When I open my front door to depart, I freeze at the sight of a large yellow envelope, with my name written in Chris’s handwriting. My heart squeezes and I reach for it, opening it with eager, unsteady hands. I stare at the drawing inside, unable to catch my breath. It’s a black and white draft of me, na**d and leaning against the window of his apartment, the brilliant lights of the city behind me. Attached to the drawing is a piece of paper that reads — You are all I need.
I drop my head to the paper, and fight the burn in my eyes. “Oh Chris,” I whisper. I love this man. Logic is screaming it’s too soon to feel such a thing but my heart has won this battle. And I am almost certain Chris is going to rip my heart from my chest before this is over, and yet, I can’t wish him away.
I arrive at work and for the first time since the club, worrying about facing Mark, only to hear from Amanda that Mark is off site for most of the day. It is the best news I can get; the space that allows me to regroup.
Needing something other than Chris and Mark to think about, I dive into my work, starting with a call to Ricardo from my cell phone. He answers immediately. “This is Sara McMillan from the Allure Gallery.”
He rambles in Spanish and I’m fairly certain every word is not a nice one. “I do not have time for this call, Ms. McMillan.”
“I have a client who wants a private viewing of your collection. He adores your work as so many of us do.”
Silence. “You admire my work?”
“Immensely. I was at the charity event and hoped to meet you. It would have been an honor. I would be thrilled to do so now.”
More silence. “Come to my private gallery Wednesday evening at seven o’clock. If I feel you are competent then I’ll invite your client to the next meeting.”
“Excellent. Yes. Thank you.”
“Do not bring Mark, Ms. McMillan.” He hangs up.
Mark. Not Mr. Compton. An uneasy shiver goes down my back, and I worry that he and Mark have a private club connection.
My cell phone buzzes with a text while I’m holding it and I click on the message to read, I don’t want to miss you but damn it I already do. Don’t run, Sara.
I inhale against the emotion in my chest and know I can’t promise him I won’t. I miss you, I type, and God, it’s so true.
Then come here and be with me.
I can’t. You know that.
I wait for a reply and wait some more. Finally I get a simple, I know. I know? What does that mean? It feels important to me to reach out to him somehow, to send him the message that I am here, I am trying to understand.
I wet my lips and type. But I wish I could.
He doesn’t reply and I don’t know what to think.
Lunchtime comes and I rush to the apartment building where Rebecca had lived, only to be told they can’t give out private information, and Rebecca no longer lives there anyway. I’m not going to let it discourage me. I’ll find another way to reach Rebecca. Visiting the club with Chris has me thinking about how easily Rebecca could have gotten into something too deep, too intense, and ended up hurt. My determination to find her is renewed with a new, fearless vengeance.
I stop by the coffee shop hoping to find Ava there and just outright ask her the name of Rebecca’s boyfriend. She’s out of town again. I spend the rest of my lunch hour calling through random numbers I’ve found in Rebecca’s phone directory getting nowhere. I decide to go the storage unit and dig around after work since it will be early when I get off.
By late afternoon, I haven’t heard from Chris and it’s driving me crazy. I have no idea Mark is in until he pokes his head into my doorway. “Mary is in the bathroom throwing up and I’m headed out to another meeting. I need you to work late.”
“Good.” He is gone that fast.
I check the times the storage unit is open and I’ll have an hour to dig around if I leave right at eight.
I arrive at the unit at eight-fifteen, and I still haven’t heard from Chris. It’s making me crazy. He makes me crazy and I’m ready to throw myself into searching Rebecca’s unit for answers, hoping this makes me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile.
The instant I park and stare at the concrete building with orange doors, I remember how much I hate this place, but remind myself this isn’t about me. It’s never been about me. Rebecca is missing. I don’t believe for a minute she’s on vacation and ditched her apartment and left all of her things behind. It makes no sense. Why store her items? Still, doesn’t the unit infer she made an active choice to leave, and why am I still not buying that?
Remembering my last visit and the juggling act I’d pulled, I decide to leave my purse in the car so I have less to carry when I leave the unit. With my keys in hand, I step out of my car and under a flickering light, noting the absence of anyone else around. “Cue scary music,” I mumbled as I start walking, mocking my ridiculous nerves.
The exterior doors are open and I make my way to Rebecca’s unit and unlock it, reaching inside to flip on the light. Goosebumps lift on my skin as I stare at the neatly packaged personal items. Everything seems as I left it.
After considering shutting the door, creepy images of getting locked inside make me think better. With no time to spare, I head to a box and use it for a chair, wishing I had on a pair of jeans.
I’m digging through some papers when I hear a loud pop. I frown and still, listening. There is a sudden chill in the room, and I stand up, every nerve ending I own on edge.