Cash returned home to find Post-It notes attached to surfaces all over the house.
He was late; he knew it. But what the hell was this? He tossed his car keys on the polished hall table, and saw the first note, stuck to a little wooden box where Virginia deposited all the small bits and bobs she scooped up so they could find them again, like keys, business cards, polysporin, coins, membership cards, stray earrings, thread, beads, Tic Tacs, and all manner of reminders and odd notes.
Echo and I have gone to Annie’s for a few days, it said in Virginia’s small, rounded handwriting. She learned a new word.
She had learned a new word. When Virginia first arrived from the office, after getting the babysitter Devon’s panicked phone call, she’d heard the both hugely wonderful and hugely disappointing news. She didn’t go into the office every day, but she’d had a couple of meetings, and needed to catch up undistracted on some long overdue emails with her agent and financial advisor. Of course Echo, bless her little heart, waited for the moment Virginia was out of the house to blurt out her new word:
Devon hastened to assure Virginia that was the word, after she’d seen Virginia’s face fall, but they both were well aware that “hi” was one of Echo’s first words ever. It was when Devon passed Echo, squirming and giggling, into her mother’s arms, saying, “There you go, say hi to mommy”, that Echo actually said the word that melted Virginia’s heart. “Mama.”
As Devon packed up her notebooks and textbooks, she said, “I’m really sorry, Virginia, but I have an appointment with my parole officer, and can’t be late for this one.”
After reassuring Devon and confirming that Cash hadn’t phoned or texted, Virginia paid her in bills instead of the usual cheque, adding a little extra for the stress and trouble.
Cash wondered what the new word was, and opened the lid of the wooden box to find another yellow note. Who knows how much you owe? it said. Cash saw one of Echo’s teething rings under the note, and when he picked it up it was still damp.
He spotted another Post-It note attached to the lampshade just inside the family room:
Come out of the darkness of your own ego.
There was a note on the flatscreen television:
Blank until turned on— like you.
The notes piled up. Cash kept each one neatly stacked, placing one on top of the other as he found them.
On the sofa:
A place to lie.
There was a longer note stuck to the mantle of the fireplace. It read:
You hate the song ‘Dust in the Wind’. It’s still true. How do you matter?
On the door of the fridge:
And most hurtfully, on the bedside table in the master bedroom:
When secrets don’t matter any more.
Cash sat on the bed and took out his cellphone. He put it back in his pocket again. He set the pile of notes beside him on the duvet. Driving home from the ad agency, he’d forgotten what happened at the meeting, and the dark young woman with the silky hair, and thought only of Echo, and her eyes as blue and clear as marble, the way her hand folded into a fist when she laughed, and the thin, wispy hair that they thought would never grow, and how it smelled like lilacs.
He was late, but he was often late. He should have called, but there were other times he should have called. He wasn’t a complete fool: He knew he was sometimes lax, lazy, spoiled. But he also knew how deeply he loved, how much Echo and Virginia meant to him. Surely they knew?
Annie’s cottage was a good three-hour drive. He wouldn’t text her while she was driving. This would also give him a chance to read the strange notes again, to gather his thoughts, to think of what to say to convince Virginia to bring Echo home again.
In a few minutes, he went to fix himself a sandwich. He’d taken the note down, but as he opened the fridge door he could see what she’d written as clearly and starkly as if it were etched into the surface: