Dad wants me to marry a girl I’ve never met. His life depends on it.
“They all ought to be tossed out on their own as soon as they reach the age of majority,” he declared loudly and often. “Let ‘em sink or swim.”
Knowing that, it still came as quite a shock when Dad turned me out of the house with not much more than the clothes on my back on the day after I turned 18. I’d just graduated from high school the week before.
“Why? What have I done wrong?” I asked him.
“You haven’t done anything wrong,” he replied. “I’ve just decided to practice what I preach. Please understand it’s nothing personal. I’d like to see what kind of man this makes out of you.”
“This is kind of sudden, Dad,” I said. “What about my college plans?”
“Figure it out for yourself. Just assume that I died suddenly and left you penniless.”
“What does Mom think about this?”
“I think you’ll discover your mother agrees with me completely on this so it’ll be a waste of time to go crying to her.”
Well, Mom didn’t really agree with Dad on this. She just didn’t argue with him which she knew would be pointless. She slipped me some cash Dad didn’t know about along with a telephone number of a personal contact. I still had to give up plans to attend the university I’d been accepted to.
I got a job through Mom’s friend, rented a two bedroom apartment with three other guys and enrolled in the local junior college. I had zero contact with my father. It was okay if I never saw him again as far as I was concerned.
Mom called me a couple of months later and advised me to beg, borrow and steal whatever money I could drum up and invest in a particular stock. It was obvious she had some inside information learned from her influential social circle but I wasn’t about to rat her out to the Securities and Exchange Commission. She even hocked a bunch of her jewelry so I’d have plenty of money to invest. I did pretty well by that information and was able to pay her back so she could get her jewelry out of hock. I didn’t suddenly start living it up though. I began to seriously study the stock market and found I had a talent for picking undervalued stocks. I reinvested my profits and continued to live a Spartan existence. Also, Mom continued to send me stock tips whenever she could so that helped, too. Fast forward two years. I received a call from my mother.
“Your father wants you over to the house,” Mom said when I answered the phone.
“That’s a surprise. What’s the occasion?”
“I don’t know. He’s being very mysterious, but he says it’s important and the sooner the better.”
“Do you think I should accept?”
“I don’t see the harm in listening to what he has to say. Maybe it’s good news. I’d love to see you back home.”
“In that case I’d be more than happy to accept.”
Dad greeted me as if he really missed me when I arrived yet he seemed kind of nervous. I probably wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t been around for a while but this was a marked change from his usual self confident aura.
“I’m really proud of what you’ve accomplished, Vic.”
“I really haven’t accomplished anything, Dad, other than to support myself.”
“Well, that’s an accomplishment in itself in this day and age. For a while I thought your mother was somehow supporting you on the sly, but I would have found out if she did.” I wondered if he’d been having me spied on. I was glad I kept a low profile; very little social life and no girlfriend.
“I think it’s time I brought you into the company, son.”
“I still want to get my degree, Dad.”
“You don’t need no stinkin’ degree when you have an executive position waiting for you in the family business. There’s money to be made and I’ll show you how to make it. Of course, the work is hard and the hours are long but the rewards are well worth the effort.” Well, this was a change of heart. Dad was of the opinion that bringing me into the company was outright nepotism which he thoroughly disapproved of unless I had proven myself elsewhere first. I wondered if he was ill.
“I’ll certainly consider it,” I replied. I didn’t really want to work for my dad. He was a total jerk in my opinion. With my own fortune, I wouldn’t have to work for anyone.
“What’s to consider?” He took a long pull on his drink and then said, “Come into the study. There’s something I want to discuss with you in private.” I shrugged my shoulders and looked at Mom. She responded by shrugging her shoulders, too. I followed Dad into the study and closed the door behind me.
“What I have to say has to stay private between the two of us,” Dad said. “Agreed?”
“Agreed.” He picked up a black and white photograph up off his desk and handed it to me. It was a picture of a young and beautiful woman.
“She’s gorgeous,” I said. “I think I’m in love.” Dad smiled at that.
“She looks even better in person. Her name is Ana and she’s 19 years old; a daughter of a wealthy Mexican client. Not only is she gorgeous, but she’s smart and charming also. She speaks five languages fluently. Any man would be lucky to have her as a wife.”
“You want me to meet her?”
“I want you to marry her.”
“You want me to what? Uh, I haven’t even met the girl, Dad.” She was a beauty all right but what if we didn’t get along? I wasn’t ready to settle down anyway.
“You’ll meet her as early as tomorrow. You’ll be a married man by this time next week. Where are you going?”
“I’m leaving and I’m not coming back.”
“This is matter of life and death, son.” He sounded panicky.
“Whose life, Dad? You better stop dancing around and start being straight with me.”
“I, uh…had a brief affair with Ana on a recent business trip to Mexico. She’s carrying my child. Her father was about to have me tossed into a vat of acid when he found out. The only thing that saved my life was me agreeing to this match.” I nodded my head. It began to make sense.
“Well, I didn’t agree to anything.”
“He’ll have me killed if you don’t go through with this. He’s a man of his word.”
“Money talks. Pay him off.”
