"Lucy, Lucy! Where are you?" I screamed until my vocal chords were raw. Time has stood still since I saw you last. My throat is hoarse from screaming your name. A gigantic crowd of onlookers has gathered around me.
Its already been five minutes.
This isn't real. I know this isn't real. You'll come barreling into one of us at any moment. Then I will feel foolish for having caused all this chaos. The police and K9s have arrived on the scene. My ears start to ring as the adrenaline courses through my veins. The smell of buttered popcorn and sweet cotton candy are still everywhere.
A discarded toddlers' shoe lies underneath the bench I currently occupy. Most of the crowd searches for you while others gather nearby to comfort me. Two police officers stand in front of me. The taller of the two speaks first.
"Are you able to answer a few questions for us?" He says.
I nod my head. I watch him scribble something on a tiny notepad in his left hand. His partner speaks but I block it out.
"Ma'am, anything you can tell us will help, even the smallest detail. How old is your daughter?"
Five minutes more.
I am nervous because I know how this works. They will question the parents before anyone else. They need to keep looking for her.
"Excuse me Ma'am, did you hear the question?" He inquires.
"Yes she's five. My daughter is five."
It feels like the longest sentence of my life. But I fold my hands on my lap and wait for him to speak again.
"What was she wearing? How tall is she? Do you know her current weight? Any pictures of her on your phone or your husbands phone?"
He rattles them off one after another and I feel like I can no longer breathe. I start to inhale and I notice them staring at me.
"Can we get you anything a water maybe? Is your husband nearby?"
I shake my head. One of them heads off in the direction of a vending machine. I stand up now.
"I need you to find my … I just want you to do your job please! No amount of water will help me!" I say louder than I intended.
"Ok Ma'am please try and remain calm. Will you sit back down for me?"
I continue to stand.
"I'm fine right here. I don't mean to yell but this isn't helping Lucy."
"Um, actually it is. The more we know about Lucy the faster we can find her. Please, start at the beginning and describe everything you remember. When you're ready."
I am afraid to respond. If I admit what happened than I am accepting my own failure. I open my mouth but no sound escapes.
Lucy held tight to my hand and together we weaved in and out of the crowd that occupied most of the fair grounds. So far the weather has cooperated. Its seventy three under a cloudless sky. My kind of day. I live for flip flops and tank top weather. The perfect start to our holiday weekend. I don't remember the last time Daniel and I both had off together. My husband and son are leading the way to a concession stand. I know my son and right about now he is asking Daniel for a hot salted pretzel.
The smell of popcorn, pizza, hotdogs and Italian sausages linger in the air. Its so crowded that I lose sight of Daniel and Nick. Lucy and I walk faster trying to keep up. Until a bright red sign draws her attention away from me. It reads Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt. Lucy points at it and a gigantic smile spreads over her cheeks. I reminded her of the agreement we had made. Rides first food later. She looks like she's thinking it over.
The sound of my daughters name surprises me. Who knows where here?
My friend Maureen. She told me about this festival even forwarded me a flyer. Lucy notices them first. She lets go of my hand and rushes over to Maureen and her daughter Emily. Lucy has known them since she was a baby. The girls hug each other and giggle as I walk over.
"Mommy can we go on the rides together?" Lucy begs me.
I look at Maureen. She shrugs her shoulders. The girls giggle more.
"Well I guess its ok. But only if you hold hands and stay in our sight."
The girls promise. We wait together as they ride the tea cups.
Daniel is speaking with the officers now. My hands are trembling. Nick scoots up on the bench beside me and I pull him in for an embrace. My son slides onto my lap and I stroke his silky brown hair. I know we both need this.
Twenty five minutes more.
Daniel has become angry.
"That's all your getting from me. You know what she looks like, you know her name, her friends name, find our daughter! Just find our daughter!"
He pushes past both officers and hurries to me and Nick. He kneels in front of us. I look into his eyes and its pure panic. He drops his head down and leans into my legs. I want to console him but I'm not in a good way. I hear Daniel sobbing. Its gut wrenching and its breaking my heart but I only think of Lucy.
