Rose watched her daughter approach the other kids playing on the ball field while their older siblings were busy with track events nearby. She bit her nails, wishing she had some kind of monitoring device that would let her hear what they were saying. For a moment the other preschoolers looked at her daughter suspiciously.

Why suspicion? Alice is the sweetest little girl in the world! She’s polite, and adorable, and what kind of parents must these kids have that they would even hesitate the slightest when…

Her inner monologue halted abruptly when the other children smiled and handed Alice the end of the jump rope. Rose felt the winds of maternal defense dissipate right through her sails.

She could never tell how far was too far. The grassy, recently mowed field was a paradise to the small children. Other parents looked on, alternately straining their necks to watch the older kids in their track meet. It just seemed like too much freedom for such a little person. Alice might not be safe.

Rose still had nightmares about coming home from their weekend at the water park, just one night away, to find that her beloved Macaw had somehow got out of his cage, found the toilet, and drowned. She was still wracked with guilt. Had they really left the lid up? How did he escape the cage? Were they negligent? Her husband had been helpless to console her. “It’s terrible, but there’s nothing we could have done. He was too smart for his own good.”

Alice was smart. So very, incredibly bright. And she was far away. Rose judged it would probably take her at least forty-five seconds to run to her if anything happened. And if Alice suddenly got it into her head to run in the opposite direction, off around the building, or if a stranger, or a wolf…

Wolf? Really? Just how paranoid have I become?

Rose considered running around after her daughter, but at seven months pregnant, carrying twins, that was out of the question.

I could make her play over here in the shade, close to me…

The question remained in her mind for the next two hours. Alice obediently trotted over to her mother’s side every time Rose called, seven in all. Twice to go and cheer for her big sister’s race, once for an untied shoe, once when she noticed Alice probably had to pee, and three times for excuses so small they didn’t really mean anything other than to reassure Rose that her precious child was safe.

And she was safe. She wasn’t bubble wrapped, or leashed to her mother. But Rose had to believe, against all questioning, that Alice was safe.

This was written for the Write on Edge prompt about the Forbidden or Taboo. Well, actually, last week we were prompted to write about freedom, and for some reason all I could think about was how too much freedom can be a bad thing. I didn’t do that prompt. A friend had told me the story about the pet bird several weeks ago, and it broke my heart. Then yesterday, while my teenager was at her track meet, my 4yo played on the grassy field next to the track. I’m not pregnant like the mom in the story, but I wanted to emphasize that running around after the kid wasn’t an option.
I don’t think this little story embodies the “forbidden” prompt very well, but I think if you take both last week’s prompt of “freedom” and combine it with “forbidden” it’s just right.

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