As continued from Part 5
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
The bus exited Interstate 278, taking Vanderbilt Ave. Then it stopped for two women in the first bus stop. I concluded they were nurses since they were in nurse’s uniform. One of them made me sit up and gaze at them until they blushed. She wore a Dolce and Gabbana perfume, Grace’s favorite. They paid and headed to the seat in front of mine.
I contemplated changing seats, not because of their gossip about the doctor who slept with interns, but due to the deodorant that made me see, feel and hear Grace in her red evening gown and orange high heels strolling with me to a dinner organized by the Bloggers Association in Los Angeles. We hit two birds with one stone, because the trip was both business and leisure. That’s what encouraged us to fly across the country really.
After the glamorous dinner I was surprised that Grace had organized a surprise birthday party with the hotel in the dining room. It was a surprise indeed since I had even forgotten it was my birthday. They sang for me and I blew the candles. We enjoyed the cakes with everyone in the room. It was a lovely night. I loved it. I loved the birthday. I loved my wife the more. Fresh love sprung up from the innermost depths of my heart. Surprises have got something about them. They make you feel vital and loved.
One of the gossiping nurses took out her Samsung tablet. She tapped its screen several times and Grace’s face showed up. Grace! My eyes almost dropped. I almost cried. I almost grabbed her tablet and yelled why she had my love’s photo. It felt odd to see her photo posted everywhere. You just feel like your private life has switched into a public property like the roads we drive on. When Grace posed in front of our house, she and I had no idea that that broad smile perfected by her dimples would be seen by millions all over the country and beyond. We both thought it was for our private collection, not a public image nor an item in an investigation file.
There were three faces of missing women on the New York Times app. Grace was in the middle. She tapped on Grace’s photo. Another page opened.
“You know her?” The nurse closer to the isle asked.
“Hmmmm, yes. In a way,” the nurse close to the window said.
My eyes bulged. It felt uncomfortable hearing them contemplating making my wife a new topic of their gossip. It’s always scary to hear strangers talk about your private life. What if they said Grace wasn’t missing, but ran away with a millionaire from LA? Wouldn’t I explode in the bus?
“About a year or two ago she had her husband admitted in our section.” She said. “Oh she was a sweet lady. At times she would bring us cakes when she had come to check him.”
I sighed and realized I had suspended breathing.
“Wow! Cakes, girl. You’re making me hungry right now. The husband. He survived or died?”
I almost said ‘I’m alive’ before she said, “He survived, but I don’t know how – the guy was shoot in the head.”
“I guess he lost his touch though.”
They giggled, “The way you say it is funny. He didn’t lose his mind. He lost part of it.”
My heart hammered my chest harder. How could qualified nurses who knew ethics discuss my life, my health so cheaply as if I was a stray dog who mattered to nobody? I mattered to Grace and my daughter. I mattered to my mom and relatives.
She laughed. “Girl, just say the man is crazy, period. There is nothing like being half mad. It’s either you are sane or insane.”
If I had no self control I would slap her and smash the tablet on the bus floor.
“He ain’t crazy, he developed some type of amnesia. I can’t remember which type. And he was lucky, you know. Initially Dr. Harris said he will never regain his mind. But somehow he did.”
I shook my head. I sweated a bit even though the weather was still chili.
“Amnesia. Some of those people are dangerous, girl. Now I’m beginning to think he killed this pretty lady right here. He killed his wife and forgot he did it.”
Anger, fear and confusion cut through me. The gossip brought back the thought I hated and aborted. But I was sure – I wouldn’t kill Grace for any reason.
They scrolled down the story and saw the plea by the police. At the bottom there was my photo. I was terrified see my face also displayed in public like that.
“This is him.”
I stopped breathing.
“Girl I told you – this guy killed her. Look at his eyes.”
I shook my head and resumed breathing. I thought of changing seats, but at the same time I wanted to hear more about Grace and me.
“Stop it, Heidi. He looks cute to me.”
Both of them laughed whilst I shook my head again.
“I didn’t say he is ugly. I said he looks scary somehow. Look at the eyes.”
The one who sat closer to the window accidentally dropped her eyeglass case as the bus did a sharp turn. It rolled to my feet. I bent to take it for her. When I rose and handed it to her, our eyes met. Her eyes bulged as her forehead shrunk. She turned quickly and pressed her cheek against the window. She couldn’t even say ‘thank you’ to me.
The one closer to the isle said, “You must spread the story at work. You may never know who will see her and call the police. That’s if this weird husband didn’t kill her.”
The one closer to the window didn’t respond. Her friend tapped her on the thigh, “I’m boring you now?”
She didn’t respond but pressed herself on the window much more firmly, wishing it could swallow her.
The other one shook her head. “Just like that, you have switched to your stupid moods?” Then for whatever reason she turned and looked back. Our eyes met. Her eyes bulged and she quickly faced the front and froze.
I felt relief when I got my revenge at last. Even my heart slowed down. I had thought I would make them see me when I drop at Clinton Hill, but that was much better. The next few minutes felt like days to them. And the few miles like thousands of miles. And I was also determined to make it tough for them by not talking it over with them. They had to be punished by their own hearts and minds. Not that I believed in revenge – I hated gossip. I was glad they got a tough lesson.
When I rose and walked to the door, they must have jumped and celebrated behind me.
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I touched my wooded gate. I saw a lady at the veranda in brown boots, grey long skirt, zebra coat and a brown scarf. I stopped breathing. “Grace.” I almost ran like a child seeing dad and mom come home.
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