I turn around and scan the aisle.
“Mia? Mia? Where did she go? Mia?”
She was just here by my side. How’d she get out of sight so fast and where in the hell did she go?
She’s three and precocious and sweet with a kick. And she isn’t here. She’s not here.
“Mia, where are you? Please come back.”
She never wanders so far or so long. The store is expansive and she’s still small enough to be carried. Still young enough to be trusting. I scan the exit.
I’m up and down the aisle and in and out of racks. Her name is all I can say and I’m louder with each call.
It’s taking too long and it doesn’t make sense. My heart is jammed with reasons. Tears and terror feel exactly the same.
I’m running. I’m spinning on my feet and in my head and in my heart. Where is my baby? No, no, no.
I’m loud and people are getting alarmed– I don’t care. Look at me wild-eyed. Look at me crazy. Hear me desperate and fierce and fighting. Look and hear and feel what I feel and join me. Help me. Forget all your plans– I don’t care. It’s my baby who’s missing and I’ll tear this store apart. You can get out of my way or help me.
The people are good and they’re kind and they care. They’re crouching and peeking. I reel.
“Mia?!” It’s a chorus and I’m the prima donna. Hear me above, hear me best; hear me, hear me, hear me, Mia.
“Here she is!” They’re the sweetest words. The woman with my child is an angel in khakis with middle-aged Southern gal hair.
I run down the aisle and scoop up the girl with the dark, bouncy curls ’cause she’s mine. And I cannot believe, can’t believe, where she was: hiding in an end cap behind a damn ottoman. She thought it would be fun and for a while it was funny, but her face says she’s back with her mama.
And I hold her, I hug her, I sink her into me. And I don’t care where she’s been– now I’ve got her.