Diary of an American Girl

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"Will you forgive me"

The Third Street Park lay on a single city block, shrouded by the branches of gnarled oaks. In the center of the park was an old swing set, a jungle gym, and a sand lot. Scattered around the park were wooden picnic tables and rusty grills. The minivan was parked on the side of the road with Madison and her father sitting in the front. Madison faced her father. “Dad, I’m sorry,” she said.

“About what?” he asked, shrugging.

“Lots of things,” she said.

“I see,” he said.

“Will you forgive me?” she asked.

“I don’t know what to forgive you for,” he said.

“Please,” she said.

“Okay, Kitten,” he said, “you’re forgiven.” He kissed her forehead. She hugged him, and he wrapped his long arms around her and squeezed her tightly.

“I love you,” she said, and a tear dropped on her cheek.

“Okay,” he said, patting her back. “I love you too. Have fun with your friends.”

She climbed out of the minivan with her purse hooked over her shoulder. She looked at the sidewalk. It weaved around three picnic tables and stopped at the jungle gym. The minivan pulled away from the park. As it disappeared around a corner, she stepped onto the sidewalk.

At the jungle gym, Madison climbed up a rope ladder. Two girls, both a few years younger than her, scrambled onto the jungle gym with her. They wore colorful t-shirts and shorts, and one of them had a Barbie doll with her. She checked her cellphone. Brian had still not sent a message. She sent him a text message. “I’m here,” she said. “What are you wearing?”

As the young girls ran down to the swing set, Madison received a text message from Brian. “I’m wearing a red baseball hat and shorts,” he said. The breeze blew her bangs over her eyes. She moved her bangs away as she looked around. On the far side of the park, a man in a red baseball hat stepped off a bicycle. He stood there, looking around. He was short, but he had broad shoulders. She watched him as he walked the bicycle to the picnic table that was nearest the jungle gym. Before taking a seat at the picnic table he took a cellphone out of his pocket and typed a message on it. A few seconds later, Madison’s cellphone vibrated in her hand. The man at the picnic table glanced at the jungle gym, and her face became pale. As he stood up from the picnic table, Madison crouched behind the plastic slide.

The man’s shoes crunched on the sand beneath the jungle gym as Madison stared down at him through the tower grating. He halted beneath the tower and removed his red baseball hat. Madison’s blue eyes narrowed on him. The top of his head was bald, and he had a sinister dark face. Madison held her breath. He put on his hat and stepped away.

The man returned to his seat at the picnic table. He took a pen and paper out of a satchel, and wrote a letter on the table. When he finished writing, he got to his feet and placed a small rock on the paper. He glanced once more at the jungle gym, and then he walked from the picnic table to his bicycle.

The man had long departed when Madison stepped down from the jungle gym. She walked over to the picnic table where he had left the letter. She tucked the letter into her purse, and then she called her father.

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