Stay Close

Page 10


Ray swallowed and pushed the thought away. When he reached the old iron-ore furnace, he took out the photograph of Carlton Flynn and studied it. Flynn had been standing over to the left, moving toward that path, the same path Ray had been on seventeen years ago. Why? What had Carlton Flynn been doing here? Sure, he could have just been another hiker or adventurer. But why had he been here, in this very spot, seventeen years after Ray had been here, and then disappeared? Where had he gone from here?
No idea.
Ray’s limp was hard to notice anymore. It was still there if you looked closely, but Ray had learned to cover it up. When he started up the hill so that he was standing exactly where he’d been when he’d taken the photograph of Carlton Flynn, the always-present twinge from his old injury flared up. The rest of his body still ached from last night’s attack too, but for now Ray was able to move past it.
Something caught his eye.
He stopped and squinted back down the path. The sun was bright. Maybe that was it—that and the strange angle on this little hill. You wouldn’t see it if you were on the path, but something was reflecting back at him, something right at the edge of the woods, right up against the big boulder. Ray frowned and stumbled toward it.
What the… ?
When he got closer, he bent down to get a closer look. He reached his hand out but pulled back before he touched it. There was no question in his mind. He took out his camera and started snapping pictures.
There, on the ground almost behind the boulder, was a streak of dried blood.
MEGAN LAY IN BED READING a magazine. Dave lay next to her, watching television, the clicker in hand. For men the TV remote control was like a pacifier or security blanket. They simply could not watch television without holding one close, always at the ready.
It was a little after ten P.M. Jordan was already asleep. Kaylie was another story.
Dave said, “Do you want the honors or should I?”
Megan sighed. “You did it the last two nights.”
Dave smiled, eyes on the television. “The last three nights. But who’s counting?”
She put down her magazine. Kaylie’s bedtime was a firm ten P.M., but she never went on her own, waiting until one of her parents insisted. Megan rolled out of bed and padded down the corridor. She would yell out, “Go to sleep NOW!” but that was equally exhausting and could potentially wake up Jordan.
Megan stuck her head in the room. “Bedtime.”
Kaylie didn’t even glance away from the monitor. “Just fifteen more minutes, okay?”
“No. Bedtime is ten P.M. It is almost quarter after.”
“Jen needs help with her homework.”
Megan frowned. “On Facebook?”
“Fifteen minutes, Mom. That’s all.”
But it was never fifteen minutes because in fifteen minutes the lights would still be on and Kaylie would still be on the computer and then Megan would have to get out of bed again and tell her to go to sleep.
“No. Now.”
“Do you want to be grounded?”
“God, what’s your problem? Fifteen minutes!”
“Why are you yelling? You always yell at me.”
And so it went. Megan thought about Lorraine, about her visit, about her not being cut out for kids and those mommies in the corner at Starbucks and how your past never leaves you, neither the good nor the bad, how you pack it into boxes and put it in some closet and you figure that it will be like those boxes you pack in your house—something you keep but never open—and then one day, when the real world closes in on you—you go to that closet and open it again.
When Megan returned to her bedroom, Dave was asleep, the television still on, the remote control in his hand. He was on his back. His shirt was off, his chest rising and falling with a light snore. For a moment Megan stopped and watched him. He was a big man, still in shape, but the years had added layers. His hair was thinning. His jowls were a little thicker. His posture wasn’t what it once was.
He worked too hard. Every weekday he woke up at six thirty, donned a suit and tie, and drove to his sixth-floor corner office in Jersey City. He worked as an attorney, traveling more than he should. He seemed to like it well enough, but he lived for those moments he could run home and be with his family. Dave liked coaching his kids and attending the games and he cared way too much how well the kids performed. He liked chatting up the parents on the sidelines and having a beer with the guys at the American Legion and playing in his old-man soccer league and doing an early morning golf round at the club.
Are you happy?
She had never asked him that. He had never asked her. What would she say anyway? She felt an itch right now. Did he? She was keeping it from him. Maybe he was doing the same. She had slept with this man and this man only for the past sixteen years—and she had lied to him from day one. Would that matter to him now? Would the truth make any difference? He knew nothing about her past—and yet he knew her better than anyone else.
Megan moved closer to the bed, gently took the remote control from his hand, turned off the television. Dave stirred and turned onto his side. He mostly slept in the fetal position. She moved into the bed next to him and slid into a spoon. His body was warm. She put her nose up against his back. She loved the way he smelled.
When Megan looked at her future, when she saw herself old and living in Florida or some retirement village or wherever she ended up, Megan knew that it would be with this man. She could not imagine anything else. She loved Dave. She had made a life with him and loved him—should she feel bad that she wanted something more or just different every once in a while?
It was wrong. The question was, she guessed, why was it wrong?
She rested her hand on his hip. She knew that she could sneak her fingers under the elastic waistband, how exactly he would react, the little groan in his sleep. She smiled at the thought, but for some reason, she decided against it. Her mind drifted back to her visit to La Crème. It had been so wonderful to just be there, to just feel that much.
Why had she opened that closet door?
And the less abstract and philosophical question: Could Stewart Green really be back?
No. At least, she couldn’t imagine it. Or maybe, when she stopped and thought about it, his being back explained everything. Suddenly the excitement turned to fear. There had been good times back then, vibrant times, fun times. But there had also been very, very scary times.
When you thought about it, didn’t those go hand in hand? Wasn’t that part of the draw?