Mommy is in her bedroom. I want to see Mommy but the door is closed. I do not open Mommy’s door when it is closed. When I do, the bad man gives me the burn. I am hungry. I want to tell Mommy that I am hungry so she will make me something to eat. But I cannot get to Mommy. I go to the kitchen and pull a chair against the counter so I can reach the cupboards to find something to eat. The cupboard is empty. There is no food in the fridge.
I hear the front door open and the stomp of boots. Oh no, he’s back. The bad man is back.
“Where are you, you little shit?” I hear him yell, and I run to the kitchen table and crawl under it to hide from him. His boots stomp around the kitchen. He is trying to find me.
“There you are,” he spits at me. I can smell his nasty breath. I cringe away from him but his long arms reach out and pull me from under the table. He drags me, hurting me, from the kitchen to my bedroom and throws me down on the ground. I yell because it hurts and he hits me on my face.
“Look here, you little shit. I’m going to fuck your bitch mother and you’re going to stay in here, do you understand?”
I stare back at him, unable to say words.
“Answer me!” he yells and he hits me again. I nod my head, I will not leave my room.
“You better,” he warns. “If I see your fucking face again tonight, you’ll get the burn.” He pushes me back down and storms out of the room, slamming my bedroom door. I run and hide in my closet. My tummy growls and the sound scares me. I do not want the bad man to hear the sound. Mommy screams again and again and I cover my ears. He is hurting Mommy.
It scares me when I can’t hear the screams any more. He is done hurting Mommy, he is going to hurt me. I crouch down low in the closet hoping my tummy growling doesn’t help him find me. I can hear his boots, they stomp towards me. The sound scares me but it doesn’t stop at my door. He walks through the house and I hear the front door open and close again.
When I’m sure the bad man is gone, I crawl out of the closet to find Mommy. I need Mommy to make me something to eat. I leave my room and look at Mommy’s room. The door is closed. The door is always closed. I don’t open the door when it is closed.
“Jesus, Christian!” I hear as I’m violently shaken awake. My head shoots up off my desk and I look around the room disoriented. Where am I? My study, I’m in my study. My shirt is soaked in sweat and my body is shaking. I turn wildly to see who has woken me and I see Mia staring at me with a horrified look in her eyes.
“Christian, what’s wrong? I could hear you screaming from upstairs. You woke the baby.”
I’ve fallen asleep, how could I have fallen asleep? I looked desperately down at my watch to see the time. My arm is sore and I wince as I move. It’s 6 am, Shit! I’ve been asleep for three hours. What has happened in the last three hours? I turn on Mia.
“Ana?” I ask desperately, my voice is so hoarse and weak. It’s painful to speak, my throat is extremely hot and dry. .
“They haven’t found anything yet,” she answers solemnly.
48 hours. Ana has been missing for 48 hours. Best case scenario she is on the plane’s emergency raft adrift in the South Pacific. How long can a human go without water? My head is fuzzy and I’m having a hard time keeping my thoughts straight. 72 hours. I know that. I know a person can go 72 hours without water. I have 24 hours to find my wife before she… No, I won’t think that. I’m going to find her.
“Christian, you look terrible,” Mia says, her voice is full of concern. “You haven’t changed your clothes in days. You need a shower and some food. When was the last time you ate?”
When was the last time I ate? I can’t remember. I don’t feel hungry. I feel nothing but fear. I have 24 hours to find Anastasia before… no, no. I’m going to find her. God, my head is killing me. I need an Advil.
“You need to get up and take care of yourself,” She grasps me by the arm and heaves me to my feet. I’m too weak to resist her and, as I stumble to my feet, everything darkens and I lose my sense of direction and equilibrium.
‘Shit, Christian!” Mia yells as she tries to catch me, but I’m too heavy for her. I hit the ground, hard, and the pain in my head explodes as my head cracks against the floor.
“Shit! Shit! Shit!” She screams as I roll over and moan, unable to get up by myself. I hear her fumble around and then her panicked voice.
“Mom! I need you to get over here as quick as you can. Christian just fell and hit his head. He can’t move and he can barely talk! Okay… yes, I’ll call an ambulance.”
“M’not leaving,” I mumble, trying, and failing, to get off the ground.
“Hurry, Mom. Please!” Mia says again, her voice choking off as she begins to cry. I hear the phone fall on the desk and then Mia is next to me. I feel her touch my arm and then everything goes black.
When I wake up, I’m in my bed. The sunlight coming in from the floor to ceiling windows of the room makes my head pound. I raise my arm to shield my eyes but it is hindered by something. I look down confused and see an IV in my arm. Where the fuck did this come from? What time is it? My eyes dart around the room until they fall on my mother at the foot of my bed.
“Mom?” I ask.
“Christian, you’re very dehydrated and are suffering from extreme exhaustion. You need to rest,” she says.
I don’t have time to rest. I need to get on the phone, get on the computer. How much time have I lost?
“What time is it?” I ask.
“It’s almost noon.”
Shit! I try to launch myself out of bed, but my mother’s arms shoot out and hold me down.
“Christian, so help me, I’ll sedate you!”
“Mom, please. I have very little time. Please, I have to get to work. I have to find her. Please, she’s running out of time.”
Her eyes are filled with pain as she looks down at me. “I know how worried you are, Christian.”
“No, Mom. No, you don’t. I can’t sit here and not do anything. This is killing me.”
“Okay,” she acquiesces. “You can sit on the couch. You need to rest.”
