Isn’t she lovely?

This is a work of fiction, a short story of 1160 words.

Ellie draped the shopping bags over the handles of the buggy, and struggled out of the shop doorway. Little Charlotte was crying again, it was all she ever seemed to do. The nurse had said it was wind, and had recommended breast feeding for the umpteenth time, but Ellie had just nodded, and used the bottle after the busybody had left. She started to wheel the buggy toward the car, pushing against the handles to balance the weight. Something was niggling at the back of her mind, and it suddenly lit up like a lamp in her head. She had forgotten Stu’s lottery ticket. It was a huge jackpot this week too. He would go mad if she came home without it.

Ellie turned around and went back to the shop. The lottery machine was close to the front, next to the checkout. She would just pop in quickly and get the ticket, still be able to see the buggy through the window. No need to struggle getting it in and out again. There was only a small queue at the till, it wouldn’t take long. She could see the baby, and hear her crying too.
“Lucky Dip for tonight please”, she asked the bored-looking spotty boy.
“£2 please”. His reply was flat, like the voice of a robot.
Ellie fumbled in her purse for the right change. No need to split a £10 note, she knew she had enough in coins. The boy handed over the ticket, and she zipped it into a side pocket, to keep it safe.
At least Charlotte had stopped crying.

It wasn’t cold that afternoon, but Pamela was wearing a long coat, with the fur-trimmed hood raised. Just a black anorak, nothing special. She had been wandering around the shops for a couple of hours now, and was getting weary. But you never know, so maybe stay just a bit longer, she told herself.
The crying attracted her attention, and she quickened her pace, pulling the hood tight against her head. The unattended buggy was plain to see outside the general store, and the poor baby was screaming its little heart out. Pamela stopped next to it, bending as if to adjust her shoe. It took just a second to scoop the baby from inside, and clutch it to her chest using only her left hand. The crying stopped immediately, the little tot must have been content to be picked up.

At first, Ellie thought that the buggy had tipped over, perhaps pulled over by the weight of the shopping bags. She ran out of the shop doorway, righting it by letting the bags fall to the ground. It was empty, Charlotte was gone. Her mind raced, and she did stupid things without thinking. She called her daughter’s name, as if the baby was capable of walking off to peruse the nearby shops. Then she began to run around in circles, head pounding, mouth dry, hoping to find that little Charlotte had rolled across the paved area, and would be discovered lying somewhere, unharmed. When there was no sign of her anywhere, Ellie started to scream.

By then, Pamela was already in her car. She hadn’t parked in the main car park of course, that would have CCTV covering it. But in the service road behind the delivery entrance parking was not only free, but unobserved. The little baby was in the child seat in the back, happily gurgling away. Already prepared, Pamela had stored nappies, spare clothes, and milk behind her driver’s seat, and filled the car with petrol. Only one mile to the motorway, then less than two hours to drive the ninety-six miles to her home.

Ellie was still rambling when the police arrived. The spotty boy had run from behind the counter, alerted by the terrible screams, but he had been unable to calm the hysterical woman, and all attempts to reassure her had been met with shouting and abuse. As the two policemen tried to make some sense out of what had happened, Pamela was already six miles north on the motorway, driving very carefully on the inside lane. More police arrived, and arranged blue and white tape around the shopping precinct. They called an ambulance to attend Ellie, who was now completely hysterical. All the local shops and car park security were having their CCTV footage examined, and the situation was declared a major incident, with senior officers summoned to initiate a widespread search. The press and local TV stations were informed, and a description of the baby and what she was wearing was circulated.

Pamela was at the far end of a car park on the motorway services as that was happening. She was changing the baby’s nappy in the car, using the opportunity to also change her clothes to the white ones she had stored behind her seat, and give her some milk from the bottle she had prepared. It was a little cold, but would do for now. Tucked back into the child seat, little Charlotte seemed happy enough, and smiled at the kindly lady who cared for her so attentively. “I’m going to call you Amanda, Mandy for short”. Pamela grinned at the baby as she said it.

Stu arrived at the hospital, red-faced and furious. He had been stopped twice in his car on the way, at police roadblocks looking for someone with a baby in the car. Ellie had been given something to calm her down, and extended a hand as she saw Stu arrive by her trolley in the emergency department. But he was in no mood to take it, and instead fired questions at her, getting more annoyed as she just shook her head in answer to each one, tears flowing down her face, dripping from her jaw onto the blanket. A policewoman next to the bed took Ellie’s hand instead, and asked Stu to calm down. “Please lower your voice, stop swearing, and think of the other patients”, she suggested firmly. One of the senior policemen appeared, and his female colleague looked up expectantly. He caught the glance and shook his head.

Pamela was home well before dark. She didn’t know anyone in this town, and the rented house she had taken six months earlier had a good degree of privacy. As she carried the baby from the car to the door, an elderly lady left the house next door, smiling at Pamela as she walked up the path. She must be a visitor, thought Pamela. The old man next door was a widower, and lived alone. Spotting the baby, the old lady approached. “Boy or girl?” she asked softly. Pamela beamed. “My little girl, Amanda, I call her Mandy for short. I’m going to love and cherish her, and never let her out of my sight.”

The old woman touched Charlotte’s chubby cheek. “Isn’t she lovely”, she said with a smile.

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71 thoughts on “Isn’t she lovely?

