By Helen Frost
Macmillan Copyright © 2011 Helen Frost
All rights reserved.
The Way You Might Remember Your Best Friend
I was a happy little girl wearing a pink dress,
sitting in our gold minivan,
dancing with my doll, Kamara.
I'll be right back, Mom promised.
Leave the music on, I begged,
so she left her keys
ran in to pay for gas
and buy a Diet Coke.
I think about that little girl
the way you might remember your best friend
who moved away.
Sitting in the middle seat
beside an open window,
her seatbelt fastened,
she looked out at the world.
And then she heard
from inside the store.
That's when she — when I —
I clicked my seatbelt off,
dived into the back, and
ducked down on the floor
under a blanket
came back out.
I heard the car door open, heard it close.
The music stopped.
Why? Mom liked that song.
I breathed again. (Mom smelled like cigarettes.)
I pushed the blanket off my face,
opened my mouth
What happened in there?
But then I heard a word Mom wouldn't say.
A man's voice.
C'mon! Start! He was yelling at our car —
and the car
It started up
just like it thought
Mom was driving.
Who was driving?
Had this man just shot someone? Had he
shot ... Mom?
If he found out I was back there
what would he do to me?
I pulled the blanket back over my face.
(Pretend you're Kamara.
Don't breathe. Don't move.
Be as small as you can — smaller.)
Sand on the floor of the car. I pressed hard.
It stuck to my skin.
I pressed harder.
if you have to,
but don't move a muscle.)
Like a small rabbit
that knows a cat is close by,
I paid attention. I didn't
I could tell which way we were headed —
we stopped at the King Street stoplight.
Left turn ... right turn ... left ...
He sped up.
Was he trying to throw the police off our trail?
He stopped, got out of the car.
Where were we?
He got back in,
drove off faster.
Yes — coming closer!
One time in first grade,
a police officer came to our class.
"If someone tries to grab you," she said,
"wave your arms, kick your legs.
Yell at the top of your lungs,
THIS MAN IS NOT MY FATHER."
The sirens meant
someone might stop us —
I could jump up.
I could wave.
I could yell.
But it didn't happen.
We drove faster, farther.
faded away in the distance.
Long straight road ... curvy road ...
Fast for a while. No stops.
Stop. Go. Turn ...
I swallowed the panic that rose.
I didn't throw up.
Sound of gravel. Dust in my throat.
Bumping along that dusty road,
(Dad, where are you? Mom?)
A phone rang — Dad's ring on Mom's phone!
Mom must have left her phone in the car.
Her whole purse, down on the floor?
(Do not — do not! — jump up and grab it.)
I clenched my hands together.
GPS, the man snarled — I heard him dump
Mom's purse upside down.
He opened a window.
He closed it.
(Did he just toss Mom's phone out the window?)
I put my thumb in my mouth
like a little baby. I pulled my knees
to my chin, and closed my eyes tight.
Where were we going?
What would happen to me when we got there?
After a long time —
it felt like hours —
the car slowed down.
We made a sharp turn.
He got out.
I heard a garage door open.
He got back in the car.
The garage door came down.
The car door opened, slammed shut.
I heard a dog.
Barking or growling?
In the garage or outside?
Another door opened
Had the man gone somewhere?
Carefully, I pushed back the blanket
and looked around.
I was alone
in a very dark place.
I might have been wrong about Mom's phone.
I kept my head low,
climbed into the middle seat,
leaned far enough forward
so I could see into the front.
Mom's water bottle — not quite empty.
A chocolate chip granola bar.
Her little album of pictures —
me and Alex, her and Dad.
No wallet — she took that into the store.
Where was I?
A messy garage — rakes and shovels,
gas cans and broken-down boxes.
In the garage door,
higher than I could reach,
three small windows,
a few rays of sun shining through them.
Behind an old freezer —
a door — to outside?
A red-and-white boat
on a trailer
right next to the car.
If I could get out fast enough, he'd never know I was there.
I told myself what to do, and I did it:
Quietly — get out of the car with Kamara.
Take the granola bar. Leave the water —
if I take that, he might notice it's gone.
Carefully tiptoe across the floor.
(The dog — outside — still growl-barking.)
Squeeze behind the freezer.
