Runaway

First published here

Mom’s head tilted toward the sound from the living room. She peeked around the door from the kitchen and saw five-year-old Priscilla tip-toeing, nearly to the front door.

“Priscilla, where are you going?”

“Away. I’m running away.”

“I see.” Mom walked into the brightly colored living room and sat on the sofa. “You weren’t going to tell me? That makes me sad.”

“Sorry.”

“So, where are you going?”

“Mimi’s. She loves me. She’s not mean to me.”

“She certainly does love you, but Daddy and I love you, too. Why do you think I’m mean today?”

“You made me eat that ucky junk for lunch.”

“Those are called vegetables, and, toasted up like that, they’re crunchy and really good. I think you actually liked the few bites you took.”

“Maybe.”

“Is that the only reason?”

Priscilla finally sat on a living room chair, but just barely so her feet would touch the floor. She was wearing her angry face.

“You made me stay in my room by myself when I wanted to go outside and play. I heard the other kids outside.”

“I see. Do you remember why I had you stay in your room for a while?”

“No.”

“Pris, yes you do remember,” Mom’s sweet face looked firm. “I asked you to pick up your toys and put them in your toy box. When you stomped your pretty, little feet and refused, I said that you should stay in your room until you picked up your things. Do you remember that now?”

“Maybe. But I’m still going to Mimi’s.”

“Okay, but it’s a long way from Memphis down to Jackson, Mississippi. How do you plan to get there?”

“I’ll walk.”

“Oh, my. That’s a very long walk. It could take weeks, out there all alone, nothing to eat or drink. No bed to sleep in. You know it takes us more than three hours to drive down there and we’re driving at sixty miles an hour. I’m pretty sure you don’t walk that fast.”

“Well, then I’ll call Uncle Fat. He loves me. He’ll take me there.”

“He’s pretty busy with the harvest right now, baby. I’m not sure he can get away to drive up here, then down there, then back to his farm. But anyway, don’t you think you should pack some things before you go?”

Priscilla stomped off to her bedroom without a word to her mother. She pulled out her little red cardboard overnight bag, opened it on the bed and surveyed the room’s contents. Mom sat on Priscilla’s bed and pressed her hand against the kicking baby that seemingly couldn’t wait to be born.

Priscilla put her favorite teddy bear in the bag. He filled most of the space. She added the bag containing her jacks and ball and turned to her mother.

“That’s all.”

“Oh, no clothes?”

Priscilla made an impatient face, went to her closet and grabbed her Sunday dress and patent leather shoes. She tried stuffing them into the red bag, but had little luck. That’s when she spotted her little baby doll clad only in a diaper. She picked it up. Her face flushed red and she threw the doll across the room.

“Why do I have to have a baby brother or sister?”

“Sweet girl, you don’t have to, but you certainly will have one, and we’re so happy. It will be a very good thing for all of us.”

“No it won’t. Sheila has a baby brother and she hates him.”

“You’re going to be a very important person to this little baby. As the baby gets older, you’re the one it will look at to know what’s what in the world. He or she will want to be just like you because you’re so smart and precious.”

“It can’t play with my toys. They’re mine!”

“Of course they are. And it will be a long time before the two of you have any interest in the same kind of toys.”

“I don’t want it in my bed.”

“And it won’t be. This is your bed. For a while, the baby will be in a bassinette in Daddy’s and my room. That will make it easier for me to care for the little one.”

“It will stay in there?”

“For a while, Pris, but you know we only have two bedrooms. There will be a time when we need to rearrange this room for the two of you. We’ll fix it up nice so that one side is yours – the big girl side – and the other side will look like a baby’s.”

“I don’t want it in here.”

“In a little house like this, we all have to make some changes. Daddy is working very hard so that one day we can have a bigger house, and then you and the little one will have your own rooms. It’s going to take a little while to get there, though.”

There was a long pause while Priscilla folded and re-folded her Sunday dress that was sticking out of the overnight bag.

She whispered, “What if you like the baby more than you like me?”

Mom wrapped her arms around the child and held her close.

“I could never love another child more than I love you. You are my first-born and my very heart. I will love this baby dearly, but differently. You love Daddy and me, but you don’t really love one of us more than the other, do you?”

“I guess not.”

Mom kissed Priscilla’s forehead and cheeks. “Tell you what. Daddy and I haven’t decided on a name for the baby. Will you help me?”

“How?”

“Let’s get paper and pencil and go to the table. We can make a big list of names for a little boy or for a girl. Then you and Daddy and I can choose one of each. Would you help me name the baby?”

“I guess I can. I know lots of names.”

“Then let’s go do that, then we can call Mimi later and tell her what’s on our list. It’s so good to have a big girl like you.”

“Can we have cookies, too?”

“You bet we can, Pris.”

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