Something wakes me and my eyes fly open. The house is completely still, but there's something ominous in the silence. I lay quietly for a few moments, listening to Lois's even breathing. An early robin calls out, warning of something known only to itself. It should be another hour or so before he starts his birdsong in earnest, waking Lois. I decide to get up, trying to fool myself into believing that an early start means I'll get to come home on time. But I know full well that there's always something that will keep me late.
As I step into the bathroom, the west-facing window gives me a clear view of the full moon shining through some wispy clouds, bringing back a recollection of one of the worst days possible in my line of work. It has been years since The Incident, but when did I stop tracking the lunar cycles? I wonder whether I have been foolish to let my guard down. It's surely not an omen, but I decide to hurry anyway.
I dress as silently as I can, but Lois is already awake, the robin having decided to belt out his dawn song before the dawn. "That bird!" she calls out sleepily. Her cry startles me away from thoughts of the ill-boding moon. I fix a smile on my face as I grab my jacket and gear from the bedside and lean down to kiss her goodbye. "Good luck at work," she mutters and smiles back. An odd turn of phrase. Lois knows what my job is, but she doesn't really know what I do. As I leave the room, I arm myself mentally for the day's work ahead.
I pass the boys' room and turn back upon a sudden impulse. I nudge the door open and tiptoe in. I peer through the dark into the top bunk. Empty. My heart lurches and starts pounding. A scream roils in the pit of my stomach and stops short, lodging in my throat. Years of training did not prepare me for this. But then I notice blankets draped down, covering the openings of the lower bunk. I part the blankets to find Buzz sleeping soundly at one end of the bed, and Rocky curled up on the other. I reach for the bedpost to steady myself and take a few deep breaths. They're okay.
I drive to work on mental autopilot, my mind racing, strategizing, preparing for any eventuality I might face today. I barely notice the traffic around me. As I pull into headquarters, I see the usual few cars parked in the lot. It will be hours before most of the staff arrive. I scan my badge at the side door and take the stairs two at a time to the third floor. The motion sensors light the corridor ahead of me as I make my way to my cubicle.
All is still. For now. Whatever comes, whatever happens, I will be ready. If I'm home later than I'd like, I'll be home in time for Lois's vegan lasagna. I am...the Human Resources Manager.