Someone’s left you a voicemail message, but all you can make out are the last words: “I’m sorry. I should’ve told you months ago. Bye.” Who is it from, and what is this about?
Abbey burst through the front door, her arms full of shopping bags, her sunglasses fallen down on her face, keys hanging in her hand. She stumbled down the hallway towards the kitchen, attempting to drop her keys into the bowl on the sideboard. ‘Fuck!’, she growled as the keys missed the bowl and landed on the ground.
She waddled to the kitchen bench, dropping all her shopping, and throwing her handbag on the bench with a heavy thud. Slipping off her dark-grey stilettos, she reveled in the instant relief she felt on her feet, letting out a loud sigh, as she wiggled her toes and walked on the spot through the balls of her feet. The cool floorboards felt even colder than usual against the soles of her feet, but she quite enjoyed it. She grabbed a glass next to the sink and rinsed it with water before filling it again from the jug of filtered water next to the taps. Almost inhaling the water, she finished it all without pausing for a breath.
Abbey unbuttoned her jacket, throwing it over towards the armchair, and walked back across the cool floor to pick up her keys. Add Abbey paved the keys in the bowl, she noticed the flashing light on her answering machine. Grabbing the small pad of sticky notes and pencil, she was ready to start writing down information add she progressed through her voicemail.
Until she got to the last one.
I’m sorry. I should’ve told you months ago. Bye.
That was Richard’s voice! Without a second thought, she ran over to her handbag, grabbing her mobile phone and dialling Richard’s mobile number. It only rang twice before going to voicemail. ‘Rich, honey, it’s me… Um, I just got home to a voicemail from you and I don’t understand. Should’ve told me what? Are you okay? Please call me as soon as you get this.’
Abbey ended the call, her mind frantically racing. What could her be talking about? Why isn’t he answering? Sorry about what? What didn’t he tell me? Maybe I should try him again?. Without hesitating, she tapped redial, and again, the phone only rang twice before she heard his voicemail message again, ‘Honey, you’re starting to worry me. What’s going on? Are you okay? Are you in trouble? If you need a lawyer, I can get you a great lawyer! Please, please, babe, just call me. I just need to know if you’re okay!’, and ended the call.
Still holding the phone, she started tapping the top of out against her bottom lip, thinking about what she can do. He hadn’t been missing, so she can’t file a report, well, not yet. She paced around in the kitchen awash with anxiety and worry. She walked over to the kettle, flipping the switch, and prepared herself a coffee. Standing at the bench waiting for the kettle to boil, she wondered whom else she could call.
‘The office!‘, Abbey declared. Scrolling through her call list, she found the office number and got a machine. ‘SHIT! After hours, of course!‘ Ending that call, she then began looking for any names that Richard worked with. She tapped the green phone icon to dial and it started ringing. And it rang. And it rang. Until it finally went to voicemail. ‘Oh, hi Eddy, this is Abbey Pearson, Richard’s wife. I just got a strange voicemail from Rick and it’s got me a bit concerned. I’m, ah, I’m wondering if everything has been okay for him at work, or if he hasn’t been himself lately, or something? Anyway, can you give me a call when you get this, I’d really appreciate it. Thanks Eddy!‘
She placed the phone on the bench stretching her arms and exhaling deeply. The kettle switched itself off, steam billowing up towards the roof. Suddenly, Abbey stood up, glancing sideways at her phone. There was one person she hadn’t called yet, and really, really didn’t want to either: Richard’s mother. Abbey knew that she’d have to swallow her pride momentarily, whilst she endured another painful conversation with Jey mother-in-law. She sighed, and turned behind her, grabbing a shot glass and one of Richard’s bottles of whiskey. She poured herself a shot, and then grinned. She could just imagine the look on Richard’s face if he were to walk through the door and see Abbey hunched over the kitchen bench staring into a shot of whiskey. Abbey certainly wasn’t a drinker at all. It was only a social thing for her, and even then, all it would take would be a glass of champagne and she’d be feeling somewhat tiddly.
She lifted the shot glass to her lips and flicked her head back, gulping down the whiskey in one giant gulp. Her eyes widened and she launched for the sink, coughing and spluttering. She grabbed another glass of water and gulped it down without a second thought. Abbey wiped the water from the corner of her mouth and picked up the phone. She scrolled down to ‘SHE-DEVIL ** DO NOT ANSWER**’ and pressed the green button to dial. Add soon as she heard ringing, her stomach filled with butterflies, and she felt so nervous.
