In Hiding

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Rhonda stood at the edge of a prim, neatly trimmed lawn. Watched the man who lived there go outside at precisely 7:45 a.m. to retrieve his copy of the Orange County Register. Gazed at him as if from a distance while he peered in her direction from only five feet away with unseeing eyes, holding a newspaper she knew he would never read.

It had been seven years since she left her husband to go into hiding, since she donned the glamour of invisibility to protect a dangerous secret. Seven years, and the loss still hurt, still burned deep inside her chest—a merciless, unquenchable fire that only intensified with time.

“I love you,” she whispered. The air in her lungs rattled as she choked back a sob.

The people she was hiding from would do whatever it took to steal her secret. She couldn’t let him be a part of that.

And yet…

Even now, seven years after her disappearance, he still hadn’t remarried, still hadn’t removed the gold wedding ring from his finger.

She could go to him now. She could explain what had happened and why she’d had to leave. She could tell him she still loved him, tell him she was sorry and that she would never leave again.

So many ifs and coulds. So many missed opportunities. Why hadn’t she returned? He would have wanted to share this burden with her. He would have risked his life if it meant remaining a part of hers. So why the hell had she not gone back already?

Why the hell not?

Hope kindled in her chest, momentarily smothering the fire that had burned there these past seven years. She would charge up the concrete walk, knock on the door, and when her faithful, loyal husband answered, she would let the invisible barrier fall from her figure like rain and take him into her arms as she had so long ago.

*               *               *

When Sam opened the door, there was no one there.

“Hello?”

He scanned the porch, the mailbox, the street at the end of the walk.

Alone.

Just some kids playing a prank, he thought, yet something stirred deep inside, something he hadn’t felt since Rhonda disappeared.

He hesitated a moment longer, then receded back into the shadows, closing the door behind him.

He didn’t see the woman fleeing down the street, though she’d been standing right in front of him.

Author: Jeff Coleman

Jeff Coleman is a writer who finds himself drawn to the dark and the mysterious, and to all the extraordinary things that regularly hide in the shadow of ordinary life.

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