When he woke the following morning he reached out, she wasn’t there. He opened his eyes and confirmed that her side of the bed was empty. He slipped out of bed, picked up his discarded boxers from the floor and slipped them on. He walked out onto the landing and stopped, he sighed, their daughter’s bedroom door was open. He walked slowly towards the room, stopped at the door and looked in, there she was, stood at the side of the empty cot. She stared at the neatly folded yellow blanket and matching pillow that was laid out. He watched as she slowly traced her fingers across the soft blanket, he looked around the room, they’d only finished decorating it a couple of weeks earlier, and then Susan had spent another week tinkering with the little things to get it just right. He walked up behind her and slipped his arms around her waist, crossing his hands on her stomach, he hugged her, pressed himself against her, and kissed the back of her neck.
“How long have you been in here darling?”
She shrugged her shoulders, she sniffed. He squeezed her gently, he was helpless, there was nothing he could do to take away her pain. He gently turned her to face him, he could see her eyes, still full of tears, he reached up and wiped away one that fell down her cheek.
She looked at him “Where is she, Alan?”
He brushed another tear as if fell onto her cheek.
“I don’t know honey. But trust me, she knows that we are looking for her.”
As they left the room, he felt her shiver.
“Are you cold honey?”
She shook her head.
“Why don’t you take a shower, it will warm you up. It might perk you up a bit. Don’t forget, the doctor is coming to see you this morning.”
She glanced up at him, her eyes narrowed.
“A shower isn’t going to bring her back Alan!” She snapped.
His heart ached, he had so much love for his wife, he was in pain, but he knew, that her pain was so much more intense. He pulled her to him again.
“Honey, you have to keep yourself healthy and strong, for when she comes home.”
She dropped her head onto his chest.
“If.” She whispered.
“When.” He replied.
She lifted her head and looked up at him. “Okay.”
The doctor arrived just after eleven, and after examining her and talking with her he spent some time with them both.
“I know that it’s hard, but I urge you both to talk about this. Bottling things up can do no good. If it would help, we have a team of good bereavement counsellors that you could talk to.”
“She’s not dead!” Yelled Susan.
Alan held his wife’s hands.
“That’s not what the doctor meant Susan.”
The doctor remained calm and tried to explain that what they were feeling was very much like a bereavement, the same emotions and that he thought it might help them both.
As Alan showed the doctor out, he stressed how important it was for her to take the anti-depressants and other medication that he had prescribed her.
“It’s important Alan, we need to keep a close eye on her emotions, her moods, and if you are in any way concerned, you call me, okay?”
DI Rogers arrived just before lunch and gave them an update. The press conference had gone into every European country and even made news as far afield as America. He told them that they had received calls about possible sightings, but he cautioned them both.
“In cases like this, I have to say that we get a lot of well-intentioned reports from the public, who just want to help, and, unless more than one person reports the same person, then it is likely to be a false alarm. But I promise you, we follow up every report, no matter how unlikely it may appear to be.”
Alan held his wife’s hand as DI Rogers continued with his update.
After lunch they sat in the garden, it was a nice day, not too cold, he tended to the flower beds as she sat and watched him. When they went back inside, she noticed that the answerphone light was flashing, they must have missed the call. She reached over and pressed play, it was her Mum and she was worried about her and wanted her to call her.
She rolled her eyes as Alan asked her if she was going to call her.
“And have her tell me that she needs to come and take care of me when you’re at work.”
“Would that be such a bad thing? She loves you and wants to help. And I will have to go back to work eventually.”
She slumped back into the sofa and looked up at him, those big blue eyes pleaded with him not to make her do it.
“I know, but sometimes she can be, well, a bit much.”
He picked up the phone and passed it to her.
He walked back into the kitchen to make some coffee whilst she spoke with her mother.
It had been a week since their daughter had been abducted. Susan was asleep upstairs whilst Alan sat in the lounge with DI Rogers and DS Collins, he listened as they updated him on events. There had been several unverified sightings of suspicious babies all over Europe, and even North Africa, but none of the sightings had proved to be their daughter.
What had worried him most of all was being told that it was likely that their daughter had been taken ‘to order’, and she was now, more than likely, living with a couple who desperately wanted a child, somewhere in Europe. They were told that their focus was moving to the East of Europe, they thought that she may well be in one of the poorer Eastern-bloc countries. They were confident that she was alive, but, were honest enough to tell him that if they were right, then finding her would be extremely difficult, and, they would probably need a huge stroke of luck. But they had one piece of hope that they clung to, the birthmark on her calf was very distinctive and very difficult to cover up.
Her mother was a regular visitor, and such a godsend for him, she knew how to handle her daughter, and, to be fair, her daughter did seem to respond better to her than to him.
One week turned into two, then three, and soon it was a month since their daughter had been taken. And as time passed, the press interest waned, new crises arose, and eventually, they woke up one morning and the press had gone.
Then after a couple of months, Alan couldn’t put off the decision any longer, he had to return to work full-time. Susan and her mother were getting along well, and, he was beginning to feel like a spare part. He’d insisted that someone stay with her, which she didn’t like, but he stood his ground, and her mother was only too willing to be that person.
Early on, things at work were difficult. His colleagues didn’t know how to act around him. He felt as if they were all walking around on eggshells whenever he was around. He hated how the atmosphere changed as soon as he entered a room, people stopped laughing, there was just an awkwardness about the whole situation.
He resolved to confront the situation, and on Friday he sent the office junior out for cakes, and after talking to his PA, and telling her that he wanted people to be normal around him, he joined them out in the main office on the morning coffee break. It went surprisingly well, people behaved a lot more as they used to around him, there was laughter, and he was pleased that everyone seemed more relaxed around him.
He felt a lot better when he got home that night, but, after talking to Susan’s mother his mood changed, she told him that she had eaten, but not a lot, and she practically had to feed her daughter.
“It’s like she’s regressed to her childhood Alan, if I didn’t make her do anything, she would just sit there all day.”
She also told him that she had found a several of her anti-depressant medication and sleeping tablets on the bathroom floor beside the toilet, she claimed that she dropped them and couldn’t find them, but they both suspected that she was missing out on some of her medication.
They agreed to talk to her doctor, and as he showed her out, she hugged him.
“It may seem harsh to say, Alan, she’s my daughter and you know how much I love her, but she may need some specialist help, away from home.”
As he closed the door, he knew that he could never let her go through this alone.