It was around seven in the morning, and i was driving up to my holiday house. I had time to spare and was in no rush, so i stopped at a Burger King to grab an unhealthy breakfast. It was a typically dingy place, the kind of chain you see in a quiet and unassuming town, and i was the only customer in there. Everything was going as normally as it should, and i had about 60 miles of monotonous and flat rural country to pass through. It was as i was exiting the joint, when something strange happened.
A little boy was standing alone, clearly alone, and utterly conspicuous, with him and my car being the only two things in the parking lot. He was standing next to the car. He was thin and quite gaunt with a pale face, and the expression on his face was strange and absent minded. He seemed around ten or eleven. My first instinct was to let him be and drive off, and allow him to indulge his idle day dreaming, but then my second instinct told me to investigate and see what the deal with the boy was. He was only a kid after all, and what kind of citizen would see something like this and just brush it off without a care? The fact was that it was not good for him to be in this parking lot on his own. I'm no saint, but i'm definitely a human being.
I approached him and asked "hey kid, you waiting for anyone?"
He answered without looking "No"
"What, so you live around here or something kid?"
"No. My mom and dad was here. They drove away"
"What do you mean they drove away? Was there a problem, are they coming back?"
The kid stood quite for a moment, and i was about to repeat the question thinking he hadn't listened, but then he replied
"They said that i do not behave myself"
"How long have you been hanging around here?"
The kid's expression turned sad
It was now that i realized i needed to call the cops. I had no idea what was going on - did they really leave him here on his own, like abandon him? Or was i misunderstood, or was this somehow one big joke? I doubted the last part.
Not long after we were sitting together in the police station. He started to talk about his family. The way he spoke about his mom made her seem like a nice person, but when he spoke of his dad he would frown and get nervous and twitchy. It looked to me like he was afraid.
"Mom never says what she wants to say when dad is around. She always agrees with everything he says" said the boy Timmy, whose name and other details i'd learnt in the car. He had a sister named Daisy.
"Sometimes she does say something different, but then he starts getting mad and yells at her"
"Does he ever hit you or your sis'?"
"It's only me who he hits. Sometimes he slaps me. Not Daisy though. Dad loves Daisy. He never slaps her. He always says "she is mine, you are not"
I didn't know exactly why but at that moment he smiled. But then i realized he wasn't thinking of his dad, but Daisy. He obviously loved Daisy too. He pulled a picture of her out of his pocket.
"She's sweet isn't she? I always love her smile"
The girl in the picture sure was pretty. She was strikingly similar to Timmy, with the same blue eyes and freckles, but she had golden hair which flowed down way past her shoulders.
"He always buys her presents when he comes back from his trips. She has a ton of toys"
I tried to think what it would be like living with such a bastard of a step-father. He clearly suffered at his hands.
A short while later his mom and step-dad arrived. The mom seemed so relieved to see the kid, i tried to see if she was faking it, but if she was it fooled me good enough. The step-dad on the other hand was different. He looked relieved in some way, on the surface, but given what the kid told me, and given the crease in his smile, i pretty much just wanted to punch him. He told the boy that they he should never do that again. What exactly 'that' meant i'm not sure. I guess he was protecting himself, trying to make it look like the kid jumped out the car when they weren't looking. Not a believable story given that the kid was there for two hours. If the kid jumped out the car without them looking it would have been a minute tops when they noticed he was missed. Nope, they left him alright.
The guy walked out with his arm around the boy. I felt angry that i couldn't do anything else. The police certainly weren't going to, since there was no sign of physical neglect or anything like that. I wondered if the boy would be okay in the long run. I kind of thought - or hoped - he would. His step-father seemed like a bad guy, real spineless, but not awful, not awful enough to really hurt him. With a bit of luck the kid will grow up soon and find the courage to stand up to him. That put a smile on my face.