Authors: Deanna Lynn Sletten
Maggie stared after him, her brow furrowed. Tourists brushed past her, a few staring. She was oblivious of their presence.
"My leathers?" she whispered to herself. Then a big smile spread over her face as she realized what Bill meant. "Whatever you say, Wild Bill," she exclaimed out loud as a woman passed her and frowned. Maggie turned and headed back up the street, her destination being one specific shop she'd passed earlier.
Andrew was waiting for Derrick Weis when the sheriff entered the station at eight thirty the next morning. Derrick frowned and shook his hand in greeting. "Still no sign of Maggie, I take it," he stated, as Andrew nodded.
The two men walked into Derrick's small, cluttered office, and Andrew dropped heavily into the faux leather chair opposite of Derrick's. Andrew was dressed in his usual work clothes, a suit, but he looked tired and nervous. Andrew kept running his hand through his hair and was having trouble sitting still in his seat, which didn't go unnoticed by Derrick.
Uncomfortable under Derrick's stare, Andrew finally spoke, his voice not as confident as it usually sounded. "So, what do we do now?"
Derrick pulled a sheet of paper from his desk drawer to take notes. "We need to file a Missing Persons Report and get this information out. Tell me everything you know."
Andrew explained again how Kaia was the last person to see Maggie, how she hadn't come home after dropping Kaia off at school, and there didn't seem to be any missing clothes or luggage. He was sure she hadn't packed anything. He gave Derrick the name and phone number of Maggie's workplace—he'd written it on a piece of paper, because he didn't know it by heart, since he never called or visited Maggie at work—then he filled out some physical information about Maggie. Height, weight (
how the hell should I know?
), blue eyes, blonde hair (
yes, real blonde, not bottled
). What had she last been wearing?
"How would I know that?" Andrew blurted out, pointing to the question. "Who pays attention to clothes?"
Derrick's eyes scanned over Andrew. "Looks like you pay a lot of attention to your own clothes."
"What's that got to do with it?" Andrew insisted, then he caught the look of disapproval in Derrick's eyes. Andrew knew he was losing control. He was already irritated by Maggie's disappearance and with the fight he'd had with Kaia this morning. Kaia had insisted on staying home from school, but he'd made her go anyway.
"You can't do anything for your Mom here," he'd said, to which her reply was to glare at him and call him an insensitive jerk. And now Derrick was looking at him with that same disapproving stare.
"Like you remember what your wife wore this morning." Andrew shot at him.
"My wife is a nurse. She wore white this morning," Derrick replied, calmly.
"That's not fair," Andrew countered. "Your wife wears a uniform, like you do. Of course you remember what she wore."
Derrick conceded with a nod. "At least try to remember everything you can. Every little detail counts."
Andrew once again stared at the sheet of paper before him. He closed his eyes and tried to imagine yesterday morning, the last time he'd seen Maggie. He'd been preoccupied with his own upcoming day, noticing his wife's outfit, or even how she looked in it, wasn't something he'd thought to do. Besides, it seemed as though she wore the same thing everyday. He just couldn't remember what it was.
Finally, Andrew gave up trying to remember. He finished filling out the form and handed it back to Derrick. Derrick looked it over a minute before returning his gaze to Andrew. "Is there anything else I should know?" he asked, his tone steady.
Once again, Andrew sounded defensive.
"What do you mean by that?"
"Is there anything going on between the two of you that would make Maggie take off? Did you two have a fight recently? Problems with the children? Stuff like that."
"No, of course not," Andrew answered quickly.
Andrew ran a hand through his hair again, took a deep breath, and let it out slowly in an effort to calm himself down. He didn't understand why he was being so defensive, as if he were guilty of something. He didn't like people prying into his personal life, and he felt as if Derrick was pointing a finger at him for Maggie's disappearance. He knew that if he didn't calm down, he'd look guilty as hell over something he didn't do. Slowly, he lifted his eyes. Derrick stared back at him, frowning.
"Listen, Derrick," Andrew said, his tone calmer. "This has been tough. Sorry for snapping at you."
