By Melissa L. Webb
Peggy tilted her head and frowned at the little boy in front of her.
“Please, Mommy. Please?” he whined as he tugged on the leg of her pants.
“Mikey, stop it.”
“But, Mommy,” Michael pleaded. “I want to ride on the carrousel.”
Peggy sighed as she eyed the mechanical ride in front of the store. One of the tiny horses seemed to sneer in her direction. Maybe he’d be in a better mood if she let him ride it. She looked back down at her son. “Will you start minding me if I give you a quarter?”
Michael looked up at his mother and batted his eyelashes innocently. “Yes, Mommy. I’ll be a good boy.”
Peggy reached into her pocket as she felt herself give in. “Okay, but just one ride. That’s all we have time for.”
A huge smile broke out across his face. “Okay, Mommy.”
Peggy handed him the quarter from her pocket. “Just one.”
Michael grinned as he yanked the quarter from her hand and ran to the small mechanical carrousel. He quickly mounted a blue horse and leaning over, dropped the quarter in the slot.
The ride quickly sprung to life and began to rotate.
Peggy watched as the three horses paraded around, taking her son with them.
Michael smiled as he went, enjoying the ride.
Peggy leaned back against one of the support columns for the building, shifting her shopping bag to the other hand. Leaning her head back, she watched Michael as he laughed. He would ride past her, smiling and waving, before disappearing around the backside, only to reemerge waving once again.
Round and round she watched him go, until the small carrousel began to slow.
“I hope you enjoyed your ride, little man,” Peggy said as she straightened back up. “This is the only one you get.”
She moved closer as she watched Michael disappear around the back. The ride came to a stop, the gears inside clanking as the brakes engaged.
“Okay, time to go,” Peggy called, looking down at her watch. “Daddy will be home soon.”
Only silence greeted her from the ride.
“Mikey, you promised,” Peggy warned as she walked to the back of the ride. “Now, no more games.” She stopped in shock as her eyes drifted over the empty blue plastic horse. “Mikey?”
She glanced quickly around her. “Michael Foster, this is not funny. You come here right this minute, young man,” Peggy demanded as she waited for her little boy to come running with that angelic look on his face.
Nothing stirred around her. Peggy was alone.
She stepped forward as panic seized her heart. “Michael!” Peggy called, her feet moving forward towards the parking lot as her eyes scanned over the rows of parked cars. “Michael!” she yelled, hoping to hear his voice.
A few people turned their heads to look at her, but her son wasn’t among them. He was nowhere to be seen.
Turning on her heel, she made her way back to the entrance of the store. He had to be inside. It was the only hope she had left.
“Mikey, where are you, baby?” she asked as she hurriedly made her way towards the door.
“I’m right here, Mommy,” a voice called from behind her.
Peggy turned quickly, the breath stopping in her throat. Her eyes quickly fell on the boy in front of her, sitting on the blue carrousel horse.
“Oh, thank god,” she whispered, the breath rushing back out as Peggy closed the distance between them. “Where were you?” she asked as she hugged him hard.
“I was right here, Mommy, waiting for you.”
Peggy pulled back and looked at him. “No, you weren’t. I couldn’t find…,” she stopped, the words dying on her lips. Something wasn’t quite right with the boy in front of her.
“What’s a matter, Mommy?” Michael asked, staring up at his mother.
Peggy took a step back. The boy’s smile was a little wider. His eyes were a little too dark. This wasn’t the Michael she had put on the ride. “You’re not my son,” she whispered.
The little boy climbed down from the horse and looked up at her. “Yes I am, Mommy.”
Peggy shook her head. “No, you’re not. You are not my Mikey.”
The child sighed. “No, I am not the Mikey you knew. I am the Mikey you deserve to have.” He stepped closer to Peggy, looking up at her sweetly. “I am the well behaved, gentle Mikey. The one who will grow up to make you proud.”
Peggy looked down at the boy in front of her and sighed too. It would be nice to have some peace for a change. After all, she did deserve it.
Peggy reached out and took the little boy’s hand. “Come on, Mikey, we’re late. Daddy will be waiting for us,” she told him as they hurried to the car.
©2010 Melissa L. Webb