Last night after a week of running here and there to meet my commitments while cramming in time to spend with my family, a call from Brandi in North Dakota came in. Brandi has planned to marry Raul months ago at TDCJ Ellis Unit and later learned that Raul was playing her while planning to marry Valerie. It’s a twisted tale of two women who loved the wrong man. 

I became friends with both women during this window and against my judgment, married Valerie to Raul at Ellis Unit. I can’t choose who my clients marry. My role is to give them the best advice I can and hope they make the right decision for themselves. I was worried about Valerie. While Brandi was dealing with a broken heart, Valerie was excitedly awaiting Raul’s parole. 

Monday, a message on FB from Valerie regarding divorcing Raul led me to call her and find out what was going on. I was in Oceanside preparing for a wedding at Oceanside Suites and had thought things were going well since I had seen posts of Valerie and her children posted to FB. I’m friends with hundreds of former and current clients on my social media. 

Apparently, Raul had “laid hands on Valerie” at church last Sunday. Valerie “didn’t want to file a police report that would land Raul back in prison.” Valerie’s mother and children live with her. I was greatly concerned about this “situation involving life after lock up.” I advised Valerie that upon my return to Texas that I would help her file her own divorce. She had kicked Raul out of her home and didn’t want to file a restraining order although I suggested doing so. 

Cindy and I had landed at LAX with her twin granddaughters Thursday morning at 9AM. We were meeting her daughter, Leigh Ann and her family in Manhattan Beach. My experience at Thrifty waiting on an suv that they didn’t have caused a two hour delay before finally “bartering a deal” with me on a Nissan sedan. 

A few of you may be shaking your head about this barter so, I will elaborate. Months ago, I had paid for and reserved an suv with Thrifty. Thrifty didn’t have the suv. Thrifty had a problem. 

An suv is significantly more expensive than a sedan. Thrifty employees were busy flipping other suv clients into cars without compensating them for the variation while calling other agencies to bring in more SUVs. While trying to obtain more SUVs, customers were either being flipped into cars or waiting. 

I really didn’t want a car for two sets of twins and four suitcases but finally took one after getting Thrifty to refund me $365 for the suv they didn’t have. Two hours lost waiting for an suv with my niece waiting on us in Manhattan Beach? Thanks Thrifty. Next trip I’m using Alamo.

Fielding calls I missed while on the plane for prison weddings in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, we left Thrifty to head to Manhattan Beach. Brandi had called. Apparently, the fact that Raul was being released to “live happily ever after” was causing her undue stress. For nearly two weeks now, I’ve attempted to convince Brandi to “move on.” Brandi owns a truck but doesn’t know how to drive. 

A few weeks ago, Brandi drove her truck into her apartment complex and was arrested. I’ve suggested “selling the truck she can’t drive” to pay fines and restitution but Brandi doesn’t want to sell the truck. Brandi is facing jail time if she doesn’t come up with bond money. It’s a problem. Lose her job and apartment by going to jail or sell the truck? I continue to suggest selling the truck. Brandi goes back to Court this month.

Arriving in Manhattan Beach two hours later than my itinerary’s timeline, we meet up with Leigh Ann, Maddy and Alex who will be joining us on a 6 day 5 city trip to weddings across California. I had a tight timeline. This would be a working holiday. Our first stop was to meet my 2020 client in Redondo Beach. Leigh Ann would be driving her suv and effectively Vehicle B. Seeing Maddy again? Priceless. We were due to check in at the Queen Mary at 3PM and had just enough time for lunch between Redondo Beach and Long Beach. Leigh Ann, Alex, Maryssa and Makenna were going ice skating while Cindy and I took Maddy to meet our Friday wedding couple on the Promenade Deck. Leigh Ann talked me into “trying rock climbing” before heading to our meeting.Maryssa and Makenna were thrilled to be with Maddy again. Having Leigh Ann and Maddy so far away has been bittersweet. While Alex is thrilled to have his family in one place, Cindy and I as well as the twins miss Leigh Ann and Maddy. 

We stayed at the Queen Mary Thursday and Friday before heading to Catalina Saturday. As always, Cindy and I enjoyed our stay at our childhood favorite location. We’ve been visitors and guests on the Queen Mary for 40 years. 

This majestic ship doesn’t have room service but it does have fond memories. Every trip to California involves a stay on the Queen. Booking weddings here is a bonus.Checking out of Long Beach, we headed to Catalina Island to meet my next couple. Golf carts are the “mode of transportation” on Catalina. 

In order to get from Long Beach to Avalon, you have two options, by boat or helicopter. Our family of seven chose the boat this trip although I generally choose the helicopter to save time. 

My family and I had time to enjoy the island while waiting on the arrival of my clients the following day. 

As always, my visit to this beautiful island was enjoyable. There are a number of activities on the island. Snorkeling, paddle boarding, fishing and scuba diving. Due to my meeting with an Oceanside client on Sunday, golf carting was the only activity that I had time for.

Back on the Catalina Express, we headed to Long Beach. From Long Beach, we headed to Newport Beach. Maddy loves the rides on the pier.

Arriving in Oceanside, my weary travelers checked into their rooms as Cindy and I headed to meet my clients. Their Sunday evening wedding was scheduled at our hotel of choice in this city, Oceanside Suites.Monday morning after breakfast with my family, I answered a number of emails for Texas inmate weddings as well as bookings for Belltower Chapel before heading back to LA. It was during this “window” I saw a comment from Valerie to “check my messages on FB.” 

I used messenger to call Valerie and find out what was going on. Perhaps because Valerie had been through so much to marry Raul including correspondence from Brandi, my heart broke for her. I wanted at least one of these two women to find a happily ever after. Valerie has never been married before and a divorce so quickly after marrying would leave scars. I knew it and she knew it too. Less than two weeks out of prison with a beautiful bride by his side, Raul had blown it. Meanwhile in North Dakota, Brandi was still recovering from the charade of love letters Raul had been sending her for months leading her to believe he intended to marry her. Two women and two broken hearts. An inmate with a violent temper and a tangled web to unravel. 

It’s rare for heartache to affect clients who have went through the difficult and arduous process of marrying an inmate. Raul was a player though and he had been caught in this love triangle by someone who saw his photo and recognized that one man was set to marry two different women. Raul was playing with fire by playing two women. Raul should have treated Valerie as his saving grace but Raul will be left standing alone learning the ropes of life after lock up…