Jenny sat next to Emma on the sofa. They were both crying and holding each other.”We’ve lost her,” Jenny said over and over. They looked at Jim for words of comfort, but none came. They wept with more abject sorrow.
Mike sat opposite and closed his eyes to hide the tears. “How could we have missed the signs,” he choked. “We were all so busy in our own worlds, we forgot about hers.”
Emma dried her eyes and looked at him. “We are all to blame, each and every one of us for our own selfish reasons.” Her voice gained strength. “We have to find a way to help her now that we know where she’s at. Jim, do you have any idea of how we can start? There surely must be more people in our situation? Trish can’t be alone in wanting to run away. These vultures are just waiting for kids like her.” Emma, as always was the voice of reason.
“Emma’s right,” Mike joined in after the initial shock had started to wear off. It’s all my fault for keeping you at the shop so much, Jim.”
“All of you shut up,” Jenny almost screamed but it came out as almost her last breath. It’s me. Me. Me. I’m the final straw. I argued with her about everything she did. And I drank so much that she wanted to be out of here. I want you all to know I take full responsibility.” She picked up a pillow and buried her face in it to soften her words and her loud sobs.
No one disputed her. There was only uncomfortable silence.
Finally, Jim said. “I’ll go over and talk to Hank. He may have come across something like this at the law office. I don’t, for a minute believe we’re alone in this. There must be other parents who have been as frantic as we are. I’ll find out where to get help, first thing in the morning. I doubt I can sleep, but we all must get some rest so we can deal with the days ahead.” He reached for Jenny’s hand that hung limply over the side of the sofa. “Come on, partner, we have a job to do. We are all guilty so let’s not quibble over who among us is the worst. I need you now more than ever. Come to bed so we can rest and hold each other….so we can go on……tomorrow,” he stammered and helped her up. For the first time in a long while Jenny felt his strength and love, and gladly she responded to him.
When they were alone, Emma stood up and took a step toward her upstairs room. Mike held up his hand.
“I was planning to go home this week, Emma. I’m feeling much better, thanks to you. But it will probably be better if we all stick together until this is resolved. “He reached for Emma’s hand. “I want you to give notice at the home. A woman your age shouldn’t have to work so hard.
Emma laughed tightly. “Not so easy to do. I do need to pay my bills, you know.”
“Emma, when I go home I want to take you with me.”
“I couldn’t do that, Mike. I can come in and clean for you, if you want.”
“I’m asking you to come home with me as my wife.” Mike held his breath until his face got red.
Emma was speechless. Finally she said. “I’m too …old to think of this, Mike, I’m not sure I want to be married again.”
“Neither am I, Emma, but it doesn’t mean we can’t be happy together. There’s only so much time left to both of us. I’d like to spend it with you. When we get Trish back, let’s make it a special party. A wedding and a celebration.”
She took his outstretched hand and kissed him soundly. “You are very convincing. I have been happy since you came here. I guess we could make it work. Thank you. I would be very happy to be your wife, Mike Farrell. I can only hope that Trish comes home soon.” The sound of laughter was the first happy sound in the house in months.