I awoke in the night and turned the TV on, muted, so as not to disturb Cliff. I must have dozed back off, because the next thing I remember is being awakened by my eight-year-old granddaughter, Natalie, standing at my bedside in her nightshirt. My first thought was that I had overslept past 6:30 A.M., and that my daughter had brought the girls as usual.
Then I looked at the clock beside my bed: 12:15 PM.
"What are you doing here? How did you get here?" I said. (Their house is two miles from here.)
"Barefooted?" I asked, incredulous, looking down at her feet.
"No. My shoes are in the hall."
"Why did you walk here?"
"I don't know."
"Why didn't you wake your parents?"
"Because they'd yell at me."
After trying to call my daughter's house, then her cell, and getting no response, Cliff decided we'd better take Natalie home. (Good thing he was told he could drive yesterday.)
Kevin, when he came to the door, was speechless.
So this morning when Rachel brought the girls, I asked if she'd found out any reason for Natalie's midnight walk.
"She said she had a bad dream, and we always just tell her to go back to bed. I don't think she realized how long it would take her to walk here, though."
How long, indeed. I walked to town to make a bank deposit a few days ago, and I was walking for speed and aerobic benefit. It took me thirty-five minutes one way. I'm sure Natalie would have been walking much slower, knowing her usual pace. Probably a forty-five minute walk for her. At midnight, on a lonely country byway. An eight-year-old. All alone.
Wow. That's scary.