Nari awoke late in the night in a cold sweat. She'd had another dream about her father, and it left her feeling empty, nursing a terrible ache in her chest. She wiped her tears on her pajama sleeve, and tip-toed out into the hallway. It was her intention to crawl into bed with her mother, as she usually did when she had these dreams. But the dream left her mind upon hearing voices in her father's study.
The door was ajar, a halo of light casting ugly shadows on the wall opposite. Nari inched closer, her heart racing. It beat against her chest as if trying to get out, and she thought for sure whoever was in the study might hear her.
"Please don't go. She misses you so much. I-I miss you." It was her mother's voice.
"Maggie, you know I don't have a choice. Keep her safe. Make sure she knows I love her." The voice was deep, even whispering as the man was. She wondered who he was, and what he was talking about.
It got quiet, except for a sniffle. There was a blinding flash of light, and a ringing that lingered in her ears, followed by a strangled noise, as if her mom was trying not to sob. Nari blinked the colorful spots from her eyes, and listened harder, hoping to hear more of the mysterious conversation. Something about the man's voice made the hairs rise on the back of her neck.
Nari couldn't hear anything but a shuffle of feet, now. Worried she would be discovered eavesdropping, she hurried back to her bedroom. It was hours before she finally drifted off again.
The next day, while her mother was at work, she crept into the hallway again. She found herself standing in front of her father's study again. This time, there was no whispered conversation, no flash of light. Nothing strange about the room, so far as she could tell, at all. She stood there for a long time, gathering her nerve to go inside.
Her hand was on the door knob, but still, she was stuck there. What would she see when she opened that door? The last time she was there, her father had been sitting at his chair. He had smiled at her and waved her inside.
Nari imagined that inside her heart, she had a Bravery switch. Whenever she was scared, she would flip the switch on, and suddenly she was brave. She did so now, and opened the door.
She needn't have been afraid. The only thing different about the study this time was her father's chair, which remained empty, and all the dust collected on every surface. It floated and glittered in the light streaming in through the windows behind the desk.