This was not happening, Tammy thought, as she looked wildly around, her scared eyes searching for some familiar landmark. Nothing! She was walking down a busy street and no one seemed to pay her any attention. It was late evening and soon it would be dark. Was she really lost? Whoever heard of a seven-year-old getting lost? Surely they were old enough by seven to know how to stay safe? That toddlers or little children sometime got lost, but a seven-year-old?
Tammy was new to the neighborhood. Her father had recently been promoted to manager and he and his wife had decided to move closer to his work spot and so, Tammy had left the familiar neighborhood she had lived in since the day she was born. True, this was a more exclusive part of town but Tammy wasn’t looking forward to going to a new school and finding new friends. She missed her old home, her friends, her school and just about everything about her old neighborhood.
Tammy had been helping her mother all morning, mostly with her own things, unpacking her stuff and placing little nick-nacks on the shelves in her bedroom at her new home.
‘Do you want me to get you something to drink, mom?’ Tammy asked, sticking her head around the living room door. ‘I’m thirsty.’
Her beautiful, elegant, fresh-as-a-rose mom was looking a bit wilted. Now she looked up and smiled at her only child, her kind eyes lighting up with love.
‘Thanks, my darling girl,’ her mother replied, ‘There’s some lemonade in the fridge. While you get us both some of that, I’ll serve us some of the delicious looking cake that those nice neighbors sent us yesterday.’
Tammy poured out lemonade into two tall glasses, while her mother stopped what she had been doing, to go over to the sink and wash her hands, before sitting down at the large kitchen table. Carefully, she cut two thick slices of cake and passed one to her daughter.
‘I need a few groceries and dad tells me there’s a place further down the street,’ her mother said, looking thoughtfully at the mostly empty kitchen shelves. ‘Want to come with me? That way, we can both get to know this part of our neighborhood.’ Tammy, her mouth full of cake, nodded her head in agreement.
Mother and daughter slowly strolled down the quiet street where they lived. A car went by and a friendly lady waved a hand at them and they waved back. Far in the distance they saw an old man walking a dog.
‘Quiet, isn’t it?’ her mother remarked, ‘So different from our old neighborhood.’
‘Very different,’ replied Tammy, rolling her eyes and then looking sideways at her mother she added, ‘No friends, no kids playing on the streets, no dogs barking. No fun. Just a quiet, boring neighborhood, where nothing ever happens.’
Her mother smiled kindly at her daughter and then gently reached a hand out and touched the girl’s smooth head. ‘I know, Tammy. Moving is never easy. Not for you and not for dad and me either.’
‘So why did we have to do it?’ Tammy asked angrily.
‘Because dad would have had to drive a long way to work and back each day. We did explain this to you before, honey,’ she replied patiently. ‘Dad and I did a lot of thinking before we decided to make this move. It will get better. Trust me. You’ll find friends and settle down.’
‘And have to go to a new school,’ Tammy interrupted. ‘You know how hard that can be, mom.’ Then she looked down, kicking a small stone with her pretty pink sandals, her eyes blinking furiously, as she tried to hide her tears.
Her mom immediately stopped walking and gently took Tammy’s hand so they were facing each other. ‘Don’t cry, my darling,’ she said, looking down at her daughter with kind eyes, ‘It hasn’t been easy for you these last few days. All you’ve done is packing and unpacking.’ Suddenly she smiled a slow smile at Tammy and said, ‘I’ve just spotted a grocery store further down this street. Shopping might be distracting and might help you feel better.’ Then she opened her purse and pulled out some bills and held them out to her daughter, ‘There you go. And better still, I see a window with lots of girlie-looking stuff across the road from here. How about you go get yourself something, while I get some groceries?’
Tammy stuffed the bills carelessly into her pocket, then wiped her tears away with a careless hand. She looked up at her mom now and smiled, her eyes then quickly going to the window across the road to study its contents. The street was almost deserted and at a signal from her mother, Tammy crossed the road and entered the colorful shop. She turned back to wave to her mom who was now walking toward the entrance of the supermarket, while her eyes were trained on her daughter.
Tammy entered the shop. There was a young woman sitting at the counter and now she smiled at Tammy and asked, ‘Looking for something special?’ To which Tammy replied, ‘Not really. I’m just looking around.’
‘Call if you need help,’ the woman called out as Tammy walked down one of the aisles. ‘Thank you,’ Tammy replied politely, her eyes on a pretty pink belt. She picked it up and examined it carefully, then placed it in her shopping basket. Then she found a pair of pink trainers with little stars on them that she really liked. So she added them to the basket. Then she saw this really nice pair of pink jeans. Yes, she really liked pink and wished she could have bought all three items. Then a thought occurred to her and reaching into her pocket for the money her mom had given her, she pulled it out to see how much she had. Five $ 10 bills! Her mom had given her $ 50! Nice! She could afford to buy all those items for sure. Time went by and suddenly Tammy realized that it would soon be dark. So she quickly did some math in her head and walked toward the exit, pushing her cart along. The lady at the counter was busy, with several other customers, so Tammy waited in line. Finally it was her turn. She paid, said thank you to the nice lady, smiled politely and picking up her bag of things, she stepped outside.
