Dogs are barking, bird is squawking, and someone is pounding on my front door. I step out of the shower and throw on my robe.

“Hurry up, lady!” the delivery man says as I unlock the door. “I have a schedule to keep and I need you to sign for this.”

I sign and receive a small envelope which I drop, unopened, on my desk and return to the shower. But the pets aren’t having it. The big dog brings the envelope to me in the bathroom, where I realize it has a strange odor. Perhaps a skunk got trapped in the truck, and the scent must be what is upsetting the dogs. I put my robe on once again and take it outside so I can throw away the packaging and air out its contents.

Inside I find two theater tickets and a note from my husband inviting me to meet him at our favorite restaurant for dinner before the show. This was definitely worth opening the door for.

Within two hours I stop in front of the restaurant’s valet stand, and get out of my car. I walk in, give the hostess my name, and mention that I am meeting my husband. She finds the reservation in my name, but says he hasn’t arrived yet. I try to phone him again, but the call goes straight to voice mail. When I called earlier to thank him, he hadn’t answered and I assumed he was with a patient. Now I suspect he either forgot to charge his battery or misplaced his phone.

I order a drink and start working a Sudoku puzzle on my phone while waiting. I become engrossed in the game and jump a bit when I feel him kiss my neck. My immediate pleasure flees as I realize a stranger just kissed me and is now sitting beside me.

“I’m sorry,” I say, attempting to be polite. “You must have mistaken me for someone else. I am waiting for my husband.”

“Darling, that is not a nice greeting,” he replies with a confident smile as he reaches over and drinks from my glass. “We have forty-five minutes to eat if we are going to make it on time for the theater. Do you like my surprise? The therapist keeps telling me I need to do better at planning romantic dates if we are going to improve our marriage.”

I fight my emotions while trying to appear casual. Who is this man? Think! He knows me, he sent me tickets, he knows our favorite restaurant…the note…it wasn’t handwritten. He said therapist…is he one of my husband’s patients? Is this a joke? Is this man mentally ill and confused? Could he be criminally insane? Where is my husband?

The waitress comes to the table and this strange man orders for both of us, exactly what my husband and I usually order. I glance around, trying to decide if I should go to the restroom or out the front door. Before I move, he grabs my hand and holds it too tight.

“I’m going to use the restroom before our food arrives,” I say as calmly as I can.

“No. Stay here with me. Stop looking for the doctor. He’s tied up for the evening. We are going to have a lovely date tonight, and then worry about him tomorrow.”

The intense look in his eyes terrifies me. This is no joke now. Is he being literal in saying my husband is tied up? I still have my phone in my other hand, resting in my lap. I discretely dial the number again, praying the love of my life picks up. Instead I hear it ring across the table. The stranger has my husband’s phone. He looks confused as he sees the call from me.

“Darling, are you not feeling well this evening?” he asks with real concern as a tear escapes my eye. “Maybe it’s too soon to try an evening out. Why don’t we just eat and skip the theater?”

Our food arrives quickly, and it is good, although I am very uncomfortable eating. When we finish, the man pays the check and orders the valet to bring my car around. He guides me to the passenger side of the car, and gently settles me in. Where is he taking me and where is my husband? Within minutes we are out of downtown and heading home. I try to remain calm, but everything seems wrong.

Within thirty minutes, he pulls into a hospital driveway. I am so relieved to see my husband waiting for me at the door. The stranger jumps out and opens my door.

“Doctor, I’m sorry to call you so late, but I think she’s having another psychotic relapse.”

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” I say. I’m so glad to be home.

©2012 by Kathryn McClatchy—All Rights Reserved