Chapter 1

"Kiss my ass!"


"I'm getting sick and tired of you! Tired of your mouth, and tired of your disrespect! I'm leaving! Might be back, might not. Not that you give a shit."

"What?! Wait! Kirk?!"

And with that my husband slammed out of the door and took off. How did we ever get to that point?

Sitting in the office on the other side of the desk I was nervous, and my palms were sweaty, but I'd been asked to give a transparent explanation and under the circumstances I did the best I could … the best I've ever even managed to explain it to myself.

"I'm sorry if this explanation is longer than you … um … expected it to be."

"Not at all Mrs. Field. I would like a full explanation. There are questions as to whether you will fit in the Staff membership and the question of your divorce at your age …"

"No. I understand. It's just still … difficult. I'm still … well to be honest I'm still trying to understand myself. I'll do the best I can, but it may not make a lot of sense, even in hindsight. I'm not sure … well … I'm not sure it makes sense to me yet. It happened. There must be an explanation. I just don't seem to be able to verbalize it succinctly very well."

"Just do the best you can. I'm not here to be judgmental, or at least not a personal judgment of you … but a judgment as to your suitability to this position. I do apologize if this seems intrusive, but we are a close-knit community and surprises, or certain personality traits, aren't conducive to our goal."

I needed what the man in front of me had the ability to offer. I needed it desperately. If I had to humiliate myself to get it then so be it. I took a deep breath and did the best I could …

There was so much promise when we first got married. That isn't just my imagination or wishful thinking. Everyone said it was so. My parents liked him, his parents liked me, our worldviews were in sync, just all of it. He was a new college grad with a good job, and I was on my way to completing a teaching degree. We were young, healthy, and happy with our whole life ahead of us. I was twenty and he was twenty-two. Four years later and it is like the promise at the beginning never existed and the world has caved in.

Neither of us is completely innocent of what came about; but, neither of us is solely to blame either. At least that is what I'm coming to accept. It is like the world threw one thing right after another at us and no matter how much we fought against it, how strong we were as individuals, as a couple we were apparently too weak with too many flaws. I still don't get it. Not totally. Maybe if it had happened to someone else I could see it and accept it; but, it didn't happen to someone else, it happened to us. I used to complain how unfair it was, all the things life threw at us, but I've since learned that fairness doesn't have anything to do with what goes on in this world. Fairness is a concept that is only applicable in children's games; life simply is what it is, and you deal with it or you fail. Failure isn't necessarily a bad thing; failure is an opportunity to learn a lesson, improve, and get up and try again. It is just that sometimes the failure and its associated lesson means that who is there when you manage to get yourself back up to try again may change … it may change a lot.

To explain and prove I'm not being melodramatic, let me list the things that happened to us, or the big ones anyway. There are too many small things to count but it is like that for everyone. Why what happened broke us and not others I haven't completely figured out. For many couples, adversity makes them stronger. Adversity sets them up for success. I'd give a lot if that's how it was for us but in the end, I must admit that it proved to be the exact opposite.

If I must pick a beginning point it might be before we even said our wedding vows. We lost Kirk's father six months before we got married which was only three months after we got engaged. A heart attack. An unexpected heart attack because the man had just gotten a relatively clean bill of health considering he suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure. It nearly destroyed Kirk, or so it seemed. He and his father didn't have the easiest of relationships. They fought like dogs, but they would defend each other to the death. According to his mother, during one of her painfully honest moments of sharing, it had been worse when Kirk was a teenager but I wasn't there to see it; he was nineteen when we started dating. His mom claimed that things were so much better and even hinted that I might have had something to do with it. I found it strange for her to say it, made me a little uncomfortable, but I thought maybe she was right because I wanted to believe I had a positive influence on Kirk even though I really didn't see anything wrong with him to begin with.

