|Island of Lost Stories|
Here's one. If you have an idea for where the story should go next, leave a comment. And maybe, just maybe, I'll pull this story from the file and finish it...
By Linda P. Kozar
Home at last. Stephanie Hudson threw her purse and keys on the round entrance table, kicked her shoes off and carefully placed them on the stairs to take when she went up to bed. The coolness of marble flooring felt good on her tired feet, as she made her way to the library.
She opened the vintage French doors, admiring the artful inset of curved glass. A fire usually burned in the massive stone fireplace, but not tonight. It was late. The room was dark with the exception of two small lamps at either end. Each gave off a pale, low light, more for mood than practicality.
The house seemed unusually quiet now that the girls were both off to college. Her husband Mark was probably asleep by now, even the dog. She slipped behind the curved mahogany bar. Not that they needed one. They didn’t drink. It had come with the house. However, the bar was convenient for football seasons and parties. The fridge underneath held soft drinks and water, and a bottle of cool water was what she needed. She twisted the cap off and drank half in one long gulp.
After carefully pulling the doors shut, she walked over to the kitchen to check the lock—a nightly ritual. Before going to bed, she had to check all the locks in the house. Sometimes her husband forgot to lock one of the doors. And that fact was enough to fuel the ritual indefinitely. Still in the kitchen, she moved to the mudroom door. They almost never used it. The front door was more convenient.
She noticed with a smile that her husband had not forgotten to place the little Asian statue of a lion in front of the door. They won the ugly thing as a door prize years ago and found that it made an excellent doorstop. She always placed it in front of the mudroom door at night before going to bed—an added security measure.
Reaching to turn out the light, she was startled by a movement in the shadows. Heart thumping, she drew closer to the glass-framed door.
Her gasp became a scream. A little girl rose from the floor, rubbing her eyes. Panicked, she kicked the statue out of the way and unlatched the door.
Chest heaving, she commanded. “C-come in. It’s cold out there.”
The girl shivered, stepping lightly into the room. She was thin, wearing a light blue sweater over a cotton dress with socks and loafers. A worn teddy bear nestled in the crook of her right arm.
Dressed for summer in the dead of winter.
“What are you doing here, young lady? Who are you?” she asked while fastening the locks and looking for signs of anyone else. “Are your parents around?”
The girl smiled. “My name is Theresa Éclair and,” she hugged the stuffed animal close, “this is Theobold.”
She managed a nervous smile and bent down to eye level with the child. “Well, hello Miss Theresa Éclair. Is—is that your real name or a made-up name? I’ve never known anyone with a name quite like yours.”
The girl shook her head up and down. “Mommy says it’s not my given name, but I don’t like that one, so I made a name for me that I like better, ‘cause I like Éclair’s. I named my teddy too.
“How did you get here?” She glanced behind the girl to the outside door. “Is anyone here with you?”
She shook her head from side-to-side. “No-o-o, ma’am.”
Her husband, still half-asleep, robe askew and slippers half on, stumbled into the room. “What is it, Stef? I thought I heard you—were you screaming?” He blinked three times when he saw the little girl, as if he were still dreaming, and knelt down unsteadily on one knee. “Who is this?”
“I found her in the mudroom.”
The little girl extended her hand to him. “Hi mister, my name is Therese Éclair.”
Mark’s face blanched white. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“And,” he paused to swallow, “About how old are you? I’m guessing you’re about eight years old, maybe?”
“That’s right mister. I turned eight last December, so I’ll be nine before long. I’m going to have a party with all my friends.”
He stood up quickly, now fully awake. “Honey, I’m going to go and make a phone call. Why don’t you sit down with Theresa and keep her company?
“Sure. She leaned in close to his ear and whispered, “You’re going to call the police, I hope?”
He nodded, “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of everything.”
Turning to Theresa he said, “I’ll be back in just a minute. Can I bring you anything? Are you thirsty? Hungry maybe?”
“I’m both, thank you mister. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of milk would be nice.”
He smiled. “Not a problem. I’ll get it for you.”
“Theresa?” Stephanie motioned to a couch in the adjoining room. “Why don’t we sit down in here?”
“Okay,” she answered and followed.
She sat down and rocked her bottom from side to side. “This sure is a comfortable couch, Ma’am.”
“Thank you.” She took a deep breath to calm herself. “Do your parents know you’re out by yourself in the middle of the night?”
Her eyes widened, tears glistening in the corners. “Ma’am, I don’t know where they are.”
She kept her voice calm and even. “Well, let’s start with your house. Where do you live?”
She tilted her head to the side as if puzzled. “Where do I live?” “Oh, you must be joking me.” She giggled.
“Joking you? I can assure you, I’m not. I really want to know where you live.”
“But that’s a silly question, Ma’am.”
