Wednesday, July 3, 2012
LILLY’S DOOR SLAMMED SHUT for the second time in the span of ten minutes. Controlling my breaths, I attempted not to let her attitude affect me, which was easier to think than to do. God knows how much of a painful knot my daughter has tightened around my heart ever since we moved to Spokane last summer. I took a breath and the moment passed, but it wasn’t long before the door slammed again, unhinging my last nerve from its place. This has to end. Setting the dish towel draped over my shoulder down onto the counter, I bit my lip and turned, heading out of the kitchen and straight upstairs. I needed to confront her, tell her this behavior was not okay and needed to stop.
Since the move last year, my role as mother doubled. Playing both mother and father after a divorce was no easy feat, but I had no other choice. I couldn’t stay in that town, not after what Bruce had done to me, to our family. He took the truth our family relied on, the truth I relied on, and turned it into lies.
Unfortunately, Lilly was getting worse by the day. I knew exactly what was wrong with her, which made it harder. The reality for my Lilly was that she was losing her grip on her boyfriend, Marcus. If I didn’t understand that, maybe I could have shifted blame onto teenage angst and chalked it up as a phase or something else that sat much prettier than the truth. All of my information of her and Marcus’s struggles came through the sounds of muffled yelling I overheard through the bedroom wall. It started to get worse ever since he had to move back to Lincoln City. I couldn’t understand the words, but you don’t have to when people yell. She was sad and hurt with the distance between them. She used to talk to me about the struggles in her heart and mind, but it had slowed over the years, especially after the move.
Arriving at Lillian’s door, I leaned a shoulder against the grains in the wood. My bleeding heart was sewn together with threads of hope, threads of love for my daughter. Even though it wasn’t very realistic, I just wanted her to be happy. Taking a breath, I knocked lightly and raised an eyebrow. “Lilly?”
She finally opened the door. Smudges of mascara on her cheeks, red, swollen eyes and a look of hopelessness sent compassion lapping against the shorelines of my heart. Any anger I had left within me evaporated at the sight of my broken daughter. She appeared to have gone through another rough patch with Marcus. “What?” she asked, her voice soft and void of emotion as if she was wrung dry and left to hang.
“What’s wrong?” Though I knew she wouldn’t respond, I had to ask. I had to make sure she knew that I was always here for her, even if that meant absolutely nothing to her in the moment.
“You wouldn’t understand, Mom . . .” Her voice tapered off like a butterfly quickly taking flight from a flower. Before she could get the door closed, I reached out and caught it.
“Try me.” My eyes connected with hers, and those pretty green eyes looked back at me with a brokenness that rattled me to my core and reminded me of my own throes of pain. There was something deeply wrong with Lilly. I could feel it.
“You know what would be great, Mom?” Her voice came up, sounding like I could possibly help. I was elated at the opportunity.
Raising my eyebrows, I felt this could be the moment we reconnect, the moment we regain the lost relationship we once had when she was younger. For a moment, I envisioned her requesting to go to the mall like we used to when she was ten. Maybe even stop for Chinese food on the way home and have a good laugh over a cup of egg drop soup. The reflective moment slipped into darkness as reality blinked back into focus.
“If you would just let me go to Jess’s house. That’s what I need right now. A little space, Mom.” She turned sharply and went back into her room, letting the door swing wide. I stepped through the doorway and traced my eyes along her walls. Pictures of boy bands and actors hung on the walls and random notes between her and her friends sat on the vanity across from her bed. Then, the letters. A letter every week from Marcus sat stacked on her nightstand like a tribute to their puppy love. They had phones, computers, and every possible way to communicate, yet the guy still sent handwritten notes. It was romantic in a way, but I knew it was young love and I saw the tears of their relationship in my daughter’s eyes daily. It would never last.
“And if I let you go to Jess’s house, can you just meet Jord and me down at the fireworks tomorrow?”
“Yeah, totally.” Lilly was smiling now, a hopeful sign, but really, I was just caving in to see her smile. It’s not like when she was younger. I could just tell her I loved her, walk into a room, or simply look at her to get a smile.
The truth that was the most painful to deal with was she was growing up and I didn’t want that to happen. She’d be eighteen at the end of October, a senior next year. Then it’d be off to college somewhere the year after. My eyes fell on her nightstand and I saw a picture of me and her. It warmed my heart. She had put it away last month after a big blowup we had. Seeing it back out reminded me that she did care down in the depths of all that teenage anger she had brewing inside her. My eyes welled with tears that I couldn’t control. I knew I would soon have a matching mascara smeared face if I didn’t get a handle on it.