Try to open the side door.
with a padlock
the size of my fist.
The freezer was empty, unplugged — it wouldn't be cold.
Could I get inside, and hide there?
No. A boy on the news
got stuck inside an old freezer —
he suffocated to death
before his mom found him.
I might be tall enough
to climb in
if I stepped up on the trailer.
But I didn't dare move.
I don't know how long
I stood there
in my pink dress,
behind the freezer.
A light came on. A door opened.
I stopped breathing.
From another room, I heard
happy voices —
real people or on a TV?
It was a TV — this was someone's house.
The man came out,
opened the car door, closed it,
went back inside.
I was pretty sure
he didn't look
over at me.
I had to do something.
I ran to the boat
and climbed in.
It was full of fishing stuff:
nets and ropes
a tackle box
a rusty coffee can.
A blue cloth, partly stretched
over the boat —
could I hide under that?
At the boat's pointed end, a triangular place,
like a little cave — I just fit.
A gray rag?
No — an old sweatshirt
wadded up on the floor of the boat.
I put it on — it covered my dress.
I could hide in the boat
for a while.
I was hungry. Mom always said,
Eat something, Wren. It helps you think.
I unwrapped the granola bar, took one bite.
One more. Another.
I tried to think.
Could I open the garage door?
If it was something to lift — could I lift it?
What if you had to know certain numbers to push?
If the door opened, he'd hear me.
Sooner or later, he'd leave the house. He had to.
Did anyone live there with him?
The dog barked louder.
It was outside, but not far away.
Had anyone fed it?
Through the windows in the garage door,
got darker and darker.
Someone turned on a light
and opened the door from the house.
I thought I heard something out here.
(A girl's voice?)
I didn't move, curled up in the boat,
clutching Kamara so hard
I thought she might break.
The man again, from inside:
Shut that door! Stay out of there!
You heard me — I SAID —
The light went off. The door slammed shut.
It sounded like somebody banged up against it.
The girl yelled, Ow! Quit it! That hurt!
Then it got quiet.
for a long time,
The garage door went up.
The light came on.
Somewhere outside, a car door opened and closed.
I heard someone
walk through the garage
and open the door to the house.
A woman's voice: What's this car doing here?
The man: How many times do I have to tell you —
stay out of my business.
The woman: You keep a stolen car in our garage,
it's my business.
The light went off.
The garage door closed.
The other door slammed.
I heard shouting inside the house.
I couldn't hear words,
but the man's voice was loud
I was shaking.
Trying hard not to cry.
How could I sleep
in the crowded boat?
I was thirsty.
I had to pee.
The light came on. The door from the house flew open.
The woman: This is the car they're searching for!
to Wren Abbott?
A voice on TV: Once again,
the child is eight years old.
Last seen wearing a pink dress,
with matching beads in her hair.
She may be holding a doll
she calls Kamara.
If you have any information
please call —
The TV cut off.
The man: Nothing to do with me!
You think I'm some kind of pervert,
taking a little kid?
(What's a pervert?)
The woman: Of course not. But, West,
did you check the backseat
when you got in the car?
(The man's name is West.)
West: No! There wasn't time!
None of this worked like we planned, Stacey.
No one was going to get shot.
(Who got shot?)
(The woman is Stacey.)
I heard the car doors — opening, closing.
Stacey: She's not in the car.
Where is she?
West: Maybe she got out when I stopped
in the parking lot — I took a few minutes
to take the plate off another car
and put it on this one.
(That time he stopped — could I have jumped out?)
Stacey: If she was lost in a parking lot,
someone would have found her by now.
They've been searching for more than six hours!
West: They can keep searching.
Tomorrow, we paint the car.
We ditch it.
Nothing to pin on me.
Stacey: West — this girl is Darra's age!
We can call from a pay phone — anonymously —
tell them Wren Abbott is not in the car they're searching for.
At least we know that much!
(The girl is Darra.)
West: We know NOTHING. You hear me?
Stacey: Let go of me!
I'd never heard
the sound of one person hitting another,
but I knew
that was what happened.
Stacey stopped talking.
The door slammed again.
More yelling. Crashing sounds.
Excerpted from Hidden by Helen Frost. Copyright © 2011 Helen Frost. Excerpted by permission of Macmillan.
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