Chapter Five

Mason met with the screenwriters at the studio. He quickly found out they had plans to take his novel The Love Affair in a completely different direction than what he had written. At first, Mason thought to protest, but he didn’t when listening to their ideas that eventually sounded good to him. He decided he didn’t want to rock the boat. They all provided their input and took into account Mason’s weak suggestions. They assigned a lead screenwriter for the majority of the work. Actually, after the developmental meeting Mason felt more accepting and better about the screenplay. He was excited about his upcoming movie that seemed to be taking place shortly.

            A preproduction team meeting took place a week later and preparations were made to shoot the film. Mr. Welling hired a director, named Eric Northland, who handled cast auditions and employed a film crew. In fact, Welling wasn’t on the set much at all. Mason sat in on the weeklong auditions, which were competitive. He was impressed with how hard the actors and actresses tried to win parts in his movie.

Eric and his staff determined the studio locations where the film’s shooting would take place. Then work began on the sets that would have to be built for the movie. The screenplay went through several revisions, but eventually was a finished product. Within a month, everything was in place to start production.

Mason bought s Sony Cam Recorder from Amazon and brought it to the stage at Welling’s studio. He felt proud and acted like a cameraman. Everyone ignored Mason while he filmed the project taking place before him. He later proudly viewed the recordings in his mansion at night while getting high on cocaine.  

Mason enjoyed watching the clips.

One afternoon back in Traverse City, Samantha went over to PetSmart on Crossing Circle in town. She wanted to buy a puppy to keep her company in the lonely mansion while Mason pursued his Hollywood dream. After reviewing the dogs available at the pet store, she fell in love with a pure white Romanian Mioritic Shepherd. The owner of PetSmart told Samantha this breed was a large livestock dog that had originated in the Romanian Carpathian Mountains. It had thick white, fluffy hair. This breed of dog was known to be calm and well mannered. Romanian Mioritic Shepherds bond strongly with his or her master.

It was an expensive dog but Samantha had the money to pay for it. She also bought a couple of bags of Purina Puppy Chow, a white collar, a long leather leash, dog dishes, and a puppy teething bone. Going home she decided to have a doghouse built behind the mansion, with a fence, so the puppy could be free to play outside.

The puppy brought Samantha pure joy and was the perfect dog to share the mansion with her. She named the dog Prince. He was a friendly puppy and loved to curl up on her lap and lay in bed. Samantha house-trained the dog and soon it went outside on a regular basis to relieve himself.

Mason telephoned Samantha that Sunday night from his new mansion. She begged him to come home to Traverse City, but Mason told her he had a filmmaking business in Hollywood to conduct, which was a lie. They fought over the phone about his recently purchased mansion in Hollywood.

“Mason, how much did this mansion cost you?” she asked.

“$18,500,000 dollars,” he answered.

“You are spending money faster than a hot knife through butter,” she told her husband. “I’m worried about you.”

“Don’t be worried. It’s an investment and will gain value over time,” he said, confident the real estate agent’s sales pitch was accurate.

“I hope so for your sake. Don’t count on me for any more money.”

“Okay,” agreed Mason, feeling disappointed by her remark that more money wouldn’t be made available for him to use without out a major fight.

“I’m saddened by your decision to live in Hollywood,” said Samantha.

“It can’t be helped. I’m making a movie and that’s what I want to do in the foreseeable future. Understand?”

“The front door is always open for you to pass through,” answered Samantha.

They ended the conversation on a sour note.

Early one morning Samantha rose from her king-size bed before daybreak. She let Prince out of the mansion into his dog pen and prepared herself a healthy breakfast of oatmeal, milk, brown sugar, raisins, and coffee with cream. As she ate, the sun rose from the west and brightened the sky. When she finished breakfast, Samantha got Prince out of his dog pen, leading him to the large garage. Then Samantha put him inside her Cadillac and proceeded north on M-37 along the scenic shoreline of the Old Mission Peninsula. She drove to the Old Mission Point lighthouse located at the northern end of the peninsula and parked in the empty lot next to the historic building.

 With no one around, Samantha released Prince from the backseat of her Cadillac to run free. She hiked down a path next to the lighthouse and came to the sandy shores of Lake Michigan. The lake was deep blue and calm. Small waves washed ashore. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. A cool summer breeze blew in from the west.

Samantha walked along the shoreline, searching for Petoskey stones. Prince ran up ahead. She found one of the medium-size fossil stones and put it in her blue jeans pocket. She began thinking about her marriage that had gone from bad to worse since Mason had left for Hollywood. Samantha wondered if they hadn’t won the Powerball jackpot where would their marriage be today. Probably Mason would still be employed at his cashier’s job at 7-Eleven and she would be working full-time at Walmart Hair Salon. She was lonesome and had only her one friend, Pamela Spencer, who she hadn’t seen in a while.

