((I have a feeling this will be quite long, so I've decided to do it in chapter instalments - you can word-prompt me or steer the story a certain way in between chapters, if you so wish))
"It was here!" Mrs Emery ran her hands frantically over the smooth varnished wood of her bedside cabinet, as though she might magically have missed the object she was looking for. "I know it was. I took it off last night, and I put it right here!" Abandoning her fruitless search, she stood up straighter, dragging her hands through her sleep-tangled hair.
Out on the landing, Auden heard the frantic, distracted muttering of her mother through the half-open bedroom door. Up until some months ago, her parents' room had been familiar territory, but since the vanishing of her father, she realised she had - whether deliberately or not - kept away from the room. Now, pushing the door fully open and entering, she found it rather more chaotic than she remembered. The floor, previously a neat, blank space of dully gleaming wood, was strewn with clothes, and several half finished cups of tea littered the Ottoman under the window. Auden's mother stood, wide-eyed, on the far side of the bed. The startled manner in which she turned her eyes on the girl as she entered reminded Auden of a small animal staring into a pair of headlights.
"What's going on?" she asked without preamble.
Mrs Emery took a few moments to answer. "My wedding ring," she replied faintly, "I can't find it."
"Well, where did you see it last? D'you remember?" Already, Auden's tone was impatient.
"It was on my bedside table," her mother replied, her voice quavering, "What'll I do if I don't find it and he comes back? He'll think I've given up on him."
Auden resisted the urge to tell her mother that there was very little chance of him coming back. Instead, she said brusquely, "I'll look for it," and wheeled round, rushing from the room before she could say something she oughtn't.
* * *
In the small, almost perfectly square living room, Fox was watching television. She lay on the floor on her stomach, propped up slightly on her elbows, chin cupped in her hands. Ira sat in the easy chair, bent so low over a book of puzzles that his nose almost touched the paper.
"Have either of you seen Mum's ring?" Auden popped her head around the door, "She can't find it anywhere. And Ira, that's my book. Did I say you could use it?"
Ira looked up at her, wearing a somewhat sheepish expression. "Sorry," he mumbled, "And no. But... I can help you find it." He lowered the book, "Where did she see it last?"
"It was on her bedside table," Auden replied promptly, "She put it there before she went to bed, I guess."
"Things don't just vanish in the night," said Ira thoughtfully, and his elder sister thought grimly: 'yes, they do'. "Have you seen it, Fox?" he went on to ask, and the younger girl awarded him the briefest of glances over her shoulder.
"Nope," she responded, before going back to watching her programme; some garishly-coloured cartoon about dragons.
"Maybe she's just being forgetful..." Ira scrambled out of the chair, "We could look in the bathroom and the kitchen and stuff, she might have just left it somewhere and forgotten."
Auden nodded her agreement. She supposed there really wasn't any other explanation. If she had been the sort to believe in signs, the way her mother did, she might perhaps have thought that her losing the ring was itself a sign, telling Mrs Emery to let go of her husband. But Auden did not believe in signs, so she trailed after Ira without any such thought entering her mind.