Thanksgiving weekend, and all the teens who headed to their campuses at summer’s end were home. The atmosphere vibrated, as if it had been five years instead of five weeks.
Ari’s friend Sarah, 18, had been over within ten minutes of getting back. She lives close by, and came over to cut his hair. We use clippers on it, and he says I make a mess of it. He says I dig the little feet really hard into his head. I do not, but he waits for Sarah to do it.
Kids filtered in and out much of the evening, and around 11pm, Ari told me that he and Ben were going to a movie. I waved them off, and headed to bed. My sons are good about texting me any changes in plans.
On Saturday morning I noticed Ari’s room was empty. I presumed I had a bunch in the rec room, sprawled on the sectional couch that takes up half the room. I glanced in, but there were no bodies in the piles of cushions and blankets. That was odd.
I barged into Christopher’s room, poking the sleeping giant.
“Did Ari text you?
“Where is he?”
Ari wasn’t in the living room. I took a few deep breaths. There is nowhere else in our house to sleep. The front door was locked. I constantly remind them to lock up because someone will steal me. I say this every single time, even when I catch Christopher muttering under his breath that he wishes someone would. I would find it difficult to believe that someone would have stolen Ari instead; he eats way more than I do.
I poked Christopher again.
“What’s Ben’s last name? I can’t remember,” I said.
“Haapppmmmmm,” he said into his pillow. It was enough. I called Ben’s house, nonchalantly saying good morning to his mother, asking if Ari had stayed the night before.
“No, Ben got home about 1:30, she said. “Ari’s not with him. Hang on,” she trailed off, as another slumbering teen got poked and asked questions.
“Ben dropped Ari off at your place first,” she told me. I thanked her and hung up.
Every single bad show I’ve ever seen ran in my head. I watched my son leave Ben’s Jeep at the curb, and disappear into the ether as he walked up the driveway.
“And there the path goes cold,” says the sinister voice over. “Mere seconds from safety, Ari vanished into thin air. Someone saw something. If you have information, please call the number at the bottom of your screen.” I actually saw 1-800-BRING ARI HOME.
I grabbed the phone and called Sarah’s mom. I woke them up. She checked, but Ari was not there. As we spoke, I glanced down. Ari’s shoes. I kept talking to her, and went back up to the rec room. A pile of blankets moved. Ari was buried in them, blinking in the sun streaming in through the window.
“What are you doing?” he squinted.
Setting up a command centre? Printing posters? Looking for a recent photo?
“I didn’t know where you were. I couldn’t find you.” I hung up the phone as Ari started laughing at me. Then he stopped.
“How many people have you called?”
By that evening, I again had a houseful of kids, laughing about the night Ari got kidnapped.
I will not tell them that I cried a little back in the kitchen that morning. I thought that Mama Reflex would go away as they aged. Nope.