by Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner
Toms Brook, Virginia – December 17 & 19, 1990
“A Day In the Country“
Within hours after their magical Saturday night and Sunday together, Vivi and Richard are miserable without each other’s company. Both feel that they have been soulmates in the past, but can’t explain their feelings. Nevertheless, they have to get on with their very different lifestyles. Richard has his farm chores and architecture work. Vivi has an audition in Los Angeles in hope of getting the musical score for a new movie.
Vivi learns on Monday that she couldn’t have shacked up with a new man at a safer place. Sara and Bob, the congenial hosts of the Christmas Party, were actually employees of the FBI. They were the inspiration for Agents Mulder and Skully in the blockbuster TV series, The X Files. Remember . . . most of the show’s plots occurred in Northern Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland in the first two years of production.
Not gun-toting Special Agents, they are covert data analysts, who mostly pour through the gargantuan resources of the Smithsonian Institute and Library of Congress. They maintain their heavy Southern accents and covert status, when needed to pose as harmless Southern academicians in rural Southern areas.
Vivi began the weekend on Friday night by almost killing herself in a suicide attempt, but proves herself a reborn woman the next week. For the first time in many years, she fights off an attempt by a piggish male to yet again ravage her as a unit of monetary exchange.
Although feeling like a “real man” on Monday, December 17, 1990, Richard is gradually beaten down by his anti-wife’s emasculating behavior. By Friday, December 28, he again is hen-pecked by her into taking an action that jeopardizes his life, but then wrecks the couple’s finances.
Vivi gets revenge for him, though. She pays for the best Washington, DC detective agency available to stalk the anti-wife’s movements. The detectives obtain photos and videos so devastating that when the two are finally in divorce court, his wife avoids being in the same state, when Richard presents his evidence.
Warnings of the days to come
Monday morning – Only 15 hours had passed since I had been in Vivi’s arms and yet I was already miserable. The situation was totally illogical and undisciplined. No one would ever have matched us two together, yet if felt like we had been soul mates for eons. She said the same thing on Sunday afternoon.
The phones in the house rang around 11:45 AM. It was Vivi!
“Bonjour Richard! Are you alone in the house? I am at my agent’s office so his name will be on the Phone ID. I miss you so much. I kept hoping last night that you would come through the door and put your arms around me to keep me warm.”
I told her, “Vivi, men are not supposed to say this so soon after meeting a girl, but I miss you terribly, too. It is like we have been soul mates for eternity.”
Vivi responded, “Yes, me too. If you want to come to France for Noel and Nouvel An, I will pay for your airplane tickets. I really have no family to celebrate with, Ree-shard. My parents divorced when I was 11 years old. They both remarried quickly and started having more children. Nobody wanted me in their home. They still don’t want me, because now they are jealous. ”
“Vivi, I would love to be with you at Christmas, but all of my family are coming to my big house this Christmas. Remember, I am still legally married. Yes, she is trying to destroy me, but I can’t just fly away because I have many pregnant mother goats and sheep to feed, plus I cannot afford employees this time of year. Maybe next year? ”
I added, “So what you really want in a husband is also a father? You want a man of character, who you can completely trust, but he also must like being close to a woman . . . yes? You also want more children, so you can have the family that you never had. I would be very happy to have children, either from you or adopted.”
Vivi smiled, “Oui, you are right. How can you be the only man, who has ever understood me, and yet we have only known each other two days?”
Bien, Ree-shard, we have much to talk about. Last night, Sara talked with a friend, who was at the party and is a lawyer. I met with the lawyer this morning. He told me that we seemed to be very much in love and was surprised that we had just met. He knows all about your terrible situation. In fact, Sara told him things that you don’t know. She said that knowing these things would just make you more unhappy.
The lawyer says I should NOT try to buy your wife’s half of the property, until you have signed divorce papers. Until then she would be in a position to extort me for more and more money. The lawyer says that she has the type of personality, who would do that.
He also said that she is not going to get over half the assets unless you are dead*. When there are no children and both the man and woman are professionals, the judges split the assets and debts down the middle and tries to get the two people out of the courtroom as quickly as possible.
*That option seemed unthinkable to me in 1990, but in three years would become reality. Having someone, who you once loved, come close to killing you, is a surreal experience. The only way that you survive such memories is to think of them as a TV show that you are watching.
He said though, that for security, you should consider hiring a detective to follow her. You said that she often goes to her high school on weekends, when it is closed. She is probably meeting a man or woman, who works with her. Having a dated photograph of her long-time affair will quickly shut up both her lawyer and her. I am going to pay a detective to help you on this problem.
