drove into his office parking lot, made a U-turn, and headed back
toward home. He had the same feeling that Janet had whenever they
left homedid someone turn off the coffee pot or lock the
front door. Paul grabbed his cell phone and punched the office
Good morning, Sutter and Sims, the receptionist answered.
How may I direct
Carol, its Paul. Is Brad in?
Hi, Mr. Sutter. Yes, Mr. Sims is with the new client. Where
Carol, please get Brad.
Paul heard the click and waited.
Paul, where in the hell are you. Mr. Jenkins
Do the best you can, Brad. Ive got an emergency at
But you have the proposal. What about the figures?
Ill call later. Entertain him for now. Paul
ended the call.
He stomped the accelerator and sped down the freeway. Tires screeched
as he turned off onto the ramp and down side streets. He slowed
and pulled up in front of their home. He looked around: front
door and garage door closed, but he didnt see any lights
on. He pushed the button and the garage door opened. Janets
Camry was parked in its usual place. He jumped out of his car,
hurried to the back door, turned the handlelocked. He pounded
on the door as he fumbled his key in the lock.
Jan, he yelled, walking into the kitchen. Her Earl
Grey tea and journal were in the same place when hed left
less than an hour ago.
Janet, answer me. Jan. Honey, where are you?
He ran into their bedroom, the bed still unmade. He checked the
bathroom. No Janet. He threw open the closet doors; no clothes
missing that he could tell.
Pauls heart beat faster, like it wanted out of his chest.
His legs shook, but he headed to the stairs. Since the kids had
left home, theyd closed their rooms. He went into Kellys
room. Empty. Next Mikes. Nothing. His hands trembled as
he opened the last door to their guest room.
Janet, dont play games with me. No one answered.
Paul pushed open the closet doorempty, except for a cardboard
Jan, where in the hell are you?
His throat closed. What if someone else is here? He slowed his
pace down the stairs. He moved his eyes side to side; no movement
anywhere. On the last step, he groped for his cell phone. Shithed
left it in the car.
Paul crept to the hall closet, grabbed the handle, and swung the
door open. He ran his hand over winter coats, shoved the hangers
apartno one, nothing. He entered the living room and checked
the front door. Locked.
Janet. His voice sounded unreal to him. Janet,
Janet, Janet. He continued to yell on his way back into
the family room and out the sliding glass door. He stopped. Had
that door been locked? He couldnt remember.
Paul, whats going on? Margaret hollered from
her patio next door. I heard your shouts all through our
Meg, have you seen Janet?
Not at this hour. Hey, what are you doing home?
Meg, I cant find Janet.
Megs face took on a serious look. Hang on Paul, Ill
be right over.
Seconds later he heard the gate click open and shut, and Meg appeared
around the corner.
Okay, now whats this about Janet?
When I left this morning, she sat with her tea and journal
at the kitchen table. But on the way to work, I got this, well,
a feeling that I couldnt shake and came back. No Janet.
Ah-ha, now you know about a womans intuition.
Meg, this is no laughing matter.
Sorry. Lets take another look, and Meg started
toward the patio door. She glanced back. Well, are you coming?
He nodded and they went into the kitchen.
Meg pointed to the cup of tea, Sure looks like she didnt
Mornings, she sips her Earl Grey and writes in her journal.
Shes done this every day of our thirty-five years together.
Well, lets see what she wrote. Maybe that will give
us something to look for.
Paul stretched his arm out and slammed the book shut before Meg
could get to the journal.
No. Thats private. Ive never looked into any
of them and wont start now."
Yee gods, how many journals does she have? Meg asked,
astonished at the idea of Janet writing. Shes never
mentioned any of this.
Just one of her habits, but it wont help find her.
Paul, have you called the kids? Maybe she talked to them,
said something. If it were me, Id start there.
Paul stared at Meg. Why hadnt he thought of that?
You make the calls and Ill walk around a few streets.
Maybe she went for a walk and stopped at a neighbors house.
Paul walked out for his cell phone. He heard Megs footsteps
behind him. Then she walked down the driveway and followed the
sidewalk to her left. Hed call Mike first; hed be
less emotional. He punched in the code.
Hi, Dad. Saw your number on the screen. Whats up?
Mike, have you talked with Mom this morning or yesterday?
Shes not at home.
Paul heard Mikes laughter, and his jaws clenched. Jans
not here, and all Mike can do is laugh, he thought.
Dad, listen to yourself. She probably went for a walk or
to that charity thing. Shes not tied to the house.
Yeah, but her cars here, her teas untouched,
and her journals on the table.
Look, I didnt mean to laugh. Shell be back soon.
Ill call this evening to hear her story.
