Missing Connections

Ashlyn Moore and her ex-husband Ryan must set aside their differences to find their daughter after she goes missing on Halloween night.

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1. PART ONE

 

ASHLYN MOORE

 

I slid the final pin into place and stepped back to admire my handywork.

“You look beautiful, Teya,” I gushed, pulling my phone out to a picture of my daughter. I could send it to Brian later after he doesn’t show up. Or I could send him a picture of Teya in tears after she catches on that her Daddy’s not coming.

My little girl ran over to the big mirror in my room to admire her fairy princess costume. We had spent hours together picking out wings, fabric, and sparkly designs to make a gauzy pink dress covered in glitter, bows, and sequins. That night I was going to take Teya trick-or-treating for the first time. My ex-husband was supposed to show up so or daughter could know what a real family felt like. I doubted that he would actually come. Brian had managed to miss Teya’s first birthday party and that was back when we all still lived in the same house. How the hell do you miss a party going on in your home?

“I love it, Mommy!” Teya squealed, running over to hug me.

“Of course you do. You helped make it, princess, and everything you do is perfect.”

Everything she did was perfect. She was still too young to understand why her Daddy lived in a different house and only got to see her on certain weekends. But she didn’t question it either. I almost wished I had dressed her up as the little angel she was. My little girl was perfect.

“Mommy,” Teya said. She pulled away and gave me a serious look. “When is Daddy coming?”

Ugh. How many more times would I have to cover for Brian just to keep my kid happy? Maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe I should just expose my four year old daughter to the fact that she has a deadbeat father who doesn’t give a shit about his family. But she’s too young for that. Little kids need to know they’re loved. And Teya is. Just not by everyone who should love her.

“Daddy will be here soon,” I lied. “Why don’t you go wait on the porch for him while I change into my costume?”

He’s not coming, I wanted to tell her.

I’m so sorry, princess, but Daddy isn’t coming.

 

Teya skipped downstairs humming to herself, caught up in a fairy princess dream world. I picked up my phone and dialed the number for reality.

    Three rings. Four. Voicemail. I groaned.

    “Hey, Brian, it’s me. I just thought you’d like to know your daughter is outside waiting for you. I’ll send you a picture of her crying when you don’t show up. Thanks for being such a great dad.”

    I hung up. Screw my ex-husband, I was going to make Halloween perfect for my little girl. And I’d do it on my own.

    I was getting my costume out of my closet when my phone rang. Luckily it was my mom calling and not Brian with some bullshit excuse as to why he couldn’t take his daughter trick-or-treating with me.

    “Hi, Ashlyn,” mom said. “Is Teya excited for tonight?”

    She will be until I tell her the truth.

    “Yeah. She loves her fairy princess costume. Thanks for the fabric advice. The dress turned out beautiful,” I said.

    “Just like she is. When are you going out?” mom asked.

    “As soon as I get my costume on. Teya’s happy that I’m dressing up as a fairy too. I think she likes the costume more than the idea of free candy.”

    “What little girl wouldn’t?” she said. I put her on speakerphone and pulled the fairy queen gown over my head.

    “So if you’re leaving soon, does that mean Brian’s there?”

    I stopped cold, the dress half over my head. Mom never liked Brian to begin with. She didn’t approve of me marrying him in the first place, but she tolerated him for me. She regrets that I ever did marry him. And I did too. Almost. But if I hadn’t walked down that aisle and sealed my fate with an “I do,” then there would be no Teya. And she was my whole world.

    “No, Mom, Brian’s not coming,” I said. A dead silence hung between us over the phone and I finished getting my gown on and attached the wings.

    “What are you going to tell Teya?” mom asked.

    I sighed. “I don’t know yet. I just want her to be happy.”

    “You need to tell her, Ash. I know she’s young, but it hurts less for the truth to come crashing down when there are fewer lies in the way. Besides, younger children are more resilient. You’re only hurting her by not telling the truth.”

    “I know. Maybe I’llㅡ”

    The doorbell cut me off. Teya must’ve been getting restless.

    “Sorry, Mom, I gotta go. Talk to you later.”

    I stuck my crown on my head and grabbed my wand. The doorbell rang again.

    “I’m coming, Teya!” I shouted.

    I hoped that she could hear me from the porch. Since the doorbell didn’t ring a third time, I assumed she had.

    I rushed downstairs and grabbed my keys off the counter. It was still a little early for trick-or-treating, but I wanted Teya home by her bedtime. I walked out onto the porch, expecting to see Teya, but she wasn’t there. She wasn’t anywhere in the yard or talking to her jack-o-lantern we had carved together. She wasn’t running through the yard giggling while hiding behind the styrofoam tombstones we decorated the yard with. She wasn’t tangled in the fake spider webs or playing across the street.

    She wasn’t anywhere.

    “Teya!” I shouted, wandering into the backyard. “Teya! Sweetie, where are you?”

    No reply. Teya was gone. Maybe she had gone back into the house and I had missed her when I stopped for my keys. Or maybe...No, I didn’t even want to think about it. But she had been outside alone.

    Maybe Teya had been kidnapped.

    I didn’t even want to consider it as an option. But I had left my four year old daughter out on the porch alone. Anything could’ve happened.

    I went back to the porch. Tears stung the back of my eyes. I felt like such an idiot. She could’ve gone anywhere, been taken by anyone. I was such an awful parent. And Teya was so young. I had to face the possibility that something bad happened to her. I had to find my daughter.

    Tears streaming down my face, I ran back inside and dialed the only number I could think of, praying he would pick up.

 
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