The Long Lingering Night
“So, your answer is, no. You won’t go?”
“Hey, you can go. You don’t need me to go.”
“You said you would go, Charlie.”
“C’mon, Beth, Sweetheart, I’m working here on the laptop, and the final edit is going really well right now. It’s selfish, I know, but I’ll make it up to you. “
“Okay, I’ll go alone. This is the last night ‘The Sting’ is in town and I’m not going to miss them.”
“Good. I don’t want you to miss them, though I wish you would get Carol or someone to go with you.”
“No, I’m going alone. Go ahead, work on your book. I know it’s important to you.” Beth leaned down and gave Charlie a kiss. “See you later.”
“So, you’re not mad?”
“No, not mad. Love you, Charlie.” Beth yelled as she exited the front door.
“Love you, too. Enjoy,” Charlie yelled back to the closing door, immediately retreating back into his laptop and his final draft.
Having lost all track of time Charlie looked in the lower right-hand corner of his laptop screen and saw the time was 1:14 AM.
He worked six straight hours without a potty-break, without food or drink, all evening, and, now he sat smiling. He finished the final draft of his book, and the ‘dream channel’ began in his head, those wonderfully wild thoughts of acclaim and 5-Star Reviews…
He was so wrapped up in his accomplishment, he forgot Beth.
“Beth,” he yelled loudly, and not a response. Ah, she slipped in, saw him lost in his work and went to bed.
He rose from his swivel desk chair, stretched, and went to the bedroom.
Bed made. No Beth.
Hmmm. The concert would be over by now.
There came a quick stab of alarm and shame. He let Beth go to a concert by herself. Concerts were rowdy, always ultra-loud, with lots of booze and dope being consumed.
Oh, Christ, what kind of man was he? Letting his wife go into the night alone without him? How could he do that to her? His ‘writing’ was more important than his wife? You are a miserable sap!
Okay, stop with the self-recriminations!
What the hell was he to do?
Wake her up at 1:30 in the AM?
Well, damn, He had to do something! Yes, call Carol.
Carol’s phone rang, Charlie was counting the rings, and, on the ninth, he was about to hang up when a gruff and sleepy voice answered.
“Oh, Leonard, I didn’t know you were back from your business trip, sorry to wake you…”
“What the hell do you want this time of night, Charlie, for Christ’s sake?”
“Is Carol with you?”
“What the hell kind of question is that at 1:33 in the morning?”
“I’m really sorry, Leonard, but, dammit, Beth isn’t home from the concert, and I’m worried about her. Did Carol go with her?”
Now, with more concern for his friend, “No, she’s here beside me in bed. Hey, Charlie, Beth probably met a lady friend and she’s having after-concert drink. Can’t believe you let her go alone, Charlie!”
“Believe it, Leonard, I’m a bastard… And, no, she wouldn’t do that, Leonard. She wouldn’t stop for drinks. Beth would know I’d be worried.”
“Why didn’t you go with her, Charlie. I thought that was your plan.”
“Well, it was, Leonard, but I wanted to wrap up the final draft of my book.”
“I’m feeling your pain, Charlie, but, damn, you should have gone with her.”
“I know. Oh, how I know!”
“Check hospitals, Charlie. Check in with the police, but they’ll probably tell you they have to wait 48-hours before they can do anything. I’m sorry, Pal, that’s all I got. If anything occurs to me. I’ll call you. Carol’s awake now wanting to know what’s going on. Get back to us when you find out something, Charlie.”
The two friends disconnected.
For the next few hours, Charlie called hospitals, police stations in all jurisdictions in the metro area of Phoenix. Some he called twice.
He was now crying at intervals, beside himself for being such an idiot to let Beth go alone to the concert. He could do nothing but wait … Wait for what?
“Oh, God!” the tears came again.
He was totally lost, his mind blank but sending ugly themes of what might have happened. He tried to be rid of them by walking, making more coffee, drinking more coffee, and his pain was joined by a bone weariness. He was like a man drunk, drugged, without the power of any more thought.
The book. The damned book! His inveterate, his incorrigible addiction to writing had caused him to lose his wife, if not forever, for this time, for this agonizing time…
Something about the book. Something in the book about one of the women characters. What was it? Come on, man, you wrote the damned book! What is it?
Then, it came to him, softly at first, then sharply like a razor slice of beard. But, Beth? Not Beth! No, that could not be the answer. Beth would not do that.
He rose from his swivel chair, went to the garage. The car was parked in the garage. What the hell?
He went back into the house, scratched his head, went to the guest bedroom.
There, the covers pulled snugly up to her chin, lay his sleeping beauty!
Charlie had never experienced a happier moment in his life. His love, his wife was safe from harm.
He smiled, removed his clothes, tossed them on the stuffed chair in the corner, and slipped into bed with his no longer missing Beth.
He wrapped his arms around her, pulled her gently to him, kissed her with softness she could not resist.
They lingered there through their love-making, through the deep sighs of love and oneness…
Just before they faded and fell into their night’s long slumber, he smiled and said: “You know, you might have broken some copyright laws tonight! The very idea, using one of my literary characters as an object lesson for your husband.”
“Oh, be quiet, my darling, and go to sleep.!”
Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood
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