by Selika Sweet, M.D.
Enjoy this never before published short story with a bit of a mystery twist.
“Kaiden,” Ross said to his daughter, “I know there are a lot of uppity girls at that school, but you’ll be fine.”
Kaiden sighed and rolled her eyes. “Dad, I’m so different from them. They’re like stuck on stupid.”
Ross chuckled. “Your mother was a sorority girl, and I was a big time frat boy. Everything you’re going through will change.”
Kaiden knew this was true. Ross and her mother Alexandria had only recently moved back to the states after years in Kenya, where Alexandria had loved teaching the children and Ross had loved running with the natives through the mountains. They had returned after the death of Ross’s mother, in order to be closer to his father. Ross was one of only two sons, and his father, an oil tycoon, wanted Ross to learn the oil business. But this was an entirely different way of life, for all of them.
“Just try to take it easy,” Ross continued as he prepared to leave, “and put your energy into the cross-country team. See if you can make friends with some of the girls on the team.”
“Dad, I grew up in Kenya, and I run like them. I leave those girls for a mile, and they act like they’re mad at me ‘cause I’m at the front of the pack. I hate those girls, that Coach, and that school,” Kaiden said.
Ross sighed. “I would rather be in Kenya, too, but the Company has to be passed on one day, and—”
“The coach doesn’t like me. She thinks I’m showing off.”
“Coach Lou is always nice when I come out,” said Ross.
“Dad, everyone knows you. When you leave, she smirks and is just plain downright mean to me,” Kaiden said.
“Just don’t take it personally, okay?”
Both of them fell silent, thinking their own thoughts.
Finally Kaiden said, “I didn’t want to tell you, but one day after practice, Coach told me I needed new running shoes. She said with all that money that paw paw has I shouldn’t be running with shoes that look like they came from the Goodwill. I told her they didn’t come from the Goodwill, they came from the Salvation Army, and all the girls laughed at me.”
Kaiden felt hot tears in her eyes.
Ross paused and said, “I’ll talk with her. She just doesn’t understand the lives we’ve lived outside of America.”
“And Dad, I’ll miss you,” said Kaiden.
Suddenly both of them looked up as Alexandria entered the room in her motorized wheelchair.
“Ross, everything is packed and ready to go,” Alexandria said. She planted a kiss on his forehead.
“Bud, you protect them, and I’ll bring you a treat,” Ross said as he kneeled down and patted Bud on the head.
“Rowf,” Bud said.
Bud, Alexandria, and Kaiden watched as Ross drove off into the rain.
“Mom, I always miss Dad when he leaves. I hope he‘s careful out there,” said Kaiden.
“He will be. Your grandfather wants him to be well trained in all areas,” said Alexandria, “and he’s starting off like most people did in the company as a deck hand.”
Kaiden watched the rain for a moment. “Mom, I heard a hurricane is coming. They say it’s like a category two.”
“Don’t worry; they’re used to storms around here,” Alexandria said. “And you’ve got school in the morning.”
“I know, but I sure don’t want to go. I’m just glad I didn’t go to elementary school with those snobs.”
Alexandria smiled. “Remember, half those snobs are your cousins.”
Kaiden just sighed.
“Listen Kaiden, it’s better for us here in Gulfport. Your dad is not far from Plaquemine, and we can ease back into the Texas way of life which is where we’re eventually headed.”
Kaiden didn’t reply. After a pause she said, “Mom, I want to go run.”
“Run? It’s like midnight and raining.”
“I know. But I gotta run that stress off. Dad says it makes me stronger, running against the hard wind. You know, like when I ran at the high altitude in Kenya.”
“Okay, but be careful. There’s like no one on the beach at this time of night. I’ll follow you and take Bud to fight off the attackers.”
“Okay,” said Kaiden. She was smiling as she ran to fetch her favorite torn up bright orange running shoes.
Kaiden and Bud ran on the beach while Alexandria followed in the SUV as she had done a hundred times these past three months. The wind was stronger now, and the rain was coming down harder. She drove past and waved to Kaiden, then managed a U-turn and waved again. On the fifth trip around, she didn’t see her. She drove half a mile and circled and Kaiden was nowhere to be found.
“Kaiden! Bud!” Alexandria yelled.
She got out of the car, slid into her wheelchair, and rolled up and down the beach for a full hour, frantically screaming, “Kaiden! Bud! Kaiden!”
Finally, she phoned her husband. “Ross, I can’t find them.”
“What do you mean?”
“I looked for an hour on the beach, and she’s gone. Vanished! Bud, too.”
“What?” A silence passed. “Okay, call the police, now, and call Coach Lou.”
“I need to make a report,” Alexandria said into the phone. She struggled to keep her voice calm. “I can’t find my daughter.”
“I’ll get a unit right out to you, ma’am. What’s your name, and your daughter’s name and age?”
“I’m Alexandria Benford, and my daughter is Kaiden Benford. She’s sixteen years old about five-eight, thin, brownish/blond hair, green eyes,” Alexandria sounding moaned.
“Wait, these names sound familiar,” said the dispatcher.
“My husband’s family is well known in the oil business—”
“Well known? He’s an oil tycoon and you’re the one who—“
“Yes, I’m the one who was shot in the back while my daughter was in the backseat, and my parents were killed during a carjacking.”
“Look, I’m calling ‘bout my daughter,” said Alexandria.
