When he looked, it wasn’t there.
The plastic hangers in Olly’s wardrobe squeaked along the metal rail as he pushed them back and forth.
He screwed up his nose. In amongst the usual smells of pinewood and clean laundry was something else. It reminded him of the greenhouse on a hot day, and honey, and dust.
She appeared in the doorway. ‘What’s the matter, Olly?’
‘I can’t find my red t-shirt!’
‘Oh,’ she touched her face, eyes darting upwards. ‘Isn’t it in the wardrobe?’
She chewed her lip. ‘I’ll look in the airing cupboard.’
He watched her head up the stairs to the top floor. He picked up his T-Rex and stomped it around his room for a few minutes, then followed.
‘No, I haven’t.’
Mum was talking on her phone. He sat down on the stairs just out of sight. His fingers caressed the bumpy surface of the small, plastic dinosaur.
‘He might’ve said something to Peter–’
Below, the front door clattered. Olly dropped the toy and hurtled down the one and a half flights of stairs to the hallway. ‘Dad! You’re home early!’
His father slipped his mobile into his pocket, then swept Olly into his arms. His breath was thick and sweet. ‘Where’s Mummy, sport?’
‘She’s upstairs, looking for my t-shirt.’
‘Okay, kiddo. Go and find that book we were reading yesterday. I’ll be down in a bit.’
He put his son back on his feet and started up the stairs.
Olly walked into the front room. He heard his mother say ‘Peter!’ and someone must’ve dropped something, because there was a thump. It probably wasn’t anything important though, because he didn’t hear anything else. Olly thought about the book. He was sure they’d left it on the coffee table.
But when he looked, it wasn’t there.
This was written in response to a challenge to write a 300-word story that both started, and ended, with the words “when he looked, it wasn’t there”. I came up with the idea of a parent ‘putting something away’ while their child wasn’t there (as I was tidying some old bits of artwork ‘away’ in the bin) and then asked myself for a more dramatic reason for a child’s things to be packed away.