Zombie Romance Pt. 5

PART 1

PART 2

PART 3

PART 4

~~~MAISIE~~~

I wake up in the morning stretched out, half on his side of the bed. And it’s okay.
But then my heart pounds and my eyes tear up, because what if? What if I just dreamed vividly about him again? What if he was a delusion? A ghost?
Maybe I would get out of bed this morning, like I had many mornings, hoping my husband was really still alive. But he would still be dead.
I race to the door and pull it open.
But he’s there, sitting on the couch, looking at a small photo album.
It’s one I haven’t been able to open yet. He looks up at me, somber, and I take a deep breath. Half relief, half disbelief.
“Krissy took those pictures at your funeral. She said I might want them someday.” It had been a thoughtful gift from my sister-in-law, and she was probably right, I would have wanted them someday.
If my husband hadn’t just come back from the dead last night.
I smile at him, though it’s tight. “Breakfast?”
“I could eat.” His smile is brief and dissolves back into a serious expression, but at least it was there. At least he’s here.
I go into the kitchen to start breakfast, and he follows me, carrying the album. While I get ingredients out, he sits at the table. For a few minutes of comfortable silence, it’s like nothing’s changed. All the events of last night, of the last six weeks, were just some movie I watched, or novel I read. Or a spicy-food induced nightmare.
“I couldn’t really sleep last night, so I did some thinking. I remembered some things.”
Spell broken. I look back at him as I scramble eggs. “Really? Like what?”
“Just a few things, but they don’t really make a lot of sense. Do you think we could talk about…that day? What you remember? Maybe it would help jog my memory.”
It’s like someone put ice cubes down the back of my shirt, and I shudder. I don’t want to remember that day, much less talk about it. I’ve been avoiding remembering it and forcefully reliving it simultaneously for weeks now. It was literally the worst day of my life, followed by forty-two days that were almost just as bad.
But I would have done anything to reverse that day, to rewind history, just twelve hours ago. I would have done anything to have my husband back, and here he was. I guess I could talk about it now if it helped solve the mystery of how that happened.
“Sure,” I say, calm, “Just give me a sec.” I plate up the eggs and sausage for both of us, and turn to him.
I stop for a second and the plates wobble in my hands, because it hits me again. His side of the table has been hauntingly empty for what felt like eternity, but now he’s there, back in his chair.
He stands and gently takes the plates from me, setting them on the table, and grabs my hands in his. We stare at one another, and then he leans closer.
But he looks…different. Ill. I don’t know where he’s been or what he’s been exposed to, and I can’t risk transferring anything to the baby. I turn my head away, and his kiss lands on my cheek. Then we sit down together.
I take a few fortifying bites. “Where would you like me to start?”
“From the last time you talked to me, if that’s okay. We texted after I got off work, right? I remember that.”
I nod. “We talked about dinner. I made Chicken Parmesan.” Hadn’t been able to make it since. I’d been sure I’d never eat it again, because it would forever taste like fear and sorrow.
“Did we talk again after that?”
Shaking my head, I say, “No. I called and texted you when I realized you were late, and then probably a hundred more times through the night.” Where are you? Are you there? Are you okay? Please answer me, you’re worrying me. “But you never replied.”
“What then?”
I serenely set my fork down on the table beside my plate, but inside, a storm is building. “I stayed up all night worrying. I knew something bad had to have happened, because you didn’t come home and you didn’t contact me. And that’s not like you. I knew you wouldn’t worry me like that on purpose.” I peek up at him, and his head shake is reassuring. But I still have my doubts. “I tried calling some of your work buddies, but it was very late, and no one answered. I called the hospitals. I called the police, but they weren’t concerned because you were a grown adult, no matter what I said.” The tears burning my eyes want to fall, but I can’t let them go yet, or I’ll never get through the rest. “It wasn’t even twenty-four hours before the police came to our door. They said—they said that Biff found you and called them. That you’d gone back to the site after hours for some reason, and had been crushed by some of the equipment.”
“So that’s why everyone believed I’d died, because Biff said it was me?” He looks off to the side, thinking.
