|I'll Be Watching You by Jane New|
Philip was gone.
Tracy knew his big, old house as well as she knew her boss. The home’s creaks and groans, the way the air moved within the walls, were as familiar as the owner’s deep, rich voice and the scent of his exotic aftershave.
A car horn honked on the other side of the heavy timber front door, but behind it silence lay like a thick, woolen blanket.
She missed hearing the grating of his wheelchair on the polished, mahogany floors and the tinkle of the little bell he sometimes used when he needed her assistance urgently. All the minute noises that told her Philip was somewhere in the building were absent.
He’d left without her.
He had asked to sleep alone last night. Nothing unusual in that—they shared a mutual need for a certain amount of personal space—but now, as she stood in the main hall on the first floor, she realized why. He’d planned his departure in a great deal of detail so that she wouldn’t know until it was too late.
Someone must have helped him leave, someone he trusted. Was it Jasmine, his late wife’s nurse? James, Philip’s caretaker until a few months ago? Or Nicholas, the son of Philip’s old friend?
It didn’t matter who. How could Philip do this to her? What of his promise to take her to Thailand with him? He had once asked her to be there when he had the surgery to restore his withered legs. Now he had left like a thief in the night.
Tracy marched to the kitchen, knowing a strong cup of tea would help her gather her thoughts. She briefly considered the excellent brandy in a decanter in the library, but seven o’clock in the morning was a little too early for alcohol, even under these circumstances.
A plain, white, bond envelope was propped against her neatly stacked cooking magazines in the center of the kitchen table. Her name was inscribed upon the envelope in Philip’s elegant, cursive script.
“My darling girl,” he had written. “By the time you read this, I will be boarding my flight. Please forgive me for leaving without saying goodbye. When push came to shove, I found that the thought of you with me at the hospital, seeing me at my absolute worst, was more than I could bear.
“If God is willing, I will be walking on my own two feet next time you see me. One day soon, I will send for you. Until then, our old friends James and Nicholas will be happy to take of your needs, and Jasmine too, should you desire her.
“Please forgive an old man who, though irrational at times, cares for you deeply.”
The letter was signed with a single, bold “P.”
Tracy sank into a kitchen chair and gazed at the letter, willing Philip to come into the room behind her and tell her it was all some dreadful joke.
The house remained silent.
She was alone.
Anger surged through her, sudden and frightening in its intensity. Did he think she would be revolted by seeing him after the surgery? Didn’t people who cared for each other look after each other in times of need? She had believed they had feelings for each other, however casual they were. Didn’t that imply trust?
Male pride, she decided, thumping the table with her fists. It was nothing but male pride. Philip might be financially successful and an influential man in his own circles, but he couldn’t allow himself to appear weak in front of her. He had learned to cope with his disability to the extent that neither of them really noticed it anymore, but this, it seemed, was another matter altogether.
She reread the letter. “...our old friends James and Nicholas would be happy to take of your needs...”
At least Philip had taken her own desires into consideration. He understood, better than anyone, the power of her libido.
She reached for her phone and tapped out a text message.