Heavy wind and hail pounded against the kitchen window. The sky lit up followed immediately by powerful thunder. Lydia stared out at the storm for a moment before raising the volume on her small T.V. She continued to prepare dinner. The news report mentioned possible evacuations in her neighborhood, if the flood waters kept rising.
Tanner her three-year old raced through the kitchen screeching, arms in the air and knocked over a bag of potatoes that sat on the kitchen table. The noise and distraction made Lydia miss the details of the evacuations and she frowned.
“Tanner, honey,” she grabbed his shirt gently as he attempted to run away. “Go in the back room with Wesley and Bruce for a few minutes until Mommy is done watching the news. It’s very important. ”
Tanner squirmed trying to get loose. “But they won’t lemme play da playstation.”
“Yeah they will.” Lydia picked up one of the carrots she’d been slicing and offered it to him. He took it with a smile.
“Wesley! Bruce? I need Tanner out of the kitchen for a little while. Let him have a turn at that game.” She heard some grumbles but grinned at Tanner. “You see? They’re gonna let you play you just have to wait your turn okay?”
Tanner reached for one more piece of carrot before running off toward the back room and out of sight.
Lydia picked up the potatoes before going back to slicing carrots. The news had paused for a commercial break so she decided to call her husband Sean and see how things were on his side of town. The call went straight to voicemail. She left a short message and hung up. She listened to woman on the television who’d begun giving more updates on the evacuations. It seemed her part of town was still safe as far as not needing to evacuate. But things could change quickly the anchor woman warned that residents in her area might consider having a few crucial things packed in case they were suddenly forced to leave.
Lydia wondered if she should order a pizza and spend her time getting some things together instead of cooking. The rain didn’t seem to be letting up at all. Already the small stream that ran just behind her community was looking more like a roaring river.
A few years back it got bad enough to start streaming through one of the neighbors yard up the street. Of course their property was much closer to the stream than hers but still it made her nervous.
She picked up the phone again this time to call for pizza then decided no business in their right mind would still be open with this weather, let alone be sending out employees to deliver anything. The moment she set the phone down it rang and Lydia jumped. One glance at the caller ID and she smiled.
“Hi mom.” She walked over to one of the chairs and sat down. Why was it that just hearing her mom’s voice soothed her nerves? To no surprise her mother was worried about the flooding in Lydia’s neighborhood and Lydia spent a while reassuring her everything would be fine.
She hadn’t even realized she’d been on the phone for that long until Wesley her oldest wandered in the kitchen and started looking through the cupboards and refrigerator.
She nearly jumped out of her chair. “Listen mom, I gotta go now. The kids are getting hungry I need to fix them something.”
She hung up just in time to grab the pudding out of Wesley’s hand. “Oh no you don’t, Mister.”
Wesley groaned. “Can I just have one?”
“No, sir. Not until after you eat. I’ll make you a sandwich” Lydia placed the pudding in the fridge and pulled out the cold cuts and cheese.
“A sandwich?” Wesley eyed the carrots on the counter. “I thought you were making something else.”
Lydia winced. “That’s for later, when dad gets home. Go wash your hands and tell your brothers to do the same.”
Wesley took a carrot and walked out of the room. A few minutes later he was back by himself.
Lydia was almost done preparing two and a half sandwiches when she looked up. “Wheres Bruce and Tanner?”
Wesley motioned toward the back room.
“Well didn’t you tell them to come eat?”
“Yeah, I did.” He grabbed another carrot stick and yelled, “Bruce! Tanner come eat!”
Lydia frowned. She could’ve done that. She finished up the sandwiches and pulled three cups out of the cupboard. Bruce strolled in around the corner “Pour yourselves some juice and help Tanner with his. Where is he by the way?”
Bruce shrugged. Lydia made a face. He’d probably finally gotten his chance to play video games and wasn’t willing to just walk away from it now. Her poor little guy. She decided she’d take him his half sandwich and juice so he could play a little longer while he ate.
First thing she noticed when she walked in the room is the boys had left the game on the TV paused and there was no Tanner. Lydia looked around the empty room. “Tanner, your lunch is ready.”
No response. She walked back toward the kitchen to find only Wesley and Bruce sitting at the table eating.
“Was Tanner in there with you guys?”
Wesley spoke with his mouth full “He was earlier.”
“Well where’d he go?” She put the food down on the counter and walked toward the boy’s bedroom. Maybe he’d fallen asleep.
“Tanner?” She almost whispered. Just in case he had fallen asleep but the bedroom was empty.
Lydia hurried her step a bit more as she walked through her own bedroom then into her restroom. She called his name several times more each time she got a little louder. She looked out the back window the backyard was empty except for Duke their five-year old Golden Retriever who lay in his dog house looking pretty miserable. She went back to the kitchen where the boys had already finished their lunch and left their mess on the table. She rushed to the back room. Bruce and Wesley were once again engrossed in the video game.
“Are you guys sure he’s not in here?” She looked in the closet and behind the sofa. “Come on guys help me find your brother.”
Neither of them seemed to have even notice her until she turned off the T.V.
“Mom! I was winning!” Bruce whined.
“I can’t find Tanner. I think he’s hiding. Help me find him. Wesley, check the garage. Bruce, go look in your room I didn’t check under the beds.”
The boys took off each yelling Tanners name. Lydia checked the front room behind the furniture. “Tanner this isn’t funny. You come out right now!”
She hurried to the front of the house to check the front closet when she noticed the front door slightly open. Immediate relief came over her. He might be on the front porch. They had a swinging bench out there. But he was still going to be in trouble. He knew better than to go out in this weather.
“Tanner she called as she opened the door and peeked out.”
