That afternoon Lois made peanut butter cookies.
The next morning she woke up and remembered about peanut allergies. “What luck!” Lois said to herself when she found some chocolate chips so she made some chocolate chip cookies too. She put the peanut butter cookies in the freezer. She imagined herself pulling them out for Johnny at a future date, after it was established that he had no peanut allergy. Lois smiled even while she tried to caution herself that it may not happen. She couldn’t help imagining what it would be like to really be a grandmother to him.
Lois sat at her perch by the front window and watched all the children come to the school. She started watching early and kept watching until ten minutes after the bell rang and didn’t see him. She was sure she hadn’t just missed him.
Maybe he was sick.
Feeling very disappointed and a little foolish to pin all her hopes on a little boy, Lois went about her morning.
Even though she didn’t think he’d be there, she carefully watched all the kindergarten children leave for the day. No Johnny.
Again she felt foolish for investing so much hope in a little boy that was really a stranger to her. Lois complete the rest of her little tasks she had for herself to create a routine. It was her day to dust and water her plants so she did both.
For the next two days she didn’t see Johnny either. She even went outside to her front yard so she would for sure not miss him. He didn’t come.
Lois was at loose ends. What had happened to Johnny? He had seemed perfectly healthy. Could he have become suddenly so ill that he had to miss several days of school? Had something happened to his mother? She alternated between telling herself that it was none of her business to letting her imagination run wild with possibilities.
She saw children leaving Friday afternoon and knew that the school would soon be empty. Friday afternoons were the quietest time at school. Everyone left as soon as they could and if any teachers were left behind to finish up their work, they weren’t in the mood to socialize. Lois decided to pay Patti a visit. Patti was the school secretary and a friend of hers. She’d been a secretary there the last ten years Lois worked there and she still stopped by sometimes after work to say hello.
Halfway across the street, Lois began to wonder if Patti would think she was a crazy old bat but it was too late, she had to know if Patti knew anything about Johnny.
“Lois!” Patti said when she saw the older woman walk down the hall, “What are you doing here? Looking for a job?”
Lois smiled sadly. It was nice to be back in the school. She missed it. When she got close to Patti’s desk, Lois asked her in a low voice, “Can I ask you a question?”
Patti looked a little alarmed, “What?” she asked in a dramatic whisper. Patti had always been a little excitable.
“It’s probably nothing,” Lois said, “And I don’t know if you can even give me this information, but I’ve met someone.”
“At your age?” Patti teased.
“Please,” Lois said, aggravated, “A little boy. On the first day of school I met a little boy Johnny and his mother. They were going to stop by the next day for cookies and I haven’t seen him since. I know I may be overreacting but I’m worried.”
“Well,” Patti looked over her shoulder, “I probably am not supposed to be discussing students with anyone but this seems harmless.”
She paused long enough that LoisI prompted her to continue, “Yes…”
“He withdrew from school. The second day of school his mother called. I remember because I thought it was so odd that someone would withdraw after the first day. Very unusual.”
“I wonder what happened?”
Patti shrugged, “Who knows. Maybe they moved? At least you know he’s not sick though. He’s just fine.”
Lois didn’t feel so sure. She thanked Patti anyway though. Lois walked back across the street to her house, unlocked her door and walked inside. The clock on the wall was ticking loudly and the house was depressingly quiet. It was more quiet than usual because now she didn’t even have the hope that she’d have a young visitor.
Benny had always teased Lois about getting too excited about things and she knew that she had gotten ahead of herself thinking that she’d suddenly have a relationship with this sweet little boy that reminded her of Henry. Realizing all of that didn’t make her feel any better though.
That night Lois was deeply asleep when she heard knocking, more like banging, on the back door. She sat up in bed, her heart racing. Who could it be? The clock on her nightstand read 12:32. Lois wondered if she should call the police and tell them she had an intruder. She didn’t have an intruder though, someone was just knocking. Lois slipped out of bed and grabbed her nearby robe and wrapped it around herself. She crept down the hall toward the kitchen and could see the silhouette of someone through the small window at the top of the door. It looked like a woman which made her feel a little less frightened. Lois walked up to the door and called through the door, “Who is it?” She tried to make her voice sound strong and not terrified but she didn’t think she’d succeeded.
“It’s Julie,” came the answer, “Julie and...Johnny. Please, can we come in?”
Her fingers fumbled as Lois unlocked the door and swung it open. Julie was standing there and Johnny was beside her. They both looked frightened. “Come in,” Lois said, “Come in.”
“I’m so sorry to bother you,” Julie stammered, “I’m really sorry. I didn’t know where to go. I just panicked. Johnny said we should go to the grandmother’s house and I remembered you. I’m so sorry, I just didn’t know what else to do. We’re in trouble.”