The gift of the river house was just the latest amazing gift from my wonderful husband, Tom. He has been surprising me over and over throughout our marriage. Truly the fact that he’s stuck with me for over thirty years may be the greatest surprise of all. Sometimes I think back to when we first met all those years ago. Tom occasionally looks for polite ways to describe the woman I was back then. One word I’ve heard him use was uninhibited. I supposed that was a polite way to put it.
In truth, I was as wild as a hare. I’d had a less than loving upbringing with two cold, uncaring parents. I’d married young, at their insistence, to a horrible man twice my age who was extremely abusive. An unexpected heart attack took his life in his forties and I found myself a wealthy widow at twenty-five.
My parents cut off contact with me once they found I was not inclined to turn the management of my newly acquired fortune over to them, and I decided I would begin enjoying life. And I did. I was like a child turned loose for the first time. I discovered the joys of dating, drinking, shopping, and traveling. I turned this lifestyle into a full time career, and oh my, I was good at it.
During those five years after I became a widow I did much of my traveling and partying with my best friends, Sue Moore and Annie Homes. These wonderful women and their husbands probably kept me from coming to a bad end during that time. With the possible exception of those two loving, loyal women, I listened to no one. I simply did exactly what I wanted.
I was determined to have Tom from the moment I first saw him at a party at Sue’s home, and thanks be to God above, the man fell in love with me. Looking back now, I know it truly was a match made in heaven, but we did butt heads frequently at the beginning, and sometimes still do.
We married barely three months after we met. Tom worried about my wild ways, my excessive drinking, my recklessness, and my less than ladylike vocabulary and manners. Actually, he did more than worry ? he put a stop to them. It was a struggle at first. Change is always hard, and we both changed. Tom saw me as the loveliest lady he’d ever met. Bless him, he saw qualities in me I didn’t believe were there. With his old fashioned views of marriage and what you might call a firm hand, he helped me become the lady he had seen all along.
Now I felt we had begun a brand new chapter in our lives. He had given me the house, a place on the river I’d longed for over the years. Now it was ours. I was amazed at the intensity of my excitement. My mind teamed with ideas for the new house, having a place to come right on the river any time we wanted, new scenery, new people. As my mind whirled with plans, the years fell away and I felt like a young bride again.
I couldn’t wait, we headed to the house later that afternoon to check on the remodeling that Tom already had underway. While we were there I was also happy to get to visit with our new neighbors. We’d met before, when we’d been there as guests, but since there is a good chance we’ll be living there full time I was anxious to get to know them better.
Kate and Chris Daniels live next door and they seem so very nice. I already love their children. Allie, recently turned sixteen, and I believe her brother Drew is twelve. I remember seeing them around on previous visits, often playing in their backyard. But now Allie seemed almost grown. As were talked with Kate and Chris, she shyly asked me if I’d like to see something. I followed her eagerly to their drive.
“There it is.” She pointed proudly to a shiny, blue Ford focus. “It’s mine,” she told me. “I just got it yesterday. And I paid for it myself.”
“Yourself? Honey, how on earth did you do that? It’s a beautiful car.”
She laughed with pride. “By saving every dime I made cleaning houses for some of our neighbors and saving every birthday and Christmas check I ever got. It’s not new, but it’s all mine,” she repeated. “Daddy’s paying the insurance though.”
I was absolutely taken with this beautiful, proud girl and I looked forward to get to know her even better.
“Cassie, you ready to take a look?” Tom called and I quickly said my good-byes and hurried to join him. I followed Tom inside only to stop short in total shock. Gone was the house we’d visited so often. Walls were gone, cabinets ripped out, countertops vanished, the brick around the fireplace demolished. But standing out from all the destruction around me was the view of the river. Our view. The oak trees near the water’s edge, branches swaying lazily with moss, seemed to frame the river before us. The lawn rolled down to the small, sandy beach area. I could see the dock and boathouse to the right, handy, but not blocking our water view.
