Rick and Virginia were missing. As there had been no ransom demand, kidnapping had been ruled out. Murder and suicide had seemed unlikely based on their apartment in which nothing was disturbed, and from which nothing had been taken. The police, with nothing to go on, had slowly abandoned the case and now, six months later, in late-night moments of bewilderment, their friends even began to speculate if Rick and Virginia had been abducted by aliens.
“Weirder things have happened,” said his upstairs neighbor, Nelson, and everyone nodded yet no one had any idea what could be weirder than that.
Rick had met Virginia while working at the local food bank and each was sensitive to the plight of the unfortunate, but they believed in wholly different approaches to how best to resolve that plight. They had voted for opposite candidates in the last election, which produced several dinner-time arguments that carried well past their bed time. At their wedding, they had vowed never to go to bed angry; hence, some of their political discussions indeed lasted long into the night.
They were not only frustrated with one another, but a bit frightened, too, for this was the first time in their six years of marriage (“eight years of being together” as Virginia liked to add) that their disagreements had become so heated. Nevertheless, at the end of the day (sometimes quite literally) they had their love of old movies that brought them together.
As a girl, Virginia had spent a great deal of time with her grandmother and neither slept particularly well. The girl had an unnatural anxiety about the future and the grandmother had a deep longing for the past and so, one or two o’clock in the morning would find them awake and delighting in the Marx Brothers or marveling at how Humphrey Bogart found the Maltese Falcon or how Fred and Ginger would dance away their difficulties.
As for Rick, he loved Virginia and so he came to love old movies, too.
Shortly after the election, they got into a tremendous argument. At some point past midnight, Rick had half-shouted, “Why don’t we just get divorced then!” Nelson was sure those were his words when the police interviewed him. Virginia was stunned when she heard this, but an unnatural calm came over her in that moment. Silently, she took Rick’s hand and led him to the couch. With the other hand, she picked up the remote and turned on the television which, quite naturally, was already tuned to Turner Classic Movies.
The television was still on three days later, when their friends became aware that something was wrong.
Both sets of parents refused to hold any kind of memorial service and they continued to hold out hope that they would reappear, but Nelson had quietly convinced them of the practicality of placing Rick and Virginia’s belongings in storage and of giving up their apartment. He and his wife Jeannette had agreed to wrap and box the contents.
Jeannette was working in the living room and went to remove the batteries from the remote when she wondered to herself what Rick and Virginia were watching the night they disappeared. She turned on the TV—still tuned to Turner Classic Movies, of course—and in a melancholy moment, she turned on the DVR. wondering what movies they would never see as they had planned.
“Oh, my God! Nelson! I found them! Oh, my God! Oh, my God!” She plunked awkwardly on the couch, her jelly-legs not capable of supporting her.
Nelson came running in from the kitchen. “You found what? What’s wrong?”
“Not what. I found them. Look.”
Jeannette hit the back arrow three times.
“It’s a movie called Carefree.”
“What are you talking about? All I see is Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing.”
Jeannette hit play, then pause as she wiped the tears that were streaming down her face.
“Nelson, this entire DVR is nothing but Carefree. . . . There. Wait until they dance into this room . . . Look!”
Nelson looked. He sat down, too, only half-voluntarily.
“I know what I’m seeing, but I don’t know what I’m looking at. How . . .”
There on an oversized chair sat Rick and Virginia. There was no doubt about it. Rick in his white tuxedo jacket and Virginia in her long black gown rise up as Fred and Ginger enter, the latter playfully bounced off the chair by the former. The camera quickly focused on the two stars, but as they began to dance their way back into the main ballroom, the others followed. Right behind them were Rick and Virginia dancing past the camera, only for a second, but in glorious black and white, dancing and laughing as they disappeared out of the shot once more.
Something weirder had indeed happened.
Anyone look familiar to you?