Thirty-One and a Half RegretsBy: Denise Grover Swank
“Bruce Wayne hasn’t been feeling well, either. He says it’s just a bad cold, but he’s missed three days of work, which means he’s been sick even longer because today is Tuesday and he doesn’t work on the weekends. I’m really worried about him. And what’s even weirder is David was up before seven this morning. He called me to tell me that Bruce Wayne wouldn’t be in.”
“That pothead was up before the sun rose?”
“Well…it was after the sun rose, but obviously much earlier than he usually gets up. According to David, Bruce Wayne was up coughing all night, but he refuses to go to the doctor because he doesn’t have insurance.”
“Oh, dear. I can see why you’re worried.”
“Maybe I should check on him myself. I can bring him some chicken soup so I don’t look so obvious. He hates attention.”
“That’s a great idea.”
“And if he’s really sick, maybe I’ll kidnap him and take him to the doctor myself, like it or not.”
“Well, if anyone can pull it off it’s you. You have an influence over that man that no else seems to have. It’s a good thing you use it for good instead of evil.”
I laughed, but I could see how easy it would be for someone Bruce Wayne trusted to control him. I was just glad he was trying so hard to stick to the straight and narrow path.
After ordering Bruce Wayne’s soup to go, along with a slice of apple pie, I said goodbye to Neely Kate and headed over to his house.
Bruce Wayne and David lived in a rental house in an older part of town. The first time I saw their house, the paint was peeling off the siding and the yard was overgrown. But when I stopped by again after Bruce Wayne started working for me, the bushes had been trimmed and all the weeds pulled out. Bruce Wayne had begun taking pride in his work, his life. I felt lucky to be a part of his transformation.
I wondered if Joe had felt the same about me?
The thought shot a stab of pain through my chest, but I took a deep breath and walked toward the front door. Joe was in my past. It was time to let him go.
I knocked and waited for someone to answer. After about ten seconds, I knocked again and called out, “Bruce Wayne, it’s Rose. I brought you some chicken noodle soup and a piece of apple pie. It’s from Merilee’s. Your favorite.”
When he didn’t answer, I tried the door knob, surprised to find it unlocked. Pushing the door open, I looked around the tiny living room. “Bruce Wayne?”
I stepped inside, leaving the door cracked behind me. The living room was messy; the secondhand furniture had seen better days. I looked around the corner and saw dishes piled high in the kitchen sink.
Heading down the hall, I peered into the bathroom. The trash can caught my eye and I realized that there weren’t any used tissues in it. Unless David had suddenly developed a type-A personality when it came to taking out the bathroom trash, it seemed strange.
Continuing down the hall, I peered into both empty bedrooms. One was generically messy, but it was the other that grabbed my attention. Several of the dresser drawers hung open. I walked in and found a photo of Bruce Wayne and his parents on the nightstand that looked like it dated back to his high school days. A silver necklace with a medallion lay on the dresser. I picked it up and recognized St. Jude. I’d seen him wear it a few times. But what concerned me the most was that two drawers were empty and there were multiple empty hangers in his closet.
Bruce Wayne wasn’t sick.
Bruce Wayne was gone.
I ran to my car and pulled out my cell phone. “He’s gone, Neely Kate! Bruce Wayne’s gone!”
“Oh, my God! He’s dead?”
“What?” I shook my head. “No! He’s gone. As in he packed up his clothes and left.”
“I don’t know.” My voice broke. “But if his parole officer finds out, they’ll put him back in jail. And he might not get out this time.”
She sighed. “So I guess telling Mason is out.”
“Definitely.” I fought to keep from crying. “I don’t understand. Why would he take off? He was doing so well.”
“I don’t know, Rose. What’re you goin’ to do?”
“David wasn’t at their house, so he must be at work. I’m going to swing by the Piggly Wiggly. Ten cents to the dollar he covered for Bruce Wayne this morning.” Which meant David had lied to me. My hand gripped the steering wheel. “I’m going to make him tell me what he knows.”
“Good luck. And keep me updated.”