“Yes, but…” My fingers hurt and I look down to see them clenched together and try to relax them. “You’re identity wasn’t really in question at all. They found your phone, your wallet. They didn’t even ask me to identify you because they were so sure based on the evidence and Biff’s identification.” And at the time, she’d been thankful for that. She hadn’t wanted her last memory of him to be his bruised and crushed body. But now it seemed she’d made a mistake. And Biff had made a mistake in his ID.
“I did go back, but I don’t remember anything with the equipment.”
I look up at him. “Then why? Why did you go back?” She’d always felt that whatever his reason his reason had been, it couldn’t have possibly been important enough.
“I don’t know.” He shoves his hair back, frustration all over his face. “What happened after they said they found me?”
I shake my head, because I don’t have much concrete I can give him. “Everything after that is a blur until your—the funeral.” And what a horrible day that had been. She’d felt like dying herself, but had to keep it together for all their friends and extended family long enough for the funeral and the wake. “I tried to say your eulogy, but I couldn’t do it. Your brother-in-law took over. I played that song you wanted.” I catch a sob in my palm and keep going. It was okay now. He was home. “It was closed casket.” I look at him, feeling inexplicably guilty. “I didn’t know you weren’t in there.” But who, if not him, was in there instead? Was anyone at all? But the casket had looked heavy when the pall bearers lifted it. Definitely like someone was inside. And that reminded me… He’d been wearing the suit I give the funeral home for his body. The suit that I’d pulled out of the bathroom trash this morning and put in a plastic bag in the corner of my closet. I wasn’t sure why I’d saved it.
“We should be writing this stuff down.” I pop up to get a notepad and a pen and come back. “Tell me what else you remember.” I write down everything he says he remembers, and the details that don’t match up, like the suit. He’s right, none of it makes much sense.
“The last thing I remember is the job site.” He puts his hand on his chest. “And I get a weird feeling, here, when I think of it.”
“Okay, so we start there. Maybe we should go back to see if it jogs your memory. Maybe I should ask Biff for more details.”
“No, we can’t do that.”
I look up at him.“Why?”
“You said Biff found me, right? He ID’d me. He’ll have a heart attack if I walk back into his office. Besides, I hate to think it, but… what if he had something to do with it? Or something to do with covering it up?” He shakes his head. “ No, we can’t talk to him until I remember more.”
My stomach drops, my breakfast sitting there like a concrete block. He’s right, Biff could have had something to do with his disappearance, and that’s an awful feeling. A person you knew, trusted, spent time with, lying to you like that. But then, maybe there was a good reason Biff was mistaken. Maybe Grady had been robbed, and that other person had his stuff on him. And maybe his face had been crushed, so that Biff just assumed it was Grady. And maybe…and maybe I was reaching. Although nothing seems too ridiculous with my formerly-dead husband sitting at the table across from me.
I write ‘Biff’ on the notepad and circle it several times.
Right then is when I notice that he hasn’t taken a single bite of his food. “You’re not hungry?”
He looks down at his plate and then shakes his head. “I thought I was, but my stomach is a little upset.”
“It’s probably the stress.” My own stomach is roiling from all of it, and probably a touch of morning sickness too. Why haven’t I told him yet? I’m not sure, but I suppose it’s best if we deal with this huge, crazy thing first. There will be time to really celebrate later.
But I’m not sure his reaction is just stress. He still looks gray and bone thin, and unhealthy. “I think you should see a doctor. You don’t look well.”
“It’s the stress,” he says quickly. “Like you said. Besides, I can’t go to my doctor, because they have a death certificate on record. I don’t know how to explain that yet.”
“Okay. The police?”
He shrugs.“For what?”
“You’ve been missing for six weeks.”
He shakes his head. “Memory loss isn’t a crime, and we have no proof one was committed. We have no proof I didn’t just—” he waves a hand in the air, “leave the country and go on a six week bender with a bimbo. The police won’t do anything.”
I wasn’t sure I agreed, but considering my track record with them, I let it go. The police hadn’t been any help the one time I really needed them.
