Agnes watched the little boy walk into her store and look around with big wide eyes. He could be no more than three or four years old. His parents had bundled him up warmly against the December cold but his little cheeks were still pink from exposure. She watched him for several moments as he stood in the doorway looking all about, but his parents never appeared behind him.
Agnes stopped stocking cans of beans on the shelf and approached the child, helping him finish entering the store so that she could close the door. She didn’t close it immediately, of course. First she stepped out into air crisp with the promise of snow to look up and down the street for the child’s parents.
The street was not crowded. Mrs. Crenshaw was finishing her shopping down at the grocery store and the passel of Whittock children were playing with a worn rubber ball. But other than that, the street was empty.
Agnes stepped back into her store to face the little boy. She squatted down before him, fifty-year-old knees creaking beneath her. “What’s your name, child?”
The little blond boy just stared at her with his big blue eyes.
“Is your mama outside?” Agnes asked.
There was no reaction from the child.
“How about your pa?”
The boy frowned and his lower lip quivered. A heart-wrenching tear welled up in the corner of his eye but did not break free and roll down his cheek.
Agnes’ heart melted. “It’s alright, child,” she assured him. “We’ll find your Pa. Why don’t you step outside with me and we’ll round him up?”
She took the child’s hand in hers and led him outside.