It's been three whole days, and Claire still hadn't returned. I'd attempted to call her several times, but she never picked up, which didn't surprise me.
But sooner or later, my wife would have to come back, right? I mean, a ton of her stuff was still here. In fact, I bet she'd be home by this weekend. Hopefully. And if that was the case, I'd welcome her with open arms and apologize for everything I'd done.
I was at work on Tuesday, busy sorting the documents that I'd be presenting at our meeting in less than an hour. However, the main thing occupying my thoughts was Claire. She'd constantly been on my mind ever since Saturday afternoon.
Yesterday, I was figuring out a budget plan for our future project, and I nearly messed up on the calculations. Luckily, Ashley had noticed my mistake and immediately pointed it out.
God, I really needed to start concentrating on my work, but how could I when my wife had been gone for days?
At that moment, I heard a knock on the door, snapping me out of my thoughts, and I looked up from my desk.
"Come in," I said, leaning back in my chair and letting out a massive yawn.
Did I also mention that I hadn't gotten any sleep these past few nights?
"Hey, Derek," Ashley greeted with a smile, stepping into the room.
"Have you scheduled the dates for the next couple of business meetings yet?", I asked her.
"Yup. LA is the one coming up," she answered, heading towards my desk.
I nodded my head and just sat there, staring out the window. My office had a view of other tall buildings and in the distance, you could see Coronado Bridge.
"Let me guess, you're thinking about your wife?", Ashley inquired, pulling out a chair to sit down next to me.
"Yup," I replied with a heavy sigh, propping my legs up on the desk.
"You've seriously got to stop stressing over her. She'll come back before you know it," she reassured.
"But what if she doesn't?", I mumbled dejectedly.
"Well, then it's her loss. I bet you're a wonderful husband, Derek. So many women out there would die to be with you. She's just being overdramatic," Ashley said, straightening out her tight skirt.
"Trust me, I'm not even close to being a 'wonderful' husband," I scoffed.
"But still, it's not your fault she left."
"Yes it is! You don't know how terrible I've treated her these past months!", I exclaimed, raising my voice.
"Whoa, calm down there," Ashley remarked, taken aback by my sudden outburst. I sighed and rested my elbow on the desk, placing my forehead in my hand.
"I'm sorry, Ash. I know you're trying to help, but I just want some time alone right now," I said wearily, rubbing my temples.
She stood up and gave me a sad smile before walking out of my office.
That night, I left work earlier than usual because of the meeting. I stopped to buy some Chinese take-out on the way home because God knows I couldn't cook.
I'd attempted to make myself dinner the past two nights, but both times had resulted in complete failure. My mac-and-cheese had been too cheesy, it tasted like salt. And as for the grilled chicken, I might have overcooked it- to the point where the smoke alarm had gone off.
When I got home, it was only seven. I headed to the kitchen, and it felt awfully empty not seeing Claire in there preparing some fancy dish like she normally would.
In fact, the entire house felt lonely without her presence. I missed hearing her sweet voice, even if most of the time, she'd either be yelling at me or scolding me like a child.
As I sat down at the dining table, I felt a throbbing ache in my chest. I missed Claire so much, it hurt. This house just didn't feel like home without her.
I suddenly lost my appetite and ended up putting the untouched Chinese food into the fridge. Afterwards, I headed upstairs to my room and took a long shower.
If there was one thing I'd learned ever since my wife had left, it was this- I needed her a lot more than she'd ever need me.
It was Thursday night and I had just arrived home from work. With each passing day that Claire didn't return, I had slowly begun to turn into an emotional wreck. I felt depressed and worthless, struggling to keep a grip on reality.
I took off my suit jacket then collapsed onto the couch, muttering a bunch of curses to myself. I honestly couldn't go on with my life like this anymore. I needed my wife back.
At a time like this, my body craved something that could ease me down. I suddenly remembered the bottle of vodka that I'd recently bought and went to go get it from the kitchen.
That night, I drank to my heart's content, letting the alcohol erase all of the stress and guilt I was currently bearing.
Around one in the morning, I was sprawled on the couch, totally drunk. The empty bottle of vodka lay on the ground, and I didn't bother to get rid of it.
I forced myself to get up then stumbled up the stairs, but instead of heading to my own room, I dragged my feet towards Claire's.
I normally never went in her room, but I was completely wasted and she was all I could think about. I crashed onto her bed and before I knew it, I fell into a deep sleep, hugging her pillow to my chest.
The sun shone brightly through the window the following morning, blinding my eyes. I groaned and rolled over on my side, slowly opening them.
"Shit!", I exclaimed, looking at the alarm which read ten o'clock.
Immediately, I got out of bed and rushed towards my room, grabbing a clean suit from the closet before heading into the shower.
Twenty-five minutes later, I arrived at work and quickly took the elevator up to my office. I ran into my colleague, Keith Harrington, on the way and he greeted me with a brief nod.
The truth was, I could show up whenever I wanted because I was the CEO, but I prefered to be as early as possible so I wouldn't have to stay behind late at night.
My head was still pounding from the vodka yesterday, and I felt extremely drowsy since I hadn't had any coffee yet. All I wanted was to be back in bed right now.
"Derek, there you are!", I heard Ashley call as she walked towards me, wearing an extremely low blouse and tight black skirt.
"Hey, Ash," I greeted briefly, brushing past her, but she grabbed my arm and I paused in my footsteps. Her amber eyes roamed over my face then she folded her arms across her chest.
"Wow, you look...awful. But don't worry, you're still as handsome as ever," she commented with a wink before heading to her office.
It was true, I did look awful. I had stubble growing on my chin and cheeks for days that I hadn't shaved off yet, and my eyes were still swollen and red from the lack of sleep I'd been getting.
