Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Gracie Go Seek - Chapter 4.

Chapter four.

The day passed slowly, it felt as if my whole life would be in slow motion. My little sister was dead. That would not leave my mind. Nothing would ease the pain. I'm so tired of being here, alone with all my childhood fears. I wished and prayed for the pain to end, part of me just wanted to forget Grace so that I could forget all the agony and heartache. Nothing felt right, nothing ever would feel right again. I hated pitying myself, I wanted my old happy life back. Whereas Grace used to live in my shadow i now lingered in hers, everyone talking, gossiping, saying behind my back how i was 'the dead girls sister.'
Night turned into morning and it was another new day, another long day without my sister. It hurt to get up every morning, I felt as if I had nothing to live for. My stomach groaned loudly as i sat up. I clasped it hard, the pain shook through me like an earthquake. I hadn't eaten in three days. I knew I had to try and eat, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.
"Morning Mi-Mi." Mum opened my curtains, letting in the bright sunshine.
"Ugh, shut them."
"Nope, we're getting up. Come on, we have things to do."
"Like what?" I said sarcastically, looking over at Grace's door.
Mum looked hurt. "Household chores Mia. Don't get cocky with me young lady. Come on get up. It's breakfast time."
I ignored her as she walked out of my room. The light from the sun was shining right on my face, as i got up to shut my curtains I starred out, it was a beautiful April morning, how I wish i could have spent it was Grace and Emily. I longed to play in the back garden with them, hearing their childish laughs echo the area. I pull them tightly together, brushing the image from my head.
"Stop being stupid Mia." I told myself sternly.
"Talking to yourself is a sign of madness Mi." Ben said laughing.
"Funny joke. Piss off."
"Someone got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning." Ben joked, ignoring my comment.
"I said piss off."
"Suit yourself grumpy." Ben sighed, leaving my doorway.

I was so sick of my family, all they did was smother me. Every second of every day they were just there, pestering me, annoying me, nagging me. I had to get out, I had to break free. I hated thinking like that, I thought of Grace, today she was being chopped up, the thought of her under the knife made me scream inside. They were going to find out how she died. I wish it was that easy to find her killer. As usual we waited, staring at the clock, I wanted the time to skip backwards, to two weeks ago, so I could save her from her tragic end, to stop the pain. But I can't. After one day at work Ben had taken the day off so we could all wait for the news on Gracie.
"Maybe I should ring them?" Ben said trying to pick up the phone.
"NO. Let them ring us." Mum shouted.
"Mummy mad?" Emily whimpered.
"No sweetie." She said cuddling Emily. "Mummy loves Emily."
The phone rang loudly. The room seemed the start spinning. Then black.

"Mia, hun, are you okay? Mia wake up."
I could hear people talking to me, but I couldn't move, I felt paralyzed. Was I dead?
"Oh god Ben quick put down the phone and call 999. QUICK!" Mum's voice sounded too panicked. I couldn't feel or see anything, I could only just hear things.
When i finally woke up i was surrounded by white sheets. "Mum?" I croaked. "MUM." I screamed.
She came rushing in, tears ruining her make up. "Oh thank god Mia you scared us so much."
"What happened?" I said struggling to sit up.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Mum cried.
"That you hadn't eaten much in the last few days. You fainted from lack of energy Mia. The doctors have connected food tubes to you to feed you up."
I looked down at my arm and noticed 5 cables attached to me. "Oh."
"God Mia don't ever scare me like that again, I cannot loose another daughter."
"I thought it had all been some horrible nightmare." I cried, trying to hold mum's hand.
"No darling, it's real, you collapsed as the police rang, we have to ring them back once we get home, but only when you're okay."

After a day and a half in hospital I was dismissed. My arm was red raw from where they had attached so many tubes to me. It looked as if I had been self harming. I arrived home to the house being spotless, the first time it had been cleaned since Grace went missing. I sat on the sofa, smelling the air freshener smother the room.
"Mi-mi!" Emily said, toddling towards me, throwing her arms onto my legs.
"Hello Emmie." I half smiled, stroking her fringe from her eyes.
"You take it easy okay Mia. Don't push yourself too much." Mum smiled.
I nodded, pulling Emily up onto my lap. The days since Grace went felt like years, dragging slowly and endlessly onwards with no end in sight. I looked down at Emily, how naive she was, so innocent. I wished I could be her age again. Life was so simple when everything was carefree.
"Who's turning three next month?"
"Me!" Emily shouted pointing to herself.
"That's right! You're going to be a big girl aren't you!"
"Where's Gracie?"
My heart skipped a beat. She was so young yet she knew her sister wasn't there. I let the tears fill my eyes as i took a long breath. "She's dancing with the angels."
Her eyes widened. "Forever?" She whispered.
I pulled her in close to my chest. "Yes." I whispered back, afraid of the reply.
She sat there, breathing deeply, after a minute she pulled out of the hug and turned to me, "No forever?"
I had no reply to this, she didn't understand as much as I thought she would. "You'll see her again." Was all i could think of telling her.
"When i'm big girl?"
"Yes, when you're a very big girl Emily."
With that she pushed herself off my lap, smiled at me once more then ran into the kitchen to play with Socks. I hated wondering if this was going to traumatize Emily for the rest of her life, I couldn't let my only little sister turn out like me or even worse, like Grace. I was going to do everything I could to make sure she would be happy, healthy and safe. I had failed with one sister and I was not going to let that happen again.

"Mia dinner time." Ben called.
I sped down the stairs and into the kitchen. "Oh, mash potato and sausages?"
"Yes, it's my favorite, i felt like treating myself." Mum laughed. "Now sit down and eat it all up. No more trips to the hospital please."
I followed her orders and spooned mouthfuls of food into my mouth. Every mouthful feeling as worse as the next.
"It's been 2 days, why haven't the police contacted us about her?" Ben said angrily pushing his food around on his plate.
"I don't know. Can we please not discuss this in front of the girls."
"Mum it's okay. So you still don't know how she..." I trailed off, I still couldn't say the last word.
"No we don't. I guess if they still don't ring tomorrow we shall have to go down there ourselves, but there must be a valid reason."
"Either that or they just can't be fucked to get off their lazy arse's and phone us."
"Language Mia!" Ben yelled.
"Sorry it just makes me so mad, they are doing nothing."
"She has a point Cindy."
"Look we will discuss this another time, when our two year old daughter isn't present at the table." Mum sighed, faking a smile at Emily who smiled back.
"Oh like she doesn't know what's going on! She may be two but she isn't stupid, everytime I play with her she asks why Grace won't play with us. What am I supposed to say to that mum?"
Mum sat in awkward silence. "I don't know Mia. But she is two, i want to keep her mind at ease for as long as humanly possible."
"So what, you're going to just pretend like Grace never existed so she'll forget and never ask?"
"Stop being stupid Mia, of course not." Mum spat across the table.
"I am so sick of our fucked up family." I pushed my plate across the table and ran into my bedroom. I hated everyone, my whole family was messed up. Why couldn't we be happy? Why?

No one came to see if I was okay, so I sat alone in my bedroom watching the sun go down all evening. I sat on my laptop, searching through youtube videos, the press had got hold of every pageant and cheerleading competition video we owned and people has started making youtube tributes for her. It made me feel uneasy, seeing my little sister flashed over the internet, everyone who made the videos in a weird way were fans, as i watched a few of them i realised how kind it was, what these people were doing, in a way they sort of felt for us. I sat and watched so many my eyes went blurry, each similar to another, I watched until i could not stop the tears. How could anyone do that to my sister, as i looked at the photos and footage of her all i could see washer battered lifeless body. It had only been a matter of time since Grace died yet I felt as if i hadn't seen her in years. Her big smile, her bright green eyes, her long brown hair, we used to love playing dress up, I would do her hair and make up and we would play pageant, or that we were film stars. Grace was such a loving child, all she wanted to do when she grew up was help people, she wanted to be a social worked to help abused children. It's sadly ironic how she ended up as one.

