My face was burning as I gulped back the tears. My credit card had declined. Embarrassment struck me hard as I turned around and saw the line-up behind me. “I – I guess I’ll have to put something back and try the card again.” I blushed at the overweight cashier.
Quickly and without thinking, I threw off the first thing I could grab from the shopping cart. “No Aunty!” my eight-year-old niece cried frantically. “I need that for gift exchange. My teacher said if I don’t bring a gift, I’m not gonna get one.”
I tried to ignore the wayward child and continued emptying my cart, but it wasn’t easy now that the baby had woken up, adding to the confusion with his hungry wail.
People fidgeted in line, silently blaming me for making them late. It wasn’t that I did it deliberately or anything. Why were they being so mean? Didn’t they see that I had my hands full?
“Ma’am,” one of them interrupted. “Can you please hurry? I’m late for my daughters Christmas program.”
“Okay,” I huffed, trying to keep my cool. Then as I turned, I realized what she had done. The little imp had deliberately dropped the eggs into a big yellow gooey mess.
“Awww!” cried the impatient customers behind me. “Oooh!” I began to cry, pulling the girl from the sticky mess. “You brat!”
Embarrassed, I pushed my cart away from the till, gathered the children and left the store without a thing. It was humiliating, but typical. Since I had adopted my niece, life was anything but tranquil. Her parents had died in a car wreck last Christmas and she had been acting out since.
Life was one disappointment after another since the accident. Our home had become chaos central and I did not like that one bit. “Why Lord!” I cried as I hauled the kids down the street with an angry fist to God.
Life would be so much easier without that child’s bad behaviour. Yes, she shouldn’t have lost her parents; her home, but her silly outbursts were not helping.
As I unloaded my burdens into our brand new split-level, I proceeded to nurse my infant. At least for the moment, I could sooth him.
“Cally! Come help me with Gavin!” I shouted, annoyed that she had slipped out of the house again. She knew better, but I guess she was mad. “Well I’m mad too God! I’m mad that she has to live with us!”
Hours went by and Cally didn’t come home.
“Have you seen Cally?” I asked the two older women that lived beside us.
“No,” they said shaking their heads.
I slipped Gavin into a snugly and carried him on my front, and then proceeded to find my delinquent niece. Why did she have to pull a tantrum now? It was already getting dark.
I searched for what seemed to be an eternity, but no Cally. “Cally!” I shouted one last time as tears streamed down my cheek. It wasn’t like her to be gone so long. Usually she’d just need about and hour to cool down. It had been several.
Inside, I crawled onto the sofa with my infant son, hopeful that Cally would swing open the door any moment. I even tried singing her favourite song, but she didn’t come.
As morning light burst through the windows, I suddenly awoke to a loud rapping at the door. Cally?
“Yes?” I squinted, opening the door to two policemen. “Mrs. Drummond?” I nodded. “We would like you to come with us to make an identification.”
“Cally? NO!!!” Every thought imaginable went through my head. Was she dead? Was she hurt? Did some pervert take her?
When we got to the precinct, a policewoman took Gavin from me and pointed to a room at the end of the hall. I was sure it was the morgue. I would never see my little niece alive again, and it was all my fault. I had become selfish, bitter, and made her already miserable life even worse.
As I squeaked open the door, a blast of light hit me. I was right. It was Cally, small and innocent with her long blond hair and angelic voice. Voice? What?
“Cally! What happened? I looked all over for you. Where did you go?”
“I wanted to go home for Christmas.”
“Aw Cally, you have a home with us. I’m sorry I didn’t make it feel that way.”
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