“He’s not interested in money. He has plenty of wealth. He’s interested in his sense of honor and saving face.”
“So, in order to save your ass, I have to marry some bimbo who doesn’t know the word ‘no’ in five languages and raise your bastard as my own?”
“You won’t regret it. You’ll be well compensated.”
“But you’ve always preached that a man has to take responsibility for his actions. And I know you’re a man who practices what he preaches. Don’t take this personally, but I think you won’t have me to rely on.”
“Just assume I died suddenly and left you childless.”
“Goddammit! This isn’t funny!”
“I’m not trying to be funny.”
“I’ll make sure you don’t get a dime of my money.”
“Take your money and shove it! I’ve found I can get along quite well without it.”
“What the heck is going on here?” Mom was standing at the open door looking at us. We’d been raising our voices and that attracted her attention.
“We’re having a private discussion, dear,” Dad said. Mom looked at me. I shrugged my shoulders.
“I’m pledged to secrecy, Mom. I’m leaving anyway.”
“Talk to him,” Dad exclaimed.
“Talk to him about what?”
“Go ahead and tell her, please, Vic.” He seemed resigned.
“Your husband knocked up a client’s daughter and I have to marry her so her father doesn’t have him tossed into a vat of acid.”
“And just when was I supposed to be told about this,” Mom asked.
“After everything had been agreed to,” Dad replied.
“I wasn’t to have any say in the matter while you ruined our son’s future?”
“I assumed your agreement. I don’t think you would have thought otherwise given the consequences.”
“Oh, I don’t know. I think I’m beginning to like the idea of being a rich widow.” Dad looked stricken.
“Even my wife is against me!”
“Don’t worry about being cut out of the will, Victor. Everything goes to me anyway.”
“You two are talking like I’m already dead,” Dad screamed.
“You made your choices, dear. Victor and I have made our choices.”
“The company won’t be worth a dime without me.”
“I’m not naïve, dear. I know I can sell it for quite a lot based on the existing contracts the company has.” Dad sat down and covered his face with his hands.
“I might as well blow my brains out to get it over with.”
“Could you do it outside? Then I won’t have to ask the housekeeper to clean up the blood and brain splatter.”
“Too bad you can’t run the company yourself, Mom.”
“Oh, I think I could do it and quite well, too.”
“You were a cocktail waitress when we met.”
“I was working as a cocktail waitress when we met. I was also a fulltime student finishing up my business degree. You seem to have forgotten that part. You also seem to have forgotten about me helping you out in the early years of the business. And don’t think I don’t have my sources within the company that keep me up to date on what’s going on.” The poor man looked as if he was in shock. My dad wasn’t used to not getting his way and it was going to cost him his life.
“I’ll marry Ana and join the company,” I said.
“That’s great,” Dad shouted. He was grinning from ear to ear. Mom didn’t look too happy.
“So you’re going to sacrifice your future in order to save your father’s life, Victor. That’s very commendable. What happens the next time your father knocks up another girl? We don’t have another son to save his worthless hide.”
“That will never happen,” Dad swore. “I’ve learned my lesson.”
“Well, I do have an important condition,” I said. “And it’s a non-negotiable take it or leave it proposition.”
“Mom will take over the company’s operations. You and I will be working for her.”
Mom liked the idea. Dad ranted and raved and claimed it couldn’t be done. My parents were the sole stockholders so that was bullshit. I reminded him there was a vat of acid waiting for him if he refused. We called in the company lawyer to get the agreement prepared and Mom called another lawyer to review the other lawyer’s work to check for loopholes.
Mom and I wanted to wait until everything was signed, sealed and delivered before meeting Ana and her family. Dad claimed there wasn’t any time. Ana’s father wanted to meet me right away.
“Don’t worry,” Dad said. “I’m going to sign the damned contract. I mean, what choice do I have?”
The contract arrived the very day I was to meet Ana. Dad immediately found fault with the wording even though both lawyers had approved it.
“Your mother and I will discuss it further while you’re on your honeymoon.”
“Your father won’t sign that contract once you’re safely married to this girl,” Mom told me privately. “He’s counting on your relationship not to let him get hurt.”
“I shouldn’t have given in so easily. I guess I screwed up.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I’ll think of something.”
Our guests arrived. Ana’s father, Mr. Gomez, was shown into the study where Dad and I were waiting. Mr. Gomez was accompanied by a giant who looked like he’d feel right at home in a professional wrestling ring. Mom was tasked with entertaining Ana and her mother. Mr. Gomez shook hands with me and ignored Dad.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir,” I said. I didn’t feel that way but formalities must be observed. He didn’t respond in kind nor did he smile. He also didn’t waste any time.
“You are to marry my daughter. Are you aware of the circumstances behind this union?”
“I am aware of the circumstances and my mother and I are deeply embarrassed by my father’s irresponsible behavior. I offer my sincerest apologies on behalf of my mother and myself.” Mr. Gomez nodded. I could feel Dad’s glare on me but he remained silent.
“Are you prepared to marry my daughter without delay and without reservation?”
“Well, there is a cause for delay but I assure you the cause isn’t of my doing.”
“My father agreed—
“Now just one minute,” Dad interrupted.