It’s better than nothing. I can make phone calls from the couch and watch the news. She helps me downstairs and I settle in. Mia brings me a glass of orange juice, a bowl of chicken broth, and my blackberry. I turn on the TV and catch up with the latest in the search. Nothing. They’ve found nothing. No floating survivors, no wreckage. I don’t understand, how does a plane just disappear?
An hour later, I’ve talked to three different press secretaries, the search and recovery lead of Qantas airlines, and four different private investigators. I have no answers. No one knows what caused the crash or even when the plane lost contact with the control tower. I drum my fingers on the arm of the couch as I watch the steady drip of my IV until my mother appears next to me with Teddy in her arms.
“Why don’t you take a turn with the baby?” She suggests.
I glare at her. “I don’t have time for the baby right now. Give him to Gail.”
“No, Christian. This is your son. You may be missing your wife, but he is missing his mother. You need to hold your child.” She reaches down and forces Teddy into my arms and I wince as she bumps into my IV.
“I don’t want to hear another word about it,” she says, and storms out of the room.
I look after her, dumbfounded and then look down to my son. He stares up at me wide eyed for a moment and then his face crinkles and a horrible wail escapes his mouth. Shit, what do I do? What would Ana do? I wrap him in my arms, squeeze him gently, like she showed me, and bounce him up and down. His cries falter as I start to bounce him but return, louder than before.
“Shhhh,” I say, and then remember that when he cries, Ana sings to him. I don’t know any fucking lullabies, what the hell am I going to sing to a baby? I think through as many songs as I can while my son screams at me. Suddenly, my mind conjures up an image, an old image of Ana twirling around my living room at Escala. We’re dancing to Witchcraft. I begin to sing softly.
“Those fingers in my hair. That slight come hither stare. That strips my conscience bare, it’s witchcraft.“
Teddy’s cries soften as I sing and by the time I’ve finished the song, he is asleep. I hear a sniff behind me and turn to see my mother standing in the doorway. She’s crying and when she sees I have noticed her, she walks over to me, kisses my hair, tells me she’ll be right back, and leaves the room.
I look down at Teddy. His slow steady breathing is so calming, like a soothing balm that eases my pain and stress. I feel his warmth wash through me and the tension in my muscles thaws. I didn’t realize how much I needed him until this moment. He is my connection to Ana.
My mom returns with Mia, who is holding a bottle. She reaches out for Teddy and I look at her like she’s crazy. There’s no way I will relinquish my son. Not now that I know what he does for me. She hands me the bottle and I gently brush it against Teddy’s lips. He takes it and begins to eat.
While I feed the baby, I listen to my mom and Mia’s conversation.
“Are you sure that’s okay for a baby so young?” Mia wonders.
“I don’t know what other choice we have. Obviously breast milk is preferable but some babies start on formula from birth.”
“What are you talking about?” I ask, shifting Teddy so he’s sitting up more.
“Ana didn’t pump enough breast milk for… for her extended absence. That’s the last of it. I’m going to have to give him formula,” my mom answers.
My brow crinkles as I look back down at my son. “Don’t worry, Teddy,” I say. “I’m going to bring mommy back to both of us. She’ll be back soon.”
My reassurances are disrupted by a the sound of my blackberry ringing. I look down at the number and motion for my sister to take the baby.
“Grey,” I bark into the phone.
“Sir, this is Commander Murdach with Australia Search and Rescue. I’m calling to inform you that we are officially ending the search for Qantas flight Q107.”
“What do you fucking mean you’re ending the search?” I roar, and I see the looks of shock and panic on my mother and Mia’s faces.
“I’m sorry, sir. It’s been over 48 hours with no success.”
“48 hours is still in the window for possible survivors!”
“Mr. Grey, we simply don’t have the resources to continue the search. I wanted to let you know before we released a statement to the media so you would have time to prepare your own statement. So that you would have time to prepare yourself for what this means. We are not going to find your wife.”
“No! What resources do you need?” I demand, my voice as cold as ice.
“Excuse me, sir?”
“What resources do you need? Planes? Ships? Money? I’ll pay for it all. I’ll get you whatever you need.”
“Sir, we’re talking millions of dollars a day to continue this search.”
“Have you forgotten who you’re talking to?”
“No, sir. I suppose, if you’re willing…”
“I’ll have my people call you. Do not stop the search. It doesn’t end until I say it ends.”
I hang up the phone and make the proper calls to fund the search and rescue team. The next few hours are spent concentrating hard on the beautiful face of my son while I ignore the constant ringing of my blackberry. My accountants, lawyers, and financial advisors have been calling non-stop, trying to advise me against my plan to fund the search, but I don’t care. I don’t care if I lose my house, my company, every cent I have to my name. I will bankrupt myself, gladly, if it means I find Anastasia. Eventually, the calls stop.
My concentration is finally broken by the sound of a breaking news bulletin, and when I look up my heart stops as I read the headline flashing across the screen.
Qantas flight Q107 wreckage found
“Turn that up!” I yell. Mia furiously pounds on the volume button. My yell has woken Teddy and my mother takes him from me and rocks him as we all listen to the news report.
“CNN can now confirm the wreckage of Qantas flight Q107 has been found along with dozens of survivors. There were several casualties reported but we don’t have accurate numbers to report at this time. Search and Rescue has yet to release the names of the survivors but we will have those names for you as soon as they become available.”
My blackberry rings.