Reggie was four. He knew he was a big boy, and big boys shouldn’t cry. But Reggie felt like crying. There was something scary about the lady. And she smelled funny.
The lady kept talking to him, asking him where his mommy was. Mommy was at home, of course. Where she usually was. It was daddy who was missing. Reggie had been standing right next to daddy a few minutes back. But there’d been a bug on the floor, and Reggie couldn’t resist following it. Then, when the bug finally scurried into a crack, daddy was gone. Or rather, daddy was probably in the same spot he’d been when Reggie spotted the bug, but Reggie didn’t know where that was.
The scary lady took Reggie’s hand. He tried to pull it away, but she held it tightly. So tightly her bony fingers were hurting him. Reggie couldn’t hold back the tears, as hard as he tried. Sometimes even big boys cried. Reggie knew that because he’d seen daddy crying, just last night. And daddy was a very big boy. Somehow, remembering daddy crying made Reggie STOP crying, while he thought about it.
Reggie hadn’t understood exactly why daddy was crying last night. It was something mommy said. Something about moving to a place with a very long name, with Vicente. Ree-oh-day something or other – Reggie remembered because it sounded a little like “rodeo”, and he’d been to the rodeo with daddy just a few weeks ago. The rodeo had horses and cowboys, and was fun.
Vicente was mommy’s boyfriend. Some mommies had boyfriends and other mommies had daddies, like Reggie’s friend, Alec. Alec’s mommy had Alec’s daddy, instead of a boyfriend. Reggie didn’t understand how that worked. Reggie’s mommy had Vicente, and only Reggie had Reggie’s daddy. But only sometimes. Mostly, he just had mommy and Vicente. And when Reggie had mommy and Vicente, daddy was alone. It made Reggie sad, thinking about daddy being alone.
When Reggie’s daddy had stopped crying last night, daddy talked to mommy some more in a low voice, so Reggie wouldn’t hear. But Reggie COULD hear. Reggie was lying on a blanket on the floor, watching a movie, but he had very good ears. He could listen to his movie and the low talking at the same time. Mommy and daddy probably didn’t think he could, but they were wrong.
In his low voice, daddy told mommy that Ree-oh-day was too far away. That she had no right. He would fight it. There was no way. Mommy just said she DID have a right. He could fight it if he wanted, but he’d lose. Reggie knew fighting wasn’t good. He and Alec fought once, and Reggie’d had to sit in time out for a long time, and then go to bed early. Reggie wondered if mommy and daddy would need to go to time out if they fought. Probably they would.
The scary lady pulled Reggie by the arm toward the front of the store. Then, Reggie saw daddy standing by the counter, holding a bag. Daddy looked worried at first, but then when he saw Reggie he smiled a big happy smile. Reggie was so relieved he burst out crying again, tore his hand away from the lady and ran to daddy. Daddy scooped him up and hugged him.
Reggie felt glad to be back with daddy. But when that lady asked him about where his mommy was, it made Reggie miss mommy. Daddy had told him it might be a long time before Reggie could see mommy again. Reggie and daddy were going to go away together for a while, to a secret place. Until things could get sorted out, daddy said. But it needed to be a secret, just between Reggie and daddy. Mommy couldn’t know. Vicente couldn’t know. Alec couldn’t know. No one else could know. Not even the scary lady couldn’t know. Reggie had promised daddy.
Reggie and daddy walked out to the car together, a different car than the one daddy usually drove. Daddy got in front behind the steering wheel, and Reggie got in his booster seat in back. Daddy started the car and drove away. They were going to the secret place. No one else could know. Reggie felt like crying again.
But Reggie knew he was a big boy and big boys shouldn’t cry.
PC: David Clarke