“Shut up!” my future father in law shouted. The giant bodyguard made a rumbling sound and Dad shut up.
“My father agreed to certain management changes in the company in order that my mother’s interests are protected from any of his reckless behavior in the future. He’s hesitant to sign it now and I fear he won’t sign once I’m married to your daughter.”
“Where is this agreement now?”
“On top of the desk.” Mr. Gomez nodded.
“Which is your signature hand, my friend,” he asked Dad.
“Uh, my right?”
“You had better be certain because my associate will break every bone in your left hand if you haven’t signed that document within the next half minute. He will leave your right hand alone but he will start on other bones after that.”
“Twenty-five seconds.” Dad’s eyes were full of reproach, but I just raised my hands palms up in a helpless gesture. He reached for a pen on his desk and signed.
“Will you please witness his signature?”
“I will be pleased to do so. You will let me know if he tries to dispute this agreement.”
“I’ll do that. I guess I’m now ready to meet your daughter, but may I ask you a question?”
“How does your daughter feel about marrying a man she’s never met?”
“You may ask her yourself when you meet. In any event, whatever she has to say won’t stop this marriage.” I shrugged my shoulders and led them out to the living room to meet my fiancée.
Dad was right. Ana did look better in person, a lot better. A brunette beauty, she was about 5’6” in height. In her 3” heels she could look me straight in the eye which she only did for an instant; deep brown eyes full of sadness. Her eyes remained fixed on the floor after that. Ana didn’t offer me a smile when we were introduced. I knew right away none of this marriage business was by her choice. Ana was dressed stylishly but conservatively. That outfit couldn’t hide a very sexy body though. There weren’t any outward signs of pregnancy yet.
“May I speak to you in private, please?” She had a soft melodic voice.
“Wait until you are married,” her father snapped.
“The damage has been done, Father. What can he do that will make things worse? I will speak to this man in private.” Ana seemed defiant despite her predicament. This was a woman used to getting her way. They had a staring contest for a while and I guess Daddy blinked.
“Don’t go far,” he said finally.
“We can talk in the study,” I suggested, “and keep the door unlocked.”
“Very well,” said Mr. Gomez. I handed Mom the signed contract and led Ana to the study. As soon as I closed the door she began to speak.
“We were attending a fiesta and I was having my first taste of alcohol; real French Champagne. I felt so grown up. I drank more than I should have and began to flirt with your father, teasing him actually. I can only blame the alcohol because I was never attracted to him previously. We found ourselves alone and then one thing led to another. I woke up the next morning with a splitting headache and sore all over. I vowed right there to never again touch alcohol nor again engage in premarital sex. I didn’t realize at the time that I was already pregnant. Two months later I knew I was pregnant.
“My parents were furious when I finally confessed to them. My father’s plan to marry me off to a rich and powerful man had been spoiled. He vowed to kill us both for besmirching his honor. He called me a slut and other horrible names. I didn’t care if he killed me then. I wanted to die. My mother calmed him down some and they hatched this plan to marry me off to you. Your father readily agreed for my parents would have gone ahead and had him killed if he had refused. I begged them not to involve you since you were blameless but I couldn’t convince them.
“I’m certain you agreed to marry me only to save your father’s life. I don’t blame you. I don’t harbor any ill will toward him myself. I know I’m as much to blame as him. Consequently, I’ve resigned myself to a loveless and sexless marriage with you. I swear to honor and obey you in every way. I will always respect you. I know I don’t any right to be respected by you in return and I won’t object to you having a mistress or mistresses. The only thing I beg of you is to never publicly humiliate me.”
“Is it my turn to speak?” Ana nodded and continued to study the floor.
“It’s true I agreed to marry you to save my father’s life. Even though he’s a total jerk most of the time I do love him. I did get some measure of payback against him because of this predicament he found himself in and that was very satisfying. However, we might find ourselves back at square one with my father in big trouble because I can’t accept a loveless and sexless marriage with you.” Ana looked up in surprise.
“You could love me after what happened with your father?”
“Only if you can love me in return. Look, nobody’s perfect and everyone make mistakes. In any event, we never would have met if this hadn’t happened. I find you caring as well as charming and beautiful. What else can a man ask for?”
“Oh, Victor, I feel like my nightmare is ending instead of just beginning if we can begin this marriage with love in our hearts.” It was like music to my ears when she said my name.
“You have a nice smile.”
“You have given me reasons to smile. I think it will be very easy to love you.”
“The feeling is mutual.” I stole a kiss then. Ana blushed and then returned my kiss.
Ana and I were married in a quiet civil ceremony. She gave birth to a girl that we named Ana Victoria. Mom tried hard to dislike Ana but she couldn’t do it. I think Mom decided that since I was happy it wasn’t worth holding a grudge. The company has thrived with Mom at the helm and Dad out drumming up business. I never did join the company. I make plenty of money playing the stock market and have lots of time to make love with Ana. She’s pregnant again. Ana and her parents have reconciled.
Dad has toned down his rants quite a bit. His only criticism of my actions was that if he were in my place he would have driven a much harder bargain. That’s good to know. Live and learn.