As Jennifer watched the police comb their home for any clues about their girl, her eyes rested on her husband. He was perched on the edge of the seat next to her, for once fulfilling the duty of a husband by just being there.
I had always assumed he would tear our family apart, but he’s becoming the glue that holds us all together.
The thought seemed dramatic, even for her, but there was no denying Dan’s self-destructive tendencies. At that moment, she blamed herself for their daughter’s disappearance far more than she blamed him. Yes, they had argued, but every family experienced cross-words from time to time.
Their daughter had casually wandered in the direction of rebellion, but she was far from doing anything stupid. The random result to her actions was the unanticipated abduction by someone completely unknown to them. This, apparently, didn’t happen very often, so the police were determined to find a link between the faceless kidnapper and the parents.
She had been given the usual hollow assurances, despite the underlying tone of scepticism she could hear in the voices of the police officers. Maybe they would find their daughter. Maybe they would apprehend the man with the warped mind. On the other hand, maybe they wouldn’t achieve their goals on either front.
Their family, in recent years, seemed to thrive on bad luck. She had resumed work when her husband had a crisis of confidence that resulted in resignation from the police. She had worked two jobs and run a home while he moped around, finding himself and wondering what to do with his life.
I’ve always been the supportive wife, but what can I do now? Do I trust Dan to fix this?
At that moment, the same trite messages of hope she had previously offered to Dan were being spewed out in her direction. She decided, there and then, that encouraging phrases in such a moment did nothing but redirect anger. For a matter of seconds any rage would be concentrated on the person spouting such nonsense. She clamped her teeth together to avoid mocking the platitudes spewing from these men and women, genuinely thinking they were being supportive. Such empty words will never pass my lips again. I had no idea how irritating they were until now.
The police, as expected, had found nothing that might even hint at a reason for her kidnap, but that did not prevent them from taking her laptop and two or three diaries the girl had kept at Christmases and birthdays for no more than a month. It seemed as if everyone believed her abduction to be a chance event. The wrong place at the wrong time.
It was difficult for Jennifer to feel so helpless and yet so responsible. I allowed our daughter to walk alone through the streets, knowing that dangerous men were out there. Teenage girls needed independence, but with Abigail it had cost the girl her freedom. How could I not be the one to blame?
“It’s not your fault, you know,” Dan said. Clearly the thoughts inside her head were written all over her face. She nodded, but said nothing. Dan continued, “Take it from someone who has beaten themselves up over so many things. You did nothing wrong. There is nothing else good that you could have done.”
She raised her head and met his gaze. “You say that, but if-“
“If what?” he said. “If you’d have watched her every minute of every day? If you’d have never let her have any time to herself, maybe none of this would be happening?”
Jennifer looked down at her feet. “Something like that, yes.”
Dan placed a hand on her knee with such a small amount of pressure that she barely felt it there at all. “Jen, we will analyse every part of this, regardless of the outcome for many years to come. Speaking from experience, it doesn’t help.”
“We can avoid making the same mistakes again,” Jen said, wiping a tear from her eye.
“I think we have a few years before Noah has to deal with anything like this. Five year olds don’t tend to want too much time to themselves.”
“But he will have to deal with this. He’ll need to know why his big sister isn’t here, and why there are police everywhere.”
Dan took her hand, holding it in between both of his with a softness she had rarely known from him. “Whatever happens, whatever we tell him, we tell him together.”
Jennifer nodded as she welled up. She was determined to be strong. Meanwhile her eyes were determined to soak her cheeks with tears. In her mind, the tearful mother was far from a strength to her family. Crying changed nothing, but at the same time it changed everything. It was just like complaining, like regretting recent decisions. These things set you on a downward spiral if you let them.
The police left the Castle home, seeming to apologise for the intrusion even in the way they walked through the hallway and out into the night. Once again they assured Jennifer and her husband that their full resources would be available to help in identifying and catching this monster. I wish their full resources were out there now instead of wasting time searching our home.
Within seconds, the house was quiet. Silence at bed time was a blessing in most situations, but at that moment Jennifer would have given anything to hear her daughter, in her room, arguing about the need for so much sleep at her age, or listening to some awful teenybopper prattling on about love and friendship.
Sadly, the house was still, and Jennifer could not even contemplate her next move. She looked into the face of her surprisingly strong husband. He seemed to also lack the clarity of thought to decide to do anything. They just looked at each other before staring at the back of their own front door, hearing the police drive away into the night.