I turned to look at a purse. It was olive green with two large compartments, a phone pocket, and an adjustable strap. It was in no way unique. I turned back to where little white mary janes had pressed their toes against the lip of the bottom shelf. I saw only wallets sitting in rows.
"Candace," I said, my eyes glancing left to right, up the aisle and down. "Where are you baby?" Merchandise seemed to float there, like in a dream when your surroundings shift and you wish you could see through the walls. Guilt burned my throat as I said her name. I didn't even need a purse. I had only looked away for a moment.
"Candace!" I yelled again, this time with feet in motion. Motion that squeaked against the white polished floor, motion that carried me past the DVDs, past the pharmacy, the bikes, the makeup, the candy. She'll be by the candy. But no pink jacket caught my eye. No light footsteps echoed in my ears. Messy blond hair, little dirty cheeks, and a juice stained upper lip: that was what I desperately searched for.
"Candace!" I screamed, eyes darting, frenetic. Pink jacket, white shoes, blond hair, Candace.
I heard and turned toward the sound, sprinting. A little boy sat on his knees in the toy aisle. "Ball," he said to me holding a red rubber ball above his head like the Stanley Cup. He waited for a response. I would have said, "Wow, look what you have! Is that red ball? That's a pretty great ball." Instead, prompted by the hot return of panic, I turned and ran.
I followed the main aisle, weaving around carelessly parked carts, toward the automatic doors. The fluorescent lights buzzed like jets in my ears.
"Candace!" I cried, tears bursting from my face. White shoes, pink jacket, blond hair, Candace.
She's there, standing in the middle of the parking lot, smiling, a truck driving toward her. Does its driver see my Candace? She's so beautiful, so radiant, how could they not see her?
"Mommy!" she squealed, throwing her open arms to the sky.
"I have been writing seriously for about a year and a half, and have been published in BUST magazine and The Alchemist Review. Much of my recent work is inspired by the paranoia associated with being a new parent. I am currently completing my undergraduate degree online, through the University of Illinois at Springfield." E-mail: mollieb[at]gmail.com.