In hindsight, like so many other things I'm seeing in hindsight, perhaps after such a shocking life event we should have pushed getting married off until Kirk and his mother were further along in the grieving process, but we didn't see it that way back then. We thought we were helping each other, continuing the circle of life and that sort of thing. We thought it brought us closer and made us better. Aren't partners supposed to have a positive influence on each other? I was so proud of him as he struggled through and finally seemed to pull himself together. And he certainly helped me mature and take a more active role in what went on in my life rather than floating along on the breeze. It's like we woke parts of each other up and then nurtured them in a way no one else could.

If that had been all we'd had to face for a while I think we could have pulled through. Or maybe not. I keep realizing we had weaknesses that back then we were blind to. Those weaknesses were not helped by the things life started throwing at us left and right.

Our first year of marriage was certainly a learning experience for both of us. I can't speak for Kirk, won't at this late date, but he said it was the same for him … at least he would say it in the beginning and not have it mean anything snide or snarky. See, I thought I knew what it would mean to manage my own home, but boy did I have a steep learning curve. My mother was from the "super mom" generation … worked outside the home doing one and a half jobs to pay for all of the things that they wanted that my dad's pay check didn't quite cover. And still she cooked and cleaned and we were all scheduled out the yin yang and when my dad was out of the country TDY (he was in the military), my mom still kept hearth and home together and made sure that we stayed connected to Dad despite his sometimes-long absences. What's more, my parents were all lovey-dovey. I mean the chase-each-other-around-the-house-for-a-kiss-and-tickle, cards-and-flowers for no reason, married-for-over-twenty-years-with-kids-to-show-for-it-but-still-went-on-dates kind of love-dovey. Rarely did they disagree in my hearing though my brother said it happened more than I recognized, but nothing that wasn't fixed before they went to bed the same night. That was their iron-clad rule and they stuck to it.

I just got lucky in my parents and I suppose it made me feel inadequate when my own relationship proved less than perfect. Kirk's family was more volatile that mine and tended to work things out like he'd grown up seeing. I wasn't prepared for it and when the arguments were over he'd claim to understand and then try and meet me half way by saying we weren't our parents and we would have our own life that was perfect for us. He also said, in calm moments, to stop worrying about it, that everyone was different, and that he married me, not my mother, and that he didn't want me to wind up like her … what he called a "Stepford wife." But the thing is I think he did, in his subconscious, expect me to be like my mother I mean … and his as well despite the two women being diametrically different from one another. Because as time went by, he asked me why I couldn't be more like them … both of whom seemed to always have a clean house, laundry done and put away neatly, and meals on the table exactly when their men wanted them there. I got a little better at pulling that off as I had practice working full time and managing everything else full time at the same time, but it never got any easier. In fact, it got progressively harder. I've finally accepted that it is almost impossible to measure up to a ghost.

You see, Kirk's mother died a year after we were married from a case of colon cancer that she had been intentionally hiding from everyone, including her doctors … or at least hiding it until it was too late to do anything about it, and I think that is what she truly wanted. We came over one Saturday morning to help her with some yard work and thought she had taken too much cold medicine (she'd had a head cold with lots of congestion for about a week). Getting her out of the house was pretty horrible. Neither Kirk, nor his sister Diane, wanted to do what needed doing. Their mother didn't want to go and acted like a cat that was being given a bath; in hindsight we realized it was because then the truth of her illness would come out, but we didn't know that then.

Finally, they got her in the car and took her to the ER, but it took an orderly to help them get her out of the car while I cleaned up the mess that had been made at her house. A couple of hours later we were all delivered the awful news that it was cancer and already advanced Stage 5 and there was absolutely no hope. It had perforated her intestines in multiple places and a low blood count and the subsequent lack of oxygen to her brain was why she was cognitively affected. Everyone was devastated, including my parents who had, contrary to many in-law stories, been close to Kirk's parents and even socialized with them when we weren't around. Kirk's mom didn't even live two weeks after that and was never mentally with it. She recognized Kirk, my parents, her son in law but not Diane her daughter, I, or Diane's teenage daughter. To say it sucked doesn't even come close to the reality but for Kirk, in some odd way, it kind of brought things full circle and his still horrible grief for his father was mitigated and then dealt with during the gentler grieving he felt at the loss of his mother. In effect, his parents were now together, and it was back to the way it should be.