“What’s wrong?” She took a step closer to me.
“That picture of us . . .” I pointed a finger and then wiped my eyes, shaking the moment off me. “Sorry. I just . . .” Peering into her eyes, I smiled. “You’re just growing up, Lilly.”
“I’ll always love you, Mom.” She hugged me and my heart crumbled into a million pieces as tears continued.
Texting Jordan, my twelve-year-old boy, I let him know it was time to come home for dinner. He was next door at Alexis and Logan Erickson's house playing video games with their son, Brock. The two of them instantly became friends on the day we moved in. Brock later admitted he spotted Jordan carrying in the Xbox. He worked up the courage to come over and ask later that evening if Jordan wanted to game, and ever since then, the two of them bounced between houses, playing video games and hanging out all the time. It was good to see Jordan adapting so easily to our new life.
Hearing the screen creak open, then the front door open, I hollered from the kitchen stove over my shoulder. “That you, Jord?”
“Nope. It’s me, Stacy.” Stacy was a friend I had started hanging out with six months back. We met at a coffee shop when she caught me checking out the guy making my caramel macchiato. Our conversation continued over to a table and flowed fluidly, so we exchanged numbers and had been friends ever since.
“Oh, good. You’re off early. I need you to mash these potatoes. I’m getting the salad put together.” I handed her the potato masher with a smile, and she mashed while I tossed. I asked her how her latest date went.
“It was okay. Nothing noteworthy.”
Smiling, I pulled shredded cheese out from the fridge as Jordan walked in and sat down at the table. His shoulders were hunched and his hair was partially in his eyes. “Sit up straight, please,” I asked in his direction. He adjusted.
“I thought you said it was ready.” A shake of his head revealed his chestnut brown eyes that reminded me of his father, Bruce, every time I looked at them. It panged me.
Shrugging a shoulder, I turned away from him and went back to the salad on the counter. “I’m almost done, Jord. Chill. How was your time with the Ericksons?”
“It was fine. Brock’s dad was gone most of the day and his mom just barely got home a little bit ago. Kind of nice to have the house to ourselves. We gamed in the living room on the big screen.”
Furrowing an eyebrow, I said, “Home alone, eh? Wow. Where was Logan?”
“I don’t know, Mom.” He laughed. “Am I in trouble or something?”
Shaking my head, I turned and grabbed the salad tongs from the counter. Jordan was old enough to be without constant adult supervision, but it didn’t make it any easier.
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Hearing the sound of pounding on the front door the next morning brought me out of the light sleep I had been enjoying as I snoozed my alarm for over the last hour. I was supposed to get up early because I volunteered to make a green Jell-O salad and a couple of pies for the block party barbecue at Chuck’s house down the street. All the neighbors would be gathered there to eat, mingle and then walk down to the fireworks show at the park on Jefferson and Francis.
Rolling over, I glanced at the clock to see the red lights read 8:40am. Covering my head with the comforter, I drifted gently back to sleep until another round of pounding came a moment later. I moaned with annoyance as I rolled out of bed and grabbed my bathrobe from the bathroom door in my bedroom. As I wrapped it around myself, I heard another knock on the door. “I’m coming,” I shouted with an edge to my tone as I hurried out of my room and down the stairs. Finally opening it, I saw it was my sister, Debbie.
“Why so early, Sis?” I asked with a whine in my voice as I let the door go and headed into the living room. Letting myself melt into the couch, I watched as Debbie made her way into the kitchen with grocery bags. I had texted her last night about picking up a few things I had forgotten at the store, but she said nothing about coming to my house early.
“It’s the fourth of the July. You have that cute little block party thing that most neighborhoods don’t even do anymore. I’m excited!” She pulled a white paper bag full of apples out and set them to the side, then pulled out flour. “You going to chat up that Cole guy at the block party?”
“Oh, jeez, Deborah,” I said dismissively as I stood up and came into the kitchen. “We’re just friends. You know that.”
She laughed. “Yeah. Friends. You’re just scared of Cole because he’s relationship material.” She turned around and put the apples into the fridge. She was right about Cole. He was someone I could see myself being in a relationship with, and I was worried about that. He was kind, God-fearing, loved kids, and was attractive. Why would I want to get to know him and find out he’s not perfect? I’d rather be on the sideline.
