Chapter 1: Beautiful, Isn't she?
October 2, 1975
The young girl stood on the sidewalk, her copper eyes looking up at the outfit standing in the tall window. The colors were bland, gray and navy blue. She didn’t mean to stare so long but when her mother had pointed out how lovely she would look in it when she was older, the young girl couldn’t help but frown. The outfit wasn’t ugly or anything, it was just too... icky.
She couldn’t see herself ever liking the outfit. She could maybe see her mommy in it. But that’s because she was a mom and everybody knew that moms had to be boring sometimes. It was the law.
Those thoughts were about twenty minutes ago and now she realized she should have been paying better attention. The world around her grew crowded with legs and the six-year-old had easily lost sight of her mother. At first, she thought she’d gone into the store, but the door had a red light, lit dimmed in the fading sunlight. Maggie knew that meant it was closed. So where did her mom go? She pushed past the legs of adults to a bench near the street, she climbed onto it with hopes she’d be tall enough to see over the crowd just a little bit. All she managed was seeing up to their backs.
Maggie was panicking now, her eyes becoming blurry with worried tears. What if her mom didn’t find her? What if she went all the way home without knowing Maggie wasn’t behind her? What if she found another little girl that looked like Maggie and kept her instead? She knew she couldn’t make it on the street, at least not without a dog, but Maggie didn’t have a dog so she knew for a fact she wouldn’t make it on the street alone.
She wiped at the tears going down her face, her cheeks becoming cold as the moon slowly replaced the sun and the brightest lights were the flashing neon signs of the buildings around her. Maggie wanted to leave, wanted to run and find her mom, but her mother had always told her if she was ever lost to not move from the spot she lost her parents at. They would always find her.
As Maggie tried to calm herself down, she felt a large hand weigh on her shoulder. The sweat from the palm seeped through her shirt and made her shiver. She turned to see who the hand belonged to and flinched back instantly. The man’s face was one she didn’t want to look at for long, and his breath made her gag. “Where’s ya parents, sweetheart?” She scrunched her nose as he spoke. She leaned away and looked around, deciding to point in another direction, hoping her finger landed on a couple when she said “Over there.” He looked past Maggie and an eerie smile revealed yellowed teeth. “Alright. Let’s go then.” He lifted her up off the bench with ease and tightly gripped her small hand, she frowned as he began to walk away from where she had pointed. “Hey… wait! You’re going the wrong way.” She tried to jerk her hand out of his, hoping his clamminess would provide a slick escape, but she was wrong.
“Now no need to yell, girl.” He wasn’t being subtle at all, “I’m gonna have to have a talk with you when we get home.” She was confused, why was he talking to her like that? She didn’t know this man? Why weren’t the people around trying to help? Couldn’t they see she didn’t want to go with him? “Let me go!” She yelled, remembering that yelling and kicking around would help, that’s what her dad would say. “Stop it!” She tried using her other hand to fight his grip, scratching at it and finally bit it. He yelled out and let her go, she stumbled back into someone and he began to lunge. A pair of hands held her still and securely, but these hands weren’t big or sweaty, they were dainty and soft.
“Excuse me, sir.” Maggie looked up at the woman who had spoken and was stunned for a moment. Her hair was spun from gold that she wore sitting in artificial curls around her shoulders, her dress clung to her body in ways dad would never allow mom to do, and her face... Well, Maggie felt like it would look perfect in the mural windows of her church.
“May I ask what you are doing, sir?” She sounded polite, but Maggie could hear her anger. Someone stepped out from behind the young girl’s savior, a man, about the same age as the woman. His hair was much darker than the blonde’s, but just as long. Though his clothes were dark and tattered, Maggie couldn’t find herself to be afraid of him. Maggie couldn’t imagine how these two knew each other.
“Mind your own business, woman. My daughter and I were just heading home.” The woman looked unimpressed by his answer, a delicate pale eyebrow arching . Maggie quickly shook her head, “He’s lying! I don’t know him!” She took the woman’s hand in case the man tried to grab her again. The woman turned her attention to the little girl she was holding onto. Maggie didn’t understand why but she trusted this woman with everything her young heart held dear.
“It’s quite unbecoming of a man your age telling such lies, sir.” Her blue eyes looked up at the man. One of her hands left Maggie’s and found its way to the beat up leather of her partner’s shoulder. As she did so the sweaty fellow followed it, seeming to just realize the other man. His eyebrows furrowed slightly as he gazed at the other man’s face. It was hard to tell what emotion flashed before fear, the look was paired with a tight jaw and furrowed brows. What could have made him look like that? The two never moved but the man began to step back as if he were being charged by an army. He bumped into a bystander and rushed down the pavement until he was out of sight.