It was beginning to drizzle and there were more cars on the street than there had been when she first came in. So she hurried to the zebra line and waited on the sidewalk, then quickly crossed the street when the traffic light turned green for pedestrians to cross, just like they had taught her at school.
Tammy looked up at the sign on the store she had seen her mom enter, then paused. Was this the place? She looked down the street. There were several stores, but suddenly they all looked similar. She pulled out her new cell pink, yes pink cell phone and called her mom. Her mom’s cell was turned off!! Then hoping she had indeed entered the correct one, she stepped across the threshold and walked past the busy counter. She walked down one aisle, then the next and the next, but she didn’t see her mother anywhere. At first she didn’t worry too much, because it was a big store and she was sure her mom was somewhere about. Fifteen minutes later and she still hadn’t found her mom - she wasn’t anywhere to be seen. Tammy was now walking down an aisle that led to the front of the shop.
Suddenly she noticed that it was dark and she began to panic. Where was her mother? ‘Mom!’ she called out and a little boy stared at her. A kind old lady walking toward her told her kindly, ‘Why don’t you go to the counter and wait there for your mother. You’re sure to find her faster that way.’ Tammy thanked her politely, nodded her head and walked quickly toward the entrance. Once there, she stood right by the lady at the counter, who was busy punching buttons on her register, while a thin, tall boy kept putting things into bags. Tammy looked anxiously this way and that but didn’t see her mother. The lady at the counter looked up and asked her, ‘Yes?’ Something about the way she was looking at Tammy was off-putting, so she said hesitantly, ‘I’m waiting for my mother. I’ve looked and I can’t seem to find her.’ The lad looked at her thoughtfully and asked ‘Is she tall and blond and very pretty?’
‘Yes, yes, that’s my mom!’ Tammy replied her face clearing, She was about to continue, when the lady said, ‘I think she left a while ago.’
‘A while ago?’ Tammy asked, ‘Like five minutes ago?’
‘No,’ came the reply, ‘More like fifteen.’ Tammy was definitely in a panic now. She didn’t know the way home. Normally, she was good with directions, but she had been busy sulking when she had accompanied her mom from their new home to the store and so had not taken mental note of where they were going. She couldn’t for the life of her remember if they had walked down one straight street or had taken a turn or two along the way. Yes, she was lost now for sure!
Tammy forgot to thank the lady in her hurry and picking up the bag with the things she had just bought, she rushed outside. It was raining cats and dogs, so she stopped at the top of the steps and looked around uncertainly. Had they come from the left or had it been the right? She couldn’t remember. Tammy felt her eyes fill with tears. Then she remembered something her parents had told her. ‘If you ever get lost some day, the safest thing to do is to stay put wherever you are. Because that way, we can retrace our footsteps and try to find you. But if you begin to wander in the hope of finding us, you may get truly lost and might never be found.’
No! Oh, No! Please don’t let me be lost, Tammy prayed in desperation. She decided to stay where she was and because it was raining, she stood by the entrance to the store looking hopefully this way, then that. People came and went and many looked at her. Time went by and no one came for her. Where was her mom? Why was she not coming to find her? Her mother had been to just one place to shop and if Tammy had been late in getting back to her, all her mom had to do was come look for her. Tammy felt a tear trickle down one cheek and quickly she brushed it away. She was doing a lot of crying today, Tammy realized and tried to be brave. Suddenly she noticed that the street in front of her was quiet and that one of the store boys was busy turning off lights in the shop, while a couple of other boys pulled window shutters down and hurried about.
It was still raining. The shop lady was ready to leave. No, please don’t leave me alone, Tammy thought. I’m lost and I have nowhere to go. She had made up her mind to stay where she was because she was sure that her mom would be back to get her. But she had been here for so long and how come no one had come for her, she thought for the hundredth time?
In the distance she heard a vehicle engine and prayed it was her mom or dad in their car. She was disappointed when she saw that it was a school bus filled with kids. Her eyes fixed on the bus, her brain got busy wondering if she should stop the bus and if she did so, then how would the bus driver be able to help her seeing she didn’t know where she lived and had forgotten to memorize the address? Suddenly a huge, really huge, hairy green head squeezed its way out through one of the windows of the bus and a grossly ugly creature with three eyes said ‘Buh!’ at her in a deep, loud voice. Tammy almost jumped out of her skin in fright and with a sharp, piercing scream, started to run down the street!
‘Tammy!’ a soft familiar voice called and someone gently gripped her shoulder.
‘Mom!’ Tammy said in relief, tears of joy rolling down her face.
‘Were you having a bad dream, honey?’ she heard her darling mom ask.
Tammy looked around puzzled. She was not lost! She was in bed! And she had just had a bad dream! Phew! Tammy flung her arms around her mother’s neck in a rush and kissed her loudly on both cheeks, relieved to discover that none of all that scary stuff was really true.
‘Yes mom,’ she said happily. ‘I was having a really bad dream about getting lost and being chased by a school bus full of kids and a huge green monster!’
Her mother laughed softly and hugged Tammy close. ‘You poor dear!’ she said, ‘Dreams can sometimes seem so real, right?’ Tammy nodded her head in agreement and snuggled closer in her mother’s warm embrace. ‘But you’re safe and warm and home!’ Tammy sighed in contentment. The first thing she was going to do when she got out of bed was to save the address of her new home on her cell phone and then memorize it, just in case!

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