Draw Down the Moon 14
John knew it was futile to reason with a six-month-old child but he was trying to anyway. “William, you’ve got to eat something. You’re unhappy because you’re hungry. I know you hate formula but please, Willie boy . . .”
William only pressed his lips together and turned his head away, whimpering. John had hoped the baby had cried himself out but it appeared he was gearing up to start again.
With a sigh, John put down the bottle and lifted William against his shoulder. He rubbed the baby’s back. “I miss your mom too,” he whispered, and William whimpered again. His fists pressed against John’s chest.
It was too soon to report Dana as a missing person. Still, John had called the detective who had helped them recover William the last time, to let him know about the situation. He had called everyone else he could think of, too—Mrs. Scully, Skinner, Frohike, even Lisa Kersh—to ask if they had seen Dana or heard from her.
No one had heard a thing. Her mother had started weeping on the phone: “What did you do to her?” and he had to explain about their argument the night before.
His own parents made no accusations, but Samuel stationed himself on the front porch to watch for Dana. Hannah hovered around the baby, but John was unwilling to let William out of his arms. They both needed comfort, he supposed.
But now William wanted his mother, and refused to be satisfied with an impersonal bottle. John could hardly blame him—nothing artificial would satisfy him after Dana, either.
His wife, his lover, his sweetheart, wandering around the neighborhood in her pajamas, barefoot and angry. It was not a happy thought.
“Johnny, let me take him,” Hannah said. “Maybe I can get him to eat.” She added as he reluctantly handed over the baby, “He won’t calm down when he can sense you’re upset too.”
John sat at the kitchen table and watched as his mother picked up the bottle and spoke to William in a soft, calming voice. “There’s my little love with an empty tummy . . . drink up now, darling . . “
He said, leaning his head on his hand, “Dana usually mixes the formula with her breast milk. He’ll take it when she does that.”
“He’s taking it now,” Hannah said. She swayed expertly, supporting William in one arm while she held the bottle with the other.
“You know what I don’t get,” John said. “I know she might be angry enough to leave me. But she would never be angry enough to leave William.”
“Are you sure she left?” Hannah murmured. “Are you sure she wasn’t taken?”
“There’s no sign of forced entry, Mom. I looked at the doors and windows. And if someone tried to take her from our bed I would have noticed—I would have done something.”
“But you didn’t wake up when she got out of bed.”
“I’m used to her getting up in the night to tend the baby. I probably did wake up and just dropped back to sleep again.”
Hannah hummed to William for a few minutes. John rubbed his face with his hands and said, “Go a
head and say it.”
“Say what, Johnny?”
“That I’ve failed at this marriage too.”
Hannah looked down at William, still swaying slightly to soothe him. “I wasn’t thinking that. I *was* wondering if Dana has ever been in a long-term relationship before, mostly.”
“She was with William’s father for seven years. Kinda.”
“Well,” Hannah said, moving William up against her shoulder and starting to pat his back. “One fight isn’t the end of the world. Running away is an over-reaction, but she’ll learn.”
“She’s not a little girl, Mom,” John said. “Maybe I should take the car out again.”
“She’ll come home when she’s ready,” said Hannah decisively. “You’ll kiss and make up like most newlyweds. You’ll laugh about this in a few months.”
John folded his arms on the tabletop and laid his head on them. He didn’t feel like laughing.
He took the car out again, driving farther than he’d gone that morning when he’d looked for Dana. She was strong and kept himself in shape, she could have walked far if she were that determined.
He hoped she wasn’t.
If she had taken her car, if her wallet was missing, he would have known where to go. She had easily found someone to sublet her old apartment, but the key to Mulder’s apartment was still on her key chain. John had known from the first time he found her there that it was her retreat, her haven. If she had taken the car, he knew he would find her there.
But there was no way she would walk that distance in her bare feet, in her pajamas, without the baby.
John searched the neighborhood for another hour. At this point he hardly knew what he was looking for, except maybe a glimpse of her bright hair. He saw nothing out of the ordinary for a suburban Sunday morning. Kids, lawnmowers, picnics, dogs on walks.
