LATE FOR DINNER
The sun was was sparkling through the leaves. I stared at it, feeling the wind tickle the back of my hair and then, reversing direction, caressing my entire face. It was a nightly ritual, swinging from the swing that Daddy had hung in our tree. He was usually home by now in time to push me, but today he was late.
“Maybe an unexpected call?” I whispered, thinking out loud.
That sometimes happened and it drove Mama crazy. Tonight we ate dinner without him. I could tell she didn't enjoy a morsel. Mama thought the food never tasted as good when he wasn’t there.
“Dinner is a time to come together after a long day and get reacquainted.” She’d remind me.
The police car slowly pulled into the driveway. The officer laboriously stepped out, carefully positioned his hat, and pulled his uniform coat down in one, hard tug. He looked up and caught my eye as I swung. He forced a half smile at me and then moved slowly toward the front door.
The wind was at my back, then at my face. A gentle knock. An introduction. The wind was at my back, then at my face. A shrill, unmistakable scream.
“I’m so sorry, Ma’am”.
I instinctively jumped and felt the earth beneath my feet. I ran to her. Ran to my mother whose cacophony of wails was loud, high pitched, and unrelenting.
I fell to my knees and squeezed her hands that were still covered in soap from washing the dinner dishes. Mama's words buzzed in my ears like insects.
“I knew we shouldn’t have eaten without him,” Mama sobbed, “the food will never taste the same.”