Just as I was running to my bathroom to throw up my mum pushed my door open. "Mia, we need to talk." I stopped in my tracks, those words always meant something bad was coming.
"About what?"
"What about it"
"Your teachers have rang me and said you have been skipping lessons and the ones you have been going to you have not been listening and concentrating. That's not like you at all Mia. I know we're all going though hell at the minute but you need your education to keep you going in life."
"God I do not need this lecture from you mum. School's shit, end of."
"Mia you have always been top of your class. Are you being bullied?"
"No." I said sharply, trying to urge her out of my room.
"Then what is wrong with you, besides the obvious.."
I sighed. "Nothing, everyone is being overly nice, I just don't see the point in school anymore. GCSE's are boring."
"Oh Mia, you need to snap out of this, we need to try and lead a normal life again, how else will these wounds heal?"
I watched as she forced tears away from her eyes. "I'm sorry mum."
"It's not your fault Mia. God I miss her so much."
"I miss her too, so much."
I put one arm softly around her and hugged her tightly.
"Your such a good girl Mia." She smiled, wiping away tears.
"That's not what school says." I laughed.
"Look if you would like to be home schooled we can sort that out, It's up to you Mi-Mi." She sniffed leaving my room.
I sat back on my bed. Did i really want to be a home schooled freak with no friends? I would have to give up all my social life, the only person I would see was Ashlynn. Maybe it would be for the best, maybe it wouldn't. Grace wouldn't want me to be a quitter, thats all i knew.

Three weeks had passed since Grace went missing and the police still hadn't told us how Grace had died and they were still refusing to release her body for burial.
"This is so ridiculous, it's been three weeks and we can't even bury our little girl yet." Ben screamed down the phone. "She went missing on the 23rd, it's now the 13th of April and still nothing! What are you doing down there? We need answers!" He said slamming down the phone. "All they said was we have to be patient. How dare they! God i want to complain so much about their shit service."
"Ben stop huffing and puffing you'll worry Emily. You can complain but they did find her..." Mum trailed off.
"Yeah but a little too late, they found her dead!"
"Mum clutched Emily's ears. "You insensitive bastard!"
"I'm sorry Cindy but they are doing jack shit for us."
"Why don't you go down there then?" I mumbled.
"Brilliant idea, get your coat Mia we're going down their now." Ben laughed.

Ben drove furiously fast to the police station, swerving and skidding left right and centre. "Get out my way!" He kept yelling at traffic.
"Ben be careful, you do not need a speeding ticket, then what would the police say?"
"They will say I'm a step dad looking for justice!"
"Please be careful, if we crash think of what will happen."
He pushed his foot on the break. "For crying out loud Mia, I am trying to get justice for your dead little sister, now you can either help me or shut up, okay?"
I moved towards the window and just stared out of it. "Fine." I whispered.
When we finally got there Ben nearly ran into the reception and demanded to see a police officer on Grace's case.
"Go through into there, a police officer will be with you shortly."
"Finally, some good quick service." Ben said walking me into a small room with him.

A matter of minutes later a police officer we have not seen before entered the room and sat opposite us. "How may I help you?"
"I want to know, right here, right now how Grace was...murdered." Ben demanded.
The police officer looked over to me then back to Ben. "Are you sure you want your daughter to hear this?"
I jumped when he called me Ben's daughter. "I-"
"She's fine with it, why else would she be here?" Ben argued.
"Sir can you please calm down. Are you sure you're okay with this?" He said looking over to me.
I nodded nervously, worried about the outcome.
"Right, well let me get the autopsy letter and then we can begin." He said leaving the room.
"Finally, a result!" Ben said triumphantly.

As soon as the police officer walked back into the room my heart started to pound. He was carrying a large blue folder with 'Love' written on it. He had both hands clasped tightly around it. As he placed it on the table it made a loud bang. "Right, well then lets get started."
"Good." Ben said eagerly.
He opened the folder slowly, i felt as if i was going to be sick with panic. I just wanted this over with as soon as possible.
"So Mr Cooke, Grace went missing the night of the 23rd of March, sometime between ten and midnight. We believe she was taken from her bed, there was no mass sign of struggle showing she must of known her killer, she knew the face and was not alarmed. Sometime after she was taken, between the hours of 2am and 6am Grace died. From the bruising all over her body we can see that she was beaten with a blunt object, perhaps a household object, we are yet to decide on what they was. I'm sorry to say that she was raped during her murder. There was no semen left apart from a small extract near her mouth. We also believe that she had been cut on glass some point in the night, as she had various cuts all over her body. While being raped her arms had been tied together with cord from her curtains, they cut off her blood circulation in her hands, after she was raped one hand was released from the cord, leaving the other still tied up. After all that she was strangled using hands killing her slowly, sadly we could not find any finger prints, as they must of been wearing gloves. Throughout her ordeal she did try and fight off her killer, as she has skin underneath her fingernails and toe nails and some substance in her teeth which we believe to be from anothers tounge. When she eventually died in the early hours of the morning she was moved from her place of death to the woodland area not far from your home, where her body started to decompose until she was found." He put the autopsy sheet down. "I'm really sorry."
Ben and I sat there in absolute shock, her murder was gruesome and it was torture. We no longer had the comfort of knowing that she maybe had died quickly with no pain, she endured a night of pain until she finally let go.
"What about the broken window?" Ben said.
"We do not know much about that as glass was moved, there is glass inside and outside therefore we do not know if it was an enter or exit point or if it is valid to the case at all."
"Of course it's valid! A broken window and a dead child, they instantly connect!" I shouted.
"Miss Love, we are the professionals, please do not tell me how to do my job."
I looked to Ben who's face was getting redder with rage.
"Now we are glad you have come down here Ben."
"Why's that?"
The police officer looked to me once again and then to Ben. "You are our prime suspect in the Grace Love murder case, and you are under arrest for the suspected murder of your stepdaughter Grace, anything you say or do may be used against you in court." He said pushing hand cuffs onto his wrists.
"What? Are you mad? It wasn't me!" Ben shouted.
I stood watching helplessly as three men escorted Ben out of the room and into a cell.
"We are sorry you had to see that Miss Love, do you have any money for a cab or would you like a lift off us?" They said smiling at me.
"I'll walk." I said stunned at what had just happened. As I left the building i looked back, thinking of what I had just heard, remembering what I had just seen. Once again my world was spinning upside down with no end in sight.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Gracie Go Seek - Chapter Three.

Chapter 3.

"You're lying! You're lying! You're lying!" I screamed at the top of my voice.
"Mia, please calm down, we're not lying." Ben tried to hold me.
I pushed him off, i threw the pillows off the sofa, scattering feathers everywhere, I screamed and screamed as I broke things all over the living room until I finally fell to the ground, motionless, speechless. "No." I cried, holding my chest close to my knees.
Mum stayed how she was before I entered the room, she hadn't even blinked as I'd destroyed the room. Ben watched helplessly as I sat on the floor, none of us knew that to do. How could we?
"The police are coming to get Mum and I tomorrow, to go identify the body..."
They had to identify the body, maybe it wasn't her! "So, it might not be her body?"
"Mia the chances of it being Grace are very high. She is the only little girl in this area to go missing in years."
My heart sank again, I had literally lost all faith in man kind that day. Eventually I picked myself up and headed up to my room, I dragged my tired body up the stairs and into my room. As I looked around everything was still the same, how could it still be the same when my whole life was now so different. My mind raced, all I could think about was Grace, dead. It had been 11 days since she went missing and suddenly it was all over. The search for Grace would stop, everyone over the world would know every detail of my little sisters death, the posters would be taken down, the world would stop for a second, of course my world stopped long ago. I lay on my floor, staring out my window, wondering about that little girl in the morgue tonight, our Gracie, in their. I wondered what she would be dressed in, if she was dressed at all. What her hair would be like. Would the sparkle in her eye of died with her? The more I thought about it the more I cried.

