By: Mia L. Hazlett

“Mommy. Mommy, where are you?” I jerk awake from my taunting nightmare. The same dream that has plagued me for the past three days keeps me from my slumber. I don’t even want to sleep anymore. I just want my baby back. I want her here in my arms. The longest I have ever been separated from my four year-old daughter is two nights in all her life. And now she has been snatched out of my…our…lives. I haven’t seen my husband sleep since we got the news. He has worked non-stop with the police and FBI. I don’t think he will rest until we’ve found her. And we will find her. We are going to bring my baby home.

“Do you like it Mommy? How do I look? Don’t forget your camera Mommy. I want to take a picture with daddy.” She poses with my husband and I take the perfect picture; the picture of her first day of school. I do everything I can not to cry in front of her. I promised myself I would make this a happy day and not cry. I give my husband the camera and I pose with my precious little baby. She is just growing up too quick. We have these same pictures from when we were bringing her home from the hospital. Now I am sending my baby off on her first day of school. My second time for letting go…daycare was a breeze compared to this.

We park our car and huddle with all of the other parents in the small school drop-off area. My little Jessie doesn’t want any help with her empty backpack. She is just so grown, well as grown as my baby can be. A woman shouts her name over the loud clamor and my little Jessica runs towards the crowd of kindergartners near her new teacher. I wait until she gives me her last little wave and finally allow the first tear to fall. My husband walks his little baby back to the car and takes me home so I can go to work.

There she is, perfect little Jessie. All dressed in uniform and ready to start school. I’ve been watching her for the past three weeks. She never strayed far from her parents, so it’s taken me a little longer than I’ve wanted. All these confused little children on the first day of school, perfect for me. The teachers are focused on the attendance of their students. The principle is outside shaking hands with the parents. So it was definitely no problem for me to play parent and sneak into the school unnoticed.

I hide out in the bathroom downstairs near Jessie’s new classroom.As all the kindergartners and first graders make their way down the hall, I come out and grab Jessie’s hand. I know I have a small window to get this done. If I get caught, I can play that I am looking to give the tiny white sweater under my arm to my make believe first grader. But if I get away with it, there is fifty thousand waiting for me. Jessie takes my hand and I tell her to come to the other classroom down the hall. But so that she can get a special gold star, she has to call me mommy. Out the back door and to the car…fifty thousand here I come.

(to be continued)

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