Thanks to the Hip and Knee doctor for editing assistance.
The roar of a lawn mower and edger, both running at the same time, rudely disturbed my Saturday morning sleep-in. A moan from the other side of the bed indicated that I was not the only one being annoyed. Darla sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed. She sort of stretched and yawned at the same time. "Sorry, Brian. I totally forgot. The boys wanted to get an early start on the yard work so that everything would be ready for this afternoon." As she walked to the bathroom, she tossed her dirty blonde hair to work out the knots and rats from sleeping on it. Her ass wiggled provocatively through the thin cotton nightgown. After twenty years, she still looked good.
Today was my birthday. It was tradition to have a Bar-B-Q and invite the whole world. Well it wasn't that bad: just family, friends, and neighbors. For a birthday party, it was a little overdone. We had to borrow a few grills and smokers to handle everything. Even thought it was my day, I always felt obligated to do most of the cooking. I wasn't that good at it, but it turned out to be as expected. The best thing about it was that the cook always had a cold beer in his left hand. I had to keep the right hand free to work the meat.
"Would you like your birthday present now, or do you want to wait until tonight? The shower is warm and ready." Darla was grinning as she looked around the bathroom doorway. The nightgown was gone, and she was playing at being coy.
"I'll see you tonight little lady, Right now, I am going to go down and help the boys. I'll shower later."
Todd was eighteen and would be leaving for Texas A &M in two months. Terry was a year younger, and already had a scholarship locked in at Auburn. They were good sons and I gave Darla all the credit for raising them right. About the only things I directly gave them were a comfortable house and a good work ethic. I always regretted not being a better, more involved father.
We worked the yard and the patio area over pretty well for a couple of hours, and then fired up some of the grills. I wanted to get the ribs started on the smokers first. Hamburgers, hotdogs, and steaks could be done as needed, but the ribs had to be pampered. Todd got the smokers started up while Terry smeared the dry rub all over the meat. Hell, the way things were going, I could probably sit back, and let them take care of everything this year.
Darla arrived just as we finished all our prep work. Her two sisters were coming over to help her with all the extras. There would be over fifty people to feed today. It is funny how friends show up when there is free food.
I was forty years old, but still felt like twenty, and next month, Darla and I would celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary. It was a good marriage. The sex wasn't as hot as it had been during the earlier years, but it was still great. It seemed to drop off about a year ago, shortly after Darla started work. The fear of an empty nest pushed her out of the house. I was happy, if she was happy. We didn't need the money, but she needed the social interactions.
The boys and I hit the showers. I had a new shirt just for the occasion that my mother had dropped off earlier in the week. It wasn't exactly my style, but I was obligated to wear it. I looked like a Hawaiian pimp. Darla wisely insisted that I wear an apron. Of course I had a nice one that said "Don't Kiss The Cook."
It wasn't long until our guests started dribbling in. Some brought dishes of food, some brought presents, and some brought liquid refreshments. The weather was perfect and it was going to be a beautiful day.
Darla looked great and as usual was the perfect hostess. Next year she would be forty, but could pass for thirty with no problem. She kept her figure and her looks. I was looking forward to a few exotic weekends and vacations after the boys left. I watched as she flitted around the tables, making sure that everything was perfect. The ideal wife and the ideal mother: what more could a man want?
At last, the anxious mob started to feed. Plates of food suddenly appeared and disappeared all around the yard. Most of the guests brought their own lawn furniture, which made things easier. The beer was in one washtub and the sodas in another. I knew that the cake was safe in the kitchen, waiting for its time of glory.
I don't know where he came from and I definitely didn't recognize him. He was tall and wore a dark blue jacket. He stopped at the fringe of the party area and leaned over and said something to one of the neighbors. She pointed towards Darla. He thanked her and walked our way. Darla noticed his approach and seemed a little uncomfortable. I said nothing as he walked past me.
My wife nodded and said, "Yes."
He handed her an envelope that he removed from inside his jacket. "Darla Connors, you are served."
That was it. He turned and walked away, as quietly as he arrived.
Of course, by this time, everyone at the party was watching. Darla stood there without moving. There was no emotion on her face. She glanced at me and slowly turned and went back into the house. I watched and said nothing. The normal chattering of the guests had turned into hushed mumblings and whispers. In a desperate effort to break the spell of the moment, I shouted out. "Does anybody want more ribs? Come and get them."
Todd and Terry wandered over to my side. "What the hell is going on, Dad?" Terry was trying to be discreet. All I could do was shrug my shoulders. Todd started to go into the house and I touched his arm. He stopped when I shook my head to indicate "no."
"Why don't you guys check to see if we need any more beer or drinks?"
As the conversation around the yard started to return to normal, I relaxed a little. After ten minutes, I decided that it was time to confront my wife. I didn't get the chance.
"Dad. Mom is leaving with the Mustang." Terry pointed toward the front of the house. My black Mustang convertible was racing down the street, faster than it should have been. The backyard got quiet again as everyone watched her speed away.
Darla normally drove the minivan, but it was parked in. The Mustang was handy. There were a lot of unanswered questions, but I guess that they would have to wait until my wife got home.
Things went downhill after that. Darla's sister, Peggy, brought the cake out and I made a half assed attempt to look happy. Without Darla there seemed to be a cloud over everything. The friends and neighbors left first. The families stayed a little longer, but eventually there was nothing else left to put away or wash. Amazingly, Darla's sudden departure was not a topic of conversation. There was a definite effort on everyone's part to avoid any mention of it. I was alone with my two sons and the house was quiet. They both looked at me for some kind of a sign, or explanation. I had none to offer. I sat on the sofa alone as they went to bed. I was still there in the morning.
Todd and Terry were up early and started the day by returning the grills and other paraphernalia to the neighbors. The smell of fresh coffee got me off the couch. Darla had not returned. Whatever was in that envelope must have been pretty important. I tried her cell phone several times, but it was turned off. Of course I was awake half the night trying to figure out what was going on.
The boys finished returning everything and took off. They had no trouble figuring out that I wanted to be alone. A long hot shower helped, but not much. There wasn't much of anything that I could do on a Sunday. Tomorrow, I could see if the police could help in any way. I didn't know any cops or detectives, but I had a few friends in the courthouse. Hopefully they might be able to help.
We had one credit card and one debit card. The debit card was used for the day-to-day stuff and the credit card was used for larger purchases. We paid both of them off monthly. If Darla were in trouble, she would need to use them. It took a couple of days for the credit card purchases to show up on the bank account, but the debit charges were usually posted in a couple of hours. I checked the credit card activity first and found nothing. The debit card was another story.
About two hours after Darla left the house, she bought gas at the Pennsylvania and Ohio state line. Two hours later, she got some in Illinois, and the last transaction was an ATM in Cedar Rapids, where she withdrew three hundred dollars.
I was on my third cup of coffee when I realized that she was not coming back. She was not just killing time: she was running away. I loved my wife and I didn't want to do anything to hurt her, but I also didn't want to encourage her in whatever she was doing. Even though it was a Sunday, I was able to cancel both cards in ten minutes.
About an hour later, I called the police department and reported my Mustang stolen. I didn't tell them my wife took it. I explained that there was a gas card in the car and that it had been used in three states headed west. I felt bad about lying to the police, but I thought it was the only way that I could get any attention. It was weak, but they seemed more interested in getting rid of me, than in questioning me about the circumstances.
I did a quick inventory of the house and the only things that seemed to be missing were her purse and a small overnight bag. I had no idea what she packed in it. For several hours, I debated with myself about what to do with her cell phone. Since I cancelled the cards, I was hoping it would force her to call home and explain things.
.... There is more of this story ...