Sally and Billy in Babyland
Chapter 1 Part 2
They continued on in silence. Sally was not in any hurry to stay near because now Mother and Father would both be in a bad mood.
Billy lagged behind, beating tree trunks with sticks, and moving on once the stick had broken. She envied his ability to stay busy even when their parents were angry about things. Sally enjoyed nothing at such times. If they were home, she would sit in her room alone until the storm had passed.
In a meadow on the other side of a hill, Sally caught up to them and it was clear they were close to a decision. Father was at one side of the meadow with his back to Mother, who sat on a rock on the other side of the meadow as she stared at the ground. Back home, they would lock themselves in their bedroom and argue loudly before Mother came out to announce the decision over a glass of wine. But here the decision would have to be made in some other way, perhaps in a cave or a dense thicket of woods, because Mother thought it set a bad example to argue in front of Sally and Billy.
“I’m hungry,” Billy said as he emerged from the forest with an armful of pine cones. Sally watched as Billy threw the pine cones at a squirrel on a branch. She expected one of their parents to yell at Billy, but it was as if they had forgotten about her and Billy.
“I’m hungry too,” Sally said, hoping to be noticed.
Billy picked up a branch and beat on the tree trunk. “When can we eat?”
Sally sat down and sighed. “Let’s go to a restaurant already.”
Mother stood up. “All right, let’s head back.”
“What?” Father said. “No. We’re not even to the trail head.”
“You mean we haven’t even started?” Mother said.
“No. That’s why this trip makes such a great story.”
“Family of four dies of starvation?”
“Who?” Billy said. “Us?”
“No,” Father said. “We won’t starve.”
“Then let’s go eat,” Sally said.
“Okay,” Mother said. “We’re heading back.”
Billy broke his stick across the tree trunk. “But we haven’t even started.”
Father took on an air of legitimacy. “That’s right. The best part is up ahead.”
“I want to stay here,” Sally said. “We were supposed to picnic.”
“I’m sorry but we’re still hiking,” Father said. He waved for Billy to join him and they walked out of the meadow and back into the forest.
Mother stared after them, her face confounded in disbelief. “Can you believe it?” she said.
Sally lay back on the grass with a sigh. She could believe anything, as she was still just a child, but she knew better than to say such a thing to her mother in an agitated state. Best just to be quiet and wait.
“Well let’s go,” Mother said. “You and I may as well head back. I can get a sitter, I suppose.”
Sally closed her eyes, feigning sleep.
Mother walked beside Sally and bent over her. “Sweetie, let’s head back.”
“You can sleep in the car.”
“I want to sleep here.”
“I’m sorry but you can’t.”
Sally did, in fact, want to stay. She had liked the idea of all of them doing something together and still hoped it might happen. A picnic with her family in a grassy meadow in the forest on a day full of sunshine seemed like the best idea. Why her mother hadn’t thought to bring along the food was a mystery, but it was because her mother was more worried about getting back for her ladies night than the picnic, just as her father was more interested in hiking the trail than being with family.
She might yet wait out her mother, forcing her to retrieve the food, and then coaxing her father to join them if only for a brief picnic.
“Come on. Let’s go.”
“I don’t wanna’.”
“You have to.”
Sally rolled on her side away from her mother. She kept her top eye closed, but peeked out with the lower eye. In the grass next to her face, she saw ants and aphids marching up and down the stalks. At the other side of the meadow, a bird alighted on a bush and whistled a tune.
“Oh my God,” her mother said as she stepped across Sally’s body. “Wait here.” Sally watched as Mother continued across the meadow and ventured into the forest where Father and Billy had gone in.
Once she was alone in the meadow, Sally sat back up and looked around. There were other birds in the trees and bushes, and now she could make out their various songs. If she knew how to whistle she might try to imitate them. She made a note to herself to learn how to whistle, but also added a reminder to not share that interest with her friends who might make fun of her for trying.
She noticed other sounds in the forest, and for a moment worried that something dangerous might be lurking about. She decided that if she didn’t bother any bears or lions that might be in the forest, they probably wouldn’t bother her. And once Mother and Father returned with Billy, she’d have nothing to worry about.
Mother hurried back. At a glance, Sally could tell her mother was not happy, but there was no need to ask because Mother would tell Sally all about it.
“Your father doesn’t want to leave, either,” Mother said. “He’ll get the lunch and picnic here with you and Billy.”
“What about you?”
“I have to head back. Your father didn’t tell me how long this hike would take, and I am meeting friends. I wish I could stay.”
Sally lay back in the grass and crossed her arms.
“I know you’re disappointed, sweetheart, but we’re all just so busy. You’ll understand when you’re older and have children of your own.”
Sally stared at a cloud and tried to figure out what shape it most resembled. But it wasn’t anything. It was just a cloud. So she closed her eyes.
“I won’t see you until tomorrow,” her mother said. “But I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Sally heard her mother walk through the grass and into the forest. When Sally opened her eyes, Mother was gone.
Sally kept staring at the clouds. Now she had a little more success with picking out shapes, and saw a kangaroo, and a moose, and a house. Then there was a shape that seemed familiar but she couldn’t quite name it. She decided it was a baby. A little, hungry baby.
That reminded her of how hungry she was and she sat up hoping it was time to eat.
Instead, Billy wandered into the meadow.
“Where’s Mom?” he asked.
“Is she going to get the picnic?”
“No,” Sally said. “Dad is.”
“No he’s not. Dad left to play poker. He said Mom was getting the picnic.”