Revealing the Lie
She flung the metal door upward, flinching slightly as it screeched. In the dimness of the storage unit, she could just make out the hulking object, swathed in a white tarp. She pulled it off to reveal the car – all too aware that she wasn’t meant to be there.
First, she’d need to dust the car off, then she’d begin to clear it out. But when she popped the trunk open, she found all the evidence of her husband’s double life.
Lavona was a small-town girl. She had been born and raised in Port Isabel, Texas. She had been married to Charles for seven years now, and they had known each other for ten.
They didn’t have a lot of money. But when baby Taylor came, there was no question that Lavona would quit her job to become a full-time mom. Charles never complained about supporting his family – after all, he’d done it before.
Lavona had never had the opportunities that Charles had – going to school, graduating from university with a degree, getting a job that didn’t pay peanuts… everything that she never had just seemed to fall into Charles’ lap.
For her, finding and holding down a job had always seemed like a battle, but Charles had always been there to support her while she was between jobs. She was grateful for that. All they needed was each other… right?
Lavona felt like she and Charles had a good relationship. She never resented him when he wanted to spend the weekend with his college buddies, or when he came home from work exhausted and didn’t want to speak to her about it.
However, in the last three years of their marriage, they had become like ships passing each other in the night. They began to spend less and less time together. But when she became pregnant, she thought all that would change. And it did, for a while.
Charles had always enjoyed his personal space, which was fine by Lavona. They didn’t have to do everything together, so they were free to pursue their own interests. Charles sometimes spent the whole weekend away fishing, and Lavona spent her free time with her small group of close friends.
But Lavona was about to find out that she knew less about what Charles was doing in his alone time than she thought.
With a baby on the way, Lavona expected Charles to spend more time at home, helping her prepare for baby Taylor’s arrival. Five months into her pregnancy, she was having trouble painting the nursery and baby-proofing the house by herself.
And Charles had been around more for the first few months. He had even helped her pick out the baby crib. But slowly, he seemed to be losing interest and going back to his old ways. He began arriving home later and later.
Lavona had hoped that a baby would bring them closer, but getting pregnant had actually made things worse. Charles was spending less and less time with her. And when the big day arrived, she was all alone.
Lavona called her midwife and gave birth to a healthy baby boy at home, as she and Charles had planned. Of course, Charles was at work and unreachable. But the worst was still to come.
A Nasty Surprise
Things continued this way – Taylor was now a year old and Charles was more distant than ever. Lavona felt like a single mother. While Charles was still providing for his family, he began to bring less and less money home.
One day, Lavona got a nasty surprise when she tried to buy their monthly groceries and her card was declined. She had always been careful to budget for what they needed, and she never spent money on herself. So, what was Charles spending all their money on? She decided to confront him.
Charles immediately went on the defensive when Lavona confronted him with the discovery she had made. He explained that he’d felt overworked lately, and he’d taken an extra day off each week to keep himself from burning out.
As if to add insult to injury, he told her that if she was so unhappy about their financial situation, she should get a job herself. Lavona felt her face flush with anger. She couldn’t believe her ears! If Charles hadn’t been going to work on Mondays, just where had he been going?
Desperation Sinks In
Lavona felt sick to her stomach. If her husband hadn’t been going to work one day of the week, what else had he been lying about? She felt a weight on her chest as she thought of the monthly bills that were looming.
Even worse, Charles didn’t even seem to care – it was like he’d completely checked out. She needed to find a way to make some money, and fast. Little did she know, she was about to discover the cause of all their marital problems.
Lavona pulled out all the monthly statements and bills to their shared bank account to try and see where the money was going. She needed to see where she could cut costs, and if Charles wasn’t willing to help, she’d have to make a plan herself.
One item appeared again and again – a mysterious monthly debit order of $95, called “STOR336.” Did this have something to do with her husband’s strange behavior? Lavona was about to find out.
Lavona called the bank to trace the mysterious debit order and they were able to give her some vital information. The $95 was going to a company called “Store-IT,” and it was located near South Bay.
All it took was a quick Google and a phone call. Lavona had completely forgotten about the storage unit Charles had inherited from his father all those years ago. She’d never been inside, and she had assumed that Charles had forgotten about it, too, and that the key was long gone. How very wrong she was.
Glimmer Of Hope
Lavona knew it was a long shot, but maybe there were items inside the storage unit that she could sell to keep them afloat… even if it was just for another month or two.
