Revealing the Lie
She crouched and pulled open the door with a heave. The dark unit held the silhouette of a big object. It was covered in a tarp from what she could see. And underneath the tarp would be a car – she knew it shouldn’t have been in there.
She decided to give the car a wash, and clear out everything that was in it.
Lavona lived in Port Isabel, Texas. She had been happily married to Charles for an entire seven years. She married him after dating him for three years.
They weren’t well off. They had to work hard to support their baby Taylor, so much so that Lavona quit her job to look after her. Her husband seemed happy to financially support them, he had done so before.
Charles had been given many opportunities in his life, he had an education and got a good job after earning his degree. Lavona felt that her job was less adequate than his.
She had always struggled to find a job while her husband got them so easily with his qualifications. He had always looked after her whenever she didn’t have a job and she loved him for that.
Their relationship was solid as a rock, or at least Lavona thought so. Charles would always go off to spend his free time with his drinking buddies. And when he got back he never wanted to bring it up.
But after three years of being married to one another, it felt that they had barely seen each other. With Lavona working hard and Charles doing the same plus seeing his mates. Things did change once Taylor was born.
Lavona understood that her husband really liked his private space away from her. They could have lived without each other, right?
But Lavona would eventually find out that she knew very little about what Charles got up to in his free time.
But once she got pregnant Charles changed, he helped her out and was there for everything. But after five months she found herself painting the nursery on her own, what changed?
Even though Charles had stuck around a lot more in the first few months of her pregnancy, he lost interest and went back to old habits. He got home at a late hour not mentioning where he had been.
Lavona thought that the miracle of childbirth would bring Charles back into her life. But things steadily declined before the child was even born. So when the big day was finally there, Charles wasn’t there.
Lavona’s midwife helped deliver the beautiful baby Taylor but Charles couldn’t be reached. He told her he was working.
A Nasty Surprise
Things didn’t change even after she gave birth. It had been a year and he was still as absent as ever. Lavona felt that she was a single mother even if Charles was helping financially. But even that changed.
She soon found that less and less money was available for the necessities like groceries and baby things. Where was all the money going? She had never spent a dime on anything selfish. Charles had some answering to do.
Charles was more than defensive when Lavona raised the important question. He said that he had been taking extra days off to help himself destress. But where was he on his days off?
He also snapped that if she didn’t like the amount of money coming in that she should try and make it herself. She felt her blood starting to boil.
Desperation Sinks In
She felt so offended, if he hadn’t mentioned that he was taking days off he was surely lying about other things.
Charles didn’t seem to care that this upset her. She knew that they’d have to make some more money if they wanted to make ends meet. But soon more problems would arise.
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 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. 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.
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?
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?
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.