While I Was Gone
Excerpt from While I Was Gone
I left on a Monday. I'd called Anita a day or two before and told her that my mother was ill, that I had to go to Maine and didn't know when I'd be back. I told Ted I was going to Washington for a few days to see a friend from college who'd ended up there. I got on a bus for Boston with a one-way ticket. I was familiar with the city from college visits, but I wasn't aware of knowing anyone who actually lived there. I thought I could find my way around easily and also be completely anonymous.

I didn't see my husband again for seven months.

I arrived with one bag on a rainy evening in May. Within three days, I was sitting in a bright, sparsely furnished living room in Cambridge, being interviewed by four people as a potential roommate for a group house. One of them was Dana, whom I came to love. One was Duncan, another was Larry. And one of them, a tall, slightly slouched man in his mid-twenties, with worried brown eyes and curling dark hair that came down just over the rim of his collar-I remembered him clearly now-was Eli Mayhew.


The first lie I told was my name. "Felicia," I said. And then, because this was, I suddenly realized, a seriously ridiculous name, I also said, "As in 'happy to be here,'" and dipped my head slightly. "But my friends call me Licia. Or Lish." I don't know where any of this came from. I certainly hadn't planned it. It just seemed suddenly the wisest course, to be someone else.

After that, the other lies seemed easy. Seemed to be not so much lies as the story of Licia Stead. And some it was true. I had just gotten a job at Red Brown's Blues, a bar in Inman Square. I was living temporarily at the YWCA. And if I wasn't from Montpelier, if I hadn't gone to school at the University of Vermont, well, Licia Stead might have.

I'd found the house advertised on the bulletin board at a dusty bicycle repair shop I'd gone into, searching for cheap transportation. It was next to ads for used furniture, typists, and three or four other housing options. I tore off one of the little fringed tags with a phone number and made my appointment, along with several other appointments, from a pay phone at the Y.


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