I had lied. I just wanted to wallow in my misery for a while, and I didn’t want or need someone hovering over me and holding my hand. I didn’t feel it would make it any easier.
I sank down onto my couch despondently. The silence seemed to echo through the house. There wasn’t a tiny voice calling me, wanting to know where her favorite doll was, or if I had washed her new pair of jeans. There wasn’t a cheerful, smiling face telling me about the fun things she had done at school that day. And there wasn’t a serious, frowning face telling me about the tricks the boys had played on her and her friends. I didn’t find myself having to answer a hundred questions about every move I made or having to explain why certain things happened and why other things didn’t. There wasn’t the sound of scampering feet through the house and there were no warm, cuddly hugs while we curled up together on the couch.
These were all seemingly small things I had become used to and I took for granted. Now the emptiness and the quietness of the house were crushing, and it occurred to me I might never experience those moments again. No! I couldn’t think about that! We would find her somehow.
I paced the floors, wandering between the living room and the kitchen, wondering what was happening, if anything, at Michael Walters’ office. Without consciously realizing it, I found myself in Melissa’s bedroom. I sat down on her bed and picked up one of her many stuffed toys. She didn’t really have any favorites, changing allegiances often.
I gazed around her room, which wasn’t overly girly or frilly. She enjoyed playing with a variety of toys and it showed in the collection presently piled in a corner. The walls were painted blue, her matching curtains and bedspread were colored with mauve, yellow, peach and green. The result was a warm, inviting oasis in which a child could play and sleep. It made me wonder what kind of place she was in at the present moment. I doubted she was feeling safe and comfortable, and I wondered if she was thinking of her room right now.
I felt something cold and wet on my hands. I looked down in surprise to see they were wet with the tears running down my cheeks.
I stood and left the room as quickly as I could. I had to change my mind. I went to the kitchen, thinking I should have something to eat. It was mid-evening and I hadn’t eaten since lunchtime. I wasn’t hungry, but I thought fussing in the kitchen would at least help me to pass the time. I found some cold chicken in the fridge and threw together a salad, but after taking a few bites I covered it with cellophane and put it back in the fridge for later.
I could feel the pressure building in my chest again and I knew it was only a matter of time before I was going to lose it completely. I realized I hadn’t yet spoken to my mother to tell her the bad news, and suddenly the idea of speaking to someone was appealing. I sank into the couch with the phone and within minutes I was pouring my heart out to my mother and we were both crying. I rehashed everything that had happened from the beginning, telling her about my promise to Sylvia, my first encounters with Michael Walters, and the interrogation with Detective O’Grady. After forty-five minutes we ended our conversation with her telling me she would book the first flight she could find.
After I hung up, I felt better knowing I would soon have someone to give me moral support without being intrusive, but my respite was short-lived. The anxiety and distress I had been feeling rushed back with a vengeance, and I paced again until I couldn’t take it any longer. I grabbed my jacket, purse and keys and raced out the door.