A mere two weeks before, he and Dana had been among these careless, happy people. They had taken William and a picnic basket to the park, where they ate and talked, sheltered by the shade of evergreen trees. While William napped John dozed with his head in Dana’s lap, and when she thought he was asleep Dana sang to him, her voice husky and soft. Her fingertips had moved slowly through his hair.
John had fallen for her so hard, so fast, that he had been certain there was no way it would be something real or that she would ever return the feeling. But that day, as her hand lazily stroked his head, he’d felt the truth of her love, the solidity and gentleness of it. He’d realized, too, what a wonder it was to be loved by a woman who had a hard time loving.
If it took apologizing he’d apologize, if it took explaining he would explain, but one way or another he’d get her home and back into his arms, where she belonged. No more of this running off in a temper—they both deserved better than that. They liked each other too much for head games.
He had to find her, first.
There was no sign of her around the neighborhood, even as far as she could walk in three hours. John returned home, hoping that she would be waiting for him. He thought even another fight would be worth seeing her face.
His father was still on the porch. John slowly climbed the front steps and sat on the top one, facing the street. Samuel put his hand on John’s shoulder. “No sign.”
Samuel sighed, patted his shoulder and removed his hand. John leaned his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. After a moment Samuel said, “Do you want lunch, John? Your mother is making sandwiches. Luke drank a whole bottle.”
“William, Dad. His name is William.”
“William. I’m sorry. William.”
He raised his head. “It’s all right, Dad. You’ll get used to it.”
“He looks like his mother,” Samuel said and did not elaborate.
The front door opened and Hannah stepped out, still holding William. “John, there you are. Are you hungry? Lunch is ready.”
“Thanks, Mom. I’m not hungry.”
“Come eat, anyway. You need your strength. Or at least hold the baby so I can eat—he fussed while I was cooking. He didn’t want to be in the car seat.”
“Dana puts him on the floor when she’s busy. She puts a blanket down and he just wiggles around and is perfectly happy.”
“Well, take him anyway,” Hanna said and handed down the baby. John took him and rested him against his knees. William’s brows were drawn in confusion, his lips poking out in a pout. John put his forefingers in William’s fists and let the boy squeeze and tug on his hands, as his parents went back inside.
“Do you think,” he said quietly, “that if it ever turns out to be just you and me, do you think we’ll be okay? I think we will. I know I’m not as soft as your mom and I smell different, but we’ll be all right.” He took back one of his hands to rub William’s belly. “Though finding you a nanny is going to be a nightmare.”
Someone was coming up the sidewalk. John looked up, but of course it wasn’t Dana—it was Andy Brookes, one of their neighbors. “Andy,” he said with a nod.
“John,” he answered, and walked up to the porch. “Um, John. I have . . . an odd question. Hey, who’s this little guy?” He bent and put his finger in William’s fist for a shake.
“This is William, my stepson.”
“Ah, okay. I heard you’d gotten married. That explains it. So the red-haired woman who’s been in your house, that’s your wife?”
“Yes. That’s Dana.”
Andy nodded a few times, still shaking William’s hand, and said, “So, have you seen your missus today?”
“Actually, no. She was gone when I woke up this morning and . . . it’s been an interesting day.”
Andy nodded again, finally letting go of William’s hand, which the baby immediately stuffed into his mouth. “She’s in my backyard,” he said abruptly.
“What is she doing there?”
“Having a breakdown, as far as I can tell.”
John felt his heart pound hard in his chest. He got to his feet, clutching the baby so tight William squawked. “Sorry, buddy,” he murmured. “Having a breakdown? What do you mean?”
“You’d better come see. I didn’t want to call the police, but my wife wants to call an ambulance. But either way you should come yourself.”
“An ambulance? Is she hurt?”
“We can’t close enough to tell,” Andy said, looking uncomfortable. “You’d better come, John.”
John ran up the steps and into the kitchen. He thrust William into his mother’s arms. “Be right back—we’ve found Dana,” he said and turned at once to follow Andy to his back yard.
“Here,” Andy said, leading him to the shed at the back of the property. “She’s back there.”
