I realize that I can’t stay here any longer as your live-in mistress. I need more than that. Please, do not search for me. Sell my car and jewelry and keep whatever money you get as partial payment for the rent that I owe you.
“Where to, lady?”
“You realize I got to charge you out-of-city rates since you’re more than ten miles outside the airport?”
“Yes, I understand.”
“You got it, lady.”
The driver wasn’t chatty, which she appreciated. He dropped her off at the correct terminal and unloaded her suitcase. She paid in him cash, including a modest tip. Luckily, the past six months of living rent-free with Pyotr had given her a fat bank balance. She felt guilty about sponging off him, but now she needed that cash to carry her until she could find a job.
Having never flown before, she carefully read all the signs in the airport before proceeding to the ticket counter. She waited in line for what seemed to be an inordinately long time until she could speak to the attendant herself. After showing her identification, confirming that she was checking just one bag, and answering a few other questions, she began to wonder why she hadn’t just driven to Texas. Oh, yeah, it was a long, long drive through areas that saw real winter.
“Your flight’s on a one-hour delay,” the attendant informed her as she handed Cecily her boarding passes. There were no direct flights from Cleveland to San Antonio. “You won’t have to rush through security.”
Cecily thanked her and made her way to the security line where she realized that there was absolutely no rushing through security. Moving with all the speed of a crippled tortoise, the security line finally cleared her. She put her shoes and coat back on and collected her purse. Reading the overhead signs, she proceeded to the gate where she found a seat and waited.
“May I speak to Cecily?”
“She’s not here today.”
“What do you mean?” He walked to the bedroom and stood in the open doorway. His heart thudded a rapid beat inside his chest.
“She called in sick.”
Pyotr saw the iPad he had given her lying on the nightstand. He rushed over to the dresser and yanked drawers open. His keen eye for detail immediately noticed clothes missing. He jerked the closet door open. More missing clothes.
“Nyet!” he shouted. “O, Cecily, gde ty?”
Emotion demanded that he drop to his knees and weep. Training ordered him to think, damn it, think. On stiff legs, he walked back to the kitchen, figuring that he might as well do something productive—like wash the dishes—while he thought. When he reached the sink, he noticed the note lying flat on the counter beneath two sets of keys. Before reading the note, he realized that Cecily had not been forcibly abducted; she’d left of her accord.
He read the note. Tears brimmed, blurring his vision. Pyotr leaned against the counter.
“Zachem?” he asked as his heart shattered into tiny pieces of pain. Why?
He picked up the keys and dumped them into his pocket. They hit bottom with a clunk that reminded him of the small box he’d carried with him all day, the box that he never got around to giving to Cecily that morning before his clumsy tongue had driven her away and Maksim’s call had pulled him away.
Like an automaton with stiff, jerky movements, Pyotr washed the dishes and wiped down the countertops. Then he sagged and staggered to a chair. Again he pulled his phone from his pocket and dialed.
“Vitaly, she left me.”
“Cecily. She left me.”
Hard boiled, scrambled, over easy, and sunny side up: eggs are the musings of Holly Bargo, the pseudonym for the author.
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