Authors: Kate Moretti
Table of Contents
Thought I Knew You
A Red Adept Publishing Book
Red Adept Publishing, LLC
2664 Timber Drive
Garner, NC 27529
Copyright © 2012 by Kate Moretti. All rights reserved.
Cover Design: Streetlight Graphics
This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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For Chip, who takes care of everything and everyone while I tap away. How’d I get so lucky?
irst and foremost, without Chip,
I wouldn’t have had the time to write a letter, much less a novel. The man has rearranged his life for my new, all consuming “hobby” and his patience is astounding. Thanks in advance to my future grown children for not holding the hours of neglect during their young childhood against me. Thanks to my parents, Pat and Patti and my sister, Megan, for their understanding. Thanks to Becky Riddle for reading (and in some cases, re-reading) many drafts and letting me talk it through; to my various beta readers, most notably Elizabeth Buhmann for reading this manuscript in full almost as many times as I have and offering endless encouragement; to Clair Gibson for her very extensive edit to the rough draft; to my best girlfriends: BethAnn, Betsy, and Sharon for their feedback and just altogether being amazing fan club presidents; to Aunt Mary Jo, Uncle Jeff, and Molly, my biggest fans and personal publicists; to Elizabeth Vega Casey, grief counselor, for her advice and insight; to Authonomy for introducing me to a network of writers and without which I would not have found a home for my book; to my small, but reliable group of writer friends who have navigated these new waters with me (Melissa, Collin, Elizabeth, Ann, and Clair). Thanks to Michelle for challenging me to do better and Lynn for never letting me get away with anything—you both turned a rough manuscript into a book. Finally, thank you, Sarah DiCello, without whom I never would have finished it. You did it first and encouraged without competing. We’ll always have reindeer fur.
reg and Cody disappeared on
the same day.
One or two Fridays a month, Greg and I hired a babysitter for date night. The idea was to take some time for ourselves and reconnect. The reality was significantly less romantic. We typically ate at Pesto Charlie’s due to some combination of availability and timing. I’d order whatever seafood was on special, and Greg would get Chicken Piccata—light on the sauce, of course. The food was always dependable
we never had to wait for a table, and with the low lighting and heady aroma of Italian spices, the restaurant was atmospheric enough to check
off our to-do lists.
A few times, we tried other places, but either the food wasn’t good, the service was poor, or we’d leave the restaurant late and miss the beginning of whatever movie we planned to see. Greg refused to go into a theater late. He called it rude and always clucked disapprovingly when others did so. So Pesto Charlie’s became something of a tradition, albeit not a very exciting one. We’d get home between ten and ten thirty, pay the sitter twenty bucks, and go to bed. Sometimes we’d make love, but not every time. Even date night wasn’t a guaranteed lay.
Greg was due back around one o’clock that Friday afternoon, having been on a business trip all week. He traveled for work more than I liked, but I’d stopped complaining about the monthly trips years ago and just accepted them as a part of life. Greg and I worked for the same company, Advent Pharmaceuticals. He was a professional trainer, not a weightlifting trainer, but adult education for the corporate set. He taught various courses on compliance, regulations, and the science behind Advent’s drugs. He was based in Raritan, New Jersey, about ten miles from where we lived in Clinton, but often flew as far as Canada. Greg was good at his job; actually, Greg was good at almost everything.
I worked part time as a technical writer. My job was less demanding, allowing me to work from home and take care of the children. I just worked for extra money.
Something to do
, Greg had once joked at a dinner party, his arm draped across my shoulders. My face had burned at that, even though I had said the same thing a million times.
“Mommy, I think Cody got out.” Hannah stood in the doorway between the hallway and the kitchen. Her earlier neat blond ponytail had fallen to the side, and she had some furtively acquired lipstick smeared on her cheek.
“What? Hannah, seriously, stay out of my purse, please.” No matter how hard I tried, Hannah seemed determined to look a mess.
It’s like an age requirement for four-year-olds.
She pointed at the screen door. “Mommy, look!”
Sure enough, the screen swayed gently in the early October breeze. The opening between the mesh and the frame was jagged, as if it had been clawed. Had I let him out? I thought so. With the girls and the library, the memory of the morning blurred. I wasn’t concerned. Cody would have been more aptly named Houdini. Our yard was large, several acres, with a small patch of woods in the back, perfect for chasing small animals and sometimes bringing them back as prizes, dropping them on the doorstep with a triumphant thump. Given that our closest neighbors were a quarter-mile away, Cody had the run of the place, but he always knew where home was.
“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.
I put the girls to bed with only a minor inquisition from Hannah about her missing daddy. I waved the question away with a cheerful façade. She let it slide, used to going days without seeing him. After calling Greg again and leaving yet another message, I curled up on the couch for some backlogged DVR. I skipped around, aiming for distraction as I fought the unease that settled in the pit of my stomach. Pulling the blanket up to my chin, I shivered from the end-of-season chill, wishing, suddenly, pitifully, that I had my husband to curl up on the couch with, even though it had been months since we’d done that. Briefly, I considered the irony, the way we’d avoided talking or touching in the evenings, but how when faced with a growing sense of anxiety, I longed for it.
When he gets home, we’ll fix this.
I was startled awake at one thirty in the morning. As I sat up on the couch, I remembered.
Was he home?
I checked the doors—both still locked. I checked our bedroom—no suitcase on the floor, no Greg on the bed. I checked the garage—no car. I was angry. One lousy phone call.
Hi, I’m stuck on a plane. Hi, I missed my flight.
I tried his cell phone and left a third message. After I hung up, worry bore down on me, heavy and oppressive.