The sketchbook

This continues the story of Agnes and Matilda. It remains untitled. You can catch up with the story on my Fiction page. Much easier than listing them all here. 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.

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Matilda got back to the hotel and dialed Charlie’s cell phone. She was relieved when he answered after the second ring.

“Are you on your way home?” His greeting left a lot to be desired.

“No, but I just got back from talking to my mom’s husband, at her house.” She smiled at the silence from the other end of the phone, “Turns out, Agnes has been missing for six months.”

“You’re kidding. What happened?”

As she rehashed everything she’d learned from Henry, she could feel Charlie hanging on her every word. She missed her best friend. She longed to be in her living room, curled up on her sectional sofa, lying toe-to-toe with Charlie and gossiping while pigging out on pizza and beer. Not for the first time, she missed her life – a life that may not have included her mother, but at least she had her friends.

“So are you going to go through all these sketchbooks?” Charlie asked breathlessly.

“Turns out, she was fairly organized. Each book’s cover has the dates it covers. I took the most recent one with me to start with. It ends just about two months before her disappearance.”

“How are you not tearing through that shit right now?”

“I’m desperate to, Charlie. I just really wanted to talk to you first. Get your opinion. I mean, this is heavy. It’s more than I thought I was getting myself into. What if she was abducted? What if I’m getting myself involved in something dangerous?”

“Mat, this is your life. It’s not an episode of Law and Order, or one of your other cop shows.”

Matilda rolled her eyes, “It’s not my life. It’s hers. And I don’t know anything about her. I don’t know why she left me and my dad, and I don’t know why she left Henry. Could be related, or could be something else.” She paused, “Or maybe she doesn’t want to be found. By any of us.”

“That’s all true, Mat. But you’re the only one who can make the decision. Continue on, or come home. It’s up to you.”

“I know. But what would you do?”

Charlie sighed through the phone, “I can’t say. But with the time and money you’ve put into this search already, could you really walk away and be satisfied with no answers?”

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When Matilda got off the phone with Charlie, she stared at the sketchbook lying on the hotel bed.

She wasn’t ready. So she took a bath. But as she soaked, all she thought about was Agnes. She couldn’t go without answers. She got out of the tub, wrapped a towel around herself and another around her head, and she sat on the edge of the bed. She opened the sketchbook and started flipping through the pages.

Most of the pages were sketches. Each one had an annotation in the bottom left corner. They were all faces, and the annotations said things like “at my favorite coffee shop; woman with four children”, “grocery store; pregnant woman w/ toddler”. They were all women, and they all had children, or were visibly pregnant, according to Agnes.

Towards the middle of the book, a sketch of Henry. No annotation. His eyes looked towards the spine of the sketchbook, pained.

Matilda grew frustrated with more questions coming up, rather than any answers. She tossed the book away and stormed into the bathroom to finish her bath.

The water had grown cold, so she drained and refilled the tub. This time, she poured a cap full of bubble bath into the streaming water and watched a layer of bubbles appear on the surface. When the tub was almost full, she turned off the faucet and sank her body beneath the bubbles, some water spilling over the edge of the tub. She let her head sink beneath the water and then stayed there until he brain begged for air. When she surfaced, she sat there, her fingers and toes pruning, for an hour. The water had grown ice cold by the time she stepped out. She shivered and slipped into the hotel’s bathrobe. She wrapped her hair again and stared at her blue lips in the mirror.

In the mirror’s reflection, she saw the sketchbook lying open on the floor. Both pages were covered with writing.

Matilda picked up the book, gingerly, and began reading.

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Haunted. I cannot escape. Allowed myself to reminisce today and it is fatal. David is dead. He has been dead for many years. I have not been seeing his face on strangers on the street. I have been seeing his ghost. Is he the one who is haunting me? Poor David. Dead, and I never got to – what? Say goodbye? I didn’t say goodbye when I left, why should I have gotten to say goodbye when he left? He left. He left Poor Mattie. Except he didn’t leave. Not like me. He’s nothing like me. His leaving is a tragedy. I am selfish. But what about Poor Mattie? It’s hard to say. I cannot find out more without giving myself away. Poor Mattie. An orphan for so many years. Is that how she has come to define herself? Is she an orphan? What happened to Poor Mattie? I am surrounded by loving mothers, everywhere I go there is love in their faces their eyes their smiles even their frowns. Evidence of what I lost. What I gave away. What I sacrificed. Poor Mattie. Poor Mattie. Now she is haunting me. I saw her face today but it was not her face. Please leave me alone, Poor Mattie.

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