The metal scraped against the floor as the door opened. The storage room was dark and quiet, but she noticed one object sitting in the center of the room. She soon realized it was a car that shouldn’t have been there.
The car was coated in a thick layer of dust. She’d have to do something about that. But when she opened the trunk, she’d discover something that proved her husband had another life.
Lavona lived in Port Isabel, Texas her whole life. It was a small town, and she was happy. She had been married to her partner, Charles, for seven years.
Then came baby Taylor. She knew she’d have to quit her job to raise their child and Charles was more than happy to work full time – this wasn’t his first time, after all.
Lavona never had the privilege of going to school or graduating from university with a degree as Charles did. It seemed that good things just happened to her husband.
It had always been hard for her to find and keep work. But it seemed Charles was always stable and supporting her. He was always there for her. All they needed was each other… right?
Their marriage was a good one in Lavona’s mind. She didn’t mind when he spent his weekends with his old college friends and came home exhausted without saying anything of what he got up to.
But for the last three years, it didn’t feel like they spent much time together. But she thought everything would be different when they had Taylor, and it was… for a little while.
Charles had his own space and he was always a little secretive. Lavona would spend her time with her small group of close friends while he spent his time with his. She had always chalked it down to him just being introverted.
But she’d soon discover that her husband was doing more with his alone time than she had initially known.
Lavona was hoping that with being pregnant with Taylor, Charles would be home more often to help her out. But after five months she was having a lot of problems trying to paint the baby room by herself.
Charles did stick around for a while and even helped shop for the crib. But soon, he would fall back into old habits and lost interest in helping out at home.
Lavona thought that having a child with Charles would only make their bond stronger. But she was met with frustration. Now, she felt more alone than ever.
She had a home birth, as she planned, and her midwife delivered the baby. Charles was at work at the time and couldn’t even be reached. But things would get even worse.
Things only continued down this road. Taylor was now a year old and Charles was more distant than he had ever been. She felt that she may as well have been a single mom. To make matters worse, he started bringing less money home each month.
So, one day when Lavona tried to get her shopping done she was in for a surprise when her card was declined. She never spent any money on herself, so what had Charles done with all of their money?
Charles didn’t like it when Lavona questioned him. He said he’d taken a day off of work every week to make sure he didn’t feel overworked.
And to make things even worse, Charles suggested that she should get herself a job if she didn’t like how little money they had. But if Charles had been taking Mondays off, where had he been?
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
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?
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 Camel’s… nothing told her anything. But she wasn’t about to leave now. Then, Lavona remembered something.
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.