It had not occurred to either Sally or me that no one knew about Roger's departure besides Sally and I, Frank, and Margo. It was Ned's urgent call that reminded us.
"There's a call from Mr. Ned Carpenter, Sir. Would you like to take it," Andrew informed me.
"Of course, Andrew," I said lifting the phone and answering.
"Hello, Ned? This is Mark Halpern?"
"Oh, Mark. I've been trying to reach Roger for the last two days. All Andrew would tell me is Roger is not there. Is everything OK, Mark. Has anything happened to Roger?"
"No, Ned. Nothing has happened to him. I'm sorry I did not let you know. I do not know how Sally and I could have been so thoughtless."
"Then what is it, Mark. Where is Roger?"
"Ned, Roger has gone home."
"Home. What do you mean. Isn't this Roger's home? What ...?"
"Ned! This is Roger's place, but it was never really his home. No place in this world was ever truly his home. I don't know how much you know, Ned, but Roger came from the stars and has returned to his true home in the stars.
"Oh," Ned said suddenly understanding. "I knew he was planning to leave this year, I just didn't really expect it. When did he leave Mark?"
"He left five days ago. Margo was with him when he left. She was the only one. As far as I know Margo, Frank, Sally, and I, and now you are the only ones who know he's left. That's my fault. I see my first job is to let everyone else know. Then I think it would be good for as many of us as can to get together."
Ned was silent for a moment, then, sounding a bit tired said, "Thank you, Mark. I...I'm going to miss Roger. I suppose you and Sal will take over things. Roger always said you were the only ones he would trust with his things."
That surprised me a bit. I would never have suspected Roger told anyone else about his plans for Sally and me. I would find out he'd done a lot of talking about us behind our backs.
"Yes, Ned. We agreed to Roger's request, but it was not an easy decision. Now we've made it, we wouldn't have it any other way."
"Good, good," Ned said. "It won't be so hard knowing you and Sal are there. When do you want to have our get together?"
"Let me talk to all the others, Ned, to at least let them know Roger's gone. I'll let you know as soon as I've done that.
"By the way, Ned, is there any pending business you had with Roger I should know about?"
"There is, but it will keep. We'll talk about it after you've finished your business and we are able to get together. And, by the way, if there is anything I can do to help, Mark, just let me know. Sal already knows that."
"Yes, I know Ned. Thank you!"
I knew Sally was busy in her office so went to speak to her there.
"Can I take a moment of your time, Honey?"
She was on the phone and held up one finger, so I waited until she completed her call.
"What is it love?" she asked.
"We've made a terrible mistake. Sal. None of the others know that Roger has left. Ned just called, frantic because he has been unable to reach Roger. I wonder how many other have been trying to reach him?"
"You could ask Andrew," she suggested.
"I could, and I will, though it really doesn't matter. We have to tell the others right away, anyway. What do you think, Sal? Should I just start calling them?
"No. We'll both call them. We'll make two lists. You call the men, and I'll call the women, and we'll do it right now."
Sal would be calling Joanne Tylor, Ruth Sparberger, and Irene Dempsey since Margo and Frank already knew, and I would be calling Franz Wolfe, Peter Sterling, and Joel Rice, (Rena had passed away last year). Ned, of course, now knew.
It turned out Sally did not need to call Dempsey, since she already knew. She was the only other non-earth human we knew and we should have realized she would know what Roger was doing. Still, she was happy to learn Sally and I had agreed to take Roger's offer, and was eager to meet with us and the others as soon as possible.
Joanne Tylor seemed unable to grasp what Sally was telling her. She understood where Roger was from, but could not really believe, or perhaps did not want to, that he had returned to another world. Sally told me she kept saying, "He's dead, He's dead," even when she explained he had only gone somewhere else. "It's just the same as his being dead to me."
She eventually got a hold of herself, and thanked Sally and promised to join the others whenever we decided to meet.
Ruth Sparberger's response was exactly the opposite of Joanne's, according to Sally. "Good for Roger," she said. "Of course I'll miss him desperately—we all will—but I'm so happy he'll be where he truly belongs and with those he loves. And of course I'll be at any meeting you set up. Roger certainly made the right choice, I mean in you and Mark."
It was beginning to seem everyone knew Roger's choice before we did.
I called Joel first. He was not at all surprised by the news and thanked me in that expansive Southwestern way for letting him know. He sounded eager to join the others whenever Sal and I decided. He was the first to assume we would be making the decisions that Roger would have been making.
Franz was much more interested in the fact that Sally and I were, well in his words, "taking over," than in the news that Roger was leaving. "I knew he'd be leaving and could not imagine what would happen to all he had produced. I was so afraid the parasites would find some way to take it all over and destroy it like they do everything else." He was also very interested that Margo had actually been with Roger when he left. "I can hardly wait to talk to her. Of course I always can hardly wait to talk to her, but that's another matter, he laughed."
Peter Sterling surprised me the most. "He had to leave of course. This world did not deserve him, or any of his kind, or the few earth humans who are like him. I would escape this world if I could. At least we have you and Sally in our world, which does not deserve you two either, or any of the others, Mark."
He assured me he would be at any meeting we planned and was looking forward to it.
After dinner that evening, Sal and I were listening to some music and reading together.
"When do you think we should have our meeting, Darling?" I asked Sal when I saw her look up from her book.
"Mark, who do you suppose Roger ever asked a question like that? I know you always want to know my mind on things, but Darling, it is you Roger trusted, and me only because I am yours. You should have the meeting when you know it is the right time—and it will be."
So I decided and contacted everyone and invited them for an afternoon, dinner, and evening. Andrew made all the arrangements. I spent an hour with the cook who made some marvelous suggestions for dinner. I asked Andrew if there were any films, or videos of Roger, and he assured me that Roger had forbidden them. He was practically unknown except to those with whom he personally associated.