Thought I Knew You(2)

By: Kate Moretti

“Sweetie, he’ll be home. He’s just out for an adventure.” I poked my head out of the door and looked around the yard. “Cody! Come back, bud! It’s dinner time!” It wasn’t, but “dinner time” never failed to evoke a response.

I didn’t see him, but he could have been anywhere. An old barn sat at the back of our property. I could imagine him there, tucked under the rarely used workbench, bathed in a shaft of light let in by the broken side door. I’d look in a bit, after the babysitter, Charlotte, came, but before we left for dinner. I let the screen door slam and checked the time. I was surprised to see that the clock showed three fifteen already. Where was Greg anyway?

I gathered two-year-old Leah from the playroom, her cheeks rouged from the same Hannah-pilfered lipstick, and plopped her in the high chair. After tossing some Goldfish crackers on her tray, I picked up the phone and dialed Greg’s number. My call went directly to voicemail, so I left an irritated message. Frustrated, I tapped my fingers on the phone. Greg had likely forgotten our plans, his mind a million miles away, his wife last on his list. I stormed around the kitchen, slamming pots and pan lids, half-expecting him to appear behind me and say teasingly, “Feel better now?” like he generally does when I get cranky and start making noise.

I had to think a moment to remember the last time we spoke. Wednesday evening, he had called to say good night and to tell the girls he loved them. He didn’t call last night, but that wasn’t all that strange. I filled my time with kid-friendly activities, play dates, family, and friends, so we didn’t talk every night. I could think of a few trips, particularly in the last few months, where the week would come and go before I realized we hadn’t spoken at all.

“The bigger question, Hannah-banana, is where on earth is your daddy?”

At six, I called Charlotte and canceled.

Then, I called my mom. “Can you believe he didn’t even call me? Should I be worried?”

“Nah, you never know when he’s coming home,” Mom reassured me. “Remember last month? His flight was delayed for a whole day.”

“Yeah, but he called at least.” I bit my bottom lip.

“Not until pretty late, though, right? He was stuck on the runway. It’s probably the same now.” I could envision her dismissively waving her hand in the air.

Her lightness eased something inside me, and I exhaled a breath I hadn’t known I was holding. “I’ll bet he forgot. It’s so typical lately. I have no idea where his head is anymore.”

“Well, if his plane was delayed, I’m sure he can’t call. That whole ‘don’t use your cell phone while flying’ rule.”

Mom and Dad lived about ten minutes away in the same house where I grew up, and I talked to my mother no less than twice a day. She loved Greg and probably knew more about our life than a mother should, but she wasn’t privy to the small details. She didn’t know about Greg’s recent distance or our inability to have a conversation lately, or our apparent—mutual—sex strike, which caused our bed to be the scene of a new Cold War. Ups and downs, is all, I kept thinking. We all got ’em.

But when we had talked on Wednesday, things seemed a little better. Greg wanted to go to a movie; we hadn’t done that in a while. And he even suggested Mexican. His long silences, usually heavy with unsaid words, seemed lighter somehow. Almost easy. When I tried to end the call, I sensed an unusual hesitancy. Generally, Greg ended the conversation first, a sense of urgency coming through the line from the minute he said “hello,” but Wednesday had been different. Or maybe that was just my hopeful thinking.

Leah started crying from her high chair.

“Ma, I gotta go. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

After six o’clock, I secured the girls in the playroom in front of the television before bed and hiked to the back of the yard, skirting the edge of the woods. Behind the woods was a steep hill, ending at some little-used railroad tracks.

“Cooooody!” I called him over and over again. I expected him to come bounding over the hill, carrying some treasure from the tracks. When he didn’t materialize, I fought a sense of deep unease, of everything being slightly out of place, two voids in the house defying reason.

Worried about leaving the girls alone too long, I jogged back to the house. On the back porch, I turned once more to gaze out at the inky yard, a black, starless sky swallowing the earth that seemed to shift ever so slightly beneath my feet. Trying to convince myself that Cody would show up later, I went inside to wait for my husband.

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