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INTRO/CHAPTERS 1 & 2
INTRO/CHAPTERS 1 & 2
A week later the car was gone. Lauren had no idea why it was a surprise this morning when she woke up on another snowy wintry day to find it gone from the driveway. It had been expected and feared for months, yet, she had hoped that perhaps it would never come to be. Even now, as she stared out the icy hazed window in the space it had occupied with its empty tank of gas fumes in the driveway, her mind was finding it hard to believe.
“No.” She slid down the wall to land on her rear as her knees came up to wrap her arms around them. “Please no.” It was just another blow to her downward spiraling life, but it was a shot right to her soul. Without a car, she couldn’t make it to town. Without a car she couldn’t look for a job. Without a car, living so far out in the low mountain country—she was a prisoner of her own despair.
As tears cascaded down her face, she angrily reached up to wipe them away in refusal to give in. Give in to what? Facts? Reality? The truth?
“No.No. No. No no no no no.” She just kept saying the word over and over again as if its utterance would somehow rewind the events to a place in the action she wanted to stay in. But that would have been months ago when her life and marriage had been a lie without her knowing it. And there had been no pause, replay or stop button.
(Two Months Ago)
Lauren had no idea why she was folding his clothes but she was. She was being careful with each crease of the sleeves, each bend of the pants legs as she placed them neatly into the duffel bag that rested on their bed as if he was once again leaving on the many business trips that spotted their marriage. He moved efficiently around her as if he was already in a different orbit than her world; one that used to spin around him. Like the silent small moon around the brighter, big sun.
“You don’t have to do that.”
She nodded as she smoothed her palms over the material, trying to get them to stop shaking. “I know. But I wanted to…” her words trailed off. Help seemed like acceptance so it caught in her throat refusing to be spoken. Acceptance was something she wasn’t quite prepared to handle as of yet.
“You’ll call me?” She knew her voice sounded shaky and weak as she glanced over at him, but she didn’t care. Did he?
He nodded and gave her a smile, one that she recognized as the same one he used at company functions with strangers. The one that he had practiced to perfection--welcoming but not committal in a pleasant façade of dismissal. “I said I would. Right?”
Yes, he had. But he had also said till death did they part, in sickness and health and the all important three-little words “I love you”, so his words weren’t always the best indicator of what he really meant. Was that smile a better one? She shut that down fast.
“Yes you did. But I need to know everything is going to be okay.” She turned to face him and he pulled her close, with her hands pressed on his chest and his arms wrapping around her. This she could find some reality in. Always could. When she was encircled in his arms the world seemed not too scary, less big and able to be dealt with on all levels that mattered.
He sighed and placed his chin on the top of her head as he rubbed her back. “I know. But if you can forgive me for what I did, then I can make a new start for us. It’ll just be a few weeks, I promise. You trust me right?”
She felt her brow crinkle into a frown as his question settled into her misfiring thought processes. Did she? Really? Yes, she had found out his secret. About the other women and the double-life of lies. But they had gotten past that right? They had decided to try again and make things right. So she had to trust him to be willing to do that. Right? Of course she did…it’s the only thing that made sense.
Pulling back to look up at his face, she gave a smile, though her eyes were filled with tears to nod. “Yes. I do. Just no more lies okay?”
He smiled and kissed her forehead before stepping away from her, leaving her feeling once again as if in a void far outside his personal orbit. “No more lies. Best way to be.” He walked over and grabbed his duffel and the keys to the rental car in the driveway and paused by the door. “I’ll call you every night. And soon I’ll have a job and I’ll get us a house. Brand new start. Just take care of things here and before you know it baby, brand new life for both of us.”
He had kept his word about the calls as he had called her every night. For a week. Then it was every few days and then none at all. She had started calling him and at first he would answer until that even stopped being the case. Then she was only granted access to his voice mail to leave a message kindly asking for a call. Then crying asking for a call and finally, not calling for a call at all.
So three weeks later, she hadn’t heard from him and reality was starting to whisper in threatening tones to her heart. He had lied. He had played her to make a clean get away. He had never liked confrontations and always did his best to say whatever it took to avoid them. But he had never been that way with her, just business associates and…strangers. People that didn’t matter.
Like her now?
It was two weeks before Thanksgiving and he had promised her on one of the calls that first week that he would come home for the holidays, even if it was for a few days. Trying to convince herself that perhaps he had been really busy getting their new life ready for them so found a small foolish spark of hope that perhaps she was wrong. Picking up her phone, she squeezed her eyes tight as the call went through. One ring. Two rings….
She stared at the phone and even moved it away to stare at the number. She had hit his name in her contacts and the number confirmed it was the right one to call. He had the same number for over five years. She brought the phone back into position to ask for him in a voice that sounded as if coming from anyone else other than her—soft and frightened, unsure and lost.
“Who is this?” the voice on the other end of the call asked in a tone that was the opposite of hers. Strong and in-control.
“I’m his wife. Can I talk to him please?”
The woman on the other end started laughing and responded with snide and rude dripping from each word, “You have got to be kidding me. Bitch? You really need to take a look at reality. Or are you as stupid as he says you are? I didn’t believe it possible.”
Lauren then heard his voice in the background and the woman told him who was on the call. The phone apparently was grabbed and two simple words were spoken, disgust and annoyance in the tone.
Then the call was ended.
And so was her hope.