Last Friday eve, I received a phone call from my neighbors- Mr. and Mrs. Lankley. They needed me to watch their kids, Emily (10 years old) and John (11 year old), so they could attend an event. Their kids were fun, and easy to watch.
On Saturday morning, l prepped for my evening with the kids.
The evening was upon us. I walked down the street to their house and the two kids were standing in the front yard waving my direction, screaming, “Mel!”. I had so much planned, ice cream, playing in the backyard, and watching a movie.
Emily and John’s parents were visible through the windows, getting ready for their night out.
I was ushered inside by the two kids. Both of them were chatting loudly. Mr. and Mrs. Lankley were fumbling in the kitchen as the door opened.
“Mel, we’re so happy you’re here!” Mr. Lankley showed me the food in the fridge and cabinets that was available for me. He left the keys to their white van on the kitchen counter. “The white van is for emergency use only.” He emphasized that phrase. Fortunately, I had no intention of going anywhere with the kids.
“No problem, Mr. Lankley.”
Mrs. Lankley explained to me their rule. They gathered their things, said goodbye, and left the house.
The kids ran over to me and gave me a hug.
“What’s first?” John was already sifting through the snacks in the pantry.
“What about ice cream?”
“Uhhhhh.” Emily whined leaning against the kitchen island.
“Let's go for a drive!” John always wanted me to take him on a roadtrip like he did with his parents and Emily.
I laughed,”The white van van is for emergency use only.”
Both Emily and John seemed disappointed in my answer, but shrugged it off and agreed to watch a movie while I popped some popcorn.
We decided to watch the latest animated movie that his parents purchased. I typically watch scary movies at home, so this movie wasn’t what I considered the most entertaining. My eyes grew heavy and I started to doze off, which is something I never do on the job.
A noise woke me up. The movie was ending and the credits were rolling. Emily and John were not in the room.
“Emily! John!” I looked under the sofa, and behind the curtains. “Do you guys want to get ice cream?”
I grabbed my phone to see if they had texted me with their emergency phone. Nothing. I peered out of the window, the white van was gone. My breathing became shallow. Ok, maybe they didn’t take the van, everything is okay.
Running around the house, I continued to look everywhere. The van is not gone, the van is not gone.
The phone rang. “Mel! How’s everyone doing?” Mr. Lankley’s voice was muffled by the amount of background noise.
“Are you sure? Do you need us to come home?”
“Everything is great! You know- the kids, eating too much ice cream and all.”
“Haha, that would be my kids. Just don’t let them eat too much. You know what happens when you eat too much dairy.”
“Haha. Yeah. Okay, well I gotta go. Going to have to take that carton away from John!”
“Ok Mel, we will see you guys in a few hours!”
“Ok bye!” Hours..hours? Eeek! I’m going to have to find them first!
Searching around the kitchen, I confirmed that the keys were missing. Yup, those kids are driving around in that van.
Since I knew I’d need help, without calling the cops yet, I called my parents.
Mom, dad, please answer, I can’t do this by myself.
“Mom, hey! Um..”
“Are you coming home early?”
“What did you do?”
“The kids are…”
“Oh my gosh Mel, how could you be so irresponsible? Are they hiding?”
“The white van is missing.”
“The white van is for emergency use only!”
“I know, I know. There’s no way they are driving that, right?”
“Take our SUV.”
“SUV!? I’ve never driven that.” I exited the house before my dad could say anything more. After locking up, I ran home in a state of panic.
My dad was standing at the front door. I saw a ring of keys barreling my direction as I reached my arms out. “Take these!”
“Thanks dad, if I need help, I’ll be back.”
My breathing was shallow, and my chest tightened. This was not only a scary form of hide and seek, but also I was also learning a lesson in quick thinking. Cars weren’t my thing. I didn’t like to drive, let alone learn to drive a new vehicle in a moment's notice.
Ah the Chevy Tahoe, too big for my 5 foot 100 lb build. Chair all the way forward. The steering wheel was nearly against my chest as I inserted the key into the ignition. My feet still don’t fit the gas or the brake. Crap. I adjusted all of the levers on the left side of the driver’s seat. Hm, I guess they are broken. Barely able to comfortably put my foot on the pedals, I backed out of the driveway.
I drove along the neighborhood roads looking for signs of the white van and/or Emily and John. They were nowhere to be seen, so I exited the neighborhood. The next part of my plan was searching places I knew they’d love to visit that weren’t too far away. If this plan did not work, I’d have to call for help (my parents) yet again. .
Out on the main road, I drove past two of our local fast food restaurants. No white van. No Emily or John. I drove past the movie theater. No white van. No Emily or John. Lastly, I drove past the nearest shopping center with the same results.
I started to turn back home when my parent’s car started sputtering. In typical horror movie fashion, I stalled near the part of the road that had a corn field on either side. Against my typical instincts, I got out of the car to see if I could push it. As it turns out, I cannot push an SUV. I ran back to the car, and it was locked. Of course, my phone was inside.
I heard a car in the distance. A flash of white zoomed past me. THE VAN? I began to run in the direction of the van. Now, I was not a track star, nor had I ever run more than a half mile. Athleticism did not run in my family. My feet were kicking my butt as I ran faster than I ever have.
I looked up. The van, of course, was gone. Not only was the van gone, but I was lost. Trees covered the empty and dark road.
I kept moving. Hoping I could make it home before creepy monsters from the cornfields or woods got me.
Sweaty and tired, I started to see the lights from the main street. Knowing the neighborhood was just a left turn off of main street, I started to move faster again.
All I could think about was how Mr. and Mrs. Lankley would react. That seemed selfish though. Of course I should be more worried about the kids- hoping they don’t wreck the van. What if they did wreck? Would they be hurt? Would I go to jail? It doesn’t matter. All I can do is run at this point. The faster I get there the faster this is all over. I slowed my pace as I neared the Lankley’s house.
I walked into the front door, hearing chatter from the back of the house. “Mr and Mrs. Lankley? Emily and John?”
“Mel!” John shouted as he shoved a hot dog and soda into his mouth.
Emily laughed while biting on the ice from her cup. “Thanks for taking us to the gas station to get hot dogs. Mom and Dad just got home , I told them you were taking the trash to the trash can out back.”
“Yes! That’s where I was. Looks like the trash can is full.”
“Thanks for cleaning up Mel. Looks like everything is in tip top shape here.”
I smiled hesitantly at everyone.
Mr. Lankley continued, “They’ve been talking about how much fun you guys had. John said you’re a great runner, ever thought about doing track?”