Message box – the state of the art in 1990
“Ree-shard, I am very concerned that we will drift apart, unless we can communicate with each other. There is a new invention called the “Message Box,” which is really a computer that functions as an answering machine. It protects people from having their messages spied on. I rented one in my agent’s office. I can telephone the Message Box from anywhere in the word to get both voice messages and fax messages. I can also send messages from the Message Box to anywhere in the world. You can use my Message Box for free to send me messages and faxes.” *Internet mail and instant messaging would not be fully developed and widely available until around 1998.
“Here is how it will work. My agent also represents public speakers. They are sending you a contract to become one of their paid speakers. When there is an opportunity for a speaker, they send their client a recorded message to call them. In your case, do not call them with the phone number on the recording. It is a trick to catch your wife or someone else trying to hear your messages. I will give you the secret phone number so we can see if it works, while I am in Los Angeles.”
“Once you call the secret phone number, the computer will tell you if you have a possible speaking job, a voice message from me or a fax from me. There is a different secret code to access each one of these choices then the computer will automatically either play the recording or send you a fax.”
“If you want to sent me a message or fax, there is another number to call. There is one secret code for voice messages and another to send me a fax. Get a sheet of paper, so you can write them. Store them in a secret place. What I actually did is mix the secret codes with a list of cheese plant equipment serial numbers. I put another copy inside old dairy records from our former North Carolina farm.”
Again, Vivi told me how much she missed me and couldn’t believe that she was falling in love with me. She quickly discerned that her use of the word “love” didn’t bother me. She told me that there was something very serious that she wanted to talk about in private. She was going to call me from a credit card – pay phone at the Los Angeles Airport on Wednesday morning.
About 8:15 in the morning of December 19, the phones rang in the house, just as I was returning from the barn and feeding the animals. It was Vivi! Again – guess she was calling from the LA airport. I could hear a lot of traffic in the background. Her initial hello sounded a little downbeat. Guess she was tired or did not get the singing contract.
Vivi continued, “Is the Virginian Truck Stop near your farm?”
“Say what? Yes, you can walk to it from the east end of my farm. By car it is about two miles. Why are you asking, Vivi?”
“Because I am here, Ree-shard! I am sorry. I planned to call you on my cellular phone after I rented a Shenandoah-Dulles shuttle van, but after we had gone about one kilometer from the airport, there was no service.”
Richard says, “Holy Toledo, so you were not a dream after all. Let me talk with the driver and give him directions.”
“Hey Mr. Thornton. This Jack Miller. I have your business card, but I wasn’t sure what road you were on. It just says, Route 1, Box 580. Guess this county has not gotten around to giving you a street address. Let me know if you get tired of your French girlfriend. She is one sweet lady.”
“Heh Jack. It’s real simple. Go west of Mt. Olive Road one mile to the intersection with the Back Road. Turn left then go about one mile to the bridge over Toms Brook. My gateway is just past the bridge on the left.”
In about five minutes the van turned down my driveway just as the sun was rising above the trees of my woods. The front window of the van reflected the sun, making it look like it was a ball of light, bearing the chosen one. There she was . . . my French goddess. I stood in awe how beautiful she was, even when looking a little tired. Vivi had paid the man in advance. I grabbed her luggage and carried her suit cases in a wheel barrow to the kitchen porch. Vivi had never seen a wheel barrow in person – only on television. It was kinda the reverse of me never seeing a cellular phone in person.
We stood in the snow, kissing and hugging for awhile . . . then Vivi gently pushed me away a bit. “First, Ree-shard, I am not a little girl. I realize that because we are from different countries, we might never be married, but I wanted you to know that I am falling in love with you and I want to have your children, whether or not we are married. I also know that there will be long times when we are apart. You can have other girlfriends as long as when Vivi comes to you, only Vivi gets Ree-shard!”
As we were stepping on the front porch, Vivi asked me if the white board fence was the edge of my farm. I told her, “No-o-o! My farm is a half kilometer wide and a kilometer long.” She remarked that I lived on a Bonanza. I asked her how things went in Los Angeles. She told me that she was not ready to talk about it yet. Uh-oh!
Just before we got to the front door, I had an idea. I told her that since she was now my spiritual wife, I would carry her through the threshold of her future house. She had seen such things on TV and in the movies, but had never been married to a man, who could lift her off her feet like a bundle of hay. She grinned ear-to-ear as we passed into the vestibule and I set her down. “Ree-shard, your house is incroyable! I understand now why you do not want to leave it.” She kissed me again then began walking around the house . . . and beginning her important message.