After walking a mile in solitude, she taught Prince to fetch sticks out of shallow Lake Michigan waters and return them to her. He would come back to her all wet. Prince shook his body, spraying water onto Samantha’s blue jeans. She laughed. Then she turned back and Prince followed her to the Cadillac. He hopped into the backseat of the car. She dropped her puppy off at the mansion.

Samantha drove back down M-37 to the Horizon Bookstore on Front Street in downtown Traverse City. It was the best and largest local bookstore in town. There she had a large cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream and an oatmeal raisin cookie. Samantha bought and read a copy of USA Today in the café, trying to stay current with world events. The young woman wanted to be an informed citizen. She stayed in the bookstore until noon, finishing the newspaper and leaving it on the table for other customers to read for free. That was her daily morning routine except on Sundays when she would take her mother to the Methodist Church service. She also drove her mother to Sunday night Bible studies with the beloved Pastor Joel Phillips leading the class. He gave excellent sermons and always ended them right on time at noon unlike other pastors who kept the congregation late.

On the first Sunday of each month, communion was held. Broken bread and grape juice instead of wine was given to all individuals during the end of the sermon regardless of their membership.  

One Sunday during church service Pastor Joel announced to the congregation a fundraising drive for a new organ. The old organ was worn-out and needed to be replaced. As they left the church after the sermon Samantha said to Pastor Joel, “I would like to buy a new organ and dedicate it to my deceased father, Walter Ridgeway.”

“That would be great. I’ll go down to Evola Music Center on South Airport Road and pick one out if you’re sure you will pay for it,” said Pastor Joel.

“Yes, I will pay for the new organ,” assured Samantha.

The next day Pastor Joel went to Evola’s showroom and picked out a new large Monarke V Church organ for $30,000. He had the owner send a bill to Samantha who paid it promptly. The organ had a brass plate indicating it had been donated by the Walter D. Ridgeway family. Pastor Joel sent both Alice and Samantha a thank-you card expressing the congregations’ appreciation of the new organ. Alice thought it was a nice gesture. She had always liked the pastor’s sermons and his ministry at the church.

Pastor Joel sent a note to Samantha and asked her to telephone him. She did call. “Hello. This is Pastor Joel from the Methodist Church.”

“Hello. This is Samantha Rossman speaking. You asked for me to call you,” she said.

“What a wonderful gift to the church. The organ is huge and sounds wonderful. It’s so much better than the old one and it will last for years. Both you and your mom have been so supportive of our church ministry. Thank you.

“Samantha, I have some concerns about your mother, Alice. She sits at home most days and doesn’t seem to have many friends to socialize with. I was wondering if you could make arrangements for her to attend our senior citizens’ lunch here at church on Wednesdays at noon. After the luncheon the seniors stay and play Bridge. I think it would help her make some more friends and get out of her house,” said Pastor Joel.

“I’ll ask Mom if she wants to go. I know she loves to play cards so maybe she will accept your invitation,” said Samantha.

“Good. I’ll look forward to seeing her on Wednesdays at noon if you can talk her into coming,” said Pastor Joel. “Good-bye for now.”

“Good-bye, Pastor,” said Samantha at the end of their conversation.

That day after eating lunch at Alice’s home, Samantha asked her mom, “I talked to Pastor Joel and he asked if you would be available at noon on Wednesdays to attend the senior lunch at church? You could meet some new friends and play cards after eating a free meal.”

“When he asked me, I told him I don’t want a handout,” said Alice.

“It’s not a handout, mother. I know you love to play cards at the Senior Center one day a week. This would be another card game for you. I can drive you to church and back home if you wish,” offered Samantha.

“I’ll think about it,” said Alice.

The next day at lunch at Alice’s home she agreed to go to the senior citizens’ lunch at the Methodist Church and try it out. Alice made it clear that she made no promises past that day. Samantha drove her there in her Cadillac at noon on the following Wednesday. After lunch Alice had the time of her life playing Bridge with new friends and said she wanted to go again the next week. Pastor Joel thanked both of them for attending the luncheon meal. That started a new routine on Wednesdays for both of them.

    Eventually Samantha was recruited to wash dishes after the Wednesday lunch. She also met new friends who volunteered and worked in the church kitchen. She enjoyed helping out and started to look forward to the Wednesday senior lunch.

Every weekday except Wednesdays when they attended the seniors’ lunch at church Samantha went over to her mother’s house for a light brunch. They ate mostly cheese and crackers or tuna fish sandwiches with coffee. She felt bad about her mother’s illness but there wasn’t anything she could do about it. Her mother had suffered so much from the terminal lung cancer that raged in her body.

