I was sitting beside her, holding her hand, when the investigator entered the room.
"Excuse me, Ms. Gomez?" I looked up and met his gaze, brown eyes meeting blue. "I'm Inspector Ross. I was wondering if you could answer some questions." He pulls out a sleek blue notebook and turns to a clean page.
"Sure," I said, my voice wobbling.
"When did you find your daughter?"
"It was just after an appointment with her therapist, I'd say, around five o'clock? But I have no idea how long she had been lying there, waiting for..." I broke off, unable to continue. I rubbed at my bloodshot eyes. I met his eyes again, in them I saw sympathy.
"Maria. Please call me Maria."
"Maria then. Why were you visiting her therapist?"
"The day before, I had found a note in her backpack which made me very worried about her. I needed to find out what it meant."
"May I see this note, Maria?" I nodded, pulled it out of my pocket, and handed it to him. He stared at it intently, much the same as the therapist had done just days ago.
"Maria, I won't pretend to be an expert in child psychology, but have you ever considered that maybe your daughter was detailing something that really happened? That maybe she felt that writing it down was the best way to express this, since her speech capabilities were so limited?"
I look at my daughter, her face so serene. The detective shuts his notebook, and leaves the room without another word.
It is four days later, and Briar and I are back home once again. Many times I have tried to get her to talk to me, to tell me what happened that night, but my efforts have nothing to show for themselves. I spread the last up the peanut butter on Briar's sandwich and cut it for her. Into triangles, just the way she likes it. I wonder if she knows how much I love her. I wonder if she knows that I would do anything for her. But most of all, I wonder if she cares.
"Briar, talk to me," I plead with her. She looks at me, so much in her eyes that she cannot say.
"Briar, I don't know what he said to you. But no matter what he did say, he can't hurt you. And it is very important that you tell me who did this. Please, Briar?"
She shakes her head and murmers something under her breath I can't hear.
"What is it sweetie? Speak up, I can't hear you."
It is barely more than a whisper this time, but it is enough.
"Can't... tell. Don't... know."
Crossing this bridge, my stomach sinks. For now I know that it is not that she is unable to tell me, it is that she ... can't. And this knowledge makes the road to discovery that much longer, that much harder. I pull her into a hug, and she stiffens.
"Thank you Briar. You did so well," I whisper in her ear. She relaxes, then finally hugs me back. And I know that even amidst all the chaos of the past week, I still have her, and for that, I am truly lucky.