Just Let Me Die Here (A Serialized Novel) 30
Through the fog of growing sobriety, a thought keeps poking at me. Something Beth had said when she was telling her story about Tucker. Beth, or whatever her name was. Even though her story was bullshit, there may have been an underlying truth there. Was there another woman? Is that why Tucker had left? Was this trip meant to be some sort of sick good-bye gift from Tucker?
I start to think about the past year. The growing distance. The constant focus on his phone. I always assumed it was work, had no reason to believe it was anything else. But maybe that’s because I was ignoring the signs. And I should have known the signs.
I was the one who had strayed early on in our relationship. It was the classic move of getting nervous about how serious things were becoming with Tucker and so I looked for an out. It was with another grad student and it didn’t go further than one drunken night, but I regretted it instantly. And to my surprise, Tucker forgave me. It was like he knew before I even told him and had already gotten over it. But what if he hadn’t? What if that seed of doubt had remained and caused him to become unfaithful too? Had he met someone and decided to leave me to be with her? And, even worse, taken my daughter to start a new life with this woman.
He found her a better mother.
Just let them go.
Tucker knew I didn’t want a baby when we got pregnant. What if that stayed with him? Had he just been buying time, keeping me around until he found a better woman to raise his child?
I roll over on the bed and grab my phone. I press the home button but the screen stays blank. I press it again and again with no result. It’s dead. I grab my charger from my purse and plug the phone into the bedside outlet, but my brain can’t handle the wait for the minimum charge. I grab the room key, leave the phone charging on the nightstand, and head downstairs.
Duke is sitting behind the front desk, staring at a small television that’s propped up on a stack of old phone books. He glances up at me as I enter and returns his attention to the screen.
“Duke?” He nods in response. “Do you happen to have a computer I could use for a bit?”
“The business center is just down the hall,” he says, pointing toward the far side of the room without looking up. A laugh track plays on the television and he chuckles.
The business center is a small alcove with a single computer. There is a desk chair rolled off to the side, the seat broken at a sharp angle. I kneel down in front of the monitor and give the mouse a wiggle to wake up the screen. The monitor is slow to respond and I can hear the workings of the tower, just in front of my legs, struggling to keep up. The fan whirs again and again. When the desktop finally comes to life, a standard sunset backdrop filling the screen, I double click on the internet icon and wait. This has to be it. There must be answers here.
I make my way to the email server Tucker uses for his personal account and, after waiting a bit longer, I reach the name and password page. I know his email and type it in, but the password gives me pause. What could it be? I try a couple work related things I know he’s used in the past. No success. The I try a couple combinations of Millie’s name and birthdate. Nothing. What could it be? What if it’s her? The name of the woman he’s run off with. I can’t begin to imagine where I would start with that so I try one more thing. My name. And for good measure, I add on our wedding date. The account opens.
But what’s in his email is almost more shocking than what I was bracing myself for. It’s nearly empty. There is nothing in his inbox or sent folders for months. I know Tucker is very meticulous, hating clutter and always deleting old things he no longer needs.
But this is different. There are a few random things in his inbox, newsletters from some fantasy sports organizations and two press releases from the winery where he is a member, all left unopened. But his sent box, from February of last year on, is completely empty. It’s like the entire account for the past year has been wiped clean. I can only imagine that means one thing. He’s hiding something. Whether it’s another woman or something to do with work or, my mind loops back to earlier worries, his plans to get rid of me, Tucker is hiding something.
I am about to sign out when something catches my eye. The subject line of the last email he opened in his inbox. ‘In response to your proposal’. Dated March 2, 2014. The day after Millie was born. It’s from a Gmail account that I don’t recognize. I open it.
After our last conversation, I looked into the issues we discussed. I don’t think there will be any problems and I am able to agree to your conditions. At this point, I am comfortable moving ahead with the plans. Please call me at your earliest convenience.
Plans? What plans? Tucker didn’t tell me about any new business deals and I have never heard of this Dallas person. Is that a man’s name or a woman’s name? If this was a message about business, it would have made more sense to contact him on his work email. This must be something personal. Something Tucker was hiding. But if he had deleted everything else, why not this? I search his account for any other occurrences of the sender’s email address and don’t find it anywhere. No other received and it doesn’t look like he ever sent anything to this person. Unless, he had and then deleted any evidence of it. And with growing fear I am now reassured that there is actually something to find. Too many days have passed. My hope is fading but not yet shattered. I must continue on. I must find Millie.
