Part Seven is brought to us by Delores Goodrick Beggs
Heather tried to rein in her swirling emotions and focus on Detective Carson's rheumy eyes where he stood beside the line of reindeer tracks in the snow.
"Mrs. Nielson, we need some explanations here. You need to come down to the station
with us." He lifted his sagging belly enough to reach into his pocket and produce a scrap of white fabric, held it to his nose, and honked into it. "It's cold out here."
Heather tried to gather her scattered wits - what did the police expect, with her husband and daughter both disappeared into thin air? - she clenched her fists. Aching numbness in her fingers brought to her attention her hands and feet were cold. Looking down at the ankle-deep snow she stood in, she laughed brokenly, the hiccupping sound turning into a sob.
It was Christmas Eve, she was cold, miserable, and her husband and daughter had disappeared into thin air, leaving her all alone.
If this was Santa's idea of a gift, she had a thing or two to bend his ear about.
Gifts. She reached an unsteady hand up to trace the outline of the blue and purple studded butterfly necklace from Sean she'd found in the attic and clasped about her neck. Her red, wrinkled fingertips slid over the outline of the butterfly, warming as they went, and a reel of still images flit before her view, blocking out Detective Carson's corpulent bulk.
"Sean!" Whatever? Wherever...? Her eyes lit, the special smile she always saved for Sean formed on her lips, and her heart leaped with joy.
"What was that, Ma'am?" Detective Carson leaned closer, one cupped hand behind his ear.
"Uh...nothing...I'm just cold. I need to go indoors and put warm clothing and shoes on."
She didn't pay any attention to the words she spoke to the officer, concentrating instead on the astounding images of Sean sitting at a table she had streamed through her mind while she clutched the butterfly tight in her fingers, unwilling to lose her grip on the connection with her husband. She'd seen him sitting with Santa Claus, but how could that be? The next image streamed and Sean winked at her. Her lips parted in a warm smile, and he nodded. Was he speaking to her? Telling her not to worry?
"Ma'am?" Detective Carson intruded. "We need to go down to the station."
She let go her tight grip on the necklace, smoothed it back against her torso, letting the images of Sean faded into memory. "I'm not going anywhere dressed like this," she announced. She drew herself up tall and stared unblinking at Detective Carson until he dropped his gaze from hers. "I need to change into proper clothing, get my snowboots...I'll be out shortly."
She turned and marched back into her house, letting the front door bang closed behind her.
She hurried back to her bedroom and changed into the gown she'd set aside to wear Christmas Day, the gold velvet Sean stroked with loving fingers whenever she wore it. All the while her necklace pulsed warm the way her heart often beat when Sean held her close against his strong chest and murmured in her ear she was his jewel before he kissed her. The pulse tempo of the necklace speeded up as she picked up her brush and added a light touch of makeup to her face, fluffed her hair, and then lifted her floor-length skirt in order to step into her warm snowboots. Standing upright again, thought wrinkles creased her forehead. She wasn't looking forward to whiling away the remainder of the night before Christmas sitting in the police station. She wrapped her hand around the pulsating necklace and frowned.
"Ma'am? Ma'am, are you ready yet? We need to get going." Detective Carson rapped on the front door, then banged hard when no one answered. He opened the door and stepped inside. "You decent?" he called. "Ma'am, it's time we were going."
The house remained silent.