You might think it strange—the police certainly did—that when I found the house torn apart and my husband missing, I didn’t immediately dial 9-1-1. Most people upon discovering their front door not quite shut, seeing drawers upended, tables overturned, hall closet ransacked, its door drooping off its track, books and belongings scattered to the four corners would’ve thought burglars and whipped out their cell; maybe retreated to their car and waited for flashing lights and uniforms better equipped to deal with the mess their life had just become.
But I knew what an emptied house felt like.
I’d been left before. I shut and locked the door behind me. A glance left into the living room, a peek right towards the dining table, and I headed straight into the kitchen where whisks and silverware crunched like lost diamonds under foot. The novelty golf salt-n-pepper cellars I disliked were gone. Knives were missing. I opened the fridge and that too had been raided. No bottles of micro-brewed ale, no fiery-hot steak sauce, no onion dip. Only my things remained.
I pulled out a diet soda and wondered if I’d be able to keep it together when I went upstairs and saw the state of our bedroom. Just imagining empty dresser drawers stacked like lopsided stairs, the tangled hangers and vacated shoe tree, the denuded bathroom shelves left me screaming and throwing my slightly-sipped pop across the room. The can bounced on the granite counter and smacked against the far wall, cola splattering everywhere.
I marched upstairs. Braced I thought. It was so much worse this time. At least when Daddy left, my room had been untouched. Garret destroyed ours. My clothes were tossed and trampled; the mattress and box spring askew. He’d stripped the bed of its sheets, taken them and his pillow. For some reason, he’d removed the light bulb from his bedside lamp and smashed it. Left the broken glass, kept the lamp. I kicked the mattress mostly back into place on my way to peering down my lampshade to see if he’d left me my light bulb. He had.
He also left his wedding ring on the top of the toilet tank in our en suite bathroom. That seemed easy enough to interpret. I skipped dinner and cleaned everything up, but left the ring there in pride of place as a reminder that men never stick it out—though God knew after Daddy’s desertion I shouldn’t have needed one. But I thought Garret was different, that he loved me enough to stay. It’s why I married him. Shit.
I’d have to tell my mother she was right. That stung worst of all. How many times had I defended Garret only to have him go and pull a Flinders’ flit on me?
I lay on the freshly sheeted mattress in what was now my room and begged sleep to come. But the mattress felt all wrong. Like it wasn’t really mine, had never been mine and I was only now finding that out. I was eight when James Clifton Flinders—aka Daddy—left. Thirty-two the day I came home to find Garret gone.
“In the morning, things will look different,” I told myself, reviving my old mantra. Problem was, I knew what different looked like: crisp and clean with gaping holes where Garret’s stuff used to be. Sad for a house, worse for a heart.
My ringing phone woke me so I must’ve slept some. I rolled to check the time only to realize he’d taken the alarm clock too. Light filtered through the curtains—he’d left those, but then curtains belong more to the house (not a gift like the world clock I’d given him three Christmases ago.) I hurried downstairs in case it was Garret calling with second thoughts. I knew it wasn’t, but after a Flinders’ flit hope is an uncontrollable bitch. I grabbed my cell and checked the caller.
Great. I cleared my throat and answered. She was concerned I sounded funny, asked me was I coming down with something. No, I said, no. Everything’s fine.
“Did you and Garret have a fight?” she pressed.
“Is he there? Was it about the relocating? He isn’t still considering taking that job, is he? They have tornadoes in Texas. And heat waves. People die from the temperature there.”
Maybe she was the reason Garret left. Got sick of arguing over Dallas—which I was pretty sure didn’t get tornadoes—and just went. Moved on. Up. Out. I heard him saying: Fucking Christ, tell your mother to sell her goddamn house and move with us if the fucking umbilical cord doesn’t stretch that goddamn far.