Last Saturday was a glorious day in my neck of the country: a sparkling blue, sun-spackled sky, eighty degrees of dry heat, and acceptance letters to four of the private schools to which Franny applied.
I was bouyed by a wave of “I told you so.” Prince had been convinced Franny would not get in anywhere. She did not have great entrance exam scores, she has never played on a sports team, and she is not a rock star academic. And because I had pushed to send her to a progressive elementary school that eschews lots of tests and homework, I had ruined her chances for Harvard and future greatness — proof that I am mentally ill.
Despite living in one of the most insanely competitive private school cities around, I never doubted Franny would get in to at least one of the seven swanky institutions to which we applied. She rocked her interviews with her poise and good character. She is an enthusiastic, engaging, confident team player with a strong work ethic who takes ownership of her education. She is the kind of kid who will be helming the greeting committee. She is an asset to any community, which is why four schools accepted her, including her first choice: a prestigious all-girls school that I will call Talbot.
There was one problem, however: Prince had not signed the stipulation I had sent him two months prior absolving me of all private school costs. A few days before the acceptance letters were due, he sent a revised stipulation packed with too many gray areas for me to sign. My lawyer didn’t have time to review the document, and when Saturday rolled around with its wave of acceptance letters, Prince sent me a barrage of text messages telling me he needed me to sign a document solely to hold her place at Talbot, not to sign the actual acceptance letter. He told me if I did not sign the document before today, Tuesday, his lawyer would rush into court on an ex parte.
Franny was at Prince’s, so he had her call me — I could hear his high-pitched voice squeaking in the background — to ask me if I would agree to Talbot. I told her we were in the process of figuring that out, but that was the direction we were headed.
When I showed up at Prince’s house the next morning to sign the “it’s-just-to-hold-her-place letter,” Franny greeted me in her bathrobe, chattering about uniforms and bus schedules and hot lunches. Her excitement was contagious. So contagious, in fact, that I inititaled and signed several pages of a document I had not reviewed because, for some reason, the acceptance packet was mailed only to Prince.
Later thay day, Prince sent me a video of Franny riding her bike, and I thought, “isn’t this great! Now that she got into a school he can brag about, he’s calmed down and we can share a moment normally reserved for amicably divorced parents!”
But that’s not what the moment was. The moment was: “Ha! I pulled one over on you yet again!”
This is where being a reasonable, non-nefarious person up against Mr. House of Cards gets you: in a legal quagmire.
* * *
Last night I was sitting in bed, about to write an upbeat blog post about Franny’s victory, when a sinister flashback disrupted my blogging process.
I remembered an anecdote Prince told me when we were dating. Once, when his parents were out of town, he was approached by a location scout wanting to use the Machiavelli compound for a film shoot. So he went to the home of his sweet, gullible aunt, and, at only 15, his fast-talking mojo was so advanced that he tricked her into signing a location agreement without understanding what she was signing.
A bolt of panic struck me. I grabbed the “place-holding” document and completely lost control of my blood pressure. Why did I not see what he was doing? He stalled for two months on the stipulation, creating a storm of urgency and a threat to take me to court if I didn’t sign an agreement that would insure “your daughter’s place in the school of her dreams.” This did not bode well.
I frantically e-mailed my attorney and told her what had happened. She e-mailed back — and when your attorney e-mails you at ten at night, it’s a very, VERY bad sign — horrified at what I’d done. She informed me I was now responsible for half the tuition and I was to call the school first thing in the morning to tell them Prince had misrepresented the document and they were to hold off on the enrollment until we could work out how tuition would be handled.
Then I broke my own rule, the rule that every person with a high-conflict ex must employ: a non-emotional response to craziness. I sent him a bunch of hyseterical texts, with lots of all-caps, about how he had LIED! And he was DISGUSTING! And his actions REPREHENSIBLE!
You can imagine what kind of response that invited. I called my friend Laurie and sobbed out the story, hoping she would help me locate and lower my blood pressure.
She did not.
“I just got finished watching House of Cards,” she said. “He’s worse than Kevin Spacey!”
* * *
So here I sit, bleary-eyed after bolting awake at 4:45 this morning, kicking myself for falling for Prince Machiavelli’s machinations. I can’t quash the nightmare scenario playing in my head.
Prince will tell Franny I don’t want her to go to private school.
He will try to get custody of her, convincing her that her mother is trying to ruin her life, seducing her with promises of a trip to Paris and her own Arabian Stallion.
But I was f**cked no matter what. If I hadn’t signed the agreement, he would have told her I didn’t love her enough to let her go to Talbot, and he would have hauled my sorry ass into court to force me to sign the agreement.
There is no way to win with this level of crazy. The best one can hope for is survival, fueled by wine, Klonopin, and Thin Mints.
* * *
News Flash: I just got off with the very understanding Talbot Finance Director who assured me that she deals “with this kind of thing all the time,” but since they have already received the enrollment from Prince, I have until April 10th to work out our legal agreement, or I will be held responsible for half of the THIRTY-THREE THOUSAND DOLLAR TUITION.
To be continued…