The fence was overgrown with ivy and the grass was a little ragged around the shed—it was clear Andy had discovered Dana while getting out his lawn trimmer. The children watched from inside, their noses pressed the sliding glass door. Andy’s wife Carrie was waiting for them by the berry plants, her arms crossed, biting her lip. “Hi, John,” she said, “I have the cell phone. You say the word and paramedics will be here.”
“Thanks,” John said. He got down on his knees and crawled through the bushes, along the side of the shed. It was dusky back there, and smelled like warm berries and damp earth. He could hear the distant shouts of children, the whirr of lawnmowers, Andy and Carrie whispering to each other, and quiet sobbing.
Dana had wedged herself into the corner of the fence, between the rough wall of the shed and the unplanted end of the berry planter. The bottoms of her feet were filthy, and her legs were scratched and bleeding in places. Buttons were missing from her top. Her hair was wild and her hands were pressed to her face.
“Baby?” he whispered. “It’s me. It’s John.”
Her feet scrambled against the dirt and she twisted towards the rough boards, her fingers scraping at the wood. The sound she made wasn’t a whimper or a moan or a sob—it didn’t even sound human.
Anger surged through John—something had happened, someone had done this to her. She had been attacked, he was certain of it. Someone had been lurking around their house,
watching her, had waited for the perfect moment when she was vulnerable and distracted—
He kept his voice to a calming whisper. “Dana. Baby. It’s John. It’s your husband. I love you so much, baby, and I’m gonna bring you home. Okay? William wants you to come home. Remember William? Remember your baby?” She stopped trying to scratch the wood out of her way, stopped making that terrible helpless sound. She did not turn to face him. “Yes, you remember your baby. Oh, baby, he’s been so unhappy without you. He wants you to come home. We’ve all been so scared all day, looking for you, wondering where you’d gone . . . afraid you weren’t coming home.” He crawled closer but stopped short of touching her, afraid she would panic again. “Baby . . .”
“Baby,” she whispered into the ivy.
“Yeah,” John breathed. “You’re my baby. You’re my sweet girl. I’m going to take care of you. Come home, baby. Come home.”
“Ring,” she whispered.
“Your ring? I gave you the ring last night. Do you remember?”
“The ring,” she said in a slightly firmer voice. “What is carved on the inside of the ring?”
“It’s engraved—it has our wedding date, and ‘Always’.”
She took a slow, deep breath and let it out even more slowly. “Are you John?” she whispered, starting to turn her head towards him.
“Are you sure?”
He was going to cry. Fuck. “I’m sure. I’m John. I love you. I’m not going to let anything hurt you ever again.”
She sagged against the fence. Her face was dirty too, but in this dimness he couldn’t tell if there were bruises. “Yes,” she whispered. “I want to go home.”
He scooted across the dirt, closer to her. Slowly she turned to him and put her arms around his neck. He pressed his lips against her hair and carefully embraced her. “Come on,” he murmured, and helped her crawl out from behind the bushes.
Carrie and Andy were still waiting, and when John and Dana appeared from behind the shed Carrie whipped out the cell phone. “The ambulance should be here in a few minutes—or should I send them to your house, John?”
“No,” Dana whispered.
“You need a doctor, baby.”
“No,” she said again simply. “I won’t go.”
He sighed and smoothed her hair. “No ambulance, Carrie. I’m just going to take her home.”
“Are you sure? Because we can have somebody here right away.”
“We’re sure. Thanks.” They started to walk out of the yard, but Dana slumped against him after just a few steps. Her knees buckled and she moaned into his ear. John slung his arm under her knees and lifted her, and carried her down the street to their house.
William squealed and Hannah was on her feet at once when John burst into the house. “Oh, my God,” she exclaimed and Samuel struggled to his feet too. “Is she all right? What happened?”
“I don’t know yet,” John said, starting up the stairs. “She needs rest, mostly.” Hannah stood at the bottom of the stairs, holding William, her eyes wide. “I’ll tell you as soon as I know something.”
He carried Dana into their bedroom and laid her gently on the bed. “Do you want some water?” he murmured, stroking her hair.
She shook her head and tugged on his t-shirt, pulling him down to her. “Stay with me,” she whispered. “Please.”
John wrapped himself around her and kissed her face a few times. “I’m here.”