It was light out, when he put the last little one to bed. It was light out, but Lewis didn’t care; he needed a little time to himself. Sometimes he did that — put them to bed early, so they could rest, and he could recharge.
Three little ones and he was alone — his wife went out one late afternoon, before sunset, to pick up a pizza for their date night. The kids were at his sister’s for the night, and he had cleaned up the house and waited. He had waited, and when an hour had passed, he had called her. It didn’t go straight to voicemail, but she didn’t answer. He was going to check her location on his iPhone, when someone knocked on the door.
“Lewis Bolton?” asked the pretty young woman standing there with a messenger bag.
“Yes?” Lewis was distracted by the worry for his wife, and he absently took the sheaf of papers she handed him, not really hearing her until the third time she repeated herself. “What?”
“I said: you’ve been served.”
That was two years ago.
Abigail wasn’t yet three. Rose was a little over three. And Beatrice was just four.
Three little ones, all in a row. All his. She gave up all custody, and had never come back. He hadn’t seen her on Facebook — she took herself off bank accounts, never logged in to check their email again. She left all her clothing, jewelry, toiletries. She left the cat.
She left him.
Her parents had died years ago, just after she graduated highschool just before she met him. Her friends had actually been ‘their’ friends — they had no idea where she’d gone, either. There had been no one to ask, though he’d tried. He even asked the letter carrier if he’d had any idea his wife was going to disappear.
She was just …gone.
He didn’t know what he’d tell the girls when they grew up; he didn’t know what he’d tell himself, most days.
He imagined it was a little like her dying; unreachable. Simply not there anymore. No good reasons or anyone to plead to. Just nothing.
That night, after he tucked in the littlest, while it was still light out, he lit a fire and sat in front of the hearth, eating the same kind of pizza she should’ve come home with, that day two years ago, twisting the gold band on his left ring finger, wondering what he wondered almost every night for the last two years: what could have driven a loving wife and mother to slip away into the ether, and become nothing but a ghost.