"Pardon me, ma'am, but does this belong to you?"
At the sight that awaited her upon opening her front door that warm, April morning, Amanda Lane came fully awake and stared wordlessly.
A slightly heavyset man in his early to mid forties stood on her doorstep, one beefy hand tightly grasping the small, stubby one of her five-year-old daughter, Jane. The man was dressed in the familiar uniform of the Lawndale Police Department and he had a strange look on his face, as though he didn't know whether to be angry or amused. Amanda thought he looked rather constipated.
But of course, it probably wouldn't be a wise idea to say as much.
"Yes, yes, she's my daughter." Amanda said airily. "Has she done something wrong?"
"I didn't do anything wrong, mama," little Jane piped up suddenly, running into the house and throwing her arms around her mother's waist. "All I did was paint the eggs!"
Amanda glanced at the officer, who now looked as though he were fighting back a smile.
"The eggs, sweetie?" she asked her daughter.
"Uh huh! The eggs on the poster!"
Amanda looked at the cop, her eyes questioning.
The officer scratched his head and asked, "You know the Seventh Street Baptist Church?"
Amanda nodded. "The one on Seventh Street," she retorted lamely. "About five blocks from here?" Amanda's eyes lit in sudden understanding. "With the ten foot tall cardboard poster advertisement for the Easter Egg Hunt?"
"That's right. Well you see, lady, my partner and I were coming back from our lunch break and we were running a little bit late. So, we took a shortcut down Seventh Street." Here the cop looked down at Jane, who had her arms around Amanda's waist and was staring sullenly at the policeman. "Anyway," he continued. "We were coming down Seventh Street, and who do you think we saw standing on a footstool in front of Seventh Street Baptist's Easter Egg Hunt poster, with an arm full of watercolor paint just painting away to her heart's content?"
Amanda laughed, albeit a little nervously, and looked down at her daughter. "Her?" she asked weakly.
"Oh yes, indeed," the officer said with a smile. "I got out of my car and walked up to her, mind you, she didn't even look around when I walked up, and I asked her 'Sweetie, what are you doing?' and she looks at me like I'm some kinda nut, and says 'I'm painting the eggs.'"
The cop looked again at Jane, who stared back defiantly. "That's one brave kid you got there," he said.
"Officer," Amanda said, "Is she in trouble?"
"Oh no," he said, and he looked legitimately happy to say so. "Just after I got there, one of the preachers came out and saw what Jane was doing. As it turns out, he LOVED the idea of coloring the poster. His daughter had been the one who had the poster printed up and she had neglected to color it."
"Easter eggs are SUPPOSED to be colored," Jane said suddenly as though the cop was some sort of dangerous heretic.
"I know sweetie," Amanda said absentmindedly.
The cop chuckled a bit at this. "Well, it seems that Deacon Rosewood really liked Jane's work on the eggs. He wanted to know if Jane would like to come down sometime and paint the rest of the poster?"
Jane's eyes widened. "Really?"
The police officer nodded. "Really."
Jane looked at her mother expectantly.
"Well, sure. Yes! That'd be fine. I'll be busy the next couple of days, working on some new pottery pieces for the new bank over on Elm...but I'm sure Wind or Summer...well, one of them anyway..." She looked at the policeman. "She has two brothers and two sisters," Amanda explained. The cop nodded understandingly.
Amanda clapped her hands. "Well, that's all worked out. Is there anything else Jane and I can do for you?"
"Nah, I just wanted to make sure she got home okay."
"I TOLD him I lived really close to the church," said Jane. "He didn't believe me."
The cop smiled at her. "It's not that. I just had to make sure you weren't lost or anything. It's part of my job."
Jane looked at him for a moment. Then she softened and looked convinced. "Oh, okay," she said vaguely. "Mama, I'm gonna go get Trent to read to me, okay?"
Jane rushed out of the room at top speed, leaving Amanda alone with the bemused police officer. "That's quite a little girl you have there," he said.
"Don't I know it," Amanda said, smiling.
After a moment, the cop gave his head a final scratch and said, "Well, I really should be getting back to the station. Sorry to have bothered you."
"No bother," said Amanda Lane. She leaned against the door as the cop turned and walked back to his squad car. Just before he got in, he turned and gave her a wave.
"Happy Easter," she called, and went back into the house.