I sat and stared at the manila folder that was placed in front of me. Well, not placed. Mr. Nathan Pitch had actually tossed the founder onto my kitchen counter so hard it not only thumped but then slid to my edge of the table. My chest stopped it from plummeting to the floor. I couldn't move. I looked up at my PI as if he had all the answers I was looking for and maybe he did. He did bring me this founder, after all. There wasn't much more I could want or need.
But I wanted and needed so much more.
For the past week all I did at night was toss and turn like some lunatic at an asylum. My sheets were still in a tangle and my muscles were still sore from all the walking I had been doing instead. Back and forth in my bed room and living room. Hell, even the streets. I couldn't stop walking. Couldn't stop working.
Walking, working. Walking, working. I don't remember the last time I ate a proper meal. Two, three days ago? A week?
I looked back down at the folder and breathed in and out. My fists clenched so hard they started to hurt.
I cleared my throat and loosened my hands. This was ridiculous.
Reaching forward, I opened the file and stared at the top of the large pile that was inside it. For the very first time I noticed how thick the folder was. Almost half an inch. It was all a combination on typed up papers, pictures and some crumbled paper that I didn't bother with just yet. My fingers found their way to the photographs before I even knew what was happening.
They were colored 6' by 8's with a glossy finish. The first picture was of Fi in some sort of cheap looking room. The picture looked like it was taken through a window that was at the same level as hers. She was lying on her bed, looking through a magazine that I couldn't see the cover of. Her brow was furrowed in an endearing way that made me want to smooth it out for her.
The next picture was of her is some sort of market place talking with a woman. The people around her looked foreign, poor and content. There was color all around her in the form of stalls all along a street that was in desperate need of repair and loon curtains of fabric that were draped over the stalls to fashion them. People were carrying baskets on their hips or heads full of fruits. Fi held a large fruit in her hands that looked like it could have been some kind of melon but I wasn't sure. She spoke to the woman with a smile on her face as the woman pointed to the fruit as she looked at the woman who fled me with something close to a mother-like fondness.
My blood boiled as I turned to the next photo. Then the next. Then the next.
They were all pictures of that damn woman in the market place, in what looked like a library and back to what looked to be where she was staying. I didn't know if it was a hotel room or if it was something she bought but then a few pictures later I saw the entire building as the snapshot of her showed her about to walk out of the building, hair tied up in a high, messy bun. Her hands were cradling her elbows as if she here cold though she wore a large looking T shirt and khaki pants just like all the other people in the photo. Maybe it was comfort she craved more than warmth.
She wanted comfort after leaving me here? After calling me at night and telling me about herself and letting me tell her about myself in return? After she wrapped her damn essence around my mind until all I could wonder was if she was safe, where she was, what she was doing?
Comfort, my ass.
She wasn't going to get any of that.
I moved the pictures aside and read over the report that my handy PI had so graciously given me. It included a list of everything she bought, everywhere she went, all the people she spoke to as well as the address of the hotel she was staying at and its number. There was a whole page devoted to the contents of her room and how she cleaned it daily to make sure there were no roaches and God only knew what other bugs around. Another page was devoted to her routine and how she spent her days. My Fi had a habit of doing some of the same things every day with the exception of what stalls she visited in the markets and some of the people she talked to. There were even descriptions of some of those people.
The last page was almost blank except for a few words on the top that made my chest tighten at the same time my fists did.
She was pregnant and bought a baby name book.
That was just fine and peachy, wasn't it? She could go out and buy herself a damn baby book while I sat here, in my kitchen with my goddamn PI with a bottle of Brandy spying on her like some sort of obsessed maniac?
Good for her. Really.
That was what she wanted, wasn't it? A baby to call hers? To have and to own, for richer or for poorer.
No, wait. That was marriage.
What-the-hell-ever. Nobody cared about marriage. Who could possibly care about it when there was a woman in freaking South America who had run away from a man in New York so that she could live out the rest of her days in peace without interference?
Nobody, that's who. I sure as hell didn't.
I gently placed the contents of the folder back into place and lightly closed the top flap. The folder was unmarked. My hands braced at the edges of the table, holding me up, I hung my head low and sighed.
I am so fucked.
I leaned into the table desperately, trying not to fall to the ground with how tired I was. My brain swam with relief that Tavia was safe, even though it was in South America. Swam with rage that she had even considered leaving the country to have her baby. Swam with confidence that she would want for nothing. I would see to that.
