“Roland, where are you? I’m at the airport. I’ll be home in forty minutes. Call me.”
Patrick was in Mexico City researching the Mexican Revolution for his new book. Two weeks into the trip, Roland stopped returning his calls.
The couple had just moved to Atlanta from L.A. after Roland accepted the assistant director position at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art.
Patrick called Roland’s assistant from the taxi. Lourdes told him that Roland took an emergency leave ten days ago.
As he arrived at home, Patrick noticed the gardener replanted the flower bed and Roland’s ’62 Volvo P1800 was parked in the driveway. Patrick paid the taxi and ran to the front door expecting to hear the dogs, but even inside, the house was silent.
Patrick pulled out his cell phone to call their friend Lynn, when he saw someone moving in the backyard through the rear window. Patrick ran to the back door, flung it open and shouted, “Roland, is that you?” Patrick ran outside and around the patio furniture trying not to fall into the pool, again. Roland teased him tenderly each time he took an unexpected dip.
The figure entered the small grove of willow trees beyond the coy pond. Patrick followed. It looked like someone was sitting on the small bench, but as Patrick approached, he was alone. He sat down, in tears, trying to catch his breath when something hidden deep in the grass sparkled in the early evening sunlight. He leaned over and picked it up. It was Roly’s ring.
“Where are you?” Patrick cried under his breath.
Back inside, the fruit on the kitchen table was dotted with small black flies. Patrick ran to the bedroom. Roly’s clothes were laid out on the bed and his Tuscany cologne was left open on the bathroom sink. Roly’s suitcase still sat on the top shelf of the closet.
Patrick turned and ran down the hallway, checking every room. As he approached the basement door, Patrick saw someone sitting in the library. It was Roly. He tripped on the hallway carpet and fell to the floor.
Roland smiled as he stood up and walked towards Patrick. The wooden floor was silent under his heavy footsteps. Roly reached out and pulled him up by his arm.
The last rays of light stepped away from the window as the grandfather clock chimed seven.
“Where have you been? Why didn’t you answer?” Roland put his finger on Patrick’s lips.
“Cállate,” Roland answered as he pulled his partner closer, kissed his ear and whispered, “Siempre te amaré,” and with the fading sunlight, he was gone.
The ring fell from Patrick’s hand and rolled into the fireplace. He collapsed into the Wingback chair as the scent of Tuscany faded into the night.