This story stands on its own, but for a better enjoyment I recommend you read my other story 'Alone and Desolate' as this story is a direct continuation of 'AAD'.
If you're looking for stroke material please, promptly back-click as there is not a single shred of sex in this story.
I want to thank my editors for the invaluable help they've given me while I was sweating over this story.
When I arrived home earlier, I had the feeling something wasn't entirely kosher. The house felt empty; Joanna wasn't home. I was surprised to see her computer still on, showing its screensavers. Also puzzling was the phone book left on her desk. Furthermore, when I got in the bedroom to unpack my suitcases there were damp towels on the bed. Those things were really disturbing; normally Joanna is the picture of tidiness, but then I saw an envelope on my pillow. I should have known something was wrong when she didn't answer the phone last night.
How could I have, though? Sure, I had noticed that for the past couple of years, Joanna had grown sad and felt abandoned but what could I do? From the moment we met, Joanna and I, we knew that our life wouldn't be like everybody else's. We were willing to make the sacrifices necessary to ensure an early retirement for both of us and if that meant being separated for weeks, months at a time that's what we would do. Granted, the past year has been tougher with me being away more than I'd ever been and sometimes it felt like I was only coming home to change clothes, but I thought Joanna understood better.
That envelope looked sinister on my pillow. An ominous aura emanated from it; I didn't know what it was but I was sure it wasn't good news. When I opened it, a single sheet of paper came out and I sat down to read it.
By the time you come home, I'll be long gone. Please don't come looking for me; I don't want to see the hate and disgust in your eyes. I've betrayed you, my love, betrayed you in the worst possible way and there's nothing I can do that would change it.
All those months of you being away brought out the worst in me and I started losing faith in you. I thought you didn't love me anymore and were staying away more and more so you wouldn't have to spend time with me. I complained about you to my friends and gave them a bad impression of who you were. I thought you were insensitive to my feelings and didn't care anymore.
Last night I got so mad at you for not calling me, I went to dinner with Nathan. Remember Nathan, my friend, the bar owner? I told you about him a few times and how supportive he's been. Well, last night, I went to dinner with him and ended in a hysterical fit so we went back to his place. This morning I woke up in his arms and THIS is unforgivable, Jeremy.
I never should have put myself in that situation; I never should have stopped believing in our love, I should have trusted that our commitment was stronger. Instead, I forgot about it for a moment and was weak and enjoyed Nathan's arms around me.
Don't hate me, Jeremy, if you can. I know now, I should have trusted you more. You're the only man I've ever or could ever love and that's why I'm doing what I'm about to do. I know I could never face you and see the pain of my betrayal in your eyes so, it's better if I end it all.
You're a good man, my love, you deserve love and happiness and I wish you to find a good woman, one that will trust you and love you completely, one that won't be as weak as I am.
Kiss the kids for me, please. Tell them I love them but losing you is more than I could bear.
With all my love,
The letter fell from my fingers and I didn't pick it up. I didn't understand what I was reading. Joanna said she had betrayed me? What I was reading didn't relate to betrayal, but to despair. She thought I didn't love her anymore, that I was staying away because I didn't want to be with her. I couldn't make head nor tail of what I was reading. It didn't make sense!
I knew Joanna was sad — sadder than usual that I was away more — but could it be possible I had missed the signs of something more? Should I have picked up on something she said the last time we talked? Should I have noticed something the last time I was home? I needed time to think but it didn't appear like I had any. What did the letter say near the end? I snatched the letter up from where it had fallen and those words jumped out at me, 'it's better if I end it all.'
I needed to find her; I needed to tell her... God, where could she be? I needed to talk to Nathan. She said she'd spent the night with him; he would know, wouldn't he? Now, if only I could remember where his bar was; Joanna had shown it to me a few months back when we had been in town and we had stopped for a drink because she wanted to introduce him to me but would I be able to remember.
I stumbled back down to the living room still holding on to Joanna's letter. My feet carried me to the bar and I poured myself a whisky. The sofa seemed to be calling me and I slumped into it. I was looking at the room without seeing anything. I couldn't understand anything. Joanna's screensaver seemed to be baiting me; telling me it knew something that I didn't.
I threw my glass at it, wanting to wipe that silly grin off its face. The glass missed, hit the wall and bounced back on the phone directory without breaking. That small gesture of impatience was enough to get me out of my funk. I was going to the kitchen to get a dishcloth to clean my mess when the doorbell rang, so I turned around and went to answer the door, wondering who it might be. Isn't it sad? My own home and I have no idea who comes around on any given day.
When I opened the door, there was a man standing there dishevelled, and for a minute, I wondered if he wasn't some kind of crazy. He looked at me like I was an apparition or something. Then he spoke and that weird sensation disappeared.
"Yes, that's me. And who might you be?" This man seemed to have me at a disadvantage.
"I'm Nathan. You probably don't remember me. I'm Joanna's friend; she introduced us several months ago. I didn't know you were home, Joanna..."
Nathan! The man I needed to see was right in front of me and I didn't know how to start asking him where Joanna was. I noticed he was still talking and I forced myself to listen to him. "Uh, say that again. I'm sorry, I spaced out for a minute."
"I was asking you if Joanna was home and if I could speak with her. We had dinner last night, then we went back to my place to talk because she was upset and she fell asleep. When I woke up this morning, she was gone. I've been trying to reach her since, and I was worried. However, now that I see you're home, it's perfectly understandable that I wasn't able to reach her. Please, tell her I'm sorry to have still been asleep when she left and to call me when she gets a minute."
Now I was in a quandary, Nathan didn't seem to know that Joanna wasn't here. He, also, didn't seem to know the content of her note to me. Should I tell him and ask him for his help in figuring out what happened to Joanna? Should I trust him with our private life? Then again, Joanna trusted him implicitly — she had told me often enough what a good friend he was to her — so maybe I should trust him too.
I've always prided myself in being a good judge of character and I decided to trust my instinct. "There seems to be a problem, Nathan. Would you please come on in? I need to talk to you."
I led Nathan into the living room, told him to fix himself a drink and fixed one for myself and we sat opposite each other on the sofas.
"Nathan, I need to ask you some things. I know it's gonna sound weird but please, bear with me and answer my questions."
"Of course, sure no problem. Shoot," Nathan said.
"Okay, then, I need you to tell me exactly what happened yesterday and why did Joanna sleep at your place."
"Wait a minute here. Nothing untoward happened between Joanna and me. I would never poach on another man's property."
Nathan seemed uncomfortable about telling me Joanna had slept at his place. He didn't seem to know that Joanna had no secrets from me and I knew all about their friendship and the extent of it.
"I know that, don't worry. I just want to know what happened. You said she was upset and that's why you went to your place. What was she upset about?"
Nathan paused for a second as if he was searching for his words. Then, he looked at me and I don't know what he saw but it seemed to give him some resolve as he said, "Joanna called me around eight o'clock last night saying that once again you hadn't called as you promised. She sounded really sad and I invited her to dinner. While eating she kept repeating that you were staying away more and more and for longer periods and she thought it was because of her.
"She really was upset and crying and I took her to my place. I knew she would feel bad that she was making a spectacle of herself in a public place and I wanted to lessen the impact on her. At my place, we kept talking — well I should say, she kept talking and I kept listening — and she was crying hysterically. I took her in my arms to comfort her and she fell asleep. I didn't want to disturb her and I fell asleep too. When I woke up this morning, she was gone and, as I said, I haven't been able to reach her since. Now, are you gonna tell me what's it all about and where is Joanna?"
.... There is more of this story ...