“No...no. Hell fucking no!”
I just finished replaying the events from last night to Deena on the phone from home that next morning. Tom never came home after our fight. He must’ve gotten a hotel room or maybe shacked up with his new love as they planned out their future in a highrise across the city. Either way, he never showed.
Everything feels like a lie. The marriage, the baby, our love...
Was it all just for show? Are we simply reduced to cheap synthetic leather? Are we nothing more than the gold-plated plastic I wished I’d found?”
“He did not blame you for losing a child.” Deena growls through the phone. “That’s it. I’m coming home. I’m getting the next flight out. You shouldn’t have to deal with this alone.”
“No, Dee, please—”
“No, fuck this dog. I’m coming home,” she interrupts. “This is insanity.”
“It was so unlike him. He’s never blamed me or ever made me think for a second any of what happened was my fault. It’s like he bottled this all up and unleashed it last night. I thought he wanted the baby.”
“Pen! Wake up! He’s using this to distract you from the facts. He’s cheating on you and he never wanted a child because he wasn’t sure he wanted you.”
My heart shatters, pieces dropping to my feet, slicing through me as they fall.
“Dee,” I cry, almost telling her it’s too much, it’s too far.
“I’m sorry, babe. But someone needs to unveil the truth, even if it hurts. It’s what good friends do.”
I cup a palm over my mouth, holding in the sobs.
“In the meantime, I need you to go to his office today.”
“What?” I choke out.
“Go to his office today. Surprise him. See how he responds.”
“I can’t. I can’t just walk in there.”
“You can, and you fucking will. He threw the baby in your face last night, Pen!” she stresses. “He can’t hide from you. You will put on that blue dress, the one with the slit, and march your fine ass into his office with your chin held high and demand some fucking answers for the way he’s been acting.”
I take in a deep breath and let it out. I need to find that strength I need. If not for me, then for the baby that never was. I’m better than this. I deserve better than this.
“Thank you, Jesus.”
“I’m going to confront him,” I continue, finding my strength again. “Pop up on him when he least expects it.”
“Get that money, bitch. All that alimony, and then some answers,” she praises me.
I cringe at the word. I never thought we’d come to this. It’s never been about money for me. It was so much more.
But what was it all to him?
I keep pulling at the bottom of the blue, perfection suctioned to my frame, dress, hoping the slit doesn’t rise any higher on my thigh. I’m going for classy, not trashy.
Holding my head high, I toss the loosely curled blond hair over my shoulder and walk my stilettos towards the main desk of his office building with my chin up.
I tell the woman behind the desk I’m there with Hillman Associates for a meeting with Mr. Richards himself.
She nods unknowingly, placing the call up the tower to someone on his floor. I can hear the confusion in her tone as she clicks away at her keyboard, probably looking through the calendar, not seeing a scheduled meeting with the most talked about company of the week.
Her eyes dart to my frame, trailing the length of me. I stand proudly as her eyes meet mine and she looks away shyly.
“Head on up,” she finally instructs, hanging up the phone.
The elevator ride is excruciating as I prepare myself for the possibility of an obscure scene upon opening. But as those doors open, I’m met with the face of a man who looks surprisingly broken. He’s a great actor when he needs to be. It’s his 401k on the line. He needs to Robert De Niro the shit out of this role.
“Tom, how did you—”
“I was hoping you’d stop by.” he says softly, pushing up and off the wall where he was casually leaning, waiting for the doors to open. “Waiting for either a hitman to be unleashed or an angry best friend again.”
I scoff out a quick laugh. If only she had the opportunity.
“Hillman Associates?” he asks, cocking a brow.
I flush nervously, embarrassed. “I didn’t know if you’d let me up if you knew I was here.
He grabs my hand, pulling me closer. “Don’t be ridiculous, Pen,” he says softly, sadness pouring out from his gorgeous blue eyes. “You’re my wife.”
I grind my teeth at the statement. I feel so far removed from that at the moment.
Following him into his office, he parts from me, walking towards the wall of windows. He chews on his lip, peering down onto the city beneath. We stand in silence as he inhales a deep breath, sighing it out as thoughts seem to take him.
“I’ve been a mess lately,” he admits, putting his hands in his pockets.
I adjusted the dress one more time, still feeling oddly exposed and totally vulnerable.
He turns to face me. His eyes seem like they’re lost their light. The deep set wrinkles cornering them, suddenly more pronounced. The once bright and handsome man appears to have lost his glow. Good.
“What I said about the baby—”
There’s a knock at the door.
The knock does nothing to deter the stabbing pain I feel in my gut at the mention of the baby.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Richard’s, Mr. Whitman is still waiting in the boardroom,” a woman wearing edgy glasses and a modest suit interrupts us.
So Mr. Whitman was already here? I’m an idiot. No wonder he knew it was me coming up on the elevator.
He sighs, removing a hand from his pocket and running it through his dark hair. The hand trails down his face and the stress has never been more apparent.
“Shit,” he mumbles. “Thank you, Marie.”
I watch him in confusion as his eyes nervously dart around his office.
