Hide and Seek
I walked back and forth from the tree to the road; I had done this at least a thousand times, it seemed.
Still, no one was anywhere in sight.
I couldn’t just walk down the road. I had no idea where I was, really, and the light was always so dim. And what about my spot under the tree? I couldn’t just give it up, just to go find people who may not be able to help me anyway. No, I would have to wait here, and content myself with walking back and forth to the road.
Did no one ever drive on this road? I sighed, and trudged back to the tree. I hadn’t seen more than five cars in all the time I had been waiting. And of course, no one in any of those cars saw me, no matter how much I waved my arms and shouted. One person – a little girl – had looked like maybe she saw me, but the car still drove by without even pausing.
Maybe they were just afraid of hitchhikers, I thought. I certainly would be; you never know what kind of crazy people are out there waiting for you to let your guard down. But still, it was frustrating, and I wondered if anyone would ever stop to help me.
Eventually, I would have to leave the sheltered spot under the tree and walk down the road, one way or the other. I wasn’t looking forward to that. It seemed much safer under the tree.
I walked back to the road and looked in both directions as I had been doing forever and ever … and this time, I saw something. Not a car, but a group of kids on bikes, laughing and calling out to each other as they pedaled down the road toward me.
I was absolutely overjoyed, and began jumping up and down in jubilation. “Hello!” I yelled, my arms waving frantically over my head. “Help!” I walked a little way toward them. “Hello!”
At least some of the kids seemed to see me, even though they were still pretty far away. They turned to one another and said things I couldn’t make out, and slowed down their bikes as though they would actually stop. Thank heavens, I thought. Finally.
I walked back to the safe spot under the tree, and waited gleefully for the kids to get there. I was pretty confident they could help me – kids are safe to talk to, for the most part, and they aren’t as scared as grownups.
The kids left the road and biked across the hundred yards of grass and brambles toward the tree – toward my tree, where my safe spot was. I could tell now that the kid in front, a friendly-looking boy about eleven years old, was the one who had seen me, and who could see me now as I stood waiting under the tree.
“Hello!” I called again, waving and smiling. “I’m so glad you’re here!”
“What are you talking about, Jimmy?” one of the other kids said. “I don’t see anything!”
“I saw her!” the friendly-looking boy said. “She went under this tree!” He got off his bike and walked closer to the tree, stopping about three feet from me. “She came in here,” he called over his shoulder. He looked at the ground where I stood, and I knew in that moment that all the walking back and forth had not been in vain. He could see me! He could really, really see me.
The other boys had also gotten off their bikes, and were cautiously approaching the tree. “What is that, Jimmy?” one of them asked, bending down under the sloping branches. “It looks like sticks.”
“It’s not sticks,” Jimmy said, shaking his head slowly. He leaned down and touched the ground with one tentative finger, and then jerked it back. His face was pale, and his eyes were big as saucers. “It’s bones.”
“What kind of bones?” another kid asked. He brushed past Jimmy and surveyed the ground where I was standing. His eyes widened too, and he looked pretty frightened. “Is – is that a head?”
Jimmy was looking back and forth over the overgrown ground. “It must be the lady I saw,” he said, more to himself than to the other kids, and I was so happy that I would have hugged him if I could have. He spun around and picked up his bike. “We have to get back to town!” he said urgently. “We have to get the cops!”
The other kids stared a moment longer at my safe spot under the tree; then they too returned to their bikes and hurried back to the road, following Jimmy back to town.
I was so relieved that someone had finally seen me that I couldn’t even be angry anymore about what had happened. I could barely remember it anyway, it had been so long. But I had been clutching a handful of the bad man’s hair for the whole time I had been walking back and forth to the road. Maybe it would be enough for them to find the bad man. I guessed I didn’t need to worry about that now, now that someone finally knew where I was.
I waited a little longer in my safe spot under the tree; I waited until the police cars came down the road and stopped in front of me. It was about that time that the dimness of the day got brighter, until the sun was almost blinding, and I knew that it would be safe to leave the tree.
For the last time, I walked up to the road. I looked back one last time, at the clump of police gathered around the tree. “Thank you,” I whispered. “and thank you, Jimmy.” I turned then and stepped onto the road, and kept walking into the bright sunshine.