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"She's gone, daddy! She's gone!" My daughter shouted hysterically, as she ran into the backyard.
"Who's gone?" I asked, taking her by the hand.
"Lily Belle, daddy!. Lily Belle is gone."
My heart sank. My wife turned ghostly white, her eyes filled with despair. "Find her daddy. Find her." And so began one of the most trying events my family has had to endure.
We searched everywhere—Under beds, and in closets. In laundry hampers, and trash cans. We checked the garage, and the basement. Lily Belle was indeed gone. "Maybe you should go look outside," my wife said. "Check the neighbors and the park."
"Really?" I asked.
"We have to find her."
I walked from house to house, checking front and back yards. I walked to the park, and she was not there either. "I couldn't find her." I told my wife.
"We have to do something," she said.
She was right. We had to do something. "Like what?" I asked.
"I don't know," was the response. "But I can't go through this again." Lily Belle had gone missing before. Her disappearance then had created a night of hysterical screaming from my daughter. Lily Belle was part of the family. When my eldest daughter was in a children's hospital, she found her in a bin, and kept her during her long hospital stay. When she was finally discharged, she took her home. When my youngest daughter was born, Lily Belle was passed on to her, and now, they had become inseparable. So here we were, in the midst of a search and rescue mission for a torn and tattered, wadding stuffed, pile of cotton.
"I think we just put an end to it tonight," I suggested. That seemed to be the most logical thing to do. If the disappearance was permanent, this would never happen again. "I say Lily Belle never comes back."
My wife looked terrified, as she held my daughter, covering her ears, as if to shield her from the terrifyingly evil plot my mind was hatching. Truth be told, I had hatched no plot. As I explained to my wife, we had three choices. "First, Lily Belle ran away, never to be heard from again. This would be devastating to my little girl, as she would inevitably blame herself, and feel that Lily Belle never loved her. Second, Lily Belle was kidnapped. Heartbreaking, but a ransom note could be found that discloses just how much Lily Belle loved and missed my daughter. Most kidnap victims never return. Even if the ransom is paid".
"And third?" My wife asked.
"Third," I continued. "Aliens."
"What?" My wife asked in that tone I have heard so many, many other times.
"Aliens." I repeated. "She came from another planet to help sick children feel better. And now she had to go back and take care of a very sick alien child. We could write a goodbye letter."
"That's all you have?" My wife asked.
"That, and the truth." I said. "We lost the friggin' doll."
"Let's just keep looking, and hope she turns up," my wife said.
Over the next two days, we continued our search, and came up with nothing, although I was almost certain that I had seen three-toed footprints in the backyard. We emptied drawers and suitcases. We climbed trees and went up on the roof to look. At the end of the second day, I issued an executive order to call off the search.
"It's enough." I told my wife. "Lily Belle is gone. And she wont be coming back. I will talk to Steph tomorrow when I get home."
"What are you going to tell her?" My wife asked.
"I have no idea. Although I am quite excited about the alien story," I said.
On the drive home the next day, I kept trying to rehearse what I would indeed tell my daughter. Nothing seemed to come out right. I didn't want to hurt her, but I couldn't seem to find any words that would not create pain or anguish in her.
When I got home, I called her outside. We sat on the top of the picnic table. "I want to talk to you about Lily Belle," I told her.
"Its okay, daddy." She said, "Mommy told me what happened, and I know you didn't mean to do it." She turned and gave me a hug.
"Well, I'm glad you understand that, Steph."
"Mommy says that you don't drive real good anymore, because your eyes are bad, and you won't go and get glasses. I know you didn't mean to run Lily Belle over."
"No, I didn't".
"But daddy," she said, with her mother's tone of disapproval. "You really need to get glasses so you can see what you're doing."
"Ok, Steph. And thank you for understanding."