“If waking up from a dream means that you won’t be there, I’ll just continue dreaming in the space between.”
I slept so lightly it was almost as if I had not slept at all. I could not lay in bed anymore, and it was about seven thirty. I was actually surprised I did not hear Jack working. When I thought about it, I became concerned. I reached on my nightstand for my cell phone and quickly called him. It went straight to his voice mail. It wasn’t his voice, but rather the cell phone provider’s that stated the number and to leave a message after the beep. I decided to leave a message.
“Hey Jack, I was just wondering what time you were going to start working today because I was going to help you. Give me a call back, and let me know what time you will be here, or at least text me… or something. I’m kind of worried I haven’t heard from you.”
I immediately felt stupid for telling him that I was worried. I flew out of bed and jumped in the shower, setting my phone on the bathroom counter in case he called back. My shower only lasted about two minutes, and I quickly got dressed.
“Maddy?” I heard my mom yell from outside my door.
“Yeah,” I responded.
“Did Jack say what time he was starting today?” she asked.
“He didn’t. He also hasn’t answered his phone. I’m getting ready to head over to his place real quick to check on him,” I told her.
“Okay that’s fine, but can you call me when you get over there? After hearing his story last night, everything kind of has me spooked,” she said a little quietly.
I paused for a moment and thought about what she had said. She had the same feelings I did, but mine were a little more justified, considering the events that she was unaware of.
“Yeah, I’ll call you when I’m there,” I replied, putting my clothes on.
Everything felt off. Perhaps it was because I had gotten used to seeing Jack every day since he entered back into my life.
I pulled my car under the tree by the bakery, where Jack’s truck should have been. I looked around momentarily before getting out of the car. Nothing appeared to be suspicious. I wore my boots with the special pocket, just in case I needed to defend myself, again. I decided that if I were in a life-or-death situation, I would be more mindful in stabbing at something more vital than the arm.
I made my way up the stairs slowly, looking behind me a few times. If someone had been watching me, they would most likely get the impression I was about to commit a crime. Before even knocking, I tried turning the handle, but it was locked. Trying to think of what to do next, I just stood at the top of the steps. I pulled my phone out and tried calling Jack again. It still went straight to voice mail. Maybe he had left for my house, and we somehow just missed one another.
Quickly, I ran back to my car, and headed back toward my house. I called my mom on the way back.
“Mom, he’s not there. Has he come by the house yet?”
“No, honey, he’s not here,” she responded with kindness, clearly sensing the distress and heartache in my voice.
I hung up and continued to drive back home, not knowing what to do.
When I got back home, I could only sit in my car for a while, my head resting against the steering wheel. I had so many questions that were spawned from my severe anxiety.
Why would he just leave?
Did something happen to him?
Did I do something wrong to upset him?
How could he do this to me?
Did he actually love me?
What about the money we already paid him to finish our house?
We still had some of his tools here, would he just leave those behind?
Eventually I exited from my vehicle and walked inside. My mother was waiting for me in the kitchen.
“You know, Maddy, he had better not be some fraud who does this kind of shit and then runs away with our money. I mean think about it, we really don’t know him at all,” my mother said.
Her comment really pissed me off beyond words.
“Seriously, Mom, you just need to shut the hell up, and keep your thoughts to yourself right now. Do you think I really need to hear that?” I yelled.
My mother threw her hands up in defense.
“Hey, if I don’t address this who will? You won’t because your infatuation with him has blinded you into thinking that he can do no wrong,” she came back.
“I never said he was perfect, and I’m not arguing with you right now. I’m going in my room. Don’t follow me, I just need to be alone for a little while,” I told her as I began to walk away, crying.
“Okay, go hide away in your room where it’s safe. If he calls you, I want to talk to him. Especially if this is an honest mistake on his part - he can’t do this to you,” she continued to yell after me as I walked away.
“Just shut up for now, please,” I shouted back and slammed my bedroom door.
The moment I fell onto my bed, I sobbed heavily into my pillow. I cried for a while, until all the emotion and excitement caught up to me, and I drifted off to sleep.
When I awoke, the first thing I noticed was the color of the sky. It looked like the sun was setting. I grabbed my phone and checked for any missed calls. There were none.
The time was four thirty. I jumped out of bed and realized I hadn’t even taken my boots off. I walked around the house and called for my mom. I soon came out of my drowsiness and realized she had not come home from work yet. I wasn’t going to wait around the house the rest of the night, and she would be home any minute. Waiting for her to come home, and start bombarding me with questions, did not sound appealing in anyway. I decided to send her a text which I wasn’t big on doing. I was probably the only person in the world with a smart-phone who rarely sent text messages.
