Melanie stood there with her hands thrust angrily upon her hips as she looked up the dark wooden staircase and then yelled “Callie, unhealthy hurry up or you will be late for school. Conner’s principal is going to be really angry if he’s late again. Come on, child! It does not take that long to brush your teeth!”
They were always waiting for their little Callie and it made everyone cross. They were not sure if Callie was just slow for a 9-year-old or doing it for the attention. Her husband, Jeff, even pondered the possibility that perhaps Callie was a budding Time Lord whose sense of time was different than everyone else’s. Her two other children, Connor, age 12, and Crystal, age 6, looked at her, their faces scrunched up in annoyance. Even Crystal was standing with her arms crossed because she would most likely miss play time and possibly even their morning snack time and, today, Conner could lose his place on the middle school football team if he was late to school… again.
“Calliiie!!” Melanie yelled. She looked back to Conner and Crystal. “Conner, go help Crystal into her seat and wait for us in the car so we can leave as soon as she gets done.” Conner muttered “Ugghh” under his breath as he gave Crystal a little push toward the door to the garage. Crystal angrily shrugged his hand off her shoulder in a way that looked like a spasm. Looking back to him, she narrowed her eyes in an icy stare and then her pigtails jerked about as she stomped towards the garage. Shaking his head Conner could be heard grumbling “Uggh!” louder this time as he walked after Crystal, his red football helmet under his left arm. This was how it was every morning no matter how they tried to change things so that Callie (and the rest of the family) could be on time.
This seemingly irreparable morning drama had manifest as Callie has grown older, more independent, and responsible for her own routine. This morning drama set Melanie’s days wrong and made her cranky because she was usually late to work. Melanie has become her office’s ‘late person’ and she has never been that person, nor did she ever want to be. She has heard that her supervisor, Teri, who also has kids, gets to work on time, usually a 10 or so minutes early. ‘God, how different would things be if they never had Callie.’ she spitefully thought to herself. Her husband, Jeff, never had to deal with the morning drama because he had to leave an hour early to get to work, and he never understood why she was always so cranky when she got home.
“Ok, Callie, you are going to have to take the bus home tonight, so mommy can make up the lost time from your teeth brushing time-warp.”
Callie’s voice whined down “But Mom, I hate the bus. The older kids are mean to me.”
Cross that Callie had the temerity to be upset with this, Melanie growled “Well, consider getting done on time in the morning and this would not have to happen. It is your choice, little girl! Let’s go!”
Callie stomped down the stairs, her pale cheeks and ears were red and her lips were pursed in anger. Sternly Melanie said, “Get in the car!” After Callie ran out to the car Melanie stalked after her grumbling the whole time. She snapped up her phone so she could call their schools and her office to let them know that they were all going to be late… again.
Tired from a long day at work Melanie returned home after six o’clock. She walked in and saw Jeff cooking and Conner at the table working on his math homework. She sat her purse and briefcase down on the counter, hung up her coat, and then, unceremoniously plopped down into a chair at the table. Jeff started to speak “How’d…”.
“Don’t ask!” she quickly cut him off. Connor looked up at his mom and then quickly looked back down. He could feel the tension and the stress in her, so he decided that now was not a good time to talk about his football practice problems.
She quietly asked “Crystal?”
“Just started a bath.”
She could smell the garlic aroma from the sauce he was working on for spaghetti, Callie’s favorite. Still grumpy about this morning’s events she rolled her eyes, straightened up a little, and cleared her throat.
“Callie in her room trying to avoid me?” There was a pause as Conner looked up and Jeff turned around, confused.
“We thought you were picking her up as usual. I was expecting her to walk through the door after you.”
Melanie’s eyes and mouth went wide and her mind started running. She stumbled out “I, I told her to take the bus home after school, because I was going to be at work late.” She stood up quickly, the chair slid away, groaning in protest against the wooden floor. Her heart pounded in fear as she quickly picked up the phone from the table and started to make a call. Jeff turned down the burners for the spaghetti and the sauce and then picked up his phone too. Jeff heard the fear in her voice and then, calmly, said to Conner “Conner, why don’t you finish your homework in your room, while mom and I make some calls.” Without making a noise Conner, not sure what this meant, picked up his books and quietly walked to his room.
They each made some calls to Callie’s friends, to the school, posted to Facebook, and then, finally, called the police. All they found out was that some of the kids saw her at the bus stop after school. Jeff pulled Melanie close as she started to sob, eyes red as tears streaked down her cheeks. He rocked her in his arms as she repeated through choked tears “Where’s our Callie, Jeff? Where’s our little girl?”
Her phone rang. Jeff Answered. It was the FBI.