We were staying at a cottage with my parents and brother and extended family all around. After dinner, we headed back to change the girls into their pajamas and Leila scampered up the stairs to find my parents as I brushed the tangles from Alena’s hair. She squirmed until I was done and then told me she wanted to play with Leila and “Nan” and so I said ok, go ahead and she walked away and I got changed out of my dress into a pair of jeans because we were going to a bonfire.
As I pulled out the couch into a bed and settled the girls blankets on it, I heard Alena’s faint voice calling, “Nan!” and from upstairs I heard mom and Leila laughing and I thought… I thought they were all together. And then Mom and Dad and Leila came downstairs and I asked where Alena was and the looked at me blankly and said they hadn’t seen her. And I swear to God my heart stopped while I called her name and Steve and I tore all over that fucking cottage until I whipped open the door and the man in the cottage beside ours looked up at me and asked if I was looking for a little girl.
The grass dropped off under the deck and I looked down and there was Alena in her pink polkadot nightie looking around and looking a little scared and I picked her up and squeezed her and then Steve took her out of my arms and we told her to not DO that. She had wandered outside looking for Mom and Leila – not realizing I guess, that they were upstairs.
There are a million absolutely horrible what-if’s (the cottage was beside water, the person who found her could have been… someone else, she could have walked down the road) and thank God that there was only one way it actually ended. I’ve shut myself off from thinking about the what-might-have-been’s because I would be a shaking crying mess. So I tucked her in and layed beside her and took deep breaths to make my body not shake.
Because in that moment, things could have changed so horribly. In that moment….
But it wasn’t. And I can’t let myself go there. Because that moment wasn’t anything other than bone-chilling fear. It’s all ok.
But I swear I will never, ever forget the sight of my baby wandering, lost on the grass in her pink nightie.