by Anna Llewellyn

There ain't no worse sight than a sympathetic policeman. I swear, when an affectionate looking policeman shows up your door your heart just about falls all the way down to your toes and stays there for a while. I'm always looking out for that policeman when I'm out with Little Robbie now. I know he's supposed to be the good guy, and that he never did nothing wrong, but something about his face will always remind me of what happened to my Samuel. I never did see that policeman again. They said the man who pulled the cord to make the train jerk about and throw Samuel off was a dentist or a doctor or something like that. I never trusted doctors, ever since I was a little girl. Those doctors tried to get me to eat pills that would make me forget Samuel after he died, but I didn't want to forget him, not my sweet boy. I would pull out my hair, I would scream and moan until my throat was raw, but I would not eat those pills. I was terrified that one day I would forget that voice that could melt a mother's heart, and the way he looked at me with those wide eyes when he needed me. He never really needed me. He was a strong boy. It was me who had always needed him. I never realized how much I depended on that boy until he was gone. For a while there was nothing holding me to this earth except my own heartbeat, which I couldn't help much. I was trapped in my own mind, lost the whole time until Little Robbie was born. I know it's wrong, and I will be guilty about it for the rest of my life, but while I was pregnant sometimes I just couldn't help but hope that the baby would be like Samuel, my Samuel, exactly the same. That's probably why I was scared half to death when I looked down into those baby's eyes and saw Samuel's eyes staring right back at me. Exactly the same.

Robbie is seven now. He could have been Samuel's twin they look so alike. They're very different children though. Samuel was always sweet and curious. He was always jabbering away about some new discovery he had made. He would prefer to read or just talk than go and play with the other boys. He could talk to me for hours and hours and would never get tired. Now Robbie, he's completely different. Ever he was born we couldn't get him to sit still. He's always running about and knocking things down, always asking me to let him go out and play for a while. He fidgets more than he talks, and when he does decide to speak it's at a mile a minute. One smoky autumn afternoon we were having one of these rapid conversations.

"Say it one more time Robbie, but this time slower."

He slapped his arms down on his sides, sighing in frustration. "I said that I wanted to go outside and play. Can I?"

I looked out of the grease streaked window of the apartment. Fog was hovering over the grimy street. "It don't look very nice for playing today, Robbie," I had said, "Maybe you should just stay inside."

He blinked slowly at me, his eyelashes grazing the tops of his cheeks. His lips pushed out into that heartbreaking plea. That boy was only seven and he already knew how to take advantage of me.

"Alright then, go! Hurry on back before dinner though." He darted out of the door and thundered down the stairs before I could even tell him to tie his shoes. That boy, I thought, honestly.

It took him a while to make it all the way downstairs, and through the window I watched him step outside. I cringed as he bounded across the street without looking for cars, even though our street is never really that busy anyway. He joined his friends on the other side of the street, and they got into that formation that all little boys do, all huddled together with their heads tilted to one another, with a look of adult –like seriousness on their faces.

I turned away from the window as Jack was shutting the door behind himself. He had come back from working with Mr. Dunnigan downstairs all day. After he had shrugged off his jacket he came and kissed the top of my head, and then rested his chin there as well.

"Sitting by the window again are we?" He asked, speaking down into my hair. My head whipped around the look out the window, silently cursing myself for being distracted by my husband. But it was too late. They were gone, all gone; nothing was on the streets except trash. I stood so suddenly that my chair toppled over, I had to find him, now. Jack was grabbing my wrists, his concerned voice muffled and inaudible underneath the panic bellowing in my head to get out, now. He stepped back, confused as I hit his shoulders, flying out of the room as soon as he let go. It's funny when a mother needs to protect her child. Well, not funny at all really. But a Mother's son is always her top priority. She would beat her own husband if it meant protecting him.  Life moves in flashes, not ticks, and one minute you're in your apartment with your husband the next you're standing alone, all alone on the road full of doubts.

You could swallow the fog it was so thick, thick enough to swallow a little boy whole. All I could see of the street was completely empty, not a soul in sight, not a sound except the ragged breaths rattling through my throat. My heart wasn't even in my toes this time. I had left it on the floor upstairs, still beating and all. I couldn't ask for help because I didn't trust anyone. Not the police, not the neighbors, not even my own husband could care for my boy like I could. Missing a child is not like losing a part of yourself. It's like losing the whole thing. You are gone, your past is gone, and your future too. The only thing making your body parts work and move is your need to find your love, to hold them tight, to protect them from anything and everything. If he was gone, I was gone.

I could hear them coming before I could see them. I heard their childish laughter, their voices rising and falling over one another's.  I could hear Robbie, I could smell him, I could almost touch him, and my eyes strained to see him. I ran blindly, letting their voices pull me in closer until I could see all of them, moving in one squirming dark mass. I sprinted closer, I could see him, and he could see me. He stopped and stared at me, expressionless. His friends fell silent as well, but I didn't care one bit. I reached him, touched him, embraced him finally. Relief surged up my spine and burst out of my mouth in gasps and splutters, rocking me back on forth on my heels as I held him closer.

I didn't notice it then, but Robbie's arms were pressed tight to his sides, and he was tense in my arms. I leant back and took his face in my hands. "Don't…don't you ever disappear like that again. You hear?" I could barely talk; the shock of losing him and finding him was starting to catch up to me. I was starting to feel all giddy from the hyperventilating, and from the joy.

"Ava." My head snapped up, amazed at how strange my name sounded coming from his mouth. His voice chilled me to the bone, that hostile, raw that didn't belong to a child. Not my child. He started struggling, trying to get away from me, pummeling my arms to break free. He pushed, not very hard, but it was a push all the same. The sidewalk scraped away the flesh of my palms as I fell back, throbbing along with the anger that was gradually building up inside of me. Robbie loomed over me now, his dead eyes transformed into wild flames, boring down into my eyes with fierce passion and brutal hatred. Those weren't Samuel's eyes. I knew it then. He would never be my boy. Not my sweet boy.

BIO: Anna Llewellyn is currently a senior at Scarsdale High School in New York. She has been studying and writing short stories in and out of school for many years. "Robbie" is her first published piece of writing, and she looks forward to using this landmark event as a great basis for continuing her passion for creative writing into university.