Derrick nodded. "I understand. I really don't want to pry, but anything you can tell me may help find Maggie."
Andrew nodded. "Maggie and I were...are fine," he said, quickly correcting his slip into past tense. "At least as far as I know. I mean, hey, every couple has their problems, right? We're no different from everyone else." Andrew wasn't about to share the details of his marriage with Derrick. It wasn't any of his business, and it wouldn't help find Maggie anyway. But the look in Derrick's eyes told him that Derrick might know more about him and Maggie than he was letting on.
"We'll do the best we can to find her, Andrew," Derrick said. "Just let us know if you hear anything. The sooner we have information, the better."
Andrew nodded as he stood and left Derrick's office. He'd watched enough crime shows to know that if Maggie hadn't run off on her own, the chances of finding her, alive, were getting slimmer with every passing minute.
The day dragged on for Andrew. He went to work as usual but couldn't keep his mind on anything else except Maggie's disappearance. He didn't mention anything about it to his coworkers, and when Maggie was found, he hoped they wouldn't find out she'd been gone. The way Derrick had looked at him this morning, as if he were to blame for Maggie's disappearance, had annoyed him. He hadn't done anything wrong—he was innocent. He'd just been going about his business when, all of a sudden, she was gone. It made no sense at all. Yet, Derrick's question,
"Did anything happen between the two of you to make Maggie leave?"
hung thickly in the air.
No marriage is perfect,
he thought, trying to convince himself that he had done nothing wrong. They had their problems. No different than anyone else, right? He continued telling himself this long after he left work and picked Kaia up from school. But deep down, he knew that if Maggie had left on her own, he was partly to blame.
Kaia was relentless all evening, insisting Andrew go out looking for Maggie and call around. When Andrew refused, she accused him again of not caring that her mom was missing. Andrew didn't want the entire town to know Maggie was missing. It would've been an embarrassment to the family, but mostly to him, especially if people he knew found out she'd left on her own, and he had to explain why. He tried explaining this to Kaia several times, but she wouldn't listen. "Just let the police do their job," he finally told her, but Kaia disagreed. It was a tense evening between them.
When Kyle finally came home, Andrew decided it was time to discuss what they were going to do. Without Maggie at home, they needed to come up with a plan to do the things she usually did.
"Listen," he told the kids after they'd all finished picking at the pizza Kyle had brought home for dinner. "Until Mom comes home, I need you both to help out around here."
Kaia shook her head and snorted. "You make it sound like Mom's on vacation or something."
"Kaia, enough, okay?" Andrew said, trying hard not to lose patience with her. He turned to his son. "Kyle, I need you to drive Kaia to school every day, and we'll take turns picking her up."
Kyle frowned. "No can do, Dad. I have to be in class by eight, and the college is on the opposite side of town from the middle school. I'd have to drop her off by seven thirty in order to do that."
"Then do it," Andrew said.
"No way," Kaia yelled. "I'm not sitting around school for an hour before it starts."
"Listen, Kaia, you have to give in a little here. I simply cannot drive you. I need to get to work on time."
"Your office doesn't open until nine o'clock," Kaia shot back. "There's no reason you need to be there so early. You can drop me off and still have plenty of time to get to work. It's only a block away."
The frustration of the day's events finally caught up with Andrew. "I'm not arguing with you anymore, Kaia," he bellowed. "If you don't want Kyle to take you to school, then you can ride the bus."
"What?" Kaia asked, stunned.
"You heard me. Ride the bus. Your mother may have had the time to spoil you, but I have to earn a living so you can have all those things that you think you can't live without. From now on, you can ride the bus."
Kaia stood, fists clenched, her eyes spitting fire. But Andrew held his ground, arms folded, matching her stare while Kyle shifted his eyes between the two, waiting uneasily for the next round. But nothing happened. Kaia turned on her heel and ran up to her room, slamming her door so hard the pictures on the walls of the dining room shook.
Kyle took a deep breath, still sitting in his chair at the table. Andrew stood there, a smug smile replacing his anger from only moments ago.
