up and stood next to Tracey.
“Reach, Tracey,” she said, kindly.
Tracey smiled and reached her arms out, the sound of the airplanes faded away in the distance, but Tracey was concentrating so hard on figuring out how many Traceys it would take to cross the bramble that she had forgotten all about the airplanes. Her fingertips neared Mummy’s.
“Put your fingertips on mine, Tracey,” she said. “We’ll see if we are long enough to reach the sides.”
Tracey stretched her fingers further, until they were touching Mummy’s. Mummy smiled, and Tracey did, too.
“Nope, not quite!” Mummy said. “This is like a mansion for us, huh? Our place isn’t this big, is it?”
As Mummy spoke, Tracey’s heart sank. The reality of her situation came tumbling back. Her mind ran through the images of the rank mattress where she had slept for the last few nights, the horrid odor of the bad spot, and the worst realization of all—that she wasn’t going home. She’s talking about our place, Tracey thought. Her limbs began to tremble, her lower lip quivered, and she frantically scanned the enclosed area. I don’t want her place to be my place . I want to go home! Tracey dropped her arms and looked up, searching the empty sky for the planes. She listened, silently pleading that she would hear them—find some connection to the outside world. Gentle scamperings across the forest floor and her captor’s breathing were the only sounds she heard. Her shoulders slumped and her head dropped heavily forward. She stared at her sneakers which used to be white but were now soiled with mud, and grime, and red dirt, upon which she now stood. She stared at the ground as a glimmer of hope crawled through her body. Red dirt! The ground looked like the dirt that was in the backyard of her friend Cindy’s house. Cindy lived by the church in Boyds, and her mother always got mad when she and Cindy dragged that ugly red dirt into the house on their bare feet. Tracey spun around and again searched beyond the trees. Cindy’s house was nowhere to be seen. Tracey backed up until her back brushed against the prickly brambles. “Ouch,” slipped from her lips, and her captor turned to face her. Tracey closed her mouth tight and tried to keep from crying. She sank down, wrapped her arms around her knees and began to rock.
Mummy walked toward her, stopping just inches in front of Tracey’s feet. Tracey stopped rocking. She did not look up. She kept her eyes trained on the ground, feeling Mummy’s presence looming. Mummy sat down beside Tracey, and Tracey began to cry, fearfully.
“There’s no need to cry, Tracey,” Mummy said in an even, flat voice. “I have saved you.”
They sat in silence for what felt to Tracey like hours, until the sun dropped behind the middle of the trees—until her captor told her it was time to go home .
I can’t go back in that place, I just can’t! Tracey remained, huddled and silent, on the cold dirt.
“Tracey,” Mummy insisted, “we have to go. Now!”
Tracey remained still, paralyzed with fear. Her captor reached down and yanked her to her feet.
“Move it, Tracey,” she ordered. She pushed Tracey from behind toward the opening in the ground. Tracey leaned her body backward, pushing into the ground with her heels as hard as she could. She blindly grabbed behind her, taking purchase of her captor’s jeans.
“No!” Tracey shouted. “No! I can’t!” She kicked and scratched at her captor, hitting her with all of her might.
Her captor grabbed hold of Tracey’s shirt, catching it on a bramble, and tearing it apart as she dragged Tracey into the dark hole.
“Get off!” Tracey screamed. She swung at her, slamming her hand into her ribs. Her captor doubled over, keeping her tight grip on Tracey’s arm.
“You little brat!” she screamed at Tracey, her eyes as vicious as a cold-blooded animal’s.
Tracey’s fear turned to rage—the anger of being taken from her parents fueled her with renewed