I hate to say goodbye to Mr. Smith. He’s my teacher and when we hug under Mommy’s watch, I secretly wish her away and that I could stay at school forever in his arms. I can see my Mom’s shoes tap-tap-tapping the sidewalk and that she wants to go now. We’re going on vacation, she keeps repeating to me in a happy voice.
“Don’t you remember when we went to the cabin last year?”
I don’t remember. I like school. I don’t like vacations. I like Mr. Smith and he’s teaching me numbers and we count 1-2-3-4 and do the ABCs and he’s the best.
Reluctantly, I let go of Mr. Smith and he smiles at me as I wave at him all the way to the car.
“Have a fun vacation, Chase!”
I think, “I won’t” but I smile back at him. I smile at Mommy and she smiles back at me. She’s not mad today. I like when Mommy isn’t mad. Mr. Smith is never mad, which is why I like him more than Mommy sometimes.
“Can we sing the counting song?”
Mom sighs, “…in a little bit.” She turns the radio on and I cover my head with my jacket to block out the sun. It’s nap time.
I don’t know what time it is when I wake up. Mr. Smith was teaching me about time. All I can remember is 12 is lunchtime and it’s too dark for lunchtime. I’m in bed with my favorite stuffed animal. His name is Humphrey. He’s a hippo. He’s so soft even though his eyes fell off last year, and one of his arms is about to go. I think I remember lying in this bed once before and the cabin comes back to me. It’s the last time I saw Daddy. I start to cry into my pillow. I cry out for Mommy.
“What’s wrong, dear? Are you hungry?”
I am, so I nod my head. She scoops me up in her arms and I feel safe. I wipe my nose with the back of my hand and feel sticky. She takes me to the table and there’s chicken nuggets, french fries and peas. I really like peas. They’re sweet. Mommy says I’m special because she doesn’t even like peas.
I really want her to airplane the spoon of peas into my mouth, but when I ask her, she says I’m too old for that. I eat in silence as she tells me about when she was a little girl. I’ve heard this story so many times. Doesn’t she remember? She was on a ferris wheel and she got so sick to her stomach, but since she didn’t get sick, Grandpa let her go one more time and again and again and again until she saw the world in swirly lights and couldn’t walk straight. I’ve never been to the fair. Mommy said there isn’t one around here and so I asked Mr. Smith and he said there’s one in Lancaster, but that’s faraway. That’s what Mommy said when I asked her if we could go.
After dinner, Mommy tucks me back into bed with a kiss.
“Will you read me a story?”
“Not tonight, dear, it’s too late. Tomorrow.”
I want to argue, but I know that will make Mommy mad. I stay silent, close my eyes and hug Humphrey until I hear her footsteps out of the room. I stare out the window at the stars. I wish on every single one till my eyelids feel heavy. I wish that Mr. Smith was my new dad.
When I wake up, I’ve wet the bed and I call out for Mommy. I wait. I get tired of waiting and yell and scream, but she’s not coming. I look out the window, and I don’t see her car. Mommy says I’m a big boy and can take care of myself. I’m scared to be alone, but I change my clothes and throw my wet pajamas in the sink.
I tiptoe into the kitchen, but Mommy isn’t there. I knock on her bedroom door. No answer. I crack the door and her bed is made. Where is she?
I’m hungry, so I go back into the kitchen. I open the fridge and on the shelf is a package of cheese slices, one baby carton of milk and some carrot sticks. I grab it all and eat slice after slice of cheese till I feel full. I throw away my trash. Mommy doesn’t like messes. I put the carrots and milk back in the fridge untouched. I wonder when she’ll be home. I wonder if she’ll be proud of my not-mess.
I hug the stuffed bit of fluff that used to be Humphrey and march around the cabin naked. I went into the woods, but it’s scary. I call for help every single day at my favorite time. It’s 12 and I cry and yell and scream into the woods. I’m sure if I just wish hard enough, someone will come, maybe Daddy or Mr. Smith.
I really hope so.
I really want to go home.
Every week there’s a new package on the doorstep. I’m guessing she puts them there. No note or anything. Not that I could read it. Food for the week or so. I stopped trying to convince her to take me with her. I don’t cry anymore. I can barely remember Mr. Smith’s face. I wish he was here to save me, but he’s probably forgotten me, just like Mommy did.
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