Tom stood watching with a grin on his face at my shock and ultimate delight. “Tom, it’s going to be magnificent! We’ve always said they needed it more open and I’d say you’ve done it.” Over the years we’d often talked about what we’d do with the house if it was ours, and now it was.
“You want to see samples of the cabinets and counters?” Tom asked.
“Nope,” I answered firmly. “You know I don’t. Show me when it’s finished.” I may be one of the few women in the world who wants no part in home decorating. Tom has exquisite taste and the ability to pull things together. He instinctively knows what works together and can truly picture the finished product in his mind. Choosing cabinet shapes, counter tops, drawer pulls ? for heaven sake, would drive me insane. Tom knows my taste and color pallet better than I do, so I was more than happy to stay out of the process until it was complete.
“Don’t go in the master bedroom,” he told me firmly. “That’s all torn up too. But it’s going to be amazing.” I knew Tom was having the two bedrooms at one end of the house turned into a large master suite for us. “The other bedrooms we can refresh in some ways, but that can wait. I have some ideas for upstairs too, but this is enough for now. Are you pleased so far?” Tom asked.
Picking my way carefully across the debris-strewn floor, I came to Tom. Reaching up, I gave him a kiss that I hoped conveyed my happiness. “Tom, can you feel it? This place is going to be magical. I think we’ll be happier here than we’ve ever been.”
I was so excited about the house I couldn’t keep my mind on anything else. A few days after my birthday, I drove by a little greenhouse where I often got flowers and I had to stop for some pansies. What vivid colors! Yellow, blue, purple, burgundy, I had to have them all, and I wanted them at the new house even if we wouldn’t be there this season to enjoy them. Normally manual labor is not my first choice of activities, but I do love working in my flowerbeds. I didn’t get many, but enough to plant on either side of the front door. Mainly it was a good excuse to head back to the house.
The river house was just over an hour away from where we currently lived. I was at the river by two and I relished being there alone. I took my time and just walked around, seeing what plants were there. There are woods to our left as you look at the river, mostly small pines. I could see the next house, though it would have been too far to shout a hello. I didn’t try to get into our house, but I went and sat on the dock for a good while, watching the water. Soon it was getting late and I wanted to be home before Tom, so I quickly did my planting.
I was ready to leave when Kate pulled in with Drew and I stopped to visit, probably longer than I should have. I also hadn’t gotten used to daylight savings time, it had only changed Sunday and I forgot it got dark so early.
I was halfway home when my phone rang. I answered it saying, “Hey honey, sorry, I should have called. I’ll be home in about thirty minutes.”
“Where are you, girl?”
“I’m on my way home from the river, I planted some flowers and got to visiting with Kate. I guess I lost track of time.”
“Cassie, what in the world are you doing, going all the way there without telling me?”
Asking him is what he meant. I began to get annoyed. “I just told you what I was doing there,” I answered.
“And I don’t like you taking the little car on the highway, or driving all that way at night,” he went on, not listening to a word I was saying.
As there is not one single, solitary thing wrong with my night vision, I went from annoyed to angry at that last remark. “Since I’m such a horrible driver at night, I really shouldn’t be talking on the phone while I’m driving,” I snapped, and I hung up.
Sometimes I believe Tom would keep me chained to his wrist and lock me in a closet when he has to go out without me. When the phone rang again five minutes later I answered with, “What?”
I heard him sigh deeply before asking me how far I was from home. I told him.
“All right honey, be careful.”
He didn’t sound mad, but I wondered at what his mood would be when I finally pulled into the garage. Tom greeted me with a kiss, but without comment as I came in. Soup and sandwiches were on the table and we began a silent meal.
I hated the quiet and finally said, “Tom, you have no right to be mad at me. I just wanted to spend some time at the house alone. I didn’t do anything wrong.”
“So you don’t think you did anything wrong? First you went out of town without telling me, you took the toy when you know I want you to drive the bigger car when you’re on the highway, you went to the house alone when there could have been all kinds of workmen that we don’t know. And then you stayed so late you had to drive home in the dark, and you know I don’t like you driving by yourself at night.”