My eyes followed Debbie as she maneuvered around in my kitchen. “When are you heading out to The Inn at the Lake?” I asked. She and her husband, Doug, had reserved a couple of nights at the inn for a nice getaway for the two of them. Without any kids in the house since their son Jonathan went off to college, I wasn’t exactly sure what they were getting away from, but she had heard from a friend that the place was exquisite. How I longed in the depths of my soul for a good husband like the one I thought I had, the one she now had.
“About seven. Doug had some last-minute work he had to do before they release the new software.”
I nodded as I came around the counter and into the kitchen. Opening the cupboard, I pulled down a glass and turned on the faucet in the sink to get a drink of water. Jordan came down the stairs a moment later. I stopped him on his way by me with a gentle touch on the shoulder. “Good morning.”
“Morning.” He took a step closer to the cupboard and opened it, grabbing a bowl. Silence followed him with every move as he went about making a bowl of cereal.
“I thought you’d be a little bit more pumped for today.” My eyes followed Jordan to the kitchen table. “It being the fourth and all. You get to light off all those cool fireworks you bought the other day.”
“I guess.” He sat facing the sliding glass door that led out to the backyard. My sister leaned into my ear. “Why are kids always so sad these days?”
“I don’t know.” My eyes fixed on my son. I worried about him. He was becoming more distant by the day and I worried how the teenage years would treat him as he came into them soon.
My eyes fell on the back of Jess’s and Lilly’s heads as they went through the food line at the block party. They went off with the other kids and went out to the curbside of the roundabout to eat. I soon joined the tail end of the line once it slowed and took my plate to accompany the adults at a table. After the meal, we all made our way down to the park to see the fireworks. My eyes surveyed the crowd to find my children. I saw Jordan laughing and playing around with Brock as they lit firecrackers and waited for the big show. Seeing Lilly standing next to Jess, I hesitated to go ask what time she planned to be home. I knew it would embarrass her, but I didn’t want her out too late since she stayed at Jess’s house last night. I walked up behind Lilly and her friends and the fireworks began going off. I tapped her shoulder.
She turned around, and I saw it wasn’t Lilly. Mortified, I furrowed my eyebrows. “Where’s Lilly?” I asked Jess, who was standing nearby.
She peered over at me and shook her head, confusion streaking across her expression. “I don’t know. I haven’t seen her.”
My stomach flipped. “She wasn’t with you? She was supposed to come to your house yesterday.”
The fireworks and crowd of neighbors grew louder as the lights of red, blue and pink and yellow reflected across the faces of everyone around us. Jess raised her eyebrows. “I’m sorry. She never came over. Maybe she’s with someone else?”
Pulling my phone out from my purse, I called her—straight to voice mail. Leaving the sea of people behind me, I walked down the street trying to call her again to no avail. A tremble started in my heart and made its way to my hands and soon overwhelmed my whole body. I tried calling the only father she ever knew—her stepdad, my ex-husband, Bruce. No luck. Then I tried calling her friends and even Marcus. Nobody was answering their phones. Though she could have technically been with a friend and the fireworks were just too loud and distracting to hear a phone ring, I knew in my gut that wasn’t the case. Something wasn’t right. Closing my eyes, I prayed I was wrong.
THIRTEEN MONTHS AGO
Thursday, June 9, 2011
YESTERDAY WAS HARDER THAN I anticipated it would be. Sure, I was happy to no longer be a sophomore, but that did little to cheer me up about moving. My heart felt like it was twisting tighter and tighter into a knot that wouldn’t give, wouldn’t loosen. All my friends in youth group, my boyfriend, and even my father were all going to be left behind. They’d be but a distant memory of a life I once knew, a life I truly loved. Those summer youth group camps at Twin Rocks were the best times of my life.
I tried to tell Mom she and Dad could work it out, that I hadn’t seen anything bad enough to justify a divorce between the two of them. It wasn’t right what she was doing to our family. She was ruining everything and I made sure she knew it. Last night was my last stand, my last attempt to make her see the truth. I screamed at her, and I made sure every word that came from my lips was sharp and dripping with poison. If she could only understand . . . but she didn’t.
Lying in my bed that second to final morning, I could see the boxes stacked against the wall across my room. Beside those was a final box, the one my mother left open to put the remainder of my belongings in. There was no motivation in my bones to move from underneath the comforter, but a Scripture came to the forefront of my mind.
