So, the next morning, bright and early, Jackson and I are up and ready to go. I’m dressed in sweats and a T-shirt. I’m bouncing up and down, trying to warm up my muscles. I’m pretty sure they’re in there somewhere. Jackson is wearing sweats on the bottom but is bare chested. He is so incredibly nice to look at.
As always, Jackson notices immediately that I’m having trouble with my focus.
“Ellie, sweetheart, you’ve got to pay attention, okay?”
“Sorry, Jackson, I can’t.”
“Why not?” he wants to know.
“Because your chest is bare and I’m too busy looking at you.”
“Ellie, we’re not here to ogle each other,” Jackson reminds me matter-of-factly.
“Why not?” I whine because I really don’t want to do this. “Ogling is so much more fun.”
He grins and chuckles at me. “Come on, now, you promised you’d try.”
“Oh, so you’re going to guilt me?” I ask with indignation that is only partially fake. “You think it’s so easy? Put up or shut up,” I challenge him as I rip off my T-shirt, careful to remove my bra at the same time.
Now, I’m standing before Jackson with a bare chest of my own. I’ve got his attention though. His mouth hangs wide open, but my surprise has taken his ability to speak.
“Hey, Jackson!” I ask him as I point to my head in a visual reminder to get his eyes off my bosom. “Where’s your focus?”
Jackson fails to engage me visually.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought. You’re all talk and no go, aren’t you, big guy?”
Jackson’s sweatpants do nothing to hide his immediate reaction to my bare chest. He actually lifts his eyes to meet my gaze and says as he slowly starts toward me, “I’ll show you ‘go’, Missy. He adds with pretend frustration, “You’ve got some nerve derailing a fight lesson like this.”
“Me? I’m not responsible for this! We never got started because you were the one who wouldn’t put on clothes, remember?”
“So, you want me to take the blame, is that it?” As he continues toward me I back away from him at an equal rate of speed.
“That’s right,” I smile at him teasingly. “Man-up and accept responsibility. Own your part, Jackson.”
“I’m going to ‘man up’ all over you, Ellie girl,” Jackson grins back at me. “You’d better run because when I catch you, I’m going to own my part,” he utters with stealth like sincerity.
I scream, turn and run. I barely make it out the doorway and into the hall. Just like I knew he would, Jackson catches me just as I enter the nearest bedroom. He wraps his arms around my waist and hauls me onto the bed.
In a heartbeat he has my shoes off and my bottom bared before him. For an instant, the bulk of his gorgeous body hovers over me and he says, “This is me ‘manning up,’ Ellie girl.”
“Oh, really? I don’t think you’re capable,” I return his tease. He growls at me and takes my nipple in his mouth while he forges deep inside me with his fingers. Needless to say, I don’t have a coherent thought in my head. My body is thinking Jackson, Jackson, Jackson! He stays with my clit until I climax then he flips me over onto my belly. He grabs my hips and pulls my bottom toward him. Jackson prepares to penetrate me when my brain suddenly comes to life.
“Protection, Jackson! You have to. You promised!” Jackson growls again. Next, I hear his exasperated sigh.
“Look there in the nightstand,” I coax him. “I’m part Boy Scout, you know. I try to be prepared.”
“Ellie, you think of everything.” Now, I hear him smiling. In no time Jackson has corrected our oversight and bores deeply inside me, eliciting moans of pleasure from both of us. My body yields several small climaxes almost immediately. Jackson is in the mood to writhe around inside me. He grunts and drives and groans as he enjoys himself.
“Ellie, you feel so good, sweetheart.”
“You’re not so bad yourself,” I reply sincerely.
“Are you ready for me to come, Ellie?”
“Ready when you are,” is my honest reply.
Jackson begins to thrust like he’s intent on meeting his objective. Soon our centers collide in orgasmic relief. Jackson kisses my back as he waits for his body to quiet. “You know, Ellie, I think you’re right.”
“About what?” I ask, completely surprised he’d ever concede to me on being right about anything.
