The Missing Mini Cooper
Zadie looked out the window and shrieked. Her car! Her new car was gone. She yelled at her mom before she remembered her parents had left the day before on an overnight trip. She searched her purse for the keys, but they were gone. Yikes! She must have left the keys in the car the night before.
The Mini Cooper was a birthday gift from her parents. They knew she had always wanted one but had always discouraged the idea. She recalled the day two weeks before when her dream came true.
She’d slept late on the day of her birthday and awakened to hear her family singing downstairs. “Happy birthday to you.”
Bounding down the steps, she arrived in time to see Mom light the sixteen blue candles on the creamy fudge chocolate cake, her favorite. Her younger brother Quinn danced around, yelling for her to blow out the candles. Her little sister Rose held out a gift wrapped with a red bow larger than the box.
Zadie’s face glowed as she blew out the candles and opened a make-up set from Rose and earbuds from Quinn. Mom offered her a small foil-wrapped box while Dad looked on grinning. A ring, or a necklace, she thought. When she opened the box, a key lay on a soft bed of cotton. Connected to the key was a Z keychain.
She gasped. Dad pointed toward the door, and she fled. In the driveway was a Mini Cooper. Not blue as the one in her dream, but yellow was fine. Not a brand new one, but a few years old was fine. It was the car she’d wanted forever.
And now it was gone. What would Mom and Dad say when they found out it had been stolen? The insurance wouldn’t pay since she’d left the keys in it. How could she have been so careless?
Her parents had received an unexpected invitation to attend an important event and rushed off, leaving her in charge of her younger siblings. When they found out how irresponsible she was, they would never trust her again.
She ran outside and looked up and down the street. She had parked it right by the mailbox. She looked around the mailbox and opened the door like she might find it there. She walked around the block, then around another block, and another. Every time she heard a vehicle, she looked. She saw a blue Mini Cooper parked on the street. She saw a red Mini Cooper drive by. But not a yellow one.
A neighbor was weeding her garden when Zadie walked by. Ms. Clara spent a lot of time outdoors and could have seen something. Zadie talked to her a while about her garden before mentioning her problem.
“Ms. Clara, did you see the yellow Mini Cooper my parents gave me for my birthday?”
“Oh, my goodness! How nice of them.” She stood and put her hands on her hips. “But why would they give you a car when you aren’t old enough to drive?”
“I am old enough. I turned sixteen on my birthday.”
Ms. Clara frowned. “You mean you can drive when you’re sixteen? I thought you had to be eighteen.”
“I started learning when I was fourteen. Now I can drive by myself.”
“That’s wonderful. You think someday you can drive me to the store? I want to go shopping but my son took my car. He says I’m too old to drive.”
“Sure, Ms. Clara. I’d be glad to do that. But right now…”
Ms. Clara interrupted. “Oh, that makes me so happy. I’ll run get my purse. Can’t shop without money.”
“But Ms. Clara, I can’t take you today. You see…”
“Oh. I guess you are busy. Tomorrow, then. I have to make some lunch.” Ms. Clara wiped her hands on her apron and waved as she went into the house.
Zadie shrugged. When she rounded a corner, she saw another neighbor sitting on his porch reading. He may have seen something. She opened the gate and started up the steps when she heard a growl. A big black dog stood a few feet away, staring at her. She backed out and closed the gate. The dog ran toward her, and she ran for a nearby maple tree. It had been a while since she climbed a tree, but she hadn’t forgotten how.
“Mr. Spray,” she yelled. “Mr. Spray, help!”
Mr. Spray lowered the book and looked around, then turned back to his book.
“Mr. Spray! Help me.”
This time he stood and saw Zadie treed by the dog.
“Blackie! Here, boy. Leave that girl alone.” He slapped his leg and Blackie jumped back inside the fence. Zadie jumped down and ran. She didn’t stop until she arrived at her house.
“I don’t know what to do!” she wailed. “My beautiful car is gone. Mom and Dad will kill me.”
“One of your friends could have borrowed it.” Quinn tried to be helpful.
“Do you think I wouldn’t know if a friend borrowed it?” Quinn lowered his head, and Zadie was sorry she snapped. “I’m sorry, Quinn. I know you’re trying to help. But hey, that’s a good idea. I’ll call them to see if they know something.”
She called her friends, but they knew nothing about her car.
“You need to call the police,” Lucy said. “They need to know it’s been stolen so they can find it right away. The thief will take it to a chop-shop and they’ll chop it up and sell the parts.”
“You need to call the cops.” Patty always had good advice. “That way they can find it before it’s sold to a pawn shop. Thieves do that, you know.”
“You need to call Tommy Lee,” offered Jamie. “He’s the best detective in the country. He’ll find it for you before night.” Tommy Lee was not a detective—he was the star quarterback on the high school team and Jamie had a major crush on him. She thought he could do anything.
She’d talk to some guys. They seemed to know more about car stuff. She called Brandon.
“Why did you leave your keys in the car? You should have known it would be stolen. Man, is your dad gonna be pissed.”
Zadie regretted calling him. Collin would be more understanding. She called and explained her situation.
“You must have left it somewhere. You know how scatter-brained you are.”
With a huge sigh, Zadie hung up. Her guy friends were no better help than the girls. She would have to handle this problem herself. Now she had to fix lunch for Quinn and Rose.
After lunch, she sat at the table with her head in her hands. She thought back to the last time she had driven her car. It was Tuesday. She couldn’t believe she had a new car and had only driven it a few times. Her school was close enough to walk, and she didn’t go out much in the evenings because of homework. Sometimes she kept it parked beside the garage but most often left it on the street. She raised her head. Had she looked beside the garage? Of course, she had. She checked just in case. It wasn’t there.
“Zadie, will you help me with my math homework?” Quinn waved his book at her, and she sat beside him.
“Look, bud, when you multiply you have to carry the numbers. See?” She pointed at the problem, but he shook his head.
“That isn’t the way Miss Billie does it.”
“Oh, okay. You have to do it the way she says.” She stood and began pacing.
“Zadie, will you play Connect Four with me?” Rose held the game up.
“Sure. Put it on the table and we’ll play.” Zadie couldn’t focus, and Rose sighed and put the game into the box.
Zadie paced the floor until she saw her parents turn into the drive. Panic over her missing car overcame her fear of angry parents, and she ran to meet them.
“Mom! Dad! My car is missing. My beautiful car. It’s gone.” She put her hands over her face and cried.
“Zadie, what do you mean? Your car is right there.” Zadie followed the direction Dad pointed.
“That isn’t my car. My car is yellow. That one is blue.”
Her parents looked at each other, then at Zadie.
“We had your car painted. Don’t you remember?”
Zadie shook her head.
Dad looked at Mom. “I thought you were going to tell her,”
Mom shook her head. “With all the rush packing, I guess I forgot.” She reached into her purse and pulled out the Z keychain with the key. “I guess I forgot to give you this too.”
Zadie hugged her parents and grabbed the key. “Glad you’re home. Thanks for having it painted blue. I love it. Right now, I need to go to the store to get some Tylenol.”