Jim Evers entered his home with a confident stride. Having just left a three hour conference with one of their highest paying clients, from which he had managed to convince them to close the deal with a 70% commission (three times as much as it was worth), he couldn't help but feel like the master of his domain. To top it off, he had stopped on his way home to buy Sarah a bouquet of her favorite flowers, and had made a reservation at a nice little Italian place in town. It was late, but he wanted to surprise her. It would be the perfect way to celebrate tonight's accomplishments, and would help to make up for his absence the night before.
Hanging his coat up in the hall closet, Jim called out for Sarah and the kids, his usually loud voice now practically singing with his pride and excitement. Muffled footsteps padded across the ceiling as Megan and Michael came running down to meet him. Hearing them on the stairs, Jim spun around.
"Hey Michael, Megan. Guess who just closed the Marcus account!?" He struck a pose, sticking out his arms in a rather showy fashion as he flashed them his trademark grin. But his children did not mirror their father's excitement. In fact they looked concerned. Jim's expression fell. "What's wrong guys?" he looked around and Noticed that Sarah was not there with them. "Where's your mom?"
"You don't know? We were hoping she was with you." Megan said. Michael nodded at her side,
"She said she'd be home hours ago, and we can't reach her phone." Jim Frowned. He didn't know she was going out tonight. Sarah always kept him updated with her plans. Quickly he pulled his phone out of his pocked and turned it on, tonight's conference being one of the rare occasions when he actually had it off. As soon as it vibrated back to life the screen was flooded with missed text messages and voicemails, most of them from his kids asking about their mother. Jim dialed her number. After a moment of silence he was met by those terrible three monotone beebs that told him her phone was out of service. Clicking it shut he turned back to his children.
"Did she say where she was going? Leave a note at all?" they shook their heads.
"She just said she was going out and would be home by 8." Jim thought for a second. Michael looked between his dad and his older sister.
"Dad, should we call the cops? Maybe mom's in trouble!" Megan folded her arms and looked down at her brother.
"Don't be stupid, Michael. She's probably out with friends and just lost track of time." Megan paused, "Right dad?" Jim looked at his daughter, seeing the doubt in her eyes that Michael couldn't. His kids were worried, and it was his job as their father to comfort them. Keeping them safe sometimes meant protecting them from their concerns as well.
"Yeah, you know what, actually, I remember now, she did say she was going out with friends."
"Which friends?" Michael asked.
"Um, Cate." He said, mentally admitting that he didn't know the names of any of Sarah's friends. Megan raised an eyebrow.
"You mean Carol."
"Yeah, Carol, that's what I said. Now don't worry guys, mom's just a bit late, it happens, and… every thing's fine." Megan and Michael watched as their dad gestured dramatically, something he always did when he was lying. They stayed where they were, looking at him skeptically. Jim didn't believe himself either, but he waved away their concerns. "Ok, ok, so I don't know, but I'm going to find out. Trust me." He smiled genuinely at them, putting his hands on their shoulders. They smiled too, relaxing a bit with their dad's assurance.
"Have you had dinner yet?" he asked. Michael nodded excitedly.
"Yeah! We ordered pizza!" now it was Jim's turn to raise an eyebrow.
"Did mom say you could do that?"
"No, Megan said… ow!" he glared at his sister as she elbowed him, glaring back with equal annoyance. Jim shook his head.
"Megan, what did we say about ordering food when mom and I are out?" she rolled her eyes, crossing her arms with a signature sass that she had come to adopt in the last few years.
"Nothing happened, dad. It was just pizza, besides I'm old enough."
"Yeah sure. Well if you're old enough to order pizza, you're old enough to clean up the kitchen when you're done, which I'm sure you haven't done yet. So hop to it." Michael, much more susceptible to his dad's authority, ran off to the kitchen and the mess of pizza boxes and melting ice cream container that waited there. Megan followed suit, walking unenthusiastically behind her brother.
After they left, Jim went into the living room, walking back and forth as he thought about his wife's disappearance. Should he be concerned? This kind of thing hadn't happened before. But he had no cause not to question her reason for not telling him. Still he felt an unsettling sense of worry.
