Maggie Reinholdt grabbed the flashlight and pushing wide the narrow door at the end of the spare bedroom, she re-entered the attic for the third time. And for the third time, she wiped lint-caked spider webs from her sweaty face and damp hair. Hefty gray boxes of receipts and case studies lined the right wall where Erik had neatly stacked them. Christmas decorations, suitcases, and remnants of their old home filled the left. At last a red-labeled box flagged her attention in the far right corner by the attic fan. She slouched down to paw her way to the other side without cracking her head on the beams. Even eight feet away, she recognized the handwriting on the side as that of Dr. Reinhold Eriksen, Erik’s illustrious father. She snorted at the mental description.
Stooping lower, she avoided stepping on dead crickets, spiders, and an occasional mouse dropping on her way to the carton. Her gaze snagged on the cradle and she halted midway. Even her breathing stopped. Delicate flowers in an extravagant scroll shaped the word BABY on the cradle’s side. With stiff movements, she squatted lower and stretched out her hand to stroke the dusty letters. The finish was smooth—smooth as an infant’s behind. She had powdered Ricky’s sweet, sweet baby skin until he laughed and she cried. She closed her eyes. The memories of his beautiful smile and dimples carved into pink cheeks brought him to life. Silky black curls like her mother’s had filtered through her fingers a hundred times a day. Their favorite game, where did the curls come from?
Her hands drew up until she could feel him in her arms, pressed against her breast where she nursed him and sang him to sleep. His bright blue eyes staring into hers, trusting her, believing in her to do the right thing for his life.
Oh Ricky, I let you down.
She sagged against the cradle and allowed her heavy lids to droop.
“Hush tiny baby, don’t you cry now . . .”
She opened her eyes and her singsong voice trailed away. Then she dropped her head into her empty palms and let out a loud, piecing wail.