It was Monday. Even though I knew I had to get out of bed and drag my ass to work, I couldn’t be bothered. Lydia hadn’t returned. She hadn’t even called. The house was so quiet without the kids. It was eerie. My responsibilities hung over me like a black cloud, threatening to release a torrential downpour. But without Lydia there to chase me out the door, I didn’t care. I went to work to provide for my family, put a roof over their heads, food on the table, and she had taken them. What did it matter anymore? My lack of concern for my crumbling marriage was troubling. Or maybe it was inevitable?
I let out a groan, pulling the pillow over my head, drowning out the birds from outside. The woman from my dreams with jet black hair was still haunting me. I needed to know who she was. There was something familiar about her, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. She could be just a figment of my imagination. People dreamt of strangers all the time.
Arghh! What am I doing? I’m thinking about some imaginary woman when my children are missing.
Maybe missing was the wrong term. I needed my family back, at the very least, my children. I threw off the covers and got out of bed. I stalked to the kitchen, where I made myself a pot of coffee. Sitting at the kitchen table, I racked my brain. Some sort of explanation would be great. Wives didn’t just wake up one day and leave their husbands, did they? She must have been planning on leaving for a while. Why wasn’t I more upset about her leaving? Given she had been in my life for the last eight years, you would think I would be a little more distraught. But I wasn’t. The only thing I felt torn up about was Charlie and Miles. I dreaded not seeing them every day.
I needed to come up with a plan. If Lydia had gone to her mother’s, she was on the other side of the country. I decided to investigate by rummaging through drawers. Maybe I could find something to suggest a reason behind the sudden move. Lydia had taken a fair amount of clothes and some of the kid’s toys, suggesting she wasn’t coming back anytime soon. I sat back down at the table and scratched the back of my neck, confused. I hadn’t realized how unhappy she was. Did that make me a horrible person? I hadn’t been home long enough to see. I thought working was enough to prove how much I loved her. But maybe that was just it. I loved her, but was I in love with her?
I sat back in my chair, taking a sip from my coffee. My eyes fell on the computer sitting in the living room. A light blinked, indicating it was in sleep mode. Naah, she wouldn’t. The thought of internet chat rooms crossed my mind. Were they still even a thing? Not with all the apps out there. Then, beside the computer, I noticed a scratch pad with a pen next to an empty wine glass. Maybe I wasn’t so far off base after all.
I got up and sauntered to the desk. I gently moved the mouse, making the screen saver disappear. The google search engine was up. I immediately browsed through the history. The twins had used it to play Fornite. Lydia had used Amazon for online shopping, which reminded me I needed to check the credit cards. Lydia couldn’t have gotten far with the amount of cash in our joint bank account. Nothing looked too out of the ordinary until I noticed an incognito button.
I clicked on it and realized Lydia could have searched and done things I would have never have known about. I had a sinking feeling I no longer knew my wife. I went on to her Facebook and started looking through her most recent posts. It quickly became evident she was branding herself in a new image, a single mom. There was no mention of a loving and doting husband. There were pictures of her, minus the kids. Of course, no sooner had I finished looking through her page, there was an update. Lydia’s relationship status changed to its complicated.
What was complicated? We were married. There was nothing complicated about it. Seconds later, a new profile picture appeared. She had dyed her hair and wore a dress I had never seen before. I refreshed the page. She was definitely in New York. She had checked in at Sunnybrook Preschool and Kindergarten.
She must have been enrolling the kids in school. It was the only tip I was getting, and it was enough. I jumped up from the table and headed for the bedroom to grab a bag of clothes. I was almost ready to leave when I heard an unfamiliar ping come from the living room. I peeked my head around the corner and saw something had popped up on the computer screen. A message?
User:4531890 I haven’t heard from you in a while. Is everything okay?
I stared blankly at the screen. Who the fuck was User:4531890? I scrambled to sit down and find out. Lydia had been using a fake name for her account. I typed as her.
Anastasia: I’m fine.
User:4531890 I had hoped you were coming to see me with the kids?
The kids? Who the fuck was she talking to? Someone out there wanted to see Lydia and my kids! My fingers stumbled over the keys.
Anastasia: I’m at my mother’s now.
User:4531890 Oh? That’s sooner than I was expecting. I didn’t think you could get away that fast.
Anastasia: I just left.
I wanted to keep my answers short in case whoever I was speaking with caught on that it wasn’t Lydia on the other end.