My text message told her that I was going to the gym for a while. Giving her no time to reply, so that she couldn’t tell me to wait up for her, I jumped in my car and headed for the bakery, throwing my phone on the passenger side.
Again my mind wandered. I felt lost, in every meaning of the word. It seemed like no time had passed, and I was pulling into Jack’s parking space, again where his truck should have been. Everything looked the same, so I decided to go into the bakery and ask if anyone had seen him.
A small bell rang as I opened the door. It looked as though they were closing up the shop. A man in about his fifties was counting cash from the cash register.
“We’re about to close, can I help you?” he asked, without taking his eyes off the money he was counting.
I took a deep breath. “Yes, I hope.” The way I started to speak got his attention because his eyes lifted and studied me.
“This may sound strange, but I am looking for the man who lives upstairs. My name is Maddy and he,” I started.
“Hi, Maddy. Um… actually, I was expecting you. Mr. Ryder said you would come by,” he replied.
His reply actually did not make me feel good.
“He did?” I questioned.
“Well, he said he had to go out of town for a while for a job, and said he didn’t know when he would be back,” the bakery owner continued.
I immediately felt sick and saw the tears well up in my eyes. I no longer felt any kind of reserve. Abandoned, was the word that hung on every broken heart string at receiving this news.
“Sir, I am going upstairs to get some of my things. Can you please unlock the door for me?” I asked, fighting tears, and an unpleasant tone.
“I’m sorry, Miss, but I can’t do that,” he replied.
Before he could say more, I bolted out the door, and headed for the apartment. My emotions were getting the better of me, and all I could think about was breaking the apartment door down. My wits were losing all stability, and I was bordering an irate hostility when I heard the bakery owner calling out after me.
As I approached the door at the top of the steps I immediately noticed that the it was cracked open, and the wooden frame was broken. Panic set in and I felt I was in danger. I was blocked in at the top of the steps as the bakery owner surely came after me. I immediately turned around, and headed back down the steps as fast as I could. The bakery owner was just rounding the corner as I reached the bottom. He held an envelope in his hand.
I felt very afraid, and cornered. I reached into my boot and pulled out my knife.
“Whoa! Easy, easy,” he said.
“Don’t come near me,” I demanded.
The man threw his hands up. “Jesus Christ, girl. I’m only trying to give you this. He wanted me to give you this letter.”
I slowly lowered my knife, though still keeping my guard up.
“No wonder he left town quietly,” the man muttered under his breath.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to overreact, there is just too much to explain I guess,” I responded.
“I don’t need an explanation,” he said as he began to scoot away from me.
I snatched the envelope from his hand, still holding my knife. “You would be doing me a kindness if you forget this happened.”
“I never saw you,” he answered, retreating to the front of the building.
Quickly, I ran to my car and sat inside. I watched the stairs and the windows for any movement in the apartment. I sat for a while, only staring, but I saw nothing. I decided to open the letter. I was anxious to read it but more afraid of what it said. I would have rather left it closed; it would have been easier for me. With great reluctance, I slowly unfolded the paper…
You mean so much to me. Right now I have to go to a place I cannot take you. My affairs have already put you in a spot that nearly claimed your life. For that I am truly sorry. Leaving abruptly was the only way I could go without you following me, and I don’t blame you for that; I love you for it. If something ever happened to you, I could never forgive myself. I already live with an impossible guilt that almost swallowed me whole, until you entered into my life. Strangely, you have always been apart of my life, I just never knew it. I only ask that you not try to find me. I hold onto the hope that I will very soon be with you again, and be free.
Because I love you, I have to put an end to the injustice that I have greatly suffered.
A famous author once said, “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” My dreams have been horrible for a while now.
I will stay awake as long as possible, and think of you. I feel how much you deeply love me, and have always loved me. This gives me the strength to do what I must.
I have to go now so that my lust for vengeance won’t get in the way of my love for you; my lust for you.
Achak Rider (Your Jack)
My silent tears turned into sobbing as I dropped my face into my hands. I cried heavily for five minutes straight. So many thoughts were going through my head that I could not bring them together into one rational decision. I could only sit in my car as the earth continued to spin. When I felt the lowest in my life, I would think of my father. The thought of him caused me to cry so hard I felt an actual pressure in my chest. My head fell against the steering wheel as I hugged it. I spoke out loud, crying to myself, as if Jack could hear what I had to say.
“You touched me. You made love to me. That sealed us together. You can’t leave me here to waste away, waiting for you. I’ve already done that most of my life; I won’t do it again. This time I’m going to find you.”
