Ethan found the note ten minutes after he rolled out of
bed that Tuesday, the Tuesday that would change
everything. He came downstairs yawning, scratching his
chest, toâ€¦nothing. Empty space, devoid of wife.
Sutton always began her morning at the table with a bowl
of cereal, a piece of fruit, and a cup of tea and read the
paper, scoffing at the innumerable typosâ€”the paper was
going under, paying for decent copyediting was the least
of their worries. A bowl full of cereal, a glass of milk
and a spoon would be laid out for him, the sports page
folded neatly by his seat. Always. Always.
But this morning, there was no evidence Sutton had been in
the kitchen. No newspaper, no bowl. No wife.
He called for her. There was no answer. He searched
through the house. Her bag was in her office, her
cellphone, her laptop. Her license was stashed in her
small wallet, all her credit cards present and accounted
for, a twenty folded in half shoved behind them.
She must have gone for a run.
He felt a spark of pleasure at the thought. Sutton, once,
had been a health nut. Sheâ€™d run or walked or done yoga
every day, something physical, something to keep her body
moving and in shape. And what a shapeâ€”the woman was a
knockout, willowy and lithe, strong legs and delicate
ankles, tendons tight and gleaming like a thoroughbred. A
body she sculpted to match his own, to fit with him.
Ethan Montclair couldnâ€™t have a dog for a wife, no. He
needed someone he could trot out at cocktail parties who
looked smashing in a little black dress. And not only
looked good, but sounded good. He needed a partner on all
levelsâ€”physical and intellectual. Maybe it was shallow of
him, but he was a good looking man, drew a lot of
attention, and not only did he want his wife to be
stunning, he wanted her to be smart, too. And Sutton fit
He knew they made a powerful, attractive couple. Looks and
brains and success, so much success. That was their thing.
After Dashiell, sheâ€™d bounced back into shape like the
champion racehorse she was, though later, when their world
collapsed, sheâ€™d become tired and bloated and swollen with
medications and depression, and she no longer took any
interest in being beautiful and fit.
That sheâ€™d decided to start running again gave him hope.
So much hope.
Spirits lifted, he went back to the sunny, happy kitchen
and got his own bowl, his own milk. Made a pot of tea,
whistling. Went for the steviaâ€”no sugar for the health-
conscious Montclairs, no, never.
That was when he saw it. Small. White. Lined. Torn from a
spiral bound notebook, a Clairefontaine, Suttonâ€™s favorite
for the smooth, lovely paper.
Thisâ€¦thingâ€¦was incongruous with the rest of their spotless
kitchen. Sutton was above all things a pathological
neatnik. Sheâ€™d never just leave something lying about.
All the happiness fled. He knew. He just knew. Heâ€™d been
all wrong. She hadnâ€™t gone running.
He picked up the note.
Iâ€™m sorry to do this to you, but I need some time away.
Iâ€™ve been unhappy, you know that. This shouldnâ€™t come as a
big surprise. Forgive me for being a coward. Forgive me,
for so many things.
Donâ€™t look for me.
She was gone.
He felt something squeezing in his chest, a pain of sorts,
and realized that his heart had just broken. Heâ€™d always
thought that a stupid, silly term, but now he knew. It
could happen, it was happening. He was being torn in two,
torn to shreds. No wonder there were rites warning against
thisâ€”What therefore God hath joined together, let not man
God was ripping him apart in punishment, and he deserved
it. He deserved it all.
He didnâ€™t cry. There were no tears left for either of them
He put the note down carefully, as if it were a bomb that
might go off with the wrong touch. Went to their bedroom.
Nothing seemed out of place. Her brush, her makeup case,
her toothbrush, all lined up carefully on the marble. Her
suitcase was in the closet.
He went back downstairs to her office, at the back of the
house. Doubled checked.
Her laptop was on her desk.
Her cellphone was in the charger.
Her purse was on the floor next to her chair.
Her wallet inside, the smiling DMV photo that made her
look like a model.
Like a zombie, he moved back to the kitchen. He opened the
refrigerator and got out the milk. Poured cereal in the
bowl. Dropped the stevia into his tea. Sat at the empty
table, stared at the spot where his wifeâ€™s head should
What was he supposed to do now? Where could she be? He ran
through the possibilities, the places she loved,
discarding one after another. Surely he was wrong in his
thinking. Surely sheâ€™d simply run away, to one of her
friends. Thatâ€™s where sheâ€™d gone. Should he call Ivy and
see if Sutton was camped in her kitchen, instead of his?
Should he give her some time, and space, like she asked?
She left without her things, Ethan. Suttonâ€™s lifelines are
her laptop and phone. Itâ€™s her office, her world.
A dawning realization. Sutton hadnâ€™t shaken the
depression, not completely. She was still prone to fits of
melancholy. She might have done something stupid, crazy.
Sheâ€™d tried once before, afterâ€¦Oh, God. Her words. Perhaps
she was telling him exactly what sheâ€™d done.
Iâ€™m a coward. Forgive me. Donâ€™t look for me.
He threw the bowl of cereal across the room.
â€śBloody f**king hell. You selfish, heartless bitch.â€ť