I apologize for the long wait. I was planning on finishing UH before I started back up on this story, but unforeseen circumstances have occurred and I will have to put UH on hold until I can figure out how to solve my problem. Fortunately, (and oddly enough because I put this story on hold to work on UH instead) this story was unaffected by the situation at hand. Until I can fix the problem, however, I can definitely put more effort into this fanfic.

ONE STEP AT A TIME

"Carson?" Hannah spoke softly. She had eased Nancy's door open and now stood hesitantly in the doorway. Sorrow was evident in her sea-blue eyes, but she was a strong woman and that showed through as well. She'd been crying too; Carson could tell.

"Yes?" he turned to face her, breaking the embrace with Nancy, "What is it, Hannah?"

"Um…" she looked down, wishing that she hadn't bothered the two, "Breakfast is ready."

"Thankyou, Hannah…for everything."

Hannah nodded solemnly and left to head downstairs again. She had heard the news even before Mr. Drew had. The police had tried to reach Mr. Drew, but they hadn't been able to. When Chief McGinnis had called the Drew's home, Hannah had picked up the phone. It was a good thing that he'd called when he did, for Hannah had just been about to head out the door to pick Nancy up from the Fayne home. Once she had explained that Mr. Drew was out at the post office, the Chief had told Hannah what had happened. He asked her to come immediately to the scene. Shocked, Hannah had quickly called Mr. Fayne and asked him to keep Nancy for a little while longer. He had readily agreed, silently wondering what was amiss. On her way out the door, Hannah scrawled a sloppy note for Mr. Drew when he returned. Now, Hannah rested at the foot of the stairs, replaying the last few moments over and over in her head. She had been frantic and panicked. Deep inside, she only felt broken now.


"Daddy," Nancy turned to her father, sweet concern on her brow, "Is Hannah sad too?" She had noticed that Hannah wasn't as chipper as normal.

"Yes, sweetie…she is," Carson whispered.

Nancy rubbed her chin, imitating her father when he thought really hard. Carson couldn't help but laugh at her. It surprised him that he could, but if you'd seen her, you would have laughed too. She looked up at him again. "Are you sad for the same thing?" she asked. She was good at putting two and two together, he had to admit. He nodded, unable to speak.

Nancy cocked her head to one side, considering. She twiddled her thumbs—as best a three year old could—something she had picked up from her mother, "Should I be sad too?" Curiosity and uncertainty burned in the child's eyes as she studied her father's face, searching for a hidden answer to his unusual behavior.

Carson really wasn't sure how to answer her question. He wanted to say no, to let her stay innocent and carefree…but once she figured it out—and she was bound to—how would she not be saddened? Half of him selfishly hoped that she could understand so that he wouldn't have to explain it, but the fatherly half of him wished that she never would, saving her from the pain.

"Hey," Carson forced a cheerfulness into his voice that he thought he would never truly feel again, "Let's go see what Hannah made for breakfast, huh champ?" The little girl smiled at her nickname. She loved it when he called her his champ. Temporarily forgetting her puzzle, she wriggled out of his grasp. She hurried out the door and down the stairs into the kitchen.

"Why, good morning, little sunshine," Hannah smiled down as Nancy came skipping into the kitchen. Another nickname that made Nancy feel gleeful. Hannah had come up with the name because of the soft ball of golden red on Nancy's head.

"Good morning, Hannah!" Nancy smiled brightly. She climbed into her booster seat at the table, "What are we eating?"

"This morning I fixed blueberry pancakes," Hannah answered, setting a sippie-cup of milk and a plate of cut up pancakes in front of the small girl. "Just. For. You," Hannah tapped Nancy's nose affectionately.

Carson came into the kitchen and sat across from Nancy. Hannah slid a plate in front of him, followed swiftly by a cup of hot black coffee. He stared wearily down at his food. Slowly, he picked up his fork and cut into the top layer.