This is the second part of a story started here.
Either way mama chose to run, it was dangerous. Since she couldn’t be sure which way the giant animal would go, she opted to run back across the open area. She figured that with the giant animal so close, it was a safe bet that there wouldn’t be any predators in the open area. She heard her little brown babies right behind her.
“Stay close. We’re going back across… NOW,” and for the first time in her life, she took a sharp turn into the open area without looking to see if there was danger first. She ran as fast as she knew her little brown babies could run. When the danger was far behind, she stopped and turned around. She saw little brown daughter running the last few steps to meet her, but there was no little brown son.
They waited, hoping he would catch up. When he didn’t, they went back to the edge of the open area to look for him. Mama steeled herself to look at the open area for fear that a giant animal had gotten him, but there was nothing there. They waited. The giant animal they had run from was far away now. They waited. The sun was high in the sky. Still, they waited.
Eventually, mama told the little brown daughter that she was going back across the open area to look for him. She knew she could move faster without little brown daughter and she didn’t want to risk losing her, too.
“You wait right here. If I’m not back by the time the sun is level with the treetops, you go on home. I’ll meet you there.”
“Mama, don’t leave me.”
“It’s okay, daughter. I’m just going to run over there and take a look. Wait right here. Don’t move until the sun is level with the treetops, but I’ll be back before then, okay?”
Mama looked both ways and didn’t see any giant animals. When she got about halfway across, a giant bird swooped down low.
Mama cursed herself for being so preoccupied with little brown son that she forgot to check the skies before crossing the open area. She felt a talon graze the fur on her back, but she managed to outmaneuver him. He came down low for another try, but by then, she was on the other side and took cover behind a fencepost.
She was exhausted and wanted to rest for a while, but she had to look for little brown son. Finding him was all that mattered now. She was terrified to find a little lifeless body somewhere in the field, but she found nothing. Against her better judgment, especially with a known predator in the area, she called out for him, but she heard no reply.
She searched most of the field before she noticed that the sun was almost level with the treetops. She thought of poor little brown daughter on the other side all alone and decided she had to go back. This time, she looked both ways and scanned the entire sky before crossing. She didn’t see the giant bird; hopefully, he had moved on.
She made it across without incident and found little brown daughter asleep under some dead grasses. The clever little thing had made a nest for herself and was almost completely hidden from view. Even mama had a hard time spotting her. If she hadn’t been specifically looking for her and knew where little brown daughter was, mama wouldn’t have seen her at all.
“Did you find him?”
“No, child, I didn’t, but let’s go on home. Perhaps he’s there waiting for us. I picked up lots of food on the other side.”
The sky was turning all sorts of colors by the time they made it back to the burrow. Mama always loved the way the sky looked at this time of day, but tonight, she hardly even glanced at it. She couldn’t wait to see if little brown son was at home.
Mama was breathless with hope as she entered the burrow, but little brown son was not there. She sat down and finally let herself cry. Little brown daughter snuggled up against her, trying to comfort her and cried, too. They fell asleep with tears in their eyes.
When Mama woke up, she felt for her babies as usual–little brown daughter and little brown son. It took several seconds to remember the events of the previous day. Little brown son was missing. She sat up with a bolt. She felt again–little brown daughter and little brown son. She woke him up, hoping that this wasn’t a dream, that this was real, that he was really there.
She squeezed him tight. “What happened? How are you here? Where have you been?”
“When you told us to go back across the open area, I guess I got turned around and went the wrong way. I outran the giant animal and kept running. By the time I stopped, I had no idea where I was or where you were. Then, I heard you calling. I called back, but I guess you didn’t hear me. I followed your voice though, and made it across the open area and back home. You told us, if there was danger and we got separated, that we should meet back here, so that’s what I did.”
Mama had no words. She squeezed her little brown babies tight and her heart overflowed with pride. They both had done just fine on their own on the first time out. She wasn’t afraid for them anymore. They would survive. Everything would be alright.
Written for the Weekly Writing Challenge: Cliffhanger