“Ogling is much more fun!” I can hear the smile in his voice.
“I know! Isn’t it great?!” I exclaim.
He laughs and rolls me over onto my back. He takes me again. Finally, we’re sated enough we can go forward with my fight lesson.
From this day forward Jackson is careful to wear a shirt for every lesson.
On the morning of my tenth lesson, which is due to start in twenty minutes, I run down to the kitchen because I’m hungry for orange juice. When I turn the corner into the kitchen, I find Julia Dawes sitting at the table reading the paper and drinking her coffee.
Oh, no, not again! I put on my happy face and do my best to greet her cheerfully. “Hi, Julia, how are you this beautiful morning?”
She looks up at me and says with exaggerated horror, “Good Lord, Elizabeth, what are you wearing?”
“You like this? These are my fight lesson clothes. Aren’t they great?”
“I suppose…if one is destitute and can’t afford better. You, however, can. Jackson deserves better. He always has and always will.”
“Jackson picked these out for me so maybe you should take it up with him.”
Julia shakes her head defiantly. “Impossible. Jackson’s taste couldn’t possibly fall that far below acceptable.”
“Whatever, Julia,” I say. I’m not going to stand and fight with her over something as stupid as workout attire. I might as well get past the inevitable so I can enjoy the remainder of my day. “Is there something I can do for you, Julia?” I ask.
“Divorce my son and end this stupid fiasco,” comes her steely, heartless response.
I shake my head. “Not gonna happen. Like I told you before, Julia, get over yourself.” I return the juice jug to the fridge, retrieve my glass of OJ and climb the stairs to our room.
Jackson, being a serious athlete, gets a run in every morning before our lesson. He doesn’t want any part of his body strained or working at less than peak efficiency. He hasn’t returned from his run yet, so I have a few minutes to myself. That’s probably not a good thing. I just sit and stew over his mother’s hostility and rudeness, not to mention her interference.
By the time Jackson gets back, I’m primed for a fight. Heck, I’m not going to be picky. It can be verbal or physical, it doesn’t matter to me. Very soon after his return Jackson realizes I’m not myself.
“You okay, Ellie?” he asks, testing the waters.
“Yeah, let’s do this,” is the only response he receives from me.
“O…kay,” he answers me as he mulls over my attitude.
My lesson begins and I must admit that being angry helps my concentration. As a result, the first few minutes of our session goes better than usual. Then, like they always do, my stupid feet get in the way.
After Jackson keeps me from falling on my face for the third time he says, “Ellie, I’ve never seen you this focused. I just don’t understand why you can’t get the foot work down. Why do you keep falling?” he asks with such earnest incredulity I want to slap him.
“I fall because I’m a clumsy klutz,” I smart off to him. “How many times do I have to tell you that?” I nearly shout at him. “I’m not all athleticism and grace like you, Jackson. You don’t realize it, but much of the world isn’t.”
Jackson cocks his head sideways and gives me a look that says I need to be honest with myself. “Okay,” I concede as I lower my voice. “Maybe I’m worse than most, but that only goes to prove how far I’m in over my head with this little experiment of yours.” One look at Jackson’s smug expression and my anger instantly returns. “I’m trying here, okay!” I yell at him.
Jackson comes for me and takes me in his arms. “Yes, Ellie, you’re giving it everything you’ve got. I can see that.” Jackson strokes my back as I burst into tears. “Please, sweetheart, tell me what’s wrong.”
I shake my head and refuse to comply with his request.
“Ellie, if you don’t tell me I can’t help you.”
When he speaks he sounds so logical, his words so full of care.
“You won’t help me anyway, Jackson. I think that’s the worst part of all.”
He cradles my face in his hands and forces me to look into his eyes. “Ellie, you have to help me understand. Of course, I’ll help you. Tell me what you need.”
I pull back out of his reach and say as calmly as I can, “Call off your mom.”
“My mom?” Jackson asks as he cocks his head rearward.
