Tiffany grasped the wheel and sat up straight and stiff. Her gaze bounced about the playground quickly. She looked at a group of little kids zooming around a plastic playset, zipping down slides and swinging on monkey bars. She looked at a group of older boys chasing each other in the dirt, shouting and grinning, and she looked at kids on the swings pushing each other and pumping their scuffed-up legs. Tiffany wondered if Toby ever hung out with any of these kids, she wondered whether he liked the swings, the monkey bars or the slide, she wondered all these things and so much more, but her thoughts were interrupted by a sharp, tap tap tapping, on the windshield. “Ma’am,” a women's voice hollered. Tiffany’s head snapped away from the playground and into the eyes of the tired old woman before her. Her skin was tan with a reddish tint, matching her greasy hair thrown into a messy bun. She looked like she had been mushed up like playdoh with all her wrinkles. She tapped her finger nails on the windshield again, she had cheetah print acrylics. “Ma’am your son is here,” a little boy clutching the arms of his racecar backpack was standing outside of the car with a blank face. “Oh!” Tiffany said loudly, her face burning with embarrassment. “I’m sorry,” she said to the wrinkled woman. “That’s all right ma’am,” the woman said with a sigh. “Toby come in the car,” Tiffany said, grabbing the wheel again. Toby swung open the car door, still wearing a blank expression, and hopped his little pale body inside. “How was your day at school honey?” Tiffany asked, focusing on the road and pulling out of the school parking lot. Toby crossed his arms and scrunched up his face. “Mmmph!” He grunted, blowing his bangs out of his face. Tiffany furrowed her thick brows, concerned. “Well what is that supposed to mean honey?” She asked. “I don’t want to tell you!” Toby screeched unraveling his arms and balling his hands into fists, “Because you’re not my Mom!” Toby wailed. Tiffany closed her eyes and sighed, “You know I don’t like it when you say those things Tobes,” she said looking at Toby’s tear streaked face in the rearview mirror. He sniffed and wiped away his tears, preparing to let out another scream, “I DON’T CARE!” Toby shouted at the top of his lungs, and then he burst into a miniscule ball of rage, kicking and punching everything in sight. Tiffany sighed and let him have a temper tantrum, he just got like that sometimes. Toby had calmed down by the time Tiffany was pulling her beat up van into the driveway, his face was still puffy and red. “Yay!” Toby shouted throwing the car door open and running to the front door, his little blue backpack thump, thump thumping against his back. Tiffany smiled and got out of the car, right behind him. The scratched front door opened revealing a grinning face, tattooed arms reaching out. “Toby!” Miranda said, “Miranda!” Toby yelled, jumping into her arms. Miranda grinned and looked up at Tiffany. She stood up, Toby still in her arms and pulled Tiffany closer to her and gave her a kiss on the lips. Tiffany smirked, “You just can’t help yourself, can you?” Miranda gave Tiffany that charming grin and said, “I guess I can’t,” and she set Toby down on the floor. The rest of the afternoon was peaceful. Miranda whipped up chicken and cheese quesadillas while Tiffany helped Toby do his homework at the dining table. Toby talked for the entirety of dinner, jamming quesadillas into his mouth and going on and on about his new 1st grade teacher Ms. Crabtree and how he played kickball with the second graders at recess. Eventually he winded down after desert, (hot fudge sundaes,) and Tiffany and Miranda tucked him into his flowery quilts. “Can I get a racecar bed?” He asked eyes closed, “Like the one I used to have, like the one you saw...” Tiffany and Miranda exchanged glances not knowing what to say, eventually Miranda spoke, “We’ll think about it Tobes,” she said and then Tiffany pecked him on the cheek. After that Tiffany and Miranda went to their bedroom, Miranda slipping into the sheets and cracking open a dusty book that she had been reading. Tiffany sat next to her. “Miranda,” Tiffany said glancing in her direction, “Toby had another tantrum today. Miranda set down her book, “Oh no Tiff, I’m sorry, when was it?”
“As soon as he got in the car,” Tiffany said. “Did he say you weren’t his Mom?” Miranda asked. “Yes.” Miranda ran her warm, callused hand over Tiffany’s arm. “I’m so sorry,” Tiffany smiled, “It’s ok. Do you ever think...” she started, contemplating if she should say this or not, “do you ever think about giving him back to his parents?” Miranda shot up angrily, “Tiffany!” She hissed, “we made a promise when we took Toby and we are going to keep that promise no matter what!” Tiffany sighed, she hated it when Miranda got upset. “I know I know it’s just I feel like he has the right to be with them...” Miranda shook her head, “You can’t get soft about that kind of thing Tiff,” she said laying back down, her back facing Tiffany. Miranda, click, turned off the lamp and pulled the covers closer. “Good night.” Tiffany said. “Good night.” Miranda said stiffly.
The next morning Miranda woke up first, she hastily took a shower and then threw her ratty pink bathrobe on and ran outside to check the mail. She shivered in the cold as she pulled out stacks of bills and then: a letter. As quickly as she could she tore it open and snatched out the loose-leaf piece of paper inside. It read:
Tiffany and Miranda, we have agreed to pay the ransom for our son Toby. Please have him back to our house by 6.