Goodness, I managed to do all that just for wanting to plant some flowers at my new house?
Tom smiled and reached for my hand. “I’m not mad, but I don’t want you going back by yourself while they’re working on the house.”
“You’re not mad. You’ve sure been fussing like you were.”
“Well, you did know I wouldn’t like you taking the car, but we hadn’t really discussed you going to the house alone. I don’t want you there by yourself while they’re working. Agreed?”
Since I’d worried about how easily I’d be sitting once I got home, I was happy to agree to Tom’s new stipulation. We had a peaceful evening and as I crawled into bed, Tom gently pulled me across his lap. We often end our day this way and I had no objections to a good girl spanking, especially since we’d fussed a little earlier. A gentle spanking is a great way for a reset and I snuggled to a good position.
What I didn’t realize was that Tom had a bit more than that on his mind. He began with a light warm up and had gotten me to a lovely stinging glow when he said, “Now that I have you where I want you, I have one more thing to say.”
I began squirming, but Tom had a good grip. “You let me go. You said you weren’t mad.”
“This has nothing to do with you going to the house and I want to be sure I have your full attention.” With the first hard pop of his hand he had my complete and undivided attention. “Girl, if you ever hang up on me again I am going to take the hairbrush to you full force quicker that you can hit the disconnect button. Do you understand what I am telling you? If I want to talk to you, you’re going to listen. I’ll listen to anything you have to say, but you better not hang up on me again.”
How can he spank so hard with just his hand? It was mercifully short and he started rubbing very soon. Considering the way Tom had viewed my day, I guess I got off light in his eyes. I usually stand by the thought that all’s well that ends well, and as Tom continued rubbing I can assure you all ended very well.
Early the next week Tom told me some wonderful plans he’d made: He’d rented a house in the Florida Keys for a pre-holiday vacation. He’d already contacted Steve and Andy and they and the girls would be joining us later in the week. The news made it feel like Christmas already and I happily began packing.
I was less than happy later that day as I saw Tom packing the ivory brush. That darn brush has traveled the world with us despite the fact I hate the stinging, wicked thing. It rarely makes an actual appearance on vacations, but it’s always in the back of my mind that it’s with us. I’m sure that’s Tom plan.
Tom had gone to his study for a bit and I stood looking into his suitcase. Picking up the brush, I wondered, what would be the harm if it accidently got left behind? Of course, Tom’s timing has always been against me, and he came back to the bedroom as I was holding the brush.
“What are you doing?”
I nearly jumped a foot when Tom spoke right behind my back.
I figured going into attack mode was my best bet. “Tom! Don’t sneak up on me like that. What is the matter with you?” It didn’t work though. He pressed on.
“Cassie Jane, I want to know what you were doing. You keep your hands off that brush. Were you taking it out of my bag?”
I continued in attack mode, “I wasn’t taking anything out of your old suitcase, but why shouldn’t I take the brush out? After all, it’s my brush. It was your wedding gift to me, wasn’t it? Maybe you should ask me before you take it from the dresser.”
I don’t think he was taking me very seriously, since he pulled me over his lap as I fussed. He gave me two scorching swats with the brush before tossing it back into his bag and warmed me a bit more with his hand.
“I’ll tell you what gives me the right ? I’m your husband.” I found that answer extremely unsatisfying, but he was helping me up and I felt it in my best interest to keep my mouth shut for the most part.
I gave him a scowl as I rubbed away the sting. “I didn’t do anything wrong, you know. Are you going to be this picky on our whole vacation?” I asked.
“Probably,” he answered, grinning and giving me a quick kiss. “Now don’t you touch that brush or my suitcase. Understand?”
Of course I understood. I’m not an idiot. Actually, I consider myself a well-behaved wife. When I carefully reached in and removed all his underwear, I didn’t touch the brush or his suitcase. I felt our trip was about to be off to a wonderful start.