Sunday, November 01, 2015

Chapter 25: Found

And Liam wrote:

I awoke out of a sound sleep and saw the red numbers that lit up my clock’s face. 5:04. I’m never up so early… and almost never up without the alarm. The recently departed dream I’d been having came flooding back. I usually don’t remember my dreams, but this one… this one was strong. I was on the second floor of the antique shop that Meredith and I had browsed one day after lunch together. She was standing, looking at some items on a shelf and I came up behind her and put my arms around her.

We fit together like two upright puzzle pieces. My breathing was quickening.She turned and put her arms around me, kissed me and bit my earlobe. “I missed you, baby.” I said to her. She whispered back. “I missed you too.” Everything about her was so real: her touch, the feel of her skin; her scent; the taste of her mouth. The wooden stairs of the antique shop began to creak and soon the bearded old proprietor appeared and we pulled apart... 5:04 a.m.

It had been three days since I’d seen her. Things at the new satellite office are utter chaos and I was able to lose myself in it, trying to restore… no, create… some semblance of order. I got things down from a high level of disorder to... well… a livable level, a low roar of confusion.

I was now to head back to the main office to give my progress report.That first day back was uneventful… that is after I found out that Meredith had called in sick. Prior to that I practically had to pull my car over on the drive in to work. My stomach was in knots and twice I thought I was going to lose my breakfast. I scraped myself together in the company parking lot, steeling myself for what kind of encounter I could only imagine. I was relieved when Luella said Mer had called in sick.

At noon, I went out to get lunch by myself, which I hate doing alone. I decided to cheer myself up by being adventuresome and see if that Mexican place was still open. I was thinking about a decadent burrito and a side of platanos, the fried plantain bananas that I knew from many years ago when Mrs. Alvarado lived next door. This is (or was) the only place in the city that has them… or used to have them. I hadn’t been there in a long while. It was on the other side of town, not a bad district, but simply in the opposite direction of my place… my old place… from the city center. I just didn’t get out that way often. On my way there, I passed a QuickieMart and decided I’d get something to drink with my burrito. All they ever had at Jimeno’s was this rather nasty soda flavored with tamarind. Sort of a cross between Dr. Pepper and Alka Seltzer. I pulled into the lot and as I looked for a space to park, I noticed the red Shadow parked on the end of the row… unmistakably Meredith's car. 

Reflexively I drove past her car to the other end of the lot and pulled around to the farthest gas pump. I didn’t get out, but I watched the door, transfixed. She came out, dressed in everyday attire, jeans and top, her hair pulled back, sandals on her feet. She headed straight for her car, carrying a large drink and a newspaper. One thing was sure: she wasn’t sick.

I suppose I told myself that I was supposed to see her, all the stars had aligned so that I would see her. I stopped for a drink just at the right moment. Five minutes earlier or later and I would have missed her. And what were the odds of me even being on this side of town? This side of town? Wait a minute… what the hell was SHE doing here? That’s why I followed her. She drove less than ten blocks before she turned into a hotel. Nothing extravagant, but not cheap either. I had been hanging back three or four cars, trying to be inconspicuous. When she turned in, I drove past. I should have looked away as I did, but I couldn’t help looking after her. She disappeared into the hotel garage.

Oh my God… did she leave him? That was my first thought anyway. She never spoke about fights with him.  I guessed that they didn’t… or that she didn’t like to talk about them. Either way, I had known she was unhappy. This was one of those situations where whenever I thought about this man I would think, “If I could meet him and speak freely without fear of consequences, I would LOVE to say to this idiot, ‘Are you blind? Do you have eyes? Don’t you see what you have in front of you? You fool, she is so out of your league… and you’ve lost her… only because you didn’t give her what she needed.’”

Maybe she was visiting someone. Maybe she was on her way to rendezvous with someone else? I paused at this last thought. No. Not that. So… what else could she be doing at a hotel? I was going to find out. Directory assistance connected me to her hotel and I called an asked to leave a message with her never asking of she was there or not. They patched me in to her room phone. I hung up before the first ring even ended. So, she was staying there. Now what? I decided to think it over while I chased down my burrito. My head would be a little clearer after I’d eaten. I just hated the thought of washing it down with that rust remover Jimeno’s passes off as soda.