Now She's Gone: A Novel (16 page)

BOOK: Now She's Gone: A Novel
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She was in the bathroom, putting the final touches on her make-up. I sat on the bed and watched her. I loved to watch her get ready to go out. She did everything quickly. I had to sit still or I’d miss something. She caught me staring and winked at me, just like nothing was wrong. Just like she wasn’t going to leave the next morning.

I told her, “Thank God you’re my wife.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because I’d have to have an affair with you if you weren’t.”

She had given me a funny look and I now know what she was thinking. And I knew she felt bad about it.

“You are so beautiful.”

She smiled, “You ain’t too bad yourself.”

“You ready?” I asked.

She nodded and came out of the bathroom putting on her earrings. She stopped in the closet and grabbed a small purse, then started out the door.

“Promise me we’ll be home early,” she said over her shoulder.

“I promise.”

And we were.

 

 

I went outside and I stared up at the dark sky. I stood there with my hands in my pockets and watched it change. I didn’t move. I didn’t cry. I wasn’t angry anymore. I just stood there and watched.

The dark sky was beginning to lighten up. A new day. I still hurt for her but I understood something. I understood her.

I was in between happiness and sadness, an awkward purgatory of the human mind, where we all end up at one time or another. It was going to hurt to move on. But what else could I do? I didn’t really have a choice. That’s what you do. You move on. Or you die. And I wasn’t ready to die. Even over her.

I heard the garbage truck pull up. They came so early. When we first moved in, they woke us a few times and Sandy yelled out the window, “People are trying to sleep here!”

That made me smile. Stuff like that agitated the shit out of her.

I heard the truck groan to a stop and then the footsteps on the asphalt. They were picking up the bags and soon she’d be gone for good.

The sky was now changing colors. It was blue and red and yellow. It was beautiful. Like Sandy.

The phone was ringing inside the house. I tuned and stared at the window, wondering if I should get it. I turned back to the sky. It was now dawn, night was gone.

The phone was still ringing. I needed a new answering machine. I’d destroyed the last one after a journal entry. It made me feel foolish now. What did it prove?

It was still ringing.

I went inside and answered it. It was the private detective I hired over four months ago when I’d given up all other hope.

He said, “I found her.”

 

 

Miami

She wasn’t in LA. She wasn’t anywhere near LA. She was in Miami living with her best friend from high school, Kelsey.

The clues were all over the journals.
“Kelsey called out of the blue. Kelsey divorced her husband. Kelsey has a beach house. Kelsey said I should visit. It’s been so long since I’ve seen that girl, I should call her.”

The mistake she made? She used her mother’s maiden name, Presley. I knew she’d do that.

“My mother’s maiden name was Presley,” she told me once and grinned. “Just like Elvis.”

Sometimes you look for something so hard, it’s impossible to see. The most obvious hunch is usually the right one. The one thing that’s right in front of your face, the most obvious choice that is so obvious you know
not
to go for it. There’s nothing right about that choice. It doesn’t make sense. It’s
too
easy.

It’s usually the right one.

And, so, that’s where I headed, Miami, Florida. And that’s where I found her.

 

* * * * *

 

When I saw her, I expected to be angry, like I’d want to yell at her for giving me so much pain. But I didn’t. I felt elation, happiness. Joy. She was okay! She was fine! I could finally let it go. Now that I
knew
she was fine, I could sleep easier.

It was like the first time I saw her eleven years ago in the strip club. How she acted like she owned the club and everyone in it. Everyone stared at her, she had such presence. She was busting ass to get her job done and I had been able to watch her for a good ten minutes before she finally made it to our table. And when she made it, she owned me. From the moment she looked into my eyes, she owned me.

I couldn’t move away from her that night. I had to stay there and watch her. I kept putting off my friends, telling them to have one more drink on me. No one turns down free booze but they knew why I was stalling. I could have not have walked out of that club without talking to her, but I couldn’t find the courage. And when she would stop by and ask if we needed anything, I’d get all tongue-tied and sit there like a bump on a log, not even being able to look at her. I knew she’d see right through me.

