“Your call has been forwarded to an automatic voice mes-”
I hung up. Peter always gives me his phone to check voice mail, and I didn’t want to listen to my own voice later. Besides, I expected to hear his ring tone at any moment. I imagined he was changing Philip’s diaper in the other room or didn’t hear the phone even if he was sitting nearby. I read a few more pages of my lunch break novel before I called again. He didn’t answer, but I hoped that the beep signaling my missed call would be loud enough to catch his attention.
He didn’t call back.
I tried one final time before going back to work. When he didn’t answer, I emailed him a reminder to use his inhaler.
An hour later my cell phone rang, but it wasn’t Peter. When I hung up, I knew that my phone was fully functional. I redialed Peter’s number.
“Your call has been forwarded -”
Formatting name tags was a mindless task, so my brain was free to speculate on why Peter hadn’t called. Maybe his phone was broken. Maybe he was stuck on the phone with his sister. Maybe he didn’t want to interrupt me at work.
Maybe something was wrong.
I called once more. No answer. I admitted to a coworker that I was concerned.
“I think I should go home,” I said.
“Go,” she said. “Everything is under control here.”
I redialed as I walked to my car. Voice mail again. I drove and worried. Is he outside? Is the phone battery dead? Is he punishing me? I allowed twenty minutes to pass before I called again. No answer. I waited ten minutes more.
I drove faster.
Every true crime series binge-watched over the weekend replayed in my head: grieving widows and bereft best friends describing unanswered phone calls. I dismissed the idea that Peter and Philip had fallen victim to some fiend as overactive imagination. Yet, I thought of the very real possibility that Peter had become incapacitated by natural causes and that Philip could not let anyone know.
A few miles away I resisted the compulsion to dial once more. I would know the truth soon enough.
It’s still standing, I thought when I spotted our house. The newspaper that I had forgotten to pick up when I walked the dog in the morning still lay in the driveway though.
I pulled into the garage, parked beside Peter’s car, and raced into the house. Roscoe did not bark to announce my arrival. I only heard the television.
At the top of the stairs, I surveyed the scene: the dog sprawled asleep on the floor, Philip coloring at his desk, and Peter reclining on the couch. The only violence was on the television screen that Peter was watching.
“You’re home early,” Peter remarked without looking away from a forensics expert detailing how blood spatter evidence solved a case.
“I’ve been calling you all afternoon!” I explained.
“Oh. I left my phone in my car,” Peter said.
At that moment, our house almost became the scene of a future true crime show.
Trembling from either adrenalin, relief, or rage, I chastised Peter: “I thought something was wrong!”
The original draft of this story was submitted to the yeah write summer series bronze lounge for critique. Thanks to everyone who provided feedback.