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Terra discovered the truth the day before Thanksgiving, when she opened a closet and found a nursing certificate bearing John’s name. ” Terra left, badly shaken, with the sickening feeling that her mother was choosing John over her.Her mom said she was getting his certificates framed, but Terra knew, and she did something uncharacteristic. He had an explanation for why he had a nursing degree but called himself a doctor. When Jacquelyn showed up, John asked for a private word with her. He acted like a kid himself, vulnerable and sweet, and single-mindedly besotted with her.John towered over her by a full foot, and a coldness came off him. Terra and her boyfriend moved into the spare bedroom of the new Balboa Island rental for a few days. Did she realize that kids should be smacked for this?This made it hard for Debra to maintain the illusion that John wasn’t really living there, though she tried. Terra screamed at her mother: “How could you let this guy talk to me like this?!
At the big Thanksgiving party the next day, it was impossible to ignore the sudden fissures in the family — impossible to ignore Terra’s absence. Debra’s mother, Arlane, thought he dressed tackily, especially for Thanksgiving. To John, this was more evidence that Debra’s kids were spoiled and out of control. If they wanted to come over, they had to be invited. If John was the man she had chosen, it was her business. Their house on the boardwalk had floor-to-ceiling windows, and from the rooftop deck they could watch the sailboats and the great yachts slide over Newport Harbor. She smiled when he’d stop in front of a mirror and say, “Damn!
Sometimes they pretended to be sincere churchgoing Christians.
Terra had seen her scared, screamed at, hit, taken for money.
If your eagerness or loneliness or desperation showed too soon, you were done. “Best thing that will ever happen to you,” he replied.
He began spending the night regularly at her Irvine penthouse. She was convinced that her kids would understand how wonderful he was once they got to know him.