by Inara Everett
Nicky Vieira, mom of two, has always wanted to be a photographer. She even thinks in photo images. She signs up for a college photography program – and falls in love with Savvy, a beautiful young lesbian. When Nicky’s husband Paul discovers her affair, he demands a divorce and, to her horror, custody of their children.
Nicky’s lawyer fails to warn her about Paul’s dirty tricks, so Nicky fires him, hires a better lawyer and sets up a successful photography business to pay all the bills. But Paul begins alienating the children from Nicky. Her daughters become sullen and withdrawn. Nicky must find a way to manoeuvre around Paul’s sneaky tactics before the custody trial – or face losing her children.
This intimate look at the intersection of parenting and sexuality will keep readers thoroughly engaged right to the harrowing conclusion.
MY DAUGHTERS attached all sorts of dangling decorations to their new knapsacks on the long weekend before school started. Jasmine added a beaded heart, a fuzzy basketball and a plastic banana to hers; Julia fastened on figurines of Tigger, Piglet and Winnie-the-Pooh. Then they clipped a plastic smiley face on my new school knapsack when they thought I wasn’t looking.
The girls were eager to leave on the first day of school; I steeled myself to head out the front door for my first day at Centennial College. They say the hardest part of any journey is taking the first step; as I considered this, I wondered, who makes this crap up? I began chanting the expression to myself in a silly, sing-song tone.
I looked in the mirror – for the fifth time – before putting on my knapsack. I examined the crow’s feet wrinkles around my eyes, and reminded myself that people often told me I looked young for thirty-six. Being tall and slim helped me on this, and I admit I was proud of my curly auburn hair without a hint of grey. But joining a bunch of kids just out of high school now seemed like a stupid idea. As a wife and mother of two school-aged girls, I was certain I would seem light-years older than the other students.
I calmed down as we got outside in the bright summer sunshine, and I told Jasmine and Julia that I would be home by the time they got back from school at 4. They looked momentarily concerned, having forgotten that I wouldn’t be at home all day as I usually was. I gave them both a hug.
“It’s going to be fine! Love you tons!” I said, trying to sound more confident than I felt, and they hugged me back, reassured.
My husband Paul pulled out of the driveway at that moment, on his way to work.
“Hey Jas and Julia, have a great first day,” he called out from the car. He looked good in his navy suit – tall, dark and handsome, people always said; his aquiline nose and nearly black hair and eyes revealed his Italian background. I looked after him expectantly. He gave me a thumbs-up and drove off down the street. That was good enough for me. Paul wasn’t happy about my return to school, but he was trying to be supportive, and I had to take what I could get.
Paul and I had been married for twelve years. We met at a pub when we were at university; I was there with a group of friends, and he was there too, with his rowdy soccer team. He noticed me right away and when he caught my eye, pretended to swoon at my beauty. Then he took a flower from one of the vases on a table, gave it to me and asked me to dance. I blushingly agreed. I was flattered that someone so good-looking – such broad shoulders, such handsome features – was interested in me. We started going out after that. He was so much fun then.
Just before graduating from university, I discovered that I was pregnant. Paul and I had talked about marriage, and I wanted to have kids, but the pregnancy was unexpected and too soon – and I hadn’t completely made my mind up on how I felt about Paul. When I told him about the baby, he wanted to get married right away; he’s Catholic. I was scared so I agreed to marry him, even though I knew he expected me to be Lady Guinevere to his King Arthur, and sit at home demurely worshipping him while he went off on adventures – and we all know how that story ended. Then Jasmine was born and I fell in love with her right from the start. Julia followed soon after.
Jasmine and Julia ran ahead as we walked to the elementary school down the street from our house on Lynde Boulevard. Jas was tall for her age at twelve, with an athletic build, blonde hair and blue eyes, and a happy and outgoing personality. She sometimes bossed people around, including her sister, but was still just a kid underneath the grown-up act. Until she was nearly ten, she used to cry whenever I left her with a babysitter – although the sitters always claimed she would cheer up as soon as I was out the door.