The house went silent after midnight, no sound at all, only the faint sound of Ben snoring from downstairs. He was asleep on the couch as mum had refused to move all night. As the night drew into morning everyone tried to be prepared for when the police came to collect mum and Ben, yet all of us seemed shocked to hear the doorbell at 9am.
"Look after Emily okay Mia, you have our numbers if you need us. Stay safe." Ben said handing me Emily and leading mum out the front door.
I couldn't think of anything to say to them, no words had left my lips since last night, I felt the longer I stayed silent, the more it wasn't real.
"Peek a boo!" Emily giggled putting her hands over her face.
I half smiled back, putting her on a chair in the kitchen and chopping up and banana for her. I handed her the food and watched as she examined it, deciding what bits to eat first. I envied her, the hardest thing in her life was deciding what bit of banana to eat first. After breakfast I dressed her, feeding her delicate arms through her dress, she was so tiny, so little, how could anyone hurt a child? I brushed her blonde curls into two ponytails on the top of her head. The whole morning I didn't speak to her, i barely even looked at her. She reminded me too much of Gracie, she had her smile. I left her to play with her toys in her play pen as I had a bath. The hot water hit my face making me gasp loudly, i pushed my heavy body under the water, holding my breath, opening my eyes and seeing the water above me, I wanted to die, i knew i did, how could i live? I felt myself loose breath, i held myself under even though i was begging myself to get some breath. As i felt my breathing slow down, i was suddenly disturbed by a loud scream from downstairs. I ran down with a towel wrapped around my wet body, I rushed towards the living room and saw Emily sat in her playpen, her knee was scraped. I picked her up and cuddled her tight.
"You don't realise this, but you just saved my life."
She really had, I held her little body in my arms, she was my only reason to live, she had already lost one sister, she couldn't loose another. I put a plaster on her knee and turned the tv on, the midday news was on.
"Last evening an elderly couple found a gruesome grave while walking their dog over the lakeside park. They found a young child's battered body in a shallow grave. Police are identifying the child's body as we speak." The presenter said.
That was how Gracie was found, by some old people and their dog! I know they can't say whose the body is yet, but it was obvious it was Gracie's. How could someone leave her like that. How could anyone leave her there. My stomach turned at the thought, her lifeless body lying dead on the cold ground. I tried to convince myself it wasn't her, that she wasn't dead, that they had it all wrong and it was some other family who would have to go through the heartache of loosing a child, that it wouldn't, it couldn't be our family. But of course, i was wrong. As the news ended, Mum and Ben entered the house. Mum's face was as white as a ghost, her eyes raw red, her lips dry. Ben looked slightly the same, but for everyones sake he tried to be the strong one.
"Mia take Emily upstairs, put her in her play pen up there then come back down here please." Ben said calmly moving mum onto the sofa.
I did as he said, rushing upstairs, with Emily giggling in my arms. She was so naive to this world, if only everyone could see through her tiny eyes. Once I left her i closed her door slightly so if we argued she didn't hear it. I ran down the stairs and hit the last one loudly, i stopped, did I really want to go in there and hear what he had to say, it could either go one way or another, and I did not want to hear the bad one. I took a deep breath and opened the living room door.

"Hi..." I mumbled.
"My baby." Mum cried loudly.
She ran to me and held me tight, crying deeply on my shoulder. "My baby, my baby's gone, she's gone Mi-Mi."
I pushed her off me. "No. NO! You're lying. Stop it! She's not, she's..." My voice trailed off, I couldn't bring myself to say the word dead.
"She's dead." Mum shouted. "Dead. My little girl is dead." She pulled at her hair, screaming louder. Ben stood back and watched helplessly.
"Are you sure?" I said to Ben, tears streaming down my pink cheeks.
"We saw her, we identified her body. It's her Mia." Ben sighed, sitting down.
"Please tell me this is some sick joke. She can't be dead! Not my little sister."
"I'm sorry Mia." Ben said, tears brimming his eyes.
"She was gunna grow up and make an animal centre for helpless animals, she was gunna enter Miss England. She was gunna grow up. She has to grow up!" I screeched.
Mum grabbed me and we both cried hard into each other, everything rushed through my mind; I would never be able to see her smile again, the smile that always made me happy. I would forget how she smelled and felt. I would never get to hear her voice. I would never get to see her grow up. Everyone said the memories eased the pain inside, they lied. The memories hurt more and more. Remembered how she was, realising what she will never be.
"They are doing an autopsy on her tomorrow and if all goes well the body will be released to us shortly after for burial." Ben said, holding his head.
"Their cutting her up! They can't! She's too little! They'll break her!"
"Mia calm down, they have to, by law."
"I know Mi-Mi. Why can't they just leave my baby to rest." Mum sobbed.
"Cindy we've discussed this, its for legal reason's."
"For fucks sake I know that. But don't you care that they are cutting up my little girl?"
"Our little girl."
Mum shunned him away, crying into her hands.
"Can I go see her?" The thought of seeing my baby sister dead was one thing, but cut up was another, yet I had to see her, I had to talk to her, tell her it's okay. Even though it wasn't.
"Are you really sure you want to?"
"Yes. I have to see her."
Right, I'll drive you up now before they do the autopsy." Ben said, getting up. "Cindy you'll be okay here with Emily?"
Mum nodded. She hugged me one last time. "Good luck." She whispered, wiping her tears from her eyes and cheeks.

The drive was awkward and silent, every song on the radio seemed to be depressing us even more. When we got there it was almost empty, I was glad about that, it meant I could see Grace virtually on my own. As we sat in the waiting room my heart pounded in my chest, I felt like i was going to throw up every second. I watched as families came out of the morgue, each crying for their loved one. It almost comforted me knowing others were going through the same pain we were. All to soon we were allowed to go see her.
"Ben, please let me see her on my own, she's my sister." I urged before we got to the door.
"Are you sure Mia?"
"I couldn't be more sure." I said slowly opening the door.
The smell of air fresheners hit me as soon as I walked in. I followed the floor over to where she was. Her fragile body was lying softly on a silver table. I burst into tears instantly. From head to toe she was battered and bruised. Her brown hair was matted and messy. Her eyes were red from crying. Her lips slightly ajar, showing her white teeth. Her body was dirty, her pjs had been ripped and her pj bottoms were soaked in blood. I felt sick in my mouth as i saw the blood on her trousers. What sick person had done this to my sister. I finished by looking at her feet, her bare feet had cuts on the bottom of them. She didn't even look like my little sister. She was so fragile, and she looked as if she had been thrown around and beaten like a doll. I looked her up and down again, her smile was eternally ended. I would never see her pink lips in a smile again. Her green eyes would never sparkle. I wanted to reach out and hold her hand, I longed to tell her it was okay and that the pain was over for her. But I knew couldn't touch her, I couldn't bring myself to. She was too broken.
"Who did this to you Gracie? Give me a sign, anything! Please give me hope that there is a way, anything, a sign to tell me you're okay. I love you Gracie. I know i didn't show it half the time but i do. I was always so proud of you. I'm going to get you justice, you deserve it. Sleep tight princess." I blew a kiss and started to leave the room.
Ben met me on the other side of the door. "You okay?"
"I am now." I lied. The whole car ride home i tried not to be sick, the image of the blood on her pjs wouldn't leave my head. I felt sick, how could anyone do that to a child, a little girl, so defenseless. No one was there to help her, no one heard her screams. Not even us.

