The phone rang. William listened to the sound of his life being ignored. After almost a full minute the ringing stopped. Silence waited on the other end of the phone.
“Hi, it’s me.” He offered sheepishly. It was the way so many of their conversations started.
“What do you want William?” The woman on the other end of the phone answered. It wasn’t the way most wives greeted their husbands. Yet for William and Bethany De Camp, this was almost pillow talk.
William sighed,”Nothing, I just wanted to call that’s all. To see how you were. Can’t a husband call his wife?” He asked.
There was silence on the other end of the line. William began to think that Bethany had just placed the phone on the table and walked away.
He looked at his desk, the photos of his family encircled him. Framed images of his wife and their two children. Even his computer background was an image of them all standing int he garden of the large country house they had bought the year before. All of them smiling. But they were false smiles.
“A husband can, but I’m not sure what you are William. How can you be a husband when you’re never home. Do you know what day it is today?” Bethany asked with a tone that confirmed that William had indeed missed something.
“Of course I do. How did the game go? Did they win?” He asked, referring to his son’s soccer competition. He was the team captain and they had made it all the way to the final.
“Do you really care?” Bethany asked with scorn.
“That’s not fair Beth.” William began, but he stopped himself. He didn’t want to get into another argument. Not at this time of the night. The clock on his computer told him that it was almost Nine. The world outside his fourteenth story window was black. “Is he there?” William asked.
“No, he’s asleep.” His wife lied. William closed his eyes, holding back the years that begged to be shed.
“Come on Beth, don’t be like this. I got called into a meeting. I’m the director, I can’t just leave. If I don’t work, then we can’t live where we do. You guy’s couldn’t do all the things you do now.” William struggled to control the sadness in his voice. As he started the screen, at the happy faces standing on the porch of a house he barely say in the daylight, his computer beeped and announced that his unread email total had reached fifty. William gave a sigh and clenched his fist.
“Are you coming home soon Daddy?” A child’s voice called down the phone. It was too young to hide the pain in the words.
“Soon honey, soon. I just need to finish a few things here. You will be asleep when I get home though. How did the game go?” William asked.
The email count jumped to fifty-three. The other side of the world was waking up. Business as usual.
“Okay Daddy.” The disappointment in the voice was too much. Richard felt the tears burn his cheeks.
“I love you Bobby.” William coughed the words. The second phone on his desk began to ring. An international call. His mobile also began to vibrate on the desk. Another number, another problem. “I have to go, but remember I love you. Be a good boy. Give your sister a kiss from me.” William’s voice faltered and fat tears splashed on the desk.
“Love you too Daddy.” Bobby answered, happy.
William put the phone down and sat back in his chair. His head pounded. The email counter jumped again. Sixty now. His mobile buzzed. Three missed calls. His other land line continued to demand his attention.
William rubbed his temples and wiped his eyes. He had been at the office almost eighteen hours now, and it was not looking as though it would end any time soon. He sat up and took hold of the phone which had pride of place on his desk. It was of him sitting with his children. An ordinary photo with all things considered.
William stared at the photo. He couldn’t remember the last time he had just sat with his family. Enjoyed a meal with his wife or thrown a ball with his son. His headache grew worse. He needed a break.
William opened the top drawer of his desk. He knew that it wasn’t really an answer, but he had no other choice. The pain was too much, a constant pressure in his skull. He pulled out the revolver, put the barrel between his teeth. With the picture clutched against his chest William De Camp pulled the trigger and released the pressure.