Maggie watched confused but didn’t fight the weight off her heart, they had believed her and saved her. “What’s gonna happen?” The woman knelt down and turned Maggie in her direction. She could smell the perfume the woman wore, though it didn’t make her nose scrunch up like most did.
“You don’t need to worry about him, my piękny. My boys will take care of him.” She reached up and smoothed out the springy mess that Maggie called hair. Maggie nodded, unable to doubt the woman’s words. Whoever they were, they would take care of it just as the woman said. “Now, where are your real parents?” She asked, her voice soothing. Maggie blinked and looked around, suddenly remembering why this had started and her eyes began to tear up again.
“I don’t know, I lost my mom at this store a long time ago.” Her face began to feel wet again and fear was seeping back it. The woman wiped her tears away, a fond smile forming on her lovely face. She looked up at the man next to her.
“This is my son, Jonathan. And my name is Katherine.” She stood up, never letting go of Maggie’s hand. “What’s your name?”
Maggie looked at the hand holding hers, it was almost like she was holding her own mother’s, though it wasn’t as warm.
“Magenta Pallrun.” Should she have held back her last name from these strangers? “But my mom and dad call me Maggie.” The fond smile turned into a delighted one. Katherine’s blue eyes sparkled.
“What a beautiful name! Would it be alright if...” Her son knelt down and lowered his head, Maggie looked on a little weary. “You could see your mother over the heads of the crowd and we don’t want you getting lost again.” Oh, so a piggy back ride! Maggie didn’t waste a whole lot of time climbing on Jonathan’s back. He was extremely warm, and Maggie instantly wanted to fall asleep when she touched him. He lifted her up slightly to his shoulders then stood. She was so much taller now, she could see the world! When they began to walk she giggled, bobbing up and down like fish bait on a rod. She felt Jonathan chuckle and her little heart squeezed.
“How old are you, Maggie?” He asked, his voice was deep and warm, reminding her of her favorite blanket. She set her hands on top of his head. This was the first time he had spoken and his voice sounded real nice, how could that sweaty man ever be afraid of Johnathan? “Six!” She proclaimed proudly. Kathrine laughed lightly, “You handled yourself well, Maggie, with that man.” Jonathan nodded in agreement.
“You were very brave.” He added on. Maggie felt her chest puffing out with pride. She did handle herself well didn’t she?
She kept a sharp look out for her mother, thinking back on the orange dress her mother had been wearing. Maggie looked at each face and hairstyle until she found the most familiar. Her mother was close to the road speaking to a police officer. Her face worried and angry as she pleaded to the disinterested man in blue. Maggie shot a finger at her excitedly. “There she is! With that policeman!” She shouted, Kathrine followed her pointed finger and sped up her steps, along with Jonathan. It didn’t take them long to reach the distraught woman. When they did, her eyes grew wide with relief. “Maggie!” She called, leaving the officer. Jonathan knelt down and Katherine lifted Maggie up, surprisingly with little effort, and set her gently to the pavement. Her mother went to her knees and embraced her, placing several kisses on Maggie’s head.
“Where were you?” She asked, expecting nothing less than a ramble from her six year old. She looked up at the pair that had brought her daughter safely back to her.
“How could I ever repay...”
Maggie watched as her mother quickly took in the beauty of Kathrine just as she had. Her round eyes big for a moment then the same look that the sweaty man had, came to her mother, though she didn’t run away in fear. She stood and took the woman’s hand. Her mother began to apologize to Katherine, her hand shaking slowly. Jonathan knelt down to Maggie, his hazel eyes casting almost an orange light.
“You did really good tonight, doll.” He reached up and pinched her jaw playfully, his smile small. It wasn’t a grin, but it was as dazzling as his mother’s. He pulled something discreetly out of his pocket and put it into Maggie’s hand. It was cold and a bit weighted. “But we aren’t gonna be there all the time, so take care of yourself. Alright?”
Maggie’s eyes widened, he was offering her a pocket knife. Not even her own dad had one of these! She looked up at her distracted mother and quickly stuffed it into her overall pocket. She knew she wasn’t supposed to have it, but she didn’t want mom to get mad at him. She gave the young man a nod and his lips twitched up further.
Her mother offered dinner to the pair, but they respectfully declined. Good-byes were said and the two walked off, vanishing into the crowd. Maggie didn’t know why but she felt her heart crack as soon as they were out of sight, as if she was saying good-bye to close family. She looked up at her mother who was already dragging her away. For a second Maggie wished it was Katherine holding her hand again.