  1. A scary story, sad indeed, and I guess, as you have said, it has happened more than once. As usual, you manage to create a clear picture of the characters and the situation in very few words. Excellent!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much, Sandra. I am pleased that you found it powerful. I do like to tackle uncomfortable issues sometimes, and try to imagine what went on behind the headlines of a news report. I appreciate you reading it, and leaving a comment.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much. Lara. At one time, true stories like these were common in the UK. Very often, people would jump to criticise the parents, and feel sorry for the abductor, who often had her own tragic tale to tell. Both sides need to be investigated when coming to conclusions, but taking someone’s baby can never be justified, as far as I am concerned.
      I am pleased that you thought it to be a powerful story. That was my intention, and my hope.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Cindy. I came up with that idea, and wrote the story, in around 30 minutes. It seems as if my writing works better, when it is ‘instant’ like that. I try not to think too much in advance. It was inspired by seeing an unattended baby in a buggy, some distance from a cash machine. (ATM) The baby’s mum was getting money out of the device, and paying no attention to the baby at all. That reminded me of those stories of babies being abducted, mostly by distressed females.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

    1. No twist this time, Theo. Just the ultimate sadness of both women, judged equally by society.
      The ‘hidden history’ is that Pamela had her own child stolen long before. She vowed to find a baby to look after, and to make sure it was never stolen again. That is a twist of sorts, but not a literary construction on this occasion.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. You are on the right track there, Michael. There will not be a sequel, so what happens next will be for the reader to decide for themselves. Perhaps Pamela once had her baby stolen too?
      Many thanks for the reblog as always.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Like Dani, your well written story has left me conflicted. While I have no doubt that Ellie loves her baby, I’m sorry, but to leave your child outside in a baby carriage? Unless she was suffering from something like postpartum depression, there’s no excuse. Not even new mom exhaustion or being overwhelmed. It’s bad enough when parents leave their children in a locked car, but this is just too much.

    Pamela has also left me with mixed feelings, I’m thinking she’s someone who’s lost a child. That however doesn’t allow her carte blanche to steal someone else’s. Despite my anger at Ellie, I’m hoping she’s reunited with Charlotte.

    Liked by 3 people

          1. I hope I didn’t sound to judgemental concerning Ellie. Leaving children unaccompanied is a pet peeve that harkens back to my days as a children’s librarian. Children were left so often alone downstairs in the children’s room while oblivious parents went upstairs for books and movies, that we had to put a permanent sign up saying children under the age of eight weren’t allowed to be left alone.😡

            Liked by 3 people

        1. Not at all, Kim. If the story made you want to add any thoughts, or reminded you of similar incidents in your time as a librarian, then that is exactly what I like to provoke by writing them.
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Mothers leave their babies and young children unattended quite often, apparently. There have been babies and young children left temporarily in hot cars here in Las Vegas in summertime, and some of them have died. Perhaps they should have been kidnapped. At least they would still be alive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, David. We have had recent cases here where small children and babies have been killed by the partners of downtrodden women. They might also have been better off with someone like Pamela.
      But I am a man, and cannot bear children, so who am I to judge?
      Best wishes, Pet.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well written Pete but such a sad ending. I’ll imagine Ellie is one on the lucky ones who gets her baby back. A real mother with a heart and no matter how flawed is better than a conniving kidnapper. You describe her anguish so well!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Fantastic story Pete!😍🤗😘 This story has me so conflicted. I feel that the mom had post partum depression with her description of the baby crying and being a little careless. I battled post partum psychosis with two of my children and was hospitalized with second child for 3 months. With my third child I was medicated all the way through so it was manageable but I know how hard the struggle of battling so many difficult thoughts. I never hurt my children and they are my world but the way I see this story because of my experiences was Ellie really did love her child. She wouldn’t have had so much grief if she didn’t. She wouldn’t have hurt so bad. When I had post partum depression with my daughter I asked my therapist “I feel like such a horrible mother, aren’t my kids better off without me and I feel so numb and depressed do I even love my kids?” She told me “If you didn’t love them or if you were a bad mother you wouldn’t even care or try to get help or ask that question. A bad mother would care less and wouldn’t care to ask or try and tou are here and you are worried about your feelings towards them so you do love them or you wouldn’t worry so much. The depression is just clouding your thoughts.” So that’s how I feel about the story. Yes the Pamela seemed to care for the child and the baby would be in good hands but with help Ellie could be the right and perfect mom to her baby. Now she could completely lose it and lose everything.😓 Thanks for sharing this lovely story Pete. I could definitely relate to this one in a way and think you did a great job! Xoxoxoxo😄🤗😘🎊🎉💙💛💚💖

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, and your personal story, Dani. This sort of thing was common a few years ago, and of course Ellie is not to blame. She’s just a harassed young mum, barely prepared for motherhood, and finding the changes hard to cope with. Pamela has issues; perhaps infertility, or a general concern for babies, but Charlotte would undoubtedly be better off with her real mum.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 2 people

  6. That’s scary. Yes, you can look at this one as possibly being a good thing as the baby may now be much better looked after. On the other hand, if the mum was actually such a bad parent who didn’t care one bit about her child, I doubt she would have been so hysterical with grief and fear when she went missing.

    This to me sounds like one of those turn your back for one minute horror stories every parent dreads. Pamela sounds like she has some serious issues. Who takes a strangers baby?!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Maddy. These stories were very common a few years ago. Women unable to have children or had experienced stillbirths were often stealing babies, driven by the urge to nurture. Ellie isn’t bad, just a young mum, tired and unprepared. She might find her baby one day, but we will never know…
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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