August 5, 7:00 p.m.
My husband didn’t even greet me when I answered the phone. “I’m coming to get you and the kids.” He sounded rushed, almost panicked, and his deep voice squeaked as if puberty had returned.
My three-year-old son sat on the kitchen floor in front of me, banging on a stainless steel pot with a wooden spoon. I pulled my cell from my mouth and cupped it with my hand. “Please be quiet, Jack. Mommy is on the phone.”
He kept beating the pot, his head jerking from side to side as he belted out a made-up song. “I want to play all da-a-ay, I want to play all day…”
Cute as could be with big chocolate eyes, smooth cherubic cheeks, and dark hair the shade of his eyes. Picture perfect, actually, the kind of child on television and in magazines. But if he had been my first, I probably wouldn’t have had Emma, so quiet and poised, the exact opposite of her brother. Thank goodness. As much as I love the little guy, I never could have kept up with two of him.
I plugged a finger in my ear, paced to the French doors, pulled them open, and stepped onto the cobblestone patio off the kitchen. “Eric? Sorry, Jack is…”
“Jenna, just listen.” Prickles stung my skin, tiny pins jabbing my flesh. “We need to go away. For a while.” His words were clipped, the steadiness in his voice forced.
“What? Why? What is wrong?”
Eric paused. “I need you to pack everything we’re going to need for the next couple weeks or so. Whatever you can fit into four suitcases. No more.”
“A couple weeks? I can’t. Lucy…” Even though I quit my job as a speech pathologist a few years ago, I continued to work with Lucy a few times a week. She needed me in so many ways. I couldn’t just leave her, especially without having a chance to talk to her about it first. She’d be heartbroken, has already suffered through more than any child should know.
“I’m sorry. We have to.” He didn’t sound sorry. If anything, he sounded like the Eric I’ve come to know lately. To the point. Distracted. Disinterested. A far cry from the man I married.
I could hear my own breath huffing over the line. “Why?”
Another pause, short this time. “Lock the doors and the windows. Turn on the security system. Stay in the house and keep the kids with you. Don’t talk to anyone. Do you understand?”
Why wouldn’t he answer my question? “Eric, you have to tell me what’s going on. You can’t just…”
“I’m sorry. Really. Lock up, turn the security system on, and pack.”
“I’m in the Lance, getting ready for take-off.”
His plane? Had we grown so far apart that I didn’t know my own husband left in an airplane that morning?
Then again, he hadn’t known where I’d gone either.
I tried to think, picture the morning, but it blurred with every other day, the goodbyes ranging from a half-hearted kiss on the cheek to the distant click of a door. I didn’t allow myself to think too far back, remember the long, warm kisses, loving embraces, and playful touches.
“I’ll be home in a couple hours. Be ready. Stay inside until I get there. Don’t even come out to the hangar.”
The hangar was so close, right across the street. “Eric…”
He hung up. Continue reading