Three weeks into December in the small Massachusetts town, where doors were left unlocked and the neighbors helped raise the children, was a long, long, time ago, she was told. Well, for everyone else; but, not for her. Not now, anyway. Not after the memories began to link up in that last session and the pictures came back. Not when, now, they won't stop.
It was around 6:30 in the evening, when she arrived at the dark and empty house after her Brownie meeting in the church basement. She loved Mondays because she could wear her Brownie outfit to school and then go directly to the church, located just a block from the school, with her friends. She wore a wool coat over the thin uniform, legs covered by Brownie knee socks and shod with cream and red leather saddle shoes that were polished with mahogany paste to tone down the red. Four bobby pins held her cap in place, making sure the little gold Brownie leaping into the future was positioned exactly in the middle of the front panel.
It was a small town, back then, and perfectly safe to walk the mile and a half home. So much to see; so many friends to wave you on with a, "You hurry home, now. You don't want to miss supper!"
December is cold in Massachusetts. During the day, it has a median temperature of 63° that begins to drop as soon as the sun goes down. The Brownie meeting lasted until 5:30 p.m. and she could feel it getting colder on the walk home. She wasn't worried because she knew there would be a nice hot meal waiting for her. Best of all, there would be no school until after the holidays.
But, that was before she turned the corner onto her street and felt the difference. Even from so far away, the house seemed dark and, when she reached her front door, it was locked. She walked around to the back door that lead to the kitchen, and it was locked, too. Even though it was dark, now, she saw that there were no lights on in the house and no one came to the door when she rang the bell. She wasn't afraid. She sat down on the kitchen stoop and decided to wait. Sometimes, her Mom had to pick something up at the corner grocery and she knew it would be just a matter of minutes before they came back.
By 7:30, she was still waiting and she moved out to the curb so that she wouldn't miss the family car when it turned the corner. It was very cold, now, and she was hungry. Looking forward to a hot meal had lightened her step on the walk home; but, that was more than an hour ago and the cold made her tummy hurt. Covering her legs with her skirt helped keep them warmer than no covering, at all, but it was getting harder and harder to find a place without wind, so she moved into the hedge, where she could still see the street.
She was shaken awake by her neighbor from down the street, who seemed so upset, it was hard to understand what she was saying. "What are you doing, here? It's nine-forty. You should be with your family. They've moved! The moving truck was here, this afternoon, and they followed in the car. Your mother said your family was moving to another state. Oh, my God, come with me. You're freezing! Oh, my God, what am I supposed to do?" All she heard was, "...they've moved -- they moved, this afternoon... to another state... "
They were gone. They had moved. They had moved out of her house. That was why no one answered the door when she rang the bell. They had moved to another state. She would never see her family, again, because they had moved, they... had... left... her. Her neighbor insisted she come into her house and take a hot bath to get warm. Then, her neighbor let her wear her beautiful pink bathrobe with the rose on the pocket and fed her some hot chicken noodle soup. She was hungry and had eaten two bowls before she remembered her manners and apologized for eating so much. Her neighbor said it was all right, she could have more, if she wanted, and that she could play with the little glass animals that were up on the shelf, while her neighbor called some people. Later, when she was really enjoying the little menagerie, a policeman and two ladies came and said they were bringing her to a safe place, until "... it was all sorted out."
She was later told that, when the police had found her family, they were unpacking the truck and setting up the kitchen, that her mother said they had discovered she wasn't with them about halfway to their destination and they had to meet the truck at the new house, so they couldn't really turn around. But, that her mother and father decided she was resourceful enough to go to a neighbor's and they planned on coming back for her, the next day. But, that's not what happened. Not, at all. She was brought to the Home and it was almost a week before she was allowed to see her mother and father. They had to show someone that it really was just a mistake.
In the car, on the way to the new house, her mother told her how much she had embarrassed them and that she should be ashamed of herself. Her mother said she shouldn't have gone to the Brownie meeting. When she asked if her sister said anything about her not being with them, her mother said that her sister was happy it was just her and her brother because she never wanted a baby sister.
The little girl went inside to her safe place... until, now.
How do you forget your own child? How can four separate people not care enough to notice she was missing during the first few miles? How could they not turn back? What did she do that was so wrong, nobody wanted her, anymore? She doesn't know if she will ever know the answer but that's not important. She learned not to expect people to stay in her life and, when they go, she's not disappointed because she has a safe place, inside.
For those of you who have just happened upon this page, I'm Entry #401 in a group of 1802 participants in this 2012 A-Z Writing Challenge! Do yourself a favor and check out a group of fantastic bloggers. You're bound to find someone you might like to follow. Don't forget to leave some loving comments and spread the word. It could even inspire you to think about joining next year's Challenge, yourself!