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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Chapter Thirteen

The living room carpet was soft enough to lay down on, a fact that Holly Tucker had never truly appreciated until she had a toddler scooting around on it.
She sat down in front of the couch, her hands out to steady Darcy as the chubby girl glanced at her with wide eyes and balanced on unsure feet. Even though she was just under a year old, the little girl had been chomping at the bit to walk, and each time she had to hold on to her parents or the couch to take a step, her tiny forehead wrinkled with frustration, as if she were bemused by her own shortcomings.

            Holly couldn’t help but laugh at the solemnity of Darcy’s expression, and she called out softly, “Darcy! Come on, walk to momma!”

            The little girl clung to the coffee table, staring at her mother intensely before she took a wobbly step, her fingers splayed across the wood turning white with exertion. Her free hand stretched across the space towards Holly, almost as if her fingers were trying to guide the rest of her in the direction she wanted to go.

            “Come on, sweetie!” Holly laughed, her heart speeding up with anticipation: Darcy was so close to taking a step! She laughed and Darcy seemed to scowl harder with anticipation.

            Then, her foot slid forward, and her hand left the table, floating above it awkwardly for a moment before he second foot moved. She stood still for a moment, her hands stretched wide, her mouth open with concentration, and her knees gently swaying back and forth, never quite secure but strong enough to hold her upright.

            Holly held her breath, even as she whispered, “Come on, Darcy! You can do it!”

            The little girl took a second step, and then a third. She swayed harder from front to back as she struggled to keep her balance, and then on her fourth step she tumbled into Holly’s arms, a loud peal of laughter echoing from her.

            Holly scooped her up in her arms and showered the little girl in kisses, “You did it! You did it, Darcy!” the little girl howled with laughter and struggled to free herself, that same determination creasing her face once again. Holly planted a final kiss on her cheek and then set her chubby feet onto the carpet again.

            Darcy scooted her feet forward, this time with more ease and took a step towards the table. Before she took a second, she stopped and turned to the doorway, and her chipmunk cheeks pulled into a huge grin, showing off her two teeth. Holly looked up and noticed James standing in the doorway, his face aged beyond its years and his eyes bright with tears.

            Holly beamed at him, and whispered almost conspiratorially to Darcy, “Look, it’s daddy! Can you walk to daddy?”

            “Holly…” James’ voice had a hard edge to it, and she looked up at him with surprise. There was something very wrong: his back was bowed, as if under a terrible weight, and his already craggy face was positively sharp. His clothes looked as if they’d been slept in, but the thick black rings under his eyes spoke to the act that he hadn’t slept in some time, “What are you doing?”

            Holly blinked and looked back at Darcy, but there was no one there, just carpet stretching impassively across the floor. Near where she was sitting was a light pink splotch left behind from her daughter’s blood, as well as strange lines in the carpet nape from where her body had been outlined in tape. In fact, Holly was sitting where Darcy’s left foot had fallen, a foot that she had just clearly seen taking its first steps.

            Reality came crashing back down on her, the joy she had just been feeling evaporating and leaving behind the terrible, leaden weight that seemed to root her to the floor.

            “She was just here,” Holly gasped, breathlessly, “Right now, in my arms…she was just here…” she shook her head and blinked up at James helplessly, “What…? What’s wrong with me, James?”

            James just stared at her, the brightness in his eyes fading slightly as the tears spilled over onto his cheeks. Without a word, he turned and walked up the stairs, too numb and tired to weep in front of his wife.
Next Chapter

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