One evening my parents were watching the news on television and my mom
started crying. They sat my brother and me down a little while later and said they
had something terrible to tell us.

Missy’s dad was shot at the cabin. Missy had run away there because he
started to do bad things to her sister instead of just her. Missy stayed overnight in
the cabin with her little sister that first week in January when it was bitter cold.
She burned the fireplace and remembered to remove the rifle from inside it before
she lit the fire.

When Missy’s dad found them in the cabin, he couldn’t get inside because
the log on the inside of the door was horizontal across the back of the door and
securely in the locked position. My brother, Larry and Richard had nailed a
board over the window that Richard had busted out with the baseball bat. Missyâ
€™s dad could not get inside to hurt them again, she figured. In the morning, she
and her sister ran through the woods and asked my grandmother to hide them
where it was warm. She fed them and made them take warm baths and called the
police.

Only Missy’s dad denied that he touched either of his daughters and the
authorities did not believe that this pillar of the community such as he was would
violate his little girls so. Missy’s mom was even angrier with her than her dad
seemed to be for lying. My grandmother didn’t think they were lying.

The police took Missy and her sister with them but returned them crying to their
parents two days later. My grandmother cried about it and told the police there
was something not right at Missy’s house. My grandmother made it a point to
stand outside her house each morning to watch them walk down the road to catch
their school bus. They waved to her but were not allowed to stop and talk
anymore.

It was about four months after the police took them from my grandmother’s
house when my friend’s story was on television news. Only not the complete
story. The television news reported that a little girl shot her dad at a remote cabin
location. Missy had run away there again. That time, though, she waited for her
dad to walk away from the cabin, opened the door and shot him from behind. She
let him lie on the ground and die.

In the morning, she threw some snow in the fireplace to put out the fire, put the
gun back in the fireplace, walked to Richard’s house to tell him that there was
another shot in the gun and went to school on the bus. She told her teacher what
happened and the police came back to see Missy.

Missy spent the rest of her childhood in foster homes where new men did the same
thing to her as her dad did to her and her sister. Her mother wanted no part of
her. Missy never got over the fact that her little sister turned on her and denied
everything that she had told Missy about good old dad. Missy moved to Colorado
when she was 18.

Larry still lives in his parents’ homes with his wife and children. Larry told his
kids about the cabin in the woods and last year pulled me over to them while
grocery shopping to introduce me as the girl who fell from the see-saw and was
carried out of the woods. My claim to fame with them.

The two of us decided that we should try to find the cabin one last time just to see
what if anything is left of it. So he, his wife and kids and my son and I took a long
walk through our secret passage ways through the woods. We parked our cars
outside on the road by my grandmother’s old place. How different it looked!

The Tiger Lillies still bloom but only in one small part of the front yard. The new
owners replaced the old in ground pool with a new one. Her red redwood shingles,
shutters and window flower boxes are gone and it just didn’t seem right to see
beige siding on it. The breeze way between the cottage and the garage was
enclosed to add another room. I asked who in his right mind would “remodelâ
€� to a ranch look rather than restore that charming turn of the century cottage
that someday I’d like to rebuild in the woods somewhere else.

“Richard,� Larry said and we both laughed loudly about it. Richard now
owns my grandmother’s old cottage or what used to be her old place.

It seemed to take forever to hike out there but we found our way. Though the roof
was falling in in places, the walls of the cabin still stand. Larry went inside first
and I followed, pretty much the way it was my first time there. He knew to check
for snakes and spiders.

The size of the cabin didn’t seem as grand as it was when I was a kid
understandably. The shelf on the side of the door still hung as we left it and the
trunk was still on the other wall next to the fireplace. Larry doubled checked. We
figured the police removed the gun long ago but he wanted to make sure since his
kids now knew about our secret hiding place.

I left the 40-year-old stale pack of my grandmother’s Lucky Strike cigarettes
there but took my brother’s old Pittsburgh Pirate cards from the dirty plastic
sandwich box they were in all those years. I handed those to the boys. Since
nobody else had been to the cabin or returned to claim the contents of the trunk
that I thought was a crime to leave behind, I took the old porcelain dolls with me
this time. I took a framed needlepoint drawing to hang in my kitchen of flowers I
thought the phantom child there made that says, “Lets go into the garden and
listen to the flowers sing.� It is signed by Sarah S and dated 1888.

Our kids played that day for a while with one another on the see-saw which still
worked. They were afraid that Richard would come running from the woods and
knock one of them off to send the other up in the air crashing to the ground, so
we as parents had to be on watch to prevent that from happening. The swing no
longer was there. Not a trace of it.

When we went back inside one last time to look around, Larry found a necklace
that I was sure Missy used to wear. Her parents gave it to her for her first Holy
Communion as a present. The chain wasn’t broken so we left it behind since
she took it off years ago and wanted it to stay there. He put it the Tupperwear
sandwich box on the shelf incase she ever came back and changed her mind.

We walked back those 2 miles to our cars, and once again I closed my eyes and
envisioned the way my grandmother’s cottage used to look. Larry noticed
something in the back yard that I hadn’t when we started our walk. Richard
obviously overcame his fear of heights and climbed a tree at the cabin to cut down
the swing that now hung in his yard from a tree that my grandmother planted
when my youngest cousin was born.

It took about a month or so, but I tracked Missy down. I mailed her one of the
dolls that we used to play with and asked her to get in touch. I knew she received
it because she signed for the package. Larry has called a few times to see if she
replied. He says that Richard is mad at us because we didn’t ask him to go the
cabin with us. I sent Richard a photo of the way my grandmother’s cottage
used to look and told him to replant some of the Tiger Lillies closer to the house
if he ever wants me to visit. He emailed me a photo the other day of the Tiger
Lillies being planted out back.

Missy did get in touch. She wrote to say that she would never be back but thanked
me for the doll. She never had children and operates a shelter for teens who run
away. Her little sister contacted her when their mother died, but otherwise she has
no family ties. I told her that Richard bought and destroyed my grandmotherâ
€™s cottage and heard her laugh. She said that my grandmother hid her and her
sister for months after the police returned them to their parents. My grandmother
left the side door open for them to come into the house through the garage incase
she wasn’t home and they needed to run. Their dad would never go there. She
and her sister fled to the cabin again once my grandmother moved.

Missy told me that she counted the number of steps it took her to walk and the
number of steps it took her to run to the cabin and she knew she could still find it
easily blindfolded if she came back and tried. But she had no interest in retracing
her steps through those woods on our secret passage ways. She told me to be
prepared if I ever visited her to see that she built a cottage in her own woods very
similar looking to my grandmother’s cottage because that was the only place
she felt safe in her life besides the grand cabin two miles back in the woods.
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