A strange call in rush hour traffic launches Ruby out of the rut of despair.
|Word count: 1,088
Ruby groaned at the sea of brake lights glowing into the infinity of gray asphalt. Great, another rush hour wreck. That was the third one this week. It’s like people were trying to get in accidents on the Interstate.
Does it matter? You don’t have anything to go home to besides a funky smelling apartment, and a microwave dinner.
She slumped in her seat. This wasn’t the life she envisioned when she signed the lease on the apartment – or rather, when they signed the lease on the apartment. Evan disappeared without warning or explanation, leaving her with nothing but broken dreams, and the musty apartment that was supposed to be temporary until they could afford a down payment on a house. Selling her engagement ring helped toward meeting that goal on her own, but she wasn’t making progress with her daily expenses and the extra help she had hired to help her get life back on track. Her plan was to be a blushing bride. Her reality was being a mousy secretary with an expanding waistline and a dumpy car; approaching her thirtieth birthday without any money, prospects, or hope.
“I hate my life,” she mumbled as the silver sports car in front of her inched forward. She eased up on the brake pedal before the car in the lane next to her could squeeze his huge king-cab pick-up truck in the space. He gunned the engine to roar ahead of the sports car and zip in front of it, causing a symphony of screeching brakes and blaring horns. An ambulance siren wailed behind her, followed by a honking fire truck rocking her sedan in a whirlwind from the emergency lane.
“Great. I’m two exits from home, and now I’m stuck in gridlock while they stare at the carnage.”
Ruby’s cell phone rang. She fished it out of her purse on the passenger seat beside her, glancing at the “Unknown
Number” on the display.
“I’m not in the mood,” She poked at the “dismiss call” icon on her phone and shoved it in her purse.
A flash of something white in the window of the car in front of her caught her attention.
ANSWER THE PHONE.
Ruby perked up in her seat. “Me?”
The sign bobbed in the rear window, as if nodding at her.
She threw up her arms in an exaggerated shrug.
The phone rang again. The sign in the car in front of her bobbed again.
Ruby pulled the phone out of her purse, tapping the “answer” button.
“Evan didn’t want to leave you,” the slightly British male voice said.
“Who is this?” Ruby asked.
“He’s sorry he had to leave, but you were in danger. He had to make a decision quickly, and he chose your life over chance.”
“What danger?” Ruby asked. “He was a software engineer.”
“That’s what everybody thought until three years ago.”
Ruby glanced at the dash. The date glowed September 12, 2019.
It was exactly three years since he left her. Without warning. Without explanation. Without a sign of what happened to trigger a life change that scarred her forever.
“He still loves you, but he can’t come back. Otherwise, you’ll both die.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You need to call off the private investigator.”
Ruby shifted in her seat. How did this person know about that?
Worse yet, why was she still spending what little discretionary money she had at the end of each month to pay an investigator to find somebody who didn’t want to be found?
“My fiancé disappeared,” Ruby said, hoping her voice projected a calm that masked her shaking. “Of course I’m looking for him. We were supposed to have a life together.” She paused. “Where is he? What’s happening?”
“This call was risky, but he wants you to know that he’s ok now, and your safe as long as you stay apart. He will always love you, but you can’t be together anymore. That’s impossible. He wants you to move on.”
Ruby swallowed past the lump in her throat. “Who says I haven’t?”
“The private investigator. The apartment. The car. The job. You’re still living the life you had when he left. You need to stop chasing the past and start pursuing the future. I’m calling to give you a push in the right direction. Promise me you’ll fire the investigator, and I’ll send you the Evan’s final gift.”
“The one that will change your life if you make this simple promise. All it requires is a yes or no. No more questions. Take it or leave it.”
Ruby paused, letting her foot off the brake as traffic inched forward again.
It’s not like he’s coming back. If he could have, he would have. He’s gone. Take this stranger’s advice. Just let it go.
“Fine,” she croaked. “I’ll make the call as soon as we end this call.”
“Good. It’s been far too long and you need to move on. Get good advice to use it wisely.”
“What do you mean?”
Her phone chimed with a pop up message. She pulled the phone away from her ear to see a notification from her banking app.
LARGE DEPOSIT NOTIFICATION: $2,000,000.00.
Ruby’s heart skipped a beat.
“You can’t put a price on love, but is this acceptable compensation for derailing your life plan?” the voice said from the phone.
Ruby raised the phone back to her ear. “Two million dollars? What’s happening?”
“All I can do is offer the gift. All you can do is accept it or deny it. It’s been three years of struggle, and this will change your life. It will give you a better future than you dreamed of if you’ll accept it.”
“I have to take it back if you ask one more question. Just say this: Yes or no?”
“Yes,” she said.
The line clicked off. The car in front of her veered into the emergency lane and rushed up the next exit ramp.
Ruby grabbed her steering wheel, but stomped on the brake pedal before she sped after the car. It went against everything inside of her, but she couldn’t push this any longer. That voice, that accent, even the way it talked sounded so much like Evan, and yet it was off.
I don’t remember his voice anymore.
She glanced at the notification on her phone and smiled. Perhaps the mystery man in the sports car was right. Perhaps it was time to move on - with a financial advisor, of course.