He feels a chill wind blowing off the inlet, zips up his coat, and looks up at a threatening November sky. At least it's not raining yet. The bus pulls back onto the road and drives up the hill. He starts trudging uphill after it. It is a steep grade, and he is getting to the age where he feels the effort. It starts to drizzle and is raining hard by the time he turns into his abandoned driveway. Zack sees his six-year-old daughter sitting on the steps, looking up at the front door. Why is Ashley outside in this rotten weather?
Zack walks up the stairs, and he doesn't need to see his daughter's face to know she is crying. He instinctively picks her up. She burrows into his arms. "What's wrong, Ashley?"
"When is Mommy coming home Daddy?"
"She should be home anytime, Pumpkin," Zack says in a soothing voice. Ashley is trembling; he can literally feel how upset or scared she is. Where is Zoë? She should have been home hours ago. His wife is always home by 3:00, so she will be there when Ashley gets home from school. It is almost 6:30. "Have you been sitting on the steps since you got home from school?"
"Yes; Daddy. It was a long time." She says, choking back her tears.
"Did Mrs. Rodgers walk you home?"
"Yes; Daddy." Ashley has her head buried in his arms and he can't see her face, but she has stopped trembling, at least.
Zack fumbles in his pocket for his magnetic key wondering what could have happened to his wife. I've got to take care of Ashley first, Zack thinks as he opens the door. He puts Ashley down. "Hang up your coat and take off your shoes. I'll see what I can find to eat. You must be hungry." He hands her a coat hanger from the open closet beside the front door.
Ashley smiles at him in anticipation. "I haven't ate anything since recess." She hangs her coat on the hanger and gives it back to him, and removes her shoes while Zack hangs her coat in the closet. He repeats the process with his own wet coat and shoes. "Let's go into the kitchen and see what we can find to eat."