This story explores many parent's worst nightmare.
It’s always nice to enjoy a few relaxing minutes after a busy day. I often rewarded myself with stillness and calm after getting home from work and picking up the kids. Sitting on the couch and snuggling under a blanket does a great job of melting away the frantic stress of daily happenings.
If my two children weren’t in their respective rooms entertaining themselves, they would venture outside while I took my breather. The house has an ample amount of windows that face the backyard. This eliminates any unease I may have had when they play out there unsupervised.
They’re both still young enough for their imaginations to be on fire and I enjoyed hearing about their adventures during dinner. I’ll be refreshed from my quiet time and they’ll be elated from their backyard play time. It makes our evening meal quite pleasant.
After one particularly trying day, the couch felt extra comfortable. The gentle woosh of my breathing was starting to lull me toward the land of sleep. I’ve dozed off before and I learned to have the foresight to set an alarm for twenty minutes out. It wouldn’t be a smart idea to sleep through dinner and the nightly bath and bedtime ritual. I could hear Tanya and John outside, gleeful and happy, so I let my eyes close and I drifted off into darkness.
My alarm sounded and I woke feeling wonderful. It’s amazing what twenty minutes of shuteye can do. It was a Friday night and since I felt invigorated from my nap, I thought it would be fun to head out to town to grab pizza at the kids’ favorite restaurant. It wasn’t often I could afford that luxury, but I had worked a few hours of overtime last week and I was feeling spendy. I couldn’t wait to tell the kids.
Quiet greeted me when I opened the backdoor. Every other time I had ventured into Makebelieve-ville laughter or voices had welcomed me. But today there was a heavy silence in the air.
I could see Tonya’s shoulder peeking out from behind an oak tree so I called out to her.
“Sweetheart, why don’t you and your brother come inside and wash up. We’re going for pizza tonight!”
The silence swallowed my enthusiasm and turned it into dread. *Why wasn’t my girl moving? Why was she just standing there?*
Fear put quickness into my steps. I reached Tonya in a few seconds and turned her toward me. Her eyes were blank and she stared at a spot over my head. I gently shook her.
“Tonya? Darling? Are you okay?”
She abruptly came out of her trance. Widened eyes snapped to my face.
“Oh, mommy! John is gone!”
Fear had now turned into terror. I hadn’t noticed John’s absence until she spoke, as I had been too focused on her needs. But now the void was obvious.
“Where did John go? Are you two playing hide and seek?” I asked hopefully.
“He came and took him.”
At this point the tears that had been welling spilled onto my cheeks. Someone had come into my yard and abducted my son! And I had been sleeping while it happened. Sleeping and leaving my children vulnerable to some man.
Tonya started to speak again.
“His eyes were sharp, mommy.”
“If I woulda kept looking, they would have hurt me.”
She stopped talking and an expression of guilt disfigured her face.
“Mommy”, she whispered, “I had to look away. I didn’t want the man to hurt me! But when I stopped being scared, and looked back, John was gone.”
Sobs started to shake her body. Tears blended with shivers of fear.
“I’m sorry, mommy. I shouldn’t have looked away. It’s my fault.”
I grabbed her and held her close as we made our way inside. I had to call the police, but my girl needed some comfort too.
“No baby, it was mommy who looked away, not you. Nothing is your fault.”
And with trembling fingers I called the people who I hoped would get my son back.
The police searched for months but nothing turned up. There was no evidence, no trace of the man who had stolen a piece of my heart. They eventually had to move their resources to other cases.
I got Tonya into therapy as quickly as I could. She stopped blaming herself as time went on.
As for me, I now know that my daughter was right. Every night, I see those eyes in my dreams. And they’re sharp all right. Sharp enough to cut.