Meanwhile Back Home
They had been back home only four days. Joellen had been busy. Changed the locks on all the doors, met with Monika Novotny, gone to the police station and taken out a restraining order on Brent, gotten a new unlisted phone number, explained to Noreen and Jamie what was happening.
“Is Daddy coming back?” Noreen asked.
“Well, yes, he’s coming back. He’ll be seeing you and Jamie. But for now, Daddy and Mommy can’t see each other.”
“Why not?” Jamie asked. “Why can’t you see each other?”
“Because it just will be better if we don’t have any contact with each other until after everything’s settled,” Joellen answered.
“Will we still live here?” asked Noreen.
It went on like that for a while. Joellen tried to answer all their questions, but there were some things she didn’t think it was good to tell them. About the restraining order for one thing. Joellen was sure Noreen remembered seeing Brent hit her that one time. And Jamie had seen her face afterwards. He became sullen and withdrawn after they returned home, spending a lot of time with his friends. Joellen hoped this would work itself out, so she didn’t press him to stay at home. School would keep them busy. And soccer league after school was a blessing. Noreen had her friends, too, and her dance classes. Being in their house gave some normalcy to their routine. They stopped talking about Alva and Marv and his dog after they got back into their own home.
It was a little after eleven in the morning. The kids were at school. Joellen had just started a full washer load of sheets and a bathroom rug that had needed washing even before they had gone to New York.
Joellen was afraid to call North, so she had sent him a note by mail. That morning when she went to get the morning paper out of the box, she found an answer North had written on a piece of church stationery, stuck between sections B and C. She furtively folded the paper, only opening it when she got inside the front door. He wanted to see her. That morning. Before lunch. At the Days Inn. The last room on the row facing the woods in the back. He would not park there but would walk from somewhere else so she shouldn’t be worried if she didn’t see his car. She should wait for him after eleven. He had an hour. He must have left the note for her after the paper had been delivered this morning. It excited her to think he had been that close to her house while she slept. Perhaps one day she could sneak him inside.
When the doorbell rang, Joellen instinctively went to open it, thinking it might be North and wondering what he was thinking coming over here. It was too dangerous. And then she wondered what she would do if it was him. Just before she turned the knob, she hesitated and peeked out the side window next to the door to see who it was.
Brent was standing there, looking down at his shoes, holding a big bunch of flowers. Joellen snapped back instinctively. Brent should have been traveling. He always traveled during the week. She didn’t know what to do. Her car was right outside the house, so he knew she was inside. She brushed her hair away from her face. Her hand shook a little. Her heart started to pump faster. The longer she stood there, the more insecure she felt. She wished she hadn’t dressed. She looked too nice to be staying home and a bit too lavish to be going out shopping or to get the dry cleaning. If only she had worn something else, not these tight pants and fitted pullover with the deep scoop neck. She was aware of the scent of the new perfume she had started using and wondered if Brent would notice it or wonder about it. If she could just get her heart to slow down.