This is no exaggeration. I was kissed many more times during the 12 hours that Vivi and I were together on December 19, 1990 than my entire marriage.
Vivi began: “Ree-shard, in doing a background check on Bob and Sara, the embassy discovered that they are high-ranking FBI intelligence analysts. They started working for the Smithsonian Institute, but those jobs became their cover for their FBI jobs. When Sara gives you advice, you should listen to her, please.”
“She said that you should meet with the same lawyer that I did as soon as possible to obtain a divorce. Do not trust the lawyers and judges in your county. Try to have trial somewhere else.”
”Your wife was being watched by the FBI before you even moved to Virginia, because of a man, she was meeting with in downtown Washington. Then the body of a teenage boy was found next to your house, the first night that you were in Virginia. At first Bob and Sara were pretending to want to be friends with you, but they were also investigating you. When they realized that you did not know anything about it, they felt sorry for you and really wanted to be your friends.”
“Sara wants to know if you have ever suspected that your wife was involved with a cult? She said not to call her from your home telephone, but rather use a pay telephone closer to Washington. “
I answered directly to Vivi, “Yes, both in North Carolina and Virginia, women would come to our farm in black robes. I had to leave the farm. When I returned to my house, there would be melted candles all around the periphery of the living room.”
Vivi gasped and put her hands to her mouth, shouting “Mon Dieu! Ree-shard, come with me to Paris tonight. I will pay for everything. I can’t lose you now. There is something else I must tell you.”
I explained to her that I had no visa, my passport had expired, my animals would probably starve and all my family was coming in two days to celebrate Christmas.
I asked Vivi, if she had eaten breakfast. She said no, but she would love to cook me a gourmet French breakfast, so she would know what it was like to be my loving wife. In France, a maid cooked breakfast for her and Aimee. The other two meals were either cooked by a maid or else they ate at a restaurant.
We had plenty of cheese, sausages, eggs, dried chives and mushrooms. I put them out on the work counter and then started boiling water for tea. There was no coffee in the house.
As Vivi began to whip the eggs, our cheese creamery telephone line began ringing. I answered, “Good morning, Shenandoah Chevre!” Vivi assumed that it was a cheese customer and so continued whipping the eggs. It was not a customer. It was my wife, calling from the high school.
The Anti-wife first asked what I was doing. “There is a strange sound in the background.” At the same time, I finally got across to Vivi that it was my wife on the phone. Vivi quietly put down the whisk and put her arms around me from the back . . . placing her ear close to the phone, so she could hear my wife’s voice.
I told my wife that a beautiful French actress had suddenly appeared in front of my house like an angel, just as I returned from the barn. “Hey, do you want to speak to her?” I could feel Vivi tense, but actually what I did was mimic the sound of a French female saying, “Bonjour Ree-shard! You are so wonderful, handsome and sexy!”
My wife responded, “Well, have no time for this nonsense. I have to get back for the next class. After school, we’re go up to a bar in Winchester to celebrate the last day of classes before the holidays. We’re going out to eat afterward. You can fix something at the house or go eat somewhere.”
I told her that actually I had rush orders of fresh cheese to deliver to shops in Centreville, Fairfax and Chantilly, so probably would eat at some fried chicken restaurant in the Virginia Burbs . . . no, wait a minute, my French actress and I will dine at a fancy restaurant. Anti-wife answered that she did care where we ate as long as the “French actress” paid for it. She added that we would not have much money after she paid her bar and restaurant tabs, so since there is no French actress, I best stick to eating a hamburger or Kentucky Fried Chicken.
When I hung up, Vivi blurted out, “She is a Lesbian. Women know these things.” I asked her, why she would say that. She responded, “We learned this in acting school. Most lesbians have a woman’s throat with a man’s brain. When the man’s brain talks through a woman’s throat, there is a slight cracking sound to their voice.” That was a new one on me.
My off-the-wall statement about the beautiful French lady being in the kitchen became my modus operandi for the next two years. I just told the absolute truth so I wouldn’t get caught in a web of lies . . . ad nauseum. To anti-wife, it was just a mildly funny joke that had long ago become annoying. So in June of 1992, when anti-wife was about to leave for a summer in Atlanta and told me that we were getting a divorce as soon as she returned to Virginia, I asked permission for the beautiful French actress to stay with me. She sarcastically responded, “What do you mean . . . your hand? Sure, she can stay here.”
Breakfast, Deliverance and a warning
As Vivi arranged the fancy omelets and Virginia sausages on our plates, she smiled, “This is the first time that I have ever cooked an omelet for a man” . . . she wiggled her rear end like a bunny . . . “It makes me feel very sexy. We must go upstairs after breakfast.”
