, but for different reasons. Lovemaking isn’t simply the physical act. It’s also an emotional bonding between the husband and wife. It brings two people closer together.”
“Judy said that he got more physical pleasure from it.”
“Well, then she needs to tell him what he can do to make her feel good.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
The woman’s eyebrows furrowed. “Haven’t you ever explored your body to know what you like and don’t like?”
Mary shook her head.
Carrie blushed. “No. It’s wrong.”
“Says who?” Helen wondered.
“The church. We are supposed to be pure.” Carrie replied.
“Hmm…I do recall the church doctrine clearly stating that missionary, that’s man on top, is the only appropriate position.”
“Oh. I didn’t realize that,” Mary commented.
The woman rolled her eyes. “My goodness girls, let’s be reasonable here. All that stuff about not being able to figure out what makes you feel good and the position you do it isn’t based on the Bible at all. Those are man-made rules. God has given us a world of variety and five senses to discover different pleasures. Think about it. When you look at a flowerbed, you see a wide range of colors and smell different aromas. There’s not a single ugly or bad smelling flower out there. They are all beautiful and pleasing but for different reasons. Lovemaking is the same way. I was married for fifty-eight years and can assure you that there are many positions a husband and wife can do and each position feels good for different reasons. As for experiencing an orgasm, I had to discover on my own what to do to make that happen, and then I showed my husband what to do. Men don’t have the same parts that women do, so they don’t know what will make us feel good. You’ll be doing this for yourself as much as for him. He doesn’t know what to do. You have to instruct him. I had to overcome my own feelings of awkwardness in that task but it was well worth it. Why go through years of ‘that was alright’ loving when you can have ‘that was amazing’ loving instead?”
“So you had an orgasm every time?” Carrie asked.
“No, I didn’t. But I did often. You remember what I said about variety. There are different kinds of sex. You can have sex for an orgasm, but some other reasons you can have it are for connecting emotionally, for comfort, for conceiving children, and so on.” She paused as she considered her next statement. “If you want to get more pleasure out of it, then you will have to open your heart to him. You have to allow yourself to be vulnerable. Until you offer yourself completely to him, your pleasure will be limited, physically and emotionally.”
“That makes me feel a lot better,” Mary remarked. “I don’t feel so nervous anymore.”
Helen nodded. “Good. That was my goal. I think you two have terrific men. Mary, I can tell that your love interest cares for you as well.”
“And Carrie,” Helen began, turning to her, “you really don’t give Justin enough credit. He’s very considerate of you. Since he treats you as well as he does outside the bedroom, he’ll treat you just as well in bed too.”
At that moment, Carrie saw the parlor doors open.
“And there’s no reason why you won’t enjoy having loving with him. It can be a lot of fun. You just need to do it,” Helen finished.
Carrie nearly fainted when she saw Justin standing at the door.
“Apparently, I missed a good discussion,” he said.
“Well, I think it’s time for me to take Helen back to the nursing home,” Mary said as she stood up. “It’s nice to see you, Mr. Monroe.”
“Good afternoon, Miss Duff, Mrs. Ritter,” he replied.
She wanted to leave with them but knew she couldn’t since she lived there. She quickly stood up and went to the window and pretended to be interested in straightening the curtain. She shouldn’t have taken her eyes off the window. If she hadn’t, then she would have seen Justin coming and could have avoided the embarrassing situation she was currently in.
He walked over to her. “While I was at work, I got a surprise visit from several store employees who handed me bills for items you purchased earlier today.”
She was so relieved that he decided to ignore the conversation that Helen, she and Mary were having when he arrived that she didn’t mind having to explain the exorbitant amount of money she spent that day.
“Do you realize you spent six months of my salary in a couple of hours?” he asked her.
She was hoping it would be a year’s worth. It didn’t occur to her how much money he made. Wow, he really is rich. Dismissing her observation, she shrugged. “Now you know what a big spender I am. I’m sure you would like to annul this marriage as soon as possible.”
