It’s been a perfect day, warm and sunny. The Italian sun couldn’t have been more gracious with its warmth. My father and I spent the day at the beach, swimming, sunbathing, playing catch in the breakers, and building sandcastles; the perfect way to spend the summer vacation.
About two hours before dinnertime, we went back to our hotel room to shower and get dressed for the evening, then wait for Mom. She had gone on a day tour to see the old towns of the Tuscany and still her hunger for something historical. Dad said her bus was due to return at about seven, and I sat anxiously. I had missed my mother even though I had had a lot of fun with Dad at the beach.
But seven o’clock came and went, and Mom was still not back.
My eyes followed the hands of the clock for another ten minutes, but the door to the hotel room didn’t open, and no one rapped against it. I didn’t know whether Mom had a key, like Dad had, but she would at least knock, wouldn’t she? She wouldn’t wait and scare me just for her fun; that wasn’t my mom.
Dad came out of the bathroom, drying his hair. He saw me sitting on the chair and asked, “What is it, hon?”
Finally, my eyes left the clock over the door. I looked at him, my eyes wide. “Mom’s not back yet,” I told him.
He frowned when he glanced at the clock. “It’s not typical for her to be late,” he mumbled, picking up his phone and speed-dialing Mom’s cell. It rang - I could hear it from where I sat - once, twice, thrice . . .
But she never answered.
After the tenth ring, the voicemail switched on, and Dad left her a message, asking where she was, if the bus had a hold-up, and when she would be back with us. We would go down to dinner already, and she should find us there.
But Mom never called back.
And she never came.
Dad took me to bed at eleven. He didn’t say it aloud, but I knew he had tried to call her cell a few times again when I hadn’t been with him, without success. He had left new messages, his tone becoming more and more worried. I had never said anything, though, hadn’t acknowledged I knew he had tried calling her.
I couldn’t sleep that night, not for a long time. I stood up and looked out of the window. The day had been so perfect, only to fall into complete chaos when Mom failed to return from her day tour.
Outside, the sky was covered in thick, heavy and dark clouds. Rain was impending. The vast green of the landscape had changed to a miserable gray, and the tree in front of the window had lost its attraction. It looked like a skeleton. It had died.
Just like I had died.
That was when I started to cry.
Dad found me when he checked up on me an hour later before he went to bed himself. Mom had still not returned.
Rain splattered against the window, the drops thick and heavy. When looking outside, it looked like the sky was crying, the curtain of rain muting everything else into a dull blur. But, after that, I didn’t see any more through my tears.
“She’ll come back,” Dad whispered, hugging me close. “She’ll be back.” Whether he wanted to soothe me or himself, I didn’t quite know. I was soothed, however, at least for the moment.
The next day, we went into town, to the tourist company that had offered the tours. They couldn’t tell us what had happened, however - they had simply closed, gone without a trace. Dad talked to a couple of people in the shops around, but no one knew anything. In the end, we went to the police. They promised to try everything humanly possible to find her, but couldn’t promise when - if at all - they could report us the results.
A week later, Dad and I flew back home on our own. Our holidays were over, and we flew back without Mom.
She never came back to us.
That was nine years ago. I am now sixteen, and Dad and I are back in Cecina, Italy. We’re not staying in the same hotel - the memories are too grave - but close to it, anyway. I talked Dad into returning to the place where Mom had left us, for that had been the only reasonable explanation we could come up with. But I am determined to find out the truth. I know my mom. She loved Dad, and she certainly loved me. Why would she run away with some stranger if she had us? There had to have been something else, and I would find out what.