But while one thing was dealt with another took its place. Kirk's sister pretty much shut us out of her life after their mother died because Kirk had followed his parents' medical wishes and had put a DNR order on her chart. The doctors all tried to explain to Diane resuscitation wouldn't have helped, she was just too eaten up by the cancer and her organs were failing one by one. At best, it would have been cruel, at worst it would have been sadistic to drag their mother back into the pain not even the heavy doses of opiates was completely alleviating. Diane didn't want to hear that. She tried to pull out the religion card, the right-to-life card, and even threatened a law suit but given the medical reality no lawyer, or even the right-to-life groups, would take her case and she became very bitter. She was also bitter for another reason.

Kirk's parents were older and were already retired when we started dating. His mom hadn't worked since he was a baby and his dad was blue collar all the way and had been counting on social security and a small pension to pay for things. Wrong. They'd both started having health problems and instead of trying to work things out in other ways they'd allowed themselves to be talked into a reverse mortgage on their house that was in arears at the time of their death; but, it wasn't until after Kirk's mom died that we found that out. There was next to nothing in the estate – not that we were looking for it because we would have preferred to have his mom back. Then on top of that Diane wanted an extravagant funeral and there just wasn't money in the estate to pay for it. Then the will was read and we found out that his dad had cut Diane out a long time ago during a period when they were fighting and had never changed it back. That was the straw that broke the camel's back for Diane. Some words were said that didn't need to be said and while I tried to do the right thing by telling Diane to take what she wanted from the house she pulled a cutting-her-nose-off-to-spite-her-face move and all I was able to do was box stuff up and keep it back from the auction. Geez when Kirk found out about that it was a mess and he accused me of taking sides and passive aggressive tactics and other things that hadn't been on my mind at all. I'll accept the blame for it. I should have discussed it with him. He just wasn't very reachable at the time and I thought I was doing "the right thing." My parents and Diane's husband understood, Kirk would never discuss it again and told me to "do whatever the hell about it that I wanted to since I was going to anyway." That he didn't give a damn.

At the time I put it down to my thoughtlessness and Kirk's deep grief. We eventually worked through it, or so I thought. But there I went thinking again. I'll simply say that at least at the time we seemed to work through it and it was Kirk that finally told me to box it up and make sure there were copies of the pictures, and then send it to the last known address for Diane. I actually wound up dropping it off to Diane's husband whom I sometimes saw in my job as a substitute teacher … he was a science teacher at a local high school. I let him decide rather than risk Diane, in an angry or despondent mood, simply tossing the whole thing in the trash bin and then blaming me for their loss. Rather than Diane, I got a note from their daughter thanking me and that it meant a lot to her even if her mother couldn't deal with it at that time. She said perhaps down the road we could get together … but I didn't hold my breath. Kirk wasn't the only one that Diane had taken aim at with her words. I didn't' want to be spiteful or virtuous … I just wanted it out of the back of my mind and out of the back of my closet, like a boogey man ready to pounce.

Through it all I thought I knew – or at least in part knew – what Kirk was going through. I was certainly what I thought was compassionate and patient, a loving and understanding spouse. But I learned no matter how much you might empathize with someone, really care for their sake and for your own, until it happens to you, you just don't completely get it.

My parents were killed early last year by a guy who went to sleep at the wheel. They were on a belated second honeymoon. My brother, going through a very acrimonious divorce at the time, was following them because their car had been acting up and saw it all, including the gory aftermath. Already emotionally wounded, he sought counseling when he started having nightmares and hallucinating ghosts. Unfortunately, because of his state of mind, he balked at almost everything the doctor suggested as being "too hard" or "not right for him" at the time. In turn, the doctor, recognizing how depressed my brother was thought it would be better for him to at least temporarily be on medication so he could put into effect more of the suggestions to improve his well-being. That didn't help … it made it worse. My brother committed suicide less than two months after the accident that claimed my parents' lives when the antidepressants he'd been put on backfired and did the exact opposite of what they were supposed to do. Although there was a note by the coroner that it was possible that my brother hadn't been taking his medication correctly all the time since some of his blood levels were way off, there was no way to say for certain. In either case, knowing wasn't bringing my brother back.