Once we were home, mum had calmed down slightly. Although she was still crying, it was only soft tears. She was cuddling Emily in her bedroom. "Smile Mumma!" Emily said, trying to wipe her tears.
"Hi mum."
"Hi Mia. You okay?"
It was a stupid question yet i still nodded. "What's for dinner?"
"I haven't even thought of that yet, sorry."
It was 5pm and I was starving, yet part of me didn't want to eat. Everytime I thought of anything my mind instantly went back to Grace's tiny body. I watched every news segment about Grace online that I could find, and when I had watched all of those I started on the youtube videos. Watching, crying, wishing I could turn back time. As I watched the 6 o clock news I wished for their not to be anything about Gracie, so that maybe it would all just be a dream.
"The body of Grace Love has been found and identified. Police cannot say how the child died, but will find out more in the near future. Our love go out to the family and friend's of Grace. May she rest in pieces and my her killer be found immediately."
I sighed turning the tv down. Of course it was real, all of this wasn't a dream, it was a horrible nightmare that we would never wake from.
I could smell dinner as mum was cooking it, she was doing her favorite, thai chicken noodles. I dragged myself downstairs, and sat at the table. Emily was playing with her food, but apart from that we all sat in silence. I pushed my food around my plate yet again, making it look as if i had eaten something.
"I'm going to go back to work tomorrow." Ben announced, he was a doctor. Thats how he met my mum, he was my doctor when i broke my arm and they fell in love. Mum called my broken arm, the arm of fate. Of course I didn't think it was as funny as she did. I hated the fact I had brought her to him. She was no longer just my mum.
Everyone remained silent after Ben had spoke.
"Can I leave the dinner table?" I said breaking the silence.
"One mouthful and then you may go." Mum said sternly looking over at my plate.
I spooned the smallest mouthful into my mouth and put the rest into the bin. I ran straight into my en-suite, i pushed my fingers hard down my throat and gagged hard. Making me cough and splutter all over my toilet. I tried again one more time and threw up. I flushed the toilet and wiped my mouth, somehow i felt better from doing that.
I tried so hard to tell myself that Grace was gone, but somehow it felt as if she was still with me. I felt so alone, like no one else in the world knew what I was going through, even though Mum and Ben were going through the exact same thing as I was. From where I used to envy Emily I now pitied her, she wouldn't remember this, yet that meant she wouldn't remember Grace. All she would have were home videos and pictures. Her memories would fade as she grew.

Once mum had put Emily to bed she walked past Grace's open door and shut it, almost as if she was shutting away the memories, the hurt and the pain. Everything. She wandered past my room and caught my eye. She opened my door more and stood in the doorway.
"Would you like some pudding? Or a hot chocolate? Anything?"
"No mum, i'm okay." I said, my tummy rumbling right on que.
"Mia I can hear your tummy from over here. I'll go make you a hot chocolate and get some biscuits." She said rushing off downstairs before I could stop her. Minutes later she walked carefully into my room, placing a tray down on my bed next to me, with a hot chocolate, biscuits and a chocolate bar on it.
"Can't have my big girl going hungry can we?" She giggled awkwardly.
"Thanks mum."
"My big girl." She smiled, leaving the room.
Since this morning she had become a totally different person, she had gone from crying constantly to over smiley, she was smothering Emily and I. Once she had gone downstairs i poured the drink away and hung half way out my window and threw the biscuits and chocolate onto the roof.
"What are you doing?" Ben said looking at me puzzled.
I pulled myself in from the window. "I thought Socks was on the roof." I lied.
She's in her bed, want me to go get her for you?"
"No, i'm fine."
"Alright then, goodnight." He said shutting my door behind him.
I sighed loudly, that was too close. It wasn't that I didn't want to eat, it was that I physically couldn't. Everything reminded me of Gracie, her little broken body on that cold table. Her presence still lingered in this house, the wounds would never heal, the pain would never leave. Time cannot heal this. Nothing could.

After a restless night, I was awoken by my alarm. Ben was already at work when I got up for breakfast. I sat in the kitchen and buttered one piece of bread.
"I'm going to eat in my room..." I said trying to leave the room.
"No, you're eating in here with us." Mum said, her eyes were swollen from crying. She placed down Emily's breakfast and sat down with a coffee. "Sit Mia."
I did as she said and forced the toast into my mouth, i chewed slowly and finally swallowed. I repeated this a few more times until the toast was gone. "Happy?"
"Yes, you may leave the table now."
I ran into my room and pinned my hair back, i sat over the toilet, closed my eyes and pushed my fingers hard down my throat. My throat was still raw from last night, as I was sick it burned harder than before, making my eyes brim with tears. Once I had left my bathroom, mum walked into my room, staring at my eyes.
"Maybe you shouldn't go to see Ashlynn today Mia..."
"No mum, i'm fine." She thought i was crying, i wasn't. Only on the inside. I pushed past her with my bag on my shoulder and rushed to the front door. Ashlynn greeted me as i walked up my garden path.
"Hey Mia!" She hugged me.
I brushed her off, shocked by her sudden affection. "Hey."
"I'm so sorry. Seriously, I can't believe it myself, I cried when I saw the news last night."
i had forgot to watch the ten o clock news. "Oh."
"I know you probably don't want to talk about it, but i can't believe they discussed that on tv. I mean it was awful."
"I know."
"I mean, they described her death."
"What?" I stopped in my tracks. "They did?"
"You didn't watch it?"
"I'm so sorry, i thought you knew, well they just guessed anyway."
"It's probably bullshit. Can we stop talking about this now. I came over to see you, not to talk about Grace." I felt tears hit my cheeks.
She hugged me again. "Oh Mia. I'm sorry. I still can't believe it. I'm such an awful friend. I just don't know what to say. I'm sorry."
I hugged her back tightly. "It's okay, you're not an awful friend, you're the best friend ever. You're amazing Ashlynn."
The rest of the day we both tried to act as normal as possible. We did the usual things, we did make overs, we sung on karaoke and we made a cake. The whole day I just thought of all the times Ashlynn had been over mine and we had shunned away Grace from playing with us. I would of done anything in this world to play with Grace one more time. She was such a confident little girl, whenever i played with her, she would always prance around the room, dancing and singing as if she was in front of an audience of millions. She was so talented. Everyone always said she would make something of herself when she was older. Everyone was wrong, she was never ever going to get older. She was always going to be my little eight year old sister, stuck in time, forever eight.

Gracie Go Seek - Chapter Two.

Chapter Two.

The minutes turned to hours, the hours turned to days and soon enough it had been five days since she went missing. It was tuesday and after a day off school I decided to go back to school. As if it were a normal morning, i got up, got dressed, ate breakfast and walked to school with my best friend.
"So how's things?" Ashlynn said awkwardly.
"Fine i guess. You?"
"Yeah i'm okay, my family send their love, and said if you ever need anything you can come to us."
I knew she was trying to be nice but i hated that my own best friend was patronizing and pitying me. I smiled slightly, feeling the tension grow between us as we walked into school. As I walked through the playground the whole school turned to stare at me, it was as if i had another head, i felt like a freak. Within seconds of my class started my tutor gave us a talk on missing children and how to be sensitive to those who are suffering from it.
"I'm sorry sir, but i think your being very unsensitive talking about this considering..." Ashlynn said looking over at me.
Tears brimmed my eyes are i felt everyone turn to look at me.
"Your right Ashlynn, Mia i'm sorry if this isn't the right time to discuss this."
I sniffed loudly, ignoring what he had said and just nodded slightly. I felt Ashlynn squeeze my hand under the table, but the rest of the class seemed to daze away from me. "Thanks" I mouthed to her. The rest of the day was a blur, everyone was nice to me, that wasn't any different, i was treated differently from teachers which made me resent them even more. As I was leaving for the end of day my Spanish teacher caught me, "Mia wait up."
I stopped and turned to face her, avoiding eye contact. "Hi miss..."
"Mia I just want you to know, i know what you're going through and how hard it is. I lost my little girl five years ago, I just want you to know, it gets better."
"My sister isn't dead!" I pushed her away and ran off. How dare she just assume Gracie was dead!

