Barbara thought it over as she ate her eggs. But no matter how much she thought about it, the matter boiled down to one simple truth.
I have to do this. No matter what my feelings for her may be or what her feelings for Ambrose may be, this has to be done. I have a moral obligation to do this right.
The small girl looked up at her.
“Do you remember your parents at all?”
Barbara held up her hands in defense. “I know they took your memories away, but is there anything…any vague—”
Sarah shook her head.
“What do you remember?”
Sarah closed her book and shoved her half-finished bowl of cereal away.
“Let me rephrase the question. Um. Do you ever dream about people who seem familiar to you, but you don’t know who they are?” Barbara frowned slightly. “Does that make sense?”
Sarah waved her hand in a so-so gesture.
“Do you have those kind of dreams?”
She looked down at the book and ran her index finger along the cover’s edges.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Her finger went still.
“Okay. Obviously, it’s hard for you to talk about it. Sarah. I’m going to call the police.”
She raised her head in a sharp panic and burst into flames.
Barbara hurried over to her. “No no no no! It’s okay.”
Sarah leaped out of her chair and rushed at the door.
“Sarah! Wait! It’s not like that!” She ran after her and, without thinking, tried to grab her.
One of Sarah’s fire tentacles sprouted out of her back and lashed around Barbara’s wrist.
Barbara cried out in pain.
The tentacle disappeared. Sarah’s large, wolf-like ears flattened against her head. She slung her body low to the ground as if she were a kicked dog.
Barbara checked her wrist and ran over to the counter near the sink.
Sarah quickly transformed into her human self, opened the door, and escaped into the hall. She stood outside the door, frantically glancing around, searching for a safe, tight corner to hide in. But every corner was wide open.
There was nowhere to hide.
Nowhere to go.
She ran into the living room. The only safe place was behind the couch, but that could easily become a trap.
She turned and ran back into the hall.
To the front door.
Out the front door.
Barbara applied another layer of aloe vera gel to her reddened wrist. The tingling calmed down. She washed her hands and used the back of her good wrist to rub away her tears.
She took a deep breath and slowly exhaled.
I guess I should have expected her to react violently.
Barbara examined her wrist. “Ambrose is going to freak out when he finds out.” She sighed. “That’s going to be an interesting conversation, to say the least.”
She left the kitchen. “Sarah?”
The small girl was nowhere in sight.
Where would she go? Upstairs?
She walked to the staircase and thought about it.
Would she really run up there? Maybe.
But she wanted to get away from me.
Barbara turned away from the stairs and headed into the living room. She searched all of the possible hiding places, including behind the couch.
And that’s when panic set in.
What if she ran away? Where would she go?
She ran out the front door. “Sarah!” Her heart pounded as she scanned the front yard and driveway. “SARAH!”
Maybe she’s hiding in the car.
Her legs trembled as she headed for the porch steps.
The sound of faint sniffling behind her stopped Barbara in her tracks. She turned around.
And she saw her huddled in the corner on the opposite side of the porch swing.
Barbara ran to her.
Sarah stood and grabbed the porch rail as if she were about to jump over it.
Barbara hugged her.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry if I scared you. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that. I’m not going to have the police take you away. You can trust me, Sarah. I am safe. I am not going to hurt you. I will not let anyone hurt you. You’re safe. You’re safe.”
Sarah’s stiffness melted. She hugged Barbara and silently cried.