It’s a foggy morning when Esther decides. “Sara, do you want to go to the park?”
“Yes, yes, yes!” The toddler grins at her from the high chair. She has a smattering of freckles across her button nose from her father, rosy cheeks and bouncy chestnut pigtails from her mother. There is a smear of baby food on her chin, and Esther swipes it clean with her finger, smiling when her baby giggles.
My baby. Esther feels the swoop of heart wrenching joy pound through her veins.
She pushed her hands into the sand. This is new! She flicks her hand back towards herself, and watches as the sand flies and covers the bucket and scoop. Chuckling, she tries it again and again. Sand flies everywhere as she amuses herself, until a gust of wind sweeps the sand back against her. The grains shower her face and her eyes sting. She rubs at them with her forearms, but it doesn’t work. Mummy!
Esther sits on a bench. She is dressed like a typical young mother – striped Breton shirt, faded jeans, low-cut Converse. A taupe shawl is wrapped around her shoulders, shivering from the autumn wind. She sets her straw tote beside her and draws a deep breath as she flips open her book and starts to read. Then she hears a familiar cry.
A young boy watches Sara curiously from afar. He has wavy jet black hair, tanned skin and just about tall enough to be seen across a cashier counter. His worn-out soccer jersey is damp with sweat and mud, and his shorts have grass stains on them. He tosses a ball, passing it from hand-to-hand absentmindedly as he looks at the girl in the sandbox. He freezes as the sand flies towards her. Before he knows it, the ball is abandoned as he kneels beside her in the sandbox, pulling her arm away. He frowns as he sees her tears and hurriedly helps her up.
“Where’s your mummy?”
Esther’s heart seizes as she jumps to her feet, racing towards the sandbox. She panics as the crowd of children swarms around her, faces and voices filling her head. She spins around and around, searching for her baby. Her body throbs.
She notices a boy kneeling on a path, about three feet from the sandbox. He seems to be fussing over something… or someone.
“What’s your name? Where’s your mummy?”
Sara can’t stop crying. Her voice is choked up and she tries to gesture, succeeding only to knock the boy’s hands away as he tries to clean her face. He starts to cry, too, out of frustration and helplessness. He puts his arms around her, as his own mother does when he cries. It doesn’t work – the tears keep falling onto his hands. He looks up, searching desperately for the girl’s mother, or whoever was supposed to be taking care of her. He sees a woman approach them at a run and can’t decide whether to feel scared or relieved.
“Sara! Oh, baby, are you okay?”
The woman is the girl’s – Sara’s – mother, apparently, and the boy doesn’t know what to feel. He knows he’s supposed to feel relieved, and in part, he does. At least she’s okay now.
“You’re the neighbour’s little boy, right?” Sara’s mother asks while fussing over her. “Calvin, was it?” He shakes his head.
“My name is Nate, aunty.”
She smiles embarrassedly. “Nate! Sorry. I’m Esther, and this is Sara. Sara, say ‘thank you’ to Nate! He took care of you when I couldn’t find you just now,” Esther feels the regret twist tightly around her throat.
Sara stares at the boy, dazed and confused. Esther runs a hand through Sara’s hair and smiles at Nate. “I’m sorry. Thank you for what you did. It was very responsible of you. We’ll be going home now, do you want to walk with us?”
Nate frowns. He wasn’t supposed to leave the park until his father came to pick him up. “I’ll play a little bit more. My dad is picking me up,” He mumbles hesitantly before bolting.
Esther looks at his retreating figure and smiles wistfully. “Come on, Sara, let’s go home.”
noun | trU-‘vI
something lovely discovered by chance; a windfall