And here we finally are. 9 chapters and over a year of procrastinating later, I’ve finally almost arrived at one of the most painful moments in my life. The type of situation which has the potential to turn a guy into either a domestic abuser or an ass bandit. Thankfully I opted for neither option, but that being said it was still all types of suck.
J was currently employed by a company called Teletech in a technical support capacity. Teletech is an outsourcing agency of whom Telstra uses to provide some of their internet technical support services. J was based at their Pennant Hills location.
Part of the requirements for this role was for the staff to do shift-work given that the support services that they offered were 24/7. At the time of the events that would soon transpire, J was rostered to work on a shift that commenced at 3pm and ended at 11:30pm.
During the winter of 2004, myself and a few friends from my riding club organised a ski trip to Perisher. It was to be about a 3 day trip from memory. Even though I’m no stranger to Perisher, I was far more excited on this occasion because it would be the first time I would actually be staying on the snow. Normally on previous trips I stay near the entrance to the National Park which is about a 40min drive from the mountain. The lodge we were staying at was halfway up Front Valley and right near the mid station terminal. Absolutely awesome. Pity the place turned out to be as old as hell and desperately in need of a renovation. Location however was still sensational.
Now there is just something inherently romantic about a snow getaway with the one you love. And as such, I was bursting with anticipation in the time leading up to the trip. J from what I could tell was quite excited too.
The plan was for the group of us to meet at a central location at about 3am, and form a convoy all the way to Perisher, which was about a 5+ hour drive from Sydney. J unfortunately finished work at 11:30pm but she would be home by about 12am which gives her ample time to rest, finish packing if need be, and prep for the trip. She can catch up on sleep in the car.
Now in the weeks leading up to this since J commenced her night shift, she was never late to arrive home. She would always be home around 12:00am each and every night. So come the day of the ski trip and hours before we were due to leave, I thought it a little unusual come 12:30am she still wasn’t home.
And so I started calling her phone but did not receive any answer. Countless calls, countless ring outs. Around 1am I started to get worried. J was never home late, ever. And on this day of days where we had a trip planned and were due to leave a mere couple of hours after she arrived home, she was late. Very late.
I started to worry because it was just so unlike her given the current circumstances. Of all days, I was positive that this was the one day that she would be home on time. Around 1pm I really started to worry and so decided to contact her office. Unfortunately, I had no idea what her office number was and given the time of night, I wouldn’t have any success calling any publicly listed number.
And so I tried my luck calling the Telstra tech support line. A little unorthodox, but I explained the situation to the rep on the phone. I explained that my partner worked at the Pennant Hills branch of Teletech and if this wasn’t already it, I desperately needed to be put through. The rep on the line eventually transferred me to the shift supervisor in J’s office. He told me that she had finished her shift on time at left at 11:30pm as per normal.
Now this is where panic started to set in. It was approaching 1:30am now and I still was not able to get in contact with her. Fearing the worst, I called the police. I gave them J’s name and also the licence plate no. of her car, asking if their systems had record of any traffic accidents of which her car may have been involved. They said that they had no records on their systems of any such accident.
I decided to jump in the car and retrace the usual route that she takes to work. It was about a 30min drive that I made in much much less time then that. My intention was to keep an eye out for any debris or signs of an accident that may have taken place along her return path. I called my friends Helen and Monique whom were joining us for the ski trip and explained the situation to them. They too started to worry immensely. They offered to drive over and assist me in the search for any signs of her whereabouts, however, I declined and thanked them for their offer of assistance. Ultimately, I don’t think there would be much they would be to do given the current circumstances.
It was almost 2am when I arrived at J’s place of work. I hit every buzzer I could find and requested to speak to whichever manager happened to be on duty. I explained the situation to him and tried to dig out any bit of information, however seemingly irrelevant, that may be able to assist me in my search. Unfortunately all he could tell me was that of which he had already explained on the phone. Their records show that she logged off at the end of the shift and left the premises along with everybody else.
