In hindsight, it was probably a bad idea for David to go back to work so soon after Agnes’ disappearance. She’d been gone a week, and he thought he couldn’t sit at home anymore, wondering if she would ever return.
But in the office, he couldn’t concentrate. The photos that decorated his desk taunted him. The photo from their honeymoon in Rome, Agnes grinning as if she were the happiest person on the planet. The photo of Agnes and David gazing into the tiny face of their newborn daughter. Even the photo of just Matilda, surrounded by a sky full of colorful hot air balloons. He wondered if Agnes had left because of him; if he was to blame for Matilda no longer having her mother around.
He sat at his desk on the verge of tears for over an hour, staring at the photos, trying to remember the last time he’d seen Agnes smile. The phone on his desk rang, but he ignored it. He thought of Matilda at the sitter’s house. He remembered the tears in her eyes as he’d picked up his briefcase and walked out the door.
He sat up with the start and stared at the photo of his daughter. Did she think he was leaving her forever? Was she afraid her father was abandoning her, just as her mother had?
This was a bad, bad idea, he thought to himself as he tossed his project folders back in the dark leather briefcase Agnes had bought him back when they were dating. He tucked the photos of Agnes into a desk drawer, leaving only the one of Matilda to greet him the next time. He hurried out of the office.
“Hey David, what’s the rush?” Jeanette, his assistant, asked as she typed out an email. She didn’t look away from the screen as she spoke.
“I’m going to work from home today. If Barry comes in, just have him call me on the cell phone.”
Jeanette stopped typing and looked up with a look of concern, “Is everything alright David?”
He nodded his head, “Yes. I just…I’m not ready to be away from Mattie.”
Jeanette smiled, “It’s alright. I’m sure I’d do the exact same thing.”
As he pulled into the driveway fifteen minutes later, he looked to the house next door and saw Elsie sitting on the porch swing. Elsie, an Army widow only a few years older than David, had been watching Matilda since she was only a few months old. He put the car into Park and sat back to take in the scene.
Elsie sat on the swing, gently rocking it back and forth with her bare feet. Matilda was curled up under her arm, sucking her thumb and listening as Elsie read from a book that David couldn’t quite make out. But he could see Elsie’s expression change as the characters did. Matilda would look up at her occasionally and laugh. David couldn’t hear her from inside the car, but he knew exactly what his daughter’s laugh sounded like.
Elsie closed the book and he watched his daughter snuggle up closer, her eyes threatening to close as the two of them rocked back and forth.
He looked at the briefcase on the seat next to him, and then he looked back at his little girl, being lulled to sleep by the neighbor. His heart ached. He wanted to be the one to lull her to sleep, to read her books, to make her peanut butter and banana sandwich with the crusts cut off.
As he got out of the car, he made his decision. He couldn’t quit his job, but he could certainly work from home. He just hoped Barry would approve.
This piece was written as a part of my fictional work-in-progress, Finding Agnes. You can find more from Finding Agnes here.