Since I was a little girl I believed bad feelings and memories could be dissolved by the tide. One look at the waves could clear my head from all the negative surrounding me. The smell of the beach always seemed to be enough to help me breathe again. The first time I made my way back to the beach where Isabelle was taken was by accident. My head was spinning and I couldn’t stop crying. I was running, each step taking me farther and farther away from my memories. I hated the early morning hours, when I would wake up from the recurrent nightmare that had consumed me the past four months.
“Mommy come chase me!”
“I’m coming Isabelle!”
It was our first trip out of Maine since my husband died. Actually, it was our first trip out of Maine ever. Before Jonathan, leaving Maine was not an option. I wish i could say I left because I missed him too much, but that isn’t true. I wanted to give her a new beginning. A drastic change from the constant abuse she witnessed between my husband and I. The timing couldn’t have been better for his accident. I was in the process of packing my bags when the Sheriff came to the door to give me the news that my husbands car was driven off a cliff into the ocean, and that a search party was scouring the sea for him. I was devastated but so relieved, as bad as that sounds.
I had been away from Wilmington since my wedding but the ocean drew me back. The ocean could heal. The ocean had a way of wiping away the negative and helping one to start fresh. Isabelle had never seen the ocean, and the way her face lit up the first time I brought her consumed me with such happiness.
“Isabelle, stay close to me. It’s getting dark.”
Day was branching into night. The sunset seemed to cast a spell on Isabelle and I. We were transfixed. All the memories of Jonathan’s car accident, the abuse, the control were fading away with the sinking sun. I felt such peace, and as I look at my daughter watch the waves crash into the shore, her big green eyes wide, I knew she felt it too.
“Hi Trevor. What’s wrong?”
“The Sheriff’s Office is calling. Something about Mr. Jennings. Should I take a message?”
“No. I’ll… I’ll come. Isabelle stay with Trevor. I’ll be right back.”
I made my way at a slow jog to the beach house, trusting Trevor would watch the only piece of my heart I had left. I never should have left her. But I trusted him. He had been a part of our lives since Jonathan transferred the firm to Maine. He was the only one who knew about the abuse we endured. The reason I started looking online for help. The only reason he was here at all was to help me settle out the rest of the financials surrounding Jonathan’s death. That’s it. He wasn’t supposed to take my little girl. That’s not what he was here for.
When I heard her shrill scream I dropped the phone onto the marble tile floor of the kitchen. It shattered on impact, sending bits and pieces under the cabinets and across the floor. I ran to the glass door deck, fumbling with the latch. It was hard to see anything except for the few lanterns we had lit along the path to the water. Sprinting, I got to the beach and called for my daughter. No answer. Nothing.
Later, they would show me the tire tracks leading from the house next door to our part of the beach, most likely from a heavy terrain vehicle. Maybe a jeep, they said. Later they would find Trevor’s lifeless body at some run down motel on I-140, where the fleas and the cockroaches came for fun. On the wall written in blood, Trevor’s I would later find out, were the words that haunted every single nightmare I’ve had since then.
I’ll hide. You seek.
I seeked. With the local law enforcements help I searched and looked. Minutes went by, then hours. The hours soon turned to days. Days became weeks, and those miserable weeks turned into months. Four months of searching.
The sicko who took my baby even had the audacity to leave notes for me. I would go to the supermarket and on my car would be a note…
Why haven’t you found her yet?
I would go home and on my door would be a note…
I figured that I could catch the guy, so I had cameras installed on my car, my home. Everywhere I frequented. That didn’t seem to phase him. One day he went so far as to paint on the billboard down the road to my home. That was the final straw in my sanity. I had to run.
Did you give up on me mommy?
Wiping away my tears, I realized where I had come. The beach where I lost her. It was empty, the sand just as tan as when I left it, the ocean just as blue only this time the ocean did nothing to console me. I sat, in the same spot where I had last sat with my perfect girl, and I wept. I screamed her name into the world over and over and over until I had nothing left in me. Four miserable months of pain poured from my eyes, racking sobs crashing through me with each crash of the waves. I couldn’t find her. I’d never find her. And I’d never stop looking.
“Mommy! You found me,” said a distant voice. I turned around and saw Isabelle running towards me.
“Isabelle!” I screamed in delight. My breath escaped me and I couldn’t feel my legs but suddenly I was sprinting towards her.
