Authors: Cari Moore
Tags: #fiction, #romance, #love, #fear, #hope, #affair, #kidnapped, #confused, #deceived, #boredom, #betrayed, #reconcile, #disillusionment, #tempted, #disillusioned, #seduced
Copyright 2009 by Cari Moore
The frigid pre-dawn air enveloped her as she
cowered outside the window of the cabin. From where she hunched by
the outer wall of the stucco home, she could see nothing but
blackness, the murky shadows of the early morning shackling her
view. Her journey to this moment had beaten her down, victimized
and brutalized her to the point that she wanted to weep and scream
- not dig in and fight. But as she listened to the sound of
struggle which emanated from inside the towering edifice, she knew
only one thing, and that one thing must determine her course.
If she let her fear dominate her, the next
time she saw the man she loved, he would no doubt wear a bullet
hole to the head. She could remain at a safe distance, avoid the
danger, return to her children, find a way to move on. She could
gain her own freedom and ensure her security if only she turned and
walked away now, without drawing attention to herself.
On pressing forward, she would have no
guarantee of success, even with her advantages. More likely, she
would receive a matching gunshot wound for her troubles: two pairs
of unseeing eyes instead of only one. Did she really want to risk
her life, even to deny death a new victim? For a moment, she
wavered, torn between her own cowardice, her own doubt, and what
she knew was right. Not only what she knew was right, but what she
knew to be true, a truth that had pursued her through all of the
last few weeks' tribulations.
She loved this man. If he died now, in this
way, unaware of how she felt, she would find it hard to keep on
Standing to her feet, she raised her hand and
knocked loudly on the windowpane. She had never really had another
Three Weeks Earlier
Another wasted night, the same as the others,
Tessa Wilson once again tapped away on the keys of her computer.
Everyone slept soundly, it seemed. Quiet cocooned the rooms down
the hall where her daughter and two sons blissfully dreamed.
Silence. A relief for Tessa, because the last three days had
consisted of non-stop activity: driving the kids to their
grandparents’ house in the country, coming home and dressing,
driving two hours to a friend’s wedding rehearsal, repeating the
same thing the next day for the ceremony. Then, too, her husband
had some time off from work, so he was around all the time: what’s
for dinner, where are my socks, why did you spend money on a new
shirt, blah, blah, blah. Instead of an extra hand to help, he was
an added responsibility.
It’s not that Merritt Wilson could be called
a bad man, or even a selfish man. If anything, he was a great man.
When Tessa had married Merritt, everyone told her what a good man
she had found - and in ways, they were right. Merritt worked harder
than any man Tessa knew. Because he had, as a child, felt his own
father’s absence, Merritt worked extra hard to take care of his
family. He spent time with them all, paid for help around the house
for Tessa, and even made time to take her out on the town every
once in a while.
If he had one fault, it was eternal optimism.
This optimism allowed him to climb his way out of desperate
situations and also made him a little reckless. He saw life as one
boundless opportunity, looking forward with confidence and
anticipation to his future. Believing that life would never throw
him a curve he couldn’t handle, he judged anyone who took much care
for the future. “Worrying accomplishes nothing,” he always said. At
bottom, Tessa knew he was right. With Merritt around, Tessa worried
little about money, and she never had desired material possessions;
not that she lacked in that area either. Just thinking about it
brought a hitch of pain to her chest. How could she so love a man
and still feel so much resentment toward him?
Even with all the advantages that Merritt
provided her, Tessa answered her own question: she couldn't escape
the inherent shackles of her position in life. Though she had
tacitly chosen this life, she suffered from the same problem she
knew every mother endured, whether a single mom working two jobs to
support her kids or a tennis mom spending her husband's millions to
try to fill her emptiness with activity. Tessa wasn't happy because
Tessa was alone. Anyone who entered her house for five minutes
would have laughed at the idea. Between her kids' friends, her
husband's friends, and the nosy neighborhood women, people
constantly surrounded Tessa, whether she wanted them or not. A
moment never passed when she could focus on her own thoughts
without interruption, and this buzz of busyness cut her off from
any meaningful exchange of thoughts and feelings. How could someone
claim loneliness in a crowd of people?
Would it make sense for
me to say that no one shares my thoughts?
one to feel connected to? That I'm isolated by my daily
responsibilities? Enslaved by my own principles?
Because he directed his plans based on
“logic,” Merritt seemed a little calloused to others’ emotional
cries, especially Tessa's. His own mother had worked when he was a
child. She had put aside so much emotion to take care of her kids
that he thought every other woman should do the same; emotion
mattered little. Of course, Tessa imagined that, had he ever held
any deep conversation with his mom on the subject, he may have come
to a different conclusion.
Despite his apparent lack of patience for
Tessa's discontentment, in the good moments Merritt and Tessa had
more fun together than anyone they knew. They shared so many
interests - intellectual, recreational, cultural - and no one could
reach inside of Tessa like Merritt could. A somewhat stoic
character, few people could elicit a genuine laugh from Tessa
Wilson, but Merritt could; sure, he made everyone laugh, but his
jokes with Tessa were different, growing from a lifetime of
memories and their largely congruent opinions about life. When
Tessa could think rationally, she knew she possessed everything
that the supposed “good life” entailed.
But her ridiculous principles, she lamented.
