The sun was streaming into Cara’s room when she woke. Cara rolled over and looked at her cell phone for what felt like the thousandth time, but there was nothing from Jenna. There were several messages from concerned friends asking what was going on. Cara sat up. She’d slept in the clothes she was wearing last night. She could still smell the slightest scent of Jenna’s perfume on her shirt. The tears flowed out of her eyes hot and fast.
She shouldn’t have left Jenna alone with her father. She should have stayed and tried again to protect Jenna. It should have been her that hit Michael Matthews over the head with the chair, but she had run. She had run because Jenna told her to, and now Jenna was gone.
Last night Cara called everyone she knew. She Facebook messaged everyone on Jenna’s friend list, but no one had heard from her. She’d stayed up until two o’clock in the morning hoping the police would call and say they found Jenna at some friend’s house, but no call came.
A light knock on her bedroom door came before Caroline opened the door and peered in at her. “Hey.” Caroline took one look at the tears flowing down her daughter’s cheek and rushed to her side. She gathered Cara up in her arms. “Oh baby! I wish I could fix this.”
“Why hasn’t she called, Mom?” Cara cried.
“Maybe she can’t, baby,” Caroline said. “You said her dad was hitting her pretty hard. Maybe someone saw her walking down the road bleeding and took her to the hospital. I texted Darlene a few minutes ago, but she hasn’t texted back yet. She’s got to be somewhere close by. She couldn’t have gone far. We were back there in less than fifteen minutes from when it all started. You hadn’t been gone a half an hour when you came home and got me. Jenna couldn’t have gone far.”
“What time is it?” Cara asked groggily.
“It’s nine. I let you sleep in. I’ve already called the school. The assistant principal had already heard about Jenna. She said she knew how close you two were and understood. I think there were other kids who called in too,” Caroline said.
“I want to go search for her,” Cara said sitting up. “What if she is lying in a ditch somewhere?”
“I’m sure the police have already searched all the ditches,” Caroline said.
“But I want to look,” Cara insisted. “I want to see for myself.”
“Okay,” Caroline said, understanding that Cara was not going to be satisfied until she searched everywhere for herself.
Over the next two days, Cara and most of her high school friends searched every inch within a ten-mile radius of Jenna’s house. Thankfully, it had not rained and washed away any traces they might have found. Today though, it was pouring. A May thunderstorm was sweeping through the area. If there had been any trace of Jenna to be found it would be washed away today.
Cara looked out over the wet grass outside her bedroom window. The school held a candlelight vigil last night for Jenna. Everyone was praying for Jenna’s safe return. Cara just couldn’t get her head wrapped around the fact that Jenna was nowhere to be found. No one had heard from her. It was like she’d vanished into thin air.
Detective Howard had come by earlier to check on Cara. He said they sent an Amber Alert out and every police department around the country has been given as much information as the city police could gather about Jenna. Detective Howard reminded Cara that it had taken over a month for the police to find that girl from Tennessee who went missing with her teacher. Jenna could have been lured away by someone she knew.
Cara had come unglued at that point. She explained to him that Jenna would not leave with some stranger. She was beaten and bleeding. Jenna would have come to Cara’s house if she got away from her father. Detective Howard had smiled and nodded, but Cara knew he still thought that Jenna had gotten into a car with someone. He’d had the grace to back pedal a little because Cara had called him out on the line of crap he was trying to pacify her with.
Cara told him that they needed to look at Michael Matthews. She was certain he had done something with Jenna. Matthews knew plenty of people who could have come and taken Jenna out of the house and through the woods to the Parkway. For all they knew, he could have brought someone with him that Cara had not seen.
Detective Howard said that they didn’t find any evidence that someone had taken her to the Parkway. There were no tracks leading from the woods to the road.
Cara had gone out there and looked for herself. She thought a few of the rocks in the ravine looked dislodged.
Detective Howard’s answer to that was to say a deer had probably gone up the ravine. He said a lot more rocks would have been dislodged if a person had climbed the ravine, especially if they had been carrying an unconscious girl.
He’d finally given up on trying to pacify her. “We are turning over every rock and looking into every crack, I promise,” he’d said.
Cara wasn’t sure she believed him. She knew that Terry Howard had been friends with Michael Matthews until a few years ago. Jenna said they’d gotten into a fight about how a case had been handled, and then her father had taken a job with the Sheriff’s Department because he couldn’t work with Terry anymore. That didn’t stop Cara from believing that cops protect their own. She was convinced the city police and county sheriff were going to do everything they could to protect Michael Matthews unless someone outside of their organizations could prove he hid Jenna away. He probably was going to keep her someplace until her face healed, and then make her say he didn’t hurt her. Jenna was terrified of her father. She would do whatever he told her to do.
Staring out the window and seeing nothing, Cara mused momentarily that she felt like Bella from Twilight. She was lost and alone without Jenna. The fear that something so serious had happened to her to keep her from coming back was overwhelming. She pulled her knees up to her chest in the chair, pressed her face into her thighs, and cried. What was she going to do without Jenna? They had planned their futures around being together for the rest of their lives. Cara couldn’t imagine a life without Jenna in it. This was her life now, staring out the window, and waiting for Jenna to return.