Chapter 10 Summary
Chapter 10, told from Sarah's perspective, begins shortly before Charlie goes missing. Sarah has just made the life-changing decision to quit her job at the magazine. She plans to devote all her attention to writing the book about Nigeria for which Andrew had written such copious notes. Sarah asks Little Bee if she will go down and play with Charlie and Lawrence while she makes the phone call to her office to deliver her resignation.
Sarah is surprised that the publisher's only reaction to her leaving is to say, "Fine." She is suddenly aware that it is not hard to change one's life but, rather, "frighteningly easy." Clarissa, Sarah's assistant, rings back and wants to know if Sarah has lost her mind. Sarah says no, that she has decided to make a difference in the world. Clarissa accuses her former boss of having a midlife crisis.
Hanging up, Sarah gazes down at the shoreline where Little Bee and Lawrence are deep in conversation, but she does not see Charlie. She goes down and asks where he is. Panic sets in as she realizes neither one of them knows. Sarah begins screaming her son's name. She races up and down the beach, looking at the face of every child she passes, hoping one will be her son and that she had just momentarily failed to recognize him. With every moment that passes, she becomes more sure that Charlie is not just hiding but that someone has kidnapped him. Sarah questions families on the shore, trying to keep her panicky voice in check. No one has seen him.
Sarah scans the water and sees a heart-stopping sight. It is a cracked plastic mask, but not Charlie or Charlie's mask. She realizes that somewhere along the way, she has lost her phone. Images of her son race through her mind as she continues her frantic and lonely search.
She feels Lawrence's firm hands on her shoulders. He tells her they have to be systematic. He orders Sarah to stay put so the child will know where to come back to if he has just gone wandering. Lawrence will engage other beach-goers in the search. He then hands his cellular phone to Little Bee and tells her to phone the police.
"The police," says Little Bee, quietly. At first Sarah thinks that she just does not know the emergency number, but when Little Bee repeats, "Sarah, the police," she understands. For Little Bee to phone the authorities will be a sure ticket to her deportation. Sarah watches the young woman's face change. Little Bee knows she has to do it. She cannot leave Charlie to his uncertain fate without trying to help. She phones the police.
Sarah stays on the spot while Lawrence continues to look. Suddenly, she hears Lawrence's voice from behind her, calling out that everything is all right. Charlie has been found.