I swapped out the prescriptive shades I still had on for my normal glasses, took a deep breath, a hand still on her impossibly skinny knee and tried to smile. I tried to smile but I'm sure I failed and I looked up at the two officers and finally spoke. I asked them to please tell me everything. How long was she gone? Where was she found? Is there seriously no way local shops could hold on to my details in case anything like this ever happened again? Again? I stopped and thought, when had the picnic been? Less than a week ago? She's getting more daring. Getting more daring or my mom really doesn't get the extent of just how vigilant she has to be with Ginny.
I can't look at my mom. I fear that if I do I will grab her, in front of the police, and choke her. She tried to say that Ginny must have got into our new neighbours garden and that our new neighbour must have let her out. I don't understand how she can flippantly try to pass the blame but I suppose that makes it easier. I let out sound, not quite a laugh, not a sigh. I say that Ginny is more than capable of scaling the tall back fence, that she's even managed the anticlimbing specialist fencing at school in the past. I say, look out side, she could use and corner any grip, pull herself onto the wendy house, stand on the gate handle... I regain my focus. There is no point in listing off all the things I see that can facilitate her escape. I know them like the back of my hand. The things I see wherever I go that no one else seems to. The things Ginny can and will notice, the vantage points.
I ask what she was doing on the garden on her own anyway and my mom tells me shed left the small window in the living room open because of the heat which makes sense, both because it was hot and that's the window I'd have opened and because Ginny can easily pop through it, what doesn't make sense is why she was able to get to it. I ask where my mother was and she says making the girls dinner and that Ginny was in her room on her iPad. A touch of the tightening on my chest released. I immediately identified all the errors, errors made by someone that doesn't know what Ginnys like.
First, though she had an excellent reason for being in the kitchen she'd left the small window in the living room open. That, in itself, was not the main issue, the issue was that she left the window open and didn't not take Ginny into the kitchen and sit her at its table. Alternatively if Ginny desperately wanted the solace of her room than either the window should have been locked or the catch over Ginnys door should have been slid over. I don't like the idea of Ginny being locked into her room while she's awake. This why we have catches on all of the inner doors so that all bedrooms and bathrooms that are not being occupied can be locked instead, denying her access to places she shouldn't be unaccompanied and giving her the freedom to come and go to and from her room, but this would have been an appropriate exception. It was hot and 15-30mins locked in her room while mom made her dinner would have been acceptable by my standards. A further alternative would have been to take Ginny's bedroom fan and place it in the living room with the window locked.
I do not know if any of these options had crossed my moms mind at the time. If she'd shrugged them off and considered them unnecessary precautions or if genuinely it just didn't occur to her that something like this could happen. Her voice sounds so calm as she continues talking, I no longer hear her, suddenly want to throttle her again. How can she seem so calm? I then consider the fact that I collected Melody from Film club at 4:25 and then walked her to Rainbows where I'd volunteered as mom was over to help with the kids for the summer so that I could do such things. I have no idea what time it is now but rainbows finished at 5:45 and I have no idea when all this happened or how long Ginny was missing. I remember how the minutes felt like hours when she'd escaped the picnic and my chest tightens further.
I squeeze Ginnys knee, bite my lips together and look up at the ceiling to keep my chin from quivering again. Isa and Melody are watching TV so the restrain is not entirely necessary but I can feel that if I allow myself this tiny gesture I may unravel entirely. I suddenly feel the weight of James being away and wish he were there next to me, his big arms around me, the smell of his skin, reassurance. If James were here everything would be okay. If James were here though this wouldn't have happened. At least that's what I think but it could have, he tells me later on the phone from Alicante that it could have. I don't know if it's true. It feels impossible that anything ever could happen with James around, he makes everything feel safe.
