Just a few hours ago I was nestled in bed with my broad shouldered handsome husband Mark. I was warm and cozy with one hand on my tummy feeling our baby kick. It would be a few hours until the alarm went off and I remember listening as our older children tossed and made sweet noises in their sleep. I was thinking about how the next few months would fly by and soon we would have three little people in our home. Just as I was rolling my pregnant self over, my cell phone rang. I looked at the time: 2:32am and then noticed the caller identification "unknown". I'm an only child so I couldn't just ignore the call. After all, what if my mother was in ICU or there had been a terrible accident?
"Hello?" I slurred into the phone.
"This is Officer McGregory from Brown County PD. Is this Crystal Bennet?" asked the gruff voice on the other end of the line.
"I haven't been Crystal Bennet in over a decade, but yes - this is Crystal. What can I do for you officer...McGregory was it?" I asked as I sat up and started jotting things down in my journal so I wouldn't miss a detail.
"Yes, McGregory. We just received word from the department in Dublin that there's been a terrible accident. We need you to identify the body of your husband."
"My husband is right here Officer McGregory and certainly he cannot be in two places at once - and I know we are NOT in Dublin Ireland right now." I said sarcastically.
"Mam, this is no laughing matter. I will have an officer from your jurisdiction pay you a visit shortly with the proper documentation. I do know beyond a shadow of doubt that Benjamin Bennet was killed in Dublin last night and since you are his next of kin you will need to identify the body and return state-side with his remains and belongings."
"Thank you officer, I'll wait to hear from the other officer." and I slid off my phone (it would have been much more rewarding if we still had land lines and I could have slammed down the receiver.)
Mark rolled over and asked me what the call had been about. I told him that it seemed like some sort of prank call but somehow my ex-husband had been killed in Dublin Ireland and somehow they think we are still married and that I will be traveling out of the country to identify the body. Mark kissed me gently and said he was positive it was a prank call as well. We snuggled back under the covers and he fell promptly to sleep. My mind kept churning the conversation over and over again.
I knew he hadn't taken my name off our properties, but he said he would do that eventually. But... how could our divorce not be final? I remember the court room, the outfit I had on, the feelings of failure ... It had been a decade or more but I remember most every detail of our painful divorce. If it wasn't final, how could I be married to Mark? There had to be a mistake made somewhere. Maybe this was just a bad dream? I grabbed my phone and checked the call log - nope, not a bad dream...shit!
"Crystal, honey - wake up." Mark said gently as he rubbed my back.
"A squad car just pulled in the yard and the dogs are barking up a storm. I'll go answer the door, but you'll need to throw some clothes on and come down. Okay?"
I quickly waddled to the bathroom first - there would be no throwing on clothes for this girl until I took the call from mother nature first. I didn't mind the big belly, but the frequent bathroom breaks were really cramping my style. I tossed on my barn clothes thought about brushing my teeth and headed down. Mark and two officers were sitting around the kitchen table by the time I shuffled in. Thank goodness Mark was so wonderful, I could smell the coffee brewing which would make whatever the officer's had to say much more bearable. He poured me a cup with cream (just the way I like it) and we sat down to hear the news.
Apparently, Ben's divorce Attorney had forgotten to file the final documents in our divorce. He told Ben about it years ago but since Ben had no intention of getting re-married, he just shrugged his shoulders and moved on with his life. I guess that explains why he had left my name on the real estate deeds - he couldn't take me off. Legally I was married to two men - well sort of...one of them was dead. The officers brought some photos that had been emailed from Dublin. I was glad I hadn't eaten - the pictures were grotesque and apparently a bomb had gone off in a busy part of town and Ben had been one of many fatalities. There was nothing left of his face but it looked like his stocky build. I was hoping my positive identification of the photographs would be enough, but the officers explained that I would need to obtain a Passport in a few hours and board a plane to identify Ben in person.
I stood up to show the officers my large figure again - "I am 26 weeks pregnant, I should not be leaving the country."
Their response was: "I'm sorry ma'am, we have no other options."
I turned and stomped out of the room to take a shower and get dressed properly for travel. As I headed up the stairs I grumbled "Seriously Ben? You screwed up my 20's and now you're trying for my 30's too?"
We made travel arrangements, plans for the children, notified by OBGYN who was none to pleased, and asked someone to fill in for me around the farm. I filled my suitcase, purchased a Passport, and canceled my hair appointment since I would be gone for a few days. Mark dropped me off at the airport and assured me that everything would be fine. I loaded my Kindle after checking through security. If I couldn't be at home getting things done, at least I could use all this wasted time to read some of the books on my wish list.