I actually do need to extend the car rental now, so I drive down the street to the shop. Today, the young man who helped me last time has been replaced by a man whose size seems to exceed the recommended girth for the stool on which he sits. Unlike his predecessor, he is of an indeterminate age. His round face befitting of both a coddled man in his early twenties and an over-indulgent person in his forties. He is focused on a book of puzzles in his hand, scratching behind his ear with the eraser end of a pencil. He glances up quickly when I enter, but then returns his gaze to his puzzle.
“Hello?” I say approaching the desk. He looks up at me again.
“Tell me,” he says, glancing back down at his puzzle book. “Do you know who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1977?”
“Yeah,” he sighs. “Me neither.” He slips the pencil into the book as a place marker and then sets it down on the desk. “How can I help you?” Forced cheeriness pulls at his face.
“I need to get an extension on my rental.”
“Let’s see what we can do. Name?” I give him my information and he types away at the computer in front of him. As he does, I look around the small space and try to imagine having to work here all day, every day. Alone. It’s bleak, but a vast improvement to my own situation. I assume even this man has someone to go home to. “Alright, Ms. Logan, it doesn’t look like the car has a future hold on it at the moment, so you are welcome to extend your reservation. You just need to pay the balance of what you already owe.”
“Great,” I say. I search through my wallet, pull out the debit card linked to our joint account, and hand it to the man. He takes the card and does a quick double-take. Freddy Krueger’s face stares up at him from the card.
“Sorry,” I immediately say to his shocked expression. “It’s a little joke my husband played on me. Probably trying to scare me off of spending all our money.” He lets out a small noise that could be taken as a laugh and then hums away as he swipes it on the machine next to the computer.
My eyes drift to the window and the mountains just to the north. Not long ago, I was up there, enjoying a wonderful day on the slopes and truly feeling that life couldn’t get any better. How quickly things change.
“Excuse me, Ms. Logan,” the man says. “But this card has been declined.”
“Declined. It says there are insufficient funds on the card to pay the balance.” He whispers the words ‘insufficient funds’ as if trying to keep my embarrassing moment a secret from the empty room around us.
“That’s impossible,” I say.
“And yet, that’s what it says.”
“I’m so sorry,” I say. “It’s just, there should be plenty of money left on that card. Can you swipe it again?” He does and when the machine gives a harsh buzz, he looks at me with a pitying face.
“Declined.” He sets the card down on the counter in front of me. Freddy’s evil face staring at me upside-down.
“Okay,” I say, looking through my wallet again and pulling out my credit card. “Just put it on this.” He swipes the card and the transaction goes through.
“Okay, Ms. Logan. You have paid off your balance. Would you still like to extend your rental?” His tone seems to question my judgement in doing so, given my apparent financial situation.
“Um,” I hesitate. “I guess, not for now.”
I sign off on the paper work and turn in the keys. I step out of the rental office and walk the mile back to the motel, carrying Millie’s empty carseat with my good arm.
Back in my motel room, exhausted from the long walk, my legs bruised from the constant banging of the carseat, I grab my phone, now fully charged, and search for our bank’s website. I hit the login button and two boxes pop up. Username and password. I try one and get a fail message. I try and think of the password I would have used when we set up the account. I haven’t really checked it recently. I try two more passwords before I get the right one. I click on the accounts tab and wait, hoping that my gut feeling is wrong. I watch the dial spinning as the website searches for my account information. And then, there it is. A single account number with a total amount next to it. $0.00. Completely empty.
I click the transactions tab at the top of the screen and I’m taken to a list of deposits and withdrawals. Month after month, there are withdrawals from several direct deposits we have. The phone bill, the internet, electricity, and the mortgage. But where are the deposits? I see the monthly deposits of a portion of my paycheck, but it’s not nearly enough to cover all our expenses. What about Tucker though? There’s been nothing for nearly a year. What has Tucker been doing with his salary?
I stare at the zeros that now seem to dance across the screen, a chorus line of broken trust and fears come alive. I think about my own bank account. The one I keep for occasional impractical indulgences and the purchasing of gifts for Tucker. I have kept strict tabs on that account. With my last paycheck, I deposited $100. Therefore, I now have a total of $479.85 to my name. I am stuck in a foreign country with less than $500, one credit card with a shrinking amount available, and a growing motel room bill. And no Millie.
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About the author
Author & Book Coach, wife, mother, adventure-seeker.
BA in English from Colorado College & MFA from the University of Melbourne
Writing here is Fiction & Non-Fiction
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