I ran as fast as i could, all the way home and straight up into my bedroom.
"Mia? Mi is that you?" Mum called up the stairs.
"Yeah mum it's me." I shouted wiping the tears from my eyes.
"Turn the tv on, channel one."
I turned my tv on and was hit with the image of Grace. "There has been a possible sighting of the missing child Grace Love. A librarian said he saw Grace walk past his library yesterday afternoon. Could this mean finding the little girl?" The presenter said.
Mum ran into my room, "Did you hear that? They found her! They found my baby."
"Mum they said possible." I hated bursting her bubble but she shouldn't get her hopes up over a possible sighting.
"No that librarian said he saw her! He said he saw my Gracie."
I gave up on trying to tell her it might not be right and just let her be happy, it was the happiest i'd seen her since Grace went missing. She picked Emily up and swung her round singing "Take good care of my baby." I was so worried for her, it seemed as if she was loosing her mind.

Later that evening when Ben had got home from work, mum bombarded him with the latest news, he looked at me stood on top of the stairs and sighed. "Cindy it was a possible sighting, that doesn't mean it was her."
'Trust you to take her side!" She shouted pointing at me.
"Now Cindy, Mia was just looking out for you, she's your daughter, i'm not taking anyone's side. You just need to be more realistic Cind."
She pushed her hands into her face and cried softly as Ben hugged her close. "I'm sorry, i'm so sorry. I just, i just need my baby back."
"It's okay, we'll get her back." Ben looked at me as if to say 'get lost' so I went into my room and turned my laptop on.
I went straight onto MSN and was attacked by messages. At least twenty MSN conversations popped up of people i barely know sending their love. I exed out of them all and signed out and into Youtube. The featured video was a pageant video of Grace. I hadn't seen this video before, it was a professional clip filmed by the pageant owners. They must be selling clips to the media for a bundle. How dare they! I scrolled down to the comments and was appalled at what i saw. "Whoever puts a child this young in pageants is messed up." "Poor child, no wonder she's missing, probably hated being mummys little lolita." I stopped reading them and closed my laptop. How they all be so inconsiderate, we were missing our Gracie and all they could do was hurl abuse towards us, as if it was our fault she's missing.

Dinner was silent again, Emily would sing to herself but apart from that no one spoke. I pushed the food around my plate, not bothering to eat anything, my appetite had completely gone since seeing the youtube clip.
"Mia eat your food, you'll get sick." Ben mumbled.
I put the smallest potato on my plate and spooned it into my mouth, swallowing it whole. I smiled sarcastically to Ben. "Happy?"
"Mia would you just eat your fucking food!" Mum screamed across the table, making Emily cry.
We all jumped at her outburst. I instantly picked up my fork and ate a few more things on my plate before emptying the rest into the bin and rushing off to my room. Emily wondered in minutes later.
"Mummy mad?"
"No sweetie, she's just cranky, she hasn't had a nap." I smiled tickling her.
"Love you millions." She said leaving the room.
"Love you too kiddo..." I sighed picking up my phone. I just wanted to get out of here, everything was crazy, this house was slowly turning into a mental asylum. I could take Ashlynn up on her offer, but i didn't want the pity, i wanted everyone to think i could cope with this. Even though i can't.

The night came and went, just as slow as the others. I lay awake half the night, staring at the ceiling, wondering what she was doing, i liked doing that, imaging her somewhere nice. I always thought of Grace somewhere cold, it sounds silly but she adored winter, it was her favorite season, Grace lived for snow! In the middle of my daydream i heard my door creek open, my eyes bolted open. "Grace?" I whispered.
"I wish." A voice replied. It was mum. She got into bed with me and cuddled into me, "I'm so sorry about earlier Mia, i didn't mean it, i'm just so on edge at the minute."
"It's okay mum. I wasn't being very helpful was i."
"Your always helpful Mi-Mi." She hadn't called me that since i was very little.
I fell asleep with her stroking my head. When i awoke she was gone.

The week passed slowly and soon it was Friday again, it had been a whole week since Grace's disappearance. The sighting wasn't Grace, it wasn't even close, it was a 10 year old blonde haired girl. I didn't go to school today as the police were paying another visit. It was early when they turned up, I was still eating breakfast.
"Mia, living room." Ben called.
I walked in, still in my pj's and with bed hair. "Hi."
"We need to talk to you all together first, then separate interviews." Tom said as we all nodded at him. "Okay well to start, we have no new leeds as to where Grace is. But the DNA came back from her window, it has Grace's DNA and a unknown persons, due to that we need to take all your DNA to be tested."
We all sat awkwardly, none of us knowing what to say.
"We can do it here or down the station, which would you prefer?"
"Here, I have to pick up Emily from playgroup at half twelve." Mum sighed.
"Okay, well open wide." Tom grinned, putting cotton buds into each of our mouths. "Thanks thats great. Before i leave there is something you need to know, each pageant and cheer competition that Grace entered have started selling her routines to tv stations, so there may be video footage of her on the news tonight."
"They've started to sell the clips?" Ben said looking confused.
"Yes, once they realised they could get money for them, they are all bidding for the best clips."
"That's ridiculous." Mum argued.
"Its what can be expected really, whenever a child goes missing, the media and the audience all want to see as many clips and pictures of the child as possible. I'm sorry there is nothing we can do to stop it."
"It's okay officer. Thank you for coming, please contact us when the DNA comes back."
Tom shook Ben's hand. "Of course. See you soon." He said leaving.

It still didn't feel real. Everyday I would check the 'Missing people' website and see if anyone had commented. No one had. My sister was still missing, somewhere, and none of us knew where.
Youtube was bombarded by tribute videos about Grace, begging people to find her, every single video was made by someone i didn't know. I guess it was kinda nice that people who didn't even know her were trying to find her, so why couldn't we find her? I hated the feeling in my stomach, how it wouldn't go, the constant ache getting deeper and deeper as the days dragged. 7 long days since she went missing, the police said after the first day the chances of finding a missing child alive was very slim. Of course none of us every thought for a moment of the worst, she was our Gracie, she couldn't be dead, she was a happy confident little girl who had her whole life in front of her, the thought of her being dead was far from our minds.

