The timid voice woke him up mid-dream. Ben, alone in bed, tried to adjust his vision to the almost complete darkness of the bedroom.
As he laid there, unable to see clearly, he couldn’t help wonder, if he really heard the voice, or if it was just a part of a dream.
That has happened a lot lately.
His therapist, Dr Manley, had said that it was quite normal. Quite expectable, even. It had been stressful times, and the mind reacted to this in strange, often unpredictable ways.
Janet and Ben had split up 2 months ago. At the same time it came as a shock, but in all honesty it was inevitable.
High-school sweet hearts, star quarterback and lead cheerleader, prom king and queen; just that perfect couple all the losers from small-town USA always strived to be. Ben had gone to MIT, following his life-long dream of becoming an electrical engineer. He loved his job. A job, that would always give back just what he put into it. Electronics never did anything of its own. Ben liked this. Janet taught music at middle school. She was a gifted pianist, with a keen ear, able to play almost anything you asked of her, but putting in her own style and soul. And she loved children, and they loved her. She was a feeler, affectionate, and very emotional. In many ways, she was the diametrical opposite of Ben. But you know what they say, opposites attract.
Yet, they no longer lived together. They hardly spoke, and mostly just texted each other, though not very often. Some would say they grew apart. That was the nice version.
Truth is, they were torn apart. They lost their daughter, Bridget, half a year ago.
Bridget was seven years old, when she disappeared. Ben had taken her to the park to play. It was a beautiful day, not a cloud on the blue sky, and the park was full of people, lot of children and joyous laughter and screams. Bridget had played on the swing set, when Ben headed for the ice cream stand. He must have turned his back to her two, maybe three minutes – no more than three minutes, he always told himself, while standing in line. He had checked his phone, emails, Facebook. He mentally followed an idea for a project at work and absentmindedly regarded the other people standing in line.
When it was his turn to order, he turned to call Bridget over, but she was no longer there. Panic hit instantaneously. That panic every parent, who has lost a child at the mall, only knows. It was a bone chilling, spine tingling, nauseating panic. Ben scouted the playground, eyes flinching from left to right, looking for Bridget’s pink dress and long, dark pig tails. Was that her by the monkey bars? Was she in the sandbox? Yes, it was her by the sandbox! Why would she leave the swing set when she knew better?
He half-ran to the sandbox, only to stop a few feet from the edge. The pig tailed girl had turned around.
That was definitely not Bridget.
Calling the police was easy. Calling Janet was not as easy. How do you tell your child’s mother that you lost her child?
The police had been very helpful over the next weeks. They had both taken some time off from work. It was hard to focus on anything else for Ben, besides finding Bridget. Janet could not think of anything else but blaming Ben.
The weather had gone cold, the day the police called Ben up. They had found Bridget. She had been strangled and dumped in the woods outside town. Ben had dropped the phone and missed the rest of the call. Janet had immediately known who as calling and why. She had moved out of the house a few weeks later. She couldn’t live with Ben any longer.
Ben had adjusted to the lack of light in his bedroom. He held his breath, listening intensely. Did he imagine things?
There was a light tap on glass. Tap-tap-tap. He was sure of it. He silently pushed the duvet back and stood up out of bed. The cold floor under his soles woke him up a bit further. The sound came again. Tap. Tap-tap. It came from the living room.