“Go ahead and walk normally. You can just walk like a normal person. At this point it’s like you are trying to slow us down on purpose.” Her pace remains consistent and slow.
“Look, it’s getting late and I’d prefer to not be around this area after dark. If you can’t pick up the pace, I might just have to carry you. I can’t leave you alone out here.” We walk in silence for a minute. Her feet drag against the smooth pavement with every step. I decide to walk a little faster to see if she might subconsciously mirror my speed. Does this kid even know English? The street lamps come on, officially signifying nightfall. She doesn’t speed up to walk with me and it’s not like I can just drag her against her will.
“Alright, it’s seriously unsafe out here, do you know where your parents are?” It can’t hurt to ask again. I still receive no response though.
“I’m going to call the police so they can help us find your mom.” As I pull my cell phone from my back pocket, she reverses direction and tries to run, twisting and thrashing her arm wildly in a desperate attempt to release her hand from mine. I quickly grab her opposite forearm to gain full control and my phone falls to the ground with a splash.
“Woah there, calm down. No cops, okay?” She looks at me in complete and utter terror, her arm still tense. My eyes are instantly drawn to various shades of green and blue contrasting against her pale skin and I let go. Still tightly holding one of her hands, I bend down to find my phone. An indistinct rectangular shape is barely visible beneath the brown murky water. Of all places, of course.
“So you do understand English. Okay, well that’s a start. Are you hungry?” She nods her head. I stand back up, phone in hand. It won’t turn on. A chill crawls down my spine.
“Okay, I’m going to take you home. Is that okay?” She nods her head once more and we start walking again. The air is wet and thick. Puddles glisten in the frost heaves from winter’s past. Having no phone leaves me with a newfound sense of vulnerability. One faint crunching sound echoes briefly through the alleyway and I freeze. It’s too quiet.