Jerking the folded sheet of paper from under the magnet and unfolding it, my hand shook in anticipation. What now?
Gone skiing with Eric. See you soon,
The stark emptiness of the kitchen closed in on me. I stood there, unable to digest the content of the note. I read it again. Skiing? She doesn't ski. Eric? Something vibrated inside of my ear.
"Hi," the voice was cheerful.
"Hi," I said, trying to sound just as cheerful to the mother of my children.
"Is Janie there? I have something to tell her?"
"Ah ... no, she's gone skiing."
"What? Janie doesn't ski, why did you let her go? What time is it? When did she leave? Who did she go with?"
"Eric, she went with Eric, she left a note on the refrigerator," I said, answering the only question that I knew the answer to.
"Eric? The boy she's been seeing?"
"That's what the note says, Eric."
"Its five fifteen p.m., that would make it eight fifteen there, are you just getting home? You are, aren't you? I knew I shouldn't let her go live with you."
"We've been getting along fine for over a year now," I reminded her. "It's just since she met the boy that things have changed."
"You'll have to find her, where did she go? Call her, NO, I'll call her. You just find her; don't let her stay overnight with that boy." Helen ranted and I let her, dialing Janie's number with my cell-phone while half listening to my former wife, half not.
There was no answer. Helen heard me leaving a voice mail message, asking our daughter to please call us back, adding that her mother was also worried about her being away over night.
"Find her, bring her home!" Helen ordered before abruptly hanging up on me.
I read the note again. Where would they go? There were slopes on the outskirts of our town, far too crowded with college kids on a Friday night, all the way to Canada. 'Canada, ' I thought. A tickling sensation entered my ear again.
"Dad? Didn't you see the note I left? It's on the refrigerator?"
"Janie, where are you?"
"We're on our way to North Conway. Eric's family has a ski-lodge there."
"North Conway? That's two hours from here." I said, thinking, 'at least it isn't Canada.'
"Yeah, I know, we had a problem with the car, otherwise we would be there."
"Janie, where are you now, I'll come and get you."
"Its okay, Dad, we're almost there."
"Tell me where this place is, I'm coming to get you," I said, letting my voice become harsh and sound urgent.
"Dad, relax, everything is fine. There's no reason for you to come get me," I heard my daughter scold me for becoming agitated.
"Janie, give me directions and... ," there was a click and dead air.
I dialed her number and got voice mail. "Janie, I'm sorry I sounded off, please call me. I've got to know where you are."
The phone rang, it was Helen again. She did most of the talking. I wasn't able to tell her where our daughter had said she and Eric were headed. Not that I didn't want her to know. She admonished me for not paying attention to our daughter's needs and ridiculed me for never being there for her, even for having to work long hours.
"We had a problem with the ice, it wouldn't freeze and there's a hockey match tonight," giving her more information than she needed. It was then that I decided not to give her the name of the town Janie had told me they were heading to. Helen would tell the local police it was a kidnapping and make matters worse than they already were.
It all started when our older daughter got married. I bought a plane ticket and went to give her away. After five years, Helen treated me like a stepchild. I stayed in a motel and only saw my daughters twice during my three day stay. While talking to Janie at the reception I got the idea for her to come east to college, at the small school where I work in southern New Hampshire. As my dependent, Janie's tuition would be next to nothing. Living in my condo would save on room and board, cutting college expenses to a plane ticket once or twice each year to visit her mother. To my surprise, she jumped at the idea. Also to my surprise, Helen let her come, even agreeing to supply spending money.
Shedding the burden of child support, I was able to buy the condo near the college. I took the smaller bedroom to give Janie study space in the larger room, complete with its own bath and walk-in closet.
Everything went smoothly her freshman year. Despite my erratic work schedule, we spent time together and during the course of the school year, renewed our relationship as father and daughter. It was when she met the kid, Eric that things changed. He is a football player in his third year. They met at the clinic where Janie works part time.
"He should have had one of the trainers look at that," I told Janie, knowing how strict they were about player's medical treatment.
