Thought I Knew You(4)

By: Kate Moretti

“Thank you,” I said quietly. I felt it then—the certainty that I would be calling her back. I would not be getting any explanation, plausible or otherwise.

Chapter 2

Saturday morning, I felt groggy and hung-over from lack of sleep. I sat at the kitchen table, drinking coffee from Greg’s mug. With the DVD player on repeat, the girls stared blankly at the TV, and for once, I didn’t care. The high-pitched tinny voices of Dora the Explorer and her friends pounded in my head, and I winced with each trill of cartoonish laughter.

When the phone rang at nine, I snatched it. “Hello.”

“Hi, honey, the farmer’s market is open today for the fall festival. Dad and I are taking a ride out. Do you want to come?” Mom asked. The normality of the question was a vaudeville act, dreamlike and surreal.

I inhaled deeply. “Mom, Greg didn’t come home.”

“What? Why not? Did he miss his flight?”

“I don’t know. I can’t get in touch with him.” A sob caught in my throat. “I called the airline. His flight was on time, so I called the police…” I drifted, hesitant, lost.

“I’m sure there’s some explanation for all this. I’m coming over. We’ll figure this out.”

I hung up and stared at the phone, willing it to ring and for Greg to be on the other end. Have I got a story for you, he’d say, laughing. Or more likely, Goddamn airline, you won’t believe this.

“Mommy, why are you sad?” Hannah stood next to me, wide-eyed. Children had the ability to ask loaded questions in a way adults could never manage, with no subtext and no fear of the answer.

“I just miss Daddy, honey.” I pulled her to me, inhaling the syrupy scent of her hair.

“When is he coming home?”

“Soon, sweetheart.” I realized I was holding her too tightly and loosened the hug. “He’s away working.”

“Can I play with Annie today?” I don’t know. I don’t know what we’ll do today. I don’t know what we’ll do any day until he comes home. “We’ll see, Hannah.”

I pulled out the notepad. I was a list maker.

1. Call Rochester hospitals.

2. Call Greg’s hotel.

3. Call Rochester police.

4. Call Hunterdon County police.

5. Find Greg.

I enjoyed lists. Lining through completed items gave me a sense of satisfaction, and I couldn’t wait to line through number five.

Leah and Hannah rattled around the house, whiny and bored.

“Mommy, can we go outside today? Are we going to the library?” Hannah asked.

“No, honey, I’m sorry. We’re going to play inside. Mommy has a lot to do.” I almost laughed at the absurdity of the phrase. A lot to do.

How would I figure out what happened to Greg and keep things normal for the girls? How did people function in real crisis situations with small children? It wasn’t even a real crisis, just a missed flight and a dead cell phone battery. Except, except… Why couldn’t he call from the hotel? Borrow a cell phone from a stranger? Nothing made sense.

I fed Leah and asked Hannah if she wanted to watch Cinderella. The time would give me an hour or more of thinking and planning. I plopped them back down in front of the television, Leah clutching her ever-present Uglydoll, and they zoned out.

I jumped when the doorbell rang. I ran to the door, my heart thudding. Just as I reached for the knob, I remembered Mom had said she was coming.

“I have a plan,” Mom said. My mother was always a force, in her element during a crisis, strong and sure.

We divvied up my list. I gave her number one, as I needed to be the one to call his hotel. I passed the computer to her so she could look up the Rochester hospitals. I had Greg’s notebook: departing flight number, returning flight number, hotel, date. Every single time. Greg the Metronome.

I dialed the hotel number. “Hi. My name is Claire Barnes. My husband Greg stayed there this week. He should have checked in on Tuesday and checked out early Friday morning. Would you be able to tell me if he did check in and out?”

“Yes, we can tell you that, Mrs. Barnes.” I heard the clicking of a keyboard. “Yes, Greg Barnes did check in on Tuesday night. However, he did not check out on Friday morning.”

My mouth went dry. What’s going on? “Okay.” I needed to talk to this faceless voice on the phone and force her to be human, not like the calls to the police station or the airline. I needed her to be on my side. I took a deep breath. “My husband was scheduled to return yesterday, and he didn’t come home. He never boarded his plane. The police won’t help me until tomorrow, at the earliest. Is there any way you can check his room? I don’t know. Make sure he didn’t have a heart attack up there or something? Please. I’m begging you.”

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