Washed Up Astronaut Excerpt

She wasn’t stepping out on him. She wouldn’t. She would never.

But he got home and it was empty, save Rufus sleeping on the couch. Some watchdog.

“Dog? Hey, buddy!” The dog stretched and ambled over to him, stubby Doberman tail wagging. “Where’s the family?”

Rufus licked his face then stretched again, each hind leg one at a time.

He only stretched like that when he had been asleep for a long time.

Where was Missy? And where was Sadie? What the fuck was she doing with Sadie while she was… off doing whatever she was doing?

He wanted to know and he didn’t want to know at the same time. He took care of his family, he did what he was supposed to do, but he always knew he had married up. She had the potential to do anything, well almost anything. Did he pick up the phone? Did he call and demand she come home right now? Nothing had been touched since he left for work this morning. Where was she?

He finally picked up the phone and listened to it ring then go to voicemail. He hung up and tried again. Nothing. Maybe a text?

Are you okay? 

Then, Where are you?

Come home. Why aren’t you home?

He couldn’t imagine she would be seeing someone else. He just… not with Sadie. Not like this. She wouldn’t tear their home apart. She would never do this. But where was she? What on earth could she be doing all day long? Out with Sadie like this? Shopping trips never took this long, even a huge list of errands never took this long.

She was his. He would rip the guy’s face off. Sure they might be going through a rough patch, but goddamn, she was his wife. She was his and no one was going to come between them. Maybe he wasn’t as attentive as he could be. Maybe he didn’t kiss her goodbye as he left. Maybe he didn’t call or text her during the day to see how she was. Maybe he didn’t do anything to take her out on a date, find a sitter, make a plan, do a thing. But goddamn, he provided for his family. He took care of them. Blood, sweat and tears. Wasn’t that enough? This house, this home?

He relaxed his fists and said, “Let’s go outside, dog.”

He was so hungry and all he wanted was dinner. But that hunger faded to a sullen anger and was subsumed by a building rage.

If she left him, what would he do? Well, what he had been doing before. He’d work, he’d take care of Sadie, he’d do what he had to. It’s not like she had any resources to suddenly fall back on. Sure, she could work, but—

What was he talking about? If she wanted to find a job, she could. If she wanted to leave him, it wouldn’t take much for her to find a job that paid well, find a nice apartment for a while, then buy a house. Probably buy their old house back.

He was stupid. Unbearably stupid. No wonder she was leaving him for some other guy.

He picked up his phone again and looked to see where she was. He’d never been one to shirk his responsibilities, he’d always faced the hard truths. Sooner was always better than later. He opened up Find my iPhone and stared as the compass jiggled back and forth. Then her phone popped up. She was just down the street and it looked like she was holding still. If he’d come home the other way, he’d have run right into her.

Back in his truck, the dog riding shotgun. Rufus was always good for a truck ride. And he’d stop Gideon from doing anything too crazy. He’d protect Missy. Gideon didn’t think he’d ever do anything crazy, but… Rufus was insurance. If he saw Missy kissing some other guy in front of Sadie… well, Rufus would be in front of Missy with bared teeth before Gideon could do a thing.

The splitting edges of the leather on the steering wheel were digging into his hands. The pain was a distraction from the mess in his heart and mind and giving him something else to focus on.

Part of him was certain she would never do anything to hurt their family, but that small insistent voice was shouting it was inevitable. What did he expect would happen if he just… kept doing what he was doing? Why wouldn’t she look somewhere else? What had he expected would happen?

He dropped his head at the stoplight. It was so obvious. How had he not seen it before? How hadn’t he noticed he was about to lose her?

Rufus poked at him with a wet nose and Gideon reached out and gave the dog a scratch. Dogs were good for the soul. He’d keep Rufus. He’d make sure of it. They’d split custody of Sadie, but goddamn, he was keeping his dog.

As he neared the intersection, emergency lights flashed. Cops and fire engines. The ambulances were already gone.

“Oh fuck,” he whispered. “Oh fucking fuck no.” If she was gone, if she was… He couldn’t even let his heart ponder if Sadie was hurt. He couldn’t go there. He drove as close as he could, then parked, leaving Rufus in the car and running.

Missy was standing, talking to a cop with Sadie on her hip.

Every bad feeling, every bad thought that Missy was leaving him was gone in a flash. All he wanted was to hug her and hold her and make sure she was safe all of her days. He stopped and just watched her for a moment, her car was fine, Sadie was squirming to get down. He ran again and held her, jostling her as she talked to the police officer.

“Missy, oh God, Missy!” he mumbled.

“Hi, daddy!” Sadie squealed, trying to get out of Missy’s arms and into his.

Missy wrapped an arm around him, sighing and relaxing into him.

“Officer, this is my husband, Gideon McClelland.”

“I couldn’t find you and then…” Gid whispered.

“I’m sorry, honey,” Missy said.

“Daddy, we saw a accident!” Sadie said. “It was loud. Then there was fire engines! And a ambulance!” She pointed to a badge sticker on her Frozen t-shirt. “And look! I got a sticker!”

Missy kissed his temple. “I’m almost done here. Take Sadie home and I’ll be there in two shakes. Pick up dinner on the way?”

He held her tighter. “What do you want?”

“Burgers, burritos, anything.”

She kissed his temple again. That was the first physical affection between them for… days? Could it really have been that long since he’d touched her? God, what kind of idiot was he?

He pulled Sadie into his arms and he leaned over and kissed Missy’s cheek again.

Sadie wrapped her arms around his neck and chattered about the day. About school. About snack time. About her new best friend Phyllida. He couldn’t keep up with what she was chattering about. She was supposed to be home with Missy. She was supposed to be watching Sesame Street while Missy sorted socks. Going to the park, having play dates. What was this about going to school? What the hell was Missy doing?

The bile rose up in his throat again. She was sneaking around. His wife was fucking sneaking around.

“Daddy! Can we get burritos for dinner?”

“Sure, sweetheart. I have Rufus in the car, too. So we have to get drive-thru burritos.”

“Rufus!” Sadie yelled. The dog poked his head out the window.

Gideon tucked Sadie into her seat, pulling the straps tight and safe, kissing her forehead. She was all he knew he really had. Missy could be gone like that.

Rufus climbed over the center console and into the back, laying his head in Sadie’s lap. She giggled and scratched his head.

The sounds of her laughing were a balm. He had Sadie. He had Rufus. Now he’d just have to wait and see if he had Missy.

Because when's the last time you trembled from delight?

%d bloggers like this: