“So what’s it like?”
“Mountains, mountains, and more mountains.”
“I heard your parents died in a crash. Sorry about that.”
Rick interjected, “Yes, condolences.”
“Thank you.” Chris wondered if Abe could check his fake backstory with anyone he knew back in Wyoming.
“And you have no brothers or sisters?” Abe asked, resuming the conversation.
“None,” Chris answered, with growing tension. So Abe had heard that, too.
“Unusual for out there. My parents adopted six kids. Three of us are black, and three are white. My dad said we were his retirement package and he was hedging his bets.” Abe chuckled. “My dad knows everybody. I emailed him about you but he hasn’t emailed back. He only checks his email when he remembers to.”
“Uh, I forget.” Chris didn’t like the way this was going. He picked up his water bottle, and his gaze fell on his laptop, his attention drawn by a familiar name under the headline, LOCAL YOUTH ARRESTED:
Central Valley resident Ryan Sematov, 19, was arrested last night by Rocky Springs Police Department for attempted burglary of the Samsonite factory store at the ValleyCo Outlet 11. Police were called to the scene when the burglar alarm sounded and nearby residents dialed 911. Sematov was charged with attempted burglary, vandalism, and malicious mischief, and was released on his own recognizance pending a preliminary hearing.
“Oh no, look at this!” Chris said, seizing the excuse to change the subject. He realized that the arrest must’ve been one of the reasons that Raz was late this morning. “This is terrible news. I have his brother Raz in my class.”
“What?” Abe came around the desk and read the screen. “Oh no, that is terrible. I had Ryan in my class last year. He was a terrific student. I have Raz now, he’s nutty. I feel bad for the family. The father died over the summer.”
Rick joined them, looking at the laptop. “That’s too bad. I liked Ryan, and Raz is okay. He’s a free spirit, that’s all.”
Courtney entered the classroom with her cell phone. “What’s the matter?”
Abe answered, “Ryan Sematov was arrested for burglary.”
“Are you serious?” Courtney grimaced. “I never had him, but that’s so sad about that family. The father died over the summer.”
“I know.” Abe shook his head. “Ryan tried to break into a store at a ValleyCo mall. I seem to remember his mother is a higher-up at ValleyCo, in the corporate office.”
Courtney came around the desk. “That can’t be good for her. What a shame.”
“That’s tough.” Chris sounded troubled, but not about Ryan or Raz.
Mindy couldn’t get into her husband’s Gmail, so she was upstairs in his home office going through their credit-card receipts, since they had a joint Amex and Visa. Last night, he’d come home at eleven o’clock, and when she’d asked why he was late, he’d said only that he’d gotten held up at the hospital. But he wouldn’t meet her eye and bit his cuticle, which he never did. As a surgeon, he was meticulous about his hands and nails, even getting manicures to keep them neat.
A wife always knows, her mother had told her.
But that was completely untrue. Mindy had scrutinized Paul for clues about whether he was having another affair, but she had no idea what to look for. The last time, she’d had no idea that he was having an affair. She’d thought they were both happy, communicating well, and having sex as often as most married couples. She’d been fooled by an excellent liar, her own husband.
Mindy’s cell phone rang, and she checked the screen. She only had until one thirty, when she had to leave for the game, bringing party trays, bottled water, and soda. Alcohol wasn’t allowed at the games, but nobody would know her reusable water bottle held a G & T.
Her phone screen showed that one of the Boosters was calling, so Mindy answered the call. “Ellen, what’s up? I’m in the middle of something.”
“Did you hear about Ryan Sematov?”
“Is that Raz’s older brother?” Mindy asked, regretting having taken the call. She had more important things to do than gossip. Like play Nancy Drew.
“Yes, he was arrested for burglary last night.”
“Oh no.” Mindy felt a pang. She had adored Neil Sematov, who was one of the saner parents. She tuned Ellen out and eyed the credit-card receipt.
“… and he broke into a ValleyCo outlet. You know the mother works for ValleyCo…”
Mindy scanned the list of their credit-card charges, noting the name of the restaurants. They were all places she or Evan had been, so far. The only thing that had surprised her was that Evan was eating out so much at lunchtime. She didn’t know why he couldn’t buy in the cafeteria like everybody else. Or God forbid, bring a lunch from home. Maybe he really was becoming entitled, getting affluenza.
“… I mean, I feel bad for her, truly I do, but let’s be real…”
Mindy kept scanning, then froze. There was a charge from Central Valley Jewelers for $327.82, processed two weeks ago. She felt her gut twist. Paul had bought that nurse a bracelet from the same store, the last time around. And he had charged it on their joint credit card, which made no sense unless he were trying to get caught, a theory they’d discussed in approximately 172 therapy sessions.
“… if your kids are having psychological problems, you can’t pretend it’s not happening, especially not these days…”
Mindy felt her heart start to pound. She wanted to know if he was having an affair—and she didn’t, both at once. Was it really true? The charge was undeniable, its machine-printed numbers staring her right in the face. Did Paul buy this for another woman? Would he really do this to her again? At the same store? Did he really want her to divorce him? Or did he just want to hurt her?
“… you can’t stick your head in the sand these days, as a mother…”
Mindy flashed-forward to Ellen on the phone, calling everybody to gossip about her. Did you hear? Paul is running around on Mindy again. You can’t stick your head in the sand, as a wife today.
“… but you know what they say, everything happens for a reason. So maybe now she’ll…”