If that kind of emotional trauma hasn't been enough let's add in the financial crappola. Contrary to Kirk's parents, my parents were younger … mom was nineteen when I was born and dad only a couple of years older. He'd been in the military but not as an officer, so his pay and retirement benefits weren't exactly spectacular. Dad put his twenty in and then got out and worked part time to keep their lifestyle the same as it was and they also sold things at craft fairs as they were both handy crafty type people and they thought that kind of thing fun because it meant spending even more time together. But they'd bought a new house a couple of years before Dad retired and were upside down in the mortgage. They also had a slew of other bills and had spent some of their savings trying to help my brother out. It might have all worked out. They had a plan. Dad and I had even talked about it. But they ran out of time. I wound up having to deal with both my parents' estate and with my brother's estate as he was legally separated and one month shy of the final papers being signed on the divorce. To add to the chaos, my father was the only one of the three with a will. My dad had a basic one from the military but all it did was leave everything to mom so it wasn't exactly helpful under the circumstances. Both estates went to probate – no will, that's what happens and the State gets its cut accordingly – but things were further complicated by my brother's yet-to-be-ex-wife getting a lawyer which increased the legal fees on our side. I would have let her walk away with my brother's estate – the only real thing in it was their house and his truck as he had already hocked most of everything else valuable to pay for his lawyer – but she was trying to go after my parents' estate as well. The judge told her technically he could award her his half of my parents' estate, such as it was, but that she'd also be awarded with all the debts of his portion. He further reminded her that she was already inheriting all of her and my brother's marital debts. That freaked her out completely. We ended things with her getting their house in her name only, but she was surprised when his life insurance policy, that she'd been counting on to pay all of the legal fees and marital debts she'd run up, was denied because of the manner of his death. She thought she'd be able to write the debts off because he died. Nope. Her name was on them too and all their debtors came after her. Last I heard the house was being foreclosed on even after she tried to file bankruptcy (which wasn't awarded as she'd filed bankruptcy once before) and she was trying to make it out to be everyone's fault but her own. And a lot of people believed her since no one was left in my brother's former circle of friends to defend him from the character assassination.

On our own financial front, the economy wasn't helping things either. Kirk is in IT. For him working has been like a catch and release program. He'd catch a job and then three to six months later the contract would be over despite promises from management and he'd have to start the process of finding a new job all over again. Benefits were non-existent, and he had to battle all of the foreign-hires that would work for less money just to get a US work visa. Several times he even had to train his own replacement who would be getting salary plus benefits. That sucked and as you can imagine hurt his pride and affected his overall attitude. We'd thought about buying a house, but the market had been in a bubble for a while and the fact that neither of us had "permanent full time" employment was a real problem.

As a substitute teacher I made decent money and worked more often than not, but it wasn't every day and I was considered a contract worker at best with no benefits. I took a night time cashiering job at a grocery store at just enough hours to pay for our health insurance. We had savings for a down payment but that didn't help. We'd lived mostly in condos and twice they'd gotten sold out from under us and we'd been "evicted" without notice. That was always an embarrassing mess to explain to the uninitiated.

"Well, Mr. and Mrs. Field, thank you for coming in to apply for a loan (or lease) but we see here that you have two evictions in less than five years."

As our faces reddened, mine from embarrassment and Kirk's from anger, we'd explain yet again, "Those are related to real estate investors pre-emptively issuing an eviction notice at the same time they notified us that they'd purchased the property we had been renting. They said they wouldn't enforce it so long as we were out within 30 days but they never removed it from the public record. We do have notarized paperwork proving it however."