One day during lunch Samantha said to her mother, “Why don’t you come live with me in our mansion? You can meet my new puppy, Prince, and parakeet, Blue Birdie. I taught Prince to fetch sticks out of Lake Michigan and return them to me. He is learning other tricks. There is plenty of room and the mansion even has a mother-in-law apartment with a private entry.”

Without hesitation, Alice replied stubbornly “No way am I going to live in a mansion. This is my only home and I want to die here. Eventually I think Mason will get possession of the title of your home on his way to becoming bankrupt.”

“Oh, Mother, just think it over. There is a swimming pool we could sit around this summer and relax,” offered Samantha.

“I’ll come by some time to visit you, Prince, and Blue Birdie at your mansion, but I’m definitely not moving in. You can forget that idea,” said Alice.

“Maybe we could take a vacation to Hawaii,” suggested Samantha. “That would be fun.”

“I have to stay in Traverse City for my chemotherapy,” Alice told Samantha. “I don’t want to go anywhere except to a graveyard.”

“Mother don’t talk like that,” said Samantha. “Perhaps you’ll win your battle against cancer.”

“I doubt it. I have faced the hard fact I’m going to die soon. Now you run along and don’t worry about me. I’ll be okay here in my own house,” said Alice who motioned for Samantha to leave.

Samantha hoped her mother might change her mind once she saw the mansion and come live in it with her. She felt lonely in the big estate home. Recently being always depressed she made an appointment with her primary doctor in hopes of getting some kind of medication to relieve her of the condition. Her doctor told her she would have to go see a psychiatrist for medication. He arranged an emergency appointment with Dr. Lenhart who had an office across town.

When she went to his office, she told Dr. Lenhart she was depressed and suicidal. He wanted to know if she had a plan to take her own life or was it just a thought without a plan. If she did have a plan, he would put her in Munson Hospital’s Third Floor Unit for her own safety and some intense therapy. She told him she had only contemplated suicide and would never do it because her cancer-stricken mother needed her support.

Satisfied that she wouldn’t commit suicide, Dr. Lenhart wrote out a prescription for one daily 50 mg dose of PRISTQ tablets. He gave Samantha some reading material about the antidepressant medication and told her not to drink any alcohol, which would remove the drug’s effectiveness. Also, he made an emergency appointment with a well-known Traverse City clinical psychologist named Dr. Barbara Goldsmith.

That afternoon, Samantha went to the Rite Aid pharmacy on South Division Street to fill her prescription. Then she drove to Dr. Goldsmith’s office on the old Traverse State Hospital grounds. When Samantha arrived, the receptionist told her she would meet Dr. Goldsmith in half an hour. She sat there in the waiting room reading a women’s magazine and listening to some tranquil music playing on the stereo.  

Several minutes later, Dr. Goldsmith emerged from a back office, saying good-bye to a client who was leaving, and greeted Samantha. She was a middle-aged woman with black hair, wearing a dark dress down to her knees, and black hose. Samantha instantly liked the clinical psychologist. She hoped she would help her get over feeling depressed all the time. Dr. Goldsmith ushered Samantha into a therapy room nearby. The young woman was told to lie down on a couch while Dr. Goldsmith sat in a chair with a laptop nearby.

“Are you the Rossman who won the Powerball lottery?” asked Dr. Goldsmith.

“Yes, I am,” Samantha replied, a little surprised that Dr. Goldsmith had recognized her from the news accounts.

Dr. Goldsmith turned on the laptop and began typing something. She said, “I thought I remembered your face and name from news reports. How can I help you?”

“I’m terribly depressed. I got a depression medication prescription today from Dr. Lenhart. I just went to the pharmacy to fill it. You’re probably wondering why a woman who has millions of dollars is depressed,” said Samantha.

“No, I’m not surprised. Depression can happen to anyone and I think you are probably under a lot of pressure since winning the lottery,” Dr. Goldsmith told the young woman. “Why don’t you start by talking about your life experiences.”

“Okay. I had a happy childhood. I’m an only child, and my father died almost a year ago. I’m actually still mourning his death. I have a mother who has terminal lung cancer and lives here in Traverse City. She does chemotherapy nearly every week at the Cowell Family Cancer Center. We have a close relationship. I see her every day for lunch at her house.

“I met my husband, Mason, online at a dating club website. He grew up at his grandparents’ house, since both of his parents died when he was young. Mason never talks about his grandfather, who probably abused him. It’s a sensitive topic for him to discuss. When we dated together, he seemed really nice to me and I eventually fell in love with him. We planned on having children. Mason was a cashier at a 7-Elevenstore and I worked part-time at Walmart as a hairdresser. The hairdressing job didn’t pay much money but I struck with it hoping to get full-time work. A short time later we got married over my father and mother’s objections. They didn’t think Mason had much of a future as a cashier at the 7-Eleven. After work he spent his free time writing a novel. I didn’t think it would get published and I was right about that. I was in love and married him despite my parents’ grave concerns.

