The winds finally died down to where I could venture out beyond the shades which protected the doors. Lacey needed to go out and do her business and we were both too tired from being cooped up indoors for the day and a half it took the storm to ride out. I didn’t know what to expect, 90 mile an hour winds had tormented my sleep and I was stressed and tired and just wanted to breathe some fresh air. The power had gone out almost as soon as the storm started so I knew one of the branches on the old oaks must have knocked it loose. I unbolted the shades and Lacey rushed past me, nearly knocking me over with her 125 pounds of muscle. I hope the fence held, but Lacey was pretty good at coming when called and staying in bounds. The clouds let a little sun through and I held my face up to the welcoming light. The house gets dark when the shutters are up and we hadn’t gotten evacuated, being too far from any water bodies that would have risen, I was thankful for that. Ken was still out of town which suited me just fine, with no power I didn’t have to listen to his constant bitching and moaning, and I could just try to remain composed hanging out with Lacey. Ken isn’t my husband, just a boyfriend I’ve had for too many years. He can be mean and loving at the same time but since our child disappeared 9 years ago, I hadn’t the energy or the heart to start fresh again. So I enjoy his work because it keeps him on the road for a week at a time. We knew the storm was coming but he had to get his load up to New York and I told him I’d be fine, had the neighbors around if I needed help and he agreed that he would stay up there while I faced the onslaught of Mother Nature.
Lacey was barking at something and I looked around to see part of the fence blown down, or should I say crushed by half of the oak tree in the corner. The roots were upended and the power line lay up in the branches. I rushed over to see what Lacey was barking at and worried at the same time if any of the lines were reaching the ground. If anything happened to Lacey, I’d die…she’s my only baby and I’ve had her since she was a pup. A gift Ken brought home from the road for baby Grace, saying all kids need a dog to grow up with. Grace was one year old and it was hard enough taking care of a baby and then to throw a dog that needed training too was rough, I told him so but he said he couldn’t take it back and I didn’t have the heart to find a new home for it. In a way I’m glad I didn’t because when Grace was stolen, Lacey was the one who kept me sane. I try not to think about those days, the open window to her nursery and the years that passed with no leads just crushes me. I turned the corner to the house where Lacey had her head in the roots of the tree and she looked up at me with a baseball in her mouth. I laughed out loud because leave it to Lacey to find a toy. She tends to eat them so we never leave them laying around and here she wags her tail at me with that goofy look, like come on Mom, let’s play. I told her to put it down because I still had to survey the rest of the damage. “Come here Lace,” I called to her and she took one last look at the ball and followed me. The rest of the yard had little damage which was good all things considering, and only a few shingles had come off the roof. “Lets go Lace and get these shutters down, you and me, okay?” I said to her but she turned and ran back to the tree, wagging her tail again and picked up the ball. “Okay, just one throw, then we have work to do here” and I reached down and took the old weathered ball. It had an odd feel to it and I turned it slowly in my hands, scraping some of the sand and mud off of it only to realize it was not a ball but a skull. I dropped it as I screamed and grabbed Lacey before she could pick it up again. “Come on, let’s go in girl” I said and pulled her by the collar towards the house. I felt Lacey pull hard against my hand and she slipped out of her collar and began running back to the tree, I could only follow. “I need to call the police, Lace, come on, let’s go already” but she began to dig and dig some more. I caught up to her and pushed her out of the way while peering into the hole at what looked like sticks but with their shape, I knew they were more bones. “Come on dammit” I said to her and as she looked up at me, I saw it. A dirty silver locket dangled from her mud filled mouth and I screamed as the tears fell from my eyes, my hands shook as I took it from her and could just see that beautiful name that I had given her, Grace.