The weekend rolled onto Monday and mum and Ben had agreed on doing a press conference for ITV 1 on 'This morning.' We drove to London early that morning and were all given make overs. Emily was too little to come so she stayed at our Grandma's but i had begged to go. Once we were ready they gave us our queue to enter the stage.
"Good morning Mr and Mrs Smith, and Mia Love." The host smiled.
We smiled as we took a seat. "Morning." We said in chorus.
"So you are the parents of Grace and Mia you're her older sister yes"
"Ben isn't her dad." I said looking at the host.
"Well he is her step dad and more of a dad than her biological one." Mum laughed nervously.
"Okay, so she's been missing for ten days now?" He watched as we nodded. "So there has been no leeds or anything for the police to go on?"
"We honestly don't know how anyone could do this. I mean we are an average family, with our three little girls. We're a happy friendly family and we have no enemies. We honestly do not know who would do this to us." Ben answered.
"You say average but there has been some controversy over Grace competing in American style beauty pageants and cheer competitions. Most average families disagree with these, seeing as your dressing up and well sexualizing an eight year old child."
Mum sat awkwardly. "Well, at first I wasn't too keen on the pageant and cheer stuff, but the girls begged me for months and so i entered them both into a pageant and well Grace won and she loved being on stage so much, I don't see what's wrong with dressing up my little girl as a princess and letting her dance on stage. I'm hardly sexualizing her, Mia also does pageants and she's 15 so really I see nothing wrong with it. As for the cheerleading, the girls both love to dance and tumble, so them being on stage in heavy make up and cheer kits doesn't seem to mean much because their only doing what they love best."
"As Cindy was saying, we're not doing it because we want them to do it, it's because the girls actually want to do it." Ben followed on.
"Okay, well Mia how do you feel about it?"
"I love doing cheer and pageants, i've always loved performing, I see nothing wrong with it, the only people who do are sick pedophiles who think little children are attractive." I scowled.
"That is a very valid point. Have the police considered a sexual predator taking Grace?"
"Well firstly, no one with on the sex offenders list is allowed near the competitions and secondly, we don't know anyone like that. All our friends have children roughly the same age as ours." Mum said slowly, holding back tears.
"Well for all the viewers who do not know who Grace Love is, here is a clip of her from her last competitions."
I watched on the tv screen opposite me as they played two video clips, one from Grace's cheer solo where she placed second, she had her hair in pony tails on the top of her head, her curls bouncing as she danced. Her face sparkly from make up and her smile showed her missing teeth. The second clip was a pageant clip where she won queen, she was dressed in a short blue dress with jewels all over it, making it sparkle against the lights. Her brown hair was curled slightly and half up half down. She was doing her beauty walk and as she walked off stage she waved to us who were sat in the audience at the time. The way she waved almost made me feel as if she could see us and she was waving at us. But of course, she wasn't and the clip ended bluntly.
"She is a beautiful little girl isn't she?" The host said to the camera. "So Ben and Cindy what would you say to Grace right now if she could see this?"
Mum sniffed hard fighting tears. "Gracie if you are watching this, stay strong princess, Mummy is coming to get you, where ever you are. I promise we won't give up. We all love you so much."
Ben held mum close, letting her tears soak his shirt. "Grace, I know i'm not your real dad but I feel as if I am, and as a father I will not rest until you are found safe and sound, your coming home Gracie, I'll make sure of it."
"Just touching isn't it." The host sighed sympathetically. "If you have seen Grace or know anything about her disappearance please do not hesitate to ring the number at the bottom of the screen. We need to bring this little girl back to her family."
"Thats a wrap." I heard from behind me. The show was over, that was our first tv debut and mum and Ben wished it would be our last.

The ride home was silent, only the quiet noise of the radio could be heard. As we picked up Emily, Grandma came to the door to see us, she hugged my mum and me tight. "I know how hard it is, stay strong." She sighed.
Mum took Emily off her. "You have no bloody idea how hard it is Mother! You have never had your eight year old child missing and all over national television. You have never slept every night not knowing if your child is alive or dead. You don't understand!" Mum screeched.
Emily and Mum burst into tears. I took Emily off her and Ben hugged her. "Sorry." He mouthed to our Grandma as we got into the car. Mum cried the whole way home, she didn't stop crying until late that night. I stayed up and listened through my door.
"Why haven't they found her? They have no clues nothing!"
"Cindy calm down please, the girls will wake up."
"How can i calm down! My daughter has been missing for nearly 11 days now. You'd be more upset if it was Emily!"
"Don't you dare say that! I love Grace as much as I love Emily and you know that."
"Then find her, find my baby!"
"Cindy we've looked, again and again and nothing. We keep looking, we are doing everything to find her."
"I want my girl, i want my Gracie." Mum ran out of her room and down the corridor past all our rooms, she ran into the study, pulling out pictures of Gracie and throwing them onto the floor, she spread her hands through them, crying hysterically as she saw Grace's smiling face. Then she let out a loud scream which woke everyone. A loud piercing scream, almost child like.
"Should I go see her?" I said to Ben peering out my door.
"No it's okay, go back to bed." He said going into Emily's room.

I lay back in bed, trying to sleep, my heart was pounding, was mum going mad? I tried not to cry, I had always tried not to cry for Grace's sake. But nothing seemed to stop these long overdue tears. I cried long into the night. I awoke early tuesday morning, it was half term so i had a lie in for once. As i wandered downstairs I saw the study door half open, the pictures still on the floor but mum no where in there. As i stepped into the kitchen Emily and Ben were sat around the table eating breakfast.
"Where's mum?" I croaked.
"She's in bed, she was out all night." Ben sighed, feeding Emily her breakfast.
"She was out? Where?"
"At night? Alone? Is she insane?"
"Near enough. Look we'll discuss this when E isn't here."
"You really think she doesn't understand? Emily where's Gracie?"
"Gracie missing." Emily sighed.
"She's three Ben, she understands alot more than you realise." I said grabbing my coat and leaving the house.

I walked down the street and called on Ashlynn.
"Hi Mrs Turner, is Ashlynn in?"
"I'm sorry Mia she's at the gym with Tara."
"Oh okay, will you tell her i called?"
"I will sweetie. We're praying for you and your family." She said slightly, shutting the door.
I walked back up her garden path, maybe that was what we needed to do, ask god. My family were never very religious but our Grandparents were Catholic's and so were mum's brother and sister.
I headed towards the only church in our town, 'St Pete's Catholic Church.' As I walked in, I looked around, I had been to church every christmas but that was it really. I adored looking at the stain glass windows, making up stories in my head of the people in them. I went to the confessions box and sat in it, not expecting anyone to be in there.
"Hello my child, do you have any sins to confess?" The father said from the other side.
"Oh father you scared me. I don't have any sins, but I have a favor to ask."
"Go on my child."
"Would you pray for my little sister, she's only eight and she's missing."
"Of course my dear, I will say a prayer for her tonight."
"Thank you father." I left the booth slowly, I felt slightly better maybe god could help us.

When I got home there was a police car parked outside our house. I had got used to seeing that now, I had even become familiar with the number plates and which officer drove which car. Tom was at ours today. I climbed the stairs noticing the living room door was shut, they never shut the door, not unless it was important. I turned the tv on and watched the six o clock news. Once again they had video clips of Grace and they were saying the same old thing, no evidence, no leeds, still no little girl. Everyday they interviewed police officers on the case, private detectives, and even members of the public. They all said the same thing. There was never anything new, there was never any step forward to finding Grace.

I was startled by a loud scream from downstairs, it was mum's scream. I listened from the top of the stairs and could hear her hysterically crying. I hated hearing her cry, but these kind of cries were the worst. The living room door opened and i jumped back, hiding from them.
"I am very sorry. We will be over tomorrow to pick you up." Tom said, opening our front door to leave.
What did he mean? Pick who up?
Ben's eyes were swollen red. "Thank you, please call us if you hear anything else." Ben turned to my mum who was sat on the floor holding her legs, her eyes staring blankly at the floor, the tears dripping from her eyes. Ben tried to talk to mum but her expression stayed the same, he tried to move her onto the couch but she wouldn't move. I pushed my head around the banister to see where Ben was going. He was pacing up and down the living room, his hands on his face, he was crying silently. He kept looking at my mum, then away again, finally he fell onto the couch and let out loud cry. I moved slowly down the stairs, not knowing whether to go see them or not. I feared the worst. Eventually I got the courage to go into them. As i entered the living room Ben looked up at me but mum stayed the same. She was shivering but it wasn't cold. Ben wiped his eyes.
"Mia, sit down." He whimpered.
I sat on the edge of the sofa, away from them both. "What is going on? Have you found her?"
Tears spilled over mum's eyes again.
Ben nodded slowly.
"Oh my god! You've found her!" I smiled, they had found my baby sister, she was okay after all!
"Mia, they found a body, they think it's Grace's."
My whole world crumbled down from those four words. They found a body.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Gracie Go Seek.

Chapter one.

March 23rd, my sister would be turning ten today, but she is forever eight.

