“Um, Miss, excuse me?”
Generally, she would turn away quickly from a strange person approaching her on the street and yet the open and honest eyes of the young boy gave her pause as her step faltered before turning in his direction.
“I’m sorry to disturb you, Miss. I’ve lost my older brother somewhere around the Food Court. He’s my ride home, and my mom wanted me home by five.”
A quick glance at her watch indicated the boy didn’t have much time left. If he lived more than twenty minutes away or were unable to find his brother, he would have a rather unhappy mother.
“Can I borrow your phone to call him, Miss?”
She quickly glanced around looking for casual strangers that might have been slightly too attentive to their conversation. Seeing none lurking nearby to assist in stealing her phone gave his story more credibility, and she slipped her phone from her back blue jean’s pocket.
“Thank you. Thank you so much.”
“You’re welcome,” a vacant pause greeted her as she waited for him to state his name. After a few moments had passed, it began to dawn on her that he might be a bit young for such a subtle social hint and leaned forward to place her phone into the boy’s outstretched hand. “What’s your name?”
Suddenly shy, the boy lowered his eyes and spoke quietly, barely above a whisper, “Carroll.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you.”
A muted cough escaped his lips as a bright blush colored his cheeks. The boy toyed with the phone in his hands as a means of distraction as she hadn’t unlocked the screen. “Carroll,” the boy coughed.
“I still can’t hear you.” She looked around and gestured at the ambiance surrounding them. They stood nearby an average sized indoor ice rink that stood adjacent to a movie theater attached to the mall. Both venues made this area a rather popular place for both the younger and older crowd.
Reluctantly, the boy lifted his eyes to meet hers and repeated, “Carroll.” To which he quickly added, “but it’s a boy’s name too.”
It was evident to anyone watching this exchange that he had been bullied about his name – whether at school or home she didn’t know. The more likely answer was school, she believed. The sadness in his eyes and the quiver of his lower lip betrayed his bold stance as he awaited her comment. Receiving none, he turned his attention back to the phone.
“How do I call?”
“Here,” she gestured for the boy to return her phone and quickly unlocked it before returning it to him. “Press the green phone icon and type in the number you want to dial. Don’t forget to press the green button for the phone to call.”
The boy was already turning away and raising the phone to his ear as she finished speaking. She watched concernedly as the boy seemed to be listening more than speaking and the few words he did utter were so softly spoken to be impossible for her to hear.
A quiver of fear stole threw her and caused her stomach to plummet and heart to flutter as the boy’s visage returned to haunt her.
His hand shook as he returned the phone to her. The tremble in his voice matching his hands. “I’m sorry,” he said, eyes red. “I’m so sorry.”
Those were the last words he spoke to her for then he spun quick as a top and ran away.