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A woman always feels at fault

After a couple of days of sightseeing the children started asking when they would be going home. Joellen put in a call to Monika Novotny.

“Where is he now?” Monika asked.

“Miami. He’ll be there all week at some trade show,” Joellen told her. “But he yelled at me on the phone something terrible. Called me names and hung up. He hasn’t called since. Not even to speak to the children.”

“Hmm,” Monika said. “That doesn’t sound good. Is there any way you could stay up there for about a week more?”

“My sister’s got friends coming in from out of town and she’s promised they could stay here. I don’t know where else we’d go. I don’t have enough money for a hotel,” she sighed and sat down holding the phone against her ear.

“It’s important that you not put yourself in a situation where he could hurt you again,” Monika said.

“Oh, I don’t think he would do anything else. It was just that one time,” said Joellen.

“I’m looking at it from the court’s point of view. If you go home now, and then we serve him papers, and you’re still there with him, that would not look as good as if you were afraid to go home. I’ve got everything we need. I just have to finish the paperwork and then serve him when he gets back. The best way to do that is if you’re not there. The other option would be to take out a restraining order and not let him back in the house at all.”

“No, I don’t want to do that,” Joellen said. “I’ll figure out something and let you know.” She hung up the phone. Her sister was standing in the doorway.

“Who was that?” she asked.

“My lawyer. She says I need to stay away while she serves him,” Joellen said.

“Lawyers,” Brenda echoed. “You’re lucky. You’re in a good state for divorce. North Carolina still has laws you can use to beat up on him.”

“How do you know that?” Joellen asked.

“When Craig and I were going at it, I looked up divorce laws in all fifty states. Most of them have really liberalized things. Translated that means ‘worse for the woman.’ But a few are holdouts. You can get him on having sex with someone else. In fact you can sue her. You can get him on battering if he did that. Did he?” She peered at Joellen intently.

“Once,” Joellen answered. “But it was as much my fault as anything.”

Brenda laughed without humor. “That’s the classic response of a woman who’s getting thrashed by a man. ‘I made him do it.’ ”

Joellen was quiet. She stared down at the pattern of the wood floor.

“Look,” Brenda said, her voice softening, “I know this woman who runs a restaurant a few streets over. She might be able to give you a place to stay for a week or so. I used to work for her. When I first left Craig and decided to go back to school, she let me waitress. I didn’t have enough money for a place of my own so she let me stay at her house. It’s a big old place in Park Slope. I made pretty good money and she helped me in other ways. We can go over there tomorrow for dinner. She’s usually there in the evenings. You’ll like her. Everyone does.”

Joellen Part 2, Episode Nineteen

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