When we get home, there is a bunny sitting in the yard – a large white one. The child is first entranced, then very worried, as the bunny is not well – he loses his balance a couple of times. She wants to call for help, but I don’t know who to call, and so I tell her to leave it alone.
The bunny will be okay, I tell her. I am firm and confident and finally she leaves the bunny and comes inside.
Next day, we cram everything in: we walk on the beach, then drive down to Seaside to ride bumper cars and tilt a whirl, and rent and I’m exhausted by a bike ride around seaside on a rental bike that looks like a surrey with a fringe on top. It’s an uneven ride to say the least – I am tipped to the left or the right depending whether I’ve ceded the steering wheel to The Child or regained control of the thing briefly for my sanity’s sake.
We go about two miles per hour, worrying the whole time about crashing in to things or else pulling over to the side to let bigger, faster vehicles – in other words, everything else on the road – pass. The Child thinks it’s grand. When we’re done, I’m exhausted, and we head back to the rented condo. The Child wants to swim in the condo pool, but there are other kids there and she’s a bit intimidated so she decides to wait.
The other kids don’t leave, and The Child becomes more and more antsy with waiting.
I want to go out, she says. Can’t I go for a walk?
It’s not even six o’clock yet, so I think maybe it’s best if she goes out. I give her my phone – the only clock we can find that she can take, since she’s left her own phone at home in Seattle.
She returns promptly at the designated time, and heads out to check the pool again. This time, there are different other kids there.
She waits a bit, then checks the pool again, and it’s still not right. I try to persuade her to make friends at the pool, but she says no, it won’t work.
I get tired of all the discussion and tell her, take another walk. Go walk on the beach.
Yes! she says.
Be back by 7:30, I tell her. Sooner if it starts getting dark. It’s cloudy and drizzling and could get dark very quickly, I think. More important, could get very cold, very fast.
She takes my phone and programs in the number for the condo in case she needs to call.
7:30 rolls around, but she does not re-appear. But she was very prompt last time, so I have two thoughts: first, she was being very responsible on her last walk, so I have nothing to worry about. The other is that since she was so prompt on the first walk, obviously I should be very worried that she is not being prompt this time.
I look out the window and the sky is a darker shade of grey; the drizzling continues persistently. I try to call her from the condo phone and discover it can only be used for local calls, which my cell phone isn’t, and emergencies, which this also isn’t. She’s only ten minutes late, I tell myself.
I debate calling the police, but she’s only ten minutes late.
But it’s getting darker.
I saw two flashlights in the condo, so I go get them, but they have no batteries. I throw on a fleece and some sneakers. It feels like it should be fifteen minutes by now, but it isn’t, so it’s still not an emergency.
I head out to look for her on the beach and realize I have no idea what she’s wearing. I have pictures of her taken just hours before that would be helpful, except that they’re on my phone. The one I can’t call.
I can’t find a pen so I leave a note written in eyeliner on the condo door. STAY HERE, I tell her, if she should come back. I leave the door closed but unlocked for her; if there are thieves, they can have my camera, and her camera, and her school laptop and my iPad and all the other stuff, only just let her come back and stay warm.
The bunnies stare at me as I walk past them toward the beach. The white one is there again today. I want to tell her he is fine. Look, the white bunny is okay.
I look for her in the park, then at the beach, and she’s not in either place. I head over to a nearby hotel to ask to use the phone, then think maybe she’s already back at the condo. I walk back, and spy a baby brown bunny watching me this time. The Child is not there, and is 20 minutes late. Surely twenty minutes is an emergency.
I head back across the street, toward the hotel near the beach, and as I do, I see a small figure wearing a blue sweatshirt and carrying a bright red messenger bag. I should have known that’s what she was wearing, I think. I should have known that. She’s sprinting across the parking lot in my general direction.
I will be calm: I repeat this over and over as she walks to me. She slows as she approaches.
I’m sorry, she says, I twisted my ankle and it was hard to come back. Walking was hard. She limps a little, to convince us both it could be true.
I tried to call, she says, but you didn’t answer. It didn’t work, the phone number. And I went to the rental place to use their phone but they were closed.
We walk slowly back to the condo; she shivers as she walks.
We spend the rest of the evening quietly, warm and indoors, eating taffy and giggling over Japanese monster movies, together.