I’m here because our son lost one of his friends and we’re trying to figure out how to find her.

Where has Lucy gone?

Our son wants someone to play with!

My husband, Daniel, and I always wanted a family. It’s happening a lot now for gay couples: very recently we became fathers! It’s so exciting!

We adopted Damien through the state foster program. He is seven years old.

Damien is a great kid and we love him dearly, so don’t get me wrong when I say that–well–he’s a little different. For starters, Damien has a wild metabolism for a seven year old, he just stays bone thin no matter what we feed him. The kids make fun of him sometimes for that. They call him Skeleton Boy. He tells me he’ll get them for it someday. He has a funny smell too. Like petrichor and pungent roots and a hint of mildew.

It’s a good thing he’s funny. Always making jokes–something about spiders in our sleep and whispering to snakes in the garden. He says they’re his friends. It’s adorable.

Though he is quiet, he has an abundance of energy. Why, just the other day, I was talking to him while making the bed in his room. He was playing with something in his closet, asking me if I believed what he said about the monster in there. About him teething. I chuckled and told him sure, I did. The next thing I’d planned to do was clean the bathtub so once I finished making the bed, I made my way into the bathroom. When I pulled the curtain back, Damien scared the shit out of me. I’d just left him in the closet with his ‘friend’ and here he was looking up at me in the bathtub, head thrown back and black eyes squinting as he giggled. He likes playing jokes.

I came here because I’m really worried about his new friend. The snakes, spiders and the closet-monster are fine. Such a wild imagination. Lucy is–stranger than he is.

He was out on the sidewalk, riding his tricycle–now I hate to admit this, but we’re raising him kind of latchkey–I know, I know, but my husband and I absolutely abhor helicopter parenting. He made it through most of his childhood in terrible conditions and those people were doing a lot worse than letting him ride his tricycle outside alone in the middle of the afternoon on Tuesday. Before you start on me, we give him a lot of structure, but he’s had to grow up very independent. It’s a process. Besides, it’s a cul-de-sac in a safe neighborhood.

Anyway, his new friend, Lucy; he brings her from up the road for snacktime the other day. They were walking side by side. It was kind of an eerie sight.

The sky behind them was threatening rain and the wind was picking up. Lightning fingered its way across the darkness in the backdrop behind them and Damien’s black hair blew wildly around his gaunt face. The girl was an odd sight indeed. She was barefoot, with mud up to her knees in a powder blue play-romper flecked with strange brown stains. She held in her right hand an umbrella, pocked with holes large and small, threadbare to its metal skeleton. The most curious thing about Lucy was not the eye-holed paper-bag she wore over her head–no. It was that the tricycle trailed behind the two of them as if by some unseen force.

Not wanting to shrink away from children, I met them at the end of the drive, with a false smile plastered across my face.

– Hi!

– Hi, dad.

– Who’s your friend, honey?

– Lucy. She wants snacks.

– Well, we should probably ask her parents first. Are they outside somewhere?

Lucy shook her head, the bag swinging out of place with the momentum. She adjusted it back into place.
Damien told me:

– They don’t care about her. She can come inside.

– Honey, we can’t just bring other kids inside without telling their dad.

– She don’t got a dad.

– Doesn’t have. We’ll call her mom then.

– Ain’t got one of them neither.

– Damiennnnn. What did we say about lies?

Ignoring me, Damien grabbed Lucy’s hand and pulled her past me through the threshold. I let out a defeated sounding:

– Hey!

But in the end, I gave in. She was very dirty, so maybe Damien was right. Maybe they didn’t care. If that was the case, I’d surely have to bring her to someone’s attention but I didn’t want to make any knee-jerk reactions. Kids can be difficult–and I should know. So I brought out the snacks and pushed the questions I had about Lucy and the tricycle back.
They two took the plates of cookies and snacks at the dining room table and I sat with them pretending to be nonchalant.

– So…Lucy, you should probably call your parents and let them know where you are.
She just slowly shook her head again.

– Okay…

She was tucking the cookies and crackers up underneath the bag and crunching them into crumbs.

– That might be easier if you took that bag off honey.

Damien told me quickly:

– She can’t. She’s afraid you’ll think she’s too ugly. If you see, she’ll go away.

– What? Nonsense.

When I asked about the tricycle, Damien just shrugged and I was given no explanation. It was too unnerving to ask again.

Around this time, Daniel came home.

– Hey everybody! How’s your days? And who’s this pretty little girl here?

He lifted the bag off of her head before either of the children or I could stop him. Lucy’s face was a mass of tentacles, puckered with suction cups. They writhed around like a sack of knotted snakes poured out. Her eyes were wide and began glowing red as she glared at him. Instead of a mouth, she had a beak. The beak opened, the eyes focusing in on Daniel, glowing hotter–boy was she mad. From her open beak she shrieked a horrible sound that rung on in the air forever even after she’d disappeared. The shriek was followed by a loud popping noise that rang my ears and Lucy was gone; as if sucked into a drain in the space just behind her. Every part of her was pulled and stretched inward to a point that none of us could see in the air above her chair. Only the bag in Daniel’s hand remained along with her tatty umbrella, which clattered to the floor like a bone.

– I told you.

I really wish that Daniel hadn’t done that. Damien has an awful time making friends. I’ve tried to explain to him why, but his black eyes always just stare back at me blankly. It’s like he doesn’t understand.

He has to blend in.

Damien is special. He’s not like most children. He’s–different. Strange. The only other children who will play with him are the other strange ones, and truth be told most children are pretty normal. The only friends he has are the garden snakes and that monster in his closet and that kid’s at the biting stage now that his teeth are coming in. I wonder how I might get in touch with his parents to bring that up with them so they can work on it? Ouija board? Crystal ball?

I feel bad for Damien because he just wants to be like the other kids, you know?
He tells me:

– I want friends Dad

– I’m your friend.

– No, Daddddd. Not like that.

Well son, you insist on walking around carrying a staff topped with the skull of a neighborhood cat. It’s unnerving to them. I bet if you left it inside and took a bath, the normal children will like you back and then you’d make a friend.

ss