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Thought I Knew You

By:Kate Moretti

Chapter 1



Greg and Cody disappeared on the same day.

One or two Fridays a month, Greg and I hired a babysitter for date  night. The idea was to take some time for ourselves and reconnect. The  reality was significantly less romantic. We typically ate at Pesto  Charlie's due to some combination of availability and timing. I'd order  whatever seafood was on special, and Greg would get Chicken  Piccata-light on the sauce, of course. The food was always dependable,  we never had to wait for a table, and with the low lighting and heady  aroma of Italian spices, the restaurant was atmospheric enough to check  Date Night off our to-do lists.

A few times, we tried other places, but either the food wasn't good, the  service was poor, or we'd leave the restaurant late and miss the  beginning of whatever movie we planned to see. Greg refused to go into a  theater late. He called it rude and always clucked disapprovingly when  others did so. So Pesto Charlie's became something of a tradition,  albeit not a very exciting one. We'd get home between ten and ten  thirty, pay the sitter twenty bucks, and go to bed. Sometimes we'd make  love, but not every time. Even date night wasn't a guaranteed lay.

Greg was due back around one o'clock that Friday afternoon, having been  on a business trip all week. He traveled for work more than I liked, but  I'd stopped complaining about the monthly trips years ago and just  accepted them as a part of life. Greg and I worked for the same company,  Advent Pharmaceuticals. He was a professional trainer, not a  weightlifting trainer, but adult education for the corporate set. He  taught various courses on compliance, regulations, and the science  behind Advent's drugs. He was based in Raritan, New Jersey, about ten  miles from where we lived in Clinton, but often flew as far as Canada.  Greg was good at his job; actually, Greg was good at almost everything.



I worked part time as a technical writer. My job was less demanding,  allowing me to work from home and take care of the children. I just  worked for extra money. Something to do, Greg had once joked at a dinner  party, his arm draped across my shoulders. My face had burned at that,  even though I had said the same thing a million times.

"Mommy, I think Cody got out." Hannah stood in the doorway between the  hallway and the kitchen. Her earlier neat blond ponytail had fallen to  the side, and she had some furtively acquired lipstick smeared on her  cheek.

"What? Hannah, seriously, stay out of my purse, please." No matter how  hard I tried, Hannah seemed determined to look a mess. It's like an age  requirement for four-year-olds.

She pointed at the screen door. "Mommy, look!"

Sure enough, the screen swayed gently in the early October breeze. The  opening between the mesh and the frame was jagged, as if it had been  clawed. Had I let him out? I thought so. With the girls and the library,  the memory of the morning blurred. I wasn't concerned. Cody would have  been more aptly named Houdini. Our yard was large, several acres, with a  small patch of woods in the back, perfect for chasing small animals and  sometimes bringing them back as prizes, dropping them on the doorstep  with a triumphant thump. Given that our closest neighbors were a  quarter-mile away, Cody had the run of the place, but he always knew  where home was.         

     



 

"Sweetie, he'll be home. He's just out for an adventure." I poked my  head out of the door and looked around the yard. "Cody! Come back, bud!  It's dinner time!" It wasn't, but "dinner time" never failed to evoke a  response.

I didn't see him, but he could have been anywhere. An old barn sat at  the back of our property. I could imagine him there, tucked under the  rarely used workbench, bathed in a shaft of light let in by the broken  side door. I'd look in a bit, after the babysitter, Charlotte, came, but  before we left for dinner. I let the screen door slam and checked the  time. I was surprised to see that the clock showed three fifteen  already. Where was Greg anyway?



I gathered two-year-old Leah from the playroom, her cheeks rouged from  the same Hannah-pilfered lipstick, and plopped her in the high chair.  After tossing some Goldfish crackers on her tray, I picked up the phone  and dialed Greg's number. My call went directly to voicemail, so I left  an irritated message. Frustrated, I tapped my fingers on the phone. Greg  had likely forgotten our plans, his mind a million miles away, his wife  last on his list. I stormed around the kitchen, slamming pots and pan  lids, half-expecting him to appear behind me and say teasingly, "Feel  better now?" like he generally does when I get cranky and start making  noise.

