To Be Loved...

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Missing Him

Mom and I made our way to Wisconsin to see her parents and siblings. They were excited to see me, but I was very nervous. We weren’t even on the road an hour and I was already missing Jake. I know I made the right decision, but this is going to be tough.

We arrived at my grandparents a little after 2:00 in the afternoon and everyone was there. There were cars everywhere and I started to panic a little. Mom reassured me that everything was going to be fine and she would be with me. We entered the house and it was full. I heard gasps and sobs, I heard ‘welcome home’ and ‘it’s been too long.’ Mom held my hand as she led me from person to person introducing me.

I met my Grandma Anne and my Grandpa David first and they both gave me a hug. I met my aunts and uncles and some of my cousins. Honestly, there were so many people, I can’t even tell you who they all were. We ate an early dinner, buffet style, and little by little people left until it was just the four of us. I asked to turn in early as I was exhausted and I wanted to call Jake.

We talked for nearly an hour as I told him about the people I met and the excitement of it all. I told him I missed him already and he told me the same. He said it is too quiet at home without me there with him. We told each other ‘I love you’ and said goodnight.

We left about 10:00 the next morning to head to the airport in Milwaukee, WI. We waited for about an hour or so and took off towards North Dakota. Once landing, I saw Ryan there waiting for us and he helped us with our luggage and we headed ‘home’.

******

The drive was long as the nearest airport was a couple hours from New Salem. Occasionally, Mom and Ryan would talk to each other, but mostly they just left the radio playing. I wasn’t really in the mood to talk to them and I ended up falling asleep.

I felt the car come to a stop and sat up and stretched my neck as I fell asleep with my head bent in a weird position. I looked out the window and saw our house. It was a nice looking gray house with blue trimming and looked pretty spacious for a family of four. A couple of memories flashed through my head as I took it in.

I got out of the car and looked around outside and saw some horses in an enclosed fenced area and a large farm area behind that. On the other side of the house, I saw a large open field with several cattle grazing. There were a few barns or stables behind the house and other sheds or small buildings. I don’t know much about farming since I didn’t spend much time here, but it looked like a lot of work.

“Stacy?” I heard my mother calling me and looked at her standing on the front stairs. “Stacy honey, welcome home.” I walked up to her and took her hand as she led me into the house. Ryan grabbed our bags and brought them on the porch and eventually into the house.

We walked into the living room and I looked around. It was cozy and looked well lived in, nothing like Jake’s place. Mom led me through the downstairs and showed me around. There was a nice size dining room with a large table and six chairs; a decent sized kitchen that looked like it was recently remodeled; a small bathroom off of the kitchen with just a sink and toilet; and a laundry room next to the bathroom. There were stairs that led to the backdoor and then to the basement which was just used for storage and canning fruits and vegetables after the harvests.

The backdoor opened into the driveway near the garage that was not attached to the house. It was a two-car garage with an extension on the back for a workshop. There was a large yard that led to the stables and barns, but it had a swing set set up and an old sandbox nearby. I smiled to myself as I recalled playing in the sand making castles or competing with Sarah with who could swing the highest or jump off the swing the farthest.

We went back into the house and went upstairs. At the top of the steps was another staircase that led to the attic which was also used for storage. There were three bedrooms: the master bedroom that was my parents on the back side of the house, and two smaller rooms in the front side of the house that were Sarah’s and mine. There was a large bathroom with double sinks, toilet, bathtub/shower and a closet.

I walked into my room and looked around. It still looked like a room of an 8 year girl: pink walls, the blanket and sheets had Hannah Montana all over them and a dollhouse was in the corner of the room. I opened the closet door and saw all my clothes that I once wore, which of course will no longer fit me. There were several toys laying around the room and stuffed animals sitting in a hammock hanging from the ceiling and walls. Mom came into the room at that time and said that it was finally time to let them all go.

I walked over and sat on the bed and grabbed a teddy bear that was laying on my pillow. “Hi Brownie,” I said while hugging the bear. Brownie has been my favorite bear since I was a baby and slept with him every night until we went on the trip. I left him home to protect my room, I remembered. I laid down on the bed and looked up at the ceiling. Mom came over and sat on the edge of bed. It was a twin bed and seemed so small since I’ve been sleeping on a King size bed the last several months.

“I used to come in here every night and sit right here and breathe in your scent on your pillow or held on to Brownie and prayed.” Mom started. I sat up and crossed my legs to look at her better. “I never had the courage to change this room, even as you grew up and if we found you, you wouldn’t want all this still in here,” she pointed to the toys and blanket.

“I’m glad you kept it this way Mom. Walking in here and seeing all this still here is refreshing and brings back my childhood and I love remembering what it was like. I still can’t believe I liked Hannah Montana this much to buy these sheets, but I did. I’ve really missed this little guy,” I said hugging Brownie again.

“Well, I can help you change things around here, if you’d like. You can pick the colors and we’ll get you new bedding. For now though, we can box up the toys and clothes and replace them with the clothes you brought with you and set up a small desk or table for your computer.”

“Thank you and I will take you up on the offer to help. I have money to get the new bedding and desk, so don’t feel you have to do everything,” I told Mom.

“I know, but let me do this for you, OK?” I nodded and smiled. I then leaned forward and gave her a hug and she returned it. Ryan walked to the doorway while we were hugging and stopped and knocked on the door.

“I have your bags Stacy. Where would you like me to put them?” He asked.

