It had been a month since Hannah’s disappearance, and for the first time since his wife had walked out the front door to (maybe) never return, Evan went to Moe’s after work instead of going straight home as he’d been doing.
Work was wearing him out. He had taken two weeks off after Hannah disappeared, but the time came when he realized that even though his boss at the high school was understanding about his situation and was willing to give him all the time he needed to cope, staying home alone and thinking about Hannah was worse than facing a room full of teenagers and thinking about Hannah. Somehow, the kids helped drown out the little voices in his head, the ones that never stopped chattering about the wheres and the whys.
Usually, Evan would go right home after school. Sometimes he would stop at the liquor store to pick up a bottle of vodka or two – he’d been drinking more than usual since Hannah disappeared – but most of the time he would go straight home, start drinking, and eventually heat up one of the many meals that had been cooked and brought over to him from well-meaning friends and family members. He’d been eating more this past month than he had since college and the pounds were starting to stick on hips and belly. Hannah would be so disappointed with him, he always thought as he reached to brush crumbs from his shirt, or when he would look in the mirror hours after eating and see that he had ketchup stuck in the corners of his mouth. Grief was making him sloppy, and so far he hadn’t managed to care enough about himself to do better.
If Irina hadn’t called, Evan would have gone home as usual to eat his fill and drink until he got even more sloppy, but Irina Culver was Hannah’s literary agent, and she needed something that was on a disk in Hannah’s office, a disk that only he could get because it was locked up in one of her filing cabinets.
“I’d rather not come over and invade your privacy,” Irina told him on the phone. “Will you just meet me somewhere in town?”
Evan knew that it was a bullshit excuse. Irina Culver didn’t care about anyone’s privacy, especially the privacy of any of her clients or their families. Irina didn’t want to come over for the same reason that so many other people didn’t – they felt uncomfortable being in a woman’s house when no one knew where she was. It was never Evan’s house, not really. Even though he was the one whose name was on the mortgage and it was his teaching salary that paid for it, it had always been Hannah’s house. When people came over lately, most of them wore a face of guilt, like they were intruding into the residence when no one was there, even though Evan stood right beside them.
“Let’s meet at Moe’s,” Evan said without thinking, and it was only after he had hung up the phone that he realized he’d made a terrible mistake and couldn’t even call Irina back to change the location, because he didn’t know her number. He could find it, of course, but that would mean digging through Hannah’s things in her office, and just getting a disk out of her filing cabinet was hard enough – those were her things, her little babies that she nurtured and worked on to the point of ignoring Evan for days.
The next night, Evan walked into Moe’s with a sense of dread. Maybe Amy wouldn’t be there. He hadn’t seen her in over a month, not since Hannah disappeared, and for all he knew, Amy could have gotten another job or just have changed her schedule. When he walked in, instead of sitting at the bar he took the closest booth by the door. That way Irina would see him as soon as she walked in, and maybe they could get this business over with quickly before anyone spotted Evan.
Amy wasn’t working the bar, that much Evan could tell. It was being tended by Moe himself, who gave Evan a solemn nod and raised a glass to him. A moment later, Moe brought a glass of vodka and tonic to Evan’s table and walked away without a word. Evan hadn’t talked to Moe in a month, but it was obvious that everyone in town knew about Hannah, and Evan was very grateful to not be questioned or otherwise bothered by the man he’d begun to consider a friend. Men knew better than women when to keep their mouths shut, and to wait for delicate conversations to be brought up rather than engage in them.
Irina walked in when Evan was about half finished with his drink, and she slipped into the booth across from him, looking all business.
“Did you find it?”
“Yeah,” Evan said, taking the compact disk from his pocket and sliding it over the table. “May I ask what it is?”
“It’s related to Hannah’s last book, Those Girls. She was screenwriting a commercial to speak out against high school bullies. It’s a shame she won’t get to be in it. I always thought she had a face for the screen.”
Evan stared at Irina, whose face took on a shocked look, as if she herself couldn’t believe what she had said.
“I’m so sorry Evan. I’m so sorry. I mean, the filming won’t begin for another few weeks, so of course there’s a chance…”
“Yeah, don’t worry about it,” Evan brushed off her comment with a wave of his hand and then put his empty glass down at the edge of the table, praying inside that Moe would replace it with a full glass before Irina had the chance to say anything else. Unfortunately, it was Amy who replaced his drink a moment later, sliding a full glass of vodka onto the table and whisking up the empty one as quickly and quietly as a magic trick.
Evan and Irina looked up, and Amy smiled at Evan.
“Hi,” she said, ignoring Irina. “How are you, Evan?”
“Well, I’d better get going,” Irina said, standing up and gathering her purse in her arms. “It was good to see you Evan, I’ll be in touch,” and then she was out the door, fleeing Evan as so many people had done under pressure lately.
Evan’s gaze moved to Amy, starting at her legs – he wondered why she was wearing shorts in the middle of winter, no matter how hot it got inside the bar on busy nights – up to her slim waist, to her perfect young breasts, to that face that used to make him smile uncontrollably, the face he used to think he loved.
“Hi Amy,” he said.
Amy sat down in the booth where Irina had been a moment before, reached her hand across the table and tried grabbing for Evan’s hand, but he didn’t let her take it. Instead, she gave his wrist a light squeeze. Her eyes were searching him, trying to figure out what he was thinking and where she stood now that his wife was out of the picture, and Evan could barely hide his disgust and shame. His skin was crawling under her touch, and so he pulled away.
“I heard about your wife.”
“I’m sure you did.”
“I’m really sorry,” Amy said, and Evan laughed, a mocking scoff that he instantly regretted.
Amy’s face sank and lips trembled. He’d never seen her cry before, but Evan imagined that this was the look a twenty-two year old girl’s face had before she fell apart.
“I was just so worried about you,” Amy said, her voice soft. She looked around the bar, making sure no one was watching too closely before she went on. “I thought you might call me, or something. I wanted to help you, to be there for you if you needed me. You never returned my texts or my emails, and no one had seen you around.. I just didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t know what was going on. Are you okay?”
“Amy, my wife disappeared.”
“I know,” Amy said, sitting back in the booth, pulling farther away from him. She looked out the window next to her, and Evan saw one tear fall down her cheek, but nothing more.
He finished his second drink, putting the glass down with more force than necessary, and Amy’s attention snapped back to him.
“More?” she asked, and Evan nodded.
Amy got up, taking his two empty glasses with her to the bar. So Evan watched her walk away – watched the muscles in her calves flex, watched her breasts bounce with each step, watched her ass shake, making every head turn that she passed.
For the Indie Ink Writing Challenge this week, Lilu challenged me with “Screenwriting a commerical” and I challenged Liz Culver with “You wake up in the middle of the night and there’s a T-Rex standing outside, peering into your bedroom window with its huge, unblinking eye. What do you do?”