Alfred cleared his throat. “Veronica, as John’s legal advisor, I have told him that you and he need to sign a prenuptial agreement.”
“A what?” I asked, dumbfounded.
“A prenuptial agreement,” he said, changing from an affable tone to one that was stiff like his starched white collar.
I only knew about prenuptial agreements from the popular television show Dallas. The very sound of it was ominous, and instantly a cold finger of fear ran up my spine.
I turned to John. “Why are you asking me to do this? I’m not marrying you for your money, John.” That was not the exact truth. How was I to explain that I needed to be home with my sons in a secure environment? I couldn’t.
At this point, John leaned over and kissed me, hard. I pulled my face away from him, and from the odd way the attorney looked at me, I knew my face had flushed blood red. Ignoring my embarrassment, John said, “I’m doing this to protect you.”
“Protect me from what?” I croaked, disbelief filling my throat.
“I recently took out a large loan against my properties, and if you sign these papers, you won’t be liable for any of my debts.”
“I don’t understand…”
At this point, the attorney found his voice. “Yes, this is to protect you, Veronica, from any liability should John default on his loan. We want to make sure his property is his property and your property is your property.”
“I have no property!” I protested. “My home is being sold as part of my divorce agreement, for heaven’s sake.”
The attorney was smooth, polished. And then he made a move that is seared forever in my mind. He reached on top of his desk and took a gold fountain pen out of its expensive holder and laid it on the corner of the desk, near me. Next to the pen he placed the prenuptial agreement.
“Please read the paperwork thoroughly and ask me any questions you like. If you have an attorney, you most certainly can have him read this to advise you. However, since you are leaving for Hawaii in three days….” Whitcomb’s voice trailed off.
I picked up the papers, my hands shaking. I read through them, not understanding one goddamn word because my mind was racing helter-skelter in all directions. I had no attorney to advise me and I knew in the time frame, there was little chance of finding a competent one. Besides, I had no funds to even afford an attorney, so I placed the document on the desk, and I turned to my husband-to-be and looked up at him. I was silent, thinking. I had never really discussed finances with John. It did not occur to me, to be truthful. He told me once he was worth a million dollars, but I never asked any other questions because I was lost in his glamorous lifestyle—expensive dinners finished off with flaming crepe suzettes at the trendy Sportsman’s Lodge in Studio City or atop the rotating Los Angeles International Airport Theme Building that looked like a spaceship; parties with well-known state and federal politicians; and a romantic cruise to several Caribbean islands. As I sat thinking there in the office of John’s attorney, that nanosecond felt like an eternity, and the attorney’s argument seemed plausible.
I, of course, did not want to assume John’s debts, and as I thought about it, I did not want him to have access to the money coming to me from the sale of my home. So this is what I said: “By signing this, John, it means I have no home of my own. Everything is separate property—the house, the store, your other businesses, the beach house. After we are married and happy with each other, after a reasonable amount of time, I want you to promise me that you will place my name on the deed of your home.”
“Yes, darling, I promise I will do that,” he answered too quickly; then he bent over to kiss me again, but I avoided his face. I was upset with this—all of it. This was a sudden legal maneuver three days before flying off into the Hawaiian sunset, and I knew damn well it was planned that way. But, in my way, I loved John deeply and believed he was a good man. More important, my sons liked him. Besides, I was committed to making a new life, so I picked up the expensive Waterford pen and signed the document.
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