“Isabelle, my girl. My beautiful perfect girl,” I gasped as I dragged her into my arms.
“I knew you’d find me mommy. I’m good at hide and seek aren’t I?”
“Oh my goodness, yes dear girl. Yes. I found you. I found you my baby,” I cried. In the distance I could see a figure watching us. It looked like a man but it was hard to see through the tears prominent in my eyes. He waved and walked through the path to my old beach house.
Later, when I calmed down and called the detective assigned to her case, he asked me to bring her in for questioning. I told him I wanted time with my daughter, and they would have to wait until the next morning. He reluctantly agreed, told me to try and get some rest, and he would see me in the morning.
I was never letting her out of my sight again and as we lay on the bed, I couldn’t help but wonder who had taken my baby, was she treated all right?
“Isabelle,” I began. “Who took you from Trevor? Do you remember baby? Who took you to play hide and seek?”
I wasn’t expecting that answer from her. Her father died in a car crash. The whole reason we came to Wilmington was to get away from memories that had her crying at night.
“Isabelle, my girl. Daddy is in heaven remember?”
“Oh mommy,” she sighed. “Daddy said that God didn’t want him yet. Oh! I forgot. He wrote you a letter! It’s in my backpack.”
Unsure of what she was talking about I kissed her goodnight. “Ok baby. Go to sleep,” I whispered as I kissed her forehead again.
Confused and forlorn, I waited until my daughter fell asleep. Once she was out, I sat for a few minutes watching her dream, reveling in the fact that she was finally home. After, I walked into my bathroom and picked the backpack off the floor. I had completely overlooked the bag once I saw Isabelle. It was pink and blotchy and slightly frayed. The zipper looked broken and was caught on some string. I ripped it open and found the letter.
All these year’s I loved you too much for my own good. It came to the point where if anyone were to look at you, I would be seared with hate and jealousy. After a while, I could feel you looking at other men. I knew you would eventually leave me and take our darling daughter with you. I couldn’t let that happen. As soon as I saw you look up information on shelters at the library, I knew I had to act fact. So I devised a plan, drove my car off that cliff, and waited. Thankfully the Seals trained me well, and no one found me. I saw you, when they told you that the search was done. That my body must have been swept into the ocean. I saw the look of utter devastation on your face. But more importantly I saw the look of relief hidden behind your tears. I smiled, knowing I would reveal myself to you again one day.
You changed my plans when you decided to take Isabelle to your home town. Didn’t I tell you never to go there again? I wonder what would make you defy all my rules, just because you are under the guise that I am “in heaven” as our daughter likes to put it.
How many times you almost found us, ha. Well, my wife, you can pack up again and run to the ends of the earth. I am watching you. You won’t get far.
See you soon my love.
Trembling, I reread the letter. Then reread it again to make sure I wasn’t completely insane. It was in his handwriting. Isabelle was telling the truth. He was probably watching us right now. The blinds were closed but somehow I knew his eyes were on me. Pretending to weep, I grabbed my phone from my back pocket and dialed 9-1-1.
“9-1-1. What is the location of your emergency? Hello? Hello can you hear me? We are tracking your location through your phones GPS, help is on the way.”
I didn’t know how much time we had so I walked into my room, with the phone tucked under the letter, layed on my bed and read the letter out loud, hoping the operator would hear me.
Praying the police would arrive before Jonathan. Suddenly I heard sirens. I could breathe for a second. Wrapping Isabelle in the blanket, I made my way to the front door. I wasn’t as lucky as I thought. Standing there at my door was Jonathon. His face cold and unnerving.
“Misty, did you think I’d let you get away again?”
In one hand he held a gun, in the other what looked like zip ties.
“Now we can make this easy or hard, I’m going to hope for easy. We wouldn’t want Isabelle to get hurt now. Walk towards the back. I have a nice jeep waiting for us.”
Mind spinning, I knew he would kill us no matter what I chose to do. The only stroke of luck I had was that the phone was still connected to the 9-1-1 operator and wrapped up with Isabelle. Hopefully he wouldn’t find it. How long until they would arrive? I looked at the clock… 1:12AM. How long ago did I call, I wondered. The steady tick of the clock drew me from my thoughts.
Hopefully, the police would find us. Hopefully he wouldn’t kill me first.
Tick… Tock… Tick… Tock…
Possibly to be continued…