Rhea dialed Jeff Towerhouse's number. While she waited for him to pick up, she pulled out the notebook and pen she always kept by the phone to write aimless words and to draw geometrical shapes.
The sound of Jeff's impatient greeting threw her off stride. She hadn't really expected him to answer. Rhea struggled to get her thoughts in order.
She heard the intake of breath, then silence. Rhea wrote something on the notebook like a mad woman, pen digging into the paper.
A host of unspoken words hovered behind Jeff's enunciation of her name. Rhea could almost hear them.
"I know," she said, as if in answer to a question. "It's been awhile."
"Five years," Jeff said in an even voice. "You walked away from the cemetery and apparently kept right on walking."
"Yeah. About that--"
"You know, Rhea, I wouldn't bother. You don't need my forgiveness. It won't change anything, will it?"
Rhea winced. Her pen moved across the notebook like a wild thing.
"Maybe not forgiveness. Maybe I just need to give you an explanation. After we buried Charles, I hated my job, my life. I hated Stillwater. I had to get out."
"And your friends, Rhea? Did you hate them, too?"
Rhea flipped the notebook page and kept on writing. "No," she said, voice soft. "I never hated my friends."
"You said you hated your life. The implication was there."
The scritch of her pen sounded loud in the silence.
"Rhea, I'm having trouble dealing with this right now. What did you want from me?"
"I'm sorry, Jeff. That's what I meant to say."
"Rhea, don't you hang--"
She hung up, breathing quickened, pulse racing. Hearing Jeff Towerhouse's voice had disturbed old thoughts and feelings, like someone raking up dead leaves in the grass. She knew he wouldn't call her; she had paid to bypass caller id, and he didn't have her number.
Rhea dropped her pen, fingers aching. She looked down at the notebook, and felt a cold chill creep up the back of her neck. She flipped the pages. One single phrase covered two pages, line after line.