I was having a hard time concentrating as it hit me what all of this would mean. I would now be the owner of several failing businesses, some rental properties with poor rental histories and even poorer plumbing, and I would somehow have to straighten out finances with Ben's ex-girlfriend...you know, the one that split us up because she got pregnant with his love child? Yup...that's the one...if I was still Ben's wife, I would need to make sure that his son was well taken care of. That part wouldn't be so bad, but dealing with the hussy that broke us up? That might be too painful to bear. My mother would complain that Ben was the type of guy who never finished anything he started - apparently she was right again - he couldn't even die correctly much less finish divorcing me. Thank goodness they had seated me alone in first class. If there had been a man sitting next to me as I thought this all through, I might possibly have been provoked enough to slap him across the face.
FLIGHT 782 TO DUBLIN WILL BE DELAYED - PLEASE REPORT TO TERMINAL 86 FOR FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS
Really? Could this day get any worse? Now I'm stranded in New York...I would have loved to travel to New York for pleasure (or even Dublin for that matter) but here I am pregnant, on a mission I don't want to be on, and stranded...at the airport...
They weren't sure how long the delay would be so the airline provided each passenger with a voucher good at the airport lounge and bar. I may not be able to drink any of the gorgeous cocktails, but I could certainly eat my fair share of food. I waddled over and found a seat in the corner. I didn't feel like talking, but people watching had always been a suitable option regardless of my mood.
I ordered a large diet coke, an order of chicken curry, an appetizer of spring rolls, and a cup of chicken noodle soup. I didn't even bat an eye when the waiter asked if anyone would be joining me. I just smiled and told him all the food would be for me and he may as well leave the ticket open as I'd likely be having dessert.
I started on my meal while watching the honeymoon couple at the bar. They couldn't keep their hands off one another. I smiled...that's how Mark and I still were...then my smile faded remembering that he was miles away and we never had time for a honeymoon ourselves.
I nearly jumped out of my seat. Someone had come up behind me (which must have been hard since I was in the furthest table from the door) and laid a hand on my shoulder. The manly voice told me not to turn around. "Be calm Crystal. Don't cause a scene. I'm just going to sit down with you and we can have a chat. Okay Punkin?"
I knew that voice ...
It was Ben.
I didn't turn around but I answered "you're supposed to be dead?"
"That's what I'm here to explain. Don't act like anything is unusual and I'll sit down and explain everything."
The man that sat down looked nothing like my ex-husband. Don't get me wrong, it was most certainly him. He never did have a neck ... and those shoulders were definitely his ... I couldn't say for sure, but it looked like he had dyed his hair, gotten a nose job, lost a good 80 pounds, and definitely changed the style of his dress. Ben had always worn dress shirts and what I called 'pretty boy jeans' and here he was wearing a Yankees ball cap, jersey, and a pair of basketball shorts with tennis shoes.
He told me about the money troubles and how he had gotten mixed up with the wrong crowd. He didn't want to file for bankruptcy because that would drag me down too. He apologized for not finalizing the divorce and said he just couldn't do it. He winked and said he secretly liked the thought of still being married. I was trying to listen but just kept shaking my head in disbelief that any of this was happening. He made me promise that when I got to Dublin I would positively identify the body, bring his things back to his parents, and take care of his son, Sam. He assured me that everything would fall into place once I got home.
"The life insurance will be enough to cover the debts. You can sell the real estate. Whatever you do with the businesses is fine, you're better at managing that stuff than I am anyway. Don't worry about all of this. I planned everything out and it will be fine. Got it punkin?"
I really wanted to break down and cry. I wasn't sure how I had gotten involved in another one of his elaborate schemes, or why he thought I'd be able to lie for him...but I just wanted to crawl back in bed next to my wonderful husband and go to sleep. I didn't want to be in New York and I certainly didn't want to be part of any deceptive plan ...
"You won't hear from me again. Just promise you'll take care of things just like I instructed you to."
"Seriously Ben? I can't lie and be part of this." I was pleaded with him now -
"Crystal. You have no choice. If I'm not dead and those business loans aren't paid back, you're in as much trouble as I am. That means Mark is too. I know you're finally happy - so don't screw this up. Okay?"
I nodded my head in agreement. With that, he left ... and I wasn't in the mood for my curry or dessert ...