Margaret Wheeler had come across many forgotten items in her 26 years as a flight attendant, but a nine-year-old diary was a first. Why would anyone travel across the country with something like that? Maybe the woman was dying and wanted to reflect on more joyful times? She shook her head to clear that morbid thought. Perhaps it was just a movie prop? The plane had come from Los Angeles, one of the country's largest film producers, but if that was the case, the writing wouldn't have been so detailed. She quickly scrapped that idea.
The bartender slid her martini toward her, and she absently thanked him. It was almost midnight now, her shift having ended nearly an hour ago, yet instead of checking into her hotel, she was sitting on a swivel stool at the airport bar trying to piece the puzzle together. She took a sip and sighed. Over 24 hours had passed since the diary's discovery, and she was no closer to finding the owner.
After her co-workers went home the previous night, she had stayed behind to do a thorough search under and between each seat. When she came up empty handed, she combed through the seating charts from the earlier flights that day. One of the options looked promising. She jotted down the name and number and tucked it into her wallet with Sigrid's information. Before her shift this morning, she had attempted to call the woman but was sent to voicemail. She left a brief message and a number to reach her at, but each time they landed, she checked her messages and found nothing. It was quite possible the woman was just busy, but her gut told her she wasn't returning the call because she wasn't the diary's owner.
Margaret chided herself for not taking the diary. It could contain clues to the woman's identity to assist in the search. Now all she had to go on were the snippets she remembered reading. She thought about contacting Sigrid, but it was late, and she didn't have any news to report. It was best she didn't get the young woman's hopes up.
She polished off her cocktail and reached into her purse to pay for her purchase. Her hand brushed against a week's worth of seating charts that she intended to look at in the morning. It wasn't how she envisioned spending her day off, but detective work would be so much more rewarding than binge watching missed episodes of The Bachelor while stuffing herself with takeout pizza.
Sheldon lifted the corner of the comforter as Amy unclasped her necklace. After setting it on her nightstand, she slipped under the covers and pecked him on the lips. Instead of flipping onto her side as she normally did, she stared up at the ceiling.
"Not really." She twisted her neck to face him. "I can't believe Leah's been secretly reading my diaries all this time. I thought we raised her to be respectable."
"We did, but like you said, it's natural to be curious. You yourself searched through your mom's photos when she wasn't home looking for clues to your dad's identity."
"That's different. My dad's identity was such a secret that my mom refused to discuss him. Anytime I tried asking about him, she locked me in the sin closet..." Amy closed her eyes momentarily and took a deep breath. "Sorry. You must be sick of me telling that story. I need to get over it."
Sheldon draped his arm over her waist and kissed her forehead. "You have nothing to apologize for."
She snuggled closer. "Thanks, Babe."
"Anyway, let's get back to our current issue. I can understand Leah's initial curiosity, but why didn't she just come to us with questions? We've always been honest with her."
"We have omitted details."
"We have, but when she's asked, we've always filled in the blanks."
"Except about our amorous activities," he pointed out. "That seems to be what she's most interested in."
She propped her head on her hand. "That and my parents' relationship." Amy subconsciously reached for her double helix charm then dropped her hand as she realized it sat on her nightstand. "Do you think she knows about their situation and is just testing us to see if we tell her the truth?"
"It's a possibility."
"We should have just told her, only how do you explain something like that to an 8 year old?"
"She knows the basics of sex now, so we have that in our favor."
"That's true." She sighed. "I just hope she won't think less of them."
"She's a resilient girl. I'm sure she can handle it."
"I hope you're right, Sheldon."
"We'll tell her before school is back in session so she has time to process the information."
"Okay." Amy twisted her wedding ring. "Now that that's settled, we need to devise a suitable punishment for Leah."
"Tomorrow when we're feeling refreshed after a good night's sleep, we can brainstorm."
"Let's get some sleep." Sheldon fluffed his pillow, rested his head on it again, and closed his eyes.
"I can't sleep knowing my diary is out there somewhere. Is it here in California? Is it in Boston? It could even be halfway around the world by now."
"You filed the missing item report. That's all we can do today. Goodnight," he mumbled.
Sheldon opened one eye to find his wife peering down at him, her face mere inches away. He wasn't receptive to most people's facial expressions, sometimes not even hers, but this one he recognized. It was her "I need answers" face. Knowing there would be no resolution tonight, he offered the next best thing. "Would you like some chamomile tea to help you sleep?"
"What I want is my diary back. All the details of my one and only pregnancy are gone." She swiped at the tears starting to form.
"Not all the details. You still have the diary from the last two months when you were on bedrest."
"It's something, but those other seven months are gone," she sniffled.
"Not exactly. Your personal thoughts are, but I have the data all up here," he tapped at his head.
"It's not the same. Now I'll never be able to go back and read it."
Sheldon stood and padded out of the room.
"Where are you going?"
"The library. I have something I think you'll like," he called over his shoulder.
Amy tugged at the cuffs of her sleeves and twisted her ring as the minutes ticked by. Finally her husband returned carrying one of his black and white composition books. "What's that?"
