Hannah repeated the words, testing out the sound and rhythm.
“A special treat.” Aly said. “We can order whatever we like and they will deliver it to our door. We can even eat in bed!”
Relieved that Hannah could not see through her false excitement, Aly read her the kid’s options over and over. She enjoyed watching the sparkle of Hannah’s sapphire blue eyes each time she said the words ‘vanilla ice cream’.
Hanna couldn’t believe her luck. She sat on the bed watching cartoons while she waited for her margarita pizza and ice cream. Aly stood by the window staring out to the gloomy street below. She wasn’t going to let Hannah see her dark mood.
The food arrived quickly. Hannah would be having an early dinner. Aly had ordered nothing for herself. She knew she couldn’t stomach it. The young boy at the door seemed green and naïve. Aly guessed that he was a casual as she silently mocked the oversized collar and sleeves of his work shirt. He stood awkwardly in the entrance. Sudden guilt made her want to tip him. She opened her purse. The photo; John, Hannah and herself, glared from behind the plastic cover. She hurriedly passed over a ten dollar note as her stomach lurched.
The pizza was greasy and Aly regretted her promise that Hannah could eat in the bed. She lay out crisp white napkins over the sheets, creating a paper picnic blanket, and watched as Hannah used each finger on each hand to hold the cheese covered slices. Surprisingly, she had asked about her dad only once, and that had been when Aly sprung her from school earlier that day. Aly’s vague answer about a holiday had satisfied Hannah and he hadn’t been mentioned again. It was only a matter of time, Aly thought.
She was sure he would have notified the police by now but she wondered if they would actually do anything. Don’t they need to wait 48 hours before they consider someone missing? Or was that just the American shows she watched? She’d left her mobile in the car and this reassured and terrified her. She had no one’s number. John’s was the only one stored to memory.
They shared the king size bed. Aly tried to read while Hannah settled in. Finally, when Hannah’s breathing deepened, Aly turned off the light and snuggled in too. Was it possible she could sleep tonight? It was unlikely. Tears trickled down her cheeks and her body shook as she considered the decision she’d made. Hannah stirred in her sleep and began to rub Aly’s arm, but Aly was the master of silent tears. Lying next to John for so many years, she’d had plenty of practice. She breathed through her nose and let the deluge soak into her pillow as she considered how she would manage their new life.
Photo by Levi XU on Unsplash