"Its okay dad, I did a good job, even the trainer said it would heal just fine."
"Wait a minute, how do you know what the trainer said?"
"Eric came back to thank me," Janie said, smiling smugly. From that day on, everything was Eric this and Eric that. Eric began to come around, for help with one of his classes, so they said.
"Jocks have access to tutors," I said, "you're taking on too much responsibility, patching him up, now you're helping him with a class, I don't want you to get into trouble with the administration."
"Relax pop, everything's cool," Janie said, slapping me on the shoulder. She was so cute I couldn't help but smile and try to ease up on the subject.
Now she was on her way to a ski-lodge with Eric hormones and I had an ex-wife on my ass, because of my 'poor parenting skills.'
If I start now, I thought, I can get to North Conway by eleven. I'll go gas up, then come back home to check for messages. While pumping gas into my truck I got to thinking, I don't know where this place is, what if I get lost? I'll stop and ask the police. Ask them what? Where the Eric hormones' ski-lodge is? What's his last name, anyway?
Borden, Eric Borden, that's it, I'll call his parents and get directions. That may save time in the long run. Janie had said they lived west of Boston but she hadn't said what their names were. I would go home, get on the Internet and find them. How many Bordens can there be? Narrowing that down to west of Boston, I came up with 21 telephone numbers.
Between no answers and busy signals the first 10 calls yielded two households with sons named Eric Borden. One was age 3, the other one was age 52, neither available to come to the phone. The eleventh number belonged to N. Borden.
"Mrs. Borden? I'm looking for Eric Borden, age 20, he attends school..."
"What's happened? Is he all right? Who is this, please?"
"Mrs. Borden, I'm Nat Tucker, your son is a friend of my daughter, Janie. They are fine as far as I know."
"Mr. Tucker, why are you calling?"
"Mrs. Borden, your son and my daughter are on their way to your ski-lodge in North Conway and I..."
"Ski-lodge, we don't have a ski-lodge. We have a summer cabin on a pond, near North Conway. Who said it was a ski lodge?"
"That's the message I got. I spoke to my daughter on the phone, she said they had had car trouble but they were back on the road, before we got cut off."
"I'll call my son; I'll get to the bottom of this."
"Perhaps it would be better if your husband..." buzz ... the line had gone dead.
I walked around the house, thinking what to do next, waiting for news from Mrs. Borden or Janie. Even Eric, I would like to speak to him. From my room I collected a flannel shirt, long-johns and high boots with two pairs of heavy socks. The door to Janie's room was open. I peeked in. It looked like a hurricane had hit it. Various articles of clothing were strewn on the bed and on the floor, half opened draws had clothing sticking out and her desk lamp had been left on.
It dawned on me that the telephone was not going to ring, Mrs. Borden had not asked for my number. I called the number, the same voice answered.
"Perhaps it would be better if I discuss this with your husband?"
"Yes, sorry, I wasn't thinking, I'm a little upset, I'm sure you understand?"
Her voice was soft with concern, "I understand; I'm upset too."
"Did you reach them? What did your son say?"
"There was no answer, his phone must be off," her voice was stained, sounding weak and far away.
"Tell me where your cabin is, I'm going up there," I said, hastily reaching for Janie's note which I had crumpled and thrown on the table. I would write the directions on the back.
"Do you know North Conway?"
"I can find it, I have a map," I answered, anxiously waiting for her to explain how to get to their cabin on a pond.
"You'll never find it on your own; it's way off the road."
"Mrs. Borden, just give me the name of the road, the police will be able to direct me," I was getting impatient. Checking my watch, "shit, it's already 9:30 ... sorry," I apologized for my language.
"The road doesn't have a name; it would be too complicated to explain, even to the police."
"Try me, I'm good with directions." I was getting agitated, the minutes were ticking by.
"I'll come and show you the way; it will only take me..."
"Nonsense," I cut her off, thinking that she was at least an hour and a half away.
"Yes, Mrs. Borden?"
"I'm on my way, my son may be in danger, tell me where we can meet."
.... There is more of this story ...