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When Things Go Wrong

Short story By: R A B Bradbury
Flash fiction

What happens when a missing child follows the rules, but the guidelines leave room for error?

Flash Fiction for a contest. Hope you like it!

Submitted:Jun 10, 2013    Reads: 64    Comments: 16    Likes: 7   

Taking Savannah to the shopping centre was always a nightmare. Savannah is three and, like many children her age has a tendency to wander. Today, I had my worst fears realised, when she disappeared from right under my gaze.

I had of course prepared her for the eventuality, I had taught her to stay where she is, and tell a 'safe adult' she was lost. As the guidelines tell you to. She understood, and could recognise uniformed security, shop staff and of course was comfortable talking to other mothers with children. All of those people are advised as safe adults, and she knew to tell them if she couldn't find me. I never imagined the guidelines could be wrong.

With an increase in non uniformed security in shops I was worried about her being able to find someone she felt safe with, when she went missing today. I only took my eyes off her for a second, to put a dress back on the rail, and when I looked back, she was gone.

'Savannah, Where are you sweetheart? Come to Mummy!' I called as I ran frantically around the store searching for my daughter.

No reply. My heart was in my mouth as I made my way to the Customer Service desk to report my child missing in the store.

'Hello, I need your help, my three year old daughter has disappeared in your store.' I told the advisor behind the desk.

'What is her name and what does she looks like? I'll notify the staff to keep an eye out for her immediately.' The woman smiled at me, trying to look comforting.

'Her name is Savannah, she is fair skinned, blonde and blue eyed, I taught her to stay where she is and wait for a safe person to help her.' I told her quickly, turning to rush off in search of her once more.

'Madam, you'll need to stay here, in case someone brings her here.'

I was exasperated, they expected me to sit here patiently while my baby girl was missing somewhere in this shop? Is this a joke? I slumped into a chair next to the desk and nervously chewed my fingernails.

Two hours later, a woman with two small children of her own, returned my daughter to the help desk and the story I received made me re-evaluate the things I teach my daughter.

It turns out, Savannah had done a good job remembering what she was supposed to do. When she realised I wasn't with her, she stopped and waited for a suitable adult to talk to. A man approached her and told her he was a security guard, she trusted him and followed him.

He was not a security guard. He was an opportunistic paedophile. I am very lucky to have my daughter back, I am and forever will be grateful to that woman, who recognised Savannah's distress, and returned her to me.

Guidelines can be wrong always be careful and vigilant.


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