There it is! Denial reigns supreme. I can’t believe I’m right back where I started.
My spine solidifies and I state my case. “Yes, Jackson, she was waiting for me in the kitchen again this morning.”
I emit a sigh that drips in frustration. “Do I look like I’m kidding?!” I ask him. I know full well with my tear streaked face, furious expression and loud voice I don’t even slightly resemble someone who’s kidding.
“You didn’t help me with her the first time I asked, did you?”
Jackson drops his head and shakes it slightly. “No, I didn’t. I never got around to it, Ellie. I’m sorry.”
“Well, I can guarantee you she thinks it’s all fine because I’m the only one telling her to stop. She doesn’t care about what I want. I will say though, Jackson, you were right about one thing.
“What one thing is that?” he asks, hopeful for some good news.
“I’ve not run into her accidentally, yet. There’s no room for accidental. With her it’s all intentional, I assure you.”
“What did she say this time?”
“She insists I divorce you and end this stupid fiasco that is our marriage.”
“She actually said that?”
I shake my head in disbelief. “Yes, Jackson! Why do you insist I repeat myself?” I nearly shout as I twist out of his grasp.
“I’m sorry, Ellie. This is just so out of character for my mom. She’s always so distant and indifferent. I will take care of this, Ellie. I promise. I’m so sorry for the hurtful things she’s said to you.”
He comes for me again and kisses my lips, my cheeks, and my forehead. He pulls me in next to him and holds me snugly. I cry softly into his chest.
“Shhh…, sweetheart. I’ll fix this. I will,” he assures me. He kisses the top of my head again and says, “Come on, Ellie. Let’s forget about the lesson for today. How about I take you out for breakfast?”
My head comes away from his body and I look up at him. “Breakfast? Really? Pancakes?”
“Absolutely, pancakes!” Jackson instantly agrees. “All the fat and carbs you can throw into one meal. How does that sound?”
“That! Sounds! Awesome! Let’s go!” I’m so freakin’ easy it’s scary. All my anger and indignation bought and paid for with a plate of pancakes.
Surprised, Jackson asks me, “Don’t you want to change clothes or check your face?”
“Nope,” I tell him sincerely, “I’ve yet to meet a pancake that complained about the way I look!”
He grins and chuckles at me. “Okay, then, let’s go!”
Four days later, Jackson and I are involved in another chase through the house. This time it begins after Jackson gets his shirt on, but before I do.
This time I’m running, squealing like a little girl, absolutely thrilled by the thought of what Jackson will do to me when he catches me. I am completely caught up in the romance and heat of the moment. I have no true destination in mind. My focus is on out maneuvering Jackson, so the course of my flight never really registers in my mind.
This time our race takes me down the stairs. I turn the corner at the bottom of the steps better than Jackson because I’m so much smaller than he is. In my attempt to elude Jackson, I gain about two steps on him as I pivot against the anchoring post of the stair railing.
I come down the short hallway and tear into the kitchen to find Julia Dawes sitting at the table. When she sees me standing before her wearing only my panties she stands and drops her coffee cup. Fine China and creamed coffee splatter everywhere.
I scream and instantly turn to retreat from the kitchen. I run right into Jackson’s torso just as he enters the room. I bounce off Jackson because he’s coming towards me at a pretty good clip, and let’s face it, my body mass will always yield to his.
Jackson sees me falling backwards and responds with his incredible, athletic reflexes. He catches me and pulls me into his chest. “Ellie…?”
“Jackson Matthew Dawes!” his mother bellows with her imperialistic air.
Jackson looks up and sees her for the first time. “Mother?” he asks, incredulous.
Jackson looks from Julia to me and suddenly understands my retreat. He steps away from me, pulls his T-shirt off over his head, and helps me into it. Finally, there’s something between me and ‘mom’.
“What are you doing here,” he asks her.
“I came to try and talk some sense into Elizabeth. My previous two attempts have fallen short. I am hopeful a third attempt will prove effective,” she states like she has life all figured out.
