I dragged myself into the gym the next morning. My mood was not very welcoming, unlike the empty treadmills. I jumped on one, plugged in my headphones and got started on my warm up. The only think that kept me sane these past few months was coming to the gym and just working up a good sweat.
After ten songs hordes of people began filling up the treadmills around me. The best part about already being there when the crowds started walking in was being able to leave. I felt a half an hour was good enough. I wormed my way through on coming people trying to make my way to the showers. Most of the time I liked to keep my head down. Thanks to the local channel 2 news I was a bit of a local celebrity. From the whisperer I was picking up as I passed I was sure people remembered.
I decided to skip the shower and just head home. I was glad I did because after I entered the locker room a group of women followed me in. They lingered some distance behind me, watching with side glances as I packed my things into my gym bag. I closed my locker with a loud bang. When I turned to walk out, a brave member of the pack approached me.
She raked her eyes down the length of my body before meeting my eyes. She pursed her perfectly pouty red lips. I wondered what she could possibly say that would be different from anything I had ever heard before.
“Are you that lady from the news?” she said in a voice that sounded very much like it belonged to a child.
I shook my head. “You have me mistaken.”
I tried pushing my way past her but she placed her foot in front of mine. I looked into her dark blue eyes, hoping that my silent plea was resignation to her.
“No,” she shook a finger as she turned to face her friends. They looked at us in awe,”You are the girl on the news who killed her husband.”
I swallowed hard. No matter how many times I tried to say that I was not a murder to people the more I realized I was just talking to myself. The public had made up their minds, and there was nothing I could do about it.
“So.” She said turning to face me. “What did you do with the body?”
Her friends leaned closer as though I would actually whisper the answer. Somehow I darted around her and headed out of the locker room. I almost managed to reach the front desk when I heard her yell behind me. “Sooner or later they’ll find him and you’ll pay for what you do!”
I ran to my car. My hand shook so bad I dropped the keys on my first attempt to get the door open. Once inside I slammed my hands down on the steering wheel. I screamed. The sound of my voice vibrated throughout the side cab, echoing loudly in my ears making them pop.
“When is this going to end?” I cried into the emptiness that surrounded me.
This wasn’t fair, I was being punished for something I didn’t do. The police, the newspapers, the news, no one was deflecting any negative thoughts from me. For the millionth time I thought about suing the news anchor who implicated me as the murder. I just couldn’t see how that would do any good. The seed had already been planted.
Angrily I swiped at the tears on my cheeks, rubbed my eyes with my hands in fists then took a deep breath. The car came to a soft purr and then I was off. It was light traffic on Evergreen considering this time of year was a bit harrier then normal. Luck was suddenly on my side, I hit almost every green light until I got down Cornell.
I refused to look around in fear that might see someone pointing a finger at me, so I remained focused on the road. Once I was safely tucked into my garage I let go of a shaky sigh.
My shower feel like velvet covered hands caressing my skin. The heat washed away the soreness now settling into my abused muscles. The ache in my back felt almost worked out but the heavy burden of sadness was still bearing all its weight on my shoulders. I rubbed my neck with my hands then turned the water off.
I looked at my distorted imagine in the fogged mirror. I pulled my shoulders back and tried to see if I could fool myself. I could be strong, I could handle what God was throwing at me. Even as I thought it I knew it was a lie.
After getting dressed I decided I needed a spiritual cleanse. I head out to Saint Francis. Once there I prayed then lit a candle. This is something I did almost once a week. I was still confident Jeremy was out there. I like to image he is in Mexico drinking tequila while a beautiful woman sits on his lap. In my imagination he is happy, and this girl makes him happier then I ever could. I loved him, and I wanted him to be happy, even if was with someone else.
That is the conclusion I came to after all these months. Our marriage was scheduled to die from the moment we met. My mere presence had alienated him from his family, and that was hard on him. When we got married his mother demanded he be removed from the family trust. At first Jeremy hadn’t cared. Then things had gotten hard for us after we bought the house. He wasn’t used to saving money or worrying how to replace the washer and dryer. Jeremy never had to make sacrifices when it came to money, so when I had us on a tight budget he became a little uneasy. I remember him making deals with his mom until finally he had wormed his way back into the trust. I never saw any of the money, nor did I ask for it. Little had I known at the time part of the deal was for Jeremy to file for divorce. I learned some of it the night he left when he told me about his girlfriend. Then the rest when his mother was interviewed by the cops in front of me. At the time it was a stab in the heart, but now I understood. Money was all Jeremy knew. Ten years without money was all he could take and I was not worth any more.
It was around noon when I decided to grab some lunch after church. I stopped at a small mom and pop soup restaurant or some clam chowder. While I was waiting for my soup I took a seat at one of the tables and watched the news. Normal things displayed like the weather and national events. The cashier waved her hand gaining my attention. She was holding a bag and a receipt. After comparing the two receipts she handed my order. Just as I was turning around the newscaster returned as a picture of a moldy SUV disappeared.
“The SUV was found in Shelton, Washington near the Vance Creek Bridge.” She said. Her dark hair gathered on her left shoulder in a low pony tail Her eyes gazed at the camera in sadness. “Jeremy Pierce’s body has still not been recovered. Pierce went missing one year ago on November 30, 2015.”
I swallowed hard, and wished like hell that the earth would swallow me whole. The one time I was not wearing a baseball hat or beanie and shit hits the fan. Everyone in the small restaurant, who so nicely ignored me early, shifted in their seats. Their sideways glances eyed me suspiciously. Each one of them probably scrutinizing my face looking for signs of guilt. I squared my shoulders then headed for the door. Behind me someone yelled, “Where is he Samantha Pierce?”
I stormed out the restaurant, drying heaving all the way to my car. Once inside my safe little bubble I drove home as fast as I could. Deja vu hit me like a ton of bricks as I approached my little two story Victorian style house. Swarms of media vans and police crushers sat right in front of my driveway. All of them standing at the ready for me to return. I sat at the stop sign wondering what I should do. I had no where to go.
I jumped at the sudden pounding on my driver side window.
It was Detective Daniels.
“Move over.” he growled.
Automatically I did what he said. He got into the driver side and made an illegal U-turn. That was the moment when I could no longer hold back the tears. The prickly ball at the back of my throat that I ignored scorned my throat with a vengeance. I pressed my face in my hands and cried. The sobs escaping my chest were strange cries and hiccups. Somewhere down the street Clay had turned into a private drive and parked. I was more then surprised when he took me into his arms. One hand slid down my back, the other down the back of my head.
“Its okay.” he murmured.
I clung hard to him, digging my fingers into his shoulders as though I couldn’t get him close enough. My breath came out in jumbled heaves. The only thing I could focus on was the feel on his hand at the small of my back, and the other between my shoulders rubbing soothing circles.
“Why didn’t someone tell me?” I sobbed into his shoulder.
“We, I tried to but you weren’t home. My partner felt it was enough that his parents were notified.”
I shook in his arms. Fear now griped me like an angry fist. Just when I thought I could start building my life again the sky opened and began to unload the rain.