Ryan awoke the next morning to his alarm. He got up and showered. The first event was a breakfast at 7:30. Before heading down, Ryan tried calling Charlotte again. His call went straight to voicemail. He was very confused now – her phone was off? Charlotte never turned her phone off.
He sent a quick text to Melanie. Have you heard from Charlotte? I called her but her phone went straight to voicemail. Am I in the doghouse for something?
Ryan knew that Charlotte could have some pretty weird moods and suddenly stop talking to him for no reason. He knew to just ride them out and she would come around. It was just very unusual for her not to acknowledge any phone call or text for a whole day. He was sure she was fine and he did something wrong. Melanie probably knew something.
Ryan headed down to breakfast. He was surprised to find a seating chart at the entrance to the ballroom, color coded to cities represented. Pittsburgh was blue. Relief washed over him when he found his name, the only blue at his particular table. He glanced at the surrounding tables and didn’t see Randi’s name. At least he could eat without her around.
When Ryan arrived at his table, he found several colleagues already there. Ryan introduced himself.
“Did we mistakenly come to a wedding?” Ryan joked with the table, which induced a hearty laugh from the other men. As the morning continued, Ryan didn’t give another thought to home and even missed Melanie returning his phone call. As draining as it was being stuck in the same room and same chair all day, he thoroughly enjoyed his tablemates and the time passed surprisingly quickly.
After the final session, Ryan changed and met his tablemates for drinks at the hotel bar. They swapped stories about work and picked out which of their female colleagues they were going to try to befriend before the evening was up. Ryan suddenly realized that he hadn’t checked his phone all day. He pulled it out of his pocket and saw a missed call from Melanie five hours ago, a voicemail and several text messages.
10:11 am: Ryan, I haven’t heard from Charlotte all day. I tried calling her too and I think her phone is off. I will go over to the apartment after work to check on her. Will let you know about your doghouse status.
12:43 pm: I left Char a message.
6:02 pm: I went to the apartment and there was no answer. I tried calling her again, too. Call me when you can.
6:43 pm: For being so worried, you aren’t getting back to me. You can be such an ass.
Ryan excused himself and rushed up to his room, cursing at himself. He called Melanie back. It was just after 7.
“It’s about time, dingleberry!” Melanie didn’t sound amused in the least.
“Sorry. I’m in New Orleans at our annual company meeting. It’s been a busy day. So nothing from Charlotte to you all day either? This is pretty unusual for her.” Ryan opted not to get into it with Melanie right now. The important thing was getting a hold of Charlotte to make sure she was okay.
“Nothing. She was supposed to come over to my place last night and didn’t show. I called her, but she didn’t answer.” Melanie actually sounded cooperative. Ryan was feeling better.
“I know she had a big presentation yesterday. Maybe she’s been swamped with follow up work for that. She’s been working so hard on it and I’m sure she killed it. Probably extra meetings and celebrations?”
“That could be. It’s still weird that she wouldn’t tell at least one of us how it went. Not to even check in? She can be a little dramatic, though.”
“And secretive.” Ryan added. “She has a knack for keeping things to herself and then blindsiding with surprises. This could be one of those things.”
“Yeah, it sure could be.” There was something strange about Melanie’s inflection that alarmed Ryan. Did she know something he didn’t?
“Did she mention anything to you? Anything at all that might even seem unrelated?” Ryan was sure Melanie knew he was prying, but those two could be so exasperating sometimes. Keeping secrets from him and Tony. Tony didn’t seem to mind, but Ryan was sure Tony was just sticking around until something better came along.
“Look, Ryan, I don’t know anything.” Melanie sounded very defensive. “If you can’t keep track of your girlfriend, it’s not my problem!”
“Whoa,” Ryan was taken aback. Melanie definitely knew something. “I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on.”
There was silence on the other end.
“Melanie?” Ryan looked at his phone. The call had been ended. Melanie had hung up on him.
Okay, so Melanie knew something. But what? What could those two be hiding? Ryan tried to think of any special days that might be coming up or recently passed. Was Charlotte planning some kind of surprise party? Did she want to celebrate the success of both of their big projects?
Ryan thought a little more and decided there must be some kind of surprise party happening when he got back. Charlotte got extra weird when she was planning something like this. Ryan loved these surprise parties, though. A chance to get together and mingle with friends and coworkers. He always had a good time and felt completely energized for a week afterward.
Confident that he figured out what was going on, Ryan got ready for bed and spent some time preparing for his presentation tomorrow. He didn’t give another thought to Charlotte and her strange disappearing act for the rest of his trip.