Not Coming Home

The spot on the bed next to me was cold again. She’s been getting out more and more frequently.

I threw my legs over and slipped on my house slippers. I poke my head into the kids’ rooms. We were watching our grandkids this week. Parents were out on vacation. I kept telling them they need some adult time, away from the kids, where they can reignite their marriage. But, for three years, they didn’t separate once from the kids, and they were starting to get that crazed look in their eyes.

From Kaileigh’s room, I could see the light on in the barn. I wasn’t surprised. A part of me knew that was where she would be.

I walked downstairs, poured myself a glass of water, and watched the light flicker in and out of the sorghum fields. What was she doing out there tonight? Painting? dancing? Tonight she may be working on her memoir. Having finished my water, I pulled on my boots and started the walk out to the barn.

The trail was still trying to stitch itself back together when I stepped through. She must have only been out an hour or so. I worried about her sometimes, sneaking out in the middle of the night. But, I guess it’s when she truly wakes up. She let me watch her paint the other night. A bird on a branch.
Right there, in the middle of the barn, in the middle of the hay and the lowing calves.

The barn door opened with a creak and a rattle. I scuffled in and expected to see her standing in the middle of the barn again. Instead, our nag Phyllis looked at me and whinnied. I grabbed a soft apple from the basket and fed it to her. “Where’s Maggie?” She nudged me. I couldn’t help but laugh a little.

I looked around the barn, calling for my wife. She wasn’t there, apparently, but up on the loft, I found her easel. Painted in beautiful letters I read a note.

“Darren, I’m okay now.” Her name was signed on the bottom.

I pat Phyllis once more on the chuck and walked out of the barn, turning off the light. The breeze was coming in from the south and I think I realized for the first time that our grandkids wouldn’t be leaving tomorrow. They wouldn’t be leaving us at all. It was nice to see them snuggled up underneath their blankets and pillows. Sweet kids. Tonight was the first night I wept for my children.

When I climbed the stairs back up to my room, my wife was back in our bed. She was awake.

“You’ve been crying,” she said.

“I have, Maggie.”

“Come to bed, Darren. We’ve got to tell them in the morning.”

I went to her side, and she enveloped me in her arms. “The morning,” I repeated. And soon, I was back to sleep.

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