“Did you?” I ask about the bender. Could he have left me? I didn’t want to believe it, but right now it felt like less of a big deal than him dying. And at least he’d come back.
A shadow of anger passes over his face and then fades, but there’s still a muscle twitching in his broad jaw like he’s grinding his teeth. He looks down. “I don’t know.”
And that right there is why I almost change my mind. He couldn’t have left me, right? He’s an honest man, a good man, and he wouldn’t lie to me. He could have said of course not! and I would have believed him. But he really didn’t know, really didn’t remember, and so he’d been honest.
“If it helps, I don’t believe you did. I just want to know what happened to you, where you’ve been. If you’re okay.” That was mostly true.
The muscle in his jaw relaxes, and he nods. “That’s all I want to know too.”
“So no doctor, no police, and no talking to your boss. What do we do then?”
He scrubs a hand over his mouth. “I guess… I guess we try to figure out where I’ve been.”
“Okay, so how do we do that?”
He shrugs, and we stare at each other.
I bite the tip of the pen, thinking. I’m hesitant to bring it up, but I need to know. “The credit card…”
His brows go up, not understanding.
“We can check the credit card statement. See if you’ve made any charges while you were missing.” I pop up out of my chair and go to the box of papers in the closest. “I never thought to check it before,” I holler back at him, “because everything had seemed so cut and dried.” Its a small lie.
Flipping through, I find the the credit card statement and carry it back to the table and lay the page flat. And then sit back, watching his face. I know what he’s going to find. There’s only one charge that I didn’t personally make in preparation for his funeral.
For a hotel room, on the night he disappeared.

 

~~~GRADY~~~

There’s a charge for a Motel 6 off the highway, made by me, on the night I disappeared.
I look up from the paper to meet Maisie’s accusing eyes.
“I have no idea,” I say, putting my hands up.
Blowing her bangs away, she looks at the paper again. “Well, it’s not much to go on anyways. The charge isn’t enough for more than one night.”
She stands up and grabs the plates, and I can’t help but feel like I’m in trouble. But I have no recollection of driving there, of making the charge, or whatever came after.
She’s silent while she wraps my plate in plastic wrap and puts it in the fridge. Then she stands there looking at me, hands on her hips. “Well, are you coming?”
“Coming where?” I can tell she’s still upset.
She sighs and drops her arms back to her sides. “To the hotel,” she says patiently. “It’s the only lead we have.”
My brain must still not be working well, because of course that’s what she meant.
I stand and then look down at my mothball-scented pajamas. “I think I need something else to wear, though.”
“Right.” She leaves the room and I follow at a slower pace. “Wait here.”
I try to follow her, but the bedroom doorway is like an invisible barrier I cannot pass. From there I watch her go to the closet and rummage. She brings me some jeans and a shirt I recognize.
“I packed most of it away to donate at some point because it was just too painful to see them hanging in the closet everyday, but I saved a few things.”
In my hands are my favorite non-work jeans and one of my favorite shirts.
She puts her hands in her back pockets. “At least this way you don’t have to go anywhere smelling like mothballs. Get dressed, and I can wash the rest later.”
Then she sweeps past me and the invisible barrier breaks, and I can go into the bedroom to change.
I’m pulling up my jeans when I see the shrine on the dresser. It can’t be called anything else, and it’s surreal to walk up to it and realize my wife made it. For me. Because I was dead.
There’s a big framed picture of me from a few years ago hung on the wall above the dresser, and several smaller candid shots of her and I tucked into the frame. Next to it, in a small white and gold frame, is our wedding picture. Then there’s my pocketknife, my hardhat. My travel coffee mug. Even my deodorant and cologne. My favorite candy, an unopened can of my favorite soda. There’s dried flowers and our wedding cake topper.
It’s weird. Obviously my supposed death had hurt Maisie very much. Maybe that’s why I still felt a distance between us. Maybe she blamed me for that pain.
Or maybe she’d already let me go.
The thought makes my sluggish heart squeeze with pain, but I have to believe our love can conquer anything, even this. Whatever this is.
