Chapter 10—Saturday, Dallas
Gloria’s heart feasted on her granddaughters’ presence as if by filling all her senses with them she might draw Austin from wherever he was. In mystic communion with women through the ages, she felt a tug in her womb as Laura nursed her baby.
At nine months, Ariel was the prototype for a perfect baby, in Gloria’s carefully reasoned opinion. Sunshine emanating from an east window wreathed a halo of hair so fine and golden it might disappear in a breath. Sapphire blue intelligence returned her gaze, silently beholding her grandmother as if they shared a secret, just the two of them. “An old soul,” Gloria’s mother would have said.
Allison’s eyes were an even darker shade of blue than Ariel’s and in them sparkled the innocent little girl delight of a cherished child. Her thick reddish-blond hair fell over her face as she spooned Cheerios to her mouth with mixed results. Gloria noticed Sassy, the apricot toy poodle, kept herself busy under the table, eating the evidence.
Allison asked about Austin and Gloria assured her that he would come to Nana’s house soon, her eyes begging Laura’s forgiveness for the hopeful little fib. Allison resumed eating, talking, and pushing her hair back.
“Would you like Nana to find you a hair-pretty so you won’t get hair in your cereal?”
“Yes, please, Nana. Not the blue brush, okay? The b-LOO brush pulls my hair.” Her pink rosebud lips held a prolonged O as she carefully worked her tongue around a B directly followed by an L.
“Are you still using the evil blue brush, Mother? That thing is older than I am. You should throw it out and buy a new one.”
“It most certainly is not older than you are!” Gloria laughed. “And it’s a good one. Natural bristles. I take good care of it and I am not going to throw it out.” She finger-combed the child’s hair away from her face. “You are as beautiful as your mama, Allison. I used to brush her hair until it glowed like the moon,” she said, remembering the feel of Laura’s hair on her hand, the way it fell in smooth flaxen waves, and how she gloried in those days of full contentment.
“Did you put hair-pretties in Mama’s hair, too, Nana?”
“Yes, she did,” Laura answered for her, “and sometimes she even braided it so I’d look like a Swiss miss. Remember, Mother? You wanted me to wear big bows, too, but I thought they were silly and pulled them out as soon as I left the room.”
Will stomped back into the dinette, pulling his hand down over his face. “I think you may be right, girl. We aren’t making any progress with the highway patrol. They’re barely civil to us. One guy I talked to told me some of the same things you and Suellen were talking about. He said there’d be no reason for somebody to grab a child out of a family car, and he doubted they could check on all the people who stopped at the truck stop Thursday night. But somebody must have seen him. He didn’t disappear into thin air.”
Obviously miserable, David pleaded with his in-laws. “You believe us, don’t you? You know we didn’t do anything to Austin ourselves, don’t you?”
“Of course we believe you, David,” Will said.
“It is monstrous to even think such a thing.” Gloria exclaimed. “They aren’t accusing you, surely?”
“They aren’t exactly accusing, but I think it is safe to say they’re implying there’s something fishy about the whole story, especially because you two weren’t real clear yourselves on what happened,” Will said, frowning at the chagrined parents.
“Couldn’t the truck stop at least check the gas receipts for Thursday night?” Gloria wondered aloud. “There has to be a way to find out where he is.”
“Sure, but as the guy on the phone pointed out, there’s no guarantee every vehicle there bought gas. Some might have stopped to use the rest room without buying anything.”
“That makes sense. It’s what we do sometimes. We don’t need gas every time we make a potty stop.” Gloria observed.
“What can we do now?” Laura pleaded
“All I know to do is to keep calling the authorities and maybe they’ll get the idea they should check out a few things.”
“And pray,” Gloria reminded them, “we can pray,”
“Mother! You think prayer solves everything.”
“Yes, I do. God is good and He loves us. Austin and all of us here, too. I think we should pray together and ask God to give us wisdom.”
“What I want to know is,” said Laura, biting off each word, “if God’s so good, why did He let this happen?”