He’d been gone for two months when she realized he wasn’t coming back. The thought confused her. Why wouldn’t he come back? Was something wrong with their marriage? Her? Was something wrong with her?
Hadn’t she cooked his meals, cleaned the house, everything he didn’t have time to do when he was working so hard. Eighty hours some weeks. He never listened when she tried to talk about working less, being home more. They didn’t talk about anything anymore. He ate alone, often at 10 or 11 at night. He worked weekdays. Weekends. Holidays. Sometimes all night.
Has she not done enough? Was it her fault?
Slowly, she realized he had abandoned her, abandoned their home, their life, but mostly her. She’d nagged too much. Fussed about clothes left on the floor. By the hamper. Dishes left on the kitchen counter. By the dishwasher. Towels on the bathroom floor. The way stress was wearing him thin.
She’d tried to do right. Tried to support him, to help him. God knows, she loved him, even if he didn’t seem to want her anymore.
It occurred to her he had met someone, some woman, someone who listened to him and loved him, who wasn’t too tired when he got home to have sex. It didn’t matter what she wanted, at least not in the last year. Before then, everything had seemed perfect.
She loved him with all her heart and soul and life. He’d provided for her, for them, given her a huge house, two fancy cars in the garage, a pasture and barn for her horses. Romantic trips to far away places. Parties. Gala openings for movies and the theater. Anything she’d wanted, he’d given her.
Until this year.
She must have changed. He didn’t love her anymore.
She spent the next few weeks crying, frantically looking for him. Calling his cell. His office. His family. No body knew where he was and he never answered his cell. When his voice mail got too full to take any more messages, she stopped calling.
His boss told her he’d quit his job months before he’d disappeared, but couldn’t tell her why. He’d come in one day, given notice and walked back out the door. That was the last time anybody in the office had seen him.
It was then she realized he’d been planning to disappear for a long time. Had he lain in their bed late at night, thinking about how he was going to leave her? Anxious to be with the other woman?
Was the woman one of their friends? Somebody at his Office? A chance meeting at the Coffee Shop? If she just knew who and why, she might be able to accept his loss. As it was, his leaving left a hole in her life and her heart which she knew would never be filled. He was the only man she’d ever loved. The man she’d given herself to on their wedding night, the only man she’d ever been with.
After six months, she woke knowing she had to go on with her life. Either give up and die or move on. She’d tried to kill herself once, speeding around the narrow mountain curves, planning to drive off the road, but she been too afraid to go through with her plan.
She bought a farm out in the country. Sold the house and everything inside. Sold the fancy automobiles and bought herself a second-hand car. Donated all their fancy clothes. Sold her jewelry, the silver, all his things. Moved herself and her horses to the farm to start anew.
She adopted a dog from the Shelter. And a cat. Bought chickens and built a chicken coop by herself, complete with banged thumbs, frustrations, screaming fits, crying, mis-cut boards, broken nails. Back to the lumber store time after time, determined to succeed. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but she’d done it herself. She even thought about getting a cow. Maybe some fainting goats.
At the end of the first month on the farm, near the end of the first year since his disappearance, her phone rang at midnight…
Part One of “Gone,” a novella by CS Knotts