Where are you?
I hit “send” hoping my brief text would reach my roommate. Wherever she may be.
I knew Michelle was always putting herself at risk. Going out drinking on weekend nights and going home with random strangers. She walked alone at night in sketchy areas when she should have known better.
Michelle was naive and reckless. She’d come to Philly for college and after graduation three years ago she was still here. In many ways she still led a college life.
Still, it wasn‘t like Michelle to fall completely off the radar. Even in her most drunken moments she still managed to text when she wasn’t coming home.
When I woke up on Saturday morning Michelle was not in her bed. I just assumed she just hadn’t come home yet. She would stumble in sometime in the afternoon bleary eyed and hungover, barely remembering the previous night or whom she’d been with.
I went about my boring Saturday routine. I showered, dressed and fed Michelle’s cat, Buster. I prepared for the Saturday afternoon call with my mother.
I went to the Starbucks on the corner for a vanilla latte and lemon pound cake. When I returned, Michelle had not materialized.
I spent the rest of the day doing work stuff and binging Netflix. I tried to call my mom promptly at two, but that didn’t happen.
My mom refused to text or FaceTime. She had no social media accounts. She insisted that I call every Saturday.
“Where have you been, Claire? I’ve been sitting here fifteen minutes waiting for you to call. I need to go to the pharmacy. I don’t have time to be waiting all day.”
“You have a cell phone, Mom. You can take it anywhere you go. Jesus.”
“Watch that language, Claire.”
I wondered when my parents had grown old. Her mother was fifty-three years old and acted seventy-three
I went through my usual mundane litany about the past week. Work was busy. I was scheduled to go to a conference in San Francisco next month and couldn’t wait to go. No, there was nothing new on the dating front.
My mother filled me in on her life. My sister and her family were fine. The kids were adorable. Blah. Blah. Blah.
Then, I just blurted it out. I hadn‘t meant to do so. I just had to tell someone.
“Michelle didn’t come home last night, Mom. I’m starting to worry. This is weird even for her.“
“I knew that girl was no good the moment she moved in with you. She makes bad decisions and she drags you down with her.”
“Mom, that is so not true. What should I do? I texted some of her friends and no one has heard from her. I’m ready to contact the police.”
“Your father is a police officer, Dear. You know she has to be missing twenty-four hours.”
“That isn’t actually the case, Mom. If the person is at risk you can report them missing immediately. I’m an attorney. And I watch Dateline.”
My father was a retired small town cop who now worked mall security. I doubted that anyone had ever gone missing from River Ridge, Indiana who didn’t want to be gone.
”Listen, Dear. I know your friend will turn up. Maybe she went to New York. She always said she wanted to. Have faith in the Lord, Claire.“
My mother’s theory was ludicrous. Yes, Michelle had talked about moving to New York to pursue acting. Yet, she could not afford to live there. She wouldn’t have taken off with only the clothes on her back, her bank card and a few maxed out credit cards.
“Yeah, okay Mom. I gotta go. Give Daddy my love.”
I had met Michelle Pruitt two years ago. It was on a typical Friday night in Center City. It was a warm evening and plenty of people were walking about or sitting outside in front of cafes and bars.
I was not a partier or night owl. But I had agreed to go to happy hour with a group from my firm.
We ended up at the Irish pub near Suburban Station. Michelle was alone near the bar and recognized someone from our group. He asked her to join our table and she quickly agreed.
Michelle had a bubbly personality and people were drawn to her. I liked her right away.
We discovered we were both midwestern girls. I was from Indiana and Michelle was from neighboring Ohio. She had moved to Philadelphia to go to school at Temple and had stayed.
”I have a degree in Theatre. I’m trying to pursue acting, but I’m currently pursuing being a waitress.”
I thought she was funny and irreverent. We talked and drank together long after the others had moved on.
We went to an all night diner after the bar closed at two. We ended up drinking coffee and talking several more hours.
We exchanged phone numbers and began going to movies and live theater together. I didn’t have a lot of friends in Philadelphia and having a female friend was nice.
A few months after we met, my roommate got married and moved out. I asked Michelle to move in.
She turned out to be the Roommate From Hell.
She left half-eaten containers of food, beer bottles, and cigarette butts on the counters. She was consistently late with her share of the rent. She brought guys home without warning me ahead of time. I went away for a long weekend to visit the folks and came home to find used condoms on my bed.
There would be arguments and I always tried to be forgiving. Michelle only had to bat her eyes, cry a few tears and plead.
“I am trying, Claire. I really am. I picked up some temp work along with the waitressing. I’ll have a check for you next month right on time.”
Of course, that never happened. Michelle’s money always seemed to go elsewhere. There had been a big fight about that on Friday night before she left to go out.
“I don’t know why you’re always on my case about this, Claire. You‘re a lawyer. You make way more money than me.“
“That isn’t the point, Michelle.”
She‘d slammed the door as she left, stating she didn’t know when she’d be home.
I decided to do my own investigation before talking to the police. Michelle hadn’t said where she was headed, but I knew her usual haunts.
I got in my car and drove all over Philadelphia. I tried the wine bar she liked in South Philly and the sports bar on 15th and Spruce. I showed the bartenders a selfie of the two of us taken down the shore last summer. No one recalled seeing her.
She was a dime a dozen to them. Another pretty twenty something out for fun on Friday night
I went home disheartened and increasingly scared that something horrible had happened to my roommate. I turned on the TV to watch 48 hours. Probably not the best choice given the circumstances.
Tonight’s story was a typical one. A college student from Pittsburgh who went missing after a party. Naturally, the boyfriend was the prime suspect. The husband or boyfriend always was.
I planned to go to the police tomorrow if Michelle didn‘t magically come through the door. I wondered about going to the media as well. Maybe start with the local TV stations. The local media would eat up this story. An attractive blonde girl from Ohio goes missing in the big city.
I had covered all my bases. I had texted all of her friends. I checked all of her favorite watering holes. I had even told my mom.
When I went to the police tomorrow, there was no way they could accuse me of being involved.
Michelle wasn’t the only one who was a skilled actress.
Before I went to bed, I sent one last text to Michelle for good measure.
Hey girl. I am really worried about you. When are you coming home?