When Frances went to wake her daughter late on New Year’s morning, she did not find her in her bed. Frances took deep breaths, trying not to panic.
“Maya! Maya, are you hiding?” She checked the whole house, opening any cabinet and checking any corner Maya might hide in. The girl had been unusually quiet since Christmas, but then, so had the whole family. Months earlier Frances’ father had just disappeared, leaving a little wooden horse he had promised to carve for Maya unfinished. Caving in to the girl’s begging to get it for Christmas regardless had felt like giving up on him ever returning to finish it.Seeing Maya sit on the floor, the older, polished wooden toys in front of her lined up in an arc, turning the rough horse in her hands—
Empty spots where Maya’s snow boots and warmest coat should be waiting by the front door stopped Frances in her tracks. In her pajamas and slippers she rushed out in the yard, ignoring the cold and the snowflakes, and leaned over the gate, looking left and right, yelling her daughter’s name. No sign of her.
Frances ran back into the house, trying to decide between calling the police right away or quickly getting dressed to look for herself. She heard the knock at the back door before settling on one.
Maya, bundled up, nose red and running, had trouble with the handle on the sliding glass door. Frances scooped her up in a hug, awash with relief and flooding the child with sometimes contradictory pronouncements. Eventually she calmed down enough to close the door. Her near-babbling paused on, “Whyever did you do that?”
“The horse wanted to.” She held the unfinished toy up.
Frances’ brows drew down. That blasted thing.
“It was important. The horse knows where grandpa is.”
“Maya, it’s a piece of wood.” It was not how she usually sounded when she’d say what one of her toys thought or wanted. Much more serious.
“It knows, anyway! I can show you where it said. Just a spot in the woods. Maybe he’s in a fairy hill?” Even Maya herself looked dubious at the idea.
Wordlessly, Frances hugged her again, resolving that they had to have some kind of memorial, if they could not give him a proper burial.