“She’s a very nice lady,” Lucy said to her mother. “She brings me cookies sometimes.”
Mary smiled to herself, rummaging through the cabinets to find what she needed for dinner. As soon as they packed up the hotel room and headed for this tiny house, she went to the grocery store and got enough food to last a week or two. Daniel was out walking Emma in the stroller, and Cassie was down the hall in her room, so making dinner was left to Lucy and herself.
Tyler was somewhere else in the town. Since they got a rental house, he was staying in the hotel room they’d booked for a few more nights. He was technically on vacation with them, but not exactly.
“Well, if Cassie says it’s okay that’s fine, but still be careful.” Mary set out a pan on the stove. “I think we’ll have pancakes and eggs tonight. How’s that sound?”
“Mommy, the lady wants to meet you sometime.”
Lucy colored on the sheet of paper noisily, scribbling away with the crayons. She was sitting at the small table across the kitchen from Mary. All the appliances and big objects were crammed into one half of the room, mostly still in their packing boxes. The table and chairs were on the other, relatively empty side. Behind it was a walk-in closet pantry.
“Maybe, Lucy, maybe.” Mary cracked an egg and let the contents plop into the pan. “We aren’t staying here very long though.”
“I know that. But maybe we could all meet the lady one time near the end. I
think it’d be very nice.”
Mary nodded without really listening. Her hands moved deftly, preparing the meal.
“She likes babies, too. She said she really likes babies, Mommy, so I told her all about Emma.”
“Strangers can be dangerous, Lucy. Please be careful.” Mary glanced over at her daughter, who was focused on the paper. “You will be careful for Mommy, won’t you?”
“Of course, Mommy. I’m only talking about a friend. Friends are okay, right?”
Mary was spared from answering when the front door opened. They heard Daniel come into the living room, kicking the door shut behind him. Emma was babbling.
“I’m making pancakes, honey,” Mary called out. “Is that alright?”
“Sure thing,” Daniel said, strolling into the kitchen. “You know, I don’t recognize a single thing in this city. It’s like Marcy is a completely different town. Maybe Hardy will be, too. I wouldn’t mind that so much.”
“I met someone who knows you, Daddy,” Lucy said with a giggle.
Daniel whipped around to face her. “Who did you meet?”
“Daniel,” his wife began, “she was just telling me-”
“I met an old lady, Daddy!” Lucy exclaimed. “She was a very nice old lady.
And she said she knows you!”
Daniel turned to face his wife, furrowing his eyebrows. “What did she just say?”
“Daniel, she was telling me that-”
Lucy interrupted, “She wants to meet you! And I told her all about Emma and Cassie and Mommy and our family, and she said she wants to come over and-”
“Go to your room!” Daniel bellowed. “Go, now, and don’t come out until we call for you.”
Lucy threw her chair back and stormed out of the kitchen. “Maybe I’ll go live with the old lady instead!” and then she sprinted to her room.
There was silence for a moment, as Mary watched her husband from the corner of her eye. He stood there, silent, clenching and unclenching his fists. Daniel leaned his forehead against the wall, kicking it roughly.
“She… she just said she was a lady… I didn’t remember…”
“It’s fine,” Daniel snapped. “It’s fine. We’re just fine.”
“Just… a few more days. Then we’ll leave.”
“I know that.” He smacked the wall. “But if it starts again, we can’t leave. We can’t, we won’t.”
“If what starts? There’s no way she’s the same lady!” Mary exclaimed. “That’s stupid!”
“I’m not stupid,” Daniel growled. “And there’s something I never told you about her. And I never plan to. Just know that if another kidnapping happens, if there’s more of this, we can’t and won’t leave until it’s all over.”
“And what if there’s nobody left to take with us?” Mary said. Her hands were shaking as she faced her husband.
“Then… I don’t know.”
She shook her head, wiping her eyes. “You’d give up on our family just to close a case you should forget about.”
“I can’t forget about it!” he screamed. “It won’t forget me!”
“Who won’t forget you?” Mary yelled, storming forwards so that they were nose-to-nose. “Who? It’s a police case, not a person! Just leave it alone and come back to our family and be a real father! Don’t do this to us! Who won’t forget you? This is stupid, completely stupid, and you’re stupid, so just forget it!”
He took a step back. “But She won’t forget me.”