And now she was walking along a street in South Beach, Miami looking like a million dollars, just like she always looked. She was so beautiful. She had on a smart business suit, black leather pumps and bare legs. The suit hugged her trim little body just right. Her long, dark hair was now a shade lighter and was pulled back into a tight, perky ponytail. She had on a pair of big, stylish sunglasses and one of those leather purses she collected with the ribboned chain. Oh, a
Chanel
. I chuckled.

She looked like a fucking movie star. People on the street stopped and stared at her, a few even pointed. She ignored them all and walked without missing a beat. She walked quickly, with purpose, like she had somewhere to be.

And she did. She was on her way to work. She worked for a modeling agency as a receptionist. She didn’t make any money doing it. I wondered how she could afford that suit on her pay. But then I remembered she had cleaned out our savings.

I fell in step behind her. I followed her so closely I nearly ran into her when she stopped and bent a little and a small cute sneeze erupted from her nose.

The world always stopped for Sandy when she sneezed. She’d stop whatever she was doing or whomever she was listening to and say, “Hold on a minute,” and hold up one finger and sneeze into her hand. “Sorry, go on.”

“Bless you,” I said before I could stop myself. Oh shit! But she didn’t even turn around. She never looked over her shoulder when she walked.

She nodded and said, “Thank you,” and continued on her way.

I followed her until she made it to her building. She went inside. I didn’t follow.

 

 

The Beach House

I found the beach house she shared with Kelsey pretty easily. It was old and falling apart. It was small, only had two tiny bedrooms and one bath. To my utter astonishment, the door was open. I took this as a sign and let myself in.

As I looked around, I couldn’t get over how sparse it was. It had white washed walls and floors, a floppy couch against the wall covered with an old blanket. An old rickety rocker in the corner and a small TV on a crate. A few unframed black and white pictures were just taped to the wall. It looked okay, but it needed work. Tiles were coming apart in the bathroom and the white porcelain kitchen sink was so stained, it needed to be replaced.

Inside her bedroom—and I knew it was hers because her
Gone with the Wind
was on a small night table—I found an air mattress with a chenille blanket and a small dressing table with a little iron seat. Also painted white.

I went to her closet. All the clothes she’d taken were hanging up plus one or two other new things.

I went into the bathroom and looked through her stuff. All cheap shampoos and hair sprays. Guess she couldn’t afford a bottle of twenty dollar shampoo on a receptionist’s salary. I shook my head. She was living hand to mouth.

I went into the kitchen. All she had in the refrigerator was a half bottle of wine and a loaf of bread. Some peanut butter was in the cabinet.

Poor baby. Poor, poor baby. But then again, what had she done with all her money? All of
our
money?

I felt so bad for her then. I’d go out and buy her some groceries. She needed to eat. But then I remembered she didn’t eat. She picked. She picked at her food. She was always worrying about gaining weight.

I sat down on the couch and looked around. She had given up so much for this. Why? Why had she wanted to live like this when she didn’t have to?

I don’t know how long I sat there. It was a long time. It was so good to be around her again. I could smell her, even over the musky odor the old walls gave off. Even over the sea spray from the nearby ocean. More importantly, I could feel her presence. She was here.

I glanced at my watch. It was about time for her lunch break.

 

* * * * *

 

I followed her for a few days. I watched her. She was still perky and smiled at strangers, but she had a determination to her walk I hadn’t seen before. It was like she was trying to prove she was somebody. It was weird.

On the third day of following her around, I made my move. I waited until she was about to get off work and went inside her office. She wasn’t at her desk. I sat down in one of the chairs, my heart beating rapidly. I heard her voice, her sweet southern voice calling to someone from down the hall.

It was Friday.

“No, I’ll get it,” she said.

“Wait a minute, Sandy,” a woman said. “Take this with you.”

I heard papers shuffling and leaned over and stared down the hall. At the exact moment I stared, she glanced up and our eyes locked. She didn’t even blink. It was almost as if she were expecting me.

The files fell from her hands.

