Lou watched the second hand slowly turn around the clock. He reached into his pocket for his cell phone to call Toni, just as his phone starting vibrating. The caller id said it was her calling – finally. He swiped the phone’s screen to answer.
“Hey babe, where are you?” he said into the phone.
There was a pause on the other end of the line, but he heard Toni breathing. His heart skipped a beat, she had left again, he just knew it.
“Toni?” he whispered into the phone.
“uh… yeah, hey,” she answered and Lou breathed a small sigh of relief. “What do you mean ‘where are you’? I was calling to see when you were coming home.”
Lou furrowed his brow, his brain trying to make sense of what she was saying.
“I’ve been home for over an hour Toni. I figured you had taken Rufus out for a walk. When are you coming home? Are you coming home this time?”
Toni felt a pang of guilt in her chest at his accusatory words. He was entitled to that attitude for all that she had put him through, but she couldn’t make sense of the rest of what he was saying.
“Lou, I got back from my walk about a half hour ago and I’ve made dinner. Stop joking around, when are you coming home?”
“Toni, I’m not joking. I am home. I’m sitting on the couch. If you’re home—where are you?”
Toni glanced towards the living room where Rufus had been stationed by the couch since they arrived back home. Holding the phone to her ear, she took one step towards the room and then hesitated, afraid of what she would, or would not, see.
“I’m in the kitchen,” she replied, still looking down the hallway to the living room. She heard Rufus whine again.
Through the phone she heard Lou grunt as he pushed himself off the couch. She could hear his footsteps echoing on their hardwood floor. She stared down the hallway, expecting him to turn the corner into the kitchen at any second.
“Okay,” he said, “I’m in the kitchen, where are you?”
Toni fleetingly remembered Mrs. Wiggins parting words: “Don’t get lost.” Her breathe caught in her chest.
“Toni? Seriously, stop fooling around. Where are you? I swear if you’ve run off again… I’m not going to follow you. We can’t keep doing this. I don’t have..”
“STOP! I haven’t gone anywhere,” she interrupted him, sucking in a lung-full of air, “I admit… I was going to run today. But then Rufus pulled me out of the house and wanted to go for a walk. Then I ran into Mrs. Wiggins and I felt bad so …”
“Wait,” it was Lou’s turn to interrupt her, “You ran into Mrs. Wiggins? She was just here. She said you dropped a winter glove when you were talking with her. Are you wearing gloves?”
“Babe, it’s August. No, I’m not wearing gloves.” Toni put one hand to her forehead, rubbing her temple in an attempt to rub out the headache that had begun to form, “Mrs. Wiggins is just a little confused.”
Lou turned around in the kitchen, trying to see anything that would tip him off to Toni’s presence. If she were telling the truth, what was going on?
“Toni, are you sure you’re in the right house?” he asked.
“Uh, yes. I even put my bag away and cleaned up our bedroom.”
“I put your bag away when I was done talking with Mrs. Wiggins. The green one, right?” Lou asked.
“Yes. Where was it when you put it away?”
“In the living room.”
“Lou, I’m starting to freak out. What’s going on?” Toni’s voice wavered and she felt tears starting to form. She had wanted things to start getting better, now she didn’t know what to think. She felt the old urge to run well up inside her. Except she didn’t know where she really was… how could she run?
“I don’t know, but we’ll figure it out. It’s just some freak… I don’t know.” Lou tried to console her, but his own heart was beginning to race a little faster too. He couldn’t make sense out of this. He glanced around the room, his eyes landing back on the front door where he had just shut out the neighborhood witch.
“How about we both walk out the front door. I’ll meet you out there,” he suggested, striding back to the door.
“Okay,” Toni agreed, but didn’t sound convinced. Lou wanted to reach through the phone and take her into his arms. This could not be happening.
Toni walked towards the front door as tears streamed down her face. Why did she feel like she’d never see Lou again?