This continues the story of Agnes and Matilda. It remains untitled. This would come after Agnes, Where is Mama? and David’s Accident. The later parts of the story include At the Airport, The Woman in the Photograph and Back at Henry’s House. Constructive criticism is always appreciated. Especially since I’m not going back to previous sections and I’m sure there will be continuity errors. What can I say? It’s a first draft.
Agnes watched out the kitchen window as she washed the dishes. Henry always teased her about spacing out, but it was the only way she could stand the boredom of domestic chores. A bluebird had started making it’s nest on the branch nearest her window. She found it peaceful to watch the bird fly away, return with bits of twig or string, and fashion a home out of nothing.
She watched the bird fly off again, and saw the mailman driving off. She abandoned the dishes, carelessly wiping her hands on her jeans.
Barefoot, she practically ran down the long driveway to the mailbox. She pulled the door down with a dramatic flourish. She took the pile of letters, bills, ads and magazines out and danced herself back to the house.
At the desk Henry had bought for their second anniversary, she sat down and sorted the mail into piles. Two envelopes addressed to Mr. and Mrs. X, bills for Henry to deal with, her new interior design magazine, and a postcard with a picture of a sunny beach on it. She always wanted to start with her magazines first, but she started with the envelopes. The first one was a credit card offer, which she immediately tossed. The other was a wedding invitation. She didn’t recognize the first names, but the man had Henry’s last name. She added it to the bottom of the pile of bills so Henry would find it.
The picture on the postcard suddenly grabbed her attention. She recognized that beach. A chill ran down her spine and she felt a prickle on the back of her neck. She whipped her head around to the window of the kitchen. She didn’t see anything besides the tree branch and a tiny bit of blue sky. The prickle came again. She was sure somebody was watching her from that window.
Agnes grabbed the postcard and ran upstairs to the bedroom. She went into the walk-in closet that was the size of her childhood home and shut the door behind her. She flipped the light on and sat with her back against the door. Just in case.
She looked at the picture-side of the postcard again.
She knew it wasn’t just a fifty-cent postcard you could buy at any souvenir stand. It was a photo that somebody had taken. It was taken from the patio she’d spent many evenings on, facing the ocean. You could see a bit of land in the distance. The sand behind the house you couldn’t see in the photo was empty of people. She touched the photo, feeling the glossy texture that confirmed it was a photograph, not a commercially manufactured postcard.
With a shaky hand, she turned the card over and read what was written on the back.
When Henry got home that evening, the first thing he noticed was that the front door was locked. He thought it strange, since she spent most of her days in the house. If she was home, she left the front door unlocked. Sometimes she left both the doors in the house open, to allow fresh air to flow through the house.
When he got into the house, he tossed his keys on the table by the front door. He had already assumed Agnes wasn’t home, but then he noticed her running shoes were not under the table like usual. Maybe she’d gone for a run.
His stomach grumbled and he suddenly regretting having that early lunch with his accountant. He went to the kitchen to make himself a sandwich while he waited for Agnes to get home.
Except they were out of paper towels. So he went to grab a clean plate from the dish dryer and noticed the sink still had dirty dishes in it. He was confused. Agnes had never left the dishes half done. Sometimes she left a sink full of dishes for a week, and that was fine. But this looked like she’d been in the middle of doing the dishes and then just stopped.
Henry abandoned his idea for a sandwich and headed into the living room. Nothing out of place. No Agnes. He ventured around the first floor and saw nothing out of the ordinary. So he headed upstairs.
The bedroom looked just like it had when he’d left that morning, except the bed was made. Which Agnes did after she woke up from time to time.
The light in the closet was on, but still he found nothing out of place.
He wandered around the house, opening every door and finding nothing out of the ordinary. But still, something scratched at him. Something was not right. He just couldn’t put his thumb on it.
He passed by her desk and saw the neatly stacked mail piles. He shuffled through the bills, read the invitation to his cousin’s wedding, even flipped through Agnes’ new magazine. He tossed them all back on the desk, disrupting the neat piles they’d been in but not really noticing.
He started to walk away from the desk to the garage, when he realized that something was out of place. Something was missing. He started at her desk. What was it? He never paid much attention to her desk. It was her place to do her writing, go through the mail, read books, sketch…
He shuffled through everything on the desk, but he knew what was missing.
Agnes’ sketchbook wasn’t on the desk.
It wasn’t on the entryway table. It wasn’t on the vanity in the bedroom. It wasn’t on the kitchen counter.
None of the usual places.
If she’d gone for a run, there was no way she’d taken her book with her.
Henry collapsed onto the couch and considered driving around the neighborhood. He knew her favorite places to run. He could check them out, look for her.
But he just shook his head. That just seemed ridiculous. There was no reason to think she was missing, anyway. Only a missing pair of shoes and a sketchbook? Hardly grounds to file a missing persons report.
And so, he waited. He made himself a sandwich, grabbed a beer from the fridge, and sank himself into his recliner to watch TV. Surely she’d be home soon.