ora was awake, daylight just beginning to sift through the windows, though she was not sure she had ever fallen asleep.
She could remember sitting alone in the living room, feeling so restless and helpless knowing Juliette was out there somewhere. Finally, she’d lain down on the sofa, her mind alive with images of her little girl in the woods, or on the dark streets: Somewhere beyond Cora’s reach. Or were those dreams?
Now she was awake, itchy to get out there and find her daughter.
She heard voices, male voices, heavy footsteps on the wooden stairs. They seemed to be speaking French. She shook her head, wondering if she was hallucinating. Or hallucinating again.
Then the door banged open.
There stood Medhi, her ex. With him was Hugo, Juliette’s ex. Or current: Cora never could keep that straight, and suspected Juliette couldn’t either.
At any other moment, Cora would have started screaming at Medhi for all his sins, would have pushed him back down the stairs or run out into the street herself.
But now, after only a moment’s hesitation, she walked straight into his arms.
Letting her forehead rest against his shoulder, breathing in the starch of his shirt, the musky scent of his neck, feeling the tickle of his hair against her cheek, feeling herself release all the worry and all the tears, brought back every moment she’d spent like this with him over all the years. Weeping for joy when he asked her to marry him and when she found out she was pregnant with Juliette. Crying in pain when she lost pregnancy after pregnancy and later when her mother died. Medhi’s steady strength, his warm shoulder and his hand on her back had been the constant through all the most important events of her life.
“It’s all right, I’m here, we’ll find her,” he said, and she let herself cry harder, collapse into him more thoroughly.
I was such a fool to ever leave, she told herself. I never should have taken Juliette away, never should have left Paris, should have learned to live with this man, my husband, no matter what.
“What I don’t understand,” Medhi said, gently stepping away from her, “is how our daughter got lost in the first place.”
“She went to a church meeting,” Cora said, confused. “She and this boy she’s befriended, they ran out of the meeting, and then they disappeared….”
“What boy?” asked Hugo, though Cora was too busy trying to make sense of what Medhi was saying to focus on him.
“Why did you let her go off unsupervised?” said Medhi, now dropping his hands from her arms. “This is all your fault, running away in the first place. She learned this behavior from you, and now look what happened!”
“All my fault?” Cora said, aghast. “You were the one who was running around with every piece of ass from London to Istanbul. I may have left Paris, but you left us long ago.”
“I’m not the one who kidnapped our child,” said Medhi. “Who stole her away and flew across the ocean. As soon as we find her, I promise you, I am going to take her back with me, back to Paris….”
Cora was wild with rage. She wanted to rake her fingernails down his face, to have him arrested, to find a lawyer and drag him into court, take all his money, make sure he…..
And then she remembered: Juliette. Juliette was out there somewhere. Maybe, as the police said, perfectly fine, perfectly safe, chastened after her small rebellion and happy to come home.
And maybe in danger. Maybe hurt, or even….
“You might be right,” she told Medhi, forcing herself to touch his arm, thinking that if she’d been able to summon this level of diplomacy even occasionally in her marriage, they might still be together. “We’ll talk about all these concerns later. But right now, we have to go find Juliette.”
Read Cora’s side of the story.