"Ah. Well. We'll certainly take that into account." The thing is they never really did. Our loan applications were always denied for one thing or another but if you read between the lines the "evictions" only made it easier for them to legitimize their "no" answer.

This next part is very personal, but you want a full accounting and the explanation wouldn't be complete without this part. I guess the straw that broke the camel's back was the fact that we'd been trying to start a family ever since Kirk's mother died and nothing had happened. We'd had all the tests done and the doctors could only say that nothing was broken for either of us, that it must be stress-related infertility. Yeah, that went over like a lead balloon. Kirk blamed my so-called disinterest in sex … something that had become a running theme in his complaints against me … but the reality wasn't that I was disinterested, it is that after those early honeymoon months we could never get in sync and he always made it out to be some big production where I needed to dress a certain way and act a certain way and say certain things to prove how attracted to him I was, to prove how much I loved him. I tried to play along about half the time. Maybe I could have done more, but it isn't exactly like he reciprocated and did the things I wanted or needed all the time. He complained I needed too much warming up … way too much warming up. Maybe I wouldn't have needed quite so much warming up if I wasn't stressed out while at the same time trying to pretend that the things he wanted turned me on … which they didn't … and if I hadn't just been plain tired all the time. I worked late at least three nights per week plus four to five days per week in the classroom. I stayed up with him when he was working late to try and "prove" I cared while the nights I worked he mostly fell asleep in front of the tv. I still managed the house, did all of the grocery shopping, all of the laundry, most of the housework (that was never done quite right too often), and we both were just burnt out from all of the legal and financial issues we'd been dealing with since his father's untimely death. Neither one of us had realistic expectations. And sorry for the TMI but you did ask.

Like I said the problems were on both of us, neither of us are complete saints, or complete screw ups. But when Kirk accused me of making it so that he couldn't perform in bed? And then to ask me if I was taking birth control on top of it? Asking if that was why I'd put on a few pounds and was no longer the skinny rail I was when we started dating – I had been 17 years old for pete sake - that just hacked me off and I said a few things that would have been better off not being said. I had just reached a breaking point and the accusations were so unfair that I let him have a taste of what I had been on the receiving end of too often for what felt like too long. I knew immediately I should have just kept my mouth shut. Frankly I was ashamed of myself. How was I supposed to hold him to standards that I didn't hold myself to? But it was too little thought way too late to stop the avalanche that had been set in motion and the argument grew worse and worse with both of us pulling things out that we shouldn't have been holding onto like we were.

And that's the night he left. I tried to apologize. I tried to get him to come home and go to couple's counseling, but he refused to accept any responsibility. I went to counseling on my own and let him know it. That made him angry as well because he thought I was trying to get someone on my side to fight him and make him feel bad … one of those passive aggressive things he was constantly accusing me of … but the truth is all I was trying to do was prove that I was serious about taking care of the problems and getting better and making our marriage better. I had admitted to myself that I needed an objective sounding board. It wasn't about me being right, it was about me getting right … with him and myself. At counseling I certainly wasn't hearing everything I wanted to hear. I had to recognize and accept that I wasn't always viewing my actions from other people's perspective and I wasn't always communicating as well as I should have. And I sometimes acted without thinking through the consequences. In other words, the path to hell is paved with good intentions. But the counselor also told me that it takes two to make something work and it takes two to break it. I had faults, but so did Kirk. And neither one of us always handled things constructively.

Case in point. Kirk hadn't come home that night and for a couple of nights it could have been put it down to couch surfacing with his IT buddies or a motel or something like that. He wasn't putting his paychecks in the shared account we used for house expenses but then again he wasn't taking any money out either, or taking money out of our savings account. He just refused to tell me where he was staying, claiming he needed space to make decisions with. Of course I let my insecurities control one conversation and I asked point blank if he was staying with a woman and he blew up at me. He made me sound like a crazy freak at the time even with me trying to apologize and explain why I asked. Two days later I was served with divorce papers … papers that he'd at least partially started filling out before our last argument and him leaving. He tried to deny it but I pointed out the date on a couple of notarized places and he just got so angry at being caught that he stopped communicating with me except through his lawyer.