While Merritt could judge each situation rationally,
without reference to history or emotion,
Tessa's principles manacled her to the hearts of her family. She
couldn't coldly analyze any situation because the demands of her
families' hearts must supersede Tessa's selfish desires. Perhaps
she could have dealt with the emotional claims laid upon her by her
family if circumstances hadn't placed upon her a burden which lay
outside of the realm of her abilities. In truth, both her own sense
of dissatisfaction and Merritt's derision came from one struggle:
the unending, menial demands put upon her by marriage and
Tessa was an intelligent lady - talented,
sharp. Those who knew her well thought that Merritt was the lucky
one, that she had unwittingly enslaved herself, giving up the
potential for a great, glamorous, exciting life. Tessa had no such
delusions of grandeur, but she did feel a little like a
thoroughbred horse pulling a plow - a waste of resources.
Reining in a despondent sigh, Tessa added
another phrase to her journal, a tome to be locked forever behind
computer passwords and concealed in her computer's hidden files.
The ticking of the bracket clock which rested beside the computer
dragged her attention from the page before her. She loved that old
clock: an antique rescued from her grandmother's attic, and though
the computer's synchronized digital clock may have provided more
accuracy, Tessa always ignored the blaring display of numbers in
favor of the gentle glimmer of tarnished brass. As her eyes fogged
in memory, a familiar sound interrupted her reverie.
percussive children’s toys, forever strewn around the house!
Someone must have woken up
. She looked back
at the clock. 3:27 a.m.
Why do I do this to myself?
chastised silently. In what seemed like a regular part of her
routine, Tessa shed her blanket, walked through the kitchen, and
rounded the corner into the hallway to attend to a child.
Complacent annoyance enveloped her, a
sensation so familiar as to lull her thoughts rather than to pique
them. Of course, her familiarity with the night's events made the
next moment even more shocking. As the front door rose into view,
Tessa froze, her breath hitching slightly in her throat: had she
just seen a shadow cast onto the floor of the foyer? The image had
lasted only a moment - she wasn’t even sure she had really seen it,
but from the light cast by the porch lamp, anything between it and
the front door would throw its shadow across the shallow entryway
and toward her sons’ room. Still, the transient blackness flitted
so rapidly through the field of light that the shadow dissolved
before she could decide whether it had existed.
When her three-year-old daughter stumbled
sleepily into the hallway, Tessa's heart began beating again.
“Mommy, I’m thirsty,” her daughter whined. The familiarity returned
in a flood; when Tessa had heard the noise, she had expected to see
a child, and she felt almost grateful for the unremarkable
“Go back to bed, sweetheart. I’ll bring you a
drink in a minute.”
Her mind reoriented, Tessa began to regroup
from her manic and sudden anxiety.
Don't be dramatic
Tessa's mind told itself in Merritt's voice, and she breathed
deeply and slowly, forcing her rapidly beating heart to return to
its proper place and tempo. Then, as quickly as the shadow had
passed through the light, it flitted from Tessa’s mind while she
forced herself to check on her sons and retrieve the promised
water. Tessa sighed in relief when she realized that, by the time
she crept out of her sons’ room and peeked back in at her daughter,
the steady breath of slumber had overtaken her little princess.
3:35. Too late to start something new.
Tessa decided she
would succumb to her own sleepiness and prepare herself for another
day of nonstop demands and action.
The next morning, the ringing of the
telephone crashed through the stillness of dawn, as if someone had
just hit the mute button on the day to turn the sound back on.
Disoriented, Tessa ran from her bedroom to the back of the house
where she had left the house phone and grabbed it before it woke
everyone up. With a few hours sleep, Tessa had laid to rest her
misgivings of the night before, and she didn't even consider them
as she snatched up the receiver. She looked at the clock. 6:25
a.m.! Only one person ever called Tessa so early, and she knew that
no one's perceived incivility would irritate Merritt more than that
of the current caller. Prepared to unleash a tongue lashing, Tessa
hissed into the phone.
“Mother, I've asked you a hundred times not
to call this early in the morning!”
!” an unknown voice replied. “
Tessa thought. One of Tessa's many attempts to entertain herself
had come in the form of learning French. If the person on the phone
had spoken Spanish, Tessa would have thought nothing of it. Spanish
speakers occupied almost as much territory in Phoenix as did
English speakers. Francophones, though? Never in her wildest dreams
would Tessa have expected to receive a random phone call from
someone who spoke French.
I should have kept her on the
Tessa smirked to herself.
could have tried to talk to her, maybe even have helped.
As she climbed back into bed, Merritt fumed,
obviously under the same impression that Tessa had held. “I hope
you reminded your mother about what time we wake up around here,”
then reigning in his irritation, he turned the reprimand into a
joke. “What was it this time, a cute little girl singing on
Tessa laughed a sardonic reply, “Lawrence
Welk isn't on TV anymore,” Then her expression grew thoughtful,
“Actually, it wasn’t my mom. It was a lady who only spoke French. I
think she said she had the wrong number.”
“Strange,” he replied with a shrug. Despite
his apparent nonchalance, Tessa noticed an odd expression in his
eyes, as if he didn't find the call as inexplicable as did
Strange is right
, Tessa's thoughts
answered, but before she could think more of it, Merritt had jumped
out of bed.
“No use wasting the day,” he smiled, holding
out his hand to help her up. Forcing a smile, Tessa accepted his
assistance and rose to her feet.
It was light outside, early summertime
morning, and soon Merritt would have to leave for work. Tessa moved
directly to the kitchen and started making breakfast. After Merritt
dressed, he quickly swallowed his food. “Since I’m up,” he smiled,
“I might as well get a little extra work in.”