The bang still echos in my head, the smashing of the glass, the way I ignored it; I could have stopped what happened that night, if only i'd known. I thought she was just playing with her new toys, she was always disturbing me.. so why did this time have to be so different?

Emily, who was three at the time, toddled into my bedroom and threw herself onto my bed. "You play with Emmy" she whispered her face close to mine.
I tried brushing her off as I did every morning but after two minutes of "pretty please" in my ear i sat up, letting her crawl into my bed with me.
"Oh no kiddo, we're getting up for breakfast" I smiled, stripping the cover off her and pulling her onto my hip. "Go get Gracie."
Emily scooted off my hip and pushed open Grace's door, within seconds she ran back out to me on the landing with confusion covering her face, "Gracie bye bye."
"What do you mean Gracie bye bye? Come on she's probably playing hide and seek." I opened her door and was hit with a burst of cold. I scanned the room for Grace and saw no sign of her. The curtains were fluttering with the breeze, as I walked towards the windows to close them i heard a high pitched scream from behind me. Emily stood there holding her foot with tears streaming down her pink cheeks. I scooped her up and onto Grace's bed, examining her bleeding foot. It was glass. Before I even had a chance to get the glass out, Emily had stopped crying and was staring at the window, "Broken" she announced. I followed her finger over to the window and noticed it had been smashed, leaving glass all over Grace's floor. I gave Emily a piggy back ride out of Grace's room to stop her stepping into glass and ran down the stairs, still with Emily clinging to me, giggling wildly as we ran.

Bounding into the kitchen I place Emily down next to our Cat 'Socks'.
"What have i told you about putting her near the cat at breakfast time Mia?" Mum scowled picking up Emily. "You know how hyper she gets, your not the one who has to dress her and send her off to playgroup."
"Sorry" i mumbled biting into some toast while throwing half of it into the cat's bowl. "Seen Gracie's accident?!"
"What now?"
"Broken her window again."
"Thats three in the past year! What she does up there i'll never know." Mum hung her head out of the kitchen door, "Gracie breakfast time, come on time for school."
"She's not in her room Mum, god knows where she's hiding this time."
"Right, you take Emily, dress her and brush her hair and teeth and i'll sort out Gracie." Mum ordered handing me Emily.

"Gracie, come on darling time for school. You're not in trouble, come on, where are you hiding? Gracie Mae Love get out here now."

After a long week at school I was more than happy that it was finally the weekend. As always I walked the fifteen minute journey home with my best friend, Ashlynn.
"You are SO lucky you're an only child." I sighed pulling a 'Hello Kittty' sticker from my homework.
"Are you kidding me? I'd do anything for a sister, you have two! You're the lucky one. They are mega cute!"
I laughed, "They're all yours, i'll bring them to you tomorrow okay?"
"Sure, cya at ten." She giggled walking into her garden.

As I walked into the cul-de-sac I noticed blue and red lights flashing wildly. It wasn't unusual for an ambulance to be in our street as we lived near a retirement home, but to see a police car was quite rare. Walking through the front door Emily jumped onto my leg, i brushed her off and ran straight into my room. I started my English coursework and put in my headphones, ignoring everything around me. I must have dozed off as when I awoke it was dark outside.

"Thank you for coming officer." I heard my mum say, shutting the front door.
"What's going on?" I said walking down the stairs.
Mum looked at me and burst into tears. My step dad, Ben beckoned me into the living room. "You should probably sit down Mia." He watched me sit slowly, still half looking at my mum.
"What's going on?" I repeated. "Why were the police here?"
Ben looked at me, then my mum, then back to me, his eyes shying away from mine. "There's no easy way to put this Mia" He paced up and down. "Your sister Grace, she's missing."
The word missing hit me like a ton of bricks "Mi, mi, missing? What? She can't be, she's probably playing hide and seek." I stood up, stopping tears falling from my eyes. "Gracie, come on game over. You can play with my stuff if you come out now." I collapsed on the stairs, weeping quietly. "Please Gracie."
After mum had stopped crying she came and sat by me on the stairs. "They'll find her, you know what Gracie's like, she's probably just hiding in the park or something." She tried to fake a smile as she said it. "Will you do me a favour please?"
"Can Emily sleep in your room with you tonight? I'm just a bit shaken up, i'd like her to be with you, just so i know she's safe."
"Yeah thats fine." I said hugging her tight.

The night dragged, Emily fidgeted and my mind raced. Grace was only 8, if she was hiding somewhere she wouldn't be safe. She knew when to come home, she knew not to go out alone, I don't understand why she would have gone anywhere. As i watched the sun rise I heard movement from downstairs. "Gracie?!" I walked towards the living room, poking my head around the door frame.
"Oh it's just you." I whispered making Mum jump.
"Mia? What are you doing up so early?"
"I could say the same for you. Couldn't sleep either?"
"I wanted to be awake for the six o clock news, Grace's story is going to be on."
We both sat in silence, sitting on the edge of the sofa, staring blankly at the moving images on the tv. Everytime i looked at the clock it seemed to get slower, each tick longer than the last. Finally the clock struck 6am and the news came on. Mum scooted over to me and held me close as the show began.
"Today in the town of Royal Tunbridge Wells, local school girl, Grace Love, aged 8 has gone missing from her home, she was reported missing by her mother and step father in the early hours of yesterday morning, there have been no signs of Grace and no leeds as to where she may be. If you have any information of the whereabouts of this little girl, please contact your local police station"
The presenter said it as if it was ordinary for a child to go missing, there was no sorrow in his voice as they showed a picture of Gracie. Mum had given them her school photo from this year, she had her long brown hair in neat plaits, her deep green eyes shined in the camera lights and her toothless smile could melt anyones heart. Then as quickly as it had started the story was over and they started talking about other news, as if Grace's disappearance wasn't as important. Mum shook the tears from her eyes and started to walk towards the kitchen.
"I'll go get Emily up?" I mumbled turning for the stairs.
"No, leave her to sleep, she doesn't really know what's going on and I want to keep it that way." She turned quickly, blanking my efforts to start a conversation with her.

After an hour of awkward small talk, Ben arrived downstairs with Emily joint to his hip. "Morning babe" He half smiled kissing my mum softly on the cheek. He looked as if he had been up all night too, his eyes were red from where he hadn't slept. Mum took Emily off him and held her tight, stroking her blonde curls. Breakfast was rushed and silent, all you could hear was the crunching of toast and cereal. "I'm going out, i'll be back later." I said leaving the kitchen. As i walked to the front door, i combed down my hair and put a coat on, as it was March it was still quite crisp. I didn't know where i was going, i didn't know why i was going, i just wanted to get out. I decided to go to the park not far from my house, Gracie loved swinging on the swings, she always used to say she could touch the clouds, she whispered to me what they felt like and what they tasted of. Maybe she was down there, hiding in a bush, trying to scare us all. I walked towards the playground, it was 10am on a saturday and was filled with children, the laughter could be heard from one side of the park to the other, their small childish laughs echoed the fields. Sat shyly on the swings was a little girl, on her own. I walked slowly over to her, could this be Gracie? Maybe she had been hiding all along. I edged closer and saw long brown hair down the childs back. My thoughts were shattered when I heard "Kenzie get over here now young lady" from across the park, and the little girl ran to her mum. Letting tears soak my cheeks I sat down on a bench and watched as people came and went as they pleased. Happy people, grumpy people, old people, everyone but my Gracie.

