Today is going to be the best day ever. We are taking the train out to the country. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a real family day out. Dad says we’ll go on a real proper vacation real soon but today is good enough. I wanted to go to the beach but Dad said there would be too many people. He wanted to get away from the city and I don’t blame him. My face was glued to the window the entire train ride out here watching the sky become clearer; as the tall buildings and noises of the city faded into the distance so did Mom and Dad’s fighting. It had been a tough couple of months. Dad was working all the time and Mom was making her own sacrifices to keep the family afloat. But that will all be over soon. Dad promised. I see the way they’re holding onto each other, looking out the window, watching the world passing by them. It was nice. It was nice to see them sitting in comfortable silence. Much better than the silence that usually follows one of their fights.
“We’re slowing down!”
“We’re almost there, Maya. Just a few more minutes.” Looking back I didn’t recognize the worried look my mom gave my dad when he said this. I was either too young or too excited.
There was a car waiting for us at the train station but I wasn’t ready for another long ride so soon after the last one. I could see the fields across the road and it took every ounce of self-control to keep myself from bolting right then and there. Every part of me longed for freedom. Instead I ran circles around the car as Mom was loading our bags and Dad had stepped into a shop to grab some last minute supplies for our picnic. I had lost count of how many laps I had made when he finally got back. And again we were off, my face once again stuck to a window, completely in awe of all the green. It was everywhere and I just wanted it to swallow me up and fill in all the bland colors of the city.
My feet were moving before the car had even stopped. Mom looked back at me smiling as the tapping of my feet on the floor turned to pounding. We stopped and I was gone.
“Not too far.” My mom yelled after me.
A loud whoop and wee was all I let out as I looked back to see her setting up some chairs as Dad was making lunch. We were supposed to eat first but all I wanted to do was run and get lost in the tall grass. Just being able to run outdoors and not be worried about the air quality or running into someone was the greatest. I could run through these fields forever.
“Maya! Lunch!” But I wasn’t ready just yet. Only a little bit further and I would be at the top of the hill. I desperately wanted to see the horizon in the distance, the open land stretched before me showing off it’s beauty to anyone willing to leave the city behind and give it the tiniest bit of attention. It had all of mine. It’s all I looked at the whole train ride out here. I could see so far. I wanted to see further. The city was where I grew up but this… this was something more. Just a few more feet now and I would be at the top. Now that was on higher ground I could see my parents below me waving for me to come back.
“I’m almost there,” I yelled back. “Just another minute.”
And there it was. I could still see the city from here. We had traveled for so long and yet I could still see it. Always there waiting for us. And then it wasn’t. Instantly replaced by the brightest light I had ever seen. Then the light was gone and I was no longer on the hill. For the longest time this was the last thing I remembered from home. Years later little bits and pieces would come back to me. Mostly in dreams. Every night I was flying. Further and further until one night I finally hit the ground, landing back on the grass at the bottom of the hill. For years this was the moment I tried remembering the most. The moment that I passed from one world to another. I don’t know if the blast knocked me out midair or if the force of hitting the ground that made me lose that last final image of my home.
I couldn’t have been out too long but the bright midday had been replaced with a darkness that can only come in the latest of nights. Only darker it seems. The kind of dark you get when you go camping. Even this far from the city I expected at least some sort of glow in the sky.
“Mo…” I began to cry but my throat was the driest it had ever been. Every part of me was sore but I managed to sit up anyway.
“Mom?” I finally managed to squeak out. A few more coughs and then, “Dad?”
Where were they? I wanted to cry but no tears came, just empty, dry sobs and the occasional cough. Still sore, I stood up, testing my legs. I had broken my arm once about a year or so back when I fell while climbing the side of our apartment. That pain was worse but this wasn’t concentrated to only one part of my body. It was all over. It hurt to move. It hurt to breathe. But I could stand and if I could stand then I could walk. What I couldn’t do was lay in a field alone all night.
Everything looked different at night. The hill didn’t seem so high anymore and when I looked back in the direction we had set up our picnic I didn’t see any sign of my parents. No chairs, No car. No Mom. No Dad. I couldn’t even find the path we had driven to get here. I followed where I thought it had been and eventually made it back to the road but it too was abandoned. In one direction was a straight shot back to the city and somewhere, the other direction, past too many twists and turns for me to remember was the small town with the train station. In the end it didn’t matter which way I would decide on because before I knew it I saw lights coming down the road.
It slowed as it pulled onto the shoulder, its lights now blinding me. I heard to door creak open and the sound of someone stepping out onto the gravel.
“You all right?” I still couldn’t see anything. I backed away. My parents had given me the whole strangers talk many times but this was an emergency.
“Hey. Hey, little one, what are you doing out here?” The figure was now face to face with me, kneeling right in front of me. She didn’t seem like a stranger. She was youngish, probably in her twenties, but to my childish eyes she seemed so much older. She was an adult and at that moment I needed an adult very badly. My throat still hurt and my voice was hoarse but I eventually got some words out.
“I can’t find my parents.”
“Out here? What were you doing out here?”
She stood up, looked down the road, and cursed to herself.
“Don’t worry, we’ll get this all sorted out.” She pulled out her phone and dialed then looked over at me as if she just remembered I was there. “Let’s go wait in the truck, we’re gonna freeze out here.”
I hadn’t even noticed the cold until she said something. “Mmhm.” It looks like we were both unprepared for this situation.
“Hank?” She yelled into the phone. “Yes, I know about the lights. Listen Hank, I’m out here on my way into town and there’s this kid wandering up the highway. Yea, a kid. A little girl. I don’t know. She said she’s looking for her parents. Look Hank, there ain’t no one out here. Well I want you to send someone to pick this kid up. No I’m not—I know you got yer hands full but this isn’t—Alright. Alright. But you owe me Hank.” With that the conversation was over.
Turning her attention back to me she put on a fake smile but I could see it in her eyes. I was her problem now. But I didn’t want to be anyone’s problem. I just wanted my mom and dad.
“Hey sweetie, things are a little crazy right now with all the lights out and all. My friend is a police officer and he says I should take you there to the station. Maybe your parents will be looking for you there.
The police. Finally some sense. I wanted to find my parents but I couldn’t see three feet in front of me out in the night and this woman was no help at all. Maybe she was right. Maybe my parents would go looking for me there.