The worst part is, I have no freaking clue. I love my wife with all my heart, and would never cheat on her, or leave her, or hurt her on purpose.
I don’t think.
But here I am alive, not dead. And I’ve been somewhere, done something for the last six weeks, if I could just remember what it was.
I feel her presence at the door and turn to look at her.
She’s standing there, staring at the shrine and spinning a ring on her thumb, distress all over her face.
Inexplicable guilt makes my chest tight. But I didn’t hurt her on purpose. Did I?
“This is nice,” I say, gesturing to it. But nice is an inadequate word. It’s freaky, bewildering, confusing.
Her lower lips wobbles for a second, but she reigns it in and looks down at her hands, where she’s still spinning the ring.
It’s my wedding ring.
With a stuttering inward breath, she pulls it off her thumb and holds it out to me. “Here.”
“Thanks.” I take it from her fingers, and slide it into place. As I do, my soul takes a deep breath and I close my eyes momentarily at the wave of relief. I curl my fist and inhale, smiling at Maisie. I’d missed it without even knowing, and having it back just feels better in every way.
I’m truly back from the dead.
So hopefully this trip to the hotel would give us a clue that would take the haunted look off my wife’s face.

When we get to the hotel, we get out of the car. She pauses in front of the doors and I stop beside her.
“Anything?” she asks, settling her purse on her shoulder.
I look up at the hotel’s bland facade, and I do receive a memory. But it’s an old one. “The only thing I remember was when we stayed here while we were looking for a house.” I look over at her. “Remember that?” We looked at houses, but we also used that time like a second honeymoon. We ate on the bed, sitting across from each other, and then made love a time or two. Or three.
She smiles and looks down, a blush on her cheekbones. The smile fades quickly, but she nods.
I grab her hand, like it’s natural, like I didn’t just come back from the dead last night, like she doesn’t suspect I abandoned her. She doesn’t say anything, but she doesn’t withdraw her hand either.
I haven’t lost her yet.
“Good morning,” I say to the desk clerk. Her name tag says Bonnie. We exchange pleasantries. “I need some information if possible.” I release Maisie’s hand to unfold the credit card bill and flatten it on the counter. “See this charge here? I need any information you have about it.”
“You don’t remember making the charge?” she asks, eyebrows high.
“It’s a long story. Could you just help us out?”
“Certainly,” the clerk says, typing on the keys of her computer. “What would you like to know?”
“Everything,” my wife says beside me.
Desk Clerk Bonnie’s eyebrows go up as she looks at my wife and back at me. I know what it must look like, but I’m praying it isn’t. I grab Maisie’s hand again, teeth clenched.
“Okay, it looks like you checked in at 7:45 pm and out at 11:27 am.”
Seconds pass before it’s clear that she’s not going to continue. “Anything else?”
She swallows, and her eyes flick over to Maisie before meeting mine again. “You had a guest.”
Maisie pulls her hand away from mine.
I checked into a hotel, with a guest. And then disappeared for a month and a half. This isn’t looking good. “Does it say who?”
“A Mrs. Josephine Delacroix.”
I sag with relief, and let out a little laugh. There’s no way anything was going on with her. Turning back to Maisie, I say, “The old homeless woman I told you about.” She was probably only in her fifties, but I made sure to add the ‘old’ to dispel any lingering suspicion in either woman.
She nods, relief flashing before confusion sets in again. “But why did you stay with her?”
“Actually, sorry—”
We turn to look at Bonnie.
“There’s a signed credit card authorization on file from you, which means you paid for the room, but I only have Mrs. Delacroix on the guest register.”
She looks appropriately regretful for her initial inattention to detail, so I’m not going to give her any crap. Besides, I’m absolved.
“Thank you,” I say, tapping the counter with my knuckles.
We walk out of the hotel hand-in-hand, but we’re back to square one. In the car, she puts the key in the ignition but doesn’t turn it.
“So what now?”