2 Corinthians 12:9 . . . My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
A knock came from my bedroom door, stealing my attention. My mom walked in. “Lilly.” Her eyes fell over to the box. “Please finish up packing. Leave an outfit out for tomorrow or whatnot, but the movers are going to be here in an hour.”
Rolling over, I expelled the air from my lungs. My hopes of her changing her mind ran dry. My mother walked further into my room and over to me on my bed, just a mattress on the floor. Taking a seat, she smoothed a gentle touch over my face, pushing my hair away from my tear-soaked eyes.
“I know this is hard for you, Lilly. It’s hard for me too.”
Jerking my body up, I shot out my hands. “Then let’s stay, Mom. Please . . .” She pulled away and stood back up, but I grabbed at her hand before she could leave. “Seriously, Mom. Let’s just stay here. There’s no reason—”
She gave cold, hard look. “There are some things you won’t understand until you’re older, and there are some things you’ll never understand.”
My hand loosed and she left.
Lying on a blanket in the back of Marcus’s truck, we stared into the sea of stars that covered the night sky. The air was warm that evening and I never wanted it to end. His arm was around my neck, my face in close against his chest. If heaven were real, I had found it right there in that moment. Marcus had always been good to me. He made me feel pretty, made me feel alive. He made life a dream. He took me cliff diving for the first time up in Shanook Landing. He took me for an icy cold dip in Devil’s Lake just outside of town in Mid-October last year. It was crazy. We had a lot of firsts, but now it was all coming to an abrupt stop. Marcus calls it a detour. I call it a construction zone with the bridge out.
“Everything’s going to be okay, Lilly,” Marcus said as he traced up my arm with a gentle brush of his finger, the touch tickling me.
“How do you know that?” I asked, turning over and looking at him as I lay my arms across his torso and look into his eyes. If he could give me a guarantee, that would make me feel a little bit better about moving away.
Moving himself up so his back rested against the cab, he pulled me in close to him and kissed me gently. Pulling back with a grin on his face, he said, “That’s how I know, Lilly.” He kissed my cheek, and then my neck. “You go to church, don’t you?”
“Yeah.” Tilting my head, I stopped him from kissing my neck as it felt awkward to have his lips on me as he spoke about church.
He looked into my eyes. “Do you believe in it? Like the whole God thing?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Don’t you think God wants us to be together?”
“I know He does, because you make me happy, Marcus.”
Leaning in, he kissed me again.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Waking early due to the uncomfortable night’s sleep on the floor in my bedroom, I blinked open my eyes for the last time in my room. Sunlight streamed in through the curtains, illuminating the nakedness of the white walls. Where pictures used to hang and posters draped, now nothing but stark white with nail holes covered in putty. It was something more than depressing. It was reality. Pushing my covers off, I got up and went over to the window. Looking down to the street, I saw Mr. Long walking his dog like he did every morning. Never in a million years did I ever think I’d be happy to see him. Checking my phone, I saw it was only six. Still early. Mom said we’d be leaving the house at eight, so I decided to go for one last walk along the beach.
Parking at the beach access near the casino, I got out and headed down to the shoreline. It was the one place I felt most alive outside of Marcus’s arms. It was here we used to come down and have family picnics, but even those were something of the past ever since Mom and Dad started having problems a few years ago. Though I didn’t know the exact details of what was wrong between them, I knew it had to be painful enough for my mom to leave this all behind. I knew she loved it here too. Last night while I tried to sleep, I recounted the changes I could see. Along with the picnics, there was the fact that my father used to kiss my mom when he got home and randomly take her into his arms and dance with her as he serenaded her with compliments and sweet I love yous while at the same time grossing Jordan and me out. That stopped years ago. I knew I should give her a break, but I couldn’t help but worry about my own love life. Long distance freaked me out. I don’t see why Mom couldn’t just let us stay here in Lincoln City, in a different house. Why did we have to uproot everything we knew as life and move hundreds of miles away? Why?
Slipping out of my flip-flops, I strode down the shore and let the sand wiggle its way between my toes. The breeze in the air and the smell of the ocean were part of who I was. I could hardly imagine a life without those smells occurring daily. Thinking of all my friends going to school next year without me caused a sharp pain in my chest. A part of me wanted life to stop in Lincoln City once our U-Haul pulled out of town. That was silly though. Mr. Long would still go for his walks and my friends would go to school and continue on without me. Only my life would be put on hold once our U-Haul left town.
