Somewhere I Belong

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Chapter 2: New York City - September 28, 2017

“You sure about this?” Sarah Reid asked me, carrying my duffle bag over her shoulder. The tall blonde casted me an anxious look with her pale blue eyes that I did my best to ignore. I nodded, slowly walking up the hallway towards my apartment. It had been one week since I had been here last and I had decided this morning that it was time to do this. I checked out of the hotel and asked her to come help me.

“Yeah. I have to get this done.” I replied. I unlocked the door and stepped in. The sound of my Dad in the kitchen caught my attention. Tomorrow was his last day here in the city. He was flying back home in the afternoon. Sarah followed me towards the kitchen where he was cooking what seemed to be some type of pasta dish.

“Hey, girls! Hope you’re hungry. I’m make eggplant parmesan for dinner.” He said, smiling at me. There was sauce smeared all over his grey shirt and there was an open cook book on the counter near the stove. I didn’t even know where he gotten that from. I didn’t own any cookbooks.

“Hi, Daddy. You didn’t have to do that.” I said, walking over to him. I gave him a quick kiss on the cheek before turning to Sarah. I’ve known Sarah for about seven years now. We were hired at Henderson Real Estate around the same time and were office mates. While there, we started a very strong friendship that blossomed fairly quickly. We’d go out for drinks after work and plan our own business over martini’s. I never imagined it would actually happen though until it did. “I guess we can start in the bedroom. That’s where most of his stuff is.”

“Honey, you don’t have to do this today if you don’t want to.” Dad said, setting the spoon that was in his hand down.

“I kinda do. Now that I have to move, I need to start boxing stuff up and getting rid of things. I have no reason to keep a lot of his things like clothes. That can be donated unless you want it.”

“Whatever you want, kiddo.” He rubbed my back before popping the pan he was cooking with into the oven. “I’m going to clean up my mess in here and then I’ll be in to help you, okay?”

“Okay.”

“You’ll be okay.” Sarah said, linking arms with me. Together, we walked towards my bedroom. I stood in the doorway, glancing around the room. It looked the same as it always did. The king size bed was made, the white and black comforter pulled up to the pillows at the top. The hard wood floors shined and the area rug under the bed was a light grey color, similar to the paint on the walls. Our housekeeper had come the day I learned about the accident and cleaned, my Dad offering to keep it clean while he was staying here. I could tell he hadn’t come in here at all though. Nothing was moved or disturbed from the time I left here that morning.

“I guess we should start with his closet.” I said, surprising myself. Sarah nodded, pulling out trash bags from the duffle bag on her shoulder. She set the bag itself on the floor, opening the plastic black bags. I pushed the white wooden door of his closet open, the light clicking on as I did. It was lined with his suits, sorted by color and fabric. He had been very picky when it came to this, wanting to be sure his expensive suits were kept separate from the ones he wore to events that weren’t as important. He used to tell me that his personal image was important to how his clients see him and that I should take the same approach with life if running our company’s advertising campaign was going to be my job. I always thought it was a silly thought on his part. Who cares what people thought about your clothes or your looks? It’s what’s on the inside that mattered. He never believed that though.

“These suits you might be able to sell for some money. They are really expensive ones. I’ll take them with me and see what my tailor could do.” Sarah said, scooping up the five suits on the end. She carefully pushed them into the bag, poking a hole in the top of it so she could pull the bag down over to protect the clothes. She took the rest of them and did the same, setting them into piles on the bed. “What about his regular clothes? Like his t-shirts and jeans.”

“Donations.” I replied, pulling open the top drawer of the small white dresser in his closet. She opened another bag as I pulled out all of his socks and underwear that were in the drawer. I tossed them in the bag, the sound of something rolling around in the drawer catching my attention. Turning, I glanced down and saw the golden gleam of something. I realized it was his wedding ring. The police had told me it hadn’t been recovered from the accident, leaving them to think it had been lost during the attempt to save him. It hadn’t though. It was hidden in the top drawer of his dresser, not on his finger. Stepping over, Sarah glanced over my shoulder to see what I was looking at.

“Is that Michael’s wedding ring?” She asked. I nodded, hot tears burning my eyes. She tossed the bag she was holding on the ground and wrapped an arm around my shoulders. “At least you found it. We should put it somewhere safe and you could put it in a shadow box or something.”

“No.” I snapped, picking up the ring. Pulling out of her grip, I walked over to the side of my bed and flung it into the waste paper basket that was there. Tears slipped down my cheeks as I looked around my room.

“Abby, what are you doing?” She asked, reaching in and picking it out of the trash.

“He doesn’t deserve to be remembered in a shadow box or in anything for that matter.” I said, sitting on the edge of my bed.