Nothing, the porch was empty. “Bruce? Wesley? Did either of you open the front door?”
She heard them both yell “no” and her stomach sank. Tanner had been known in the past to wander off but that was usually when his brothers were outside also and never in the rain. Two of those times he’d ended up at the Manning’s home just up the street. Their boys were much older than hers but they had a six-year old daughter Kelly, who liked mothering Tanner and he enjoyed the treats she often gave him like cookies and bubble gum.
Lydia pulled her coat out of the front closet and put it on. “Boy’s I need you to put your jackets and go look for Tanner at the neighbors houses. Just knock and ask if they’ve seen him.”
“Yes!” She heard Wesley say. Not often were they allowed to go out in this weather but if it were up to them they’d be out there soaking it up all day.
Lydia didn’t bother with an umbrella just rushed out the door pulling the hood of her coat over her head. Panic was beginning to creep in. The last time Tanner had wandered off it’d been almost an hour before they found him and she’d been that close to calling the police but it wasn’t raining then.
The water roared down the street. Would Tanner even be able to get across it? The Manning’s lived on the other side of the street. She made her way through the rushing water soaking her pants almost to her knees and rushed up the Manning’s walkway. She saw someone peek through one of the side windows. She rang the bell and waited. No one answered the door. Someone had obviously seen her. Maybe the doorbell wasn’t working. She knocked three times loudly. Finally someone turned the locks on the door. Rebecca Manning cracked the door open but just enough for her face to show. “Yes?”
The Manning’s had never been the friendliest people in the neighborhood and the two older teens were known to be bullies. So she’d specifically told Wesley and Bruce to stay away from them.
“Hi, I was just wondering if Tanner was here. We can’t seem to find him and I know he’s wandered over here to play with Kelly before.”
“No,” Rebecca replied. “No, we haven’t seen him.”
Lydia stood there for a moment, not knowing what else to say. She’d been so sure she’d find him there. And Rebecca hadn’t bothered asking anyone else in the house. “Really so you haven’t seen him at all today?”
“Is that Tanner’s mom?” She heard Kelly ask from behind the door.
Rebecca closed the door a little more as if to keep Kelly from looking out. Lydia and Rebecca’s eyes locked for a moment then Lydia answered. “Yes, honey it’s me you haven’t seen him?”
“No she hasn’t.” Rebecca answered closing the door down to a few inches. “I’m trying to keep the cold out. Kelly’s been a bit sick these last couple of days.”
Lydia nodded. “Okay well I’ll let you go then. Please let me know if you do see him.”
She was officially panicked now. She rushed up the street. The boys were at the house next door and David her neighbor was talking to them. Lydia hurried to them.
“Lydia,” David said as she reached them. “I haven’t seen him but if you’d like I can help you look for him. How long has he been missing?”
Missing, Dear God. “ I’m not even sure. But I’m really getting worried.” She thought about it for a moment. “About forty minutes maybe?” It seemed like an eternity already.
“Well just relax he’s probably around here somewhere.” He smiled but it did nothing to calm Lydia’s nerves. “We’ll find him. Just let me grab my jacket”
“Thank you so much, David. I’m gonna go home and call Sean.” She started to walk away then turned. “You boys keep knocking on doors. Hurry!”
Lydia gulped hard as she walked in her home. She called out for Tanner a few more times and when he didn’t answer reality sunk in. He was really missing, and in this horrible weather. She picked up the phone and when the call to Sean’s direct line went to voicemail she hung up and picked it up it up immediately. She tried his secretary’s line. Annie, his secretary’s cheery voice greeted her.
“Is Sean there I need to talk to him it’s an emergency.”
“Yes of course let me put you through.”
Sean answered on the first ring. The moment she heard his voice she broke down.
“Sean, Tanner’s missing!” She sobbed.
“What? What do you mean missing? Since when?”
Lydia struggled to speak clearly. “About forty minutes but he’s no where. We’ve looked all over the house the neighbors, the boys are out there looking now so is David from next door, and it’s pouring out there. I don’t know what to do!”
“Did you check Kelly’s house?”
“Yes, he’s not there. They haven’t seen him. What do I do Sean?”
“Wait.. It’s only been forty minutes. I’m leaving now if you haven’t found him by the time I get there we’ll call the police. Are you sure he’s didn’t fall asleep somewhere like in a closet or something?”
“I’ll check again.”
As soon as she hung up she ran to the bedrooms. “Tanner baby, mommy’s really scared now. If you’re hiding please, please come out!”
She checked all the closets and under all the beds she ran through the back yard checking the shed and even in the dog house. Standing on her tip toes she looked over the back fence and her heart nearly gave out the stream was almost to her fence. What if – she stopped her thoughts she wouldn’t even consider the possibilities.
The sliding door to the patio opened. Lydia spun around it was Wesley. “Did you find him?”
He shook his head. “No. Where do you think he’s at, mom?”
“I don’t know! But we have to keep looking.” She walked toward him
“Are you crying?”
“Are you crying?”
Lydia wiped her face. “No it’s the rain. Did you knock on everyone’s door?”
“Well not everyone’s but all the one’s he’d go to.”
“And no one’s seen him?” Lydia ran her hands through her soaking hair.
“Nope.” Wesley bit his lip. “Mom, the other day…he was asking me about the river.”
Lydia stared at him, terror raced through her veins. “What about it?”
“He wanted to know if I’d ever gone swimming in it. I said no, it was too dirty. But he said he wanted to.”
“Oh no!” Lydia rushed in the house. Sean said they should wait but she couldn’t anymore. She struggled to breathe steady as she dialed.
“Nine one one what’s your emergency?”
“Yes I need to report a missing child!”