Just something short about sad baby detective just wanting to go to the carnival.
Another car zoomed past and Zoë’s shoulders drooped a little more. She glanced at the clock again sighed, breath fogging the glass. Rebecca was already an hour late.
“Zoë? I don’t think she’ll be home in time.” Alice took her by the shoulder and pulled her away gently. There was a lyrical cadence to her words. “Go wash up. I’ll let you pick two bedtime stories tonight.”
“Please, Miss Alice, just ten more minutes?” Zoë pleaded, not noticing the surprise that flashed across her nanny’s countenance.
Alice composed herself quickly. “Oh, alright, then. But if she’s not here, it’s bedtime.”
“She’ll be here.”
Except that ten minutes passed and she wasn’t. Another fifteen passed—because Alice loved her too much to deny her this—and Rebecca’s car still didn’t roll into the driveway. Alice eyed the sky. It was still a deep blue this late in the summer. “Zoë, get your shoes. I’ll take you.”
The girl bit her lip at the temptation. Carousels, funnel cakes and mountains of cotton candy waited. She was well aware that Alice would indulge her tonight, as she always did when Rebecca missed planned day trips and movie nights. However, the idea of going with Alice made something deep within her ache, and she pressed herself to the window and shook her head. “Mummy promised she’d take me.”
Alice couldn’t imagine what another hour would hurt. If Rebecca were home, she reasoned, the child would be bouncing between carnival stalls, high on sugar and laughter.
When that hour ended, teeth were brushed, hair combed and braided, and clothes changed. Every time Zoë heard the quiet whoosh of an approaching car, she dropped whatever she was doing and raced to the door. Her hopes were disappointed each time, but she persisted. Finally, it was time for bed.
Zoë’s eyes burned as she shuffled up the stairs. A confusing mix of frustration, disappointment and betrayal twisted her stomach into knots. She glanced back every couple of steps, just in case. All that was there was Alice smiling apologetically.
The crackling sound of wheels on gravel woke Zoë around ten. She flew down the stairs and barrelled into a harried Rebecca. “Mummy!”
“Zoë.” She hugged her back. “I’m sorry I’m late. Things got hectic.”
She deflated. Things always got hectic. Zoë didn’t know the dictionary definition of hectic, but it usually meant Rebecca wasn’t coming home on time. She frowned.
Alice, hoping to avert a nuclear meltdown, added, “Your mother’s work is important.”
More important than me. She didn’t voice it, but she thought it. Instead, she whispered, “You promised.”
Rebecca held her tighter. “I know. I’ll make it right.”
Zoë wasn’t holding her breath.