The policewoman asks questions and takes down details, has me sign something related to media as mom had of course given them permission to alert them and the policeman is full of reassurances. He can obviously tell how upset I am so he tries to make me feel better between answering my questions. They'd called in everyone from St Albans, so there were a lot of people looking for her. She was in just a nappy and climbing into and out of people's windows, but we live in probably the safest town in Hertfordshire. She was gone approximately 25minutes, but the helicopters were out looking for her. They'd had to check all of the rooms and cupboards as children had been found at home hiding after hours of searching, but that hadn't been the case here. She was found at the pub stealing meringues, she'd stayed local which was good. Oh, and of course, didn't I have such lovely children. Isa had apparently been most entertaining before we'd arrived and informed them that she wanted to be a knight which they both agreed was pretty awesome and Melody was calm and polite, obviously taking in the gravity of the situation.
They took me into the kitchen for a word and I immediately thought oh my goodness the nappy delivery! The nappy delivery of three months supply had arrived and we'd been putting them away but the boxes hadn't been broken and put in the recycling and the dishes were in the sink and not the dishwasher! My horror must have been conveyed by my expression because the officer immediately said that they in no way thought that this was a case of neglect, that Isa and Melody were a credit to me and that Ginny was obviously quite an escape artist. I told them about the all the upset last summer about the catch on Ginny's door and they said they could not believe that social services have me grief about it because it was more than obviously needed. They asked if I was okay and if I was getting enough respite, as most people do they wondered out loud how I didn't receive more support. An officer told me that when they left they wanted me to have at least a glass of wine, and that if anyone said anything to say the police said to. This genuinely made me laugh and I asked if I could have documented written proof and then I thanked them and they left.
I shut and locked the door, reflex as usual. Lent my head against its cool glass and took a deep breath. I didn't know if I could manage a drink, I felt sick. The girls were receiving badges when I received the Facebook call from my mom telling me what had happened, I'd felt like being sick on the spot, I'd restrained and was passed over to a police officer who'd told me to relax, that Ginny was safe and back home and that they would be waiting for me when I got back. I hung up and could feel my head whiz. A familiar face appeared, a friend had run over to tell me what had happened and is told her I'd just received the call. I couldn't smile as Melody was handed her bage. I couldn't join in for the rainbows song and had to step back. I grabbed Melody as soon as it was over, did not say goodbye to anyone and hurriedly explained what happened. She understood and rushed home hand in hand. She is such an amazing child. I realised now, head still on the glass, that it was her last session until the fall. I also realised I'd the officers' names had gone completely over my head. I felt guilty that for all their efforts and the work put into bringing my Ginny home I hadn't even had the decency to shake their hands and retain the knowledge of they names. I lifted my head from the glass, arranged my face a mask and walked back into the living room.
Ginny was still not interested in a hug from me and that hurt. I checked the time and decided to run the bath. It was bath night and I thought I'd get in with the girls. I ran it cool as the day was hot and washed us all. My mom got them all into jammies and I only managed 4pages of Harry Potter before I had to apologise and tell melody we would read at least a chapter tomorrow. She got a school book and told me she would read a bedtime story, angel that she is.
I walked downstairs with Amber and poured the wine that had been prescibed. It was cool and sparkling, the bath had lessened my nausea and I tried to remember if I'd had lunch. I couldn't remember but I also couldn't be asked to cook. I took a sip of my wine, refreshingly cool ad sparkling, and decided on delivery. Pizza or Chinese was the question, I was in the mood for pizza so naturally I went for Chinese instead, overriding my craving. I sat back on the sofa watching Amber attempt to crawl and then watched eastenders, in shock by how the world just kept on while I still felt my insides shake. While I was still full of unanswered questions. While I wished our elephant would leave us so that I could meet Ginny. Meet my little girl trapped inside that little head, behind that gorgeous face, hidden.
As it all crashed into me I felt a sudden rush of tiredness so Amber and I went up to bed. Amber was already asleep and I followed shortly after. Unfortunately I then proceeded to wal at 1:25am and am still now awake at 5:04. In the last hour I decided I needed to write and now I'm hoping that I'll manage an hour or two.