Chapter Twenty-Eight

At 7:15 a.m. Thursday morning, just as Chris was closing his eyes, Jerry was hanging up his bedside phone.

"That was Jack," he told Carly who was snuggled up next to him still warm under the sheets. "He said not to even bother coming in today. S’posed to be storming all day again. Gonna be hurtin’ come payday with all this time off."

"Can’t you claim some vacation time or sick leave?" Carly asked.

"Yep. Gonna have to, looks like," he said. "If the bills are gonna get paid, anyway."

She snuggled a little closer, lining his body with hers. "Well," she whispered seductively into his ear, arms slowly wrapping around his chest, "looks like we got ourselves a couple hours to kill here before the kids get up. Any ideas on how you’d like to start your vacation day?"

"Oh, I can probably think of one or two," he replied softly with a devilish smile as he slid back under the sheets with his wife.

Shortly after 9:00 a.m., Carly climbed out of the shower feeling refreshed and new after an invigorating and deeply satisfying morning workout. Jerry was lying naked, sprawled out diagonally across their bed, sleeping again. She paused to look at him and smiled to herself before going to wake up the kids and get the rest of the day under way. He wasn’t a bad guy, she thought as she draped a sheet over him. Despite his faults, and everyone has a few, she reasoned, she did still love him. She wished he didn’t keep the company he kept when out of her sight, but all in all, he meant well. Things will work out.

She raised Johnny and Sasha from their slumber and got them dressed and downstairs for breakfast. She then started them on their usual 9:30 routine each morning, coloring books in front of the TV while watching Sesame Street on PBS, and, checking quickly to make sure Jerry was still snoring peacefully upstairs, called Nancy next door from the kitchen phone downstairs.

"So did everything go okay yesterday when you got home?" Nancy asked immediately upon hearing Carly’s voice.

"Yes," Carly said confidently. "No problems."

"You looked a little uneasy when you left," Nancy said. "I should have had you call me last night. I spent all evening worrying about you, you know."

"Well that’s very nice of you, Nancy, but you needn’t have worried," Carly assured her. "He really is just a big teddy bear underneath that grizzly suit he tries to show off for everyone."

"Well you know him better than anyone, I guess," she said, not sounding entirely convinced.

"I guess I still owe you a story, don’t I?" Carly said.

"You don’t owe me anything, dear," Nancy replied. "I’m just being a nosy neighbor, is all. As long as you’re sure you are okay, that’s all that matters."

"Oh, no," Carly said. "I don’t think you’re being nosy. And I really do appreciate your concern and help this week. Really. I got an idea," she continued. "Jerry’s working this weekend because of all the rain, assuming it ever stops, anyway. If you don’t already have plans, why don’t you and I take the kids out for a picnic Saturday. We’ll let them wear themselves out while I fill you in on everything then."

"That sounds fun," Nancy said. "Randy is working this weekend, too. This is his busiest time of year with taxes coming up soon. Everyone always waits until the last minute. What time you got in mind?"

"How about ten? We can take them over to the chutes and ladders park in Burnsville," she suggested.

"Great! Mikey loves that place. We can take my van and all go together," Nancy offered. "Be ready at ten then?"

"Looking forward to it," Carly said.

At 1:30 p.m., Carly, Jerry, Johnny and Sasha were settled into a game of Mickey Mouse Yahtzee at the kitchen table after having an indoor picnic on the living room floor while it continued to rain outside. Johnny was getting a good idea of how to play the game properly. He couldn’t decipher the meaning of the numbers that Jerry was writing on his score card, nor could he actually read the different selections yet, but he knew how to play the game and what his options were. He watched his Dad record his score intently after each roll, explaining this time that he wanted to use the two Goofy’s and three Donald’s for a full house. Sasha just liked throwing the dice and watching the different Disney character heads roll out of the cup and noisily onto the table. She didn’t have a score card in front of her.

Play was interrupted for a moment when the phone rang. Jerry pushed back from the kitchen table and pulled the phone from the kitchen wall.


"Um. Is, um…I think I have the wrong number. Sorry." The caller hung up.

Jerry put the phone back in its cradle on the wall.

"Wrong number," he said to Carly as he sat back down at the table. "Whose turn is it?"

