When I was young (maybe 8 years old) in the late nineties, my mom would sometimes send me run errands from a store near our building. We lived in safe neighborhood, and everyone knew everyone on our street. My mom being paranoid, would always keep an eye on me from the balcony or the window for the few minutes it took me to get there and back.
So one day my younger brother (who is not allowed outside on his own) insisted on tagging along. He’s a quiet kid and rather shy, he held my hand all the way there and I only let go of him when I went to pay for whatever I bought and wait for my change. He couldn’t have been out of my sight for more than 30 seconds, I turned expecting him to be right beside me and I see him just a few feet away but with 3 or 4 adults standing between us, so that for a passer by he seemed to be alone.
I’ was puzzled when I saw an old lady bending down saying something to him. There was nothing remarkable about her, she was fit the stereotype of the sweet old lady who would wave at me and tell me to have a nice day at school. I didn’t have the time to wonder who she was and why she was talking to my brother, my alarm bells went off when I saw her holding his hand, but what made my heart drop was what I heard her say “your mom send me to pick you up”.
My heart starts pounding and I do the only thing I can think of, I hurry to him grab his other hand, give her my best death glare and yank him away. I don’t say a word to her, I don’t think I could have spoken if I wanted to. I just stand there, look her straight in the eyes and glare at her which I’m sure I didn’t look very threatening. But I guess she was looking for an easy pray and it was clear I wasn’t going to just follow her quietly, plus the street was very busy and if she tried to force us I would have made a scene and she must have known it.
If there was any doubt in my mind that there was a misunderstanding, it went away when she just looked at me let go of him and disappeared into the crowd. She didn’t say a word to me, she just turned around and walked away.
My mom warned us about strangers, about talking to them or getting into their cars, but never in a million years would it have crossed my mind to peg someone like that a kidnapper. In my head kidnappers were the stereotypical evil characters I saw in tv, like someone who reminded me of my grandma. Sweet old ladies stealing babies by day, knitting socks by night, who would have thought it.