She looked from face to face to face. No one looked familiar. Nothing looked familiar. She had just turned away for a moment. She just wanted to look at the mannequin with the funny face and the wild purple dress. And now she was lost.
Lost in the mall. Lost in a cacophony of colors, voices and smells. Reds, blues, oranges blended together. Cinnamon, gardenia and body odor assaulted her nostrils.
“I’ve been watching that little girl,” she heard a woman say.
“That one wearing the plaid dress? With the long dark ponytail?” another asked.
“Yes. She can’t be more than three or four. There’s no adult with her.”
“She’s not crying. Maybe she’s waiting for someone.”
As the women approached she cowered behind a row of colorful, shiny prom dresses.
“What’s your name, dear?” the older woman asked.
“Ella.” Her chestnut brown eyes grew wide.
“Are you lost?”
“N-no, but my Mommy is. I’m worried about her. Can you call a policeman?”
“What does your Mommy look like, honey?” the younger woman’s eyebrows knitted together.
Ella raised her tiny hands high above her head. “She’s really tall, has hair like mine and always smells like chocolate chip cookies. She’s the prettiest Mommy ever.”
The women glanced at each other and smiled. “That’s a very good description. We’ll make sure security writes all that down. I’m sure your Mommy is fine though.”
A high-pitched, shrill voice cut through the trio’s conversation.
“My daughter. My beautiful daughter Ella. Have you seen her? My God. She’s only three-years-old.” The voice was shaky; frantic.
The two women turned to find a young girl, not much more than a teenager standing in the aisle. Tears were streaming down her face.
“Mommy.” Ella screamed and flung herself into her mother’s arms. Hugs and kisses reigned abundant. “Don’t you ever get lost from me again, do you hear? I think this calls for a time out, Mommy, don’t you?”
Still standing nearby, the two women breathed a sigh of relief, chuckled and resumed their shopping.