By Ekta R. Garg
Prompt: The Mysterious Call: Your phone rings in the middle of the night. An indiscernible voice speaks: “There is a car waiting for you outside your house. Get inside. You don’t want to ignore this.” Your spouse rolls over, eyes squinting, and says, “Everything okay?” What happens next?
I heard ringing, but when I reached for the phone in my dream it just melted. It kept ringing, though, and that’s when I realized I wasn’t dreaming it. The phone really was ringing.
I opened my eyes to the semi darkness of our bedroom and groaned. As I stretched in the direction of the landline, my husband shifted in his sleep.
“Hello?” I said, trying to push my voice through the remains of my dream.
“There’s a car waiting for you outside your house,” an indiscernible voice stated. “Get inside. You don’t want to ignore this.”
My heart started hammering. I had hoped for this call; I didn’t realize it would come at 3 a.m. Why did life’s biggest moments have to happen when a girl needed her eight hours?
James shifted again, and then he rolled over. “Everything okay?”
His voice held the sleep I had now lost.
“Jules?” he asked. After a moment I felt his hand on my arm. “Who was it?”
“Uh, nothing. No one. Crank call,” I said.
“Oh,” he said. “Idiot. Not you, sweetheart. Just go back to sleep.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Yeah, I’m just, um…I’m going to the bathroom.”
He yawned and turned back over. “Okay.”
Before I’d even made it halfway across our bedroom, I heard him snoring softly again. I let go of a breath and grabbed my bathrobe out of the closet. With one last look back at James, I slipped out of the door and went downstairs. I pushed my arms into the bathrobe as I made my way down the stairs and tried to take a few calming breaths.
James slept pretty deeply, but I still paused at the end of the staircase. Waiting for some dramatic cry of intervention, him yelling for me to stop, not to proceed. But I didn’t hear anything. So I kept going. I grabbed my keys from the bowl on the table, unlocked the front door, and stepped outside.
Crickets chirped around me, and the night felt muggy. But something made me shiver, and I stopped halfway down the walk that led around to the driveway. I could still turn back. I still hadn’t heard any news yet. Still didn’t have any answers yet. If I turned away now, no one would stop me. If the caller called back, I could say I’d changed my mind.
I even half turned back to the house, but then I looked up and saw a window on the second floor. One of our bedroom windows. That made me think of James, and I turned back around. I had to do this. For him.
My plastic Croc knock-offs started to get wet—maybe there was more humidity in the air than I’d realized—and by the time I reached the car I wanted to pull the shoes off and rub my feet on something. With one more look around at the neighborhood, I opened the door and got into the limo.
“Took ya long enough,” Max said. “What was with all the looking around? You think you’re in some sort of spy movie or something?”
“Me?” I exclaimed. “You’re the one standing—well, sitting—in a limo in my driveway in the middle of the night. For god’s sake, Max, couldn’t you have just met me in the morning like a normal human being?”
He shook his head. “Not this time, Julia. I found her, and she’s at the airport right now waiting to get on a plane. I figured if you wanted to catch her—to stop her—I should be ready to go with you.”
The heart hammering came back. Now? He’d found her and wanted me to go to her now? After all this time, it would be this easy?
“How do I know she’s really it this time?” I asked. “We’ve had false alarms before.”
“Not this time,” he said. “I got all the I-D I need.”
The hammer turned into a jackhammer, and I actually put a hand to my chest. People did that in the old spy movies, but I was realizing now that it didn’t really do much other than to make a person look like they should be covered by black and white film.
“Her flight got delayed—well, that’s what she thinks, anyway—and her next one’s going to leave in two hours,” Max said, bringing me back from the noir era. “It’s now or never, Julia. I can’t pull anymore strings at the airport.”
Would James want me to do this? After all he’d told me about his twin sister, would he want me to go after her? Would Jessica want to come home with me? Would she come home after she found out about her father’s death and the inheritance?
“Julia, it’s now or never,” Max repeated.
I looked at Max. I’d hired him as a private investigator, but we’d become friends through the process. As he’d dug into my husband’s past, Max had found things that made him look at me with sympathy. With pity, I thought, if I had to be totally honest.
“I’m not even dressed to go to the airport,” I said, trying to buy some time.
“No problem,” he said, and that’s when I noticed the shopping bag in his hand. “I bought some sweats for you. I’ll get out of the car, and you can change.”
I found myself nodding, even before I realized it. James needed this. Jessica needed this. And I needed to help my family find peace for the first time in a long time.
“All right,” I said. “Hop out. We’re going to the airport.”
He grinned at me once before getting out of the car and slamming the door.