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Up and Gone

He woke up early, and called his wife. Voice mail. Leaving a message to, "Call me back when you and junior get a minute. I'm headed to the airport. Miss you. Love you!" He shrugged, figured, maybe she was busy.

Soon he checked out of the hotel room paid for by his employer and packed up; A quick midweek business trip deprived him of the quality family time he craved. With his son being just shy of eighteen months old, every day was a new milestone that couldn't be missed. On the way, he called his wife again. Voice mail.

Now, shuffling through the security line at the airport, he called his wife again. It went to voice mail again. He was a little concerned now, wondering what could have caused her and his son to be radio silent for over two days. Rather than ask, figuring she was busy being a mom, he decided to send a simple message instead: "almost home! Can't wait to see our boy. Love you!"

Hours later, pulling into the driveway is when he realized, she'd up and gone. The last seventy-two hours of his life replayed in his mind with a new sense of realization. His missed calls; his unanswered text messages; his ignored requests for updates. These weren't symptoms of a busy mom. These were symptoms of a runaway spouse.

The house looked relatively the same. Junior's room was a bit ransacked and jumbled, clearly painting a picture of his wife searching for odds and ends to fill an a bag. He was left standing in his son's room baffled at why he was alone; what he had done; where they went.

His next voice mail was solemn but calm, "Hey, I'm home... But I see you're not here. Where are you guys? Are you coming home?" He wasn't sure how long he stood there, staring blankly at his son's open dresser drawers, but it was his phone ringing that brought him back from his darkest most worried thoughts: They're alive! She is calling! They're okay!

Instead, caller ID flashed his sister-in-law's name across the screen. He answered anyways, wondering what she knew, even if she was thousands of miles away. "Hello?"

The call's content was almost as unexpected as the caller; his sister-in-law unleashed a tidal-wave of information and emotion. His wife and son where there, across the country, claiming to have moved, standing at his sister-in-law's doorstep. "She isn't well; I'm not sure what has her spooked. What happened?"
He wracked his brain for any bit of information to share. He couldn't even remember the last time they fought, or even raised their voices- well before junior was born. She seemed tired a lot more, less excited for the day; quiet. He'd assumed her change in energy was a result of their son being a ball of energy and sound and exuberance, and the fact that he'd had to go back to work over a year ago to make ends meet. Did she just need a break? Was it something more?
"She is checking into a hospital. She needs help. She needs to see someone. She says she wants to hurt herself."

Those words echoed in his ears. In the distance he heard himself ask what he could do, what they needed from him. "Nothing," was the response he heard from miles away.

"But what about my son? Where is he? I will come get him, this must be so scary." His words were met with silence. His sister-in-law stopped talking to him.

He called the hospital where his wife was at, and was met with a brick wall. He called the local police station, and was met with resistence. He called his sister-in-law, and was told to be patient; that his son was fine with his aunt he'd only met once in his very short life.

He finally called a lawyer. And, after some time, some paper work and some money, the lawyer got an Order. Suddenly those brick walls and resistence crumbled. On the next plane across the country, he held on to a few pieces of paper with a judge's signature that changed everything. A few short hours later, slowed down only by the airports congestion and traffic, his son was in his arms happily babbling away.

They had a long road ahead of them; uncertainty about what was next. But somehow a piece of paper provided a little bit of certainty during these confusing times. For now, or perhaps forever, his son was in his custody and care. They'd be okay.

Jess Lill

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