Long Lost Page 10

I understood. And I didn\'t. ’’No offense, but that sounds like a load of self-rationalization.’’

’’It\'s not.’’

’’So where have you been, Terese?’’

’’Hiding.’’

’’From what?’’

She shook her head.

’’So why am I here?’’ I asked. ’’And please don\'t tell me it\'s because you missed me.’’

’’It isn\'t. I mean, I do miss you. You have no idea how much. But you\'re right, that\'s not why I called.’’

’’So?’’

The waiter appeared in a black apron and white shirt. Terese ordered for both of us in fluent French. I don\'t speak a word of French so for all I know she ordered me diaper rash on whole wheat.

’’A week ago I got a call from my ex-husband,’’ she said.

I hadn\'t even known she\'d been married.

’’I hadn\'t spoken to Rick in nine years.’’

’’Nine years,’’ I repeated. ’’That would be right around the time we met.’’

She looked at me.

’’Don\'t be dazzled by my mathematical prowess,’’ I said. ’’Math is one of my hidden talents. I try not to brag.’’

’’You\'re wondering if Rick and I were still married when we ran off to that island,’’ she said.

’’Not really.’’

’’You\'re so damn proper.’’

’’No,’’ I said, thinking again about the soul piercing on that island, ’’I\'m not.’’

’’As I can attest?’’

’’Again,’’ I said, ’’hidden talents I try not to brag.’’

’’Good thing. But let me set your mind at ease. Rick and I weren\'t together when we met.’’

’’So what did ex-husband Rick want?’’

’’He said he was in Paris. He said it was urgent I come.’’

’’To Paris?’’ I asked.

’’No, to Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey. Of course Paris.’’

She closed her eyes. I waited.

’’I\'m sorry. That was uncalled-for.’’

’’Nah, I like you snarky. What else did your ex say?’’

’’He told me to stay at the Hotel d\'Aubusson.’’

’’And?’’

’’And that\'s it.’’

I shifted in the chair. ’’That was the entire phone call? \'Hi, Terese, it\'s Rick, your ex-husband whom you haven\'t spoken to in nearly a decade, come to Paris immediately, and stay at the Hotel d\'Aubusson, and oh, it\'s urgent\'? ’’

’’Something like that.’’

’’You didn\'t ask him why it was so urgent?’’

’’Are you being intentionally dense? Of course I asked.’’

’’And?’’

’’He wouldn\'t tell me. He said he needed to see me in person.’’

’’And you just dropped everything and came?’’

’’Yes.’’

’’After all these years, you just . . .’’ I stopped. ’’Wait a second. You told me you were in hiding.’’

’’Yes.’’

’’Were you hiding from Rick too?’’

’’I was hiding from everyone.’’

’’Where?’’

’’In Angola.’’

Angola? I just let that go for now. ’’So how did Rick find you?’’

The waiter arrived. He brought two cups of coffee and what looked like an open ham and cheese sandwich.

’’They\'re called Croque Monsieurs,’’ she said.

I knew that. Open-face ham and cheese, but with a fancy name.

’’Rick worked with me at CNN,’’ she said. ’’He\'s probably the best investigative reporter in the world, but he hates being on air, so he stays behind the scenes. He tracked me down, I guess.’’

Terese was paler, of course, than she\'d been on that sun-blessed island. The blue eyes had less sparkle, but I could still see the gold ring around each pupil. I have always preferred dark-haired women, but her lighter locks had won me over.

’’Okay,’’ I said. ’’Go on.’’

’’So I did as he asked. I got here four days ago. And I haven\'t heard a word from him.’’

’’You called him?’’

’’I don\'t have a number. Rick was very specific. He told me he\'d contact me when I arrived. So far he hasn\'t.’’

’’And that\'s why you called me?’’

’’Yes,’’ she said. ’’You\'re good at finding people.’’

’’If I\'m so good at finding people, how come I couldn\'t find you?’’

’’Because you didn\'t look that hard.’’

That could be true.

She leaned forward. ’’I was there, remember?’’

’’I do.’’

She didn\'t add the obvious. She had helped me back then, when a life very important to me hung in the balance. Without her, I would have failed.

’’You don\'t even know if your ex is missing,’’ I said.

Terese didn\'t reply.

’’He could\'ve just been looking to exact a little payback. Maybe this is Rick\'s twisted idea of a joke. Or maybe whatever it was, it wasn\'t really that important. Maybe he changed his mind.’’

She just looked at me some more.

’’And if he\'s missing, I\'m not sure how I can help. Yeah, okay, I can do some stuff at home. But we\'re in a foreign country. I don\'t speak a word of the language. There\'s no Win to help me, no Esperanza or Big Cyndi.’’

’’I\'m here. I speak the language.’’

I looked at her. There were tears in her eyes. I had seen her devastated, but I had never seen her look like that. I shook my head.

’’What aren\'t you telling me?’’

She closed her eyes. I waited.

’’His voice,’’ she said.

’’What about it?’’

’’Rick and I started dating my first year of college. We were married for ten years. We worked together nearly every day.’’

’’Okay.’’

’’I know everything about him, his every mood, you know what I mean?’’

’’I guess.’’

’’We\'d spent time in war zones. We discovered torture chambers in the Middle East. In Sierra Leone we saw things no human being should ever see. Rick knew how to keep personal perspective. He was always even, always kept his emotions in check. He hated the hyperbole that naturally came with TV news. So I have heard his voice under every kind of circumstance.’’

Terese closed her eyes again. ’’But I never heard him sound like that.’’

I reached my hand back across the table, but she didn\'t take it.

’’Like what?’’ I said.

’’There was a tremor that had never been there before. I thought . . . I thought maybe he\'d been crying. He was beyond terrified this from a man I never saw remotely scared before. He said he wanted me to be prepared.’’


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