I realize that most of the readers don’t believe us, but after knowing each other for four days, Vivi and I felt like we had been husband and wife for at least four years. As we sat at the breakfast table, feasting of French gourmet cuisine, I asked Vivi what happened in Los Angeles. She said that after being with me an hour, she was no longer angry and could talk about it.
She started by saying that her “Deliverance-Squeal like a pig” nightmares became true. She had practiced five songs that had been written for the movie. In the audition, she sang just one of the songs then they said that she had the contract. That is very unusual for a major movie.
Vivi was then ushered into the corporate offices and presented her contract by a big, fat man. He offered her a vodka cocktail. She declined. Then he offered her a glass of wine. She declined. Then he offered her coffee. She accepted. Normally, a secretary brought in coffee for contract meetings, but went for it personally. She reminded the executive that her attorney would have to also review the wording of the contract.
As they read through the legal clauses, Vivi began to feel dizzy. She was afraid that she was coming down with “La Grippe” (influenza) and was worried about giving it to Aimee. Before she knew what was happening the fat man came from behind, lifted her up out of the chair and rammed her against his desk, exclaiming, “Now it’s time for me to get the payment promised me!”
Weakened by the drugged coffee, Vivi could not escape the man’s heavy weight. However, her arms were initially free. She was no longer the beaten down Vivi, who submitted to any aggression from a businessman or potentate. She began screaming as loud as possible and throwing objects on the desk against nearby walls. This male pig had pulled up her dress and was struggling to defile her like in the movie, Deliverance. Eventually, her screams persuaded two secretaries to open the office door and entered The male pig backed away from her and with a grin on face told the secretaires that “they were just having some fun,” but the secretaries knew oh so well, what had happened. They had seen it many times before.
As Vivi was running out of the office, the pig grabbed the multiple copies of contracts and tore them up. He yelled at her, “You’ll never work in Hollywood again, you French bitch!” Vivi said, “Bon!” (Good!)
Vivi seemed prouder of herself for not submitting to yet another male pig than upset about losing the contract. She reminded me that she had repeatedly dreamed about incident in Los Angeles before it happened. Then she told me about a dream that she had on Monday night. This one was about me.
She said that she looked out upon a field that seemed to be the one near my house. There were many dead animals and also human bodies. Then black demons rose from the soil and I began to fight them, but was surrounded on all sides. She feared very much for me, because she thought I was about to enter a time period, when I would be in great danger.
I told her that the explanation of her dream was simple. My farm was the site of one of the largest cavalry battles of the American Civil War. At the end of the battle, there would have been many dead horses and some human bodies. In nine days, I would be proved very, very wrong.
What the French queen wants, the French queen gets
One thing readers have to understand about our relationship was that it was very, very playful. From 18 years onward, Vivi contacts with males had all been business related. She married two men, who she told would be good for her career. Otherwise, her presence or even her body were part of the sales contract. There was no connection between me and her career. Time with me was all play time. Being a border line genius actress, she could think of many an off the wall ways to play.
Vivi rose from the breakfast table and announced in perfect Elizabethan English, “Good sire, your noble queen doth have her needs. It is time for you to rise up to the chamber and do your royal duty!”
I asked her, “Where did that come from?” She said, “Acting school.”
We climbed up the steps. She was duly impressed by the authentically restored colonial décor. She briefly walked into the Master Chamber, glanced around and then said that she had changed her mind. She wanted to know where the largest shower was. She said that she had been trying to think of a way that I could know her better and never forget her.
Well, what she instructed me to do is to wash with soap, every square centimeter of her body then wash her hair. Of course, this would be considered a “body wash with benefits.” I obeyed the queen’s instructions and sure enough, I have never forgotten her. In addition, every time I came near that shower, I remembered the events of December 19, 1990.
Vivi said that it was the first time that she had ever been in a farmhouse. She looked forward to the time when she could say that it was the first time that she had ever slept in a farmhouse. Vivi really liked the house. She was not expecting it to be so large or for it to have all modern conveniences including a large kitchen, bathrooms and air conditioning. She said that most French farmhouses only have a fireplace and wood cooking stove for heat. Many don’t even have modern plumbing fixtures. She said that she could envision herself living there most of the time.
After we got dressed again, I took Vivi on a tour of the farm. She really knew nothing about farming at this time and had not anticipated all the equipment, including a tractor that was required to operate a farm. Sara probably did not realize that also. One could not just walk away from over $150,000 of tractor and dairy equipment. Vivi fell in love with the goats and sheep, especially the kids and lambs born earlier in the month. I let her hold and pet them. She was beginning to understand that me taking the next flight to Paris was nearly an impossible task.
