The Spot Writers – “Bye, Little One” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This week’s prompt is “trolley,” and today’s post comes to us from Cathy MacKenzie. Check out the youth horror anthology, OUT OF THE CAVE, recently published under her imprint, MacKenzie Publishing. Available on Amazon and Smashwords

***

Bye, Little One

Phoebe watched the departing trolley from which a small hand appeared. “Bye, little one,” she mumbled, waving back.

She scanned the area before sauntering back to her car, sinking into the driver’s seat of her 1988 Honda Civic, relieved yet mildly upset she’d gotten away with the deed. Wasn’t anyone watching for unsavory characters or strange incidents? One was supposed to be on guard these days, what with the world going batshit crazy with terrorists and muggers and rapists.

Was she too sure of herself? She was still in the parking lot and not yet out of the thicket—or whatever that phrase was. The trolley would return within minutes, and if she didn’t soon leave, she’d be stuck. Suddenly feeling like a criminal, she turned the key and backed onto Devonport Road. She stepped on the gas a little too hard and screeched around the corner, where she pulled to the curb.

She pictured his face: her little boy, four-year-old Andrew, who wore a perpetual grin revealing gleaming white teeth. Everyone smiled back at him, but no one could shine like he did. Even at her lowest, he caused her to smile. Her stomach somersaulted as if she were on one end of a teeter-totter with a crazy person on the other. And then it was as if she’d swallowed a bucket of feathers that tickled her insides.

Except it wasn’t in fun.

Her body hurt. Her insides ached. There was no way to prevent the pain and no remedy to alleviate it. “Calm down,” she muttered. Everything would turn out okay. Someone would find him and he’d be placed into foster care and a good family would adopt him. She was certain of that, wasn’t she? She had to be. She couldn’t keep going if she thought he’d be abused or neglected. If she did, she’d be forced to return. She had time; the trolley travelled fifteen minutes around the open field. Most parents accompanied their children, at least the younger ones.

But Andrew would be fine.

***

The trolley rocks side-to-side. Andrew stares out the window, watching trees roll by. Though the sun brightly shines, he shivers sitting alone on the open bench. Most of the other seats are occupied.

“Just a short trip,” his mother said. “Have fun.” He stuck his head out and waved, and she waved back. And then the trolley took off, full of excited kids.

Why didn’t his mother accompany him? Every screaming kid but him is seated with an adult. He blocks his ears. His head throbs.

“Only a few minutes,” she said. “A break for me. A short ride for you. It’ll be fun.”

“But, Mommy, can’t you come?”

“No, dear, just for kids. I’ll wait here.”

And she waited while he craned his head until she grew smaller and smaller and then disappeared as if she had abandoned him. But she wouldn’t do that.

He rubs his eyes, wanting the ride to be over. Someone behind jostles the seatback. He holds his breath, restraining himself from turning. Instead, he eyes the open field and the swings and the life-size wooden choo-choo train that he had played in. His eyes water. Minutes pass slowly. “Only a few minutes,” his mother said. But how much is a few? Even at four going on five, Andrew knows a few can mean whatever one wants it to mean. Three or four? Ten? Maybe ten, but not twenty. Twenty’s too many for a few. Twenty is a lot.

Tiring of green grass and the path ahead, he more carefully examines his surroundings. Mothers clench children’s hands as if scared they’ll jump over the sides or be snatched by the boogeyman. But no, the boogeyman doesn’t appear during the day.

He peers around a mother and a tall child in front of him. The trolley driver converses with three children sitting directly behind the driver, but Andrew is too far away to hear their words. And then, one of the kids bounces up from his seat and the driver takes his hands off the steering wheel to hoist the boy onto his lap. Andrew suppresses a scream. How come the driver didn’t pick him?

***

Phoebe pulled to the curb though voices rumbled, “Keep going. Leave.” She rubbed her throbbing temples. “You leave,” she moaned. “Go. Leave.”

But the voices persisted.

She stepped out of the car and fell to the ground. The pavement scratched her knees and drew blood. Blood scared Andrew. Whenever he had a bleeding cut, he thought death was imminent. He’d cry and point to the red, tears cascading down his cheeks. She’d comfort him the best she could, but at night, after seeing blood during the day, he’d suffer nightmares. “It’s the boogeyman coming to take me away.” “No, it’s not. There’s no such thing as the boogeyman.” “Yes, there is, Mama. I see him in the middle of the night.” His tears would stop for a few minutes before restarting. By the time  Phoebe had settled him, her chest would be soaked.

She brushed her arm across her cheeks and stood, thankful she was alone. It would be embarrassing to be seen weak. That’s why she had to let him go. The voices were right. He needed stronger parents—a mother and a father—to lead him on the right path. Andrew had never asked about his father—or any father—but he hadn’t started school. When he did, questions would come too fast, and she wouldn’t be strong enough to handle them.

But could she desert him? Leave him to be raised by strangers?

Her eyes flashed. She frowned. What had she been thinking? Forgetting about the car, she raced back to the playground. The trolley should be about done. She wouldn’t be too late, would she? No matter if she were. Andrew was her son, and she had suffered an accident. Her bleeding knees proved it. She had every reason to be late.

She slowed when the trolley whistled. “All aboard,” the fake conductor shouted, and her heart thumped when a new set of kids and mothers boarded. She slipped behind a large oak. Where was Andrew? “Andrew,” she screamed. Andrew. The words echoed. No….

The voices returned. “Go. He’s in better hands.

“No,” she muttered. And then in the distance she saw him, led away by a heavyset woman, his slight frame shrinking with every step.  Phoebe ran, chasing them down the dirt path. She stopped and glanced around; no one had seen her running like a madwoman.

The woman and the boy disappeared into the building, and the door closed behind them.

Gone.

When one door closes, another opens flashed through her. God was telling her everything was okay. A new door for Andrew and a new door for her; both would be open, both opening to new beginnings, new lives, new opportunities. But as much as she knew that to be true, she needed Andrew. She couldn’t exist alone. She headed toward the office.

“No, go back. Go away. He’s better off without you.” The voices returned at the most inopportune moments, but she always obeyed in the end.

“Bye, Andrew.” She waved, turned in the opposite direction, and ran, needing to get as far away as possible.

She stopped and turned. The door opened. She held her breath. But the figure exiting wasn’t Andrew.

The voices didn’t return again until she entered her studio apartment. “You did the right thing. Now go.”

She jammed clothing into a bag. She didn’t have much. Andrew didn’t have much either, but she didn’t need to take his clothing and toys. She’d obtain new items once she found another child.

She smiled, a great big grin that lit up her face.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

RC Bonitz: http://www.rcbonitz.com

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Tom Robson: https://robsonswritings.wordpress.com

***

Have you read The Spot Writers’ first book? Check out the just-released Remy’s Choice, a novella based on a story we wrote a while back. It’s available at Amazon for only $1.99 e-book and $5.99 print.

Remy, just out of a relationship gone wrong, meets handsome Jeremy, the boy next door. Jeremy exudes an air of mystery, and he seems to be everything she’s looking for. While Remy allows herself to indulge in the idea of love at first site, she realizes she’s the girl next door according to her boss, Dr. Samuel Kendrick.

 

 

 

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