I called his mum for him, and he arranged to meet her outside Cash Converters ("You know where you hock your computer all the time?" he asked her.) It was still daylight, and I figured he'd be okay, so I continued home. But the closer I got, the worse I felt; what if that was my son, and he was left to his own devices in a strange place? And he'd said he was starving, too. I decided that once I'd got home I'd grab something for him out of my cupboards then head back and wait for his mum with him. (yes, I shouldn't have left him, I realised that later - kid that young, what was I thinking?). All I could find that was unopened was a packet of chips, and the kid was already obese so I didn't want to take those for him. And then I started thinking - what if he's allergic to something? Like gluten, or lactose? What if I gave him something that made him sick? What if I took him that half a block of chocolate, or some biscuits from my bikkie tin, or a slice of fruitcake, and his mum accused me of trying to poison him? Seriously, this is what I was thinking, and hating that the world has reached the point that I DO have these thoughts.
In the end I contented myself with getting him a bottle of water - it had been a hot day, and was still around thirty degrees - then grabbed my car keys and drove back to wait with him. I'm glad I did, too; it took his mum fortyfive minutes to come and get him and by the time she arrived storm clouds had blown up and it was pitch black. God knows what she was doing for all that time.
While we waited I managed to get a bit of his story from him. He is in foster care, and he had a fight with his carers who apparently took his money off him, so he decided to head home. He reckoned his case officer said it was okay, as long as it was only for one night. I hope he's right. I was concerned about him going back to his mum if he wasn't supposed to be with her but he wouldn't give any clues about his carers' whereabouts and was keen to get home, which I figured wouldn't be the case if he was abused at all. I think his mum just lacked the means to care for him and his little sister, who is also in care elsewhere.
I hope he's okay. And I still feel bad that I couldn't even take him something to eat, being too worried about any potential consequences for me. And I hate that the state of the world made me worry about something like that.