At the sound of his name, Charlie stumbled out of the bush in a daze. His shirt was on inside out, and he blinked a lot like he had just woken up. He looked at me hesitantly, as if he didn’t know who I was.
I dropped the rock to pick him up, and hugged him tightly to me, relieved. Laughing and crying at the same time I didn’t know what to say, so I tried to say everything. “I was so worried about you. I love you. What happened? Did anyone do anything to you? Your sister didn’t mean it. How did you get out here?”
He gave a soft sigh and mumbled into my ear. “Home.”
Questions could wait until later. I carried him out of the forest as fast as I could. It didn’t take long to get him back to our house and tucked into bed. He fell asleep almost immediately.
Watching him sleep, I leaned against the doorframe to his room. I had almost lost him- almost lost my only son. I vowed to never let him out of my sight again.
It didn’t occur to me until days later that he never asked about his beloved yellow tractor.