“Her name is Eliza,” Jackson corrects her. “You know that so stop being so disrespectful to her.”
Julia takes two small steps toward us and gestures with her hand at me, still refusing to call me by name. “She’s cavorting through the house, naked, like some common tramp and you want me to respect her? Jackson, you cannot be serious,” she says as if cruelty toward me is the only option at her disposal.
Jackson rises to his full height of six feet, five inches. All those times I tried to make him angry and failed is being corrected by his mother. “What’s wrong with you that you’d come in here and talk about her, talk to her, like this? Stop it, mother. You stop this! I mean now!” Jackson’s voice is loud, and his intent is displayed in the serious tone of his voice, as well as, his assertive demeanor as he puts himself between Julia and me.
“Jackson,” Julia begins as she starts toward him. “You have got to get her out of your system. Do you hear me? Everyone’s talking about what a mistake you’ve made and how you’ve embarrassed yourself. She is far beneath you and far too old for a man of your class and appeal.”
Now, Jackson’s face is red with fury. I’ve never seen him like this. He turns to me with forced calmness and says, “Ellie, sweetheart, could you go back upstairs and wait for me there, please?”
I shake my head at him and say with absolute resolve, “Nope, sorry Jackson. I need to hear you defend me to her. I need to hear it for my own mental health and so I’ll know I can trust the promises you’ve made me.”
Jackson returns his attention to his mother. Her complexion pales to the point of being nearly white. She gives the appearance she’s never paused to consider that Jackson really cares for me. The rage she sees in her son makes an unmistakable impression upon her. Now, she sees that she’s awakened a less than jolly giant.
Jackson rages at her. “Mother, there comes a time when boundaries are crossed, and you just crossed the big one. Ellie is my wife. I adore her and will not tolerate you treating her this way.”
“Jackson,…” Julia begins.
“No!” Jackson roars at her, “You will leave our wing of this house and you are not to return under any circumstance. Do you hear me?! Tell your little lackey friends if they have a problem with Ellie, they’ve got a problem with me. Remind them it generally doesn’t fare well for those who cross me.”
Julia says weakly, “This is my house….”
“No!” Jackson roars back at her. “You check the title on this property. Dawes Incorporated owns this place. I am Dawes Incorporated! Not you, not Johnson or any combination of the three of us. This is my home, Ellie is my wife, and you will be told to leave if you cross the boundary and disrespect her again. Do I make myself clear?!”
Understanding hits me like a tank. That’s why Jackson didn’t want to move out of the manor. He thinks of it as his house. He’s perceived this situation as his mother living with us, not us living with his mother. Okay, I may finally understand it better, but her treatment of me is still unacceptable.
Julia Dawes’s mortification is obvious. I so understand why she tried to bully me. Jackson isn’t the type to yield to bullies. She knew she’d never get him to listen, so she tried to scare me off. She simply employed a different strategy to meet her objective.
Surprisingly, Julia isn’t crying. I’m not sure she’s capable. I’m not altogether certain, but I wonder if her lack of expression and tears goes deeper than her botox injections. Suddenly, Julia raises her chin in the air, tugs on the hem of her expensive suit jacket and walks away from us, around the corner, through the living room and out of our wing.
Jackson continues to watch the spot from where she disappeared. I give him just a moment and then go forward to touch his arm. His shirt is so large on me that the sleeve of it comes past my elbow.
Jackson looks down at my hand on his arm like he’s just been reminded of my presence.
I ask quietly. “Are you all right?”
He turns to me with such sadness in his eyes. Standing up to her was really, really hard on him. “Oh, Jackson, I’m so sorry.” I wrap my arms around his naked waist and hug him fiercely. Jackson bends over and picks me up, so I wrap my legs around his middle. He sits me on the kitchen counter and looks me in the eye while he cradles my face with his left hand.
