Target Run

He can’t be more than three.  Tiny, a head full of dark curls, chocolate eyes that take up half his face.  I hear his mother calling for him.  I should tell her he’s here.  I will in a sec.  I will.  He smiles as he clasps a necklace of faux pearls in his hands, crashing them against each other, laughing at the terrific sound they make.  His mother calls again.  We smile at each other.  We have a secret.

His mother’s voice gets closer.  She’s one row over.  I pretend to be entranced by a gaudy, sparkly necklace I would never wear.  She passes me, barely giving me a glance.  He refuses to leave.  She scoops him up and he screams,  but only for a few seconds.  I’m forgotten.

The dull ache in my middle returns. How old would he be?   Was he a he?

I put the ugly necklace back, trying to remember my reason for coming here.  I throw items in my basket, checking things off my mental list like a drone.   Toothpaste.  Thermometer.  Tylenol.  Tampons.  I wait in line, watching mommies and daddies come and go.

Squaring my shoulders, I smile at the cashier.  This month will be the one.  I can feel it.

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