Wanderer

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Willa is gone. Her side of the bed is chilly this morning when I roll away from the sound of the alarm. I expected her to tiptoe in sometime late in the night, returning to me as she does after all of her wanderings. She’s always back before morning. Something is wrong.

Outside, our street is quiet and empty. Her car is gone. I speed toward the center of town, searching the sidewalks for a glimpse of her. I see a woman, her hair pulled to the crown of her head in a tall, curly bun, as Willa’s worn hers nearly everyday for the past year. She has on one of those wispy, ankle-length dresses that fill Willa’s closet. I stop in the middle of the road and the car behind me barrels into my bumper. I leap from the car, ignoring the other driver’s profanity-laced protests.

I look into every storefront, down every alley, inside every passing car, but she is gone. I see a police officer on patrol, and I practically accost him, telling him all about Willa, that she’s missing, that I think I just saw her but lost her again. He listens, but in an impatient, condescending way, and tells me that I can go to the station to make a report, but it sounds like Willa left of her own accord and will come back when she’s ready. I wander through downtown for hours, hoping to see her again, but she’s vanished.

When it’s dark, I walk home, knowing that my car is probably impounded. Willa has never had many friends, but I will call everyone, anyone with whom she’s ever conversed, if needed, until I find her.

Her car is in the driveway, parked at a strange angle. I rush inside to see her sitting on the floor in our hallway, a baby with my eyes and her dark, curly hair on her lap. She is cooing at the child, a detached smile on her face.

She looks up at me as though nothing unusual has transpired. “I’ve found her,” she says to me in an elated whisper. “I found our baby.”

“Willa,” I say, taking a tentative step closer, putting my hand on her shoulder. “We lost the baby.  Remember?”

For the Story a Day prompt – tell a story using the Hansel & Gretel story structure.

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