Paul heard the click. Then he dialed Kellys code. He listened
to the rings and her voice mail. Kelly, its Dad. Call
me on the cell. Need to talk to you. Its important.
Paul walked back into the kitchen and sat at the table. He stared
at the closed journal and shook his head. No, Ill not open
and read it, yet. Paul shuddered.
Did Jan get home? Meg hollered as she walked into
Oh, I thought I heard you talking.
Just to myself, Meg. Any luck?
Nothing. What about Mike and Kelly?
Mike knows nothing, and Kelly didnt answer.
What about her charity committee. Maybe someone picked her
up to work on their next project.
Yeah, could be. Thanks, Meg. Ill think of something,
maybe the police. . .
Hey, give her time to get back home. Try calling someone
on her committee and wait for Kellys call. If you need me,
holler out the back.
Paul nodded and heard the back door close, then silence. He looked
again at the closed journal and ran his fingers over the blue
leather. He opened it to the first page. Janets handwriting
stared back at him: My Daily Thoughts, January 1, 2005. Paul slammed
the book shut for the second time. I cant do it.
He got up and walked over to the small desk that Janet had placed
in the kitchen. He looked around for telephone numbers and her
charity work. After shuffling papers, he located a list of names
and numbers next to the desk telephone. He picked up and dialed
the first number. No answer; the same with the second and third
numbers. Maybe she is at the event, he thought, and his heartbeats
slowed. Ill just wait, he said aloud.
He looked at his watch. Almost noon. He pictured a harried Brad
and went out to get his briefcase. With papers spread over the
small desk, he called the office and Carol connected him to the
About time, Brad answered. Ive covered
the policy and we were going to lunch. Can you meet us?
No, but switch to the speaker and Ill give you the
About thirty minutes later, Paul had finished his proposal. He
put the phone down expecting Janet to walk through the door for
lunch. No Janet, and no call from Kelly. Maybe they went shopping.
Paul put his head down on the small desk. Hed never felt
so drained. Then he remembered the cardboard box in the guest
room and wondered what was in it.
Maybe . . . he raced back up the stairs straight to the closet.
He ripped the tape off the box and stared at all the blue leather
journals in it. He picked up the top one and opened it to the
first page: My Daily Thoughts, January 1, 2004. These must be
all of her old journals, he thought, and picked up the second
book. This one read January 1, 2003. He put it back and took the
first book over to the bed, propped a pillow up against the headboard,
and stretched out on the quilt. He turned to the second page,
I hate this life, he saw scribbled, and screamed.
Paul, Im right here, Janet said, as she laid her journal
on the bed.
Jan, why did you leave? Why do you hate your life?
Paul, look at me, she said, as she pushed the button
on the side of the bed. I didnt leave, but we werent
too sure about you. Do you know where you are?
Paul looked around the small room, as a nurse walked through the
Well, I see youve decided to join us. She began
checking his blood pressure and looked at the monitor. She moved
the drip bag, and Paul felt the needle in his arm.
When the nurse moved to the end of the bed to write on a clipboard,
Paul saw a small table with a cup of tea and the blue leather
journal at the foot of his bed.
Good afternoon." A man in a white coat walked into
the room. "Im Dr. Collins. Lets take a look.
You certainly gave your wife a scare, and Ive never heard
someone talk so much with a high fever and pneumonia.
Mr. Sutter, youve been with us three days, asleep
but talking. The doctor finished his exam. Well
see how you do the next day or so, before I send you home.
The doctor nodded to Janet, and the nurse followed him out of
Janet pulled her chair closer to the bed, reached for her journal
and set her cup of tea on top of it.
What happened, Jan?
You slept later than usual, and I knew you had that new
client. So when I went to get you up, you were moaning, your face,
no, your whole body burned with fever, and you kept saying Why
do you hate this life? I had no idea where that came from.
I called Meg, and together we got you out of the house and into
my car. I drove you to the hospital. Didnt know what else
to do, and youve been here for three days.
You didnt leave?
No. You said some strange things, but I didnt leave,
and she took a sip of her tea.
You werent home, I couldnt find you, and I read
the first page of an old journal and then the second page. Every
page in that journal read the same thingI hate this life.
Paul, its all part of the high fever, the strain on
your body, and Ive never written any words like that. Here
look. She moved her tea to the bedside table, opened her
journal, and held it up for her husband to read.
My Daily Thoughts, January 2005
This is the best life. . .
E. Patterson has been writing since the mid-1980s. She
has published her poetry and fiction in books and online. Shes
a member of The Atlanta Writers Club and Georgia Writers Association.
She has finished her first novel and is working on a second. She
resides in Atlanta, Georgia.
P. E. Patterson