Writer’s Note: Meg’s name has changed to Emma, Meg just didn’t feel right anymore.
I awoke the next morning in the dusty haze that is morning in Kentucky. I hadn’t even realized I had fallen asleep, though I must have. I checked my phone and there was still no text message from Mom. The worry settled a little lower in my stomach, I got up hoping to find her car in the driveway. No car my mind ticked off and that meant she wasn’t in her bed either. Now hours have passed, a full night and still no word, still no Mom. This only seemed to strengthen my resolve to go to her work to find out what had happened to her. I just hoped they would have some answers. For now thought I had to get the kids up and take them to school.
I woke Marie first because she preferred her showers in the morning, also it was because she was the easier of the two to wake if I had to be honest. Plus if I woke Marie first I could plan my day a little bit better because she so rarely talked before her shower. Some days I swore it was like coffee for her, but today I was glad for it.
I walked to her room and softly rapped against the door calling her name as I did so. I heard a grunt in response and I knew she was already halfway awake. “Come on Marie, the day has begun.” I said with the slightest of snicker. I knew I would get hit for it later, but she would know if I didn’t say it that something was up.
I had to go to Casey’s school, and Mom’s work. I also had to call my school to let them know I would be by later to pick up my school work. At seventeen the pressure was suddenly obvious what Mom missing truly meant. Until Mom was found I was sole caretaker for these kids, my brother and sister. While taking care of them I must also keep it a secret that my Mom was missing. The last thing these kids, or me for that matter needed was a father who hadn’t cared in years.
My day aligned itself quickly and I pulled out my cell phone quickly flicking to Mr. Phillips number, my home room teacher and who I was supposed to check in with. The phone rang four times before he picked up. I knew that he was already at school and preparing for his own day.
“Hello this is Mr. Phillips, can I help you?” his familiar tone rang in my ears. I wanted to spew everything, Mom being missing, Casey having a fight at school, the pressure of the world that now seemed planted firmly on my shoulders.
“Hello?” he called again snapping me back to my temporary reality.
“Yes Mr. Phillips its Emma, how are you today?” I answered.
“I am doing good, finishing up the papers for the day. What can I do you for Emma?”
“I am going to have miss school today. Mom had to go to work early, and Casey has a parent teacher conference today during lunch. His…” I stuttered to find an excuse other than him getting in a fight.
“Say no more. I will have your work gathered in my room by five this evening. Do you think you could pick it up then?” he answered with a softer tone.
“Yes sir. I will be there at five,” the relief evident in my voice that I did not have to fully explain.
“You know you are a good sister, and daughter. I am sure your mom appreciates what you do to help.” he stated very matter of fact.
The words stung more than they should have. My mom did appreciate me and what I did to help out. She told me all the time, but now with her missing the words were like a knife. “Thank you Mr. Phillips.” I stated bluntly as I bit my cheek. “I will see you at five. Have a great day.”
“You too Emma.” He said before the line disconnected.
I pocketed the cell phone as I walked down the hall to Casey’s room. Casey was already stirring as I called his name through the doorway. “Casey time for school. Let’s go. And put on decent clothes. No holes or stains ok?”
He grumbled in response, but kicked back the covers. I knew it was best that I went ahead and give him ten minutes. I walked back toward the kitchen so I could make their breakfast. I pulled out the pancake mix I had made three days ago when everything was right in my tiny world. I made the pancakes quickly, this was my morning job. The only thing different today was Mom was not sitting at the table going through case notes, and talking to me about her latest case. She never gave all of the details but it was enough to ask my advice or thoughts.
I heard Marie coming down the hallway but it almost didn’t click, but not until I got the hit in the back of my shoulder anyway. I should have known it was coming, it always did.
“You know what that was for. But where is mom anyway?” She asked with a sensitivity that was evident and unlike her in the mornings.
I turned to look at her and noted the towel that was on her head, a few brown tendrils draped around her face with water dripping from the occasionally. “She is..at work early.” I said brightly as I turned around with a smile. There was no need to worry anyone else. This would be my burden, the yoke I had to carry for this family.
“Oh I was wondering. I wonder what case she is working on, she worked late last night and now at work early. It must be something big.” she said as the curiosity of a ten-year old poured out of her. “I wonder if she’s trying to put another man who murdered someone behind bars. That would definitely explain it.”
