I pull into the Driveway.
It's 3pm. No sign of the Bus yet.
I made it Home in time.
I was visiting a Friend and had to rush Home on an empty tank of gas to meet Cinderella off the School Bus.
She is only home for an hour before BioMom comes to pick her up for her scheduled visitation but Hubby wanted me to be here to make sure She does her Homework.
You're more responsible, he tells me.
Reluctantly, I agree. Even I can't ignore the fact that each time Cinderella takes homework to BioMom's something does not get done, is conveniently forgotten or does not get checked.
[I continue to hope that one of these days she will learn how to balance being Cinderella's Gal Pal while not shirking her parental responsibility. In the meantime, Cinderella can rely on her Dad and I to teach her about responsibility and accountability.]
The Mouse is hungry and needs a nap but I decide to wait for Cinderella before I feed Her.
I call Cinderella's Elementary School to find out if the buses are running late.
She is normally home by now.
No, they are all on time. Call the Transportation Office. They will locate the Bus for you.
I hang up and call the number for Transportation. Give the Woman on the other end the Bus number.
I am put on hold as she radios the Driver.
He says he already dropped off on your street.
Well, my Stepdaughter isn't home.
What's your house number? Ok, hold on.
Again, I am put on hold.
Panic starts to creep in. Could this really be happening?
Hello? Yeah, He says he dropped Cinderella off at your House.
Well, She is not here.
::sigh:: Hold on.
The Boy is hungry and asks for a snack. The Mouse, still in her carseat begins to fuss.
Ma'am? The Driver says he saw Cinderella go into the House.
That's not possible. No one was Home. The Doors were locked and she does not have a Key.
Are you in the house now?
Is it possible she came in with someone else?
Umm... NO. There.is.NO.ONE.else.at.home.
::sigh:: Ok, hold on.
Her sighs are not that of annoyance but of slight panic.
The Mouse is losing her Patience, so I attempt to nurse her while the Transportation Lady tries to locate my missing Child.
A noise on the Street outside.
Cinderella's bus now pulls up. The Driver looks nervously around the street and toward my House.
At first I think he realized that Cinderella was still on the Bus and he is here to drop her off but then I figure out that he has come back to try and help locate her.
The Mouse is still nursing. I am still on hold. I can do nothing but stare at him from my living room window.
Hello? Ma'am? He says he dropped Her off at your House and saw her come in.
There is no way He saw Her come in here. I was not at home. The Doors were locked. She does not have a Key. The driver is out front, I should go talk to him and then call around to the neighbor's.
Ok, Ma'am. Can you call me back please? I will try and help you however I can.
I open the front door. The Bus Driver and I stare at each other for a moment. My mind is racing as to where She can be.
She got off the Bus. I saw her go into the House.
Maybe you saw Her open the screen door but the inside door is locked. She is not Here. She's probably at a Friend's. I am going to call around now.
I try to reassure him and myself at the same time.
This is one of those times when the difference between Bio and Step children becomes painfully obvious.
Not only am I worried for Cinderella's safety but I am terrified of what The Husband and Her BioMom are going to say when they learn that I have lost their daughter. THEIR daughter.
In my mind flashes the scene from Stepmom where Isabel/Stepmom loses Ben in Central Park and is confronted by Jackie/BioMom in the police station. I think of this and start to feel like an irresponsible Ninny.
[How could I be so selfish as to visit a friend in need when I have the responsiblility of being home for Cinderella?]
[Why didn't I leave Her house earlier?]
We've gone over this procedure with Cinderella before. Told her what to do and where to go if she were to get off the Bus and find noone at Home. She is to go to one of three Neighbor's houses either directly across the Street or next door.
She is not any of those three Houses.
I call her Girlfriend's House around the corner. They are practically inseparable these days. Playdates can't end without a Pajama Party at one of our Houses. If I were Cinderella, that's where I would go.
The Girlfriend's Mom answers.
Oh, hi. The girls are upstairs doing their homework.
SHE IS THERE????
Umm, yes. Didn't she call you?
No she did not and I have been looking for her for the past 20 minutes. She needs to come home.
The Mother is stunned and tries to apologize for not making sure Cinderella called Home.
I have no interested in discussing what should have happened. I am relieved to know She is OK and just want Her to come Home so I can STRANGLE HER.
This is one of those times when the difference between Bio and Step children ceases to matter.
The panic-replaced-by-relief-replaced-by-rage that every Parent feels when their child makes this kind of mistake is Universal.
When she walks in the Door I start out sounding like a worried parent but quickly morph into something more like this.
The look on her Face reassures me that she will never do this again.
But I know better.
In the meantime, I wish someone would invent LoJack for kids.