Going home... and then home again.
“Where are we going?” She turned as she heard her children rousing. When she calmed them down she turned back to Jeremy. “Well…”
“Taking them to your parents. Tell them I need hospitalization and we need some time. Tell them it’s not an emergency, but we need to sort it out now. Like an insect bite or something; it could even be infected.”
Linda glanced at the road. Her eyes then fell toward the foot well. She swallowed, tasting only dryness. “Where are we really going?” She whispered.
They drove in silence for a while. Eventually he spoke, “Home. We’re going home.”
The rest of the drive was in silence. Linda followed her gut, and simply did as she was told… even when it came to dropping off the kids. This man she knew as Jeremy, had sat in the car the whole time, only acknowledging her parents with a glance and a slight but distant wave.
It was a strange silence as they made their way home. He seemed to be deep in thought, and not just thought but summations, plans, calculations; as if he was remembering things and cataloging them as he drove.
He didn’t say a thing, even as he waited for her to unlock the front door, even while he rifled through his lock box which he’d retrieved from the bottom of his closet. In that box were plenty of papers, a couple of passports, a set of keys and a few trinkets Linda had never seen before. He unpacked them all systematically on their bed until eventually he stopped. He knelt down at the side of the bed, cupping his face in his hands. She heard him taking deep breaths. Linda walked over and sat on the foot of the bed, watching.
Eventually his face emerged from behind his hands, his eyes scrutinizing the empty box one more time. For a moment Linda recognized him again and for the first time in what felt like an age, she felt compelled to voice her thoughts.
“What is it?”
“I’m looking.” His hand then reached toward the underside of the lid. He pulled on a small satin strap embedded in its inner rim. The small strap was like those strips used for book-markers, the type seen in many Bibles. The underside of the lid released from some unseen clip.
The only thing in there was a medium sized envelope.
He closed his eyes as he opened it. “I need you to look at this. I believe it will all make sense then. For both of us…”
He pulled out a simple Polaroid photograph and offered it to her. Linda looked at him briefly before accepting the picture. Before she looked at it she gave him one more glance, as if for reassurance. This glance, that subtle look, would prove to be the last time she saw the man she knew as her husband, for the next three years.
Jeremy watched her intently, anticipating something, even though he didn’t know what. She seemed not to recognize the image at first, but then she started pulling it slowly toward her face. Her eyes blinked profusely, and then she shut them tight, clenching the bridge of her nose.
When Linda’s eyes opened eventually, they were staring at the wall ahead of her. Her head turned to him, and then her gaze followed.
“I have always cherished this time between us Eli; these moments before you leave. You can go now. It is safe.” She nodded to him and smiled.
He nodded several times, though it seemed involuntary. He leaned back and stood up in one continuous motion. He took the image from her and repacked the lock-box in the reverse order of how he’d unpacked it.
Moments later, he closed the closet, turned and left the room.
She heard the front door close.
He backed out of the driveway slowly. Just as he put the car in gear, he looked up and paused, catching sight of the house he’d lived in for the past five years, now receding in familiarity.