Stopping in a town called Kennewick for dinner and a hotel stop, Jordan, Mom, and me all sat down in a booth at a diner and ordered food. My stomach was twisting and upset so I didn’t eat much of my breakfast platter I had ordered. I always preferred breakfast food to any other, but this time, I couldn’t bring myself to eat it. Using my fork, I pushed around the hash browns as my thoughts drifted in and out of Marcus, my Dad, and all of my friends back in Lincoln City.
“Please eat, Lilly,” My mother suggested as she lifted her final bite of pancakes to her lips. She was trying to be gentle with her tone, trying to make the best of the situation, but I was angry. I felt entitled to a little selfishness in the moment. I was practically being surgically removed from everything I knew as reality and transplanted into a city I only heard about in stories from my mother’s past. It wasn’t exactly the ideal situation. I felt like I could die from how much sadness I was holding inside.
“I’ll eat her food if she doesn’t,” Jordan offered with a smile.
I let out a dry laugh and shook my head as I glanced at him and then over to her. “This is your fault, Mom. All of it. We had a life in Lincoln City. I had the love of my life there too. And Dad! You’re so selfish, taking us away from that life!”
“Lillian Dawn Dudley!” She said in a loud whisper as she leaned in. “I am your mother and you will respect me. I’m doing what’s best for our family. You have to trust me on this. You’ll be able to visit and you’ll make new friends in Spokane.”
“Ha. Sure. New friends. You act like friends are just dispensable. Run out and get some new ones whenever you want. Do you know what it’s like to try to make new friends? Especially at my age? Ugh.”
She relaxed back against the booth and her shoulders slumped. The next moment, she excused herself from the table and went to the bathroom. Jordan leaned in after Mom had vanished from the table.
“You’ve got to cool it, Sis.”
“Whatever, Jordan. You don’t—”
He set his fork down roughly onto the plate, making a loud clanking sound. “Sorry, Sis, but I lost my life there too. You can’t play that card with me.” I knew he had friends and a life in Lincoln City. I shouldn’t be so hard on him.
My shoulders slouched as my heart went out for my brother. “I’m sorry.”
“Just cool it with Mom. Okay?”
I nodded. “I’ll try.”
ONE DAY MISSING
Thursday, July 5, 2012
THE ONLY RELIEF FROM CRYING I found came in the form of falling asleep from sheer exhaustion somewhere in the wee hours of the morning. The police let me file a missing person’s report for Lilly, but they were anything but helpful. The Officer I spoke with, Officer Kennedy, was straight-faced and void of any emotion. He left me feeling like I was just another mother of a runaway, a bad seed, a kid who couldn’t deal with life. He asked invasive questions about our family life at home. I had to tell him about the fighting that had ramped up recently. I had to divulge personal details like the fact that she never knew her real father before he passed, and her stepfather, Bruce, hadn’t spoken to her in months now that he had no obligation to her. It was horribly painful to share these intimate details with a stranger knowing full well that the brush strokes painted a story of a runaway and nothing more.
A couple of hours, maybe three tops, was all the sleep I could capture the first night she went missing. Lying in bed, I thought about last night. I must have driven down her friend Jess’s street a dozen times the night of the fourth. Every neighborhood I drove through was lit up in glows of celebration while I fearfully prayed I’d find my baby girl.
Grabbing my phone from my nightstand, I saw a half dozen missed calls being returned from my sister, Bruce, and a few others I had attempted to contact last night. My eyes welled with tears and the knot in my chest I had felt all night returned with a vengeful force, gripping my soul and clenching my heart. A squeezing, suffocating feeling consumed me right then and I felt as if I could barely breathe.
Finally deciding to get out of bed, I headed into my bathroom to shower. The shower drained away the smell of the sulfur from the fireworks, but it did little to ease my suffering. I couldn’t shake the feeling she hadn’t run away like the police thought, but something else had happened. Something worse. She was a pretty girl—is a pretty girl. After I got dressed and grabbed my phone from the nightstand, I looked out my bedroom window.
Mr. Hendricks was outside mowing his lawn. He was a middle-aged man, odd and quirky with his lawn care habits, but he seemed nice when I met him last year. My mind drifted to negative and cast him as a suspect. Could he have done something to Lilly? I wondered. I knew he was single and kept himself locked up in his house, signs of a classic serial killer. Recalling my own father’s quirky habit after my mother passed away and the way in which he obsessed with his coin collection, I pushed away my suspicions. She probably did run away, I thought to myself as I lifted my cellphone from the nightstand and headed downstairs.