Jim looked at his watch then, suddenly remembering the one he had bought for Sarah the night before. The one he bought to apologize for missing their… anniversary. Jim paused. Today's meeting had caused him to completely forget about how upset she had been. She hadn't said anything that night when they went to bed, and though he had meant to say something he couldn't bring himself to address it. Was that why she had left? Why she hadn't told him where she was going? It must be. Guilt and worry struck Jim with a sudden force that left him feeling terribly hollow.
As his eyes darted around the room, they landed on the pad of paper by the phone. Jim walked over to the side table and leafed through the scattered assortment of appointment sheets and calendar pages. Then an idea accrued to him. He had emptied the trash by the table before he left, if she had written something down and thrown it away it'd be one of the only things in the waste basket. Kneeling down he lifted the bin out from under the table and looked inside. Sure enough one piece of paper lie crumbled in the corner. Jim took it out and unfolded it. In Sarah's beautiful hand a simple address was scrawled. As he read it, his eyes widened.
He recognized the area from talk amongst the real estate world. This house was located out in the bayou area, about an hour or so out of town. The distant swampy area was peppered with rich lavish estates and old plantation homes, placed out in the lush Louisiana bog to give their original owners a sort of secluded sense of superiority.
Jim's mind went straight into Evers and Evers mode, thinking that his wife must have received a call from a prospective client and realized, as he did, how impassible this opportunity was, and simple went out to meet with them. But…he faltered, then why wouldn't she have simply scheduled this meeting for later? Such a big opportunity should be addressed as a team, and they always met new clients for the first time together. So why not tell him, or the kids, and more importantly what had happened that was keeping her so late?
With a thousand questions and only one thought running through his mind, Jim ran back to the closet, grabbed his coat and pulled out his car keys. Hearing the closet door open again, Michael and Megan stopped their work in the kitchen and poked their heads curiously back in the entry way.
"Where are you going?" Megan quickly asked, pulling Jim out of his hasty train of thought. He spun around. The kids! He couldn't bring them with him, that would be an extra burden on his already long list of troubles. Licking his lips he looked quickly to Megan.
"Um, ok. So I know where mom is and…"
"You reached her?! Where is she?" Megan interrupted.
"Well I was about to say before you interrupted me. Now will you kindly listen before blurting out questions?... Thank you. Ok so she's just out with a client right now, for a pretty big estate so that's probably what's keeping her. I'm just gonna go over there and see what's going on. Megan, I need you to play babysitter for a few more hours. Can you do that?" Normally his kids would have groaned at this request, Megan hating to watch over her younger brother, and Michael never liking when he had to do what she said. But instead they both just looked at their father, sensing his slight desperation, and instead just nodded quietly.
"Ok! Megan, Aunt Portia's number is on the fridge, if you need anything or can't reach me, you call her."
"Why wouldn't I be able to reach you? You won't go missing like mom, right?"
"Ok first of all, mom's not missing, and second I won't be either. This will be real quick, there and back."
"How quick?" Megan asked.
"… Three hours, tops." This phrase wasn't the most comforting for Jim's kids to hear. They, like their mother, had grown accustomed to their father's absence and inability for keeping his word when it came to timing. In fact when he said it, Jim almost questioned it too.
Relaxing a bit, he walked over to Megan and Michal and gave them a hug.
"Three hours, I promise. And I'll call if there's any delay." The family pulled back and looked at each other. All still worried, but maybe now a little less so.
"Alright! Same rules as always, I want you in bed in an hour. Missing moms makes no exceptions!" He called over his shoulder as he headed out the door.
"But you said she wasn't missing!" Megan called back.
"She's not!" he said, and closed the door behind him.
Getting into his car, Jim took the crumpled address out of his pocket and punched it into the GPS. Pulling the car into reverse and then quickly into drive he sped toward the destination where he prayed Sarah would be waiting. The silence of the car was lost to the chaos and clamor that racked his mind as he drove on through the quiet night. Over and over he saw her beautiful face from the night before, clouded with a sad disappointment before she turned away and left him, standing alone in the doorway of their home. This was his fault, but he was determined to make it right.
Keeping his eyes on the road, Jim pulled out his phone and dialed Sarah's number, hitting redial again and again, the sad monotone ring playing a harsh accompaniment for his long and troubling drive.