“I did take note of what you spent the money on and you didn’t spend any of it on yourself.”
“Does that matter?”
“Yes, it does because I can claim the orphanage and nursing home gifts on my taxes next year. You just gave me a good-sized deduction.”
She had no idea what he was talking about.
“When you donate items to non-profit organizations, you end up having to pay less in taxes,” he explained. “You actually did me a favor without realizing it.”
She frowned. How was she supposed to upset him when he insisted on looking at the bright side of everything she did? She tried another tactic. “Well, next time I may spend all that money on myself.”
“I’d like to see you try,” he said. “It would take a lot of dresses and jewelry to equal that amount.”
He got her there. She had all the dresses and jewelry that she needed.
“So,” he continued, “to say thank you, I’m taking you out to eat at any place you choose.”
The last thing she needed was a reward. “Isn’t there anything that annoys you?” she finally asked.
“Of course there is but I’m not going to tell you what it is because you’ll do it. I know you’re only doing these things so I’ll force you out of here.” He put his arm around her and glanced out the window. “It is a nice day for a walk. We could even go see Ryan and take him to the park. I bet if I kissed you, he would laugh again.”
She was tempted to take him up on his offer. She knew that Ryan was better off in a home with adopted parents, but she was going to miss him when he left the orphanage. She shook her head. “You’ll use anyone or anything to try to convince me to stay with you, won’t you?”
“I love you, Carrie, and if you think I’m just going to run off to a corner and watch you leave me at the end of the month, you’ve got another thing coming.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“Deadly.” He kissed the top of her head. “You smell good.”
She groaned so he wouldn’t know she was enjoying being this close to him. “Fine. I’ll go to dinner with you.” She stepped away from him before she did something she’d regret, like kiss him. “Oh, before I forget, Mr. Mitchell wants me to watch the Grants at the dance this Friday night, so clear your calendar for it.”
“Is this because of the Parker incident?”
“You know about that?”
“I knew you were right about it.”
“Anyway, he’s paying me to do it, so as you can see, I can make my own way in this world if I wanted to.”
“I know you can. I just hope you choose to stay with me instead.”
“I suppose you’ll want me to give you the money I’ll make to pay you back for all the purchases I made today?”
He shrugged. “No. You can use it for whatever you want.”
She didn’t hide her surprise. “Really?”
“I also noticed your purchases today included things for me and this house. Which reminds me…Why did you order new bedroom furniture sets?”
“I decided the time period themes weren’t suitable for a woman. Each room looks like a museum instead of an actual bedroom. I figure that fall, winter, spring and summer themes will work much better. I hope you don’t mind all the frilly curtains and bed sheets.”
“Then explain the Christmas and Easter bedroom sets you bought.”
“There are only four seasons and you have six bedrooms, so I had to choose two popular holidays to go with. Children will like Christmas and Easter the most.”
He grinned. “Children? Whose children are going to be in those rooms?”
She stopped herself from saying theirs. She didn’t realize that she was subconsciously thinking such a thing when she made her purchases.
“I caught you, Mrs. Monroe. You do want to be in this marriage, even if you can’t admit it yet,” he noted.
“I do not.” She couldn’t. “Perhaps I am thinking of your next wife and what she’ll want.”
“Uh huh.” He clearly didn’t believe her. “And what if she would rather have the time period themes instead?”
“Then that will be her problem. She can go out and do her own shopping to change it back, but I won’t do it for her.” She didn’t know why the thought of him with another woman bothered her as much as it did. She refused to dwell on it. “Are we going to eat or what?”
“Sure thing, Mrs. Monroe. Oops. I mean, Miss Allen. Who knows? Maybe I’ll find the next Mrs. Monroe at the restaurant.”
She almost tripped him with her foot as he walked past her. How dare he even think of looking for someone else? She shook her head. What was she doing?
“Are you coming?” He waited for her at the parlor doors.
“Yes, I’m coming.” She reluctantly followed him out of the room.