His lawyer … that's another story. She was a woman that played me like a master violinist. I didn't need a lawyer. We'd work it all out amicably. It would save everyone money and time and most of all heart ache. We'd all get along and avoid a horrible "war" that would only make things worse. Yeah. Right. Things happened so fast my head spun. That may have been the plan but it was my own fault for letting it happen. Thank goodness the mediator and judge saw what an idiot I was and looked after my rights even if I was too naïve to do so in the beginning. That might not have been their job but still … I guess the lawyer in question had a reputation and had pulled some things in their courtroom before and had hacked them off just enough they decided to spike her play this time.

Financially they made Kirk provide his pay stubs and he had to put all of the amount that he'd received before we legally separated back into the shared household account. From that account first came out the rent on the condo … because he hadn't been able to get his name off the lease … and same for the utilities for the same reason. He had to reimburse me for his part of the health insurance after the legal separation since I was the one that worked to cover it. Both of our cars were paid-off, late model "junkers" but there was auto insurance and Kirk had to pay half until he'd gotten his own … and then half beyond that since he hadn't informed me he'd gotten his own so that we could change the policy to reflect I was on it alone. The mediator went through all the credit card purchases since we had been separated … we only had one that went with the bank account we shared … and made us both provide all our receipts. Anything that was purchased after the night Kirk left was determined to either be marital, mine, or his. He'd still been putting his gas on it, as had I, and there were other things like some entertainment, his internet access, our shared phone plan, and a few other things. The mediator wouldn't let Kirk take his lawyer's fees out of our shared savings – the one thing that he tried to do – and split that evenly down the middle since the house account balance took care of everything else after Kirk's paychecks were added back in. Kirk then had to pay his lawyer with what was left of his half. I got the security deposit and last month's rent back on the apartment since he is the one that left, leaving me with no choice but to break the lease and find something cheaper since I couldn't afford to continue on where I was at. Kirk got everything that he inherited from his parents' estate and I got everything inherited from my parents' and my brothers' estate. This didn't include money, what little there had been of it, because it had been pooled into our savings and checking accounts for too long to be considered anything but marital property. We each kept our cars. The judge ordered both the checking and savings accounts closed and disbursed by end of business day which meant that the one credit card we had been using would also be closed leaving us both a little high and dry in that department.

Kirk was furious. His lawyer was obviously surprised. The judge shut them both up when he said that Kirk could either take it as is or he would be allotting me alimony due to Kirk being the primary bread winner and because he was the one that had sued for divorce and refused the marital counseling recommended by the mediator. Truthfully his refusal of counseling had hurt as much as most of the rest of it combined; I thought it was my last shot at repairing our marriage and moving forward and Kirk would have none of it. But essentially, with no children involved, the court had no way to force counseling on either one of us.

The lawyer convinced Kirk to accept the judge's decree and that night Kirk was on the phone with all our mutual friends wailing about how I'd basically raped him legally and financially. I got some calls. I tried to explain things. I told them I hadn't even had a lawyer and that the judge and mediator had dictated terms. Some gave it some thought, some tried to gossip and give me advice on how I could get back at Kirk for what he had done and was doing. After a while I just let things go to voicemail. But the damage was done. I'm not getting any calls for substitute teaching jobs and I can't survive on the few hours I'm getting from my cashier job. I don't have the money to go back to school to finish my teaching degree and even if I did the school district is under a hiring freeze and I don't even know if I could get an internship at this point."

I looked over at the man that was nearly my last hope.

"So that's my story. Told as transparently as I can make it, just like you asked. You wanted to know why I am so desperate for a job that I'd leave everything I know, move hundreds of miles away, to live on a remote estate, doing a job I'm supposedly over qualified for, and willing to sign all sorts of confidentiality forms and whatever. Well there you have it. My life for the last five years. I don't just want this job Mr. Crocker. I need this job. I need an opportunity to make a new start. And if this is what it takes to get that new start, then I'm willing to do it."

