In the dark night of a rainy Sunday, a bright flash of lightening speared through a living room window and was swiftly followed by the earthly wail of a clap of thunder.
Across the living room, at the kitchen table, where he sat with a glass in hand, Mark Sennar glanced behind his shoulder, checking to see if the noise had awoken his sleeping daughter. The small child did not stir, and she remained in slumber; her long blond hair spread over her back like a yellow cape. Her tiny frame still and unmoving, wrapped in a warm blanket - the light of nightly television news dancing across her face. Her program long since finished.
Mark did not turn away immediately. His daughter's life flashed before his eyes; from the moment she entered the world, her wonderful and terrifying birth, to the in between years where fright had driven him into isolation, and finally pausing at the present. A trance he often revisited where he relived her entire six years in a single moment.
It was the warm touch of a woman's hand who brought him back to reality. He turned to back to face her, wordlessly lifted his eyes to meet her gaze as he took a long sip of a red wine. The dark, syrupy drink numbed his tongue as it went down his throat.
The woman's hand remained on his - she smiled at him, the wrinkles of time permanently etched on her skin, her thumb lightly stroking the middle of his palm affectionately.
"Mark," she said gently, "…we need to talk."
He said nothing, waiting for her to announce what he was almost positive would be her departure.
"I think it's time I retire."
Again, he nodded wordlessly and sighed.
"You know I love Leah…." Agatha said, smiling at him "But I'm old…I need time with my grandsons…I've been with her since she was a baby, and I have always enjoyed working for you. You've taken care of me for the past six years, and I am forever grateful to you," she continued "but I can't keep up, she is growing so fast! And I am slowing down."
She took her hand back and stood up.
"It will be good for Leah to have someone younger; someone who can play with her, bring her outside, take her places with other children. I am simply not able to keep up." Agatha said as she walked into the kitchen. She grabbed a mug and picked up a kettle that had begun to screech. Steam drifted into the air as she poured hot tea into the ceramic.
"I will watch her until you find a suitable replacement," Agatha assured, sitting back down at the table. She took a small sip and placed the mug on a saucer.
"But in the meantime…do you have someone in mind?"
Mark remained stoic, showing no reaction to the unfortunate news. He began to carefully calculate his next course of action. There was no doubt that he would have to choose someone who posed no threat to his safety. Someone he not only could trust with his child; but would respect the orders he would have to place. Rules so impertinent, that if even one was broken, he and his child's lives would be at risk. Everything he had under his control would be lost.
He carefully weighed and analyzed his options
Finally, the answer drifted to his mind.
In the five years since he had moved to Keonsville, there had never been a single conversation more meaningful than questions of matters relating to school enrollment. She politely gave him salutations and wished him goodbye when he dropped Leah off at her elementary school. It was only these minor greetings and the exchange of glances over the years as they passed by one another that he had directly interacted with her.
Still, he knew her by reputation. He was familiar with her mannerisms, and the disposition she had never once broken. He himself had been in presence of the kindness that emanated off her like the bright light of the sun. He knew he could trust her to never try to find out who he was.
Or what he was hiding.
Another long sip of wine disappeared down his throat. He pictured his candidate.
Young, not even old enough to drink. Long dark wavy hair. A smile seemingly engraved on her face. Bright eyes that reflected an innocent life untouched by any act of evil.
Unlike his own.
Mark took a final sip, and finished his wine.
"I know someone." he said.
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Revised first chapter will be posted soon.