After a while the disastrous Christmas was forgotten. And over time Jelly settled down some, she lost some of the bounce and giggle that so well defined her but never let go of her girlish quality. Kak would always see her as that little girl bouncing on the bed no matter what. Sometimes he would sneak up behind her and start tickling her sides without warning as he had done for so long. But now, sometimes she would wince and step back, "Hey, whadda ya think you're doing Kak?" she would say. He never knew how to answer; he would apologize and walk away.
When he sat down and got serious, Frankie could build card houses four and five stories high now. His hands had steadied, his shoelaces were always tied, and he spent hours working on detailed drawings. One was for a tree house in which he even had the exact tree picked out, another was for a small shack with an escape hatch in the ceiling and another in the floor that opened to an underground tunnel that theoretically emerged on the other side of the street. The likelihood of either of these ever being built was low, but that didn't stop him from diligently working night after night.
Old Bill didn't change, he never changed. It would have been odd if he had, everyone had grown so comfortable knowing he would be sitting in the rocking chair, rocking back and forth, night after night, day after day, ready to talk when he was asked a question and ready to listen when something was wrong. And never, no matter what happened, did he miss a beat. It was as sure that Old Bill would be there waiting as it was sure that Joey's parents would pay him no mind. So it was quite a shock when one day he went missing.
Kak woke up in a daze; it felt like he had been knocked out with a brick to the temple. His head let out a shrill of pain with each beat of his heart. The room spun as though he were an axle holding position while the room was a wheel that turned around him. He fixed his eyes on the alarm clock next to Joey's bed until his vision cleared. It was 3:45 in the afternoon. It was Thursday, so Joey should have been home from school, but he wasn't in his room. Sitting up, Kak let his eyes pan the room.
Little had changed over the years. Posters of baseball and football players littered the walls where there once was nothing, a chest by the foot of the bed still contained a hoard of toys but they seldom saw the light of day anymore. Everything was normal except for the most permanent feature of the room. Old Bill. He was not in the rocking chair gently swaying back and fourth, smiling through a forest of white hair, tapping his cane with his index finger every three or four completed rocks, as he had always been.
"Old Bill?" he asked the stationary air. He quickly gathered himself and stood shaking off the now piercing headache. "Old Bill is gone!" This time he shouted.
He found Joey outside on the concrete driveway near the street, pacing, talking on the cordless telephone. He was smiling and nodding as the person on the other line spoke into his ear.