I shrug. We know that the room wasn’t for me and that’s awesome. But where was I in the time that Ms.Josephine—er, Mrs. Delacroix—was asleep in the hotel? And where did I go after that? “I must have bought her a taxi and purchased her a room for the night.”
“Or she robbed you, hurt you, and used your card to get a hotel before disappearing…”
“No,” I say, shaking my head at her. I can’t explain it, but… “That doesn’t feel right.” I look out of the car window, seeing darkness and falling snowflakes out of my truck windshield instead. Trying again, I close my eyes and picture the snow once more. I’m sitting in my truck, texting Maisie. “I remember the snow falling, the cold.”
My hands are cold. It’s cold outside, too cold for anyone to be out in it. “I remember pulling out of the parking lot, but I must have gone back to help Ms. Josephine—” I gasp, because saying the words, I remember making the u-turn at the light. I look at Maisie. “That’s why I went back. I remember. I thought she would freeze to death if I didn’t do something.” I have a flash memory of her sitting against the fence, covered in snow like a statue. “I remember her sitting against the fence, but…” My forehead wrinkles as I try to milk my mind for one more drop of memory. I shake my head at Maisie. “I only sort of remember taking her to the hotel.”
“And then…?” Maisie asks, eager. “You didn’t come home after that.”
I didn’t go home after taking her to the hotel. Where did I go, what did I do? The guy Biff found couldn’t have been me, so I didn’t go back a third time. But he’d had my identification on me, so…”
“Maybe I was mugged outside the hotel. And somehow the guy with my stuff ended up back at my work?”
“Yeah, maybe. And maybe the homeless woman was your mugger.”
I try to summon the memory of what happened after I dropped her off, but I can’t remember.
Had she done something to me? But no, it couldn’t have been the sweet homeless woman.
Could it?
Because after that is only blackness. Not the fogginess of half-forgotten memories, but a deep, heavy black that sits on my memory, my mind, and my heart like a stone.
And somehow, in that blackness, I remember hearing Ms. Josephine sing.
I glance at Maisie. “I can’t see anything, but I think I remembering hearing her sing.”
Excited, Maisie leans toward me. “It seems like we just need to retrace your steps, jog your memory. We should go back to your work and find her, talk to her” she says. “Ask her what she knows.”
I look at her. “We can’t go back there yet, not until we know what Biff had to do with everything.”
Maisie chews her lip. “We could just drive by. Not go in. Just drive by, and see if she’s there.”
“Okay.” We need to, and I know that. But my chest is getting tight just thinking about it, and I don’t know why.
Maisie pulls out of the parking lot of the hotel and heads towards my work.
My heart pounds all the way there, and I keep my hands tightly, painfully clenched. I’m sweating, cold droplets running down my back and in my hair. Why? What am I afraid of?
Am I afraid of remembering, or not remembering? Or something else?
I breathe steadily through my nose to try and calm my pointless nerves.
Maisie slows down as we drive by, but even before we pass we can tell Ms. Josephine is not there. There’s no figure sitting by the fence.
“She’s not here.”
Maisie searches as she drives slowly. “Crap. Getting anything else?”
I’ve been holding my breath, waiting for something to appear in my memory, but nothing does. I breathe out. “No.” That was seriously anti-climatic.
“Damn,” Maisie says. She stops at the light, and we wait for the little bit of traffic coming from other directions. I remember this light, and turning around beneath it. “Maybe it’ll help if we turn around?”
“Okay.” Maisie pulls through the intersection, makes a turn, and then drives back the other way. I squint my eyes, trying to stay with what I remember from the traffic light and beyond.
From the direction we’re coming, I can now see everything that was blocked by the trees from the other angle. The guys working, the equipment. And I can hear the motors.
And suddenly I’m in the dark, in the snow, hearing the equipment, but I shouldn’t be. I walk back behind the trailer—red traffic light, red snow, red barrels, red dirt—
And I can’t breathe and I need to get out of here, but I hurt and I’m pressed down by something heavy. Maisie! I cry out. Maisie! I need to get to her, get to my wife, but I can’t move and I can’t breathe and the darkness is too damn heavy—
And then everything goes black.