"This," he handed it to her then slipped under the covers, "is the first of three journals chronicling every aspect of your pregnancy from my point of view. There's one for each trimester."
She flipped through the pages and gasped. "It's so detailed!"
"I don't know why you're so surprised. You know I'm extremely detail oriented."
"But if you have it all up here," she touched his head, "why go to the trouble of writing it down?"
"I wanted to have written documentation for our child. I plan on giving these to Leah when she goes off to college."
"That's very sweet." She kissed his cheek and flipped to the first page. "Is it okay if I read your thoughts?"
"Please. I have nothing to hide."
She cleared her throat and began to read aloud.
November 17, 2018
For days I've suspected Amy is pregnant, and now an at-home pregnancy test has more or less validated my hypothesis. The tests claim to have a 99% accuracy rate. However, as a scientist, I need to be 100% certain, so we'll go to the clinic on Monday for confirmation. Even knowing there's a slim chance the test is wrong, I can't help but feel excited at the prospect of gifting humanity with a superior being, as a result of the combination of our genetic material.
Our whole dinner conversation revolved around baby preparations. Amy proposed a jungle-themed mural until I pointed out that our lease forbids us from painting the walls. Sensing her disappointment, I consulted Google for alternative apartment decorating methods. The smile returned to her face when I showed her the removable wallpaper borders adorned with monkeys and elephants. She enthusiastically searched for accessories and found blankets, rugs, and other assorted accessories.
After dinner we surveyed Leonard's old room, the future nursery. In addition to the crib, Amy suggested a rocking chair, change table, bookshelf, and dresser. I found approximate measurements online and mapped out the ideal placements for each piece of furniture with chalk.
Later I surprised Amy by suggesting we watch Little House on the Prairie, and boy was she surprised! When I offered to massage her feet, her jaw dropped. I suppose I haven't been the best husband, but that's going to change. I realize how difficult it's already been for her to carry our child, suffering through morning sickness, and I want to make her as comfortable as possible throughout this pregnancy.
We agreed to wait until the ultrasound confirms we were successful in creating the first Cooper-Fowler offspring before spreading the news to friends and family. My mother will be thrilled, and I suspect Amy's family will be overjoyed as well. At least I hope so.
"Sheldon, this is beautiful! I can't believe you did this."
He plucked the book from her fingers and flipped through the pages. "I don't know if you noticed, but I also included the same dietary and measurement charts and graphs here that I added to your diary."
"This is amazing. Thank you." She leaned over and pressed her lips to his.
He set the book aside and ran his hand up and down her arm. "I know this doesn't replace your diary, but I'm glad I can provide some comfort until we get it back."
"If we get it back."
In the next room, Leah's pulled her ear from the wall. They were talking low, so she couldn't discern much, except that her mom initially sounded upset. Her voice sounded much more content now. Maybe the airline found the diary. Leah sighed in relief. That must be it. Only it didn't make sense. Her mom sounded distraught until her dad returned with something from the library. She had heard him say he was going there when he was in the hall and had also heard the familiar sound of the library ladder rolling across the floor.
Had her mom suspected she had taken more diaries from the shelves, and her dad reassured her the rest were still there? He wasn't gone long enough to check the whole length of the wall, so that couldn't be true. So what were they discussing? She put her ear to the wall again, but all was quiet now.
Leah lay back and pulled the comforter up to her neck. She closed her eyes, but guilt kept her from falling asleep. She needed a distraction, possibly something to read. She subconsciously reached under her pillow for the diary then quickly withdrew her hand. The diary was gone, and reading it was what caused her guilt in the first place. She changed tactics and began reciting the digits of pi, like her dad did to calm himself down - 3.1415926535897932384626433... What was next? She groaned in frustration.
Her own diary sat on her nightstand, the pages still empty, as she waited for the new year. She briefly thought about ignoring her own rule to wait, but just couldn't do it. What else could she do to help herself sleep? Her parents made chamomile tea, or sometimes her dad warmed up milk in the microwave. Those were good ideas in theory, but she couldn't risk them finding her out of bed this late and getting in trouble again. There had to be something here. Her eyes scanned her room until she saw it.
She tossed the covers aside and picked up the camera box, a gift Grandma Annette had chosen for her. While not a high-end model, it was superior to a basic point-and-shoot. She would prefer to be self taught, testing the buttons and finding out for herself what each setting did, but reading through the technical jargon in the booklet might make her sleepy. Leah opened the box slowly, careful not to awake her parents. Setting the camera aside, she plucked out the manual.
She returned under the covers and settled back against her pillow. Turning to the first page, she discovered the safety instructions. Normally she would bypass this section, as the 'Do nots' were common sense, but she needed the monotony to lull her to sleep. Next was a diagram of the camera's components, and she paid extra attention to each one, memorizing the shapes, locations, and functions. It wasn't nearly as interesting as the diary, but that was the point. Her eyes grew heavier, but she continued to read. When she was halfway through the manual, her eyes could no longer remain open. Her fingers released the booklet onto the floor as sleep finally consumed her.