My tears subsided, and I picked myself up from the steering wheel. I wanted to go back up to the apartment to see why the door was broken when it had not been earlier. My sorrow outweighed my fear of the unknown danger that could be lying in wait.
This drove me out of the car and up the stairs. I slowly pushed the door open and stepped in quietly. I quickly walked around the whole apartment, looking everywhere for something, anything. After a few minutes of opening his drawers and seeing only empty spaces where his clothes had once been, I sat on his bed. Then I realized all of my pictures were gone from the wall. It felt good to know he may have taken them wherever he went. Sitting in the silent space that we once made love in, I became uncomfortable with the silence. I was not going to stay there another minute. And by there, I meant Beaufort.
Dread. Dread overtook my mind and body as I walked into my house. I was going to face my mother and tell her I was leaving. Not only would she try to stop me, I had to tell her that Jack was gone, and I did not know for how long.
I gripped the letter in my hand as I walked past where she sat in the living room. She watched me pass by her, most likely waiting for me to say something. I walked up to my room and quickly started packing. I was in a rush, not paying much attention to what clothes I was grabbing. I pretty much emptied my underwear drawer into my suitcase. A few jeans, a handful of shirts, and some shorts.
Another pair of boots, not counting the ones I had on. Some sandals and running shoes.
I was going to take a plane, and I knew I couldn’t carry certain toiletries on the flight. I only grabbed a comb and my toothbrush. That all fit into my suitcase. I decided to throw my journal into my laptop bag, which I would use as a carry-on. I wheeled my suitcase behind me and threw my carry-on bag over my shoulder. Before I left my room, I stopped at the bookshelf, and opened the clay jar that I used as a book end. Inside I had stashed about two thousand in cash. I put that into my wallet, which I placed in the carry-on.
My suitcase clunked on its soft wheels as I walked downstairs to face the conflict. I stood in front of my mother and shrugged my shoulders as she looked at me. I waited for her to speak first, but she only looked at me in disbelief.
“Jack’s gone,” I said as I began crying. “I’m going to find him.”
“Maddy, this is not the way. I know that you’re hurting and wanting answers, but you’re only going to make it hurt worse,” she said as she stood up.
“If it means I’ll get to see him again, that is a risk I’m willing to take.”
My mother shook her head and closed her eyes in clear disagreement. “And then what? I know what he means to you. I’m still astounded at how you two have been brought together, but you can’t make somebody love you, no matter how much you love them.”
“I’m not making him do anything,” I cried as I threw the letter at her. “If you think I’m going to sit around here and wait for a phone call, or for him to come back to me, then you are insane,” I cried.
“Maddy, just wait two more days so you can make a rational decision,” my mother pleaded.
“Yes, more waiting. I’m all out of rational decisions. I’m all out of patience. And all I’ve ever done my whole life is wait. I’m tired of laying around, or trying to keep myself busy while waiting for my life to start. What starts it? Jack is my life and has always been my life. I’m not about to just wait for it to start up again. Wait. Wait. Wait! Just like I waited for Dad to come back home to me. My patience really paid off there, didn’t it!” I sobbed and stormed out the front door with my bags, yelling behind me. “Call me if Jack comes back here!”
I drove toward the airport, crying the whole way. I was completely torn about leaving or staying. It was uncertain if either decision brought me Jack. I figured I had to start somewhere. Sitting and waiting for an answer was not the choice I was willing to make. It was too excruciating.
I chose to drive to United Airlines airport in New Bern, rather than Michael Jay Smith Airfield in Beaufort. I figured I would have a better chance at getting any kind of flight out, being that it was a bigger airport.
When I arrived, and forced myself to stop crying, I hauled my one suitcase in with me, my carry on over my shoulder. The airport was very quiet. I walked up to the ticket counter and knew that booking a flight at the airport would be insanely overpriced. I was desperate to leave as soon as possible though. A middle-aged man, with a name tag that read Peter, was at the ticket counter. I hoped that if I appeared sad, he would take pity on me and bend over backward to get what I needed. He could probably tell I had been crying, anyway.
“Hello, how can I help you?” asked Peter.
“Yes, I’m looking to get a flight out to Santa Ynez, California,” I said, trying to use a saddened tone to match my eyes. It wasn’t hard.
“Any concern about lay-overs?” he asked.
“I’m concerned more about prices,” I replied.
“Okay,” he said as he typed on his keyboard.
I waited patiently for about a minute, and then he stopped typing.
“The cheapest I have leaves in fifty minutes but has four lay-overs. It’s four hundred and fifteen ninety-nine for coach,” he said.
I didn’t even have to try to appear sad because the tears welled up in my eyes.
“The lay-over part is fine. Do you have anything cheaper? This is kind of an emergency. A good friend passed away,” I lied.
