After getting home from another long-winded history lecture, I wanted nothing more than to pour myself a cool drink and relax in front of the television. I don’t have a chance to relax like this often; my schedule’s much too hectic, but that day the class that followed history was canceled, so I had a bit of time to breathe.
After flipping through the poor choices of daytime television shows, I decided that the best thing on was the news. They were reporting an incident that occurred downtown, and something about the story captured my attention, though I’m not sure why.
Evidently, there was a high school field trip to the aquarium that morning. While on the trip, this kid, a thirteen-year-old female honors student, was abducted by her noncustodial father. Her mother, speaking from a podium at a local church, was pleading with anyone who’d listen for help and information in the search.
Though tragic, kidnappings happen and rarely am I ever so captivated by them, but my gut instinct told me to keep watching. For what, I was unsure until the moment they posted the girl’s photo. I almost spit out my lemonade when I saw it.
She’s a small, thin girl with fiery red hair. Her skin was a creamy white and freckles dotted her nose. Her eyes were the deepest, bluest blue I’ve ever seen. She was terribly cute, not in an adult way, but in a less tomboy-ish style of the orphan Annie, and with a better hair-do.
This kid could be a television star or model.
I thought this as I watched her on television just as I had the very first time I saw her, while I was rushing out of the apartment that morning trying to get to history class. She was walking down our hall in the building with a very private man who lived in 217. The man seemed to live his life quietly, and other than being a little creepy, he never caused any of us alarm.
It was unusual to see him with any kind of company, let alone a child, but the girl seemed more than happy to be with him, like she’d been reunited with a long-lost friend. I didn’t feel she was in danger and assumed he was a baby-sitting relative.
“What did you do with the scissors? I need to trim my bangs,” said a voice from behind me. My roommate, Kara, was finally awake.
“I haven’t used them,” I replied. “Come look at this real quick.”
I had her watch the news story for a bit and then explained what I saw.
“There’s no way that can be right. You’re probably mistaken. Why would a kidnapper bring her here anyway? They should be going to, like, Mexico or something,” she told me.
“I don’t know, Kara. I’m almost positive.”
“Well, you better be sure before you go getting the police involved. You don’t want to lead them on a wild goose chase because you think a kid you saw while running to school is this same one from the news.”
“It couldn’t hurt to call, right?”
“It also couldn’t hurt to mind your own business. You’re always suspicious about everything. Just because the man is secluded doesn’t mean he’s a kidnapper.”
Kara had a thing for older men and that man in particular, though he ignored her advances. She chalked it up to him “being a loner.” She also had a thing for them.
“Maybe you’re right, Kara.”
“You said she didn’t look scared or anything. If she was kidnapped, she’d be crying and stuff.” Kara then noticed the clock. “CRAP! I’ve got to get to school! No time for a shower.”
She grabbed my perfume off the coffee table and sprayed it on heavily.
“You don’t mind, right?”
I shook my head. I’d have answered aloud, but I was busy choking on the fragrance.
She laughed. “Okay, I’m outta here. Don’t call the cops, detective!”
After she’d been gone for awhile, I heard a child’s voice in the hall. Through the peephole, I could see the back of the little girl’s head, but my view wasn’t good enough to compare her to the television image. The girl was still talking joyfully with the man, obviously unharmed. Maybe she really was a different kid.
I pulled the cell phone from my pocket, not sure what I should do with it. You’d think a decision like this would be easier; you’d think I’d have no reason to hesitate. Even if I’m wrong, I wouldn’t get in any trouble because the reports are anonymous.
Perhaps it was the disbelief that I could actually be in this kind of situation or maybe it was that bit of uncertainty nagging, but I stared at the phone for ages, never dialing, never deciding.
The man and child abandoned the apartment that night. No one knows where they went. The mother on television never reunited with the lost child and continues the search to this day. Her tearful press-conference image still haunts my memory.
I did eventually, shamefully, tell the police what knew, but my information was useless by the time.
There is no conclusion here. There’s only regret.
** This piece of fiction was written for Writing Challenge Number Five by Karen Sanders. For information on the rules and to discover what’s up with certain words being Italicized, please check it out!**