The story continues …

Away Today?
By Laura McHale Holland

The woman, a social worker, yawns and studies the girl at play on the other side of the one-way mirror. A mop of unruly dark hair droops into the child’s eyes as she slides pieces of various shapes, sizes and colors into a three-dimensional puzzle.


Suddenly, the stucco wall behind the girl falls away, revealing sunshine, a beach, white caps cresting. Knowing there is no body of water near her office, the woman nonetheless sees sand and waves. The girl runs shrieking with glee to a young man building sand castles. She helps him shape turrets, dig motes. Wrapped in seaweed garments, pieces of driftwood become kings and knights of old.


The woman recognizes the man on the beach; he stops by every day and asks to become the child’s foster parent, but he is just 23 years old and single and hungry and threadbare; how could he provide for a preschooler?


The doorbell rings. The social worker glances at her door. When she looks again into the glass, the wall is in place, and the girl is at the puzzle. Only five minutes have passed, according to the wall clock.


The social worker answers the door. It’s the young man, again. He’s the only one who visits. The child’s high-profile parents, killed in a shooting a few months ago, hadn’t finalized her adoption. No one on either side of what was going to be her family wants to care for the tot who, as a newborn, was left at a hospital entrance three years ago.


The man steps into the playroom. The girl looks up, smiles, runs to her father’s former chauffeur. “We go away today?” she asks. He shakes his head, kneels down, tousles her hair. They begin working the puzzle. The social worker takes notes.


All of the episodes in this series in the order in which they were posted follow:

Back pocket wishes

Cascading to the sea

Right through the heart

Away today?

A dime a dozen

She doesn’t know them

On the seat

A pillar of the community

He needs a friend

Double rainbow

The one he always wants to hear

Give it some time

It gives my life meaning


Extenuating circumstances

 The four of us