‘Hello?’, a shrill elderly voice boned down the line.
‘Oh no, Yvonne, it-‘
‘HELLO?! IS ANYBODY THERE?’
‘Yes, hi Yvo-‘
‘WHO’S THERE?! SPEAK UP, FOR GOODNESS SAKE, STOP WASTING MY TIME, YOU’RE INTERRUPTING WHEEL OF FORTUNE, WHAT DO YOU WANT?’
Abbey rolled her eyes and clenched her teeth, ‘Yvonne, it’s Abbey, I ju-‘
‘YES I KNOW IT’S YOU, WHAT DO YOU WANT? ARE YOU PREGNANT?’
‘No, Yvonne, I’m not pregnant. I’m wondering if you’ve heard from Richard?’
‘NO DEAR. YOU KNOW HE AND I DON’T SPEAK. I HAVE YOU YOU THANK FOR THAT, REMEMBER.’
‘Yvonne, that’s not true and you and I both know it. You upset him with what you said about his father, and he just needs ti-‘
‘I BEG YOUR PARDON? NOW YOU LISTEN HERE YOU LITTLE HARLET, YOU HAVE NO RIGHT STICKING YOUR BONY LITTLE NOSE INTO YOUR HUSBAND’S BUSINESS. TRY NOT TO BE A MEDDLING WIFE FOR ONCE, AND TRY BEING A PROPER WIFE.’
‘A proper wife?‘, Abbey could already feeling her blood start to boil.
‘WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU COOKED YOUR HUSBAND A ROAST? THAT’S WHAT A WIFE DOES, SHE COOKS AND CLEANS AND BEARS CHILDREN. WELL EXCEPT FOR YOU, I GUESS.’
‘Yvonne, that was cruel and unnecessary. Anyway, I’m not going to fight, I need to talk about Richard.‘
‘WHY? HE FILED FOR DIVORCE ALREADY? WHAT’S THE REASON? IS IT BECAUSE YOU’RE BARREN?’
‘Yvonne, stop it!’
‘I KNEW IT WOULDN’T LAST. I KNEW THERE WAS SOMETHING NOT RIGHT ABOUT YOU FROM THE DAY I LAID EYES ON YOU. I JUST DIDN’T KNOW YOU WERE SUCH A DUD!’
Abbey struggled so hard to fight back the tears that were now rolling down her cheeks, ‘Yvonne, stop. Just stop. It’s uncalled for, I need to talk about Richard. He’s gone missing.’
‘NOT SURPRISING, REALLY. YOU HAVEN’T REALLY BEEN MUCH OF A WIFE TO HIM. HE’S PROBABLY RUN OFF WITH SOME FLOOZY.’
Abbey couldn’t take it anymore, and want going to continue letting thks woman speak to her like this, ‘Yvonne… YVONNE! SHUT THE FUCK Yup YOU NASTY OLD BITCH! YOU HAVE DONE NOTHING BUT TREAT ME LIKE FUCKING SHIT EVER SINCE THE DAY YOU MET ME AND I HAVE HAD ENOUGH! WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE SPEAKING TO SOMEBODY, ANYBODY THE WAY YOU SPEAK TO ME? YOU HAVE NEVER, EVER SAID ANYTHING NICE TO ME IN ALL THE YEARS THAT RICHARD AND I HAVE BEEN MARRIED, AND EVERY TIME WE DO SPEAK, YOU ARE THE MOST VICIOUS AND MALICIOUS PERSON. ARE YOU SO COMPLETELY INCAPABLE OF SAYING ANYTHING NICE, EVEN IF IT’S NOT EVEN GENUINE? You know I had so much respect for you when we first met, because I thought ‘this is the woman who raised such an amazing man, and raised him to be such a polite, loving and respectable gentleman, she much be an incredible woman,’ but the reality is, you are just a nasty, lonely bitter cunt, and one of the most vile people I have EVER had to deal with. YOU are the reason we don’t visit anymore. IT’S ALL ON YOU! Did you know that the first few times you were so horrible to me, I was in tears telling Rick, and he didn’t believe me – he thought I was making it up, and I thought that maybe I was just being sensitive, but no, you’re just a bitter, nasty old woman who can’t stand to see your son happy with anybody else but yourself. Do you know why Rick hasn’t called up for so long? Because he heard the last few conversations you and I had. He heard all of the horrible things that you said to me, and he was so shocked that his own mother could speak to anybody, let alone his own wife the way you spoke to me. He was so disgusted and disappointed. And then when he confronted you about it, do you remember? He asked you about it and you lied to his face. So the reason why you don’t speak to your son is on YOU, NOT ME! SO DON’T YOU DARE SIT THERE AND CONTINUE TO MAKE ME FEEL LIKE SHIT BECAUSE I’VE FUCKING HAD ENOUGH, AND IT’S GOING TO STOP RIGHT NOW, DO YOU UNDERSTAND??!’
