Brian listened patiently, then said, “I wish I could say I’m surprised, but I’m not. Some people seem decent until they don’t get their way. That’s Dan. He’s been like that since they met. Laura was always one to go along to get along, but I’m guessing she finally stood up to him, and he didn’t like that.” He paused, then went on. “And I don’t think that waiting here for her is the best idea.”
“What do you think we should do, then? Because I don’t even know where she is.”
“I think I go look for her, and you stay here with Liv tonight.”
“What, you’d leave now?”
“Pretty soon. She left you the note and tape two days ago. You heard from her this morning, but it doesn’t sound like she’s in a good place. She didn’t even call me, and I think she would have if she could have.”
A few hours later, after a quick dinner and a promise to Liv to be back soon, he left. By then, it was getting dark.
As soon as he’d walked out the door, Liv said, “Are we hiding from Daddy?”
Oh no. “Why would you think that?” I asked, stalling.
“I heard you talking with Uncle Brian when I climbed down to go to the bathroom.”
Ugh. He and I had apparently been so engrossed in conversation that we hadn’t seen or heard her. She’d been so quiet. Well, I didn’t want to lie to her, but it was hard to know how much to say. “Right now, yes, we are.”
“But … why? Is it a game?”
“No, Liv. It’s not a game. Daddy is really upset about some things and not being very nice right now. So your mommy asked me to bring you here for a while to make sure you were okay.” She looked worried. “You didn’t do anything wrong,” I hastened to add. “This is not your fault.”
“Is it Mommy’s fault? Sometimes Daddy isn’t nice if you don’t do things right. Maybe she didn’t do things right.”
Oh, wow. “No, sweetie, it’s not. Daddy is a grownup, and grownups are responsible for the things they do. Don’t worry, though. Your uncle went to find Mommy. Everything is going to be okay.” I hope, I added silently. Liv seemed to relax a little.
To pass the time, and to distract her, we played a few hands of Go Fish and Old Maid with some cards I dug up. By then it was full dark. It had been a clear day, and I suddenly had an idea. I didn’t think Liv had ever been camping or out away from civilization much at all, so I jumped up and said, “Come on, I want to show you something.” I took her hand and led her out onto the deck, shutting off the inside and outside lights on the way, and telling her to look down.
I led her to the railing where we stood waiting for our eyes to get used to the darkness. The moon was out, but it was only a crescent. With no streetlights, no town lights, no car lights, no light from the house, it was the kind of dark that can conceal anything. We stood there feeling the warm breeze, listening to the treetops rustle and the frogs sing out, and smelling the sweet growing things. I don’t know how long we were like that. When light lost its grip on us, so did time. Finally, still holding her hand, I asked Liv if she could see yet. “A little bit,” she responded. “It’s dark.”
I knelt down beside her. “I know. Okay, now,” I said. “One, two, three: look up.” And we both tilted our heads back.
Every time we’d gone camping when I was a child, this had been my favorite thing. Even as an adult, it made me lose my moorings and feel wonderfully, sweetly disoriented, as if I were swimming in starlight. So I was a little disappointed that Liv hadn’t made a peep. But when I turned my head to look at her, she was transfixed. “Where did they all come from?” she asked after a bit.
“They’re always here,” I said. “But you can only see them when it’s really, really dark.”
“Lots of things are like that,” she said. “Lots of things only come out in the dark.”
Sorry for the delay, Constant Reader. I hope it was worth it. See you tomorrow.
Photo credit: A Quieter Time from James Wheeler, via Flickr.