“How’s that possible? She walked in yesterday?”
“Sorry, sir. That’s just not possible. You’re going to have to leave.” The woman had her finger on the phone, security was a push away.
“Okay. Yeah. I’ll go.”
Henry left the building, steaming bag of China Night in his hand. As he passed the trash, he chucked the Cashew Chicken. He walked, shaking his head and furrowing his brow, to the Brown line and hopped on. He rode the 20 minutes to his stop, absolutely racking his brain.
How could that be “not possible.” He literally just saw her there yesterday. This morning, he kissed her on her way out. The stupid woman at the desk must have been new. She obviously heard him wrong. Learn people’s names, idiot. Kinda important when you’re a receptionist.
The biting air felt cold and stung his eyes, so he welcomed the heat when he opened up the door to his small apartment and slunk inside.
Joanne was at the counter in front of the window.
“Hey. What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be at work. The lady there, well, your receptionist, is an idiot.”
“Oh, yeah,” She slowly turned around and looked tired, “Sorry, I just couldn’t do it anymore.”
In the glint of the light from the window, Henry almost couldn’t see his wife. He put his keys down on the stand to his right and walked up to her. Shadow played over his eyes, and Joanne’s black hair looked blacker.
He wrapped his arms around her waist. She still felt chilled like she had that morning. Henry’s heart fell into his stomach. She seemed so pale too. He silently begged for this not to be another “attempt.”
“Honey, I know you don’t love your job, but it’s important to go. We can work on finding you another one. I promise. Please don’t just not go.”
“You should go. You have that lunch with Rick. You’re supposed to go. It’s Friday.” He could barely hear her voice. Leaving her alone wasn’t a good idea.
“I can’t leave you here like this.” Henry reached out, but Joanne held up her hands and smiled. She always did that when she just needed a sec alone.
“It’s fine. You don’t have to worry about me. I promise.”
“Okay, but please call me if you need anything. I can be here in a flash.” Henry tried to keep his voice from trembling, but a little escaped into the air.
“I… I know you can. I… I love you, Henry,” Joanne put on her classic lopsided smile and then gestured to the door, “Hurry up. You’ll be late.”
On the way to the restaurant, Henry just kept thinking about Joanne. She needed him, and he was leaving to go eat lunch at some dumb diner with a work friend. I should go back.
But then he was there at the diner, and he couldn’t remember how he’d gotten there. When Henry sat at the table, he didn’t really eat or talk to Rick. The guy definitely noticed and raised his eyebrows at him.
“Yeah, Joanne’s just acting strange again. I’m worried.”
Rick’s face paled. He set his silver fork down on the side of his plate, next to his mashed potatoes.
“Yeah. It’s been a long while since, well, you know. And she seemed alright, but now I’m afraid she’s gonna do something.”
Rick looked like he was about to speak, but Henry couldn’t sit there anymore. He got up and dropped a twenty on the table.
“Sorry, Rick!” Henry was already running off to catch the next train in the subway, “I just have to check on her!”
“No! You’re not…” But Rick’s voice was fading into the background din of voices and cars and birds and wind. He didn’t know what he was going to say.
Henry rushed back inside the stuffy two-bedroom. Joanne wasn’t in the kitchen. When he walked to their room, she wasn’t there either. He heard water running.
Henry ran to the bathroom. As he opened the door, a puff of steam escaped and blinded him momentarily. She was standing in the middle of the room, but the tub and sink were empty.
“I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry. I really regret this. Yeah, I can still regret it.”
“Honey, what’s going on?”
Henry’s phone rang in his pocket. He answered Rick in a cold voice.
“This isn’t a good time, Rick.”
“Henry, I’ve let this go on long enough. You need to talk to somebody. This isn’t right.”
“What are you talking—”
Joanne moved to stand by the tub, and she looked down at it. Rick was rambling in his ear.
“Enough already, Henry,” Henry turned away to keep the conversation from Joanne.
“She’s been dead for weeks. You can’t keep doing this.”
Henry stopped. When he went to look at Joanne, she was gone.