I hoped Jocelyn hadn’t seen any change on my face. If her boyfriend was trying to ditch her, I needed to keep her occupied. That was my first instinct.
“The singing competition?” I asked. “He told you about that?”
“Yeah, he said you tried out after college for that show, and you made it through the auditions.”
Why had my dad told her about that?
“Did he say what happened next?”
“Only that you didn’t make it on TV. But he was proud of you.”
I gulped down some more wine. I could see shadows out in the snow.
“Well, what really happened was…I got there, and everyone else was so talented and ambitious and committed to becoming a star. I chickened out and left after a couple days.”
I had never said that part of the story out loud. Everyone just thought I failed, but I knew it was even worse. My brother was right, I had auditioned because I was trying to win my dad’s approval, and once I got to the next stage, I realized that wasn’t going to be enough.
“What did you sing for your audition?”
Why was Jocelyn so interested in this? Normally, I would have avoided this conversation at all costs, but now I was trying to fill time.
“Midnight by Yaz.”
“I don’t know that song. How does it go?”
I started singing. About halfway through, tears started trickling down my face, and I didn’t care.
Midnight, it’s raining outside, he must be soaking wet
Everyone is sleeping tight, God knows I tried my best
Darling, you know it looks bad
Just lost the best thing that I ever had, well
Still I don’t know why I did him wrong, no
It’s too late, now, he’s gone to say
Baby, oh, no, can’t leave me now
Said, think about it, please
‘Cause I love you, and I need you
And I should have thought of that before I did you wrong
Jocelyn stood up suddenly and ran from the dining room. I followed her to the den, where we found the room empty.
“Where the hell are they, Elise?”
“I have no idea. I was in the dining room with you, Jocelyn.” I wiped the tears from my face.
How the hell had Jack snuck everyone out without us hearing? There was a deck attached to the den—maybe they went out that way. Their escape would be a challenge with the kids, so maybe we still had time to catch them.
“Let’s go!” I yelled and ran to the coat closet. We both grabbed our jackets and headed outside.
The snow had piled up as high as the top of my boots. We could see fresh, deep footprints on the steps. I looked to my right to the neighbor’s driveway. The headlights were on, the engine was running, and it looked like Jack was helping the guys clear off the car. In the lights, I could see how fast and heavy the snow was coming down.
“No time for the steps,” I whispered to Jocelyn. “We can cut across the yard, but we have to be careful.”
I reached out and grabbed her hand.
Not only did I want all of them gone, but my mind had shifted, and I could no longer bear the thought of Dean leaving Jocelyn behind. It was a shitty thing for him to do, regardless of her messed up scheme. I could see why Jack was helping Dean, but I didn’t want it to end like this.
The walk from our front step to our neighbor’s driveway included large rocks and tree roots, which were hiding beneath the snow. Had we lived in the house longer, I might have been more familiar with the location of these obstacles. Plus, I was feeling the effects of the wine.
“Maybe he was coming back for me,” Jocelyn said. “He just wanted me to finish up with you.”
We both knew that was a stretch.
I stepped on something and almost fell. “Watch out here, I think there are some stones.”
I wondered if they could see us from the driveway. The car had been backed in, and its headlights were pointed toward the road. With all the snow, I thought there was a chance we might surprise them.
“I need to sit down a minute,” Jocelyn said. She was flushed, like when she first arrived at the house.
“We need to keep going.”
“I can’t.” She was brushing snow away, creating a place to sit on one of the stones.
“Stay right there, I’m heading up to stop them,” I said.
I looked back once at Jocelyn sitting there in the snow. She looked so alone yet peaceful.
As I got closer to the driveway, I shouted, “Hey, you guys forgot someone!”
The three men turned to look at me trudging through the snow. The car was pretty much dug out.
“Elise,” Jack started to say something, but I cut him off.
“Jack, how will Jocelyn get home if they leave her here?”
“She seems pretty capable of handling herself,” he said.
I had reached the car. I could see that the fake mechanic dude was using our shovel to create a path in front of the car.
“How do you guys think you’re going to drive away in all this snow?” I asked.
“Oh, we’re getting out of here, don’t you worry,” said Dean.
“Let me get Jocelyn, she’s right down there,” I pleaded, motioning to the property line between the two houses.
“Look lady, she might have gotten to you, but I’m done. I don’t think she knows whether she’s lying or telling the truth anymore.”
Dean and the other guy jumped in the car. I could see the kids in the back seat. They looked terrified.
I pounded on the driver’s window, “You are putting these kids’ lives at risk!”
Dean rolled down the window a crack, “Don’t you tell me what to do with my kids. Now move the fuck away!”
I stepped back and fell on my ass. I wanted so badly to just lie down in the snow and stay there. As Jack leaned over to help me up, the car started moving forward.
“Jocelyn!” I screamed and ran back the way I came, with Jack behind me.
Jocelyn was gone.
There were footprints leading to our stairs. We followed them and headed up to street level in time to see the car driving slowly in the other direction. There was no sign of Jocelyn.
Jack informed me that he had no interest in looking for Jocelyn. He went in the house, and I walked all over our property, falling several times, calling out Jocelyn’s name.
After I don’t know how long, I finally went inside and told Jack everything, including the parts I had been leaving out for years.
A couple days later I called my dad. I asked him if he had been seeing a young woman who told him she was pregnant. He claimed he had no idea who this woman was—just some scam artist, probably. And then he closed the subject. I resigned myself that I would never know who or what to believe.
Next, I spoke with my mom. She wouldn’t say if she had written a letter to Jocelyn—she said there were some things she might never be able to discuss with me. But when I offered to help her get away from dad and that maybe the two of us could take a break from drinking, she took me up on the offer.
Finally, I called my brother, and we mended our relationship. I didn’t tell him about Jocelyn specifically, but I told him I had seen our dad from a new perspective. I even got him to ease up on Mom.
We never saw or heard from Jocelyn or Dean again. Jack and I lived in that house for 25 years, and I always wondered if she might come back, but she didn’t.
We weathered the pandemic in that house, raised two kids together, and did our best to always tell each other the truth.
But you can only know your own story, right? And that’s a fact you learn to live with, hopefully—sometimes the hard way.
Thanks for reading Snowed In!
Midnight lyrics by Alison Moyet