like replaying the pain I had just endured. I could imagine my mother screaming for my father, his look of astonishment, their hugging, and then, as John suggested, their most likely getting themselves together for the trip here.
I was still in the kitchen when Lieutenant Abraham returned. I heard Agent Joseph greet him and say, “You can tell you’re a bachelor. Who else would be able to stay on a job even when he was basically relieved? Only someone without a love life,” he added for the two others.
The sound of laughter seemed as grating in my ear as fingernails on a chalkboard. I actually cringed. I quickly carried a tray of cups and saucers into the dining room and returned to the kitchen to prepare the teapot. My father favored an herbal tea at night. Like my mother, John’s parents drank decaffeinated coffee. I took out some biscuits.
Thinking about small details like this seemed cold and foolish, but I was doing everything I could to avoid envisioning Mary standing beside me or sitting quietly at the kitchen table, waiting for John to come in from work or after working on his ships in the bottles. She had such terrific patience for a girl her age. I had no doubt that my friends with children were jealous of how well behaved she was in comparison with their own. This house, this family, did float on a pool of green envy, I thought.
Neither John nor I was the kind of parent who constantly bragged about our child, or about anything concerning our life, for that matter. In some respects, I had become like John, infected with his quiet confidence. He always said, “We don’t have to talk about it. We do it. People who tell you how perfect their lives are suggest to me that they’re full of insecurity. They need you to say yes or tell them how much you envy them.”
It made sense to me. So much of what John said made sense to me. Living with him was truly a continual educational experience. I knew I should feel more grateful than I did, and maybe that was what had driven me to seek therapy, but even now, even after my sessions and medication, I was thinking there was something more, something we were missing. It hung out there like the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, waiting for me to pluck it and be driven out of what I thought was paradise.
When I heard the front doorbell, I looked out, surprised that John’s parents had gotten here so quickly, but it wasn’t his parents. It was two other FBI agents to relieve Frommer and Dickinson. Agent Joseph was apparently around-the-clock. I went into the living room and was introduced to two young men, Agent Breck and Agent Little. Both Frommer and Dickinson wished us luck before they left. I understood that they would return in the morning.
I gazed around the living room. The agents would be sleeping on and off in there, I thought.
“I’ll go get some pillows and blankets.”
“Not necessary,” Agent Joseph said. “We’re fine. Lieutenant Abraham has a question for you both,” he added.
John was standing with his arms folded. He nodded and sat on the longer settee, indicating that I should sit beside him.
Lieutenant Abraham glanced at Agent Joseph and stepped toward us. “I had some time between things,” he began, “so I returned to the mall to speak with their security people. I’m just looking for something different, something out of the day-to-day, so to speak.”
“Then you’re still on this?” John asked quickly.
“Well, they’re in charge, but I’m doing what I can to assist.”
It had been just as long a day for him as it had been for me, I thought, and he hadn’t been able to get through hours of it by taking tranquilizers and sleeping. His impatience and irritability were understandable. I could see everyone thought that, especially Lieutenant Abraham.
“Well, this is going to sound like a dumb question, maybe, but did—I mean, does your daughter still believe in Santa Claus?”
“Santa Claus? C’mon,”