~ Four long days later ~
He was able to trace her location through her credit card transactions. Friends at the FBI had secured her account and whenever her credit card was used or she made a cell phone call, it was routed through their computers and sent directly to Paul. Now, four long and anguished days later, he was sitting in a rental car in the parking lot of the small hotel where she was staying.
She had brief bouts of serious fright - fearful to open her door to the pizza delivery boy, the Chinese take out service or the maid who came to clean each day. "Just towels, please," she said, not willing to leave the room long enough to have it cleaned, bolting the door and shoving a chair under the knob when she was alone again.
Whenever she turned her cell phone on, there were four or five messages from Paul in her voice mail.
"Puss, my love. Please come home."
"Baby, I need you. I miss you."
"Please don't be afraid. I'm not going to hurt you."
"Where are you? I'll come and get you. Just tell me where."
Where am I? I'm in hell, she thought, lost again in life. I've crossed over the River Styx and I'm in hell. It's lonely here at the edge of despair. There is no saneness, no peace, no tomorrow. There is no us.
The hotel was small, off the beaten path, an hour down the road between home and nowhere. She checked in, parking the car in the back, away from the highway. Paul always insisted they each keep a change of clothes in the trunk of both cars in case they were stuck somewhere. Now she had a pair of jeans, a sweater, windbreaker, socks and shoes.
She looked at the clothes that were his - a pair of khakis, the sweater she gave him their first Christmas and warm winter socks. She fingered the fleece-lined jacket, her eyes filled as she buried her face in it, catching a whiff of his familiar scent. The pain rose again, raw and festering. It sucked her in.
"I need you," she whispered to him in the middle of their first night apart. "I need your arms to hold me. I need you to pull me to you - and out of myself. Help me through this pain - this hurting. Make me whole again the way I am with you. I'm fallen into a chasm of emptiness and I need you to fill me with your love... if you still want me... if you still love me."
Neither slept that night. He lay on his back, fully clothed with arms outstretched since she wasn't there to hold. He swallowed hard, the taste of bile filling his throat, the pain of her absence a living, breathing thing. His body was weary and his heart ached. His soul heard her call him and it withdrew inside itself, torn and grieving.
Sometime in the quiet hours, between daylight and her sanity, she closed her eyes, her face buried in his sweater, her soul lingering in hell. There were no dreams, only visions - raw and wounded parts of her shaking and rocked with pain.
"Why?" she murmured in her sleep. "Why did you do this to me?"
"Because I love you," his heart answered from within her.