“Why is it silly?”
“Because.” She focused on Theobold, poking his raggle-taggle stomach.
She looked up. “Because I live here, maa’m.”
A chill ran through her. “What? I-I don’t understand. Maybe your house is similar to ours.”
Theresa glanced around the room. “The house does look a little different.” She pointed to the doorframe. “But see that notch? That’s how big I was when I turned six. You can read my name.”
Stephanie turned her attention to the frame around the French doors. How could she have missed that? They’d lived in the house now for five years. She squinted. There was a mark on the doorframe, faint, but something that did resemble lettering.
She grabbed her purse and pulled out her reading glasses. Crouching down by the doorframe, she examined the lettering. Theresa/6 years was plainly visible.
She pulled off her glasses and stood, stunned.
Her heard Mark’s footsteps before his voice. “They’re on their way.”
“Stef, did you hear--?”
She turned and nodded. “Who? Oh . . .”
“Could you, would you take a look at this while I talk to her?”
A puzzled look on his face, they exchanged places. She noticed his beige bathrobe was straightened and sashed, his hair combed.
Stephanie looked at the girl in a new light. Hair, the color of warm honey cut just below her ears. Blue eyes. Dimples.
“Now tell me honey, how could you possibly believe you live here?” She pointed at Mark. “Do you see that man over there?”
She looked over at him. Mark stood very still against the wall, his skin pale.
“He’s my husband and we live here. We have two grown daughters.” Stephanie smiled. “And as far as we know, we don’t have another daughter.”
Theresa raked Theobold’s fur with her nails. “I didn’t say you were my mommy and daddy. I know who my own parents are.”
“Well then--who are your?”
The girl interrupted to look up at Mark. “Is my sandwich ready, mister? My tummy is growling like a lion.”
He smiled. “Someone else is bringing it.”
A series of headlights lit the room from the driveway outside. Doors banged shut outside. Voices.
Mark moved quickly to open the front door.
Two men in black suits entered the room and looked around, their eyes settling on the girl. A woman’s voice in the hall questioned, “Where is she?”
Mark answered, “In here.”
The woman entered the room. Dressed in a plaid skirt and cream blazer, Stephanie knew who it was in an instant. She’d seen her on the news. Senator Randall Cook.
Shocked, Stephanie rose from the couch and moved to stand next to Mark. Her eyes locked on the girl. As the woman walked forward, her body crouched in stages until she matched Theresa’s height in a kneeling position in front of the couch. Eyes pooled with tears, she asked, “Is it you, my darling? Is it really you?”
A revelation flashed across the girl’s eyes as she studied the face of the woman in front of her. “Mama? Mama?”
Tears flowed from the senator’s eyes, “Yes, baby. It’s me.”
The girl reached to stroke her mother’s face. “But Mama, you’re so old.”
The senator nodded, her entire face wet with tears. “Yes, darling, I know.”
“But how did you get to be so old? You-you look like grandma.”
She sobbed and put her arms around the girl. “All in good time my sweet Theresa. All in good time.”
“Mama-a-a!” Mother and daughter clung to one another, sobbing. The senator reaching up at times to stroke her daughter’s hair or kiss her cheek. Locked in embrace, the senator finally looked up at one of the suited men. “Bring her some food.”
He immediately left the room.
Stephanie turned to her husband and whispered. “I-I don’t understand. How could she be Theresa’s mother? She’s got to be in her seventies and the girl’s only eight. Is she adopted or something? And how did she get in our house?”
Before he could answer, a man’s voice interrupted. “Your name is Stephanie Hudson, isn’t it? The senator’s aide had crept up from behind us.
“Yes, it is.”
“What you’re about to hear is a matter of national security. You are not to reveal any of it to anyone. Do you understand?”
“I-I’m not sure what you mean by that.”
“The penalties for revealing any of this information will be quite severe—for you and, he paused, for your family.” He stared at her. “Do you understand now?”
She gasped, looking to Mark for support. There was something about Mark’s eyes, as if he were trying to tell her something. Was it fear?
Her throat tightened. “Y-yes, I understand.” Why didn’t the aide instruct Mark as well?
A commotion at the door drew their attention. More people had arrived, this time with equipment and computers.
A man approached, but instead of asking the aide, went straight to her husband. “Where should we set up?”
Mark pointed to the mudroom door. “Cordon that area off and set up a command post in the library.”
Mark?” She asked, incredulous.
He drew her aside near the fireplace and held her arms. “Stef, listen carefully. That little girl, her real name is Therese Fairhaven Cook. She’s been missing now for forty years.”
“The senator’s daughter? What are you talking about? She’s only eight.”
He paused. “She was eight when she disappeared from this house in 1966.”
Leave a comment if you have an idea where the story should go next!