It was almost 6 p.m. when Patrick Dunn finally got home on Wednesday night. He had worked an extra hour and a half to finish the wiring job he had been assigned that morning by Wayne Faulk, his supervisor. By staying the extra time, he'd been able to complete the job almost half a day earlier than the estimate had allowed. Mind you, he'd worked like hell all day, and he could feel it in his sore muscles. It was almost good that his wife Glenda had left that morning for three days of seminars in Columbus.
Originally, he had offered to take some time off and accompany her on the trip, but she had made quite an issue of it, reminding him that the two of them would be leaving on a cruise during the spring break. They had their tickets, and he had already booked some vacation time for the trip. The tickets were prominently displayed on the middle shelf of their china cabinet, situated so that they could see them any time they looked into their dining room.
Patrick was a little surprised that there was no message on his answering machine to let him know that she had arrived OK. She had decided to make the approximately three-hour drive rather than take one of the commuter jets that would have also been an option. If he recalled correctly, registration commenced at 7 p.m., so he decided to give her a quick call, and pressed the speed dial button on their wall phone, the one that would connect him to her cell phone.
It rang just twice before she answered, "I was just about to call you, Patrick. You must have read my mind." She sounded happy, and he could hear the buzz of a crowd around her as she spoke.
He wasn't surprised that she knew he was on the phone, as her call display would have shown that the incoming call was made from her home phone. "You know I've always been able to read your mind, honey. So, you obviously made it there in one piece. How was the traffic? You still have all of the fenders on your car, I hope."
He chuckled loudly, knowing that her first words of reply would be a defense of her driving skills. He could imagine the look of exasperation upon her pretty face, and knew that if they were face-to-face she would have stuck her tongue out at him to let him know what she thought of his question.
The fact that it was early January, and a light snowfall had been possible, had made him a bit concerned about her making the trip by car; he would have been happier if she had taken the flight instead. He was relieved that she had answered so quickly.
She laughed before replying, "Of course it's all in one piece; the trip here was clear sailing all the way. Traffic was light and I had no problems finding the Sheraton Hotel. That map you printed off the Internet helped a lot, honey."
"You know I'd do anything to help you, dear. Nothing is too good for my Glenda, I always say. In fact, I spoke to the boss this morning, and he gladly agreed to give me the time off so I can join you there."
"No! You're not coming here," she quickly replied, her voice an octave higher. She hesitated a few seconds and continued more calmly, "We already had this conversation, Patrick. You know I want to wait until spring break for us to take a trip away together."
"Yeah, I know. I'm just pulling your chain, Glenda. I didn't speak to them about any time off." This had been his intended response, even before her emphatic rejection of the idea, but it bothered him that she was so forceful with her reply. "I'll stay home like a good little boy, and do as I'm told." He laughed after saying that, as it wasn't in his nature to let her get her way so easily.
He could tell there was a measure of relief in her voice when she said, "I'm glad to hear that, Patrick. This is just going to be a boring few days, and I've already selected a full schedule of seminars to attend. There wouldn't have been much time for us to do anything together while we were here."
"You said that I must have read your mind, Glenda. Did you want to talk to me about something?"
"Oh, I'm glad you reminded me. I can't find my travel emergency bag. You know the one with my sewing kit, the lint remover, and those other things. I was sure I packed it. Could you check the bedroom to see if I left it there? Maybe it's in the trunk of the car, if you don't see it there."
"Sure thing, babe. Just hang on a minute, and I'll pick up the cordless phone in the bedroom." He laid the handset on the counter and quickly headed upstairs to their bedroom. He had only taken two steps into the room when he could see the case she was looking for sitting on the corner of the chest of drawers.
He picked up the cordless phone and said, "Problem solved. The bag you're looking for is right here on the tall chest. You're just going to have to be careful and not lose any buttons; and stay away from lint!" He laughed.
"Oh, thank goodness it's there. I didn't want to have do make a trip all the way down to the parking garage to look for it. They have a small convenience store just off the lobby, and I can just buy whatever I need." She hesitated for a few seconds before continuing, "I should go soon, honey. They opened the registration desk early, and I'm third in line."
She quickly continued, "I probably won't call much this week, as I'm signed into an evening presentation from 7:30 to 10 p.m. tomorrow night, and Friday night they have a fancy supper planned. I have my last seminar on Saturday morning, so I'll start for home right after lunch, and I'll be home in time to have supper with you, dear."
"That's OK, honey. I worked extra tonight, and I could probably do that Thursday and Friday as well. Give me a call if you can, and I'll call if anything important comes up. I'll see you for supper on Saturday in any event."
The two of them exchanged a few more pleasantries before ending their call. As Patrick headed back downstairs to hang up the wall phone, he started thinking about Glenda, and her reaction to his joke about joining her. She had been behaving a bit strangely for several months now, sometimes too quiet, other times too anxious to please. Even when they had first seriously discussed the possibility of him accompanying her on this trip, her reaction had been an emphatic rejection of the idea.
The realization that he was hungry diverted his thoughts from the consideration of Glenda's recent actions, so he decided to order a pizza. He had almost 40 minutes before the estimated delivery time, so he immediately headed upstairs to strip off his dirty work uniform and have a shower. When that was done he dressed himself casually in a pair of jeans and one of his many work T-shirts, all emblazoned with the corporate logo of Anderson Electric, his employer.
He was relaxing at the kitchen table enjoying a beer when his pizza arrived. He knew he should have prepared himself a better supper, but being overweight was never a problem for him; his work kept him very fit. Glenda was not a big fan of pizza, so he felt comfortable indulging himself while she was away. He would have the leftovers the next day, packed for his lunch. Most workplaces had a microwave oven available where he could reheat his meal.
He spent the next hour watching one of the news programs on TV, but he soon realized that his concentration on the talking head had lapsed, and he was once more thinking about Glenda and her change in demeanor over the last 60 some days. It bothered him that something was different with her, and that she had been so adamantly opposed to his joining her on her big trip.
At 35, Glenda was a real beauty, tall and slim, with long dark hair and dark eyes. She was employed as a professor of sociology at the local college. She had just been accepted for tenure at the end of the previous school year, and was very proud of the fact that she had managed that. As one of the junior members of the faculty, she had more classes than most, but she did mention that she been given the services of a teaching assistant, or TA as she called it.
When the fall semester began, she told him how nice it was that her TA, a senior who would be graduating in the spring, was available to do some of the marking and student advisement for which she had always been solely responsible. She had mentioned that his name was Anthony, but Patrick could not remember whether he had ever heard his last name. His name had come up a few times in the first couple of months, but she hadn't said anything about him in quite some time.
In mid November she had brought up the subject of the upcoming seminars that she wanted to attend. They were scheduled for the off week between New Year's Day and the start of the second semester. It was considered professional development, and her college would pay most of the costs. Initially, when he had dropped the suggestion that maybe he could accompany her, she hadn't voiced any objection: two weeks later though, she had made up her mind that she did not want him to go with her, suggesting instead that they take a trip during the spring break. Reluctantly he had finally agreed with her emphatic decision.
Little was said about the seminars over Christmas, and they had enjoyed the holiday, spending it with family and friends. He did notice a few big envelopes of registration and course material arrive, and that her registration was quickly mailed back. It seemed she was anxious to make the trip, and had even started packing her suitcase a couple of days before New Year's Day. Mind you, she was always organized, and this was not totally out of character for her.
.... There is more of this story ...