St. Louis, Missouri, 1981 – In one fluid motion, Laura Taylor bolted upright and grabbed the handgun on the nightstand next to the bed. For a few moments, she sat there, hands shaking as she pointed the weapon at the empty room.
Nothing at first. Not even the footsteps she thought she’d heard. Then the knock on the slightly open door caused her to tighten her grip.
“W-who’s there?” She asked.
Her shoulders relaxed and her grip loosened. “Come in, Henry,” she said, placing the gun back on the nightstand. The door opened wider, and four-year old Henry and his two-year old sister Kimberly came running in. Laura helped her daughter onto the bed while Henry climbed on.
“Mommy, why were you shouting?” Henry asked. No doubt his big jade green eyes held a curious glint to them.
“Just a bad dream, that’s all.” Laura swept her messy blonde locks out of her face.
“Was it scary?”
Laura shivered. “It was,” she said. “I’m also worried for Daddy, because we haven’t heard from him in a while.” Dear God, please keep him safe.
She didn’t know how to answer. On the one hand, she wanted to explain the situation, but on the other, she and William had agreed to wait until they were older.
Little Kim took her thumb out of her mouth and spoke before Laura could come up with a lame answer. “I miss Daddy.”
Laura drew them both close. “I know, I miss him too.”
“Can we sleep with you, Mommy?” Henry asked. “So you’re not scared anymore?”
“Of course you can.”
Hours later, Laura was awakened again, but this time it was not by more nightmares. Instead, it was a gentle shake of her shoulder and a soft, familiar voice saying her name.
She looked over her shoulder and nearly choked on the sudden emotion that overcame her as she wrapped her arms around her husband, burying her face into his shoulder to muffle her sobs. William held her tight, rubbing her back in an effort to calm her.
“I was so worried,” she choked out. “Especially since you-you stopped calling us, and I thought-”
“Laura, honey, I’m okay,” he whispered. “I’m okay.”
“Did they find you?”
“No. They came close, but they didn’t succeed. We’re safe, sweetheart.”
“But what if-what if they do find us?”
“They’re not going to,” William replied firmly. “And even if they did, I’d rather die than see you and the kids get hurt, or-“
“Daddy?” a sleepy voice interrupted. They both turned to see that Henry was awake, dark brown hair sticking up on all sides. “You’re home, Daddy!” he said cheerfully.
William smiled. “Did ya miss me?”
Henry nodded. “We missed you lots and lots!” After a few seconds of silence, he added, “Daddy, are you going to stay home forever and ever now?”
“I’ll do my best, bud,” William said as he reached over and ruffled the boy’s hair, causing him to smile in delight. “Just go back to sleep, okay? I love you.”
“Love you too,” Henry mumbled as he burrowed under the covers again. After he was sure their son was asleep, William turned back to Laura.
“We’ll be fine,” he said. “Don’t worry.”
“I hope you’re right,” she replied. He kissed her again, then moved to the other side of the bed, so that the children were in between them. Reaching across the slumbering children, he grasped his wife’s hand and she returned the grip tightly.
He didn’t stop praying until he fell asleep.
©H.S. Kylian 2018
(Critiques are welcome and appreciated!)