“Do you think they’ll find her soon?”
He looked up from his cereal to see her waving the newspaper at him. On the front page was a photo of a pretty redhead.
“It’s been almost a month. It’s only a matter of time. This is a pretty small and quiet neighborhood and the police are still looking.” He went back to eating his cereal.
“Maria Alegria. Such a pretty name. And such a pretty girl.” She watched him over the paper, taking in the pallor of his skin, the mussed up hair, and the sleepy eyes.
“You look so tired, honey. You shouldn’t have spent the whole night packing.”
“I’m fine. I had to finish packing so we can leave early tomorrow morning.”
“There’s still today.”
He looked over her head, out the window to the tool shed. “I want to just wrap things up today. Plus, I have to figure out where we’re going next.”
“Of course, you do.”
He raised an eyebrow at her tone, “what’s that supposed to mean?”
“Are we going to go through this again?”
She sighed. “I don’t want to fight. But this is the eighth town, the second country, in three years.”
“I told you, we had to move.”
“Yes. We always had to.”
“I thought you liked it.”
“I did. I think I still do. Sometimes. But I want a home.”
“Home is wherever we’re together.”
“But I want a place I can call ours. One where we can stay for as long as we want. One we can keep coming back to and not…” she trailed off.
“And not what? Just say what you want to say.”
She was quiet for a while. He watched as she stared at her tapping fingers.
She’s so beautiful, he thought. Hair the color of oak framed her face and brushed at her slender neck. Full lips, a nose he thought was cute but she kept saying was too wide, large hazel eyes that bewitched him the first time he saw her. Witchy eyes that are now clouded with worry.
“Maybe you should stop,” she said quietly.
“Why would you even ask me to do that?”
She folded the paper and placed it on the table. “Because I’m tired. This has been our life for three years and I can’t do it anymore.”
“You said you love me.”
“I wouldn’t have gotten in the car three years ago if I didn’t. I wouldn’t still be here if I don’t.”
He remembered that day clearly. He remembered the rain falling steadily, her body wracked with sobs when he told her he’s leaving, her dazed shock when he asked her to come with him. He remembered holding his breath as he waited for her answer and her brilliant smile as she said yes. It was the best day of his life.
“Are you wishing you hadn’t?”
“Please answer me. Are you wishing you hadn’t gotten into the car?”
He closed his eyes as pain arrowed through him. When he opened them again, she was looking at him, her long fingers wrapped around the newspaper. He can see the paper start to crumple as her hand tightened around it. “You know I can’t stop.”
“Then I won’t be coming with you when you leave tomorrow.”
“You can’t do that. We have to leave.”
“I will. Just not with you. If you won’t promise me you’ll stop, I’ll leave today.”
“Why are you doing this?”
“Because I love you so much and I can’t stand knowing that I’m not enough for you.”
He looked at her in horror. “No! How can you think that?”
He reached across the table and cupped her face in his hands. Her beautiful face, soft, fragile. “I love you. Terribly. More than anyone or anything in the world. Don’t ever think that you’re not enough.”
“How can I not think that when we have to move yet again? When you keep doing what you’re doing?” She wrenched free and stood up to look out the window.
Fixing her gaze on the shed at the edge of the background, she wrapped her arms around herself. “I like it here. I know I can’t stay here anymore but I want the next place to be my home. And it will be. With or without you.”
He was quiet. He can’t think. All he could see was her lovely silhouette against the light of the morning sun. He closed his eyes and he could still see her, beautiful and unmoving.
“You knew that this is what I do. You knew before you came with me. You said it’s fine as long as we’re together. You said you want to see the world with me.”
“I did. I know that I did. But I’m tired. We move, try to get settled. Then you start playing your games and before I even know what the neighbourhood looks like, we have to move again. Do you know how absolutely exhausting it is to wake up everyday wondering if we have to pack up and leave already? Do you know how much it hurts knowing why?”
He stood up and wrapped his arms around her. He buried his face in her hair and breathed her in. She smelled of lemons, cinnamon, and him. “Are you trying to say what I think you are?”
“I can’t keep settling and begging for scraps.You come home to me but I know that your mind is on the next conquest. I want a life with you. But not like this.”
He held her tighter. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I promise it will get better. I promise I will make it right.”
“Then say you’ll stop. Say this is the last. Choose me and I’ll come with you.”
She turned around, looked at him. She stared at him for a long time, her beautiful eyes memorising every inch of his face. Then she leaned over and kissed him lightly on the lips.
She stepped out of his arms and walked out of the kitchen.
He slumped back on his seat and dropped his head in his hands. He didn’t look up even when he heard her on the phone calling a cab. He didn’t move even when the sound of the front door closing signified her walking out of his life.
“Should I stop? Can I stop? Should I go after her?”
He stood up and walked out to the shed. His breath hitched with every step. He unlocked the chains, pushed the door open, and stepped inside. He stumbled a bit on a chair as his eyes adjusted to the darkness. He dropped the chains and lock on a table and sat on the chair.
“She left me. She wants me to stop and I can’t.”
His cries filled the shed; gut-wrenching sobs of the anguished, guttural wails of the broken hearted. He didn’t know how long he sat there crying. When he finally stopped, it was already dark outside.
He wiped his face with a rag, took a deep breath, then stood up. He walked to a corner of the shed and reached up to turn on the light.
“This is what I do and I have to leave tomorrow because of it. But if you can accept and understand that, will you let me show you the world? Will you come with me?”
“Well, then I’ll take that as a no. Don’t worry, they’re close and they’ll find you soon.” He leaned down to stroke the dirty red hair, his sad eyes meeting fearful ones.
When the police came the following afternoon, the house was empty. All that’s left is the broken and lifeless body of Maria Alegria laid out neatly in the shed.