“No, Ellie, I’m the one who’s sorry. I’m so sorry I didn’t believe you when you told me about her the first two times. I’m sorry I didn’t deal with it like I should have. I should have defended you far earlier. Instead, I left you on your own. Please forgive me sweetheart,” he begs as he bends and nuzzles his forehead into the crook of my neck.
I see and appreciate his pain, but my marriage experience tells me we need to discuss this. “I don’t understand why you didn’t believe me, Jackson. I’ve never lied to you about anything. I have no desire to lie to you about anything. Why would I start with your mom?”
“Please don’t misunderstand, Ellie. It wasn’t that I thought you were lying to me. I guess I just wanted my mom to love me enough to give me this, to give me you, so maybe, somehow, it could all be okay. She couldn’t do it, though. I don’t know what I was thinking. She doesn’t love me that much, she never has.”
“I think she loves you enough that she wanted better for you,” I remind him.
“She loves herself enough to want better for me. She doesn’t love me enough to know there isn’t better for me, Ellie.”
Well, what do you say to that?
Jackson kisses me gently and lays his forehead against mine. “I’m so sorry, sweetheart,” he tells me again.
“You don’t need to apologize anymore, Jackson.”
“I feel like I really let you down, Ellie.” He’s really beating himself up over this.
“It might have taken a while to get here, but in case you haven’t noticed, you were my hero just now.”
“Oh, yeah, in a big way. Every girl wants to her guy to defend her against her enemies.”
“So, my mom is your enemy?” Jackson asks sadly.
This is what it is. “Well, she sure isn’t my friend, is she?” I ask back.
Jackson shakes his head. “No. She’s not. That makes me sad, Ellie.”
“I know, Jackson, how hard it can be with parents. Been there, done that. Remember?”
“Yeah, I remember. Is there anything I can do to make this up to you, Ellie? Anything. You just name it.”
“I’d like to give my hero a big ‘thank you’, if you’re up to it.”
Jackson kisses me sweetly on the lips, picks me up and turns on one heel. He returns us to our room, taking the stairs three at a time while carrying me the entire way.
Soon, we’re loving each other as sweetly and tenderly as we ever have. I’m not sure what’s more prevalent in our lovemaking; his apology to me for letting me down or my comfort of him regarding his grief over his mother. Both are present. Both are necessary. Both are beautiful.
When our sweaty bodies are sated and we’re lying in each other’s arms Jackson caresses my cheek and asks me, “Is there anything else I can do for you sweetheart?”
I furrow my brow, indicating I’m thinking really hard on Jackson’s question. He smiles at me. “Have you come up with anything?”
“Yes, I have.”
“Ok, then, let’s have it.”
“Seriously, that’s it?”
“Absolutely,” I confirm as I give him my brightest grin.
“Oh, Ellie girl,” Jackson says as he shakes his head at me, “you’re way too easy. Let’s go!” As soon as we’re dressed, we’re out the door and on our way. Did I mention we leave for breakfast hand in hand? Having a guy who will defend you as the need arises will make a girl smile nearly every time.
Julia Dawes makes no more appearances in our wing of the house. Evidently, she heard Jackson loud and clear. I understand why she sees the house as hers. She and Jackson’s father built it together. Even though Matthew Dawes is gone her memories of him reside here in this home. Just like Jackson, she’s hurting, even after all these years. Matthew Dawes was one loved man. Even so, I can’t, I won’t, tolerate her treatment of me. I’m hoping that we can soon agree to find our own place.
Much to my dismay, though, it’s conceivable, especially in light of Julia’s absence, that staying at the manor could become more possible, not less. Having Julia out of our way will make Jackson less willing than ever to leave. I can’t help but wonder if his unwillingness to confront his mother was tied to his fear of having to leave this home. Right now, I can’t say for sure. I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to. I do know, though, that time will unfold our future as it sees fit.
Over the course of the coming weeks I’m so happy to learn that Jackson and I actually have quite a bit in common. We both have a spontaneous, impulsive side, though mine is certainly more pervasive. Jackson’s impulsivity is tempered by his equally prevalent nature of self-discipline, as well as, his experience as a successful businessman who’s learned the benefits of patience.
