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At some point, I do fall asleep, because when I wake suddenly, from a nightmare that I find myself instantly forgetting, left only with a lingering uneasy feeling, it is getting dark outside. I get out of bed and walk to the window. Snow. It’s falling fast. Large flakes blowing at a sharp angle through the sky, covering everything thickly and quickly. Each one that hits the window feels like a crash, a large explosion that rings in my ears.
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When I was little, I loved New Year’s Eve. We would always go to my aunt’s house to celebrate. She lived in a cabin next to a lake in Minnesota and I loved going there. On New Year’s, it was always freezing, but the adults would sit outside on the deck and watch the massive fireworks show that the town put on. It was the one day of the year I was allowed to stay up so late and I loved it. I would take a big blanket from the living room, a quilt my grandmother had made that smelled of mothballs and the chili that my aunt had cooked for dinner that night, another tradition, and go sit on the end of the small dock at the bottom of the yard. I would wrap myself up in the blanket and watch the fireworks.
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When I return to The Scarlett House, the sky is dark and Ruth is waiting in the parlor. As I close the door behind me, she jumps from her chair and hurries over to wrap me in a hug. I am still not quite use to this overly familiar style of a person who was a complete stranger just days ago.
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I drive out of Banff and back into the national park. If the circumstances were any different, I would love this drive. The road is empty and the surroundings are beautiful. Stretches of forest, covered in snow, surrounded by frosted mountain peaks. But, I can’t think about any of that. All that I can think about is that somewhere, possibly in this snow-covered scenery, is my baby.
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It’s another day and nothing. No Millie. No Tucker. No reports of anyone seeing them or knowing anything about where they might be. How can someone just disappear like that? I have already called the police station twice. Both times I reach Officer Michaels. Both times, he tells me the same thing. “We’re working on it.”
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The morning sun hits the mountains outside my window. What I thought was beautiful just a day ago is now a harsh reminder of the time that has passed since I last saw Millie. I don’t go downstairs for breakfast. I’m not hungry. I try to imagine wanting food again and my stomach churns in revolt. I feel the sick burn the back of my throat. I don’t need food. I need my daughter.
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Hours or possibly just minutes later, I hear people talking outside the door to my room. Ruth’s voice carries, even at a whisper, but the other two, men as far as I can tell, have low voices that blur in the chamber of the hallway.
Out of Place at Home
Growing up, I always felt out of place. I just never really fit in. I didn’t like overly girly stuff, so I didn’t fit in with the girls. And I wasn’t a boy, so I didn’t fit in with the boys. On top of this, I was the tall kid. The overweight kid. As a six-foot seventh grader, whose figure did not conform to the acceptable petiteness of preteen girls, my time in middle school was fraught with feeling like the ultimate outsider. Always removed from the socializing that was happening in the circles a foot below me.