Rebecca Jameson couldn’t get to sleep. She shifted her body from side to side but just couldn’t get comfortable. Maybe she should go downstairs and watch The Tonight Show.
“Can’t sleep, Becca?” Danny asked groggily.
“Sorry, honey. I didn’t mean to wake you!”
Danny flipped on the nightstand lamp. Rebecca glanced at the alarm clock; it was very late and Danny had to get up early for work. She felt terribly guilty but this last month of her pregnancy was rough. She got up and waddled to the bathroom, then settled back in bed cradling her substantial belly. Danny propped himself on one elbow and rubbed Rebecca’s tummy.
“Well, I’m up now so what can I do for you, babe?”
Rebecca looked at him sheepishly and Danny grinned. “Rocky Road with Gummy Bears and rainbow sprinkles?” he asked, knowing her cravings so well.
“You don’t mind?”
“For you and Danny Jr? I’d do anything, Becca. Thank God for the 24-hour Dairy Princess!” He kissed her forehead, grabbed his wallet and bounded down the stairs. “Back before you miss me!”
That was the last time Rebecca saw Danny.
When Danny didn’t return after 30 minutes, Rebecca wasn’t worried; late Friday nights at the Dairy Princess were always busy. One hour later and she was starting to get a little anxious. After two hours she was a nervous wreck. She tried calling Danny; her calls went straight to voicemail. When she called her dad Frank, a detective with the NYPD, he answered immediately.
“Becky! Are you OK? Is it the baby?”
“The baby and I are fine, Dad. It’s Danny. He went for ice cream two hours ago and hasn’t come home yet. Daddy, I’m scared” and she started to cry.
“Sweetie, Mom and I are coming right over. Try not to worry; I’m sure everything’s gonna be alright.” Frank hoped he sounded confident but he knew Danny; this was totally out of character.
Rebecca and Danny knew each other all their lives. They were childhood sweethearts and never dated other people. Rebecca was a kindergarten teacher and Danny managed Jameson’s Deli. They had the same friends and spent all their free time together; they even shared the same Facebook page. There were no secrets between them.
Danny was thrilled when he and Rebecca found out she was expecting a boy. He started calling him Danny Jr. and talked non-stop about the things they’d do together. With just two weeks to go, Danny was eager to be a dad.
When Rebecca’s parents arrived, they found her nervously looking out the window. Her mom Betty made a pot of tea while Frank talked soothingly to his daughter.
“Listen, honey. I called the station on the way over here and my guys are out combing the area. I know you’re scared but there’s got to be a logical explanation. People don’t just disappear, especially not Danny.”
The hours ticked by without a word. Rebecca became more and more agitated, certain something terrible had happened. Betty convinced Rebecca to get a little rest and she managed to doze off. When she got up to use the bathroom, Rebecca’s water broke and Frank drove them to the hospital. They went straight to the ER and a few hours later, Danny Jr. was born. He was perfect but Rebecca’s world was never the same.
Seasons came and went without a trace of Danny. Frank and his team never stopped searching; every trail led to a dead end. It was as though Danny Jameson never existed.
Rebecca never accepted Danny’s disappearance. How could someone simply vanish and why? She took solace in caring for Danny Jr. which was a double-edged sword. He was a happy, well-adjusted child who gave Rebecca much joy but he was also the spitting image of his father. Whenever Rebecca looked at Danny Jr. she saw Danny. It was difficult.
Danny Jr. asked about his father and Rebecca explained as best she could. At first the boy seemed content with the answers his mother gave but as he got older he heard people talking about how his father “just up and left”. He asked Rebecca about that which she vehemently denied; there was no way Danny would have walked out on them. Still, restless thoughts occasionally visited Danny Jr. It didn’t help when people would comment on how much he looked like his father.
A missing person case eventually turned into a cold case. Rebecca refused to have Danny declared legally dead. As painful as the unknown was, that closure was too much for Rebecca to handle.
When Danny Jr. was in his late teens, Rebecca was diagnosed with breast cancer. Whenever Rebecca went for a chemo treatment she’d say “Back before you miss me”. She struggled for 8 years, finally succumbing at the age of 52. Danny Jr. was 26 years old, happily married with one daughter.
On the day of Rebecca’s funeral, Danny Jr. and his family stood near the side of his mother’s grave. His mind was whirling with memories of his mother and questions about his father. Would he ever know what really happened to Danny?
As the priest recited the final prayers, Danny Jr. stared straight ahead, his eyes filling with tears. Just then he noticed a man standing across the street from the gated cemetery. Danny Jr. was shaken to the depths of his soul by the appearance of this man; their resemblance was uncanny. At that moment Danny Jr. realized he was looking at the face of his long-lost father. Even at a distance the men’s eyes locked and Danny Jr. began to slowly walk across the cemetery.
As he drew near to the man a large bus rolled by, momentarily obscuring his view. When the bus had passed and Danny Jr. had a clear view, the man was gone.
In his heart Danny Jr. knew that man was his father. He would have given anything for just one hour with him.
NAR © 2022
7 thoughts on “BACK BEFORE YOU MISS ME”
What an evocative tale so alive with longing!
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Thank you, Jaya. What a lovely compliment!
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Eish, Nancy you touched my heart with this piece. I’m left with sharp and painful memories of Danny’s caring and loving nature in my mind. How he disappeared at dawn. Oh my goodness, what a sad twist that leaves the reader yearning for magic. If magic was real, Danny would have just appeared. What a tough time for Rebecca and then Danny Jr. 😕 Danny Jr lived with an illusion of what his father might have been. This is heartbreaking while at the same time interesting. This sounded so real that it will never leave my mind.
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Then I have done my job, Lam, which is to entertain, to enthrall and to entice the reader to come to his or her own conclusion – in this case, what made Danny leave? Perhaps some day, Danny and his son will get their one hour together. Thank you, my friend, for reading and always leaving such insightful comments. ✌🏼 💕
Whoa, such a great piece it is. Deserves a prize and a public reading. 💐❤
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You are too kind, Lam! 💕 🌹
Thanks a lot, Ms Richy. 💖💐