 

~~~MAISIE~~~

“Maisie! Maisie!”
I slam on the brakes as Grady wheezes out my name in a whisper-scream.
His hand is on his chest, eyes wide, and he’s gasping for breath.
I pull over as fast as I can and throw the car in park. I lean over to him, hand on his cheek.
“Grady. Grady!”
He whispers my name one more time and then he just gasps for breath, the look in his eyes distant and frightening.
He’s not having a heart attack like I first thought, he’s panicking. He’s remembering. He’s not here in the car with me, he’s some place else. Some place scary.
“Grady it’s me. I’m here. What’s wrong? What do you remember? Can you tell me what you’re seeing?” But he can’t seem to speak, doesn’t seem to know I’m there. What do I do? He’s lost the little bit of color he had in his face. “Shit,” I whimper.
My mom used to have panic attacks when I was a teen, and they were frightening like this. I tried to fight off my own panic, remember what I did to help her. Whatever this was seemed like a panic attack on steroids, but I had to try.
“You’re safe Grady, I’m here. There’s nothing to be afraid of.” I grab his hand in mine and squeeze, trying to bring him out of his head with physical sensations, but I’m afraid to touch him in any other way. It might make him freak out more. “Breathe. It’s okay. It’ll be over soon. You’ll be okay. Breathe with me, Grady.”
I exaggerate my breaths, make them loud, and whether or not he’s conscious of it, he starts matching his breaths with mine. A few seconds later, I see him come back. His eyes are no longer empty and unfocused, he’s looking at me, focusing on his breathing. I press my forehead to his in relief, still murmuring to him.
And then he starts to shiver, his big frame shaking. “Can we go please?”
“Of course.” I want to know what he saw, what he remembers, but I want to get him someplace more comfortable first.
Back in my seat, I put the car into gear and pull out into the road. He stays silent, but the more distance we put between his work and us, the calmer he gets. However, my heart is climbing up my throat with burning claws. Either my husband is a really good actor, or something truly awful happened to him at his work.
And that hadn’t seemed like acting at all.
“Stop here.”
We’re passing the park when he speaks. With some quick navigation, I pull into a parking spot. He’s out of the door before I even get the car in gear.
“Grady, wait!” I jog to catch up with him, because he’s walking fast and hard as if he’s trying to get out of pouring rain. But the sun is bright overhead, the clouds benign.
I’m speed-walking to keep up with his much longer stride, but finally he starts to slow down. Beside him, I loop my arm through his. We’ve walked this path a hundred times, through all seasons. Maybe that’s why he asked me to stop here, maybe he finds comfort in the familiarity and in better memories.
He stares at the lake with his hands in his pockets, shoulders hunched. Eyes dark, searching the water for something. I bite my lip to keep from asking about what he remembered because it’s obvious he’s not ready to share.
This whole thing has taken the steam right out of me, and I flop on the bench behind him, eyes on his back, thoughts going in anxious circles.
Finally he turns his head and looks at me, like he just remembered I was there.
Hands still in his pockets, he comes and sits on the bench beside me.
I put my hand on his back, wanting to do more, wanting to pull him close and hold him, but I’m not sure he’ll allow it. Not sure if he wants it.
“I remembered some things. When I saw the equipment.”
“Okay,” I say, not pushing. Even though I badly want to know. Maybe.
“I went back again, after the hotel. Someone had left one of the yard lights on, and I was going to turn it off.” He pauses, swallows. “It was after hours, and it was dark and snowing. There shouldn’t have been anyone there working. I walked back behind the trailer and I remember this bright light.” He holds his arm up as if it’s shining in his eyes right now. “After that, I only remember voices, people, but I can’t see faces. I remember pain.” He glances at me, and then away. “Lots and lots of pain.”
I swallow hard, eyes watering, trying not to freak out.
“And then darkness. That’s all, just darkness. And Ms. Josephine singing.”
My blood is cold, my heart aching. “So someone did hurt you.”
He nods, and I put my arms around him, the anger I had at him for his disappearance and everything that went along with that draining away.
