by ABBIE JOHNSON TAYLOR
"Mom! Mom!" said seven-year-old Amanda, as she hurried toward me.
"Something must have scared her," I thought, as I dashed down the front porch steps to meet her. As she ran along the driveway, she pulled her bike behind her. "Sweetie," I said when she reached me, and I took her into my arms. She nuzzled her head against my neck and sobbed, while I stroked her hair and soothed her. When she appeared to be more calm, I asked, "What happened?"
"I saw a strange man who scared me," said Amanda with a gulp.
"Why did he scare you?" I asked.
"Well, he said he had a little girl at home who had a lot of dolls but no friends to play with," Amanda said. "He said to get into his car, and he would take me to his house, that it wasn't very far. You said I shouldn't go with a stranger when he says to get into his car because he might take me away from you."
My heart gave a lurch, as I held Amanda close. My little girl was almost kidnapped. I never dreamed it could happen in this neighborhood, in this town. Amanda burst into fresh sobs. "It's all right, sweetheart," I said, as I stroked her hair. "You're safe now. You did the right thing when you ran away. We'd better go inside and call the police. Do you remember what the man looked like?"
A car approached our house at a slow speed. I turned and saw a gray station wagon. "That's him!" Amanda said, as she clung to me. "That's his car. He said he'd put my bike in the back."
"It's all right, sweetie," I said. "I'm not going to let him take you away." But if the car stopped and the driver forced Amanda into it at gunpoint, there was nothing I could do.
To my relief, it sped away from the house. I turned and hurried indoors with Amanda still clinging to me. When we reached the phone in the kitchen, my palms were sweating, and my legs were trembling, as I dialed 911. I gave the operator the information, and she assured me an officer would be here right away.
Amanda hurried into the living room to watch for the police car. "Mom, he's back!" she called a few minutes later.
I hurried to the living room window, as the gray station wagon pulled up in front of the house. Amanda clung to me, and I put a protective arm around her, as we watched the driver emerge from the car.
He was a tall man with short, dark hair, clad in blue jeans and a white T-shirt. He opened the rear passenger door, and to my astonishment, he lifted a little girl into his arms. After kicking the door shut, he carried her toward the house. The child appeared to be about Amanda's age, but she was thin and pale. She wore striped pajamas and bunny slippers. "What's wrong with her?" asked Amanda.
"I don't know," I said, as I turned and hurried to the front door. I opened it and stepped onto the porch, as they reached the top of the steps. Amanda was right beside me.
"I'm sorry," said the man, as he set the child on the porch next to him. "I realized I'd gone about this all wrong when your little girl ran away. I do have a little girl who has a lot of dolls but no friends. This is Nancy, and she's very sick. She has a rare form of cancer, and she's too sick to go to school. That's why she doesn't have anyone to play with."
"I'm so sorry," I said.
"My wife died last year of the same cancer," he said. "I've been taking care of Nancy by myself ever since. If I go to jail for attempted kidnapping, who will take care of her? How could I have been so stupid?"
My daughter stepped forward and extended a hand. "Hi, I'm Amanda, and I have dolls, too. Would you like to see my room?"
Nancy hesitated, giving her father a questioning look.
The man said, "It's okay, honey. Amanda wants to be your friend. Go see her room." He gave Nancy a gentle nudge in Amanda's direction.
"Can she walk?" asked Amanda.
"Yes, but she's very weak," answered her father. "She can't run and play and ride a bike like you can. But she can play house, can't you, honey?"
"What's going on?" asked my husband, as he appeared at the bottom of the porch steps. A policeman was right behind him.
"Daddy!" said Amanda, as she dashed past Nancy and her father and down the front steps. "Come meet my new friend Nancy."