Claire lay back on their bed, staring at the sloppy paintbrush patterns on the ceiling, searching them for Patrick's face. She'd always been able to find it before, but now it was gone. It was so quiet since he had left - no more yelling or tears, no slammed doors, just the sound of her own tossing in bed, the crinkling of the sheets and slight squeak of the mattress springs. Loss and defeat hung in the air, mingling with the peace. There was something else there, now, the edge of an unseen cliff, or an unfathomable expanse of water. A sense of approach, of destiny and unalterable rotation.
Somewhere, Patrick was waiting and looking. For what? For her? No, not for her exactly, but for something that belonged to both of them. Mechanically, Claire began looking for it too. She wandered about the house, piling up notes, letters, to-do lists, receipts and all the other scraps of evidence he'd left behind. She began organizing them by date, hoping that by accounting for all the minutiae of their past life together, she could make sense of all the big things that had gone wrong.
After a few hours, there were eight different piles, but no answers. The food bill had decreased by about half in the last weeks. That made sense. She wondered how long she'd keep getting all his mail, and how much longer things would be addressed to both of them. He hadn't even given her a forwarding address. It was almost as if he had died - he had simply ceased to exist in any part of the world as she knew it. She picked up her wedding and engagement rings off the dresser, and put them back on, watching them settle back onto her fingers where they belonged. Then, she looked back at the piles of separation evidence, and took them back off, twirling them around her pinky finger.
She and Patrick had not spoken in a month, but she still felt bonded to him, through metal and rock. She felt no urge to hide, destroy or pawn the rings, but also felt that she shouldn't pretend to a relationship status that was in the process of being dismantled. Staring at them, she dumped them back and forth between her hands. Eventually, she took out a silver chain from her jewelry box, strung the rings on it, and clasped it on her neck. Naked hands socially signaled her single status, while the truth hung over her heart, bouncing slightly as she moved.
She wanted to know if he really, truly wished they had never met, or if he actually just wished they were incapable of hurting each other. Maybe she would invite him for coffee when he got back from Australia .
As the days wore on, the part of her that wanted to make things right grew stronger. Years of struggle weren't meant to be thrown away, but continued. What if they could simply get off to a fresh start? Reclaim a new experience as their own? She thought about Australia: the sun, the exotic animals, the reefs - the images that had been sold her of a place she'd never seen. "What if I went there, and followed the route we planned? I bet I could catch up with him. He'd be so surprised."
The tears came large and hot. She was alone in a rowboat, in the middle of the ocean, straining desperately, furiously at the oars. As she watched, an enormous catamaran sped away from her, efficiently increasing the distance between them with every glance. THe wake of the larger craft rocked her tiny boat and coated her with cold sea spray. As the water before her grew calm, desperation turned to defeat.
Just a few minutes before, all had been calm and joy. She and Patrick had been going about accomplishing their goal of an ocean rowing expedition. They had nothing with them but their oars, speeding lightly along the rolling surface without hunger or tiredness. The catamaran had crept up unnoticed behind them. As they looked up, expecting to see a cloud covering the sun, four men dropped into the rowboat. Two of them restrained Claire, while the other two seized Patrick, bound his hands and feet, stuffed his mouth with a rag and blindfolded him. Silently, they hoisted him to their companions above. Claire screamed her breath away, but no one, not even her beloved Patrick, showed any sign of response. As soon as Patrick was safely aboard the catamaran, the two men released Claire and nimbly leapt back onto their vessel. Claire cursed and vowed to catch them, but they went, taking Patrick with them.
Claire awoke with nausea and fever, and purchased a one-way ticket to Sydney, leaving that evening.