Keith Mars bit into a slice of the garbage pizza he picked up on his way home from the office. He was alone tonight, which was not unusual lately. At first he had worried about his daughter. It was tough enough being a teenager without the drastic changes that had occurred in their lives.

She was a self-sufficient girl. He was not sure when it had happened exactly but she was no longer the little girl he used to bounce on his knee. Gone were the days of reading "Goodnight Moon" and watching cartoons together on Saturday mornings. Lianne had always been jealous of Keith when it was him Veronica chose to cuddle up against. He never understood why there were so many men out there who wanted sons. In Keith's mind, daughters were the only way to go.

He took a sip of his ice cold beer and picked up the picture of Lianne he had taken out shortly after coming home to a quiet and empty apartment. He normally left it in the sock drawer of his dresser. He hated hiding the picture; it made the situation feel so permanent. But the constant reminder that she had actually left him was too painful.

Normally, he was okay. He got up each morning, went to work, came home, and went to bed dreading repeating the same cycle the next day. Today, however, he had no case to work on, no leads to follow up on and no daughter here to take his mind off of missing his wife.

He ran a fingertip along the outline of her in the photograph and felt his eyes getting misty. He refused to cry anymore. He refused to look like a fool. She had left him and had more than likely come back to Neptune since and failed to let him know.

The photograph had been taken just after they had been married. They were young and looking forward to what life had in store for them. He had never imagined she would not take their marriage vows seriously and bail on him at the first sign of trouble. She had been a cop's wife. Certainly that had to have taken its toll, late night phone calls never knowing if the most recent one was the one you dreaded.

"Why did you leave now?" It was pointless to ask but he was as curious now as when he first discovered she was gone. He could have invested a little extra time and money, used his countrywide contacts to find her. She would be relying on friends more than likely but he could not bring himself to do it.

He set the picture on the counter and picked up another slice of pizza. When he got home from work he had looked forward to a night alone. He could watch what he wanted on TV without competing with Veronica for the remote control and he did not have to contend with the telephone ringing off the hook. Now, though he found it depressingly silent to be home without her.

She was the one constant in his life. She had stood by him and made him proud by taking it in stride. Her interest in investigating worried him. The last thing he wanted was to be waiting by the phone for the call to come that his daughter had died in the line of duty. As much as he wanted her away from the dangerous life that police and investigative work brought with it he wanted his little girl happy.

He heard the sound of a key being inserted into the lock and knew Veronica was home. He was not going to hide the fact he had been thinking about his wife. Veronica deserved the truth and she deserved to know he had not forgotten Lianne either.

"Hi Dad," came her cheery voice as she walked through the dooryway.

"Hey honey. How was your day?"

"Oh fine. You know the drill."

"I guess I can remember back that far."

"Ha ha, very funny." Her eyes fell to the picture lying face up on the counter and then lifted to meet his. He saw pain in her eyes. He knew it was reflected back to her in his eyes, too. But he also saw determination there, a will to survive no matter what. They were strong, they would make it. There was no point in saying anything or dwelling on the moment. They both missed her.

"There's some pizza left."

"No anchovies?"

"No anchovies."

"Awesome," she said and walked to the kitchen. She placed a kiss on his cheek as she grabbed a slice from the box and took a bite. "Umm, yum. Thanks," she said taking a seat next to him. "So tell me about your day. Any new cases?"

Keith turned the picture of Lianne face down and turned his attention to his daughter. He tried very hard to live in the present and not get caught up in the past but there were times it was difficult to do. Tonight was one of them, but it was time to move on. His daughter wanted to talk with him, though he had little interesting to share with her. Like most parents of teenagers his daughter led a more adventurous life than he did.

The End