1. to thicken; as by evaporation, make or become dense.

It was well after 3 in the morning and still Marilyn couldn’t get to sleep. She had been in bed for the last three hours starting at the ceiling while her husband slept soundly, his snoring drowning out the noise of vehicles passing below. As if she couldn’t help it, she repeatedly returned to her daughter’s room just to watch her sleep and calm the internal unease she was feeling.

Marilyn silently kicked herself for not casting all her cares aside and enjoying REM sleep. She should’ve been calmly resting, but the mixture of fear and guilt was keeping her awake, checking on her 4 year old.

It seemed the entire neighborhood–no, the city–had gone to sleep late, the police, ambulances, and news crews slowly departed about two hours ago. She wanted to celebrate, too! How many times did you find a missing child 10 years later, alive and somewhat in her right mind?

That was a miracle by anyone’s standards. And Marilyn was excited about that–little Maddie Albrecht had been rescued and was reunited with her family. As a mother, she could only imagine the joy Mrs. Albrecht felt right now, having her little girl–now a teen–back in her arms after a decade or fear, worry, false alarms, and fruitless searches.

But it was the unnerving question of “what if” that rose to inspissate the air around her, making it hard to breathe, let alone sleep peacefully.

What if she hadn’t been so absorbed in her morning walks?

What if she’d gotten to know Harold just a little bit better instead of giving half a wave before rushing off in the opposite direction because of the weird vibe she got whenever she saw him?

What if she’d trusted her instincts?

It was hard to believe that something like that had been going on right beside them all this time. After the neighborhood quieted, her husband had kissed the worry lines on her forehead and told her to go to sleep, that it was all okay. But Marilyn couldn’t quite accept that.

She jogged by Harold house most mornings. There had been some mornings she thought she could hear the faint sound of knocking as she passed, but she attributed it to an exuberant woodpecker and turned up the volume to her music. Mrs. Albrecht would have never done that. She would’ve responded to every knock, every faint sound in order to find her daughter.

And if Marilyn’s baby girl had been abducted she would’ve done the same, instead of talking herself out of strange noises and feelings that made no sense.

She had actually jogged past the neon-clad woman who found Maddie that very morning. New to the neighborhood, she mentioned being intrigued by a weak and sporadic tapping noise she heard as she past by the house.

“In my gut I just knew something was wrong, so I called the police.”

How many times had Marilyn felt the same exact way? Only she never picked up the phone to call anyone. She never even mentioned it to her husband. The world might have its Harolds, but she was more concerned with the world having too many Marilyns who never speak up when they know something is off. She felt as guilty as Harold.

Marilyn glanced at the clock and laid back down in the bed, still unable to sleep.




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