“Just...just stay here for a minute. Have a seat.” He points to one of the two chairs in front of his desk. “I’ll be right back, I just have to handle this.”
I watch in silence, standing in my position as he leaves the room. Is he anxious because of work, me, or the fact that his mistress’s dad is in the room over? I’m left questioning it all.
My eyes drift to the chair he told me to sit.
I’m not a dog. I won’t just take a seat, as he suggested. Instead of sitting, I take the opportunity to do what I need to do. Scurrying around the desk, I drop into his large leather reclining seat. My chest is rising and falling faster than before and I know I have little time.
Peering back at the door, my eyes trail back to the drawers of his desk. Suddenly my hands have a mind all their own. I shuffle through papers and documents in drawers like a madwoman. I don’t even know what I’m looking for. Evidence? A tucked away used condom? What the hell am I doing?
Then, I see it.
With a particular stamp on it.
I crouch down onto my knees, pulling at the little cotton material, seeing the stamp of the hotel right before me. I tease it out of the back of the drawer where it appears to have been stuffed behind his plethora of expensive pens.
There across the material is the time of 10 o’clock written in pen. Above it, the residue of a certain shade of lipstick, matching a dress I saw in a picture just yesterday.
She slipped him this before they met up. And he kept it here, in his desk, as a reminder of her.
I’m sick to my stomach. This just reconfirms everything I’d been feeling. It was never about the baby; it was an excuse, a way to hit me where it hurts, so I’d miss the obvious. Deena was right.
I hear the door twist as I shove it back into the desk, ensuring everything is back in place where I left it before sitting down in the seat of his desk. He finally walks in, surprised to see where I’ve planted myself.
My eyes glare through him as he slowly approaches me, his hands finding his pockets again.
“What are you doing?” he asks, cocking his head to the side.
“Heading home,” I say, standing.
I pause, shaking my head in disgust as I pass him and make my way towards the door. Stalling with my hand on the knob, I turn back to face him.
“I’ll have my lawyer draw up some papers.” I breathe, the pain of the words nearly caught in my chest.
His brows lower as his mouth drops open. He looks shocked, and it frustrates me. He really thinks I’m that stupid.
“You’re not divorcing me, Pen.”
His dark, stern tone surprises me. But it’s not enough to scare me.
A scoff of disbelief leaves my throat. “Yes. Yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing.”
“Damn, so he really tried to tell you you couldn’t leave him?” she asks in pure disgust.
I swallow down the rest of my wine before Deena grabs my glass and refills it, handing it back to me as if I didn’t just chug a quarter of the bottle a second ago.
I came over to meet her at her place after finding more evidence of Tom’s infidelity. She’d just flown back in from Cincinnati when I’d called her and told her what I’d found. She’d insisted I come over to discuss the best, most logical ways to separate while remaining on top.
“Fucking masochist,” she grumbles. “It’s okay though. Our feminism will kill him slowly, draining him of every fucking penny he thought he could hold over your head.”
“Tom’s never really done that though—”
“Pen, please. Do not defend his kind. Evil are the men donned in suits and smiles. Like a synthetic lacquer to the dark scars beneath. They’ve all got the potential to be dicks, especially during divorce.”
“How am I going to get through this?” I groan, running my hand into my hair and holding the roots.
Deena gets up, making her way to the kitchen. “Best friends, wine, and pizza, of course,” she calls out behind her.
I sink into her couch, finally feeling a warm buzz from the wine radiating through me. Embracing the calm, my eyes deceive me as I look at the television.
I’m seeing things. The wine is pulling me under. I could’ve sworn I just saw her face.
Curiosity gets the best of me, and I grab the remote from the coffee table as Dee goes on in the kitchen about letting me stay with her if necessary.
“Holy fuck!” I mutter, staring at the screen.
Sure as shit, I rewind the news program to see a picture of her face on the screen before me. Pressing play, I turn the volume up and make my way around the coffee table to kneel, perched directly in front of the television.
“The disappearance of Samantha Witmore comes as a shock to the city.”
“Oh, my God...” The words nearly get swallowed by the pounding in my chest.
“She was last seen at the Greenbriar Hotel after being officially announced the new face of the Hillman Association.”
Deena makes her way around towards me, tossing some popcorn into her mouth before she sees the screen. She drops the bowl, scattering the popcorn across the carpet as she sinks to her knees next to me. Her eyes are wide, her mouth gaped open as we both turn to look at one another at the same time.
“Her father, CEO of Ameristock and billionaire, Charles Witmore has put out a plea for her safe return.”
They show a clip of Mr. Witmore standing before a podium of microphones, addressing the new stations as they claw at the opportunity to cover such catastrophic news. He begs the public to search for her, offering a hefty reward for any information before he drops a bomb on the reporters.
“We need her safe return. It’s not only her life at stake. It’s the child’s as well.”
This sends reporters into a flurry of flashing photos and questions being thrown at him and his team of men behind him.
I can’t breathe as I turn to face Deena. Her expression mirrors the horrors of mine.
We both know.
We both see it.
We’re both thinking the exact same thing.
My husband had something to do with the disappearance of the newly pregnant Samantha Witmore.