Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Christmas Eve - Stranger Danger?

By Fiona Mclaney (c)

I sighed a breath upwards blowing hair from my eyes. One arm held an exceptionally heavy basket,
the handle digging painfully into my arm. The other balanced boxes of perfume. One thoroughly
bored, unhappy little girl stood beside me. A huge queue of around fifty people in front, as many
behind, harassed like me and wondering why they’d left the shopping to Christmas Eve. ‘Mummy I
need the toilet’ whined Sara, crossing her legs tightly, displaying her discomfort.

‘Just a few more minutes’ I lied. My patience with Sara was conflicting. One minute I wanted to
scream ‘shut up!’ the next, guilty at dragging a four year old around shops. This was our third queue
and we’d had two visits back to the car to dump bags. I cursed David for working on Christmas Eve.
‘ I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’ blared from an invisible source. My Dad’s favourite
Christmas song that we’d drunkenly danced to the Christmas Eve before he died, after copious
amounts of red wine. My mind drifted back in time, Christmas morning with a hangover, before
babies. The queue moved forward and I turned to Sara ‘come on, Sara?’

She’d gone. I turned to look around for her. She couldn't have gone far. Seconds to comprehend the
seriousness of her sudden absence. There was no sign of her. My heart pounded. I dropped the
basket and perfume. ‘Did you notice where my little girl went?’ I asked everyone around. Confused,
concerned expressions. Panic rose and constricted my throat. My eyes searched desperately, my
voice sounded small, frightened as I shouted her name. I ran around the shop, bumping into
people, unable to hide my hysteria. I ran towards the public toilets, it seemed the obvious place to
try. Inside I banged on every closed cubicle door desperately ‘Sara! Sara!’ , she was not there and
time was moving on. I’d have to find security, to help find my daughter.

‘Blonde hair, pink anorak, furry hood, red tights, pink wellies’ I asked random people realising the
description could be any number of children within this shopping centre.

Suddenly I spotted her, in my peripheral vision. Running towards me she called ‘Mum!’ I scooped her up in my arms, relief overwhelmed me and I almost screamed in delight.

‘Where were you? Where did you go?’ I beseeched.

‘I tried to find the toilet but I got lost. The old man brought me back’

‘What old man?’ I looked behind her. She turned her head ‘He’s gone. His hands were cold’

Standing her down, I gripped her hand ‘Let’s go the loo and then get a hot chocolate and a sit down.
I'm exhausted.’ My legs wobbled, nervously as we made our way through the throngs of shoppers
‘You know you shouldn't talk to strangers Sara, you should have found a security guard or a shop
worker’ I gently scolded

‘He wasn't stranger, he said you were thinking about his favourite song and I should have stayed
beside you.’

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