“You sure you wanna stay here alone?” Simon glances at the sun just rising behind her. It was too early in the morning, but that’s how Faith preferred it. She wanted to get out of the house before any cops, or worse journalists, came by.
“Yeah. I’ll come home in a few hours. Don’t worry.” she hugs herself and exhales, taking in the lake before her. After a few more minutes, Simon finally leaves. He wants to stay with her, comfort her, but he can't – he has to answer all those annoying questions, comply with the officials, stay with them throughout the search. But that was alright, as long as they find her. Her. Hope.
Her arms go taut as she hugs herself tighter. The sun has risen now, but that doesn’t help with the chilly weather. Not that it matters much anyways– Faith was used to the cold by now, just not physically. She stares at the yellow orb, dominating the blue stage, and wonders why it exists. It was too synonymous with happiness, with warmth, with a fuzzy ball of love, with her own beautiful daughter mewling and kicking the blankets away from her face, just as the Sun tries to kick away the clouds.
Hope. Hope, where are you? She asks in vain, cursing both her own neglect and the emotionless abductor. Faith stares and stares at the lemon floating in the sea of clouds, as if her glare would transform it into her daughter. Maybe it would. But if all the maybes in the world were to be the truth, she wouldn’t have been standing here, on a pier, clutching the pillar to steady herself. She can feel water glazing her eyes, but she doesn’t allow them to fall. Her thoughts filled with annoyance at herself, surrounded her, and in a way, sheltered the tears from falling.
Simon’s voice resonated in her mind. She knew Simon for five years, enough to know that he won’t stop till he found Hope. His words were what they call, temporary console – he could try as much as he wanted, but what if he never found her?
She squeezes her eyes shut, unable to watch the sun any longer. But the black canvas behind her eyes is restless. It threatens to paint the cherished images of the past one year. Sure, she had promised herself to never forget those moments, but she hadn’t predicted this turn of events. Right now, it was torture to remember the part of her soul, lost forever. No, not forever, Simon would have said if he were here. We will find her, Fay. Even if it’s the last thing I do.
She opens her eyes and takes a deep breath. The lake shimmers and twinkles like the stars. Her stomach rumbles and her throat is parched, but these humane needs are pressed towards the back of her head. For all she knew, Hope hasn’t eaten anything in days. She exhales, shakily. Was that possible? Would they be so cruel enough to not feed her?
She shakes her head. These thoughts aren’t helping her. She came here to clear her head, to free herself from the panic-stricken environment of her house, filled with cops, and well-wishers, but the tranquillity isn’t as calming as she thought. The calmth of the surroundings is successful only to stir the voices she's been running away from.
It’s all your fault, they say.
Are you a mother?!
You’ve sentenced a child to her death! They shriek.
You left her alone, abandoned her!
“No!” She shouts back. A moment late, she realises that she spoke aloud, but she doesn’t care. She doesn’t care about anyone, or anything but Hope. Her Hope. “I didn’t mean to” she whispers, convincing who? she knows not. “I love her. Of course I didn’t -” But words are exhausting. Each sound, each letter is forced out of her mouth. It chokes her, but it’s a welcome distraction.
She squats on the wooden floor, and places her head in between the knees. Her chest tightens for a minute and then loosens up as she gets up again. But standing makes her feel dizzy and her throat also feels dried up. She sits down again, this time swinging her legs, above the surface of the lake. The trees dance and whisper, the wind sings in harmony to the birds, but she doesn't notice it. Her ears fall deaf to all sounds, except one.
The one voice she yearns to hear. She knows, it's in her head and yet, out of hopeless desire, Faith whips her head up, eyes searching for a little girl in blue, like the picture in her purse –A doll-like little girl barely able to stand properly, smiling that wide three-toothed smile, her velvety brown hair caressing the skull, a few locks speaking with the wind. But her eyes disappoint her. They don’t find her smile, or the locks, or her. Once again, her thoughts have deluded her.
Have courage. But for how long can she keep up the charade?
This time she can’t stop it – she watches as small droplets disturb the still lake, creating ripples such as those in her heart. She lets them fall freely as her whole-body shakes, taking in the weight of the past two days.
She doesn’t bother to wipe the tracks the leave, she was too tired for that. Too tired for anything. Still sobbing silently, she leans against the pillar, her eyes fluttering close.
* * * *
“Faith. Fay, wake up.”
She stirs and seeing Simon leaning over her, she jumps. Looking around herself, she sees that it’s twilight. Her eyes widen as she realises that Simon was probably scared for her, scared that she too might have gone…
“Simon! I’m so sorry. I-”
“It’s alright. You needed the sleep. Been two days since you last closed an eye.”
Two days. Sighing, Faith looks away. She can feel the slight burn in her eyes – sleep does that to her, makes her emotionally sensitive. She exhales through the mouth, and collecting herself, tries her best to speak evenly.
“Any news? Did they find something? Anything?” Her voice breaks after all. His face drops to the ground as he shakes his head. Yet another day has passed, and they still haven’t been able to find her Hope. Their Hope.
She didn’t want to pressurize him, but could anyone blame her? She was a mother, and was eager to see the round, bubbly face of her daughter – safe, secure and in her arms. But for now, she rests somewhere else, in someone else’s rough hands. Safe, maybe, but for how long? No-one knows.
Simon takes her hand in his and squeezes reassuringly. “Faith.” She looks over at him, already knowing what he was going to say.
The words echoed in her own mind a million times, convincing a restless mind that cannot be convinced enough. His eyes were looking over the lake, taking in the serenity.
Faith vows to visit this place again, if she finds Hope. She winces mentally and corrects herself. When she finds Hope.
Have courage, she thinks and leans her head against Simon’s legs.
“Fay, we will find Hope, won’t we?” she was surprised. More than surprised, she was shocked. Simon, who had stayed strong, who had assured her innumerable times that they would find her, was now breaking?
She stands matching his height, and looks at the swans dotting the lake. She wanted to repay his kindness, tell him that yes, they would find her. But she couldn’t tell him something she herself believed only half-heartedly.
Have courage, she could say and that would be that. Have courage, she could intone and he would understand. Have courage, she could say and they would go back to their house, to the cops, and the hypocrites who claim to be well-wishers, but all they care about is gossip.
She could have even remained silent, and just let it go. But she knew, it was haunting him. She knew better than to chant a mantra, especially one she barely believed. She lies her head on his shoulder and squeezes his hand. “I dunno. It hurts me to say, heck, even think about it, but I don't know if we can. But we have to try, Simon, we have to find her.” He puts an arm around her and nods his head, both of them in a moment of silent acceptance.
Neither knows what the coming days will bring, but they know that they won’t give up. They haven’t given up in a long time, and weren’t planning to either. Hope wasn’t a random name they chose for their daughter after all. Their baby girl was a representative of all the hope they had, have, and would ever need in their life, and what better name to signify the light of their lives, right?
She stays there for a long time, and he stays with her. They stay there long enough, to watch the sun sink under the horizon, to watch the moon shine through the darkness. Simon had his eyes shut, but she knew he wasn’t asleep – Faith could feel tears running along her hair, slowly trickling down. For the first time that day, they weren’t her own. But she didn’t say anything, just glanced off to the side, at the reflection of the moon, wavering with each tear that falls. She didn’t say anything, but she knew what both of them were thinking. Two words, along with the face of a brown haired, green-eyed, one-year-old that shone in their minds. The two words, incessantly playing like a tape recorder in their minds, while the face was fixed permanently.
Have courage, Hope. Your parents will find you.