While You Were Gone

Photo on Visual Hunt

For the next three days, Sheila tracked him. It was strangely soothing, watching him move from town to town, staying at motels with friendly names like The Pine Grove Inn and eating at roadside restaurants that managed to evoke in her a sense of home. (She realized later that it’s the sense of summer she’s nostalgic for, not home — lakes, rivers, local bakeries and hardware stores, the smell of Hawaiian Tropic, plunging into a cool, silent lake at midnight — things that likely wouldn’t exist anymore if she ventured there to see for herself.)

Soothing, because she’d confirmed he was okay, although what okay meant now was something different than what it had meant a few days ago. Now, it meant he was alive and able to operate a car and a bank card. She didn’t consider that maybe Derek had been taken prisoner and forced into these actions at gunpoint, though it was on her list of possibilities. It didn’t occur to her that the person staying at motels and eating at diners might not be Derek.

She pulled out a map of Ontario and spread it on the dining room table. If he were trying to hide his activities he would be more careful, she thought. He might, in fact, use only his credit card, or make a large withdrawal and pay with cash. That he hadn’t done this told Sheila that either it hadn’t occurred to him that he could be better at hiding, or he wanted to be found.

The days went by. Sheila stayed put, looking after the children, busying herself with cleaning and chores. Tom called twice, worried. He hadn’t been able to reach Derek and was debating whether to call their mother. Sheila asked him to wait, and explained she had the banking transactions that told her Derek was fine. She didn’t confess to her ongoing surveillance.

On Sunday morning she checked the bank balance and saw that Derek had turned south and east. This was how she learned, in a moment of anxious panic, that he was on his way home. Soon he would walk through the door.

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