Frederick was beside himself. It had been weeks since Lorraine had disappeared from the face of the earth, and the Black Mountain police still thought he was responsible. It was vendetta time. They ticketed his car everywhere he parked, leaving him handwritten notes, “Give yourself up!” “You’re guilty as hell,” and “It’s always the husband….” In addition to owing hundreds of dollars in parking fines and still not knowing the whereabouts of his wife, he was now also under siege from his neighbor from across the hall.
Frederick did everything he could to avoid Ellie. She was forever banging on his door and calling his name. He didn’t answer but sat huddled in his armchair in the living room barely breathing. When she finally stopped and went away, he would open the door a crack and peek outside into the hall. He would smell before he saw what she had left him: plates of homemade cookies, steaming chicken pot pies, and spaghetti and meatballs. And his stomach would start growling. He didn’t want to encourage her by accepting these gifts, but he was hopeless in the kitchen. He was starving and missed Lorraine’s cooking even if it was vegetarian. He couldn’t resist the the fresh food sitting right outside his door. He brought in the delightful concoctions each day, ate everything, washed the plates and tiptoed across the hall to leave them outside the door of her apartment. He wondered what in the world Ellie wanted from him. He checked his reflection in the full-length mirror outside the bathroom, and he was still a slightly pudgy old man. What was up?
She was a kind person, but he was ashamed of what had happened earlier. He had awakened naked in her bed one morning after he had had too much to drink. The police had questioned him earlier that evening about Lorraine’s disappearance, and Ellie had appeared and had made him some delightful hot beverages. Next thing he knew, he had become an adulterer. He was a married man! And despite the unknown whereabouts of his wife, he would remain faithful to her or he could never show his face at St.James Church again.
The trickiest part of the whole situation was not only avoiding Ellie and the rest of the residents of 44 Cherry St, but also avoiding everyone he knew in Black Mt. People were dying of curiousity about what had happened to Lorraine, and everywhere he went he was approached by kind people offering either support or giving him the third degree. Either way, he felt too visible and he preferred staying in the background. When Lorraine was around, no one even noticed him. He was at his wit’s end. He decided a disguise was in order.
Even though he would never admit it to Lorraine because it would upset her, he was just about her size. In fact he weighed probably fifteen pounds less than she did and was about her height. He would go to his dying day swearing to her that he was heavier and taller than she was. She had a closet full of flowing Eileen Fisher clothes, and he found that he fit nicely into them. Lorraine also had several wigs that she wore when she was having a bad hair day. They looked just like the hair-do she wore daily: black hair in a pouffy cloud with long bangs. She always tried to cover as much of her face as possible to hide signs of aging. And she had pots and pots of make-up she would apply each day.
Frederick found that he was successfully hidden in plain sight if he wore Lorraine’s clothes, her wig, and lots of make-up. His walk, obviously, was different from hers, and he was slimmer than she was, so even though he got lots of interested stares at Ingles, people wondering if Lorraine was back, Frederick looked just different enough that he deflected curiousity. Nevertheless, he switched from the Black Mt Ingles (Blingles) to the Swannanoa Ingles (Swingles) to do what shopping he needed to do. No one he knew would shop in that second rate grocery store, so he was safe.
Policemen driving by him on the street as he walked the dog did double takes. He even got some wolf-whistles from guys in pick-up trucks, which gave him the creeps. But the disguise worked.