Maybe she could gather enough money to pay for a nanny for Taylor, and she could use the extra breathing room to look for a part-time job. But first things first. She needed to know what was inside the unit.
Lavona bundled Taylor into the car and drove to the storage facility the very same day. She didn’t have the key, but she had the payment reference for storage unit 336. She explained to the company’s manager that the key was lost – after all, they had completely forgotten about the old storage unit.
But the manager just shook his head, puzzled. “We don’t keep tenant keys on the property for security reasons, so I can’t let you in.” Lavona’s face fell. “But I know Charles well,” he continued, “he had your key on Monday.”
Something Wasn’t Right
“Wait… what?” Lavona stammered. Charles hadn’t said a word to her about the storage unit. In fact, he hadn’t brought it up since he inherited it… and that was seven years ago. “If you need a copy, I can bring it to you tomorrow,” the manager said – seemingly oblivious to Levona’s stricken face.
Levona resolved to pull herself together. She needed to get to the bottom of this. She put on her fakest, widest smile and replied: “Thank you! That would be great!”
Lavona hardly slept at all that night. Charles had crept in at some late hour, as usual, and was now sleeping soundly beside her. She lay awake, wondering what could be in that storage unit that her husband didn’t want her to know about.
The clock rolled over to 4:55 AM and Lavona sighed. The birds began chirping their dreaded morning call and Taylor started crying, like clockwork. So she got up.
Even though Lavona’s eyes burned, she shakily made Charles a packed lunch of meatloaf leftovers to take to work, just like she always did.
Even though she just wanted to scream at him until he confessed everything, she had to act like everything was completely normal. She waited for him to pull out the drive and gave him a good head start. Then, she and Taylor headed to South Bay.
Lavona pulled up to the gate, told the security guard her name, and asked if the manager had left a key for her. Yes, a key for storage unit 336, she nodded. He handed it to her without questions.
That was almost too easy, she thought as she drove down the rows, searching for the right number. 300… 320…finally, 336.
The Storage Unit
Lavona slung Taylor onto her hip and walked with purpose. Squatting down, she slid the key into the lock and clicked it into place. She hesitated for a few seconds.
This moment demarcated the point where she’d cross a line in her and her husband’s marriage. She wanted to be fully aware. After this, there was no going back. She heaved, and the red door slid up with a screech.
The musty smell of old upholstery hit her as a tractor beam of light streamed in through the entrance, illuminating a large object that was right in the middle of the piled boxes and sparkling galaxies of dust.
It was covered with a white tarp. She strode inside and flung the covering off to reveal an old car. Her heart began to pound with excitement. Was this the answer to all her problems? Or was this all just a giant mistake?
Lavona didn’t know much about cars. All she knew was that it was dusty. Taylor was growing niggly, so she bounced him up and down while she walked around it, trying to peer inside for clues.
From what she could see from looking in the dirty windows, someone had been inside this car recently. Through the dust, she could just make out a bright green lunchbox and a brown A3 folder, sitting on the passenger seat. Her heart dropped.
Elephant In The Room
Lavona hadn’t really wanted to believe that her husband had hidden something like this from her. If they had an old car to sell, why hadn’t he told her? He knew that they were a month or two away from being evicted. Yet, he’d said nothing.
But the biggest elephant in the room was something she couldn’t even begin to comprehend. Looking at the dust, she knew nobody had been driving it. So why was Charles coming here to sit inside it?
Nothing Adds Up
A sharp swell of anxiety had begun to well in Lavona’s chest. Could this be something to do with an affair? But then, why not meet at a hotel? Why here? Her gut and a creeping feeling told her that something else was going on.
Trying to ignore Taylor’s keening, she swung her arm out and gripped the door handle to find out, once and for all. “Damn!” she cried. Locked. Where was the key?
If she couldn’t get into the car to see what was inside, the next best thing would be to wipe the dust off so she could look in. She grabbed the tarp and began polishing the windows furiously.
The spaces she cleared let a little more light in. She could see stacks of paper in the back. A few crumpled beer cans, a box of Camels… nothing told her anything. But she wasn’t about to leave now. Then, Lavona remembered something.
A Strange Habit
Charles had a strange habit of keeping his ignition key in the garage at home. That way, he reasoned, he’d always be able to find it. He had an infuriating habit of losing his car key, and this had been his solution.
Lavona scanned the storage unit, looking over the piles of boxes and junk until her eyes were drawn to one small, round box that was conspicuously free of dust. And her hunch paid off.