“I’m so sorry.” Then I press my face against his bicep, burning eyes leaving moisture on his shirt. In a small voice I saw, “You didn’t leave me.”
“Of course not,” he whispers back, and then his arms are around me too and we’re clinging to each other on the bench as people walk by. “I would never leave you. At least not on purpose.”
Sitting back, I meet his eyes. “You don’t remember who it was?”
He shakes his head.
“You still don’t think it was the homeless lady? She was there.”
He shakes his head again. “It’s… hard to explain. Her singing was after all the pain. And it was comforting.”
“We still need to find her then. See what she knows.” He nods. “And we need to talk to the police.”
He shakes his head and pulls back, but I refuse to let go. “Yes,” I insist. “Someone hurt you. So badly that you’ve been missing for six weeks and have memory loss, and look like death.” Pointing it out doesn’t seem to have much effect.
“I can’t remember who it was. I can’t even remember what really happened. They’re going to ask me, and all I’ll be able to tell them is ‘I don’t remember’. And even if I did remember, I have no proof. There’s no scars, and after six weeks, there’s no evidence.”
I throw my hands up, frustration making my chest tight. “What if it was me instead? What if it was me that was hurt?” He looks at me, wounded, and I know I have him. “What would we do then, if our positions were reversed?”
He shoots up to his feet, hands fists and muscles clenched. I watch his face transform from a slightly traumatized, thinner version of my husband to a person I barely recognize with hollow cheeks and burning eyes. “I would find them and I would kill them for touching you.”
The anger comes off of him like a wave, and it makes his eyes look funny and the skin on his face look tight. He’s… menacing. I’d be scared if all that anger was directed at me.
But he’s my husband, and I understand how he feels, because that same anger is inside me. Just deeper, quieter. And so instead of backing up, I stand toe to toe with him. “That is how I feel, too. Someone hurt you. My husband. We have to do something. Evidence or not, we need to let the police know.”
He’s quiet a moment, calming as he thinks things over. He paces a few steps away, then back to me. “We can’t call the police.”
I sigh, ready to argue again when he turns to look at me.
“But we should keep trying to find Miss Josephine. And we need to talk to Biff.”
I agree, but I wait for his reasons.
“Biff has to know something, because he said I died, but I’m not dead.” Grady puts his hand to his chest, like he’s making sure. He does that sometimes. And then he looks at me. “And Ms. Josephine might know something about that night that will help.”
“So we talk to Ms. Josephine, talk to Biff, try to get some evidence, and then we go to the police. Okay?”
Begrudgingly, he nods. “Okay.”
“Until then I think you need to rest. I think maybe doing this today was too hard on you. You need to eat and sleep and see if you can get some of your color back. Take it easy for a few days and then we’ll look for Ms. Josephine again. Okay?”
He takes a deep breath in and then agrees. “I tried to sleep last night, but I couldn’t. Too wired I guess.”
I give him the smallest smile. “I actually slept better last night than I have since…” I shrug. I don’t need to finish the sentence, because we both know when. “Just knowing you were there helped.”
“I’m glad.” He threads his icy fingers with mine. Then he stares, unblinking, out at the water. He so still, it’s like he’s not even breathing.
The wind picks up and I shiver. “Let’s go home, okay? It’s cold. You can warm up and get some rest.”
“It’s cold?” He comes out of his trance and glances around, landing on me.
“Yes, it’s freezing out here. Aren’t you cold? Your hands are freezing.”
He shrugs, apathetic, staring at his feet. “I’m always cold.”
In my heart I know he needs a doctor, and probably a psychiatrist too. But I don’t know how to get him to see anyone if he’s not willing. “Let’s go home. I’ll take care of you.”
I tug on his hand and he starts walking. I lead him to the car and we get in and drive home, each of us lost in our thoughts.
My husband is alive, and I’m so bloody grateful for that, that I fear it’s blinding me to the truth.
He came back different.
I don’t know if it’s trauma or illness or lies that I sense, but something is wrong with him. With this whole situation.

CONTINUE TO PT. 6

BACK TO PT. 1