~~“Momma! Momma! Look at my new year book!” little Elizabeth sprinted inside from Ivan’s car and held the book up to Hailo, a wide grin spread across her face.
“Oh wow,” Hailo said and took the book from her daughter. The cover was purple and white with a collage of school pictures of events that had happened over the year: field trips, school events, and dress down day.
“Come on. Let’s look at it,” Elizabeth squealed, dragging her mother to the couch and sitting down.
“Oh, honey,” Hailo said, “We’ll look at it after dinner. I have to go cook.”
“That is taken care of,” Ivan said, a grin on his face as he held up food from a local restaurant.
Ivan walked into the kitchen after he set his suitcase down by the door. Hailo looked down at Elizabeth and smiled, “Well, I guess we can take a little peek before dinner.” Elizabeth opened the yearbook and pointed out all of her teachers one by one, explaining them by name. Hailo hardly paid attentions as her daughter rambled on; her thoughts were on what her mother had said earlier that day. Clara’s words, her face after Hailo’s sudden outburst, seemed to burn straight through Hailo’s heart. “Maybe we should just let my mother be. She was right. I would probably never know the feeling of losing a child. Worrying if they are alive or dead….”Hailo confessed in her thoughts.
“Alright. Dinner is ready, in case you haven’t noticed, you two,” Ivan called from the kitchen.
Elizabeth jumped down from the couch and galloped to the kitchen happily to eat. Hailo took a little longer to get up. Not only was it hard to stand back up in her state, but she needed a moment to let her thoughts clear and snap back to reality. Hailo stood up, shifting her weight to one side while she gripped the couch for support. Ivan looked out of the kitchen door at Hailo and rushed to her. “Are you alright?” he said.
“Yes, I am just having a little difficulty moving around right now is all,” she grunted with a half-smile. “Nothing to worry about.”
Ivan took her hand into his. He let her wait until she was comfortable enough then walked her into the kitchen to join him and Elizabeth at dinner. Hailo kept herself dependent on Ivan until she sat down. A sigh escaped from between her lips. The aroma of the food filled the air and made her mouth water. Ivan knew her all too well, especially right now in her pregnancy. She craved a hamburger with a lot of onions and pickles, trimmings she would normally hate. Hailo dug into her food happily, earning a chuckle from Ivan. “I knew that would be something you would want,” he commented slyly.
“Very funny,” she snorted, “Pick on the pregnant woman.”
“You are just too predictable,” Ivan said, grinning.
Hailo and Ivan shared mischievous glances and returned to finishing their food. Elizabeth seemed too inhale her food and soon she was disposing of her trash. She ran out of the room, back to her yearbook and proceeded to look through it for the fourth time. Hailo dropped her gaze the minute Elizabeth left the room, a sad mournful look washing over her once happy face. She wanted to talk about the visit with her mother today, what she had said, and what had gone down. Ivan seemed to read Hailo’s mind and spoke before she could say a word, “I know something happened with Clara. Just tell me.” His words seemed to come off colder than he meant them to be. She sighed.
“What I said to her today…about Cypher, it upset her,” Hailo said.
“She needed to hear it. No matter what you said, she needs to know this is worrying her family. Hailo, that was not your fault. She will return to normal by tomorrow, just you watch,” Ivan said as he finished his dinner.
“I guess you are right…,” she murmured.
While Ivan was readying Elizabeth for bed, Hailo seated herself on the couch with her daughter’s yearbook. She couldn’t help but smile at the cover, paying more attention to the pictures of all the students. Hailo opened the book. Elizabeth’s teacher was Mrs. Whiting. Mrs. Whiting’s class wasn’t shown until the end of the book. Hailo smiled at the sight of her daughter’s yearbook picture. Elizabeth was wearing her favorite pink dress, her hair tied back into a ponytail, and she had a toothy grin. “How cute,” Hailo said aloud.
The children in the class all had a bright smile on their faces, excited to get their picture taken for the yearbook. All of them had a sweet face, yet, from what Elizabeth said, they were bullies. The sight of a little bald girl drew Hailo’s curiosity to the girl’s face. A sweet smile, no hair on her head, a round face, and large brown eyes made her look so familiar. Maybe Hailo had seen her before. She scanned over the little girl. Under her picture was her name, Selene. Selene was dressed in an ordinary button up shirt and had a silver necklace around her neck. The camera had caught the necklace at an odd angle and made it stand out among the rest of the picture. Upon taking a closer look, Hailo could make out the appearance of a puzzle piece.
Her heart leapt to her throat, not for seeing the necklace, but for seeing what was engraved on the puzzle piece. Written across the necklace were the letters ‘fam’. It took a few moments of labored breathing until she finally pulled herself up. Hailo rushed to her daughter’s room and slowed to a stop once at Elizabeth’s bedroom door. She nearly collided into Ivan. “Ivan, please get the necklace out from around her neck. I need it,” she whispered.
“What? What do you need her necklace for?” Ivan said.
“Just please. I will explain later,” Hailo pleaded.
Ivan sighed. He returned to Elizabeth’s side and gently unlatched her necklace. The little girl opened her eyes and looked up to her father. Elizabeth’s vision blurred causing her to rub her eyes. “Daddy…?” she mumbled out.
“Sorry, sweetie. You shouldn’t go to sleep with this on,” he said softly. Ivan leaned down at pecked her on the forehead, slipping the necklace off of her neck. “Go back to sleep.”
Elizabeth turned back over and closed her eyes. Ivan turned back to Hailo. He held out the silver puzzle piece necklace to her, placing it in the palm of her hand. Hailo snatched her hand away and rushed to the living room as fast as she could go. She looked down at the yearbook, at Selene, at the necklace, and placed the necklace next to the picture. Hailo’s heart beat quickened, her breathing began to get heavy, and her chest tightened. Her stomach leapt to her throat; she couldn’t say a word. Tears flowed without resistance as she began sobbing.
Ivan became alarmed, joining Hailo at her side and sitting her down. She held a tight grip on his arm until she threw her arms around him. Hailo buried her head in Ivan’s shoulder. He was still confused on what had made his loving wife so very upset; he was concerned, but chose to say nothing. It took quite a while before Hailo calmed down and could talk about it. She instructed him to look down at the yearbook, he did so. Ivan was left speechless. Not only did the puzzle pieces presumably fit perfectly together, the necklaces spelled out a word.
“Family,” he read the necklaces aloud.