“Where’s Matty gone?”
I turned around at the sound of Son1’s voice, a notch smaller than usual, and sure enough his brother was gone.
It all happened in an instant. We’d spent a magnificent day exploring Manama – a cosmopolitan capital city with a liberal lifestyle, where old and new is succinctly blended; where glass and steel spires decorate the city’s skyline, and the narrow streets at the Manama souq are filled with stalls selling perfumes, spices, nuts, shisha bottles and gold.
We’d worn the children out, with sights including the new Bahrain Financial Harbour, rising like Neptune from reclaimed land, and the twin towers of the Bahrain World Trade Centre – linked by skybridges sporting wind turbines. The kids had swum, jet-skied on the sparkling bay (the small island nation is characterised by the aquamarine water that laps its shores). They’d enjoyed a Dairy Queen dinner beside a beautiful mosque with two towering minarets lit up like candles. Then they’d both fallen asleep in the car on the way back to the hotel.
I’d woken Son2 up with difficulty, and he was walking right behind me as we made our way in the dark to the wide doors at the entrance. I’d seen him a second before, his head bowed, shoulders hunched with tiredness. And then, like a car crash, it happened.
Except, of course, you don’t immediately think you’ve actually lost your son, do you? You assume he’s just trailed too far behind and you casually start calling his name across the dimly lit car park.
Fast-forward 10 minutes, and I was beginning to panic. Where on earth had he gone? We’d checked all the obvious places, the room, the car park, the hotel lobby, a second entrance where workers were dismantling tables and chairs from a wedding at the hotel. Noticing that something was amiss, they joined our search. What was he wearing? they asked, and I could barely remember.
“Come,” said one of the men, and feeling like my legs were on backwards, I followed him over to the security guard at the gate. I’d noticed him earlier: dark hair stuck to his glistening forehead as he checked the trunks and underbellies of all the cars entering the hotel grounds. Checking for what? I’d wondered. Bombs?
He shook his head. “Maybe the swimming pool?” he said, looking askance. I wasn’t too worried about the pool, as Son2 swims well; by now, I’d started imagining he was in someone’s car, half-way over the King Fahd Causeway to neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
DH, Son1 and I lapsed into a dreadful silence as everyone continued to search, the sound of loud music from the wedding party reception at the edge of my hearing. How could he have vanished in the blink of an eye? I’d only taken my eyes off him for a second. My heart was thumping, my mouth as dry as the desert all around.
Then out of the darkness came the silhouette of a man. A security guard was walking towards us, all smiles, eyes twinkling with warmth. He was carrying our sleeping son – Son2 had wandered off, laid down on a grassy verge, and fallen fast asleep. Totally oblivious to the commotion going on around him …
Just when I thought holidays with kids were getting easier!