Abbey sat there waiting for Yvonne to say something, but just heard her breathing, ‘Right, so now that’s out of the way, the reason I called was because Rick hasn’t come home yet. He left me a strange voicemail saying he was really sorry and should’ve told me… But I don’t know what that means. I’ve tried to call him but he’s not answering his phone, and it’s too soon to file a missing persons report and I don’t know what to do. Have you heard from him?’
‘Yvonne? Yvonne are you still there?‘
Yvonne broke her silence, ‘So, Rick has disappeared, you say? Perhaps he finally came to his senses and finally left you. Maybe he’s run back to his other family? At least she gave him kids. You should just accept that he’s gone, and move on with your life. I’m sure you’ve got a string of men you can move on with tomorrow, if you choose.’
Abbey was astonished by what she just heard. ‘Another family? What?’
‘Just let it go, Abigail, he’s gone. You lost. It was bound to happen eventually. He clearly realised he couldn’t be away from his kids any longer, and gone back to Connecticut to be with them. You lost. Again. Never call me again.‘ And just like that, Yvonne hung up the phone leaving Abbey standing there stunned and completely speechless.
She slowly placed the phone on the bench, and placed her hand on either side, stepping back and exhaling. Abbey suddenly felt nauseous. Another family? Seriously? Surely not! How could he hide something like that from me? Surely she was just stirring me up, Right?’ Her mind was racing thinking back over the past years of their marriage. Wondering if there were any possible signs; any small detail that might provide any kind of truth to what Richard’s mother had just said on the telephone. She began questioning everything that they shared, wondering if there was any through to it all, or whether he had been living an incredibly elaborate lie for their entire relationship.
Abbey glanced briefly at the half prepared coffee in the mug near the kettle, and then looked over at the bottle of whiskey and get shot glass. She poured herself another shot and threw it back like she was taking a pill. This was followed by another shot. Then another. Then another. Picking up the bottle and her glass, Abbey wandered across the wooden floor to the lounge room. She placed the bottle on the coffee table with a loud thud, and reached over to pick up one of her many wedding photo’s. She stared at the photo whilst she wriggled her toes amongst the long, soft and luxurious pile of the living room rug.
Starting at that photograph, Abbey remembered exactly how she felt on that day, on her wedding day, and how she became the happiest woman in the world after marrying Richard. The only problem is that she was now filled with doubt and the more she thought about it, the more her mind filled with questions and began accepting that what Yvonne had said, wad in fact, the truth.
‘How could you do this to me? How could you keep such a huge secret like that? How could you blatantly lie to my face every single day? Who are you? I don’t even know anymore? I’m such an idiot.’
In a fit of rage and pain, Abbey threw the photo frame across the room, watching the glass shatter add it collided with the wall, and sat down to pour herself another shot. Just add she picked up the bottle, she heard her phone ringing on the kitchen bench. Leaping over the armchair, she raced to the bench, frantically answering her phone.
‘Richard? Richard is that you?‘
‘Ahh, Mrs Pearson, is that you?’
‘Yes, who is this?’
‘Mrs Pearson, this is Eddy, you called me earlier regarding Richard?’
‘Yes, Richard. My husband. My husband Richard! Have you heard from him?’
‘Look, I’m sorry that I didn’t get back to you sooner, Mrs Pearson as I was in a meeting, and only just got your voicemail now.’
‘Oh that’s okay. Have you heard from Richard?‘
‘Mrs Pearson, I don’t really know how to say this, so I’ll just say it, but your husband, Richard Pearson, hasn’t worked here for almost six months. I don’t know why he-‘
‘-left, or where he’s been working since, but he hasn’t been with our company. I’m so sorry to be the one to tell you this, but he was a great employee and we were all quite shocked when he resigned.’
