Keith is seven, when his dad is late for the last time.
He’s been waiting outside the school for what for what feels like forever, but it’s really more like a couple hours. Keith doesn’t mind though, because last time Dad was late, he bought him ice cream to make up for making him stand around in the hellish Texan heat.
He’s standing there, contemplating whether he’ll get cookies and cream or cookie dough, when he realizes a woman in a too tight grey pantsuit is crouching down in front of him, offering her hand. The principal stands behind her, looking uncomfortable.
“Hello. You must be Keith.” He doesn’t respond, too focused on the too tight smile.
The smile wavers. The hand drops. Keith looks behind her again, his attention caught by the way the sun reflects of the principals balding head.
She clears her throat, resets her smile.
“I’m with Social Services.”
Again he doesn’t respond. Absently, he wonders if the principal’s head is naturally that shiny, or if it’s the result of some product. He glances back to the woman. Her smile is making him nervous, and he doesn’t understand why this random lady is talking to him, but he knows Dad told him not to talk to strangers. He tells her so.
Something passes across her face, and it makes Keith’s stomach sink. She carefully puts a hand to his shoulder. Her touch makes his skin crawl.
“Why dont we head back into the school for and sit down for a bit.”
He feels himself begin to back away, but he’s stopped by her grip on his shoulder. He feels her steering him towards the school.
Keith want to say no. He wants to yell and run and get away. He wants to shake her hand from his shoulder and ask when his dad is coming for him.
But the reality is it’s starting to get dark. All the other kids are long gone, and deep down in his heart Keith knows his dad is too.