Julia, at nine, was a slender, pretty girl with shoulder-length dark hair that she usually wore in a ponytail. She drew and painted beautifully and got very good grades in school, but wanted to be more popular and athletic like her sister Jasmine. Once after Paul and I took her to one of Jasmine’s basketball tournaments and Jas scored the winning point, Julia sneaked into Jasmine’s room and stole her basketball shoes. Paul accused Jasmine of losing them, which she hotly denied. Julia was hailed as a heroine when she “found” the shoes. When she finally confessed to hiding them, Paul and I grounded her for two weeks.
Kids and assorted parents filled the sidewalk as we got closer to the school, and I chatted with a few mothers I knew. Both Jasmine and Julia raced into the schoolyard of the sprawling red brick building once we arrived.
“Bye, mom!” they called. They wanted to find their friends and to avoid being seen lingering with their mother in front of the other children.
“A small amount of clinging might have been nice,” I joked to another parent. She was prying a sniffling six-year-old off of her leg.
“Believe me, it’s for the best when they run off like that,” she said, laughing.
I walked down several streets and got on a bus, which took me to the subway station. The bustle of the other commuters soothed my jangled nerves, and I closed my eyes and relaxed after studying the map of Centennial I had received along with my acceptance into the college’s one-year photography program.
I’ve always loved to take pictures, ever since I got my first Canon camera back in high school. In Grade Eleven, I won first prize in the Streetsville Examiner’s Young Artists Photography Contest for a photo I took of Canada geese flying in a V formation over a farmer’s field – a close-up of the geese that highlighted their strong wings. My proud parents made me the family photographer after that, and I created scrapbooks of photos every year. I try to capture the little things at family events that no one else sees – like my brother-in-law admiring my pretty cousin Ellie’s figure in her low-cut sweater, or Jasmine surreptitiously feeding the dog a forbidden treat. Everyone loves leafing through the scrapbooks – although they are sometimes fearful of what I might have captured.
I’m such a shutterbug that I even think in photo images; they pop into my head at random times. For example: when I was a nerd in high school, sometimes getting teased for my good grades, one boy – his name was Mike Buller – really liked to make fun of me and it bothered me a lot. But one time, a Norman Rockwell-type photo came into my head when Mike was picking on me, of him in the corner of the classroom wearing a dunce cap, head hanging down. The photo made me understand his motivation – he thought he was stupid and was jealous of me. His teasing didn’t bother me anymore, and when he saw this, he stopped.
It was then that I knew that I had to become a photographer.
I signed up for Centennial’s photography program on the day after Julia’s ninth birthday, on April 16, 2000. I had been a stay-at-home mom for over a decade, and I needed to follow my dream. I had time on my hands now that the girls were established in school, and let’s face it, I wasn’t getting any younger. It felt like a now-or-never kind of thing. I knew I would meet resistance from Paul; I’m not sure how I found the courage to change the course of our relationship after all that time. Maybe it was because I noticed Paul surreptitiously staring at younger women as my looks started to fade; maybe it was because I felt the call of forty just around the corner, with all the regret for things not done that that milestone birthday brings. It was not hard to do once I made up my mind; I went online, found Centennial College’s photography program and began filling out the forms.
But now, on the first day of school, the reality of actually attending the program hit me. What if I couldn’t manage the workload? What if I didn’t fit in? I started chanting “the hardest part of any journey” expression again.
I really liked this book. I got caught up in Nicky’s dreams of becoming a photographer and her ability to think in photo images. I liked her strength of character in the face of a devious husband and an uncaring court system – she fought back in every way she could.
And, I think that I may have a crush on super-cool Savvy!
I highly recommend Judging Nicky. The book’s bittersweet ending left me thinking about it for days.
About the Author
Inara Everett is a Canadian lawyer and writer with a passion for all things jurisfictional. Jurisfiction describes the genre of legal fiction – fiction with a law-related theme. Inara’s blog, jurisfictional.com, covers her e-publishing experiences and thoughts about life in this crazy, infuriating, uplifting, exciting world.