Years before, I had spent three weeks in Paris, but she didn’t know my world at all. She had never been outside of Washington, New York, Los Angeles or Chicago. Later in the afternoon, we would have to wrap cheese, but it would be good to get a taste of the Shenandoah Valley.
North Mountain Vineyards
I was scheduled to make a construction inspection of the new North Mountain Vineyards facility, which was only about a mile from my farm. It was the first time in her life that she had ever been in a pickup truck. It was a thrill for her. There were wines that could be sampled in the original small building. I introduced Vivi as a cheese customer from France, who also wanted to see an American winery.
Although, I am certain that North Mountain Vineyards did not yet produce the quality of wines made at Vivi’s 300-year old winery, she still found the visit to see a new building with its equipment just being installed to be fascinated.
The visit gave Vivi an idea. Why couldn’t her company build another winery in Virginia and market the French style wines with the cheese from both my creamery and French farmers. She said that her manager, Maurice de Vall, could communicate directly with me via air mail and she could pass along messages to me inside his letters.
Woodstock dates from 1761 and still has many historic buildings. We visited the Springhouse Tavern, which dates from the 1770s. George Washington literally ate and drank there. During that era, it was pricy so mainly attracted out of town tourists, who would not know ether Vivi or me. I would have liked to walked the old sidewalks with her for a while like we did in Alexandria, but didn’t want to push my luck.
Vivi the Cheesemaker
Vivi had yet another first-time experience. When I announced to her that I needed her help to wrap the cheese, being delivered today, she became visibly excited. She had never done physical work before, other than cleaning her step-family’s apartment. Health codes mandated that she wear a white smock and white cap, but she even became excited about that.
She quickly learned how to shrink wrap and label the various styles of cheese. We quickly got the three orders wrapped, labeled and weighed. The cheeses were then packed into picnic coolers and loaded onto the back of my pickup.
L’Auberge Chez François
Vivi accompanied me as I delivered cheeses to the gourmet shops in Fairfax, Centreville and Chantilly. In every case, the staff assumed because of the body language between us that she was my wife or live-in lover. Both staff and customers stopped what they were doing, to gawk at her as she intentionally spoke French to me in order to attract attention. All three stores immediately wrote down their largest order of cheese ever, but also in each case, handed the order to her. Yes, there are definitely advantages to being beautiful in the business world.
Vivi said that she did not have to check in for her flight until 10:30 PM, so she wanted to eat at the very best restaurant in Northern Virginia and would pay for everything. I told her that would be the four-star rated Auberge Chez François. It was northeast of Dulles Airport about 8 miles. I warned her that it was Alsatian French cuisine, not Parisian. She said that she would love that and pretend that we were on vacation in Alsace-Loraine.
The restaurant looks rather modest on the outside, like an Alsatian Auberge (inn), but once you enter, you know that you are in a very special dining establishment. Now here is what was so special about Vivi. As we entered, the concierge asked me if there was anything special that we were celebrating. I wisely stated, “Yes, our new found love that will last for eternity.” You see with Vivi, such a romantic statement would unleash a torrent of affection. She was genuinely astonished that any man would love her because of the way men had treated her in the past.
Within a few minutes, the executive chef and sou chef had realized who Vivi was. After that point, the staff “put on the dog” for us. They also called the owner. As soon as he arrived, the waiters began bringing us complementary top of the line French wines and free hors d’oeuvres. The executive chef came out to talk with Vivi in French and have his picture made with her. The owner asked Vivi to autograph a photo of the restaurant. Whenever she reached for her cigarette pack, a waiter would rush up to light the cigarette with a candle lighter. Throughout the meal, the pastry chef was baking a special Alsatian strudel then with icing he drew her real name, my name and heart on top.
I had to hold back on the wine because being the “designated driver,” but Vivi got rather tipsy. The good news is that alcohol brings out her best qualities . . . a playful sense of humor and a desire to kiss me frequently. She was still tipsy when I let her off at Dulles and so began shedding some tears, when she realized that might not be seeing each other for many months.
It was one of those evenings, whose memories can last a lifetime. I thought it was a foretaste of my life to be in a few months. In fact, I was about to enter the Twilight Zone. I don’t think that my mind and emotions could have enduring the next 16 months without the memories of those five days in December 1990.
Vivi made good her oath to stop prostituting herself to the pop music recording industry. As far as I know, she has only self-published religious, folk and patriotic music. In December 1991, she dedicated this famous Christmas carol to the day she first visited my farm.