‘WHAT?! what do you mean six months? What the fuck, Eddy? Who just leaves a job and doesn’t tell their wife?‘
‘I’m really sorry Mrs Pearson, but I just assumed that he would have told you.’
‘Well up until twenty seconds ago, I thought he still worked for you. He’s been there for years? We’ve been to each other’s houses… WHY DIDN’T HE TELL ME?’
‘Abbey. Call me Abbey!‘
‘Okay, Abbey, I’m just add shocked aa you. The day he left was so out of the blue. I really couldn’t quite believe it myself. He’s been a pillar of this company for so long.’
‘Do you remember anything about the day he left? Did he seem okay? Was he acting strange or saying anything odd or out of character?’
‘He didn’t seem like himself. It was like something happened overnight, because between him leaving on Tuesday and coming back in on the Wednesday, he was not himself. Not that it’s my business to ask, but he was almost a completely different person. He was yelling at everybody, he smashed a keyboard and almost had a punch on with somebody in the board room. It was so out of character. I called him into my office to try and calm him down and find out why he was so upset, but he didn’t want to talk about it. I thought maybe something might have been troubling him at home or with his family or something, and he flipped out and started screaming at me. I had to call security to hold him down!’
Abbey couldn’t believe what she was hearing, ‘and this was definitely my husband? My Richard?‘
‘I’m telling you, Abbey, he was a completely different person. I tried calming him down, but he wasn’t having it. I suggested maybe he take a break, take you on a little holiday for a week or so, give him some space and a chance to clear his head, but he went ballistic and started screaming at me, and I had to have him escorted off the premises. He told me that he quit, amongst other things, but he packed his stuff into a box and security walked him out. That was the last I saw of him. I’m really sorry that you didn’t know.’
‘I cannot believe it. That’s not Richard, he’s not like that at all. He’s not an aggressive person!’
‘Abbey, I know, I know! He was a totally different person. I tried calling him a few times but he never returned my calls. I sent his separation papers to your home for him to sign, and paid him out for his salary, his bonuses and all his leave as a sign of good will. About a week later we got the paperwork back, and it was all signed, and there was a sticky note and all it said was ‘Eddy, I’m so sorry, please forgive me.’, but that was the last of it. I just assumed he would have told you.’
Abbey was beside herself, wondering where her husband went everyday. Nothing had changed. Everyday it was the same thing – he’d wake up, shower, put on his suit, have breakfast, and leave for work. He’d call Abbey a couple of times during the day, and then he’d come home at night.
‘I.. Eddy, I just don’t know what to do. He left for work in his suit everyday. He would call me and say hire busy he was, or talk about going to meetings, and now he’s disappeared! In simply don’t know what to do. I can’t call police for at least another twelve hours. I’m scared Eddy, what if he’s in trouble?’
‘Abbey, if there’s anything I can do to help, just let me know.’
‘Thanks Eddy. Say, you wouldn’t happen to know what his payout figure was, by any chance?’
‘Sure, just gimme a sec.’ Eddy tapped away at his computer looking for Richard’s file. ‘Here it is…. from the looks of this his total payout was almost two hundred grand! Fuck, I didn’t even realise it was that much!’
‘WHAT?’, Abbey coughed, choking on her shot, ‘Did you say almost two hundred grand?‘
‘Yeah, according to this, the total was one hundred and ninety one thousand, four hundred and seventy nine dollars, and thirty seven cents, which was all his entitlements, plus there was superannuation on top of that at thirteen percent. But he would have lost a big chunk for tax.’
‘ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY ONE THOUSAND FUCKING DOLLARS?!, Eddy, that’s our mortgage right there! How do you hide that much money from somebody? What the fuck is going on?’
‘Abbey, I’m really sorry that I couldn’t help you any further… I’ll try and do whatever I can to help you, I’ll reach out to dinner of my contacts and see if I can come up with anything. And if you hear anything, please let me know. And if you need anything else, just let met know.’
‘Thanks so much, Eddy, I really appreciate it.’