“I’m sorry to hear that. I’ll look,” he replied, in a professionally condescending tone.
He looked at me for a moment, appearing to actually notice me as a person, and not just as another traveler.
“Tell you what, let me step away for a moment and talk to my supervisor and see what I can do,” he very politely stated.
I waited for only about three minutes, and he returned.
“Good news, Miss, I can get you out on that same flight, first class for two seventy-nine. Does that help you?” he asked.
My heart literally skipped a beat.
“Thank you so much. Yes it does, and I’ll take it,” I said.
“Excellent, happy to be of assistance. Will you be checking any bags?” he asked.
“I’m sorry, I don’t travel often. This is my carry on, and I have one piece of luggage,” I replied.
He leaned forward, sort of whispering, “Do you have any items that could alert suspicion?” he asked, smiling.
“No, just clothes. Why?” I sort of laughed.
“Okay then you probably don’t need to pay the extra baggage fee, and can take that through the terminal,” he said.
“Wow, you have been more than helpful, thank you,” I happily said.
“Well, I have my moments. Besides, most everyone from November through the New Year are rude. You were very polite, so thank you,” he said.
As I walked toward the terminal, I realized I had my knife resting in my boot. I stopped at the restroom and wiped it down with a piece of tissue, more than I probably needed to, and then dumped it in the trash. That was a close one. If I had forgotten it was in there, it would have been a nightmare.
After going through security, I sat in the terminal in front of the entrance to my flight for only ten minutes before they let me board. I dropped my one suitcase off right at the entrance to the plane, in the metal lift that would eventually lower and store them in the plane.
While I sat in first class, I zoned out as I looked out of the window. I soon jumped when I felt my cell phone vibrating in my pocket. I was almost afraid to look, in case it was my mother. The number was not one I had stored in my phone. I recognized the number; it was Jack’s grandfather. This could be Jack, so I quickly hit the green answer button on my touch screen.
“Hello,” I said, trying to control the emotion and excitement in my voice.
I wasn’t completely disappointed that it was Jack’s grandfather.
“I was just calling you to check and see how you were holding up?”
I was taken aback by this sudden friendly phone call. “I’m… I’m doing my best,” I answered.
“Aw, well that sounded pitiful,” he replied sympathetically.
“Jack left,” I said as I started to cry.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart. I know that had to hurt. Did he say where he was going?”
“No. His landlord was the last person who saw him, and had him deliver a letter to me. I figured you would have known he left.”
The old man just let out a sigh and a hum in response, which told me he was hiding something.
“I have to tell you something else. Earlier this morning, he was gone when I first checked on him, and the apartment was locked. I went back later and spoke to the land-lord when I got the letter. The apartment door was open, and the door frame was broken. I think someone is still here looking for him. His truck has been gone all day,” I informed him.
“Thank you for telling me that, Maddy,” he said.
“Sir, I’m really scared for him. I know you don’t know me, but I really cannot lose him,” I replied, panicked.
His grandfather let out a sigh. “I understand, sweetheart, and I’m sorry. Where are you now?” he asked.
“Well, sir, I hope this is not a problem, but my plane to Santa Ynez is about to take off in fifteen minutes,” I said, hoping he did not object.
“Huh,” he replied, sort of laughing. “Well, aren’t you one for takin’ the initiative. Do you have transportation arrangements when you arrive?” he asked.
“Not yet,” I said.
“Do you know what airport you’re flying into?” he asked.
“Actually, I’m landing in Santa Barbara, and I’ll be there at nine forty-five tomorrow morning. I have a long layover in Colorado,” I replied.
“Okay, I’ll change my schedule to come pick you up. I don’t often leave the reservation, but I don’t want you traveling here alone,” he told me, in a sweet, fatherly tone.
“I would really appreciate that, sir,” I said.
“Don’t mention it. I don’t believe I’ve told you my name. I’m Charles, people call me Chuck, but my employees call me Chief,” he said, playfully.
“Can I call you Grandpa?” I asked.
There was a long pause, and I hoped that I had not offended him.
“Sweetheart, that would be my pleasure,” he replied. His answer warmed my heart.
“Okay. Can I call you if I have any problems?” I asked.
“You better,” he replied, in that fatherly tone.
“Thank you. I’ll see you soon.”
Hanging up the phone, I held it close to me. I felt a sense of relief knowing I would have a part of Jack there to help me.
The engines of the plane fired up and I laid my head back against the seat.
“Miss, would you like a blanket?” asked Suzy, the tall, blond flight attendant.
“Yes, I would love one,” I answered, taking the blanket.
After takeoff, I allowed myself to drift off to sleep.