In the back of his mind he was remembering something Billy had once said. One of the reasons Billy had begun to suspect his wife had been cheating on him was the dramatic increase in calls that were apparently the wrong number, or dead air, at least when Billy answered. But that was only the first time it had happened to Jerry in as long as he could remember. He decided not to worry about it, but noted it just the same.

* * * * *

Chris felt disoriented and tried to collect his wits. It was difficult to think. Too much to think about. What day was it? Thursday, he informed himself with effort. And time was running out. He couldn’t wait for Carly, for Friday night. Kimberly didn’t look like she could afford to wait. Her fading had accelerated dramatically. She might have two or three days left, or he might already be too late. He needed to find Kimberly. It was time for her to know what she was up against.

He glanced at the clock beside his bed. The large red numbers read 1:30.

A.M.? P.M.?

The light wasn’t right coming through the slats of his blinds, but any light at all told him it was p.m. The skies had remained dark from the storm which had seemed to stall over Minnesota the last few days and had only added to his initial confusion and fuzziness. He had to think, he thought. Calm down. Think.

And what he thought of was Carly. She would help him think. Maybe they could all meet at ‘X’ yet this afternoon. Chris got out of bed and signed on to the Internet, but she wasn’t there. He signed right back off and dialed up her home on the phone. A man answered.

"Um. Is, um…I think I have the wrong number. Sorry," he said and quickly hung up as if the receiver were burning his fingers.

"Damn," he said out loud to the phone. "Jerry must not have gone to work."

Chris picked the phone back up and dialed Kimberly’s number. It rang…

…and rang.

…and rang.

…and rang.

Chris let it ring fifty-five times before slowly replacing the receiver in its cradle. All he could think was that he was too late. He knew she worked at home. Plus it was storming out. He wouldn’t have thought she’d be out running errands, this wasn’t the day to do it, though it was certainly possible.

And he hadn’t gotten the chance to ask Kimberly for her address in the dream. He looked up her name in the phone book. There were no Kimberly Stringer’s listed, but he did find one K. Stringer, but not listed as an Eagan resident. Hoping maybe she was too new to the area to have made the phone book’s last edition, he dialed information and asked for her number, which he already had, hoping to then try to "confirm" an address with the operator. The operator informed him that she was unlisted. Another dead end.

He called her number again, let it ring twenty times more before hanging up. Apparently she didn’t have, or had forgotten to turn on, an answering machine. He remembered trying all evening to call Benjamin’s dad in Kansas, getting no answer for hours, only later to discover that he had been too late. An uneasy feeling of déjà vu infiltrated his mind and his stomach did a cartwheel.

At midnight Chris hung up the phone feeling frustrated and bordering on desperate. Kimberly’s number had been no answer all afternoon and evening. He had called every half hour, allowing twenty-five rings each call, but with no results. Carly hadn’t been online all day, either. He signed on to the Internet service after each attempted call, to no avail. Time was wasting. Time was running out.

He tried to ease his worry with reason. He had never actually called Kimberly or confirmed this number with her. It was possible that he had remembered it wrong from the dream or maybe she had even recited it wrong to him. It was possible she was out of town, or with a friend, or a parent. He knew nothing of her life. There were a hundred possible explanations. She was fading fast, but it had just started. She still had time. Not much, but some, he assured himself.

Chris heard the "beep, beep, beep" of a truck backing into his driveway. He had to abandon the phone and the computer and begin another night of delivery. At least the rain had finally stopped at some point during the evening, he noticed. He would try to get done early and then sit on Boardwalk Avenue and watch for Kimberly. If he didn’t see her again in the morning, he would try calling again before bed. Then if there was still no answer, he would have to just go to sleep, hope that he wasn’t too late, and get her address from her. He was running out of options. And Kimberly was running out of time.

* * * * *

Chapter Twenty-Nine


Front Desk

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As Fate Would Have It

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty-One
Chapter Twenty-Two
Chapter Twenty-Three
Chapter Tweny-Four
Chapter Twenty-Five
Chapter Twenty-Six
Chapter Twenty-Seven
Chapter Twenty-Eight
Chapter Twenty-Nine
Chapter Thirty
Chapter Thirty-One
Chapter Thirty-Two
Chapter Thirty-Three
Chapter Thirty-Four
Chapter Thirty-Five
Chapter Thirty-Six
Chapter Thirty-Seven