It was the wrong thought to have at that moment. Sallie shivered and placed the paperback romance novel into her lap. Her eyes shoot across the swimming pool and she easily spotted her two children and husband in the water amongst the other holidaymakers. Folding her hands together over the open pages, she watched her husband spinning her eight year old daughter around whilst their five year old son clung to his back. They laughter rose towards her, drawing her into a comforting hug.
She twisted her hands together and watched the other families and single swimmers. Summer sunlight flooded into the conservatory style building and played across the water. A few other people sat on the side-lines, napping, reading and looking out over the pool. Everyone looked just as happy and oblivious. In a flash, she was back in Malta by the hotel’s outdoor swimming pool.
It was a bright day and so hot most people had hit the beach, but they had decided to stay in the hotel because Sallie hadn’t been feeling very well. Her husband was in the pool with their daughters teaching them both to swim. She watched they blond hair fanning out behind them and remarked how twin like her girls were though there was four years between them. She shut her eyes falling asleep to their laughter and water splashing.
Sallie fought back the memory. Rudely, she shoved it away and came back to the now. A few more people had gotten into the pool and she wondered how much longer till her family got out. She turned back to her book, but couldn’t concentrate on the love triangle forming between the characters. She could still see her eldest daughter, Sadie, with her golden hair bouncing in the sun and her bubbling laughter.
What had we been doing when it had happened? She wondered. She couldn’t remember, everything was so patchy and displaced. There had been the mad dashing around the hotel, the beach, the local town, the talks with the police, the putting up of posters. Sallie bit her lip and swallowed her tears. She tried to tell herself it no longer mattered she still had two wonderful children.
She watched her husband helping her daughter, Cassie, out of the pool and her running over. Sallie collecting one of the towels, wondered how much Cassie remembered. She had been barely three years old and had spent the years before her brother arrived asking for her big sister. Sallie wrapped Cassie in a towel, rubbing her down. Then she pulled her daughter into her lap and they watched as father and son joined them. Had she ever had a third child?
Yes, I had once, she thought, but not all together. Riley would never know Sadie, his only memories would be what they told him.
Sallie sighed into her daughter’s hair and wondered what had happened. Though she couldn’t remember much else, she remembered the police officer saying they didn’t know what had happened. The child had gone, yes. The child was dead, they didn’t know. The child had been kidnapped? Possibly, but they had nothing on this. And the footprints at the swimming pool’s edge and a maid’s sighting of a little girl playing in the water? Couldn’t be validated.
They might never know what had happened and perhaps it was best just to let it all go.