"Nick, I want you to give me a few minutes with Daddy. Maureen is right over there by the ring toss. Do you see her?"
I point so my nine year old can find her. Maureen lifts her arm up high and Nick jumps off of me and runs toward my friend. Daniel pulls me into his arms.
"I wanted to be the one to find her. To bring her to you and make this ok.
Rebecca I don't know what to do. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
"Stop this, its not your fault. Its not anyone's fault... I know you, I don't blame you."
The officers separate us. Daniel walks off with one and I stay here with another.
He waits until I have finished my water. I feel like I'm going to be sick. I cover my mouth with my hand. He puts his arm out to steady me.
"How many rides were the two girls on?" I have to think hard before I answer.
"Four, no five I think they went on five. The tea cups, ladybug coaster, the carousel, a train and they went on the Ferris wheel last."
The line is longer than I expected. I wait with Lucy and Emily for almost twenty minutes. I see Daniel and Nick but I'm not sure if they see me. I wave my hand then I whistle and shot out to my husband.
"Daniel over here! I need you over here!" I watch them rush over to us.
"Everything alright?" He asks.
"No, I have to use the bathroom and Emily needs her inhaler. Stay with the girls. I need to find Maureen."
I watch Daniel take Lucy's hand in his and I take off in search of my good friend. Emily is wheezing louder than before. Nick and Lucy are afraid.
"Stay calm Emily. Try and stay calm, she went to find your mom. They will bring your medicine."
Daniel calls Rebecca's phone but she's not answering. With every swallow breath Emily grows paler.
"Nick, listen to me. I have to go find Emily's mom. You're in charge. I will be quick. Stay with your sister."
"Dad no I want to go with you!" Nick moans.
"Not right now. Do this for me. We promised Lucy this ride. It'll be ok. Stay together."
"I was wrong only Lucy must have rode it."
He is staring at me.
"What was that Ma'am? She went on it alone?" I nod my head. He writes again.
"Yes, Emily has asthma. She needed her inhaler. I left Daniel with the children.
I had to help her, I knew the medicine would work. I just had to find my friend."
I burst into tears again. He hands me tissues.
"Please continue, when did you know she was missing?"
I sprinted through the crowds and slammed right into a young couple. I apologized but they mocked me anyway. I was in and out of the rest room in under three minutes but still there was no sign of Maureen.
I dug in my pocket for my cell, pulled it out and sent her a text.
Where are you? Emily needs her inhaler. Call me.
I kept running until my sides hurt and my calves burn.
I had to catch my breath. I stood still and scanned everyone around me.
I noticed Daniel and Emily coming straight towards me.
"She's worse Rebecca, I think we need a doctor."
"No, I mean we need her inhaler! Where's the kids?" I yelled.
"Their ok. Nick was watching Lucy."
"Go back to them, she won't ride it alone. Please Daniel just go!"
I throw cold water on my face and tie my hair up off my neck. I look at myself in the
mirror above the sink. I have never been this scared in my entire life.
"Please dear God, please bring Lucy back to me. I just don't want a world without
her it in." I start to tremble again. The tears are falling fast.
"Please let her be alright. I trust you and need your help. Oh please hear me."
I exit the rest room. Maureen, Nick and Emily are waiting for me.
"How about we all go to my place? The kids are exhausted, your exhausted and its
getting dark. Let me help you. Look how you helped me." Maureen suggests.
"I hate to just leave."
We are almost in the parking lot when I think I hear crying. I slowly turn around.
My eyes must be playing tricks on me. Daniel is carrying Lucy in his arms.
She looks at me. "Mommy!"
I tear off towards them. Daniel places her on the ground.
"How did you find her? Where was she?"
"I guess they didn't check all the seats. She fell asleep, that's all she was asleep."
Together we cover her with kisses and hold her tighter than ever before.