Abbey hung up the phone and placed it down gently. She simply could not comprehend what was happening. One moment, she’s pouring him coffee before he left for work, and in the space of a day, he’s disappeared with almost two hundred thousand dollars, lied about having a job for the past six months, and could possibly have an entire other wife and family somewhere else. She felt like her head was going to explode; it was so incredibly surreal, to the point it sounded like a storyline from a piece of fiction. She didn’t know what to do, or think, or say. One thing she did know for certain, was that she’d dunk almost half a bottle of whiskey, and it was time to stop. Placing the cap back on the bottle, she grabbed her shot glass and went to stand up, but her legs buckled underneath her, and Abbey fell back into the seat of the armchair and began laughing at herself. She tried to stand again, this time much slower, and once she was upright, she slowly shuffled herself over to the kitchen, flipping the switch on the kettle. It was time for coffee.
Still standing there in her work clothes, she started to smell the whiskey coming through her skin. It was foul. Deciding this was a perfect time for a shower, she headed towards the bathroom. She turned on the shower, testing the water with the back of her hand, until it started to heat up. She began to undress, looking at her reflection in the mirror. How did this happen? How could I not know? How could I not notice something so major like this? What is wrong with me? Is this my fault? Did I push him away? Suddenly, the reflection in the mirror began taking back to Abbey, Look, the only thing you know for sure is that he got a huge chunk of cash, and had been lying about his job. Maybe he got a new job and you just don’t remember? Maybe he did tell you, but you weren’t paying attention at the time, so don’t beat yourself up over it. As for this other family, his mother is a moll and just wants to make you as miserable as possible, so don’t you DARE listen to a word she says. We’re gonna get to the bottom of this, besides, he’s a man. Men are stupid. He’s left a trail of breadcrumbs somewhere.- You just have to find where the trail starts. Perhaps try starting with his phone bill – check the numbers.’
Abbey’s eyes widened as her reflection smiled at her before disappearing behind the steam on the mirror. She stepped into the shower, enjoying the hot air engulfing her naked body. She sat down on the floor of the shower, hugging her knees under the hot water. Trying to calm herself and avoid some kind of breakdown, she kept telling herself that she’s overreacting and there’s a logical explanation for everything. It wasn’t the first time she’d overreacted and jumped to conclusions. Abbey reminded herself of the time she saw excessive charges on her husbands credit card, and accusing him of being unfaithful, he revealed that it was in fact a surprise for her birthday, which, was now no longer a surprise. Or there was the time that she got home and he appeared to be quite flustered and acting quite odd. Trying to keep her from the bedroom, she assumed there was another woman in there, and almost attacked him to get past him. As she flung the door open, she saw the bed had been covered in fresh white linen, deep-red rose petals. There were candles on the bedside tables and a bottle of champagne chilling in a bucket of ice. It wasn’t even a special occasion – just a normal Tuesday. He just wanted to be romantic.
She started thinking that maybe he had disappeared because she was highly erratic and prone to irrational outbursts.
She took some time to wash her hair, scrub her skin and apply a facial mask, a mini ritual which always helped her to unwind and alleviate the stresses from the day. She stretched her legs out in front of her, reclining backwards against the wall of the shower, until she was almost horizontal, and enjoyed the steaming-hot rain-like shower falling over her body. As the heat from the steam and the aroma from her facial mask swirled around her, Abbey began to feel her eyes getting heavier. Just a few minutes…, she told herself, and closed her eyes.
She awoke with a fright, uncertain as to how long she had been asleep on the shower floor for, and promptly climbed to her feet, turned off the water and wrapped herself in a towel. Running out to grab her phone, she checked the time, but was distracted by the number of missed calls she had. It turned out that although the shower nap felt like a good forty-five minutes, it was actually only about ten.
Abbey began scrolling through the list of unknown numbers, some of which had left voicemails, but then she saw one number, and her heart began racing. Seeing there was a voicemail, she couldn’t tap the call button fast enough.
I can’t tell you where I am, but I need you to know that I’m okay. You won’t see me again. I’m so sorry. I didn’t tell you anything to protect you. You’ll be taken in for questioning, but you’ll be released because you know nothing. It’s killing me to know how hurt you are, and I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I truly loved you with everything I have and all that I am. You will always be in my heart. You’re my entire world and I’m sorry I kept you in the dark. I’ll always love you. Goodbye Abbey. May you make another man as happy add you made me. I love you.
And just like that, he was gone. Abbey immediately dialed his number, but it had already been disconnected. Suddenly everything just got real, and she realised that she needed to stop pretending this was some horrendous dream she hoped to awaken from.