Before I could answer, she rushed off, leaving her stroller, and her little girl, with us. Complete strangers.
I was at the mall with Liam and my mother-in-law. We were sitting in the food court, when a woman approached us, and asked if we could watch her daughter for a few minutes. Before I could answer, she rushed off, leaving her stroller, and her little girl, with us. Complete strangers. My MIL and myself stood there, looking around for the mother, but she had vanished. We decided to stay in the food court with the little girl, and wait for the mother to come back. She started to fuss, and I handed her some of my french fries, which calmed her down, but she kept looking around, probably for her mother.
The woman eventually came back, and asked if we could take her daughter to the bathroom to change her. I immediately said no, and told her that she was insane for leaving her daughter with complete strangers in a mall while she ran off to do whatever she was doing. I told her that I wasn’t going to watch her daughter for her. She paused for a moment, then turned and ran from us. I called after her, but she was gone. My MIL got out her phone to call the police, but right when she started dialing, another woman came up to us, and asked if we could watch her daughter for her. I started to protest, but the woman would not let me talk. She was holding onto a stroller, which was facing away from us, and began rattling off information about her child. The biggest thing that stuck out to me was that she mentioned her daughter was 10 years old, but when she said it, she motioned to the stroller.
Frustrated, I told her that I had to take the other little girl to the bathroom to change her, but when I said that, the woman got angry, and told me that her daughter could not be around other kids, and that she was uncomfortable with me taking her into the bathroom with the toddler. Confused, I told the woman that I WAS NOT going to watch her daughter for her, and told her to leave us alone. She turned and walked off, but left the stroller with us. My MIL was still on the phone with the police, or whoever, and was shouting at them impatiently. I looked into the stroller to see a girl, definitely older than 10 years old, staring back at me with a pissed off expression. She climbed out of the stroller, and I pegged her age at around 15 or 16 years old. She was tall. Taller than me.
I rolled my eyes, angry that the girl was still here, and picked up the toddler girl. I started to walk toward the bathrooms, when the older girl started shrieking and stomping her feet, throwing some kind of tantrum. I looked around, and everyone was staring at us. Several people were taking out their phones to start recording. I went to the girl and asked her what her problem was. She laughed, and ran away. Not wanting the mother to be angry with me for losing her kid, I handed the toddler to my MIL, and chased her.
I chased her throughout the mall, until we got to a long corridor, lined with elevator doors. I watched her run through a set of doors, just before they closed, and watched to see which floor she was going to. As I waited, I started mumbling to myself about how crazy the mothers were, and how crazy this girl was. The floors went all the way up to 20, and of course, that’s where she was going.
My phone started ringing, it was my MIL, and I answered. I couldn’t hear what she said to me, but I calmly turned away from the elevator doors, and walked back to the food court. The mother of the older girl was waiting for me, along with the police. She was in cuffs. The police explained that this was all some sort of con that she and her daughter ran, and somehow they stole money from people in the process. The officer also said that they had her daughter on the 20th floor, and that they had been watching them all day. I thanked them for detaining them, and mentioned the toddler girl, whose mother still had not come back, but he only shrugged.
They left, having gotten who they came for, and I was left standing in the food court with someone else’s child. We sat there for hours. The mall cleaned out, and I could see through the skylights that it had gotten dark. The little girl’s mother was not coming back. My MIL was on the phone with the police again, shouting at them. Both toddlers were asleep in their strollers. A security guard came over and asked us to leave, and when we explained the situation, he said that no one else was left in the building, but said we could leave the little girl with him until the police showed up. I looked at the little girl, and started crying. We left her, still sleeping in her stroller, with the security guard at the mall, and left.
My phone was ringing in my hand, but I wasn’t answering it. Liam was awake now, and was on his grandmother’s shoulders, while I pushed the stroller out the mall doors. The sun was out again, despite it being dark only minutes before, and my MIL started talking about going to Baker Lake park, one of our favorite nearby parks.
I vaguely remember the park, and the lake, and that my phone kept ringing through the rest of the dream.
And then I woke up.