Luke left for work while Josie was still asleep but he had, at least, left some coffee on for her. Leaning against her kitchen counter, sipping it slowly, she noticed that all of the chairs had been pushed beneath the kitchen table. That the stack of mail she’d been riffling through yesterday had been piled neatly on top of the Blackwell file, which had been placed on her closed laptop. Everything in an orderly pyramid right next to the flowers he had brought her, the water topped up.
She knew she should be happy. Ray had driven her crazy with his perpetual messiness, but this irked her in a different way. This was her house. Her sanctuary. Her mess. Luke didn’t get it. Sometimes he just didn’t get her.
With a sigh, she retrieved a large plastic bin from her garage and pulled out an old photo album to see if she could find the rock formation Ginger had mentioned. By evening, nearly every surface in her spotless kitchen was covered with photos of her and Ray. The earliest one had been taken when they were almost ten years old. They were on his porch. Ray’s mother had caught them laughing and snapped the picture. That was when Ray’s family lived on the other side of the wooded area behind Josie’s trailer park. Before his dad left. They’d spent countless hours together exploring the forest but mostly hiding from their parents and avoiding their homes.
The next flurry of pictures were from high school. The two of them were always pressed against one another, Ray’s arm slung across her shoulders and Josie turned toward him, her face looking up toward his. The memory of those years stung now. Never could Josie have imagined that Ray would hurt her like he did.
Josie found a photo
of the two of them the day they’d made settlement on their house.
Their faces glowed.
They looked like two
people deeply and wildly in love. They were meant for one another. She choked back tears as she snapped the album shut. That nagging voice in the back of her head asked for the thousandth time if she had been too harsh on Ray. She went over that awful night again in her memory and then the night she’d caught him with Misty. No, she had done the right thing. She might have forgiven his infidelity eventually, but that night with Dusty he had broken the most sacred kind of trust between them, the kind she could never forgive.
With a sigh, she took a second look through the pile of photos she had made of the two of them near the various rock formations in and around Denton, which had been taken by friends. She found every other formation in the city, it seemed, except the Standing Man. Had she imagined it? Why did Ginger’s description sound so familiar to her? She tried calling Lisette both to check on her and to find out if she remembered the Standing Man, but the call went right to voicemail. She left a brief, cheery message asking her grandmother to call back.
Luke called just before nine, interrupting her mental catalog of her life and which part of it matched up with which rock formation. “What are you doing tomorrow?”
She laughed. “Gee, I don’t know. Let me check my calendar. Oh, that’s right, I’m doing nothing. Why? What’s up?”
“My contact in the lab? She can meet you tomorrow at one. I figure if you leave around nine, you could get to Greensburg in time. If you feel like making the drive. It’s almost four hours.”
“I can’t talk to her over the phone?” Josie asked.
“No, she wants to meet face to face. That was non-negotiable.” “Oh. Well, okay, I can make the drive. Are you coming with me?”
“I can’t. Gotta work. I’ll text you the address of the lab. There’s a public park a few blocks away from it. You can’t miss it. She’ll meet you there. I know it’s a long drive, but if you want the Blackwell results, this is the only way to get them. I’m already doing way more than I should over this, Josie.”
There was no sternness in his voice, just a matter-of-fact reminder that he was bending rules to get her what she was asking for. “I know,” she said quickly. “I’ll go see her. Thank you. I really appreciate this.” From the depths of the mountains of photos and photo albums on her table, she fished a pen. “What’s her name?”
“Denise Poole. I’ll text you the other information. I have to get back to work. I just picked up an extra shift.”
He said the name so quickly, she
barely heard it. “Denise Poole?” she
confirmed, scribbling the name down.
“Yeah,” he said, sounding uncomfortable. “She was my girlfriend.
Look, I really have to go.”
“You didn’t tell me you had a girlfriend when you worked in Greensburg,” she blurted.
“So?” he said. “What difference does it make? We broke up years ago.
I mean, it’s not like we’re still married.” “Ouch,” she said.
“I’m sorry,” he said, without sounding it. “Listen, we’ll talk tomorrow, okay? Gotta go.”
She stared at the phone after he hung up. That stung. He was right, it wasn’t a big deal that he and Denise Poole had dated before; obviously, Josie knew she wasn’t his first. But it did bother her that he’d never mentioned her before. She’d talked about hers, but she didn’t have much to tell. It was always Ray.
She called Lisette again as she tried to recall how long he’d been stationed in Greensburg for. The call went to voicemail again. Josie left another voicemail in a voice that sounded much too cheery to be believed. She tried again a little later. When she got Lisette’s voicemail for the third time, she called the nurse’s station.
“She’s been really depressed,” one of the nurses told Josie. “You know, since Sherri died. She still gets up for meals, but other than that, she’s been in bed.”
“Oh,” Josie puzzled. “I didn’t realize she was close to Sherri.”
“I don’t think she was, actually,” the nurse mused. “But for some reason, the whole thing hit her really hard. It hit a lot of us hard.”
“I know,” Josie said. “Look, something has come up and I can’t get over there tomorrow. Please, talk to her though. Tell her to call me.”