“Quiet!” Suzie snapped at the boys, one hand covering the receiver on the phone. “It’s Drew.”
Gene, Ben, and Lisa stopped arguing over the last slice of pizza and looked to the corner of the kitchen where Suzie had the house line mounted to the wall. She put her back to them and hunched over the phone.
“Where are you? Who is that woman talking in the background?”
“I’m at the office, and that is just Maria.”
It might have been the line, but there was something odd about Drew’s voice. His word seemed a hair slurred. Or maybe his accent was changing. She couldn’t be sure when she still wasn’t used to the sound of his voice over the phone.
He’d been gone for a month now. In that time he’d called maybe half a dozen times. She wanted to talk to him, to hear his voice but…
“Drew, now isn’t really a good time.”
This month had made her painfully aware of how much the two of them had communicated without using words. When he was in front of her, his inclination to be closed mouthed didn’t bother her so much. She could look at his face or her stance and make a good guess at how he was feeling. Now? His silences drove her up the wall.
“I’ll call you back later.” She waited a half a second before hanging up, almost as though hoping he would stop her.
“Wait. Please.” His voice was raw now, too emotional for the Drew she knew and loved. He swallowed so hard she could hear it. Then he whispered. “I need you.”
“Drew?” She gripped the phone so hard, the plastic case creaked in her hands.
The quick rustle of his phone being taken away came from the other end of the line, then a strange woman started talking.
“Listen, chica. You should come out here right now. This man of yours, he’s hurting bad. I’d take care of him for you, but he won’t let me.”
“What?!” Suzie fought down a growing sense of panic.
“He’s fine,” a strange man said, having apparently taken the phone the same way the woman had. “He’s doing his job. That’s what matters.”
“Wait. Who are you? What is going on?”
A loud thud was her only answer. The man must have dropped the phone. A second later, Drew was back. He cleared this throat, then spoke with much more confidence than before, like his old self.
“I’m fine, Suzie. Just wanted to check in. Are you well?”
“Yes, well, it’s been the worst Summer I’ve had in a long time with everything that’s been going on with Ben and Gene. Gene’s father…”
“Suzie, I’m sorry. I have to go. But don’t worry about me. I’m fine. I’m… totally… fine.”
The line went dead. Suzie pulled it away from her ear to stare at the offending contraption as if it could speak for itself.
“Can you believe that,” she said, turning toward the room to share the strange call with the kids.
The kitchen was empty.
Worse, she had a good idea where they had all gone.