On the other hand, I had finally resolved that I was going to find Claire before I'd start to lose my mind. But first, I just needed to take care of a few business matters. Thank god I didn't have much to do today.
It was nearly noon by the time I finished up my work and just as I was about to leave my office, Ashley walked in with a puzzled expression on her face.
"Where are you going?", she asked.
"I have to find Claire or else I'm gonna go insane," I responded abruptly.
"Who cares where she is? It's not like she's divorcing you. She just wants a little 'break'. So quit worrying about your partnership deal with her brother. It's gonna be fine," she said, placing a hand on my shoulder.
Instead of comforting me, her words had only aggravated me even more, and I shoved her hand away.
"I don't give a fuck about the business deal right now! Don't you get it, Ashley? She's my wife! How am I supposed to sleep at night knowing that she's off on her own somewhere? For all I know, she could even be locked up in some rapist's basement!", I lashed out in exasperation.
"Or, she could be at a friend's house," Ashley pointed out calmly.
"But I have no form of contact with any of her friends. I don't know where they live either," I stated, lowering my voice.
Then, I suddenly remembered Charlotte Decker, Claire's best friend. I vaguely recalled my wife once telling me about how she worked downtown for this one bank company.
That was it.
I glanced at my watch and figured that if I hurried, I could head over there before Charlotte's lunch break.
I completely ignored Ashley as I rushed out of my office, feeling a surge of hope that I'd finally be able to see my wife again soon.
The moment I stepped outside the building, I breathed in the fresh ocean air, letting it awaken my dulled senses. Normally on a day like this, I'd walk over to Charlotte's workplace, but I was obviously in a rush and driving would be the fastest way to get there.
After finding a spot to park my car, I quickly headed inside the Wells Fargo tower. The receptionist was busy talking on the phone, and I began to grow impatient as I waited for her to finish.
"Oh, you're Mr. Weston! How may I help you?", she asked with a friendly tone.
"I'm wondering if you could tell me where Charlotte Decker's office is," I said politely.
"It's on the third floor, first room to your left."
I thanked the receptionist and smiled gratefully at her. All of a sudden, her cheeks began to grow red. I didn't know why. I mean, the building wasn't even hot or anything.
I took the elevator upstairs and when I got out, Charlotte herself stood there, waiting to go down.
"Derek? What are you doing here?", she asked me skeptically, raising an eyebrow.
"I need to talk to you. It's about Claire," I said urgently.
"How did you know where I worked?"
"She told me once."
Charlotte sighed then led me to her office. I shut the door and we both sat down at her desk.
"Let me guess, you wanna know where Claire is?"
"Yes. Is she staying with you?"
"No," she stated simply.
"Have you seen her this week?"
"Yeah, I did."
"Charlotte, I'm begging you. I need to know where my wife is. I can't stand being away from her anymore."
"Why should I tell you? You're the one who caused her to run away in the first place," she snapped.
"I know, and I regret it all. There hasn't been a single day ever since she'd left where I haven't thought about her. I miss her like crazy," I confessed in a pained voice.
"You wanna know something, Derek? You may be a rich and successful businessman, but when it comes to marriage, you fucking suck.
"You only care about your own benefits and not Claire's. She told me everything about the things you've said and done to her. How do you think it makes me feel as her best friend to hear how much pain she's been through because of you?", she continued.
"I'm sorry," I muttered quietly, looking down at my lap.
"You better be. She had to give up so much of her life. And all for what? To be with some asshole of a husband that treats her like crap?!"
I was silent, not because I was offended by what Charlotte had said, but because she was telling the utter truth. I wasn't gonna lie though, her words had stung. A lot.
Charlotte sighed heavily and then reached out to touch my arm. I looked at her face, and it softened a bit as she continued to speak.
"Listen, Derek, I know that deep down, you do care about Claire. But if you want your marriage to work out, then you've got to show her that."
"Believe me, Charlotte, I'll never be able to forgive myself for all the hurt I've caused her. I just want another chance to show her that I can treat her the way a real husband should treat his wife. But what's the point? She might never even come home again," I said defeatedly.
"Don't be too hard on yourself, Derek. I guarantee you she will if you talk to her," Charlotte reassured.
"You don't know what Claire is like. She always sticks to her guts. And her guts hate me."
"But that doesn't mean she'll never want to see you again. Here, I'll give you the address of where she's staying," Charlotte said, getting a pen.
"Why didn't she stay with you?", I asked.
"She was afraid you'd know where I live and find her."
Charlotte handed me the piece of paper with the address written on it then I stood up.
"Thanks a lot, Charlotte. Trust me, I've learned my lesson now. I'm never letting Claire go ever again."
I offered my hand for her to shake, but instead, she pulled me into a giant bear hug, which caught me off guard for a moment.
"Go get her back, big guy," she said with a genuine smile, playfully slapping my back before stepping away.
I grinned and walked out of her office. Charlotte truly was a good person. No wonder my wife was best friends with her.
Before getting into the elevator, I suddenly realized that I had forgotten one important detail.
Whose address was I even going to?
I quickly turned around and rushed back to Charlotte, who was also leaving for her lunch break.
"Um, I forgot to ask, but who is Claire staying with?"
"Oops, how could I forget to tell you! Dustin Coleman is his name," she replied with a laugh. I, on the other hand, was not laughing.
Claire was staying with a guy?!
"Who's Dustin?", I demanded.
"We met him at the club back in June. He's a really cool guy," she said before heading downstairs.
Oh hell no...
A/N- Ooh, someone's getting jealous(; Charlotte seriously was so amazing though. She sure knew how to get into Derek's head by being completely straightforward with him. Remember to favorite and comment!