I had to think a moment to remember the last time we spoke. Wednesday  evening, he had called to say good night and to tell the girls he loved  them. He didn't call last night, but that wasn't all that strange. I  filled my time with kid-friendly activities, play dates, family, and  friends, so we didn't talk every night. I could think of a few trips,  particularly in the last few months, where the week would come and go  before I realized we hadn't spoken at all.

"The bigger question, Hannah-banana, is where on earth is your daddy?"





At six, I called Charlotte and canceled.

Then, I called my mom. "Can you believe he didn't even call me? Should I be worried?"

"Nah, you never know when he's coming home," Mom reassured me. "Remember last month? His flight was delayed for a whole day."



"Yeah, but he called at least." I bit my bottom lip.

"Not until pretty late, though, right? He was stuck on the runway. It's  probably the same now." I could envision her dismissively waving her  hand in the air.

Her lightness eased something inside me, and I exhaled a breath I hadn't  known I was holding. "I'll bet he forgot. It's so typical lately. I  have no idea where his head is anymore."

"Well, if his plane was delayed, I'm sure he can't call. That whole ‘don't use your cell phone while flying' rule."

Mom and Dad lived about ten minutes away in the same house where I grew  up, and I talked to my mother no less than twice a day. She loved Greg  and probably knew more about our life than a mother should, but she  wasn't privy to the small details. She didn't know about Greg's recent  distance or our inability to have a conversation lately, or our  apparent-mutual-sex strike, which caused our bed to be the scene of a  new Cold War. Ups and downs, is all, I kept thinking. We all got 'em.

But when we had talked on Wednesday, things seemed a little better. Greg  wanted to go to a movie; we hadn't done that in a while. And he even  suggested Mexican. His long silences, usually heavy with unsaid words,  seemed lighter somehow. Almost easy. When I tried to end the call, I  sensed an unusual hesitancy. Generally, Greg ended the conversation  first, a sense of urgency coming through the line from the minute he  said "hello," but Wednesday had been different. Or maybe that was just  my hopeful thinking.

Leah started crying from her high chair.

"Ma, I gotta go. I'll call you tomorrow."





After six o'clock, I secured the girls in the playroom in front of the  television before bed and hiked to the back of the yard, skirting the  edge of the woods. Behind the woods was a steep hill, ending at some  little-used railroad tracks.



"Cooooody!" I called him over and over again. I expected him to come  bounding over the hill, carrying some treasure from the tracks. When he  didn't materialize, I fought a sense of deep unease, of everything being  slightly out of place, two voids in the house defying reason.

Worried about leaving the girls alone too long, I jogged back to the  house. On the back porch, I turned once more to gaze out at the inky  yard, a black, starless sky swallowing the earth that seemed to shift  ever so slightly beneath my feet. Trying to convince myself that Cody  would show up later, I went inside to wait for my husband.         

     



 





I put the girls to bed with only a minor inquisition from Hannah about  her missing daddy. I waved the question away with a cheerful façade. She  let it slide, used to going days without seeing him. After calling Greg  again and leaving yet another message, I curled up on the couch for  some backlogged DVR. I skipped around, aiming for distraction as I  fought the unease that settled in the pit of my stomach. Pulling the  blanket up to my chin, I shivered from the end-of-season chill, wishing,  suddenly, pitifully, that I had my husband to curl up on the couch  with, even though it had been months since we'd done that. Briefly, I  considered the irony, the way we'd avoided talking or touching in the  evenings, but how when faced with a growing sense of anxiety, I longed  for it. When he gets home, we'll fix this.





I was startled awake at one thirty in the morning. As I sat up on the  couch, I remembered. Greg. Was he home? I checked the doors-both still  locked. I checked our bedroom-no suitcase on the floor, no Greg on the  bed. I checked the garage-no car. I was angry. One lousy phone call. Hi,  I'm stuck on a plane. Hi, I missed my flight. I tried his cell phone  and left a third message. After I hung up, worry bore down on me, heavy  and oppressive.

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