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.
"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.