The light from the window washes over me as I observe the nightly routine of the house, waiting for the right moment. It would have to be soon. They are settling in for the night; the child already tucked safely into bed. The female shuffles around the kitchen in her slippers preparing tea, but the male . . . he is waiting too.
He paces the living room, glancing at the door, then the window. The rough October winds rattle their windowpanes, and he jumps at every creak, every scratch of a branch across the glass.
The female comes into the room and touches her uneasy husband’s shoulder. Another gust of wind shakes the tree I wait under, and an indignant owl voices his annoyance.
I step into the soft beam of the front porch light and push open the door.
The couple jumps at the sound and soon they appear in the hall, the man in front of his wife, his arm shielding her from the harm he knows is coming.
Before either of them can speak, I proceed.
“I am here to collect.”
“Collect!? Who the hell . . . ?”
Her husband cuts her off. “You can’t have him.”
“It was part of our deal, sir. I most certainly can.”
“Deal?” Her voice is shrill, panic rising as she watches me approach the stairs. “What deal?”
“He’s going to try to take Danny!” He steps in front of the staircase. “He’s nothing more than a thief!”
“Sir!” I keep my voice low, but he jumps anyway. “I am no thief. I am a Lender. I am simply taking back what is rightfully mine.” I put my hand on his shoulder, my long fingers reaching his back. “You will give me my property.”
“He is not property, he is my son!”
I sigh. They never believe I will return.
“Ten years ago, you made a deal. In your desperation for a child, you asked for help. I delivered a child on loan. That loan has expired, it is time to repay it.”
The woman gasps and then sobs. He hadn’t told her of the deal. Never mind, though. They would not remember this exchange in the morning.
I push past the man and, despite being a head shorter than he, he can’t stop me. He falls to the ground and the woman collapses next to him. They stare after me, already grieving.
They will wake up in their beds tomorrow, convinced a mysterious illness has taken their child, and that I was nothing more than the freaky-fingered hand of Death that took him. They will remember grief, they will remember fear, but they will not remember me.