I drove home slowly and kept my eyes peeled for any evidence that may have given me an clue as to her disappearance, but to no avail. I called Helen again about to give her a status update and brief the rest of the gang that we may not be able to make it. She again offered to come over and do whatever she could to assist me, an offer I again rejected.
The time was now about 2:40am, with all my calls to J’s mobile still going unanswered. As you could probably imagine, my mind was a raging maelstrom of fear. I just sat there feeling worried, shattered, and absolutely useless. I cursed myself for my inability to find or help her and tormented myself with ill visions of all the things that may have happened to her. The experience gave me an inkling of what parents or partners must go through when one of their loved ones goes missing. It’s this devastating feeling of complete and utter uselessness that I would wish no one to ever have to experience.
At around 2:50am… J walked in through the door.
I don’t even know how to express the emotions I felt when I first saw her walk in. I just crushed her in a tight embrace and shed tears of utter relief. J on the other hand, was completely nonchalant. She acted completely normal and looked at me like she was wondering what on Earth was wrong with me.
I asked her what had happened to her and how come she was home so late. Her answer? “Oh I just went to a colleagues house after work to help her with a few PC problems”, or something to that effect. Her explanation as to why she didn’t pick up her phone was that she had forgotten to take it off silent after work.
Now I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed but I’m also not stupid. I knew that J wasn’t telling me the truth. But at that point in time I simply didn’t care. I was just so happy and relieved for her back safe with me. When I explained all the trouble I had gone through to establish her whereabouts in the lead up to her return, she just looked at me like I was crazy. She demanded to know why on earth I would do those things. She just shook her head when I explained the circumstances from my point of you and didn’t say much in return. No words of apology and also none of appreciation. It was like the whole thing never happened.
My friends were extremely relieved too when I updated them on the situation. They said that they were ready whenever we were. And so commenced the ski trip, albeit an hour off schedule. The long journey to the snow wasn’t without some initial awkwardness. Naturally I was very curious about the whole situation and tried to probe as to her reasons for “helping her friend with her PC”, on the night we had to leave for the slopes. She started to get defensive and pissed at me. This was the last thing I wanted and so I dropped the matter, I was just happy that she was safe.
But J’s suddenly strange behaviour didn’t stop there. During our entire time at the slopes, J only snowboarded a handful of hours. Once when we all hit the slopes for the first time for a short period, and again a couple of days later for another short period. Her excuse was that she was tired and would prefer to just stay in the lodge, but assured me that she will join us again later, something she never really did.
What I found strange was that every time I walked into the communal lounge, or our room, I would always find J on the phone. At just about every single break I took during the day to return and rest at the lodge, the moment she saw me walking into the room she would hang up and put down the phone straight away. I asked her whom it was that she was constantly speaking to, and she said it was a mutual girl friend of ours whom was just having some relationship problems. I told her that she didn’t have to stop just because I had returned, to which she replied that it’s okay.
Alarm bells started to chime as one doesn’t need a whole lot of intuition to realise that her behaviour was very odd. If fact, I probably spent more time that trip with Helen than I did with J. Helen and I just hung out, chilled, snowboarded, and chatted about life and relationships. It was wonderful and her company really helped to take my mind off the problems at hand. J preferred to just spend time by herself. Urging me to go back to snowboarding when I offered to spend more time in the lodge with her, saying that she knows I’m here for the snow doesn’t want to hold me back just she herself didn’t feel like boarding. I got the impression that she was quite content to spend her waking hours on the phone and so acceded to her wishes. I had actually expected her to be all mopey and pissed at me for being cooped up in the lodge all day, but she actually seemed to be quite happy and in high spirits… which seemed a little strange.
Truth be told I was actually quite relieved come the end of the trip. I just felt so guilty that J wasn’t enjoying herself and felt somehow responsible for her not wanting to snowboard more. Perhaps if I had been a more attentive and encouraging boyfriend, perhaps if I had made more of an effort to teach her how to snowboard, perhaps this, perhaps that… I blamed it all on myself and was determined to make it up to her for this fail trip once we got back to Sydney.
It was only much later that I discovered I needn’t have bothered myself with the burden of taking up that job… for that position had already been filled.