pulling her quickly against her body. Tracey flinched, fought the urge to back away. She hated to be touched by Mummy. Unsure and scared, she clenched her eyes closed.
“Tracey, isn’t this wonderful?” Mummy whispered. “We are finally outside! Look how beautiful of a day it is!” she let go of Tracey and spun in a circle with her arms stretched out to her sides, her hair lifting off her shoulders.
Tracey wondered if she should run and scream, like Mrs. Tate had told them to do if they were ever in danger, but what if she didn’t get away and Mummy took her back to that dark chamber? What if her captor hurt her because she was such a bad girl? Tracey formulated a plan in her young mind. Her mother had always taught her to find an adult when she was in danger. How she wished she had never followed Mummy into the woods in the first place, but she couldn’t change what she had done. She couldn’t have known that the woman who had played and laughed with her at the park would ever steal her. She remained still, concentrating on her plan. When Mummy took her out of the bramble—when they saw people—then Tracey would run straight to another adult and ask for help. She’d holler and insist they help her. No matter how much Mummy pretended to be her mother, she was not. She was NOT!
Mummy had stopped spinning and smiled at Tracey.
“Where are we?” Tracey asked quietly. She was afraid to ask loudly, afraid that Mummy might turn mean again, and they’d retreat back underground.
Mummy rolled her eyes, a look that Tracey had seen her mother do hundreds of times when Tracey asked a question that had an obvious answer, “We are outside, of course,” she said.
Tracey swallowed the “duh” that rang in her seven-year-old mind.
“This is where I come to exercise sometimes or just to read. Once, I even saw a family of deer playing right over there,” she pointed to a distant thicket.
Tracey searched for something familiar—a parking lot, the park, people. Her hopes were quickly dashed. She looked up, searching the sky through breaks in the branches. Standing directly under a circle of sunlight, she saw a bunch of birds flying overhead in a circular motion. They weren’t flying together or in a pattern—they flew in random circles nearly running into each other. She blinked a few times and realized that the birds were actually little airplanes—the smallest airplanes she had ever seen. A smile stretched across her face as her mind settled on an odd noise, a noise that had been there all along, but that she had been too upset to hear: A hum. Tracey concentrated on the humming noise and separated the hum into two distinct sounds—an mmm and an rrrrr. The sounds varied in pitch, drifting from very high to something softer, more distant.
Tracey began to point to the sky, then quickly brought her hand back to her side. Airplanes meant people, and somehow Tracey knew that if Mummy had known there were people nearby, she would take Tracey back to that awful place. She walked around the small clearing, watching Mummy out of the corner of her eye. It was no bigger than the cave where Tracey and Mummy slept. Tracey remembered her father telling her that she was as tall as her arms were long. Mummy was sitting on the ground, fiddling with sticks and looking the other way. Tracey stretched her arms out as wide as she was able, but was not big enough to reach both sides. I bet me and Emma and Mommy all hooked together, holding hands, could reach both sides. Tracey decided to see how many of her it would take to reach each side. She spread her arms, then moved to where she thought her fingertips had been. She was sure she was mistaken in where she stood and went back to the side of the bramble and started over—stretching her fingers, then hurrying to where her extended fingers had been. She was startled when Mummy laughed. In spite of her initial habitual flinch, Tracey laughed, too. It was fun being outside. Mummy got