I sat there waiting … and praying … as the man in front of me took another sip of coffee and just stared at me.

Mr. Crocker said, "You're younger than most of the applicants but you have most of the other qualifications we are looking for. Let me talk it over with the families – we're a democratically run estate as I've explained. And also, as I've explained I am the estate manager; I will be your boss in certain administrative areas, but Mr. Haines is the Managing Partner at the estate and will be your immediate employer. He also has the last say on who is and is not employed by the estate as well as a great deal to say concerning your continued employment should your application be accepted."

"Yes sir. I read the material that was given to me at the time I submitted my employment application."

Mr. Crocker pursed his lips like he wanted to say something. I wasn't sure what it meant so I just sat there and tried to wait him out rather than put words in his mouth. If counseling hasn't done anything else for me it has helped me break at least one of my bad habits which was interrupting someone simply because I became anxious.

Finally he asked, "Are you sure you don't have any family or any other situation you can go to? That can help you?"

"I have family but none of them close enough that I could ask for anything like this. My aunts and uncle are all several years older than my parents were. The youngest of my cousins is at least ten years older than me and he is a contractor in the South Pacific and the only reason I know anything about his life is we occasionally cross paths on facebook and because I did a lot of family history research when I was in high school that he helped me with. The rest of them have their own lives and we do Christmas cards and always say we are going to get together and have a family reunion, but I've always lived too far away to really participate in family activities. A lot of them came to Mom and Dad's funeral though so I can't say they don't mean well or don't think of me as family. It is just the way things are. I also know that one of the things the confidentiality form talks about is the estate resident's privacy and that my social media and such will be monitored. Mr. Crocker, I was a teacher … a substitute teacher but I nevertheless had to abide by the privacy and moral turpitude clauses the same as full time school district staff do. Even now I'm not supposed to talk about any students that I served, or any other teachers or administrators either. My social media foot print had to be above reproach. I wasn't even supposed to talk about politics on social media and I abided by that even when it was hard to keep my mouth shut when other teachers did it with impunity. And," I grimaced when I felt forced to admit it. "And since I'm trying to maintain the transparency and honesty you asked for, the counseling I participated in during and after my divorce helped to reinforce the lessons learned about talking before I'd given it full consideration for the consequences."

Mr. Crocker nodded. "Your honesty is appreciated Mrs. Field. Or will you be returning to your maiden name?"

I shrugged. Other people had asked me that and all I could do was answer Mr. Crocker with the same thing I'd said to other people. "I don't regret getting married or taking Kirk's name. I would have preferred to have things happen differently but they didn't. Changing my name won't alter anything so, at least for the foreseeable future, my name will remain Shanna Fields. But if you don't mind, I would prefer Ms. Field to Mrs. Field these days … it causes fewer questions." What I didn't say was that changing my name would take money in legal fees that I just didn't have.

"Very well." He neatened up the file on his desk that contained among other things, my application, several character references as well as employment references, my drug test results, and a couple of other affidavits attesting to my willingness to move at my own expense, abide by the strict moral turpitude clauses in my employment contract, and sign the detailed contract that included a strict confidentiality requirement. "I will contact you within two weeks to notify you one way or the other. If employment is offered you will have two weeks and two days after that to arrive at the estate or you will lose the position. Thank you for your time."

That was my signal to stand and leave the rented conference room. I walked out to the waiting area and once again lost the confidence that I'd gained after being called back for a third interview. There were six other women sitting, waiting their turn. All of them looked to be at least ten years older than me and a great deal more experienced. A couple of them looked so competent – they were wearing a "uniform" that made them really look like housekeepers – that it made my teeth hurt.

I looked at my watch and then realized I would need to hurry if I was going to get to the grocery store on time. I couldn't afford to lose any hours at all. I was barely making ends meet and even job hunting was a challenge as it cost gas and time that I was struggling to make up in hours.