Round one won
But Kyle knew differently. "Hey, Dad?" he began, trying to explain why Kaia shouldn't ride the bus.
Andrew didn't give him a chance. "She'll live," he interrupted, his tone short. Then he turned and walked into the kitchen.
Kyle shrugged again and headed up to his room.
Maggie was settling in for the night in her room at the Bullock Hotel and enjoying the peace and quiet of having the large room all to herself. She loved the Victorian décor in the room, the thick flowered comforter on the queen-size bed and the antique oak wardrobe where she'd hung her new purchases. After leaving Wild Bill, she'd spent the rest of the evening shopping, picking up more necessities and a couple of non-essential items that would be suitable to wear on her ride tomorrow. It had been years since she'd spent so much time doing exactly as she pleased, and she felt relaxed and happy.
Maggie left the television volume on low as she brushed her teeth and got ready for bed. Slipping into new pajamas she'd just purchased, she snuggled into the cushy bed, using both large pillows for herself. She picked up the TV remote, poised to turn it off when a photo appeared on screen. It was a picture of a middle-aged woman with the word 'Missing' printed underneath it.
Fear suddenly overtook her. The photo wasn't of her, but what if Andrew had reported her missing? The idea had never even occurred to her until now, and she admonished herself for not thinking clearly as she grabbed her cell phone and turned it on. How could she be so stupid not to have called home? Of course they'd wonder where she was. She been so caught up in her unplanned escape that she'd forgotten everyone but herself. How could she be so selfish not to care about how her family felt?
As soon as the phone lit up, she quickly punched in the number for home.
Andrew answered on the second ring, and Maggie sighed with relief as she heard his familiar voice say, "Hello."
"Maggie? Is that you?"
"Yes, it's me," Maggie began, but Andrew cut her off.
"Where are you? Are you okay? We've been trying to find you." His questions came all in a rush, and Maggie felt a stab of guilt as she heard the concern in her husband's voice. She took a deep breath, controlling her own voice as she answered.
"I'm fine. Everything is okay," she told him, hearing a sigh of relief come from his end of the line. "I'm sorry I worried everyone. I should have called sooner."
"That's an understatement," Andrew shot back, the concern already gone and replaced by a tone Maggie knew all too well, sarcasm.
Maggie tensed. Everything was back to normal again.
"You had the kids worried," Andrew continued. "Where the hell are you?"
Again, guilt flooded through her at the mention of the kids, but Maggie hesitated before answering him. She really didn't want to reveal where she was. Deep down, she knew she needed more time.
"I'm sorry," she said again, almost automatically. Gone was the carefree woman who had driven away, unplanned, from her problems only two days before. Back was the old Maggie, feeling small and without control of her own existence.
"When are you coming home?" Andrew asked, his voice insistent.
Maggie sat on the bed in her room, looking at the furniture from a time long past, a time when life was simpler, less complicated. She couldn't go home yet, that she knew for certain.
"Maggie," Andrew said, irritated.
"I don't know," Maggie finally answered. "I only know that I'm not coming home yet."
There was a long pause at the other end as Maggie waited for Andrew's response. Everything suddenly became clear to her. She needed time away, time to rejuvenate after the past two years, and time to sort out her life after twenty-three years of marriage. Why else would she have driven off without a second thought? Self-preservation. Her mind, body, and soul had finally said
and those were the parts of her she planned to listen to more closely now.
Finally, Andrew spoke in his controlled, no-nonsense tone. "Maggie, what is this all about?"
Maggie sighed. How could she explain to someone who thinks the world should run on a timely, orderly schedule that she just couldn't do it anymore?
being taking one more step in his idea of how their life should be run and always leaving herself behind. He just wouldn't understand.
"This isn't about anything," Maggie tried to explain. "I just need some time to myself. I need to get away for a while. That's all."
Andrew literally snorted. "Time to yourself? Get away for a while? Wasn't it enough that you've been back and forth to Seattle these past two years? How much time away do you need?"