“Maybe.” I said unsure, “Just maybe Marie, but you still need to eat and go to school. Mom keeps the bad guys off the street and if you want to later you must have your education.” I looked at her pointedly, reminding her of her own dream to be an attorney for the state of Kentucky.
She smiled at my comment and sat down as she started going on about her prior day. She talked about how her math teacher continued to push her a little harder. So did her English teacher but that was where she excelled so it didn’t bother her as bad. She finished her pancakes as she continued to talk and I sat and listened while I ate. Casey finally came out right as Marie finished her pancakes.
I glanced up at him as he sit across from Marie, “Don’t blame me because your pancakes are cold. Breakfast was ready fifteen minutes ago.”
He grunted slightly as he slumped into his chair. I rolled my eyes as I returned to my hearing side of the conversation with Marie. I knew there were some battles that just weren’t worth it, and his posture was one of those. I finished right as Marie did and she took both of the plates to the sink, and ran water over them.
I then walked down to my room and began to get dressed for the day. I took into account everything I had to do today before pulling anything out of the closet. I settled on a cap sleeve black shirt and a pair of jeans. I pulled out my light grey pumps and slid my feet into them as I debated the possibility of putting on makeup. I finally decided that if I was going to mom’s office I should put on at least gloss and mascara. I quickly applied the dark mascara to my already dark lashes. I stopped and looked in the mirror as Mom’s reflection stared back. I looked so much like my mom people often thought we were sisters. With my high cheekbones, and heart-shaped face the only thing I had of my father’s was his nose, and even that my mom joked about having fixed to match hers one day. I was practically a carbon copy of my mother. My mother who was missing and could be scared, without her phone, who only Lord knew where she was and what had truly happened. I sighed softly as the worry in my heart lodged itself a little lower. I applied my pink gloss to my already thick pout without looking in the mirror. I did not need to see my mother again. Finally I pulled out a soft black shawl and stepped into the hallway.
Both Casey and Marie were sitting on the couch watching T.V. while waiting for me. I told them to turn it off and check the back door to be sure it was locked as I grabbed my purse and the truck keys. I walked to the front door holding it for the both of them so I could lock up behind them.
We climbed into the old two door blue ‘91 Chevy Cheyenne truck Mom had gotten me last year for my birthday. She had told me then that if I proved myself with this truck she would get me a brand new car when I turned eighteen. Which was fine by me, it made sense why you wouldn’t give a brand new car to a brand new driver. Besides I liked my old truck, it had class. I knew the every in and out of this truck. If I had to be honest I was scared of getting a new car, something I had to learn all over. But I was also excited, though none of that mattered with Mom missing. Just more reminders that I had to find her. No one’s world was right without her.
I turned the old truck over a few seconds later it sputtered to life roaring for a moment before I shifted into reverse as I waited for Casey to put on his seat belt. Marie, as usual was already waiting for him to get it on as she knew the truck wouldn’t move until he had it on. She really didn’t like being late to school. He finally obliged as he motioned for us to continue. I sighed heavily as I backed out the gravel driveway shifted into drive and carried on down the soft hill. This time of morning was always beautiful to me, the animals just awakening, the sun peaking through the trees as we carried on down the road. Finally the trees broke up giving way to what seemed like endless road, Marie was reading aloud from the book we always listened to in the morning. The endless highway gave way to bustling town life, people already on their way to work, parents taking their kids to school, the countless errands that were run daily in the big town. It was enough to make anyone feel small and only led my mind to wonder where Mom could be in this big, crazy town we lived on the outskirts of.
Fifteen minutes later we were pulling up in front of the elementary school to drop Marie off. Before she got out of the blue Chevy I grabbed her hand and looked at her.
“This is important. Please remember this today. I will be here to pick you up. Do not get on the bus and do not go with anyone else.” I keep her gaze and the words came out slowly and carefully. “Do you understand?”
She nodded but I was not happy with this for a response. “Repeat what I said back to me.” I demanded in a sharp voice.
“Don’t get on the bus and don’t go with anyone else.” She said as she plucked the words from her memory.
“Good. I will also call Mrs. Fields to be sure she knows. Ok?” I asked without expecting answer. I dropped her hand to let her know the conversation was finished. “I love you Marie.”
“I love you Emma.” She said softly as she got out of the truck and went down the damp sidewalk to school. At least I knew she would be safe, which eased one more worry in my mind and heart.