Calling my ex-husband back, I got his voice mail. He was probably already elbow deep in a surgery. It was Thursday, one of his surgery days. Phoning Debbie back, I learned that she had left her cellphone in the hotel room while she and Doug went down to the docks to watch the firework show at the inn. She didn’t check her phone until the next morning.
“I’m going to head over right now,” she insisted after I told her about Lilly.
“No. Please don’t, Sis. Enjoy your time at the inn.”
A sigh came from her end of the line. “I can’t enjoy myself with Lillian missing, Liz! That’s my niece! I need to help find her!”
Pressing a hand against my forehead, I felt overwhelmed with guilt for ruining her weekend. “I just feel bad. You’re there with Doug and having a good time.”
“Oh, hush. It’s fine. It’s time someone helps you out, Liz. You’ve been killing yourself trying to make a life for you and those kids. You need help right now. The least I can do is stay with Jordan.”
Jordan. I had barely even thought of him since Lilly had vanished. Truthfully, I hadn’t thought of him at all aside from the short conversation we had about whether he knew where Lilly was. Walking quickly up the stairs, I came to his door and pushed it open. My heart found a minuscule jolt of joy seeing him asleep in his bed. “Hold on,” I said to Debbie and brought it behind my back. Hurrying into his room and over to his bedside, I pushed on his shoulder, causing him to wake up.
“What, Mom?” he groaned as he adjusted his head on his pillow.
“Have you heard from Lilly at all?”
He shook his head and pulled the comforter overhead. Within moments, he had returned to his slumber.
My shoulders sagged and I left his room as I brought the phone back up to my ear. “Jordan hasn’t heard anything from her . . .”
“Okay, I’m in the car and heading out now.”
No tips, leads or information came from the police department. They put out the missing persons report but were not going to actively look at all until forty-eight hours had passed. Even then, it wouldn’t be a top priority. That didn’t stop me though. I had continued my routes around the city through most the day, frequenting many of the same spots I had visited the previous evening, including places she didn’t frequent often, like the mall and the movie theater. Anywhere and everywhere I could think of, I searched.
Jordan and Debbie were eating leftover spaghetti at the kitchen table that evening while I sat on the couch, taking a moment to watch the evening news to see if there were any incidents that could be involving her. A news story came on about a string of killings that stretched from North Dakota to Washington State, and my heart felt heavy as I started to worry.
A knock came from the front door. I leaped.
Standing, I kept my eyes on the TV as I walked over to the door. Opening it, I finally took my eyes off the television to see Cole standing on the other side of the screen door.
He flashed a straight-faced smile, one of those ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ kind of looks. “May I come in?”
Shrugging, I loosened my fingers from the doorknob and let the door open. “What’s up?”
“I heard you asking around last night about Lilly. Earlier today, I talked to a buddy at the radio station and he said he’d make a few mentions of it on the radio, and then today I found an article online of a girl who I think could be her. Thought you might want to take a look at it.”
“Thank you.” My heart jumped at the unexpected kindness. Pulling out a piece of folded paper from his back pocket, he opened it and handed it to me. It was the article—he had printed it out. Taking the paper in one hand, I shut the door with the other and we walked over to the couch and sat.
The article detailed a group of homeless people living under a bridge in a part of Spokane that was less than desirable, somewhere my Lilly would never go. It went on to talk about younger teens and how they were joining the group regularly and it was a ‘safe haven’ for those teens who felt they needed to get away from their home life. I was skeptical. It was so farfetched, but then I saw her name. Lillian joined the group after troubles at home with her mother. She finds the community to be inviting and met them a month ago. Really? Could it be my Lilly? My eyes watered at the possibility. Peering up at the corner of the printout, I saw the date was July third. Shaking my head, I looked at Cole. “This can’t be her. It’s not possible. She wouldn’t go live under a bridge, but I would love to think this over a serial killer taking her. There was just a news story on TV about one.” Shuddering to myself, I looked toward Debbie for her thoughts.
Debbie found her way into the living room sometime during the conversation between Cole and me and spoke up. “Doug ran away when he was a kid. He didn’t make it long, but he did hang out with a homeless guy. Those homeless people are some of the sweetest souls you’ll meet, Elizabeth.” I could hear her words, but it still didn’t sit right. I tried not to judge people in my life, but the homeless, in my mind, were nothing but dirty drug addicts and alcoholics who threw their lives away. Cole must have sensed my displeasure. He placed a hand on my shoulder.