What Happens to Jenny

Excerpt from “There Are Too Many,” a work in progress.

Reynold has seen people give up before, has come to recognize the way the shoulders stoop as though something has been placed atop. There is an almost visible effort following each step and subsequent motion, trailing behind like a cartoon dust cloud. He saw it in Jenny weeks before he said anything, weeks before the inkling in the back of his mind became unignorable. When he broached the subject – a can of half-opened soup in one hand and the other around the crank of the can opener – something had flickered in her eyes, some mix of guilt and relief, one following the other as though he’d just tapped her out in the ring.

She left two days later; packed up a tiny suitcase that she’d used numerous times to go visit her parents. So many of her things are still in the drawers – the jeans she’d probably fit again by now. The dresses she didn’t take with her are pushed to the back of the closet; Reynold stuck a heavy snowsuit between his things and hers. She promised to come back, and he understands now her need to make that promise should have tipped him off that there was a chance she wouldn’t. Her own inklings sitting in the back of her mind revealing themselves.

Finding the money cleared from their joint account was the beginning of his realization that he should worry she wouldn’t return. He’s called her parents so many times, and at first they were complicit and worried along with him. He’d ignored the tinge of blame in their voices for having let her drive off four months pregnant. Then they stopped answering his calls, and he knew she’d been in touch with them.

The last message he’d left on their voicemail had been through a closing throat, aching head, clenched fists, knotted insides: Please. Please. Tell me they’re okay. Just let me know you’ve heard from her and that they’re fine.

He hasn’t called since then, hasn’t heard anything. He doesn’t know his rights, other than those he feels in his gut; his natural rights accompanied by the instinct to find her, kill her, cradle her. His right to know the name of his child, the color of its eyes, whether it’s a boy or a girl, the way it feels so small against him.

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