“I have a best friend, Pamela Spencer, who I went to elementary school with growing up. She is a good listener when I complain about Mason. She goes to NMC, studying to be a nurse, and lives in a dorm on campus. I think she’s gay, but I don’t know for sure. She never had a boyfriend, saying she hasn’t any time since nursing classes require her to study hard. I haven’t asked her about her sexual orientation. She hasn’t ever made a pass at me or brought it up. We are close, but I feel guilty talking about Mason’s problems all the time when we have lunch together. That’s one of the reasons I agreed with Dr. Lenhart to see a clinical psychologist. I wanted to talk about my problems without interfering with someone’s good nature.”

“Sound idea,” said Barbara. “I’m a willing listening ear for you.”

“We had a simple but happy first year of marriage. Mason always wanted to be an author and published some articles locally. He wrote a novel about us entitled The Love Affair, but couldn’t find a literary agent to represent the book to publishing companies. Quite frankly, it is a poorly written book and probably will never be published.

            “After a year of marital bliss Mason stopped making love to me. Instead, he would sit in his bedroom office and masturbate while watching porno movies. I thought we were going through a rough time with our marriage and things would get better. I hoped he still loved me. He grew distant and we didn’t have any friendly discussions anymore.

“Then on his twenty-second birthday he got arrested for drunk driving. We were broke and couldn’t afford his bail to get him out of jail. I had to go to my mother and beg for his bail money. My mother told me she would help but just one time. Like my late father’s negative opinion, she doesn’t think much of Mason. She thought he would go bankrupt on his 7-Eleven wages.

“The next day, we won the Powerball lottery, over $800,000,000. It was an overwhelming experience. Right away, Mason wanted to spend $50,000,000 to make a movie based on his unpublished book. I thought it was a bad idea. He is not a good writer at all. We argued about spending a lot of money so fast. He slapped me once during one of these fights, drawing blood into my mouth. I threatened to report him to the police for domestic violence. Since then he has never hit me again but we fight all the time about how to spend the Powerball jackpot money.”

“During one big fight Mason suggested we split the lump sum payment fifty-fifty and go our own separate ways financially. I thought the idea over, spending a few sleepless nights worried about it. I went along with his offer. He left for Hollywood, bought another mansion, and made arrangements for the movie with an agent named Paul Finch. Paul helped Mason secure a studio to film The Love Affair. It has cost us a lot of money to get the movie project off the ground: $50,000,000.

“Mason seldom calls me, and I’m worried he’ll find a girlfriend in Hollywood. He’s breaking my heart by being so absorbed in filming his movie and ignoring me. I get depressed and feel suicidal. It can be lonely at night in my big mansion. I only have a puppy for company. Although I considered it, I can’t commit suicide. My mother needs me while she is sick. After spending some nights awake without sleeping, I decided to go see my doctor. My new psychiatrist put me on medication for depression. He referred you to me and set up this emergency appointment. I still love Mason, even though we have had our troubles. That’s my story.”

While Samantha talked, Dr. Goldsmith typed some more notes into her laptop. She said, “I can see why you’re depressed. Money doesn’t necessarily bring happiness. It sounds like you have some decisions to make about your marriage. Maybe I can help you sift through your options. One, you could go on living without an actual husband, or two, you might want to divorce him and start a new life as a single woman.”

“I don’t want to divorce Mason. Becoming a single woman with so much money?  It scares me that men will look at me as a cash cow. I just want to have my husband return from Hollywood,” explained Samantha.

Tears began to flow down Samantha’s cheeks. Dr. Goldsmith handed her a box of facial tissue. The young woman began wiping the tears off her face.

“I get emotional talking about it with you, my mother, and Pamela. It’s hard to live alone in my mansion,” Samantha said, repeating herself as she cried.

Dr. Goldsmith got up from the chair and walked over to her desk. Opening the desk drawer, she found a brochure. She offered it to Samantha, saying, “This is some information about a grief support group that meets on Wednesday nights at Munson Hospital. For one thing, you haven’t gotten over the death of your father. A social worker named Beverly Watts chairs the support group meetings. I know her and am recommending that you meet with the group to see if it is emotionally helpful to deal with your father’s death and your mother’s serious illness.”

Samantha said thank you and accepted the brochure.

“I’m also recommending you take yoga classes at the new YMCA on Silver Lake Road. Call or stop by the Y for details,” suggested Dr. Goldsmith.

“Okay. I’ll attend the grief support group and take yoga classes at the Y,” promised Samantha, feeling good about Dr. Goldsmith being in her corner.

She liked the clinical psychologist and felt she had someone on her side besides her mother and Pamela. Dr. Goldsmith was understanding of her situation with Mason. They talked for an additional thirty minutes and made another appointment for the next week.