This blog is not FDA approved
Humid waves of warmth passed over us as the salesman navigated through the back-bay channels that led out to open waters of the gulf. We (my dad, brother, D and I) were test driving a yacht on a late summer’s day. It was D’s desire to revisit the pristine beaches we’d recently discovered while on our honeymoon. He said he wanted to do so by way of a yacht. D was from the other side of the county, and he was smitten with the beauty of the white sandy beaches, ancient live oaks, palm trees and emerald green water. I sat starboard facing the sun, mentally comparing where I was in my head a year ago with where I was now.
I was happy, the future seemed bright, and the westbound sun reflected off my white linen outfit. The guys, including Captain Salesman, were talking about the bells and whistles while I basked, surrendered to the natural elements which seduced my senses. My mind wandered to the time D and I met online in a debate forum. He was quite popular, and respected in that community. The internet was becoming a standard feature in every home, and this was my first experience as an active member on a forum or message board.
I’d grown quite fond of this online community, and had connected with a lot of cool, caring people. It was a place where ideas flourished, and I wondered if this internet high was how online addictions start. It wasn’t unusual to get private messages from other members commenting about activity on the boards. I received one from D, who officially introduced himself, and offered kudos in an ongoing debate we’d been involved in.
That message was followed by more from D. PMs evolved to daily emails, and after a few months, we exchanged phone numbers. That first call lasted over 6 hours as he recounted his recent trip to Ireland, describing his second home nestled among green hills and rocky shores. He told me he’d take me there someday, and I responded with a nervous laugh. Hearing his voice over the phone stirred feelings within me I’d not felt in a long time. I was captivated by his sense of adventure and his lust for life. D was fun to be around.
He reminded me of myself from another time when I still felt uninhibited and unencumbered. I believed anything was possible, and the sky was not the limit. That free-spirited and hope-filled outlook was shattered after my first husband succumbed to acute depression and committed suicide. He’d suffered a head injury in college which led to a neurological disorder. After almost seven years helping my partner cope with the complications of his injury, his suicide left me traumatized and a part of me shut down. Now, I felt something that had been dormant for years. It felt fucking great to feel this alive again.
By the time we met in person, we had spent months and countless hours on the phone. We had informally committed to each other before we even met. After picking D up at the airport, we went out for a modest meal. During dinner, he reached for his breast pocket and pulled out a 3 carat engagement ring. “Will you marry me?” he said. I was mesmerized by its lustre and the glinting white light. I was a tad shocked too, but I said “yes.” My close-knit family came to love D as much as I did. He was a part of ‘us’ now and he seemed to fit right in.
D had spent time in Iraq, on the front lines, during the first Gulf war. He was honourably discharged from the military after being diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and concussions from pressure waves caused by bombs. He never wanted to talk about the war. By the time we met, he told me he had pretty much recovered from PTSD, with the exception of occasional nightmares. D was now an applications software developer and self employed, and I owned a successful aquarium business, setting up and maintaining aquariums in homes and establishments.
D got up a lot during the night. In fact, he got up almost every night during those first few weeks we were married. He told me that sometimes he couldn’t sleep and working on the computer relaxed him. One night I was awakened by the sound of the printer in the office. The light seeping from beneath the door made it hard to fall back to sleep. I got up to use the bathroom and saw D at my computer printing spreadsheets. He said he’d been keeping something from me and had planned to tell when the time was right. He turned to me and handed me the spreadsheet, and while focusing my sleepy eyes, I tried to comprehend the data. 17 million dollars was the figure showing in the balance column. I asked him to explain. D said Mattel bought a game he designed. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing or seeing.
I couldn’t focus my thoughts. Initially, finding out that he was a multimillionaire made me feel uneasy. Knowing I was at a loss for words, he said “you and K (my daughter) will never want for anything. I want to help your parents out, too.” Everything seemed surreal and I didn’t sleep the rest of the night. The next morning we went to my parent’s house to tell them the news.
D wanted to pay the hospital bills that my parent’s insurance hadn’t covered. My step-dad had been quite ill and there was a time when we didn’t think he’d pull through. I’ll never forget that day we were sitting at the dining table and as my parents listened to D’s generous offer. My step-dad began to weep, then my mom started. Next, my brother began to cry and I joined them. It was a joyous moment. D had a huge smile on his face as my step-dad embraced him with a big bear hug.
Mom motioned for me to meet her in the other room. She reiterated what she told me the day D and I left for our honeymoon: “Victoria, this is your time to shine. I’ve never seen you happier. Those dark clouds are behind you now.” We embraced, shed more happy tears and snotted several tissues. As if my parents were not shocked enough, D also informed them that he wanted to buy them new cars. And that he did, taking them car shopping the very next day. My dad got the truck of his dreams.
The following weeks were a blast. We played hard, put a down payment on a home, purchased furnishings, 3 puppies and 2 more cars at D’s insistence. As D explained to me, we would be living off the interest of his windfall, which was a hefty sum. We planned to spend a good bit of our time cruising in the Gulf of Mexico, which is how we found ourselves test-driving a yacht.
Captain Salesman received a call on his cell. I heard him say he’d turn around and head back to the dealership dock. I found it strange considering we’d not made it into open water yet. After anchoring, I got off first. The guys were lingering behind, still asking questions about the yacht. As I walked down the dock towards the shore, I noticed a man standing in a suit looking at me. My first thought was how odd it was to see a man dressed in a suit, standing on a dock in 95 degree weather.
As I got closer to him, he called out my name.
And I smiled as if to say “do I know you?” He introduced himself, showed me his badge and said he was an investigator. He informed me that D had been under investigation and was going to be arrested on multiple counts of fraud. As I watch officers handcuff D, I asked my husband if this was true. He said it was all a mistake, and to not worry. I initially believed him, but eventually investigators convinced me otherwise.
It wasn’t a mistake. D had created a fantasy world and we were all sucked in. D was brilliant, but he was also mentally ill, and he had never conquered his PTSD. He had never recovered from the effects of war. Neither my family nor I saw any red flags. His parents were distraught. I had to file for bankruptcy and lost my business along with my dignity. I was heartbroken and wanted to crawl in a hole and die. We had only been married 45 days when he was arrested, so on the advice of my attorney, I divorced him within a week. This betrayal was more than I thought I could bear, and I couldn’t process it. He was taken to jail to wait out his trial, and I was left behind to clean up the mess, returning the cars, the furnishings, the 3 puppies, and so much more.
When the tally was counted, he’d created and cashed over 1 million dollars in counterfeit checks. He was convicted and sentence to 12 years in prison. D’s parents said their son was never the same after returning from the war. They said their D never came back. I loved the post-war D, I never knew the other one. When I visited him in jail, I asked him why he did it. He said he wanted to make me happy.