Mystery Masks

Photo by De an Sun on Unsplash

“Ah, hell’s bells woman,” Dad’s gruff voice carried down the hallway and into the makeshift nursery. It was no secret my parents argued. They have for as long as I can remember.

I looked down at Camille’s sweet face as I gently laid her in the crib. She barely shifted. Tears welled up and threatened to flow again. She looked so much like Twila, my late wife. The same day our daughter was born, my wife was placed into an induced coma. That awful virus took her from us a week after Camille was born.

She never got to meet mother. Twila never had a chance to hold her, count her fingers and toes, or look into her beautiful blue eyes. Twila has been gone for a month now. The pain is so great, it might as well have happened minutes ago. I’m trying to be strong for our little angel.

Moving in with my parents was the last thing I wanted, but the circumstances this year have been beyond our control. Working as a cook at Willow Lake Steakhouse was great until the pandemic shut down the restaurant. Two months ago, Zack, the owner, left a message letting us know he wouldn’t be reopening. It looked like Willow Lake wasn’t going to make it and there was talk of bankruptcy.

We were drowning in school loans and two months behind in rent when I lost my job. Twila teamed up with Mom and pushed for us to move in with them. I agreed we needed more stability with the baby on the way, but didn’t immediately agree to the move.

Mom pointed out they had a large house. Dad only grunted and said that we needed to pull our own weight. As soon as he held Camille for the first time, he never brought it up again. Dad’s got a soft heart, but will never admit it.

Twila’s parents had died in an accident a few years back so Camille would only know one set of grandparents. ‘What better way for Camille to bond with her grandparents than to live with them?’ Twila had said.

Mom’s shrill voice yanked me from my thoughts. “I say they’re a gift. Someone was feeling sorry for us because we live in a hotspot and mailed them to us.” Her voice became shriller as their disagreement escalated.

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