User:4531890 Perfect. Shall we make plans for tonight then?
I looked down at my watch. Could I get to New York by the evening? I would have to if I didn’t want Lydia knowing that I was on to her.
Anastasia: Yes, meet me at the skating rink at Rockefeller Center at 9:00. It will give me time to put the kids to bed.
I knew that was somewhere she would pick. She’d always talked about taking the kids there.
User:4531890 Can’t wait to see you again. Laters, Babe.
There was so much wrong with that sentence! Again? When had she had time to meet someone online? And Laters Babe. Someone had watched that ridiculous movie one too many times. I stared at the screen, annoyed. I refused to write anything cutesie in return.
It was all I could bring myself to write. The realization my wife had been cheating on me was sinking in. She had left me for some guy who lived across the country. Had I been that oblivious? The thought of Charlie calling another man daddy enraged me. The fuck I’m letting that happen! I grabbed the bag I had packed and dialled the number for a taxi. I quickly went into Charlie’s room, grabbing her favourite stuffy she had left behind. I was drowning in visions of Lydia in her new life with some other man holding my children.
When the cab arrived, I jumped in, practically yelling LAX at the cabbie. Charlie would never know another father. I would get her back, even if it was the last thing I did.
I managed to get to Rockefeller Center with some time to spare and scope out the place. When it was five to nine, it occurred to me I had no way of knowing who it was I was meeting. There were way too many people for me just to guess. Of course, I had no way of checking the messenger system that Lydia had been using. I couldn’t even message the person to let them know I had arrived. I began searching every face. Why hadn’t I thought this through more clearly? Ten minutes had passed. I had probably stared down every single man that walked by me. I was about to walk around the rink when I saw an exceptionally well-dressed, eager-looking man holding flowers. He appeared to be looking for someone. Could he be Lydia’s online friend? There was one way to figure it out. I made a beeline for him. As soon as he saw me, his face whitened, and he dropped the flowers behind him as if I wouldn’t notice them.
Oh yeah, that’s him!
He looked like he would bolt, but I covered the ground faster than he could leave. He seemed positively awkward. I didn’t recognize him, but he certainly knew who I was. Which meant Lydia had shown him family pictures.
“I can see I don’t need to introduce myself,” I said, looking him up and down.
He began stuttering. “I-I…thought I was meeting Lydia?”
“How do you know my wife?” I snapped.
“My name’s Todd; we went to school together. I ran into her at the reunion.”
I racked my brain. How long ago had Lydia had a reunion? I didn’t recall her ever telling me there was one. I certainly wasn’t invited to go with her. She would have needed a babysitter. It wasn’t like she could just up and leave the children to go out. What about the baby? She could barely leave him. She was so attached to Miles.
“When was that?”
The man nervously ran a hand through his hair. “About twelve months ago. I didn’t know she was married at first. She told me you two were separated. You two really need to talk.”
“Twelve months ago…” The man kept talking, but I had stopped listening. This affair had been going on for a year! Before Miles was even born. I started thinking back to a year ago. There was a period just before Miles was conceived where Lydia was very affectionate and doting, like how she had been before Charlie. She had probably been feeling guilty for going out to her reunion and starting whatever she had going on with Todd.
Todd’s phone rang. He pulled it out, looking at it. I could see a picture of him and Lydia on it as it rang. He was going to hang up.
“Answer it,” I demanded.
He looked at me, frightened.
“I said, answer it.”
Todd lifted the phone and answered the call. Lydia was frantic. I could hear her from where I was standing. She hadn’t even given him time to speak. When she finally stopped to breathe, Todd answered her. “Too late.” He looked at me with pity and handed me the phone. “She wants to speak with you.”
I grabbed his phone. “What the fuck, Lydia!”
“You had no right nosing through my private messages.” Her voice was shrill.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” My voice dripped in sarcasm. “Did you want me to just forget I ever saw it? My bad. Please, carry on with your illicit affair behind my back!”
“You were never home! I needed you.”
At that moment, the beautiful dark-haired woman from my dream flashed in my mind. Now, why on earth would I be thinking about her at this exact moment? I gave my head a shake.
“I was working two jobs, trying to provide for our family, or did you forget where I was all that time? You know what, I don’t have to defend my actions. This is your fault! Don’t you go anywhere. I’m coming for our children!” I threw the phone back at Todd before Lydia could object.
“Have fun screwing my wife,” I sneered at Todd.