Rubbing the back of my neck, I looked up at my PI with tired eyes that I'm sure he saw. I wondered for a moment how I looked to other people. Sure, I know what I saw in the mirror but wasn't the same. Other people had a way of seeing things that the person themselves tended to miss. Like the hollow look in their eyes or the way their souls seemed to be dying on the inside.
Small things like that.
"I already paid you, right?" I didn't bother straightening as I spoke to him. He might as well just get used to me looking like this. This woman was going to drive me insane.
Mr. Nathan Pitch nodded his head along with a "Yes, sir."
Good man. I knew damn well if I had paid him or not. The business man in me, however, demanded that I test him to see if he was at least a little trust worthy. So far, he was proving to be a freaking angel is disguise. How fitting. Angels did their work without being seen. Mr. Nathan Pitch seemed to be doing just that. Who knew, he might even be doing it better.
I nodded at him. "Good. I want you to follow her again. Actually," I leaned back and reached behind me, blindly grabbing for a bar stool that should be somewhere behind me. When I found it, I pulled it under my ass and fell into it like a sack of potatoes.
I leaned my upper body against the table again and sighed. I'm destined to live a life of sighs, it seems.
"Actually," I continued, "I want you to follow her again. I want reports every week. If something big happens, I want it that day. She sneezes; I want to know about it. Is that clear?"
Mr. Nathan Pitch took a moment to look at me as if I were crazy. I probably was. What the hell-I REALLY was. But that's what happens when you go and leave the country when you get knocked up and leave behind a guy that didn't want you to leave in the first place. Shame on you, Tavia Fi Lainie. You really should know better.
"I expect the same payment and free license to work, just as before." He never once moved from his military stance at the other end of my table. Legs braced apart, arms at his sides, posture completely straight, head forward and eyes ahead. The man was a robot.
"Agreed. I want you back in Ecuador as soon as you can physically get there. No exceptions. Unless you're in flames, I expect you to be following her like she's your god damned life line."
He nodded briefly, short and crisp. If I weren't looking right at him, I might have missed it, it was so small.
I looked down at the folder in front of me. I was going to get a lot more reports on Fi in the near future. Should probably invest in a filing cabinet just for her files.
"Now get the hell out of my house. I don't want to see you until you have something else on this Miss. Tavia Lainie."
Another "Yes, sir." Sounded and I heard him leave for the door. Just before the door closed, however, there was a pause.
"Word of advice, sir."
I looked up at him. His body was blocking most of the doorway, he was so tall and built. He was half turned to me, half turned to the hallway, hand on the knob. I raised an eyebrow.
"Get a store room." He slammed the door behind him before I could say thank you or fuck you. Either one seemed fitting.
Eight Years Later.
I really shouldn't have let them get a soccer ball. It was beyond the stupidest thing I have ever done in my life.
Even since I had bought that damn thing two days ago, I hadn't gotten a single moment's rest from the tap-tap sound of it hitting my walls, floors and ceiling.
"Nathan! Bridger! I want that ball out of the house, now!" I yelled down the hall, trying to get attention of my two sons. It was impossible. The next thing I heard were shrieks of laughter as the two identical boys ran down the hall with an older, darker boy behind them. They yelled and hollered in Spanish at one another as they kicked and threw the ball down the hall, narrowly missing my head in the process. I ducked in time for the ball to miss me on the way back as it ricocheted off the wall and bounced back in my direction.
"That's it! De esta case-AHORA!" Out of the house-NOW! I yelled at them all in Spanish. All three boys laughed at me in my attempt to control their ever raging youth and hollered at each other in Spanish on their way out of my small house and outside onto the cobble streets with the rest of the children.
I threw my hands up in the air and grumbled in English as I picked up Nathan's shirt and tossed it into his hamper as I passed the boys room on my way to our only bathroom. Standing before the sink, I looked at myself in the mirror and sighed. Today was going to be another long day with the twins.
After I went to the bathroom and washed my hands, I got ready to head out to work in the local Florist shop that opened up six years ago by four Americans down the street.
Hopefully, my two sons wouldn't kill each other and actually come in for lunch. Seeing as it was their school break, I didn't think it was likely. A mother down the street was watching the children today and it saved me the guilt of not preparing lunch and dinner.
Grabbing an old leather purse that I had bought years ago, I made sure I had my money, identification and my six-inch retractable pocket knife. You never knew what you would run into on the town's streets. Making sure everything was ready again, I walked out the door, praying to God that my sons wouldn't break anything else in the house with that damned soccer ball.