“Yes, of course. We’ll send not one but three units. You think she was kidnapped?” said the dispatcher.
“I don’t know, officer. Just hurry. I’m scared.”
Alexandria then called Coach Lou.
“Kaiden’s gone,” she yelled into the phone.
“She was running on the beach, and I was following her and looked up, and she literally vanished.”
“I’m on my way,” the coach said. “My girls were supposed to run at six, and—well, they’ll start a few hours early. My running club will help.”
“Coach, it’s bad out there. Right now, it’s like a category two,” Alexandria said.
“Remember your category two to us is like pissing in the wind. We’re on our way, and before you hang up, I’ll tell you something. I really like Kaiden. I think she got offended about the running shoes comment, but—“
“No problem, Coach, I’m glad you’re coming,”
Alexandria was still driving up and down the beach, crying and yelling for Kaiden and Bud, when she saw one of the orange running shoes at the edge of the sidewalk. The cars came up with blue lights flashing. It seemed like two hours, however, it had been fifteen minutes.
“Ma’am, we’re here to help,” one of the police officers said. “We’re stopping all suspicious vehicles.”
“Now, you know it’s not uncommon for teenagers to run away.”
“There was no need for her to run away. She was out running on the beach with her dog and just vanished.”
“Was she mad about anything?”
“Where’s her father?”
“He went to work.”
“Did ya’ll have a fight?”
“What clothes was she wearing?”
“Blue shorts, a tank top, and bright orange running shoes.”
“What brand of shoes?”
“I don’t know. Just running shoes. Here is one of them.”
“I heard your family is kinda like real rich. Anyone kidnap her, you think?” said the officer as he studied the shoe.
“No. Look we’ve had no problems. We’ve been back in the States for three months and—“
“Now, the folks at the station said you defended the gangbangers who shot you, and there was a big political something about guns, and they killed your parents. I heard that’s the reason you’re in the—”
“That has nothing to do with Kaiden, okay?”
“I mean, we need all leads, ma’am. You never know what nut is out there.”
“Just find her, all right?”
For the next two hours roadblocks were set up, cars (supposedly to check licenses) were stopped, and the high school cross-country team and the running club frantically searched the beach in the roaring wind. The weather forecasters announced the hurricane was officially a category three and expected to increase to a five. As Alexandria watched, a huge oak tree came flying overhead and crashed onto the beach.
At last Ross arrived.
“Alexandria, how could someone just vanish?”
“I have no idea. I was following her and suddenly she was gone. The dog, too.”
As they stood there talking, police and rescue personnel showed up and yelled, “This is an evacuation. Everyone off the beach.”
Ross ran to a policeman and said, “Not over my dead body.”
It was a miracle. The rain suddenly stopped, and so did the wind. The sun rose, and the construction workers were starting early to clean the roads and put up roadblocks. Hispanic workers had come by the truckload and were dropped off at the parking lot of an old pier that was blown away by the hurricane.
Ross looked down the beach and froze. A Hispanic man was carrying what looked like Kaiden and Bud in his arms. He sprinted to meet the man.
“Oh my God,” Ross said. “Kaiden”
“Give her to me,” Ross snarled, tears in his eyes. His daughter was covered in dirt. Her once-blond hair was now brown.
“I just found her,” the workers said. “The hole was covered by dirt and sand. I did not hurt her.”
“Alexandria, she’s alive!” Ross yelled.
“Dad,” Kaiden said weakly. “I slipped and pulled Bud down with me. It was dark, Dad. Dark.”
“You’re with me now. You’ll be all right.”
“Dad, I can’t walk. I went straight down. Cuts on my feet from nails. Dad, it was so dark.”
Alexandria arrived, along with the cross-country team, running club, police, and Coach Lou. “Oh God,” Alexandria said, rushing to hug her daughter.
“Dad, I yelled and screamed. There was no ladder and water was up to my neck. I almost drowned.” Then she added, “Dad, did you thank him?” Ross said. “No, But I will.”
By now, the whole crowd had arrived.
“Kaiden, I’m so happy you’re all right,” said Coach Lou.
“Thanks, Coach. Thanks, everybody.”
“Girls, no practice this morning. It’s been a hurricane, for goodness sakes.”
“We love you, Kaiden,” said the cross country runners all at the same time.
“I love you, too,” she said.
As they left, Kaiden looked at her mom, dad, and Bud. “Dad, I think I’m going to like it here.”
“Me, too,” said Alexandria.
“I won’t complain about Coach Lou, the girls, being away from Kenya, nothing ever again,” Kaiden said.
“That sounds good,” Ross said. “And you know what? That drilling can wait. Dad will have to understand. He thought a moment and added, “I think I’ll even join a running club.
“I think I’m getting back into politics,” Alexandria said, smiling. “An open hole in the middle of the side walk? I’m starting with a new agenda.”
“Great, Mom. I’ll tell them how dark it was down there,” Kaiden said.
Ross grinned too. “What a motto!” he said. “Two runners and a politician.”
“And a dog, Dad. Mom, you can use the animal shelter in your campaign.”
“Sounds good to me,” said Ross.
“By the way,” Kaiden said, “Paw Paw called yesterday and asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I told him nothing, but Coach was demanding new running shoes.”
“Is that the doorbell?” Alexandria asked.
“I’ll get it,” said Kaiden. “Paw Paw, oh my gosh!”
“Heard you needed some new running shoes,” he said and held up a pair.
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