“Did you two have a fight or something that morning?” She looked at me with confused and concerned eyes. Sarah also didn’t know what had really happened surrounding Michael’s death. She only knew what the public was told. The paper had said that Michael was driving a client home and both were killed when their vehicle struck another. There had been no mention of their relationship or alcohol being in his system. It was a detail the police had not reported to them, hoping to save me some grace after the whole ordeal.

“No. We were planning our anniversary dinner. He was going to pick me up at the office and then we were going to go out for dinner. Instead, he picked up his girlfriend and they spent the day at Cooney Island. When he realized he was late picking me up, he sped back trying to take her home. He was too drunk to realize what the fuck he was doing and slammed into another car. That’s why he’s dead. He’s dead because he was drunk driving with his girlfriend in the car. His girlfriend who was the reason he was hiding his ring in the dresser.” I said, my hands starting to shake with rage.

“Oh god.” Sarah whispered, crouching down in front of me. She set her hands on my knees, squeezing them reassuringly. “Why didn’t you tell me that in the first place?”

“I don’t want anyone to know that my husband died with his girlfriend instead of me. That he would rather be with her than me. Do you know how horrible that feelings, knowing I was never good enough for him?” I let out a choked sob, covering my face with my hands. “I feel like I’m cracking from the inside out, Sarah. I don’t even know what to do with myself any more. Every time I close my eyes, I picture the two of them together. It’s like a horror movie on repeat in my brain. And he’s not even here to scream at or ask why.”

“Maybe you should take a break. We’ll get you settled into a new place and we’ll take a vacation. Some place far away from here and warm. It’ll help take your mind off things.” She suggested. I shook my head.

“I can’t just leave work. There’s so much going on right now with our clients. Taking off because I’m going off the deep end really isn’t an option.”

“Sure, it is. The junior agents can handle a week of the big leagues. It’ll be fun! At least think about it. I’m going to get the rest of his clothes packed up and take it down to my car. Just sit here, okay?” I nodded. Standing, she went over and cleared out the rest of his dresser. She left his wedding ring on top of it next to his watch and a pair of cufflinks she found in there as well that belonged to his father. I made a mental note to send those to his brother Owen in Arizona. Once she was done, she grabbed the bags and walked out of the room. Sighing, I stood up and walked out of the bedroom. I was walking up the hallway towards the kitchen when she emerged through the front door again. “Your dad helped me carry everything down. He should be coming right now. That food smells amazing!” She was right. The smells coming from my kitchen made my stomach growl. It was the perfect blend of sauce, spices and cheese that made me want it.

“Dad has always been a good cook. You should try his chicken fried steak sometime. It’s to die for.” I replied, smiling at her reaction. Sarah is a vegetarian. She’s been that way since she was little girl she told me. I don’t see how that’s possible since she grew up on a dairy farm in upstate New York. But I knew she hated all types of meat, especially beef.

“I’ll have to pass on that one.”

Daddy made his way back to my apartment and we ate. It was nice, sitting and talking with them like nothing was going horribly wrong in my life. Sarah broke out the wine that was in my fridge and we all had some, the white Moscato pairing well with the food. We joked, laughed and had fun, something that I always wanted to do at my dining room table. It dawned on me that it was really the first-time people had been over for something like this since we moved in. Michael wasn’t keen on having people over, preferring to visit them at their homes or out in public. He always felt like our house was meant just for us. Now that I was sitting here enjoying myself, I wished I had done this sooner.

Sarah left a little after midnight, promising to be back over tomorrow to ride with us to the airport to see Daddy off. Dad and I cleaned up the dining room and the kitchen, turning the dishwasher on before heading to bed. He was going to sleep on the couch, claiming that was more comfortable than the guest bedroom. I knew it was because it was closer to my bedroom, just around the corner. I wished him good night before heading to mine.

Standing in my room, I sighed and looked around. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to sleep in here. It felt so much bigger now, his stuff gone from the closet. I shut the door of his closet, the light clicking off with it. Giving up on the idea of sleeping, I walked over to my closet and opened the door. I decided to start packing the stuff I would be keeping. Grabbing a tote from the top shelf of my closet, I carried it over to my bed. Opening it, I saw it was full of different books and photo albums. I reached in and grabbed the one of top. The cover was done in denim, designs drawn on it with marker and fabric paint. Flipping it open, I saw pictures of myself as a kid.

The first picture was of me, a plucky ten-year-old standing outside of the elementary school in Trenton, North Carolina. I was wearing a pair of blue jeans, a white t-shirt and a back pack. My expression was not one of amusement. Smiling, I remembered that day. It was my first day of fifth grade at a new school. My mother had made me take the picture before walking me inside. I was not thrilled to have my mother walk into school with me but I didn’t want to hurt her feelings so I went along with it. Before that, I had gone to school in the next town over. My parents thought it was better for me there since my father only worked up the street. After he lost his job though, they transferred me to Trenton Elementary which was closer to where we lived.

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