It was awkward. Way more awkward than the first time I’d asked her out on a date. We had a past, a history. It wasn’t all sweet and pretty now.

After her initial shock, she managed to give me a tight smile and introduced me to the woman.

“This is Bruce,” she said, trying to sound casual. “We went to school together.”

“Oh?” the woman said and smiled at me with interest. I could tell she was checking me out.

“Yeah,” she said nervously.

“Great,” the woman replied and eyed me. “What was your last job, Bruce?”

“What?”

“Modeling. What was your last job?”

“I’m not a model,” I said.

“Oh? I thought you might be here to give us a headshot.”

“A what?”

“Headshot,” Sandy said uncomfortably.

“Oh, no,” I said. “I was just in town and wanted to drop in on my old friend Sandy here.”

“Is that right?” she asked and stared at her, then back at me.

“It is,” I said. “Sandy, let, me buy you dinner.”

She nodded and glanced at the woman, who smiled.

“Oh, I won’t keep you two,” she said and started off, then stopped. “If you want, drop your headshot off, Bruce. I bet I could get you some work.”

I just nodded.

As soon as her back was turned, Sandy eyed her with disdain. Then she turned on me and gave me the same look before muttering, “Let me get my purse.”

 

* * * * *

 

As we walked out of the building, we stayed as far as possible away from each other. I didn’t really want to touch her and she didn’t really want me to.

In silence we made our way to the underground parking garage. She walked up to an older model Ford and unlocked it. I stared in disbelief.

“Where’s your car?” I asked and looked around.

She didn’t even look at me as she got in. “I sold it.”

I took a deep breath and told myself it was no big deal, though that fucking car she
had
to have cost a fortune. And it was my car too! I loved that sports car. I loved to put the top down, put some rockin’ music on the radio and fly down the interstate. She hated it when I drove her car, always complaining that I left the top down.

I got in and she started the car and we pulled out of the garage and onto the street. We drove without saying one single word. It was awkward as hell.

She finally said, “We needed a few things for the house. It really needed a heating and air unit. And I wanted to give Kelsey some money for letting me stay there.”

“Oh?” I said and stared out the window.

She glanced at me and sighed. “Yeah. That’s why I had to sell the car.”

“It was your car.”

Suddenly she was angry. “I know it was my car! That’s not the point! I don’t even know why I’m explaining myself to you!”

I stayed calm. “You don’t have to.”

This pissed her off even more. “I know I don’t have to.”

“Okay then.”

She fumed for a few moments under her breath and hissed, “I can’t believe you’re here.”

“Is that right?”

“That’s right,” she said. “I don’t even know what you’re doing here. If you left me, I—”

“Okay, I’m going to stop you right now before you embarrass yourself,” I said and turned in the seat towards her. “First of all, you didn’t leave. You disappeared. Secondly, you didn’t have the courtesy to leave a note or make a call. And thirdly, I am not here to get you back, so get that idea out of your head.”

“Then what are you here for?” she hissed and glared out the dirty windshield.

I threw the divorce papers in her lap. “I’m here to give you the divorce papers.”

She glanced down at them. “What if I don’t want to sign them?” she muttered.

A spark of hope flickered. I killed it as soon as it showed up. I wasn’t that dumb. “Oh, you’ll sign them,” I said.

She mocked me, “Oh I will? I will sign them?”

She’d do that, mock me. She could be such a smartass. I glanced at her and she glanced at me and we couldn’t help it. We cracked up. We laughed for a few moments and then I let that big ball of pain I’d been carrying around with me lift off my shoulders and disappear. She was okay. Now I could move on with my life.

She stopped at a red-light and turned to me. “Why don’t we go back to the house and you can yell at me there? I’m really not hungry.”

“I’m not here to yell at you.”

“Yeah, right.”

“No, I am not,” I said calmly. “We can go wherever you like but all I want is those papers signed and I’ll be on my way and out of your life. This time for good.”

She eyed me. This wasn’t going the way she’d thought it would. And it pissed her off. Not that I gave one shit.

BOOK: Now She's Gone: A Novel
9.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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