Neither one of us is what you’d call a foodie. To learn this about Jackson surprises me. Because of his privileged childhood I’d have assumed he’d be all over the latest in culinary fashion. It’s nice to know we are both simple meat and potato people. I like sweet snacks. He likes salty ones, though Jackson rarely ever indulges in snacks of any kind. It’s the reason Jackson looks the way he does. Well, there’s the low snack policy plus the maniac workout policy.
Jackson and I have similar tastes in movies and TV programs. Once in a while he’ll throw in a documentary of some sort, while I like biographies when I want something different.
We largely agree on how to spend, and how not to spend, money. Between the two of us we have a massive fortune, but if we don’t take good care of the money it can disappear. We agree early on that any expense over $100,000 is to be discussed and decided on together. Over time there does prove to be some exceptions to this rule, but it’s generally violated because one of us is doing something nice for the other. Also, any ministry expenses I incur are exempt from our spending rule. Neither one of us ever violates our rule out of selfishness.
Most days I have my quiet time with God where I read my Bible and spend time in prayer. Also, I’m in church every Sunday. Often, Jackson goes with me and we’ll have an animated conversation about the sermon and service over lunch. Sometimes, he makes other plans. I don’t make any demands on him. He gets to be who he is. I mean, I sure don’t want him telling me I can’t go to church because that would definitely cause problems between us so, I try to extend him the same courtesy. I have no desire to boss him around.
I learn we have our differences, as well. He likes certain sporting events, baseball being his favorite, but he’s not as crazy about sports as most guys. I attribute this to the arduous years he’s spent developing his company. He simply didn’t have the time to indulge in a lot of sporting events. As for me, when the ballgames come on, I find something else to do.
I am thrilled to discover that my social obligations will consist of only three to four parties annually. I will not be expected to serve as hostess at any of them. I will merely be a guest at a variety of fundraisers. This is a huge relief for me. I was afraid it would be two parties a week all year round. I can certainly do only these few.
Jackson likes contemporary style decor. I like traditional. He likes cool colors like blue, silver, grays and blacks. I love color, any of them, all of them. These are such minor things though and we’re always ready to give in so the other one can be happy. Each one of us tries to put the other one first. Our willingness to compromise works except on the odd occasion where each of us is tries to be nice and the other refuses to graciously accept the gesture. Jackson’s stubbornness leads to some spirited discussions and resultant make up sex. I hate that, I really do.
Jackson loves to bounce ideas off my brain. For some reason, he values my thinking process and is always running ideas past me. He tells me I have a unique, uncluttered way of looking at things. I’m still trying to decide if he’s telling me I’m simple. No, not really. I understand I don’t look at things like most people. His inclusion of me has made for some lively conversations, but that’s okay because I’m always ready for lively.
As great as things are between us, I still have an uneasy feeling of isolation. Bruises often appear on Jackson’s body. Sometimes, lacerations of varying degrees appear as well.
I know, without knowing, that Jackson is lying to me about something, possibly several somethings. I so hope the origin of his injuries really is Sal’s Gym and not some mistress somewhere.
I can’t stop the gnawing in my belly that speaks to the loneliness I feel because Jackson is keeping secrets. The gnawing refuses to vacate even when everything else between us is so good. I contemplate hiring another detective, but what can a detective find now that wasn’t found before? The only real option I have is to wait and see what develops. If Jackson is spinning a network of deceit, then it’s only a matter of time before it bites him in his perfect backside. If the bite comes, and my gut tells me it’s inevitable, I’ll be present to witness it.
In the meantime, I’ll be extremely vigilant about protecting myself sexually and doing my best to find happiness in each day. I won’t make myself miserable by nagging and grinding away on Jackson and our marriage.
Why do I refuse to behave in such a manner? If my new life falls apart on me, I intend to exit it with as much dignity and peace as possible, that’s why.