Antonia, if she'd still had a father, would have—no doubt—been prevented from running off. Her father, by his mere presence, would have instilled the fear of God into her or loomed tall and strong in her mind in a way her soft-hearted mother never could. Despite her age, she fantasized that had her father remained in her life, she wouldn't feel so alone, always straying from the other children. She believed she wouldn't be breaking the rules if he was still a part of her life. Her mother hadn't raised her voice or overly chastised Antonia in the two years since her father had left. Antonia knew she was being spared the sharp discipline that used to come when she was bad but didn't attribute it to Dad's departure. Despite her freedoms, however, she knew something was missing.
That was why she broke the rules against wandering away.
That was why she didn’t glance back at the other children laughing and running and shrieking as they played during recess.
That was why she searched, instead, for her One True Friend.
She peered beneath the bushes and behind the grounds-keeper's tool shed. She searched the sandbox, jungle gym, and cafeteria dumpsters. She even snuck down to the edge of the swampland at the northern edge of school property to investigate the reed-filled waters.
There was no sign of Rahne.
She knew that any number of things could be occupying his flighty attentions but she still felt annoyed that he was nowhere to be found. Her teachers called her “more mature than most third-graders,” but she still got bored when things didn’t go as planned. Rahne wasn't there when she wanted him to be.
She stalked back towards the playground as recess approached its end. Deciding that if she couldn't play with her One True Friend she wouldn't play at all, she sat by herself near the far edge of the school by the sixth-grader's classrooms. She kicked at a few white dandelions and sent their seeds soaring.