I didn't know at the time that the hotel clerk was Rob's messenger. If I'd realized I would have paid more attention to him, gotten a better look at him, but when he gave me the letter I thought he was just doing his job. I was living a different life back then.
In my room I took out the letter and read it. It was a short thing, written on stationary from a more expensive hotel than I had been placed in. "Dear Laurie," it said, "I have to talk to you about something important. Meet me at the cafe at six o'clock."
I went to the cafe and he didn't show up, so the next day I went back to the convention hall where we'd met and I drank water in the foyer and expected to see him walk past. Maybe the crowd was too large. I missed both of my seminars and I was angry.
I didn't understand what had happened until I saw the police cars outside his hotel. I thought he'd been arrested, but there was nothing about him in the paper the next day. If they'd caught him they would have reported it. I knew then that he was still alive.
The conference was over and my return flight was booked, so I left a message with the maid and rode the shuttle bus to the airport. I hoped to see Rob on the street or hear about him on the radio. Rob wasn't at the airport; I didn't know if he lived in the city or if he was just there for the conference, or if the conference itself was just a secret way for him to meet people in an unlikely setting.
At home I unpacked my bags and I couldn't find his letter. Either I'd forgotten to pack it or the airport security had removed it.
I pretended to live my old life because there was nothing to do but wait. I had the children on the weekends and they'd either sit in front of the TV or go out with their friends. When Chad wrestled Dino and Dino's wrist got broken I knew for sure that my old life had been a mistake.
The nurse at the hospital said I had pretty fingernails.
Rob was unable to contact me again. He'd taken a chance by telling me about his secret life in the convention hall. Obviously he'd found no other way to meet me since then. I didn't feel angry anymore, I understood his problem.
I pieced together his travels by reading the newspaper. He'd escaped a house fire. He'd witnessed a miraculous rescue, though in the article he claimed to have no CPR training, which must have been a lie. He may have been in the crowd at the opening of a highway. His pictures were blurry and his last name always changed, but Rob was still doing his secret job. I was thrilled.
Now, in my new life, I sit on the apartment steps and look out at the world that Rob still lives in. I don't do anything else because I don't know what to do. I know he'll come eventually, when he's able.