I returned home hours later than i had expected, my hands froze as i opened the front door. "Mia, my god there you are, i thought you had gone missing too." Mum clung to me, warming my cold body up. "Where on earth have you been? Don't you ever scare me like that again." Mum was acting as if I was Gracie.
"I went up the park, it's peaceful up there, sorry to scare you. Any news?"
Mum let go of me and looked straight to the floor. "No." She mumbled.
"Oh" I walked into the living room and watched as Emily tried to piece together a puzzle. Like me she was stuck, the piece's didn't fit and there was no way forward. I sat next to her, she beamed with happiness as i helped her.
"The police are coming over tomorrow Mia, they will probably want to talk to you." Ben suggested.
"Why me? Why tomorrow? What are they gunna do?"
"You're her sister Mia, they just want to ask you if you had heard anything or seen anything, the usual questions i guess and the sooner they rule us out as suspects the better."
I laughed in shock. "They think we're suspects. They honestly think we've got something to do with her disappearance. Those bastards."
"Language" Mum shouted looking at Emily.
"Mia you need to stay calm, we need to work with the police so we can get Gracie back home safe."
"You say it as if you know where she is. I bet you do have something to do with it." I watched mum burst into tears as i stormed out, kicking the puzzle as i went. I hadn't meant what i had said to Ben, I was mad, how could he be so calm? He acted as if he didn't care. Gracie wasn't his daughter, why should he care. I collapsed onto my bed, kicking off my shoes and grabbing a book from my bedside table. From downstairs i could hear shouting and crying. Like always, i tried to block out what everyone was doing around me. Emily padded into my room, her eyes sore from crying, she stood next to my bed and placed her hand onto mine.
"You may not get what's going on Emmy, but you need to know this, i love you and you will always be my baby sister. Got it?" I sighed pulling her into a cuddle.
She smiled, her teary blue eyes staring straight into mine.

After another long night, morning came bright and early. The sound of the doorbell made me jump as i was getting dressed, my wet hair dripped down my clothes as i stood on top of the stairs, peering down to see who was at the door.
"Morning officer, please do come in, would you like a tea or coffee?" Ben offered showing him the sofa.
"Coffee, black, no sugar." The officer replied sitting down.
I pulled myself off the stairs and carried on getting ready. A matter of minutes later i was interrupted by Ben. "They would like to speak to you first, just relax and tell the truth, we have nothing to hide."
Ignoring him i walked downstairs still with wet hair and into the living room.
"Hello Mia, i'm Officer Tom Scotch, do you mind if i ask you a few questions?" He smiled. His smile was big and fake.
"Hi, yeah i guess." I shrugged sitting opposite him.
"Good, lets begin." He pressed a button on his top which meant he was recording everything i was saying. "Where were you the night Grace went missing?"
This was easy. "In my room, asleep."
He nodded. "Okay, were you awoken at any point? Any loud noises or anything out of the ordinary?"
"Nope, i'm an average sleeper, too much noise would have woken me up."
"Alright, so you didn't get up in the night for anything? You didn't see anything?"
I shook my head.
"And your room is the last one in the corridor right"
"Yes sir."
"So you don't usually hear anything from Grace's room?"
"Not really, not unless she's really loud."
"So you didn't hear the glass smash?" He looked at me confused.
"No? I thought she had done that?"
"Well at this point in time we don't know who did it, we have sent DNA off to the lab to be tested to see whether it was Grace or whether it was an intruder, but seeing as the glass was broken from the outside, chances are that it was an intruder. If it comes back as unknown we will have to take some DNA from you and your family to test."
I sat with a lump in my throat, i had nothing to say to that. I kept imagining someone breaking her window and taking her, and no one hearing a thing. How did no one hear anything? She would have screamed..
"Very well, that will be all for today Mia, thank you for your time, we are doing everything we can to try and find your sister." He said cheerfully, giving me a queue to leave the room.
"Thanks Officer. Please find her." I begged walking into the kitchen.

After an hour the police left, they interviewed mum and Ben separately, they didn't bother interviewing Emily, she was only three. Mum came into my bedroom quietly and sat softly on my bed, i watched as she held my hand tightly. She scanned my bedroom, staring at the posters and pictures on the walls, her eyes scanned across to the collage of me and Grace at pageants and cheer. Those were the two things we agreed on and enjoyed doing together. We had to beg mum to let us enter them at first, but after a while she said yes, Grace was four and I was eleven when we first entered a pageant and cheer competition. Mum picked up one of my small trophies, I had been cheering since i was 5 and had entered many competitions alone. "This is the first ever trophy you won, do you remember what you won it for?"
I shrugged slightly "I can't really remember, i was 5."
"I had never been so proud, my little girl on stage, winning first place, in front of all those people!" She sighed and put the trophy back.
I sat awkwardly playing with my thumbs, waiting for her to say something.
"I bet Emily can't wait to cheer and do pageants, just like her big sisters!" She tried to smile through the tears.
"Yeah i bet." I pulled my arms around her and hugged her tight.
With that Emily walked into the room, her hands on her hips "Where's my hug?"
"Ohh come here my big girl." Mum beckoned Emily into our hug. "My girls." She whispered. "My precious little girls."

That evening I walked up and down the upstairs hallway, passing Grace's room, everytime looking in, expecting to see her. Everytime disappointed. Her favorite animal was cats, she was obsessed with them. Every toy she had was some type of cat, so of course when mum and Ben got her 'Socks' the cat for christmas she was ecstatic. Socks went everywhere with her, they had an instant bond, like mother and daughter. Lying on Grace's unmade bed was Socks, licking her face clean and purring slightly.
"Hello puss puss." I whispered in a baby voice, pushing my hand out to greet her. "You miss Gracie too huh?" It seemed silly but it was almost as if Socks was missing Gracie, since she went missing Socks spent every waking minute in her bedroom. I stopped and looked around at her room, I was told not to go in here as the police may need to re test DNA and evidence found, but I couldn't help myself. It was just how she left it, her bed unmade, her toys scattering the floor, clothes hanging off sides, her trophies untouched in the corner, everything was the same, except Grace. I slowly backed out, trying not to touch anything and left her door slightly ajar so Socks could let herself out.
"What were you doing in there?" Ben shouted standing on the hallway opposite me.
"Nothing, I just saw Socks."
"If you touched anything in there you could have mucked up everything! How could you be so stupid!"
I stood crying silently letting him shout at me. "I'm sorry."
"Sorry?" He laughed to himself. "Don't you ever let me see you in there again, you got it?" He grabbed Socks and walked downstairs.

I ran straight into my bedroom throwing myself onto my bed. It had only been over a day since Grace went missing, but already our family was crumbling. Everything seemed wrong, everything was wrong. Nothing could make this go away, the empty feeling got worse and worse as time went on. No one could help us, even the police were doing a lousy job. As i sat staring at the open sky I wondered to myself, how do people move on from this? When does it start to feel better? Cause all I knew was right now it felt as if nothing was ever going to be okay again. So many children go missing a year and only a small percent are found alive. Maybe Gracie would be that small percentage. Maybe was a word which was thrown around by the police frequently. No one was ever definite they would find her.
This was the second night without Grace in the house, the second night of not knowing, the second night of her being unfound. Again, I found it hard to sleep, drifting in and out of sleep every so often. The wind was loud and the rain hit my window sharply, the pitter pattering echoing through my room. As i sat up to look outside at the growing storm I thought of Gracie out there, alone, cold and scared. She never did like storms, she would often rush into my room the middle of the night and jump onto my bed, holding her ears and pushing her fragile body close to mine.
"It's okay Gracie." I would comfort her. "The storm is out there, and we're in here, so you're safe you see?"
She'd start to smile as I would tell her fairy tales to take her mind off it, and once she fell asleep I would tuck her into bed with me and fall asleep tightly next to her.
I felt so alone in bed, she was always here during a storm, i'd gotten so used to it that even I wouldn't be able to sleep through a storm anymore. I lay back down, cuddling my duvet tightly, staring at my door, waiting, hoping, wishing Grace would come running through there, but of course, I was wrong, she was missing, gone, I may never see her again. As i let the tears drip down my cheeks I felt Socks cuddle into me. "Where are you Grace? Where are you?"