I knocked reluctantly on the door that led from the garage to the kitchen. There was no response from the other side. I gently squeezed my ten-year-old daughter Melody's hand and stared down at my feet. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was go through this door.
I turned to Melody. She was already looking at me.
"It's all right, Daddy."
I forced a smile and leaned over to kiss her on the forehead.
"There are no monsters in there," she added in a whisper.
"I know," I said, thinking just the opposite.
Melody took hold of the doorknob, pushed open the door, and led me by the hand into the kitchen.
Pamela stood at the sink, her back to us, the water running. She spoke without turning around. "I thought you were going to be here at six?"
I took a deep breath. "The piano lesson ran long."
"Mom," exclaimed Melody. "Mrs. Walker wants me to play in the senior recital the week after next." She released my hand and took a step toward her mother. "We forgot the time trying to decide what I should play." She danced pixie-like across the kitchen to give her mother a hug.
The hissing rush of water cut off. Pamela turned slowly into Melody's embrace and faced me. She wore an apron over a white dressing gown. Her brunette hair was pulled back in a loose ponytail. She must have just bathed. I could smell the perfumed fragrance of her bath powder from across the room.