The years began to pass. It didn’t seem like it should. It didn’t seem like they’d stay. It didn’t seem like they would build a life there, but they did.
Their cabin up the hill, near the silver vein, working the ore and taking it into town. They were turning a huge profit and building a life for the kids.
Kit and Sylvia had become the kids. She and Steve had become Granny and Gramps. All their kids would come up and they would spoil the kids. It was a life Judy had been waiting for. It broke her heart she wasn’t seeing Celia and the life she was leading. She missed Vivi’s wedding, missed everything. It must hurt them so much for them to not know where she went. But the children were a balm. And knowing they were providing for the kids and providing for Kit and Sylvia’s progeny was fulfilling at least.
After they’d been there for fifteen years, the cabin was now a house. They had horses and everything they could need. They were happy and comfortable. They had electricity wired to the houses. All the small luxuries they could have, they did.
It was a beautiful home. How he didn’t know about it, how there weren’t traces of the house still up on the hill, he didn’t know. It was just perplexing.
But he woke up one night and rolled over in the bed to snuggle into Judy. She was gone.
“Judy?” At the silence, he called, “Bubba?”
Wherever she was, at least she had Bubba with her. Boomer had been buried under Judy’s favorite oak for years now.
He was up and out of bed, looking for her. He pulled on his dressing gown and a pair of slippers, turning on the lights downstairs, and walking through the house.
“Jude?” he called softly.
He stepped outside into the soft summer night. It was cool in the mountains, but the glow from the city was already lighting the sky. Funny how quickly the touch of humans spread.
He walked out to the barn. The horses were all tucked away and the cow and the llamas were shuffling and munching on hay idly.
Judy had gotten the llamas for their wool. After Sylvia taught her to knit, she’d really taken to it. The llamas were her little pets that made sweaters.
Homer, his horse poked his head out of the stall and whickered at him softly. He scratched the horse’s nose and was back out into the night. The robe wasn’t keeping him warm enough, so he re-tied it.
“Judy?” he called.
They were comfortable enough that they didn’t have to do anything with the mine. They hired workers to do the excavating for them. It made things easier. They were well to do, bordering on wealthy.
Was she taken? No one would take her. Bubba was completely in love with her and wouldn’t let anything happen to Judy.
Steve gave Bubba’s whistle. And the dog barked.
He followed the bark across the open meadows to the excavations.
Judy sat there with the lantern, her head on her knees, looking at the open scar on the hillside. She was hugging her knees to her chest, tears just rolling down her cheeks.
“Oh, Jude, what’s the matter, honey?” He sat down next to her, his arm around her, holding her close.
“I miss her so much.”
“I’m sorry. For everything we have here, it would never replace her.”
“I don’t know how to do all of this. If I don’t think about it, I can do it. If I don’t think about how much I miss her, I can live through the pain. But… it hurts so much to not think about her.”
He held her, stroking her hair out of her face.
“Do you want to try it again?” he said.
“I don’t know. What would it to do Kit and Sylvia now if we left? What would happen to the kids?”
He looked up at the sky. “It almost looks like the night we left.”
“Nothing will happen.”
He shrugged. “Let’s just try it.”
“Should we leave them a note for just in case?”
He kissed her forehead and said, “Let’s go write them a note.”
He stood up and they walked back across the field to the house, going in and writing a note to Kit and Sylvia, then turning out the lights and locking up.
They held hands and went into the excavation.