“By the dresser is fine for now. I’ll move things so I can hang them up and put things away later.” I told him and gave him a smile. “Thank you D...Ryan for your help.” I almost called him Dad, but couldn’t finish the word. He looked slightly sad that I couldn’t call him Dad, but brushed it off.

“You’re welcome honey. I’ll go get some boxes for you so you can pack all this stuff up,” he said looking around. “I’m sure your mother told you why it’s all still here.” I nodded and smiled. He turned and went towards the stairs.

“Sweetie, can I ask you a question?” I nodded. “I know that you are still getting to know your father and me and I’m so grateful that you finally call me ‘Mom’ but…” she cut herself off.

“Why can’t I call him Dad?” I finished her question. “I keep asking myself that, but as bad as this sounds, he reminds me of…of the men who came to see me. He’s about the same age as them and when I’m alone with him, I get anxious, even though I know who he is and know I shouldn’t feel that way. I also was forced to call Don ‘Daddy’ for so long that I’m afraid to call my own father that because I hated that word.”

She took my hand for reassurance and said, “Thank you for telling me that. I know it’s hard to talk about the things you went through, but that helps me understand why you react the way you do around your father. I pray someday that the two of you can connect the way we did.”

“I do too,” and I really do.

I spent the rest of the afternoon packing up my old clothes and toys and Mom and I laughed and cried at various memories we had of each one. I couldn’t part with Brownie, so I kept him on my bed and will make sure I never leave him behind again. I put my new clothes away in the closet and drawers and put my toiletries on top of the dresser for now and will move to the bathroom when I need them.

Mom told me she would take me into town tomorrow to get new bedding and anything else I might need and to give me the tour. We would also be stopping by my Nana and Papa Bishop’s house which is just up the road a couple of miles.

After dinner that night, we sat and looked at old photo albums that they have kept and again we laughed and cried at various memories. She then showed me some current albums of Sarah and other family members over the years. The last book she and Ryan brought out was a scrapbook of everything they did to find me: fliers that were hung in Wisconsin, missing posters, buttons, photos, newspaper articles, letters from other families that have lost their child and cards from so many people sending their love to my parents. I looked through it slowly while they talked about everything they did.

I was pretty worn out after that, so I went up to my room to get ready for bed. I took my toiletries to the bathroom and took a nice long hot shower. After drying off and putting on one of Jake’s T-shirts I took from him, I climbed into bed. I grabbed my phone from the night stand and called Jake through FaceTime.

“Hey beautiful,” he answered.

“Hey handsome,” I responded. “I wanted to let you know that we are home in New Salem and I miss you like crazy.”

“I miss you too and glad you made it safe. How is it there?”

“It’s strange. I took a tour of the house and yard and recalled some new things about my past. My room looks just like it did when I was a little girl and I can’t believe my taste back then.” I had taken a picture before boxing things up, so I sent the picture to Jake. “I just sent you a picture of what was in here until I finally boxed it up. I’m going shopping tomorrow to get a new bed set and a small desk.”

“Hannah Montana bed sheets...really?” He laughed as he asked that.

“Yes, Hannah Montana bed sheets. Hey, I really liked her back then and could sing with her on every song.” I laughed a little as he continued to tease me. “Look who’s talking. At least I didn’t have Jimmy Neutron bed sheets on my bed.” I teased back recalling a story his mother had told me once.

“Hey! No one was to know about those. Who told you? Wait, let me guess. My mother,” He chuckled.

“No, it was the tooth fairy,” I laughed again. “Of course it was your mother.”

We talked for another hour before we finally said goodnight.

“I love you Jake and will talk to you soon.”

“I love you baby. Have a good night.”

“I’ll try and you as well.” I blew him a kiss and he returned it before we turned off the video.

******

The next several weeks moved along pretty quickly. We eventually got shopping and I ended up getting a double bed, a few new sets of sheets, a desk and lamp and a bookcase for several new books I purchased. We painted my room white, bought new curtains and went with a purple theme for the comforter, pillows, pictures and other things around the room. It was all comfortable, but I often had a hard time sleeping all night as nightmares still plagued me from time to time.

I met my Nana Rachel and Papa Rick as we went to dinner at their house one night and my father’s brothers were there as well with their wives and kids. Apparently my father is the middle child of three boys, so I have some cousins younger than both Sarah and I and a couple older. I really connected with my cousins Victoria and Thomas who are twins and just recently turned 21.

I spent a lot of time with Vicky as she showed me around the small town, and also took me on some road trips around the state. Sometimes Tom and his ‘friend’ would go with. We had a lot of girl talks and she taught me how to do my make-up much better than the computer and showed me other ways to do my hair and more. Sure I talked to Lizzie over the summer, but this was stuff I didn’t talk to her about as I wasn’t really interested in it. I’m still not overly thrilled with make-up, but it does look nice once in a while.

These trips were a lot of fun, but I felt like a piece of me was missing since Jake couldn’t join us on these trips. I still thought about him every day, but we tried to only call or video chat on the weekends so I could connect with my family. At night, I often laid there thinking about all the things I missed about him:

When I simply say 'I miss him' I really mean: I miss his smile; I miss his voice; I miss his laugh; I miss him next to me; I miss his jokes; I miss him holding my hands; I miss him teasing me; I miss him so much that I an feel my heart breaking.

Even though it hurts, missing him that much lets you know you’re alive and ridiculously in love!

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