Voicemails From A Stranger
“Please Juliee.” The panicked, desperate voice said. The voicemail ended. The woman blinked and held back her phone to check the string of numbers. She frowned and quickly deleted the entry. Five more voicemails. She passed over most of them. Four of them had the same number as the first one. The last voicemail had the contact name Jerry. After a moment she deleted all of them and listened to the last.
“Hey Mary, the game went late. I decided to take Kendra home tonight. I, uhhhh, figured she wouldn’t want to drive another two hours before we got to your house. I’ll drop her off there tomorrow afternoon. Sorry about that. But no big deal right? Please don’t call the police again. I’ll let you keep her an extra day over Easter and it will all pan out. Okay? Just… like enjoy a night out or something. Bye.”
Her knuckles whitened and she snapped her flip phone shut. “No big deal.” She said. “No of course not. I totally didn’t turn down the Saturday shift in order to spend it with my daughter. Stupid Jerry.” She had half a mind to send him a voicemail back. But she knew what he would say.
“She’s my daughter too. You know it’s your fault we didn’t work out. Are you going to take it out on Kendra?” His angry bluster echoed in her ears. She waved it away like a noisy fly and got up to check the pan of lasagna.
That night she hugged her pillow and wished the sheets weren’t so cold.
She woke up to her buzzing phone. She blinked bleary eyes and the phone went still. With one hand she dared the cold to grab her phone and flip it open. Six new messages. Without checking the number she played the first one.
“Hey, it’s Mark. ‘Sigh’ you left your suitcase here. The old one with a tear in the lining. I still have those three draws of clothes. What am I going to do with women’s underwear and socks three times too small for me? Just give me a call back. Please Juliee.” The voice was calm now. Sad even. She felt a twinge of pity for the poor soul who had obviously had the wrong number. Juliee must have gotten a new number and handed down the old one to an unsuspecting civilian.
Mary mused over the thought then sighed.
“What a pain.” But she thought if she contacted him she might be on the phone for hours. This Mark sounded like the talkative type. She just couldn’t just hang up on someone so pathetic. Out of habit she deleted the message and played the next one.
“It’s me again. I’m sorry. You’re right. This whole thing is my fault. I should have just let you get the couch you wanted. Nevermind we couldn’t afford it. I’d rather be late on rent-”
Mary deleted the message halfway through and skipped through them. She set her phone down and got up. The mirror on the vanity across the room gave her a picture of her morning self. Nightgown rumpled and twisted. The pale white line at the base of her ringfinger that stood out against her dark tan. Hair frizzy and wild. She bared her teeth at the mirror and winced at how fuzzy they looked. Jerry wouldn’t touch her in the morning. He used to say that no couples should have to see each other right after they woke up. She winced and turned away.
“I wonder if Jerry still goes to church.” She sighed. She’d ask Kendra.
That afternoon she flipped through her phone. She sat by the window and listened for the rumbling engine of a rusty truck to barrel up the driveway. Prodded by curiosity she began to flip through the list of unheard voicemails.
“I know you’ll be furious with me for leaving so many messages. But I just want to know where you are. Are you okay? Call me back.”
“Hey Juliee, how are you? I’ve seen better days. I took some time off work and now I’m just thinking. Remember the night I got passed over for the promotion and you weren’t? I thought you deserved it. I really did. You always looked so put together and professional. Though I always thought you were more interesting when your guard was down. Remember what you said when I asked why you liked me?” He chuckled. “You said I always looked in such a hurry that I must have somewhere important to be. But now that I look back what I think you were saying was that I looked scattered. That may be true. I still love you Juliee and if you ever need help, just give me a call. Money, time, or anything I can help you with. Are you even getting these? Give me a call and let me know.” Click.
“Hi, Juliee. I’m going to stop calling. I’ve got too, I’ve got, I need to go on with my life. I’ll miss you though. Forever and always. That was a part of your vows wasn’t it? Oh well, no one can speak the truth all the time... I’m going to the pawn shop to sell my ring. See you around?” The voicemail ended. Then her phone beeped. Her inbox was empty.
She shut her phone and stared down at her hands. Poor guy. If only all the Juliee’s and Jerry’s of the world could stand in one long line so she could put name tags on them all.
This one isn’t meant to be a father.
This one has never given much thought to selfcontrol.
She won’t love you.
He won’t stay.
She opened her phone again and hit the speed dial. She got voicemail.
“Hey Jerry,” she began and inhaled, “I just had a few things to get off my chest.” She paused. Words that she had hidden away rising to rest on her tongue. “You know you used to terrify me. You would get so angry. I thought you would break something instead of just yelling. If you ever show Kendra that side of you I’ll go through heaven and hell to get full custody.” She paused. “What you said before, we broke up because you could never take me seriously. I’m not sure you ever thought of me as more than a commodity. You were never meant to be a husband. Never mind a father. Still I wish we had worked out if only for Kendra.” She paused and flushed. “And another part of me is glad that we didn’t. I’m glad I don’t live in the same house as you anymore. That I don’t have to cook or clean or take care of you anymore. Anyway, what I wanted to say is please stop making excuses to keep Kendra over the weekends. That’s all I’m asking. We can still make it as parents. Let’s not go back to court over this... but this is the last time I'll ask you. Work with me here, please Jerry.”
She closed the phone and hesitated. Then she dialed a familar number and got a voicemail.
“Hello Mark,” She began. "It's... not Juliee."